MonitorsPublished on Oct 24, 2014
The post of Director-General (DG) of Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), believed to be the second most important post in the country's military set-up now, has a designated successor to the outgoing Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam.
Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar, the new ISI boss
< class="heading1">Analysis

The post of Director-General (DG) of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), believed to be the second most important post in the country’s military set-up now, has a designated successor to the outgoing Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam. In September 2014, in an announcement made by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Lt-Gen. Rizwan Akhtar was appointed as the new DG of the ISI, an agency traditionally known to have to an anti-India stance.

Gen Akhtar is the sixth consecutive ISI chief to have been drawn from the infantry. He was commissioned in the Frontier Force Regiment of the Pakistan Army in September 1982. He has commanded the infantry brigade and infantry division in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Between 2007 and 2010, he was posted in South Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan, owing to which he has experience in counter-insurgency operations as well as dealing with the Taliban.

Akhtar was also the Director-General of the border force, Pakistani Rangers in Sindh. Under his lead, a major operation was launched in Karachi against criminal gangs and Pakistani Taliban militants. This operation got a lot of positive publicity. However, it also raised concerns about human rights violations. The military replaced him with another senior military officer while the joint operation by Police and the Rangers was in full swing.

Gen Akhtar is a graduate of the Command and Staff College in Quetta and the National Defence University, Islamabad. He also attended the Army War College in Pennsylvania, US, when he was a brigadier in 2008. During his tenure at the college, he wrote a strategy research project report titled "US-Pakistan trust-deficit and the war on terror". The report has been widely cited in the media in the context of his stance on India.

In the report, Akhtar wrote about the potential role of the US in facilitating the improvement in Indo-Pak relationship. Despite this, India cannot afford to take Akthar’s position at face value. The ISI has not made any open gestures that suggest that it has moved away from its anti-India policies or given up its links to its terrorist proxies.

Anti-govt protests

Media reports suggest that there is a belief that the outgoing ISI Chief Zaheerul Islam is at odds with the current civilian government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The ongoing protests in Islamabad are said to be backed by the ISI.

Along with the DG ISI’s posting, other promotions were also announced. Maj-Gen Hilal Hussain has been promoted as Corps Commander, Mangla, Ghayur Mahmood as Corps Commander, Gujranwala, Naveed Mukhtar as Corps Commander, Karachi, Hidayat-ur Rehman as Corps Commander, Peshawar and Nazir Butt has been in charge of Communications and Information Technology (C&IT) according to the announcement made by the DG of the ISPR, Gen Bajwa. These appointments are expected to consolidate the Army’s position amongst the protests that have created political turmoil and weakening the Prime Minister’s position.

Internal militancy, greater threat

The ISI chief is usually appointed by the Prime Minister, traditionally on the advice of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). But this is often a formality as the former usually accepts the COAS’ nomination. In this case, the announcement of the appointment came, interestingly, not from the office of the Prime Minister but in a Military’s press office.

A big question being asked about the new appointment is if Rizwan Akhtar will be able to restore internal security to the country that is currently besieged by militancy. The Pakistan Army is targeting militants in the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. Media reports suggest that many see the General’s field experience as a major asset to an intelligence agency that is central to dealing with security issues.

Akhtar has been portrayed as being from the generation of army officers who see internal militancy as a bigger threat than India. His public image paints him as someone who believes that the country should have an active civilian political process with the military confined to the role of defence.

Gen Rizwan Akhtar’s appointment could spell good news for India if his six-year old dissertation is to be believed, but it could also merely perpetuate the status quo that has existed in ISI’s stance towards India. Whether he will focus on internal militancy or neighbouring India is a question that will affect both India, as well as Pakistan’s security situation.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka: Preparing for presidential polls?

N Sathiya Moorthy

Cabinet spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella’s declaration earlier in the month that incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa would order presidential elections in the first half of January has made political parties in Sri Lanka, particularly the divided Opposition, active all over again.

The ruling combine had done it about a year ago when rumours had it that President Rajapaksa would amend the Constitution to have the polls advanced to 2014. Like this time, then again ruling party spokesmen had mentioned that astrologers had identified dates favourable to President Rajapaksa, and the latter would take the final call.

The Constitution provides for an incumbent President to order fresh elections any time after the end of four years of his six-year term. President Rajapaksa’s second term is not due to expire before November 2016. By amending the Constitution after winning similarly-advanced elections in January 2010, six months after the successful conduct of ’Eelam War IV’ he had got Parliament to remove the two-term upper-limit for the incumbent through the controversial 18th Amendment.

A past-master at weakening political adversaries at a time of his choosing and exposing inherent differences in their collective camp, President Rajapaksa’s current efforts could still be one more of the kind. It is possible that he is also weighing the mood of the voter before taking a decision. He has limited time at his disposal to take that decision now, if he decides on early polls, but it would also ensure that the Opposition has even less time to come together and fight on a common platform. At least Minister Premajayantha has claimed now, the ruling SLFP had launched its presidential poll campaign a month ago.

The divided Opposition did come together and at a short notice in 2010, but only to lose the poll. First, the main Opposition United National Party (UNP) had to settle for an outsider as ’common candidate’, and thus lose out on the real leadership ’collective front’, which rested on candidate himself. The results showed that war-time army commander Sarath Fonseka could not bring in the ’Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ voters from President Rajapaksa’s side, as had been hoped for, if not predicted outright.

In the final analysis, Fonseka’s 40 percent vote-share comprised the acknowledged vote-shares of the ideologically-opposite UNP and the left-leaning Janatha Vimukthi Peramana (JVP). Fonseka could not manage to win his Ambalangoda town, either. After Minister Rambukwella’s announcement, Fonseka has been dis-enfranchised, based on his conviction in two court-martials, ordered after he had lost the poll - making him ineligible to contest. That he was allowed to cast his vote in the recently-held Western Provincial Council poll, without anyone challenging the same, does not seem to have weighed on the Department of Election Commission.

Why first half of January?

Talks of presidential polls in early January have also to do with the papal visit in the middle of the month. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on 13-14 January, and any election campaign during the visit would have been untenable. With President Rajapaksa’s fourth year in his second term concluding in the third week of November, he can order fresh polls then, or wait until after the papal visit.

Already, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the head of the Catholic Church in the country, has called upon all concerned to avoid politicising the papal visit - which includes His Holiness saying a Holy Mass in Galle Face Green in Colombo, and in the Maddu Church, which was a small but politically-significant theatre of the ’ethnic war’ almost till the very end.

If President Rajapaksa is serious about polls ahead of the November 2016 deadline but not wanting to have it clash with the papal visit in anyway whatsoever could mean summer elections. Considering the failed rains in the past two years, any failure of the North-East monsoon this current season could be a political disaster for the incumbent, if elections were not to be advanced.

It’s for the same reason that fresh elections beyond mid-2015 is also looked up with discomfort by the ruling combine. Or, so it seems. Then there is also the lesson from the recently-held Uva Provincial poll. Though the SLFP-UPFA managed to win the PC, the resurgence of the main Opposition UNP, and the consequent closing of the faction-ridden party, seems to have bothered the ruling combine even more.

Tamils’ dilemma

Presidential polls, now or later, could put the Tamils of Sri Lanka in a fix all over again. Having got used to opposing the incumbent invariably, whoever he or she be, the Sri Lankan Tamils (SLT), both as a community and as a polity, led by the ruling Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the Northern Province, do matter in voter-terms to the combined or divided Opposition of the day, but not otherwise.

Thus, in 2010, the TNA and the Tamils ended up voting Fonseka, the commander of the army which they otherwise dubbed ’brutal’ and worse - against President Rajapaksa, who had lent political leadership and direction to the ’war’ from the government side. The Tamils’ backing for Fonseka, it was argued later, might have consolidated ’LTTE-fixated’ and other ’Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ voters on President Rajapaksa’s side. The latter won by a seven-plus percent margin as against half-a-percent in 2005.

In 2005, under LTTE’s strict directions and stricter enforcement - a Tamil who defied its ’poll ban’ had his voting-hand reportedly chopped off - the Tamils had boycotted the polls. The claim at the time that UNP’s Ranil Wickremesinghe would have won had it not been for the ’LTTE ban’ was belied in the subsequent polls of 2010. The boycott order was not without reason.

In 1995, when Prime Minister Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga, CBK, contested, and there was no LTTE ban on Tamil voters, they went en masse and voted in her favour - thus accounting for her highest-ever 62 percent vote-share, to date. The LTTE then had a difficult terrorist-military task to have the Tamil masses change their views of both the outfit and the CBK leadership - and reverse it, too.

If anything, Fonseka in 2010 polled nearly double the number or Tamil votes in the North than the TNA would do in the subsequent parliamentary and local council polls - until last November’s Provincial Council elections reversed the trend. Considering that Fonseka lost reportedly owing to the loss of ’Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ votes owing to the unqualified Tamils’ backing for him, the main ’election issue’ can be expected to play a crucial role this time too, whenever the one-man-one-vote, direct-elections to the presidency are held.

Single largest vote-getter

This time, too, the Opposition, divided or united, begins with the premise that President Rajapaksa would still be the single largest vote-getter. That is also the logic behind all of them needing/wanting to come together. Alternatively, the argument goes, they could contest alone in the first round, if someone could guarantee that President Rajapaksa would not get the mandatory 50-percent plus vote-share to win, and together support the first runner-up in the second, run-off round. Rather, the argument goes that the divided Opposition in the first round would not have a choice in the second round other than to back the runner-up. The UNP strongly believes that its nominee and its nominee alone stands the chance. Others agree, but are not so happy to support the UNP in the second round. Nor do they want to be seen in President Rajapaksa’s company. To them all, if ’anti-incumbency’ were to impact on President Rajapaksa in a presidential poll, its effects would rub on his allies too in the parliamentary polls due in April 2015.

But any Opposition arrangement of an alliance at least for the run-off round should appeal to the JVP in particular, as the party is keen to retrieve the electoral ground that it had lost to the UNP on the one hand and President Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on the other. The JVP has also lost a substantial number of residual voters to Fonseka’s Democratic Front (DF), as the results of the Provincial Council elections in the Sinhala-Buddhist heartland has shown since 2010. Such an arrangement might suit the TNA, too, though to a lesser degree. By fielding a candidate of its own in the first round, the party might demonstrate its hold over the Tamil masses in national elections after its sweeping victory in the PC polls last year. It can take its decision for the second round, if there is one. Such a course by the TNA could sent out a message to the SLT Diaspora and ’Tamil nationalists’ nearer home, who are keen on re-asserting the community’s ’separate political identity’ - if not always a ’separatist agenda’ - whenever an opportunity presented itself. But this could also become a tactical problem for the first runner-up in the second round, if the elections were to go into the second round, and President Rajapaksa still came on the top.

Anti-incumbency and ’Sinhala nationalism’

It is also in this background that the Opposition, divided and united at the same time, is keen to project anti-incumbency and governance issues as the mainstay of their future poll campaign under the Rajapaksa presidency. They do not seem to have faith in their ability to offset the ’Rajapaksa popularity’ on the Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist card, or even the larger issue of ’national security’ viz the possible revival of the LTTE.

Nor are they sure that any election hinging on the ’ethnic issue’ or the larger/smaller ’Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ politics would be able to divide the ruling combine before the elections as corruption-driven anti-incumbency would do. To those parties and leaders in government desirous of getting out between now and the next round of elections, whenever and whatever held, corruption, price rise and other anti-incumbency are factors that they cannot run away from after crossing-over from the government side.

To them, if there are any in the ruling combine serious about crossing-over, ’Executive Presidency’ would be a better bet, politically though not electorally. Other than those committed to vote against President Rajapaksa, mainly owing to their political loyalty, non-committed voters, particularly in the rural South, have no great or preferred views on the ’Executive Presidency’. To them, however, ’anti-incumbency’ is still a factor. Hence, there is also the continuing Opposition dilemma on deciding on key issues for the next round of polls.

To the Opposition, present and prospective partners, if at all any, the ’abolition of Executive Presidency’ as a poll issue has as much tactical need as the real concerns that it may have flagged over the past decades. They all keep the Tamils’ concerns and aspirations out of the national discourse and debate in any election, at the same time ensuring that the Tamils voted with them.

In their calculations, the Tamils’ vote would continue to be a ’decisive factor’ in this election, too. However, hey are also equally unclear about explaining the Tamils’ contribution or otherwise to the defeat of the present-day Opposition in the past two rounds of presidential elections. These calculations are equally confusing for the Tamil polity, particularly the TNA leadership, for them to decide on a ’win-win strategy’. This time, the TNA at least cannot escape a pre-poll commitment from the rest of the Opposition on the specifics of a post-poll ’political solution’ for the ethnic issue ’within a united Sri Lanka’.

Blowing hot and cold

It is also for this reason, apart from the legitimate concerns of the Sri Lankan State machinery that he now heads, the ruling combine under President Rajapaksa - particularly his SLFP and the Sinhala-Buddhist Jatiha Hela Uramaya (JHU) and Wimal Weerawansa’s National Freedom Front (NFF) - would like the ’LTTE bogey’ and the ’Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism’ to hang in the midst.

Among them however the JHU has been blowing hot and cold at the same time. Since the peak of the ’ethnic war’ involving the LTTE, the JHU had backed President Rajapaksa without question, projecting it as the single largest national issue of the greatest concern. It was then willing to put off for another day, issues of governance, particularly charges of corruption that the Opposition was levelling against the ruling combine, particularly the Rajapaksa leadership and family members in the government and outside.

Now with memories of war and victory far behind, the JHU is unable to convince itself that ’governance issues’ of the kind are non-existent or less important. It may feel even more threatened by the sudden emergence of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), which is as rightist as the JHU - and far removed from the left-leaning JVP and breakaway NFF, but with the same ’Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ platform and constituency.

As a religion-centred party with Buddhist monks as among its leaders -- like the BBS after it, and unlike the JVP and the NFF -- the JHU seems to feel that its moral base and constituency may be slipping away on to the side of the BBS. More than any other party or leader, possibly including the Muslims being targeted by the BBS, the JHU would be terrified if the BBS were to enter the electoral way. Among other calculations, the JHU’s problems also lie with the party’s acceptance-level if it were to cross over and charge the Rajapaksa leadership on the governance front, after partnering it and benefitting from it for close to a decade.

Parties like the JHU are also possibly unsure about the ability of a common and the least controversial of election issues in the abolition of the Executive Presidency appealing to the committed UNP constituencies outside of urban Colombo. To them, the ’Sinhala-Buddhist constituency’ vote continues to belong to President Rajapaksa. They also seem unsure about the ability of a seasoned Buddhist monk Sobita Thero to swing those voters away, considering that in 2010, the Sinhalas preferred an incumbent politician to an aspirant president in ex-army chief, Fonseka.

It is thus likely that the JHU’s new call for restoring the unworkable and hence untried 17th Amendment to the Constitution - and thus overthrow the superseding 18-A, without acknowledging as much - is more about throwing up a new election issue on which it could make common cause with the present-day Opposition without electorally having to target ’Executive Presidency’, from which it had benefited in political terms over the past decade. It’s still one thing for the party to declare withdrawing support to President Rajapaksa if a modified version of 17-A is not restored, but it’s another for it to conclude that the loss would be more for the incumbent than the JHU, particularly if it were to confuse/conclude that it would be ’welcomed’ with an open hand to the Opposition combine.

It is in this background and with the ’Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ voters, particularly from the deep South, in mind that UNP’s prime ministerial aspirant, Sajith Premadasa (if he could be described so), seems to have told Parliament that his party was ready to support a bi-partisan call for the European Union to reconsider the EU Court order lifting the ban on the LTTE, recently. In this, UNP supporters of Sajith P seem to have concluded that for a united Opposition to win the presidency at present, he alone would be able to attract the non-urban, non-elite rural voters, who have become non-traditional party-backers to after the exit of his slain President-father, Ranasinghe Premadasa.

In all this, the UNP’s poll performance since the mid-Nineties (post-JRJ, post-Premadasa, Sr) could continue to give credence to the second part of their argument. In between, the perceived inability of the rest of the UNP leadership to convince this substantial voter-population on the party’s ’Sinhala/Sri Lankan nationalist’ commitment seems to have given hopes to the Rajapaksa camp - and at the same time, confuse the latter’s committed allies from the past like the JHU and the ’traditional left’, too.

Muslim predicament

The common Sinhala voters’ concerns about the revival of the deadly LTTE are as real as the continuing Tamil concerns about ’militarisation’, ’accountability issues’ and the like. It goes beyond theoretical constructs that see ’Sinhala-Buddhists’ as dominating the politics and society across the country, and/or their apprehensions that the community only has Sri Lanka to call their own, whereas the Tamils have India, and the Muslims the whole of the Gulf-Arab world.

It is in this background that the recent anti-Muslim BBS attacks and the perceived silence of the Government and its mainstay polity is seen in some circles. All Muslim parties in the country are now a part of the Government, and they too are left with hard choices to make ahead of the presidential election, particularly if it’s to be advanced to 2015 from the scheduled 2016.

It’s not enough they continue in the Government, they also need to carry their voters with them. Such is also the case with the ’traditional left’, which is there in the Government, not because they have a large vote-base but because their leaders still command respect across the polity and society. Their problem relates to the continuance of the Executive Presidency, which has all but burnt out as an election issue already. It will require greater effort to revive the issue, and even more to add substantial number of additional votes in its name, going beyond what is already in the Opposition kitty.

India’s concerns

In all this, the question remains where India’s priorities and concerns are focussed. For long since the exit of the IPKF, India has been working with the governments in Sri Lanka that the people there elect. It is how Indians have also wanted other countries, starting with the West, to approach India.

In context, the current Indian priorities on Sri Lanka are broadly two-pronged. On the domestic Sri Lankan political side, India is concerned about an early political solution to the ’ethnic issue’ within a united Sri Lanka. Included in the list are also the Indian concerns about 13-A, and on the ’accountability issues’ flowing from ’Eelam War IV’.

On 13-A, India has not seen any positive movement since the conclusion of the war, as promised by President Rajapaksa - and also every President before him, as enshrined in the nation’s Constitution for long. On ’accountability issues’, the Indian support for the current Sri Lankan position, which pertains to ’sovereignty’ issues, could be remain, irrespective of any domestic change in Sri Lankan polity.

On the India-centric concerns pertaining to shared security in the Indian Ocean - read: ’Keep China away’ - has had quantifiable resonance in Sri Lanka, again irrespective of the government in power. The lack of clarity on large-scale Chinese investments in Sri Lanka, and the possible inability of a Sri Lankan Government (whoever is in power) to resist Chinese demands for military facility of whatever kind, particularly viz India, is however of continuing concern to the strategic community in India. This needs to be addressed, now and later.

A January elections in Sri Lanka would come ahead of the crucial March session of the UNHRC, where the report - full or partial - of the mandate probe into ’accountability issues’ in the country will be laid on the table. The Rajapaksa campaign can count on not only their political adversaries nearer home - starting with the TNA - but also sections of the international community to come up with off-the-cuff comments that can be interpreted as against the interest of Sri Lanka and the Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist cause, nearer home.

For India, which has now won a second term as a UNHRC voting-member with the highest number of votes in the Asia-Pacific region, fresh pressure will mount, for it to side with what is essentially a western view of things. That India will not be returning to the UNHRC voting council until the second session of the year in September 2015 would be a saving grace of sorts.

With orchestrated pressure from southern Tamil Nadu mounting on the eve of every recent UNHRC session, presidential polls in the early part of 2015 would give an indication as to which way the domestic wind was swaying in Sri Lanka. But on all issues of Indian concern, that would not have changed the larger Indian perspective or decision(s). Just as it would not have changed the tone and tenor of policies in Sri Lanka on the domestic, diplomatic and security fronts, whoever wins or whoever loses the presidential polls.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan NSA visits Afghanistan

Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaz Aziz visited Afghanistan this past week. During his meeting with Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Aziz promised to look into the issue of cross-border firing and spoke about the need to promote economic cooperation and a railway system between the two countries.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Pakistan National Security Advisor Visits Kabul" Tolo News, 19 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Districts in Wardak, Kunduz fall to Taliban

According to media reports, three districts - one in Wardak province and two in Kunduz - have come under the control of the Taliban. These districts include Sayyidabad in Wardak, and the districts of ChaharDarah and Dasht-i-Archi in Kunduz.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Taliban control 3 districts in Afghan provinces of Wardak and Kunduz", The Long War Journal, 22 October 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Elected to the UN Human Rights Council

Bangladesh has been elected as a member to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for 2015-2017. This election is perceived as a major diplomatic victory for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina government. Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali described this as a massive global endorsement of the Sheikh Hasina government amid a barrage of criticism by international human-rights groups.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bangladesh elected to the UN Human Rights Council",, 21 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian company seeks power transmission

To strengthen energy cooperation between India and Bangladesh, the two countries are contemplating to set up some transmission links between Bangladesh and Tripura. Already there is a link between Bangladesh and West Bengal. The two countries are thinking to establish links between India’s north-eastern region, especially between Tripura and Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Indian company seeks power transmission through Bangladesh", The Daily Star, 19October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poverty-free Bangladesh by 2021

Finance Minister AMA Muhith has expressed his optimism of making Bangladesh poverty free by 2021. The Minister informed that various poverty alleviation programmes undertaken by both government and non-government organisations are being implemented successfully across the country. He also emphasised on the role of microcredit programs in improving country’s socio economic condition. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Muhith: Bangladesh to become poverty-free by 2021", Dhaka Tribune, 20 October 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Google launches street-view service

A 360 degrees view of Bhutan’s majestic mountains, monasteries and crystal clear rivers is available through Google now, with the international company launching the street view service. The project began in 2013, when a street view car travelled across Bhutan’s 3,000 kilometers road network.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Street view service for Bhutan launched", Kuensel Online, 24 October 2014; "Google offers peek into Bhutan with Street View Launch", The Economic Times, 23 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan to bridge digital-divide by 2020

Internet broadband connectivity is said to be available in Bhutan by 2020, said the information and communications minister at an international telecommunications conference in South Korea. About 90 percent of rural population and 50 percent of all households would be digitally connected.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bhutan to bridge digital divide by 2020" Kuensel Online, 23 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Glaciers receding in Bhutan

Melting of glaciers and formation of glacial lakes have threatened occurrence of flash floods in Bhutan. Some climatologists and glaciologists have claimed that the clean type glaciers are receding at the rate of 30 to 35 meters annually.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Glaciers receding in Bhutan", Bhutan Broadcasting Service, 23 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian Army chief to visit Bhutan

Starting 31 October, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag would visit Bhutan on a four-day trip, making his first trip abroad after becoming the Army chief. General Suhag was to visit Bhutan last month, but owing to the stand-off on the Indo-China border, he had to postpone his visit to the country.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag to go on a four-day Bhutan visit" The Times of India, 21 October 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi spends Diwali in Jammu and Kashmir

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent Diwali with troops in the Siachen glacier. The glacier which forms a natural wedge between India, Pakistan, and China is jointly claimed by both India and Pakistan. The lack of verifiable demarcation has led to permanent deployment to troops despite the acute health hazards posed by harsh cold and altitude. Modi’s visit elicited contrasting interpretation; while some lauded his sensitivity towards the needs of the armed forces, others noted the timing of the visit as an attempt to consolidate his popularity among the Hindu vote bank. The Siachen visit was followed by a quick visit to Srinagar where he announced aid worth Rs 745 crore to ameliorate the damages caused by recent floods. He also held separate meetings with the state government and members of political organisations and civil society.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Modi announces Rs. 745-crore package for J&K", The Hindu, 24 October 2014; ; "After Diwali With Soldiers at Siachen, PM Modi Arrives in Srinagar: 10 Developments", NDTV, 23 October 2014; The Hindu, 24 October 2014; "Modi announces Rs. 745 crore relief for Kashmir’s flood-hit homes and hospitals" Hindustan Times, 23 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NSA Ajit Doval visits Afghanistan

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval travelled to Afghanistan where he met President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, and his counterpart Hanif Atmar. Doval paid a visit to former President Hamid Karzai to extend Prime Minister Modi’s personal wishes over the country’s first democratic transition. Doval was accompanied by the Deputy National Security Advisor and senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of External Affairs. The visit coincides with India’s decision to jointly develop the Chabahar port in south-eastern Iran, which when connected to Afghanistan through road, will reduce its dependence on Pakistan for access to port facilities.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: Iran and India’s Road to Afghanistan" ", The Indian Express, 20 October 2014; "Ajit Doval visits Kabul, reaffirms India’s commitment to assistance The Economic Times, 22 October 2014; "Ajit Doval visits Afghanistan, calls on president Ashraf Ghani", The Indian Express, 23 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BJP wins Maharashtra, Haryana

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Haryana state assembly elections and secured first position in the crucial state of Maharashtra, while falling short of majority. Shiv Sena has indicated its willingness to partner with the BJP to form government and the two are expected to hold parlays next week. BJP’s state unit chief, Devendra Fadnavis is the forerunner to the Chief Minister’s post. In Haryana, RSS veteran Manohar Lal Khattar is expected to be the next Chief Minister. BJP’s victory marks another disappointment for rival Congress which ruled Haryana and Maharashtra for 10 and 15 years respectively.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Former RSS veteran Manohar Lal Khattar to be next Haryana Chief Minister, swearing-in on Oct 26", The Indian Express, 22 October 2014; "Maharashtra: Fadnavis on track for CM job; Sena wants reasonable deal", Hindustan Times, 24 October 2014; "Shiv Sena relents, ready to back BJP-led coalition in Maharashtra", Hindustan Times, 24 October 2014;

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nirbhay cruise missile tested

India successfully test-fired its first indigenously designed and developed long-range subsonic cruise missile, christened ’Nirbhay’, or fearless. The test took place at the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Balasore, Orissa. This is Nirbhay’s second launch, after the first test had resulted in partial success. Defence analysts note that Nirbhay, when inducted, along with the shorter-range BrahMos cruise missile will form the backbone of India’s so-called Cold Start doctrine by giving it the capability to strike command centres deep inside Pakistan and paralyse its conventional military units.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: India successfully test fires ’Nirbhay’ cruise missile" Indian Express 18 October 2014; "Nirbhay will be backbone of ’cold-start,’ say experts", The Hindu, 24 October 2014; "India Successfully Tests Its First Nuclear-Capable Cruise Missile", Time, 17 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Naxal presence noted in southern India

The central government’s most recent assessment of the Maoist movement, referred to as Left Wing Extremism in official parlance, notes increased presence of the movement in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. The confluence of the three states, especially the Sathyamangalam forests made infamous by the sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, has been identified for increased Naxal activity. K. Vijay Kumar, Senior Security Advisor, Ministry of Home Affairs elaborated that while there has been no confirmed reports of Maoist rebels operating in Tamil Nadu, nevertheless, the inter-border regions are prone to the insurgency.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Revised central policy flags new southern theatre on Maoist map", The Economic Times, 21 October 2014; "No naxal presence in TN, yet vigil stepped up on border", The Hindu, 17 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Diesel prices deregulated

The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government decontrolled the diesel price, making it market-linked and came out with a new gas pricing formula. Price of the commodity in New Delhi will come down by Rs. 3.37 effective midnight Saturday due to persistent softening of global crude oil prices.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Fuel reform: Government deregulates diesel prices, hikes gas prices", Indian Express,18 October 2014; "Government on reforms yatra, begins by deregulating diesel price", India Today, 19 October 2014; "Government deregulates diesel prices, fixes new gas price", Livemint, 18 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India approves 20 FDI proposals

Based on the recommendations of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in its meeting held on September 16, 2014, the Government has approved twenty (20) proposals of Foreign Direct Investment amounting to Rs. 988.3 crore approximately.The decisions have been taken based on a meeting of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) on September 16.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "20 FDI proposals approved" Press Information Bureau, Government of India, 24October 2014; "Govt approves 20 FDI proposals worth Rs. 988.3 cr", Hindu Business Line, 24October 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Going for jihad with family women

A father has approached the police, reporting that his 23-year-old son has taken the latter’s mother, wife and young sister overseas for joining ’jihadi’ forces. Having reached Male in the guise of medical consultations for the mother, the youth has already reached Turkey via Dubai, it is learnt.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Maldivian takes, mother, wife, and young sister on ’jihad’", Haveeru Online, 23 October 2014; "Notorious imam detained until end of trials" Haveeru Online, 22 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two jump prison, captured

The Maldives Police Services (MPS) has since taken into custody, two dangerous fugitives who had jumped the prison, and creating panic among the population.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Fugitive Shahum captured" Haveeru Online, 22 October 2014; "MNDF given authority to use guns on Shahum", Haveeru Online, 21 October 2014; "MPs urged to stay in at night as MNDF offers personal security", Minivan News, 20 October 2014; "Vice President: Criminal justice system needs reform", SunOnline, 21 October 2014; "Gangs attempting infiltration of police force: Home Minister", Haveeru Online, 22 October 2014; "Supreme Court enacts new regulations on flogging" Minivan News, October 22 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lower-limit for SEZ investment

The Government has fixed a minimum investment of $ 150 million for investor-benefits under the recently-enacted Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act, according to a gazette notification. This, even as the economic ministries were grabbling with the need for cutting down on government expenditure to minimise budget-deficit and credit.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "President sets US$150 million minimum on SEZ investment", Minivan News, 20 October 2014; "Reducing civil servants and their salaries is not a solution- Dr. Shainee" Miadhu, 21 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Contract cancelled with Indian firm

After signing a re-worked construction contract with Indian major Tatas recently, the Maldivian Government ’s decision to cancel the presently working agreement with another Indian firm Tatva, for managing the waste in the capital, Male and suburbs, has revived memories of the ’GMR row’.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Government terminates Tatva waste management deal", Minivan News, 22 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Framework talks with US

A multi-department delegation of US officials has now held the first round of talks with their Maldivian counterparts under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), signed as far back as 2009. The visiting delegation also called on Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Discussions held to expand US investment in Maldives", SunOnline, 21 October 2014; "Gov discusses with US to expand fish export business", Haveeru Online, 20 October 2014; "US Assistant Trade Representative called on the Foreign Minister", Miadhu, 21 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed cautions against ’climate refugees’

Having flagged the concern on being elected to office in 2008, former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader Mohammed Nasheed has cautioned that Maldivians could become the first ’climate refugees’ in the world. He sent out the caution at an international conference in the Japanese capital of Tokyo.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Maldivians could be among first climate refugees, warns Nasheed", Minivan News, 22 October 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Koh Tao murder-suspects to meet parents

The parents of two Burmese workers suspected to have murdered British nationals Hannah Witheridge and David Miller would meet their offspring in Thailand on 24 October. The Burmese parents arrived in Thailand and have met Thailand Human Rights Commission, Lawyer’s Council of Thailand and Myanmar’s envoy to Thailand.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Koh Tao Murder Suspects to Meet Parents Tomorrow", Eleven Myanmar, 23 October 2014; "Koh Tao Suspects recant confessions as parents arrive"; Democratic Voice of Burma, 22 October 2014; "Parents of Burmese Men Accused of Koh Tao Murders Arrive in Thailand", The Irrawaddy, 22 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Thailand, Myanmar press ahead with Dawei SEZ

Myanmar and Thailand are excepted to announce the moving forward of the Dawei SEZ, next month. Two Thai companies, Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD) and Rojana Industrial Park Plc have proposed developing the road network linking the Thai border with the Dawei project and industrial estate.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Thailand, Burma press ahead with Dawei SEZ", Democratic Voice of Burma, 24 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Foreigners in a spot over new Visa regime

The changes to e-visa system and drop in the pre-arranged visa on arrival system, over 3,000 foreign visitors to the country are said to be affected. A tourist association in Myanmar said, the new system introduced in September is going to affect visitors who have pre-arranged plans to tour the country in November and December.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "About 3,000 foreigners face difficulties to enter Myanmar due to sudden stop of visa on arrival" Mizzima News, 24 October 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal not prepared for federal states

CPN (UML) Chairman KP Sharma Oli has said country cannot lead the burden of more federal states. At a greetings exchange programme in Thimi organized by UML Bhaktapur District Committee on Thursday, the UML Chairman said more provinces would bankrupt the nation.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Country cannot bear more federal states : Oli", Republica, 23 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal to become founding member of AIIB

Nepal is set to become a founding member of the proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat departed for China on Thursday to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the establishment of the multilateral bank making Nepal one of the creators.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal set to become founding member of proposed AIIB", eKantipur, 23 October 2014; Asian Finance Ministers to sign MoU to set up AIIB", Asian Finance Ministers to sign MoU to set up AIIB",

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India and Nepal finalize electricity trading pact

India and Nepal signed an agreement on Tuesday to start selling electricity to each other, deepening energy ties between the two nations and boosting New Delhi’s efforts to grow its influence among its smaller neighbours.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India and Nepal sign electricity trading pact", : "India and Nepal sign electricity trading pact",

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parties meet to discuss contentious issues

Top-notch leaders of the three major parties have thronged Gokarna Forest Resort to seek ways out to the contentious issues of the new constitution on Tuesday morning.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Heavyweights at Gokarna to thrash out contentious issues", Republica, 21 October 2014; "Gokarna meet ends without result? next round on Oct 26" The Himalayan Times 22 October 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Pakistan will retaliate against any aggression’

The Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa, the Pakistan military’s top spokesperson declared this week that while Pakistan wanted peaceful relations with its neighbouring countries, it would not hesitate to retaliate against any form of aggression from its neighbours. Such a statement comes amidst tensions along the India-Pakistan and Iran-Pakistan borders.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Pakistan will retaliate to any aggression: DG ISPR", Dawn, 22 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tensions on Pakistan-Iran border

Security forces of Iran and Pakistan exchanged mortar fire across their border this past week. Pakistani officials claimed that their action was a retaliation to the firing of six mortar shells by Iranian officials, which landed near the border town of Mashkail.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan and Iran exchange mortar fire on border", BBC News, 24 October 2014; "Iranian border guards fire mortar shells into Pakistani territory", The Express Tribune, 24 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Shutter down strike in Quetta

A shutter-down strike was observed in Quetta as a sign of protest against the killing of eighth members of the Hazara community. The Hazara Democratic Party and the Majlis-i-WahdatulMuslimeenhad given the call of strike. The strike was in response to an attack by armed militants against a passenger bus, which had led to the death of eighth Hazara civilians.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Shutter-down strike in Quetta over Hazara killings", "Shutter-down strike in Quetta over Hazara killings", "Eight Hazaras gunned down in Quetta bus attack", Dawn, 23 October 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Presidential polls in January?

After Cabinet spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella the previous week, it was the turn of Minister and ruling UPFA General Secretary, Susil Premayanatha, to declare that presidential polls will be advanced by close to two years, and held before the scheduled papal visit in mid-January 2015. He claimed to have known the astrologer-preferred dates for the elections, but would not speak out on the same.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Government confirms presidential election in January 2015", The Island, 20 October 2014; "National consensus on political reform fast gaining ground says UNP", The Island, 20 October 2014; "Ranil promises Rs. 10,000 salary increase for state sector workers", The Island, 19 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP for bipartisan move on EUJ decision

Speaking in Parliament senior Opposition United National Party (UNP) leader Sajith Premadasa, has promised the party’s support for any government-initiated bipartisan move to get the European Union (EU) overturn the decision of the EU court of justice (EUJ) to de-proscribe the LTTE.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Sajith suggests bi-partisan motion to urge EU to re-list LTTE as terrorist organisation", The Island, 21 October 2014; Govt. was sleeping while LTTE’s EU ban was lifted -UNP", The Island, 21 October 2014; "Re-proscription of LTTE: EU willing to engage with Govt.", Daily Mirror Online, 22 October 2014; "Ruling not a political decision, says court", The Island, 21 October 2014; "UNP: Ranil’s tour in London did not impinge on EU Court ruling", Daily Mirror Online, 22 October 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defence ties with India

Coming as it did after the second annual defence dialogue in Colombo with Indian counterpart R K Mathur, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, called on Indian Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi. Jaitely later received Maldivian Defence Minister India, meanwhile, has decided to provide two naval ships to Sri Lanka.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Gota meets Arun Jaitley", The Island, October 20, 2014, "India to provide two naval ships to SL", Daily Mirror Online, 21 October 2014 "Indo-Lanka naval talks on SLNS Sagara" "Indo-Lanka naval talks on SLNS Sagara" "Russian Naval Ship Moskva arrives in Colombo" Daily Mirror Online, 23 October 2014

Primary Documentation


Press Release of the European Union Commissioner for Development’s Visit to Bhutan, ,Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 21 October 2014


Inaugural speech by External Affairs Minister at the Regional Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas in London, Ministry of External Affairs, 17 October 2014

External Affairs Minister’s Remarks at Reception hosted by the UK FCO for the Indian Diaspora in London, Ministry of External Affairs, 17 October 2014

Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs at the 10th ASEM Summit in Milan, Italy, Ministry of External Affairs, 16 October 2014

Text of PM’s address to Officers and Jawans of the Indian Army at Siachen Base Camp (in Hindi), website of the Prime Minister of India, 23 October 2014

Text of the Media Statement given by Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, at Raj Bhawan ,Srinagar, during his visit to Jammu and Kashmir on occasion of Diwali (in Hindi), website of the Prime Minister of India, 23 October 2014


Myanmar President’s Message on the occasion of Sixty Ninth Anniversary of United Nations, Myanmar President’s Office, 24 October 2014


Press Release, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 21 October 2014

Press Release on Official Visit of Hon. Foreign Minister to India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 19 October 2014


Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 23rd October 2014,Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 23 October 2014




Azam Ahmed, "Taliban Are Rising Again in Afghanistan’s North", The New York Times, 22 October 2014

Opinion Pieces

Dirk van der Kley, "China’s Afghanistan policy: Testing the limits of diplomacy", The Interpreter, 24 October 2014

Ghizaal Haress, "Did Politics Compromise Afghanistan’s Constitution?",Foreign Policy, 23 October 2014

Ali Karimi, "Afghanistan’s Demographic Drought", Foreign Policy, 22 October 2014

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, "Moving beyond the new deal in Afghanistan", The Hindustan Times, 21 October 2014

C Raja Mohan, "Iran and India’s Road to Afghanistan", The Indian Express, 20 October 2014

Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "Neighbourly Celebration - Is it Possible?", Kuensel Online, 24 October 2014

Kuensel, "The gungtong issue", Kuensel Online, 22 October 2014


Opinion pieces

C Raja Mohan, "Iran and India’s Road to Afghanistan", The Indian Express, 20 October 2014

John Elliott, "India State Elections: Modi Successes Further Humiliate the Gandhis", Newsweek, 21 October 2014

Rajan Menon, "The India Myth", The National Interest, 23 October 2014

Gurpreet Mahajan, "Unspoken truth of Indian elections", The Hindu, 22 October 2014



J. Stephen Morrison, Murray Hiebert, RADM Thomas Cullison (USN Ret.), Todd Summers and Sahil Angelo, "Myanmar: Regressed, Stalled or Moving Forward", Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 2014

Opinion Pieces

Roger Milton, "When less is more", Myanmar Times, 20 October 2014

Ashley South, "Norwegian support for hydropower: peace building though best practice", Democratic Voice of Burma, 21 October 2014


Opinion Pieces

Biswas Baral, "Last chance", Republica, 23 October 2014

Hari Bansh Jha, "Stories of pain", Republica, 22 October 2014

Kedar Neupane, "Look within", Republica, 22 October 2014

Sukhdev Shah, "Politics and development" Republica, 21 October 2014


Opinion Pieces

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, "Punjab politicised", Dawn, 23 October 2014

Talat Masood, "The political baptism of Bilawal", The Express Tribune, 22 October 2014

M Ziauddin, "Re-launching the PPP", The Express Tribune, 22 October 2014

Maham Javaid, "Pakistan’s Complex Relationship with Malala", Al Jazeera, 20 October 2014

Bruce Riedel, "Tensions rising dangerously in South Asia", The Brookings Institute, 19 October 2014

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Chathushika Wijeyesinghe, "18th Amendment: can Mahinda contest for the third term?", Daily Mirror Online, 22 October 2014

Vishwamitra 1984, "Knowing when to compromise for a greater principle?", Daily Mirror Online, 22 October 2014

Kelum Bandara, "G 20: UNP pacifies excluded MPs" , Daily Mirror Online, 20 October 2014

Nimal Bhareti, "Memories of Yal Devi in times of yore", The Island, 21 October 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Tamils’ frustrations, Govt’s desperation", The Sunday Leader, 19 October 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy
"Sri Lanka: TNA sending out confusing signals to India?", Observer Research Foundation, 20 October 2014


"A parting of ways" The Island, 21 October 2014

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

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.