MonitorsPublished on Mar 20, 2015
A Male criminal court's sentencing of former President Mohammed Nasheed on 'terrorism charges' for 13 years in prison has revived 'democracy-deficit' charges and consequent global (read: West) discourse, this time against the government of incumbent President Abdulla Yameen.
Maldives: 'Democracy-deficit' and 'coercive diplomacy'
< class="heading1">Analysis

A Male criminal court’s sentencing of former President Mohammed Nasheed on ’terrorism charges’ for 13 years in prison has revived ’democracy-deficit’ charges and consequent global (read: West) discourse, this time against the government of incumbent President Abdulla Yameen. In doing so, the protagonists need to be clear on what’s their immediate goal and what their long-term expectations are. This does not seem to be happening, however.

It can be assumed that friends of Nasheed in the international community and supporters nearer home want him out and free, asap. It’s a fair enough expectation. In doing so, the ’democratic West’ wants to promote their ever-changing concepts of ’modern democracy’ and ’good governance’ in Maldives, too, but these can be counter-productive just now, if they do not acknowledge the ground realities, and proceed with caution and circumspection.

Through their heavy-handed and at times one-sided criticism of the Yameen government, and grand-stand lectures on democracy, the international community, including some UN institutions, are only alienating the incumbent Maldivian government even more than Nasheed and his Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have done in the past three months. With Nasheed in prison and if the judicial processes in the country are what the international community says it is, then they need to engage the Yameen leadership, not alienate it - further and farther.

Discourses on ’democracy-deficit’ make good copy. It may also be a good strategy for the long term - but not when the West’s own chosen ’conscience-keeper’ for Maldives has been left to suffer. The international community needs to decide what their priorities are - making a martyr of President Nasheed one more time, and leave the issue hanging, or ensure that he is out of his current troubles - and for good. For this to happen, either as a tactic - they can learn in the reverse from Nasheed - or as a conscious effort, they stop placing all blame at the doorstep of President Yameen, and allowing it to rot there.

Not wanting to pass off

India was one nation - a powerful and well-meaning neighbour at that - which could have initiated a patch-up of sorts, this time too. It had done after Nasheed’s unilateral stay-in in the Indian High Commission in capital Male in 2013, when he defied court summons. There was a prima facie criminal case against him on ’Judge Abdulla’s detention’ at the time, for which he has now been handed down a harsher and possibly unequal punishment.

The international community did not do or say anything when he repeatedly and almost wantonly defied court summons, however motivated the case be. Neither did they, nor Nasheed and his MDP do anything to have the court case offloaded from his back in the intervening period, through quiet diplomacy or quieter political negotiations. The pending case was an opportunity which the Maldivian stake-holders would not want to pass off - it would now seem.

Given the previous Indian intervention on Nasheed’s behalf and his pre-arrest calls now for India to ’protect’ him if and when he were arrested clearly meant that he was doing his bit to help the Yameen government in the matter. It would/could have also made India a suspect in the eyes of whoever was in the place of Yameen leadership. Though it’s all Nasheed’s making, it was not his intention, it would seem.

Yet, it’s also India, which may still be able to talk to the Maldivian leadership, what with the western governments and institutions having burnt the bridge even before their expedition had commenced. In recent years, the US initiative on Sri Lanka’s ’war crimes’ allegations in the UNHRC only managed to alienate the government of the day in that country, from the word ’go’. With a new regime in place, they have not extracted any ’concessions’ / commitment on the ’accountability issues’ as they would have thought was possible and natural.

’Sovereignty’ as a check?

Even as the Nasheed arrest drama unfolded suddenly and the international community issued pro forma protests, possibly buying time to understand what was happening, the Yameen government made itself heard loud and clear. Government leaders, including President Yameen and Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, said that it was all a domestic affair of Maldives and other nations better stayed away.

Seeking to address the international community’s self-propelled concerns over ’democracy-deficit’, Maldivian Government leaders have been reiterating over the past weeks how the western concept of ’separation of powers’ between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are complete in the country. By implication, the government was telling the world, however perfunctorily, that neither could the Executive tell the Judiciary to punish Nasheed, nor could ask for a reversal, if it came to that. Or, so it seems.

Knowingly or otherwise, by flagging ’sovereignty’ issue, as if in pre-emptive self-defence, the Maldivian leadership might have restricted the role for and contribution of the Indian neighbour, the latter having flagged the concept in the neighbourhood Sri Lankan context at the UNHRC this time last year. Since Nasheed’s conviction and sentencing, President Yameen seems to have indicated to the world outside that he may not be unwilling to ’engage’ and ’engage with’ them - but from a position of strength. What it entails for Nasheed’s freedom remains to be known and understood.

’Independent’ foreign policy

Unnoticed and unacknowledged by most, President Yameen unveiled an ’independent’ foreign policy in a power-point presentation format just two months after assuming office in November 2013. Possibly, it was in the making even when predecessor President Mohammed Waheed was in office. It lays great stress on a sustained economic growth and development as the key to evolving an independent foreign policy, which it had concluded was imperative.

Coming in the backdrop of the ’GMR row’ involving the Indian infrastructure major, in a way, it was saying a lot - and not just to and about the India relations. When the current rulers, who were then in the Opposition, wanted to oppose the GMR - and more so the ruling MDP and President Nasheed - they used the ’sovereignty’ and ’religion’ card, a potent mix in the Maldivian context. President Yameen followed up his maiden official visit to India with those to Japan and China, among others. The Japan visit was the first of its kind for a Maldivian President.

The Maldivian government has since signed up for China’s Maritime Silk Route (MSR). Since Nasheed’s conviction, President Yameen has made what looks like a short-notice visit to Saudi Arabia, for developmental aid negotiations. As Crown Prince, present-day King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, had visited Maldives last year, when Xi Jinping also made a first visit by a Chinese president to the Indian Ocean archipelago-nation.

A week or so prior to the Saudi Arabia visit, President Yameen had cancelled a scheduled visit to Pakistan, the second time since assuming office - citing mutual security perceptions as the reason. Was it that the Yameen leadership was putting on display its ’silent’ friends and supporters in the international community, and also his options within that list at the same time? Was it also on display, the Maldivain government’s understanding of contemporary global political equations and geo-strategic considerations?

Proud people, yet...

Maldivians are a proud people, who keep reminding themselves and the rest how theirs is the only country in South Asia that had not come under a foreign yoke. They had thrown out the Portuguese ’invaders’ based in distant Goa, India, in the 16th century, and linked their 1965 Independence for the British, of which they were a Protectorate for two centuries, to their ’development’ struggles, in wanting to widen the Male airport run-way.

A an insulated Sunni Islamic sultanate for a millennium, Maldives had tested ’western democracy’ in the 20th century, but only in fits and starts. The current phase reads more sustainable, as electoral democracy at least seems to have come to stay. Otherwise, to expect Maldives and Maldivians to adapt to an alien concept with gusto is not going to happen overnight. In the contemporary global context, sustained pulpit-talks of an ’anti-Islamic’ West can prove counter-productive in a modern Islamic nation as Maldives - and the unlikely consequences could remain for a longer time than (if at all) anticipated.

In the contemporary Maldivian lexicon, phrases such as ’western democracy’, ’democracy-deficit’ and ’transitional justice’ are also borrowed terms, which make for good campaign slogans nearer home. ’Democrats’ in contemporary Maldivian contexts have their own shades and cycles - and pick and choose the western phrases (not necessarily the ideologies in toto).

The nation may hence take its time to mature into a full-blown ’modern democracy’ - and the West would have to give it the time and space for the purpose, rather than push its convoluted concepts down the throat of a nation that has for centuries lived together in an atmosphere of mutual peace, harmony and respect. A day should not thus come for ordinary Maldivians to conclude that western democracy is all about making brothers fight brothers, and making their sisters take to the streets in protest after protest - for and in favour of an ’alien political concept’.

There is also no denying President Yameen’s quick-fix solutions for facing off ’democratic’ adversity of whatever kind - beginning with the impeachment of two Supreme Court Judges but (only) through existing constitutional processes, followed by the arrest of incumbent Defence Minister Col Mohammed Nazim (retd), a comrade-in-arms in the political protests that led to President Nasheed’s exit on 7 February 2012.

After looking elsewhere for sympathy and support for the jailed Mr Nasheed, the MDP has since declared him their presidential candidate for 2018. The party has called for ’non-cooperation’ without exactly defining the same, and has also haltingly started nation-wide street-protests for Nasheed’s in which they excel. The return of friend-turned-foe-turned-friend of the past just seven years and the Adhaalath Party (AP), which had demonstrated the capacity to bring together ’religious NGOs’ ahead of Nasheed’s 2012 exit from presidency, to the MDP’s fold, has possibilities and potentials of their own.

Going by the 2013 poll figures, President Yameen has political parties representing 75 percent and more of the nation’s voters now arraigned against him, with the MDP and Nasheed leading the charge with 47,000 members and 48 percent of the vote-share, respectively, in a nation with less than 400,000 population. President Yameen’s development-driven jobs-of-choice agenda for the Maldivian youth comprising 50 percent of the nation’s population cannot happen overnight, either. Predecessor Nasheed too learnt this to his bitter experience.

There is thus an urgent need for the government and the Opposition having to engage each other inside the country, and for the government to engage with the international community, on the other. As experience elsewhere has shown, ’coercive diplomacy’ can go only up to a point, and can also leave behind an unanticipated trail for ’the day-after’.

Cooperative diplomacy can succeed, instead, and it alone can succeed, too, if at all, in and for the short, medium and the long terms. And the international community intend on having President Nasheed out should train its guns that way, and not at the Government of President Yameen - and using the right interlocutors, and not the wrong interventionists.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Myanmar: Education law and beyond

Mihir Bhonsale

Education has become a hot potato in Myanmar with student demonstrations taking in major cities exposing the government’s ’authoritarian’ education law. A crackdown on a peaceful demonstration in Letpadang town has further widened the gap between the student community and the government.

Students have had a historical role in the anti-colonial struggle in the former British colony. Many within the country on the side of the students called the new education law a repeat of history. Memories of widespread teachers and students’ protests of the 1920s against the University Act were invoked this time round showing a more resolute opposition this time round.

Education law

The National Education Law is a ’master plan’ to touch upon different aspects of the education system, right from primary level to higher education. There were 60 odd points of contention between the Upper and the Lower Houses of Parliament, which were resolved on 31 July, 2014 by a joint parliamentary committee after which the bill was sent to the President for approval.

The Education Bill, that the President signed in September, promises greater autonomy to higher education institutions, which are currently under the authority of the Higher Education Department. However, the extent of the autonomy allowed under the law remains unclear as the law calls for the creation of a higher education coordinating committee to handle higher education related issues.

The students and teachers associations and the National Network for Education Reform, an umbrella apolitical organization formed last year, have also highlighted that the Education Law ignores the concerns of the ethnic minority groups. The associations also decry of curbing freedom of assembly and association.

Since, the protests erupted against the education law, the Thein Sein government has faced relentless pressure to accede in reviewing the law with suggestions from the students associations, teachers and NGOs. An Upper House Bill Committee has had a few sittings with the associations’ charter of demands.

Freedom of assembly

The students associations are pushing their demand for right to form unions independent of the government. Also, they are demanding the freedom of peaceful assembly. The Thein Sein government has already passed the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, however rights groups have rapped the government for inconsistencies in the law.

The crackdown on students and monks on 10 March has exposed the continuing repression that the Junta-led government has resorted against peaceful demonstrations over government policies. Many students and monks had sustained injuries and over 100 were arrested on that day. The students want the law to be changed from the current, peaceful assembly with permission of the government to peaceful assembly with due notification to the government.

The government has formed a commission to investigate the crackdown on the 10 March peaceful demonstration. Other members of the civil society, including religious associations are said to be pressurizing the government to have a fair and just resolution to the case of high-handedness by the police in Letpadang.

Resistance and reforms

Student’s community in any modern society have historically represented change. At this juncture in Myanmar when political reforms have been initiated and the South-East economy opening up to the world, students are anxious and sceptically ambitious about this overhaul of economy and society. They are leading from the front on any perceived assault over their democratic rights.

There is no denying that the country needs an education reform that envisions a holistic approach to education; emerging out of the shadows of 60 years of military rule. Consensus through serious of consultations between students, teachers, NGOs, ethnic groups and other minorities and comparing it with educations systems world-wide is necessary for deciding the nature of reforms needed in Myanmar.

The National Network for Education Reform formed last year could serve as the anchor for bringing under its umbrella, organizations representing various groups to negotiate with the government towards consensus building for reforming national education.

The opposition led by National League for Democracy (NLD) has already emerged as the strongest political voice of the students’ movement and needs to consolidate further on the pressure on the government. However, the NLD’s involvement in the issue, needs to be viewed not as an impediment but as an opportunity for achieving the consensus.

Balancing between the two major currents within the students’ movement, one trying to push demands to the furthest extent possible and the other believing in principle of ’making hay when the sun shines’ represent the strains of thought that comes to represent today’s Myanmar; between the old Junta era that lasted for 60 years and the new, ever-changing, dynamic Myanmar of today.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ghani visits Saudi Arabia

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani undertook a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia this week accompanied by a high level government delegation. The Afghan delegation includes the National Security Advisor, Deputy Foreign Minister and the High Peace Council Secretariat. The visit was seen as an attempt by President Ghani to pave the way for the peace talks with the Taliban.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Ghani Heads High-Level Delegation to Saudi Arabia", Tolo News, 14 March 2015; "Ghani Visits Saudi Amid Peace Process Uncertainty", Tolo News, 15 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CIA money for al Qaeda

According to a report in The New York Times, Afghanistan paid al Qaeda US$ 5 million to secure the release of a diplomat in 2010. One fifth of this money came from the amount CIA deposited on a monthly basis into a secret government fund. The diplomat in concern was Abdul Khaliq Farahi, who had been Afghanistan’s Consul General in Peshawar when he was kidnapped in 2008.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Afghanistan gave CIA money to Al Qaeda to free diplomat: report", Dawn, 15 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India demands UN action

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr Asoke Mukherjee during a UN debate on aid to Afghanistan claimed that terrorism was the biggest threat to instability in Afghanistan. He also claimed that the systematic support provided to terror groups by external actors was a huge source of concern and pointed to the existence of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in the region as a major threat.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India demands UN action against terror threats to Afghanistan", , Zee News, 17 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition refuses to ease crisis

The leader of Bangladesh’s opposition refused to back down over a political stand-off that has hit the country for almost three months. In her first speech since the crisis began on Jan. 5 Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister and the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, accused current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the on-going instability, which has killed more than 120 people.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bangladesh opposition leader refuses to ease crisis", WorldBulletin, 13 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US lauds anti-terror role

The US appreciates Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies’ role in countering terrorism and it deserves praise, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali this weekinformed that US Secretary of State John Kerry had made the remark during his meeting withMahmood in February this year. Mahmood also claimed that the US assured to provide any form of assistance to combat terrorism.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Kerry lauds Bangladesh’s anti-terror role", The Daily Star, 17 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian college issue resolved

The 195 students of the Indo-Asian Academy in Bengaluru have some respite after the Thimphu based consultancy Careerinfo signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the college. This ended the 3 week long deadlock that had put the students in trouble.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Indo-Asian Academy issue resolved for now", Kuensel Online, 19 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Highway projects in trouble

Citing security reasons the Royal Government of Bhutan has deferred 1 highway project indefinitely and has aborted another. The government has deferred Nganglam- Dewathang Highway project and has aborted the Lhamoizingkha-Sarpang highway.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "One highway dropped, another deferred", Kuensel Online, 20 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hydropower scheme ahead of schedule

The Mangdechu hydropower project is ahead of schedule, according to project authorities. The project is 60 percent complete and is likely to be commissioned by 2017.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Mangdechu project ahead of schedule", Kuensel Online, 17 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU summit talks after slight

India called off the planned European Union-India Summit meeting which was scheduled for April after interpreting delays on the part of the EU to confirm dates for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Brussels as a slight.

The Summit was proposed to take place during Modi’s visit to Germany and France. It is also reported that the cause of the delay was Italy’s objections over the continued detention of two of its marines over charges of killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012 who they had assumed to be pirates. EU officials denied any attempt to cause offence and expressed hope that the meeting may still take place.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Modi scraps Brussels visit", The Hindu, 16 March 2015; "Italian Marines Issue Clouds PM Narendra Modi’s EU Trip", NDTV, 16 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sonia leads Opposition march

Congress President Sonia Gandhi led a delegation of over 100 lawmakers from 14 opposition parties to march from the Parliament House to the Rashtrapati Bhawan to protest against the controversial land acquisition bill. She urged President Pranab Mukherjee to intervene and ask the government not to introduce the bill in the Rajya Sabha.

The Congress and other opposition parties maintain that the bill is detrimental to the farming community which comprises the majority of rural India and insist that they will only support an earlier version of the legislation drafted in 2013 which enjoyed broader consensus.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : : "Sonia Gandhi leads Opposition charge against Modi govt - in house and outside", The Indian Express, The Indian Express, "Sonia Gandhi Leads Opposition March to Rashtrapati Bhawan Against Land Bill", NDTV, 17 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LS members censure govt

Opposition parliamentarians censured the government for failing to protect religious minorities in wake of recent incidents of hate crime. Congress, AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), and CPI (M) leaders raised the issue of the recent desecration of a church in Haryana, the rape of a nun in West Bengal, and provocative statements by senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in Assam.

Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi described the Haryana government’s response as callous after it suggested that the targeted church lacked legal property documents. He added that Swamy’s statement in Assam, which condoned the demolition of mosques and churches, create an environment of prejudice against minorities and will empower Hindu zealots to further expand their activities.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Uproar in Lok Sabha over communal incidents", The Hindu 17 March 2015; "Congress, Left protest in Lok Sabha over communal remarks of VHP leader", Daily News and Analysis, 17 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Economy strong: IMF chief

Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), visited India on 16-17 March, 2015. During various addresses in the country, the head of the IMF highlighted the strong position of the Indian economy and expressed optimism towards India as an emerging global economy.

Lagarde stated that India’s economy is a bright spot in a cloudy global economy while pointing towards India’s vast demographic potential which it must capitalise on to emerge as the fastest growing major economy. Further, she projected that by 2019, India’s economy will be twice the size it was in 2009.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "IMF chief Christine Lagarde says India could fuel global growth", Live Mint, 16 March 2015 "India a "bright spot" on cloudy global horizon- Lagarde", Reuters,, 16 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">OECD projects 7.7 percent growth

The OECD revised its estimated growth rate of the Indian economy to 7.7 percent in 2015 and 8 percent in 2016. The estimates published in November 2014, projected a 6.4 percent growth in 2015 and a 6.6 percent growth in 2016. The reason for the revision is cited to be the modification of India’s GDP numbers. Therefore, India is expected to be the fastest growing economy.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "OECD revises growth outlook for Brazil, China, India", The BRICS Post, 19 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maharashtra to reimburse local bodies

The BJP-led Maharashtra government announced its maiden budget for the state on 18 March, 2015. The highlight of the budget was the abolition of the Local Body Tax (LBT) which was one of the key electoral promises of the government. Consequently, the municipal corporations, except Mumbai, will be compensated with Rs. 6,875 crores and Value Added Tax (VAT) will be enhanced in the state.

A number of other tax reforms were introduced through the budget. The tax exemption on essential commodities such as wheat, rice, pulses, flour, coconuts, etc. have been extended up to 31 March, 2016. Further, women drawing a salary up to Rs. 10,000 per month have been exempted from paying professional tax. In addition, an automation project for the simplification of sales tax has been initiated.

The other major move was in the direction of infrastructure. Under the Pt. Dindayal Upadhyay Gharkul Jaga Kharedi Arthsahayya Yojana, the government has promised that there will be no homeless in the state by 2022. Also, maximum cities are to be incorporated into the smart cities project.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Maharashtra: Rural infra push in debut budget of Fadnavis govt", The Hindustan Times, 19 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Family fears for Nasheed’s life

Wife Laila Ali and brother Ibrahim have addressed a news conference in capital Male, saying that they feared for the life of former President Mohammed Nasheed, now serving a 13-year prison-term in the Dhoonidhoo island-prison, pending appeal against his conviction and sentencing on terrorism charges in the 2012 ’Judge Abdulla abduction case’.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Nasheed’s family raises fear of an assassination plot by security forces", Minivan News, 23 March 2015; "Q&A: Former First Lady Laila Ali says Nasheed asked his daughters to forgive his jailers", Minivan News, 16 March 2015; "Police: Nasheed is under protection in Dhoonidhoo", SunOnline, 19 March 2015; "Home Minister: The government guarantees the safety and protection of Nasheed", SunOnline, 15 March 2015; "Home minister assures Nasheed’s safety and welfare in custody", Minivan News, 16 March 2015; "Respect Criminal Court verdict, says President Yameen", Minivan News, 15 March 2015; "Government will ensure Nasheed’s right to appeal conviction, says spokesperson", Minivan News, 14 March 2015; "Foreign Minister defends Nasheed’s sentence", SunOnline, 16 March 2015; "Maldives asks for Lanka, India help against ’unjustified’ criticism", Haveeru Online, 17 March 2015; "High Court dismisses Nasheed’s arrest warrant appeal", Minivan News, 15 March 2015; "UN human rights chief expresses strong concern over "hasty and apparently unfair" Nasheed trial", Minivan News, 18 March 2015; "India, UK politicians continue to voice concern over Nasheed’s imprisonment", Minivan News, 18 March 2015; "Judge Abdulla suspected of involvement in ’contract killing’, says Nasheed", Minivan News, 18 March 2015; "Government to compensate police officers for damages on February 8 unrest", Minivan News, 18 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rivals unite against Yameen

One-time political rivals in former President Mohammed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party (JP) and religion-centric Adhaalath Party (AP) organised a well-attended political rally in Male, against what speakers said was the ’brutality’ of President Abdulla Yameen’s regime.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Former bitter rivals unite against "brutality" of President Yameen’s government", Minivan News, 20 March 2015; "Nation should be freed from all oppression - Ameen", Miadhu, 20 March 2015; "Opposition parties and AP in talks to form ’unified front’ against government", Haveeru Online, 18 March 2015; "MDP to launch national civil disobedience campaign to free Nasheed", Minivan News, 15 March 2015; "Nasheed still MDP presidential candidate: MDP", Haveeru Online, 16 March 2015; "Majlis committee votes to approve Jaleel as Defense Minister", Minivan News, 15 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President in Saudi Arabia

In what’s seen as a closely-guarded decision, President Abdulla Yameen has led a high-level ministerial team to Saudi Arabia, for meeting with new King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. During the visit, the two sides signed agreements for Saudi funding of development projects in Maldives, among other bilateral initiatives.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President Yameen in Saudi Arabia on state visit", Minivan News, 18 March 2015; "Discussions held to increase Saudi investors in the Maldives", SunOnline, 18 March 2015; "Maldives discuss increasing higher education opportunities provided by Saudi", Miadhu, 20 March 2015; "Saudi King holds a luncheon in the honor of the Maldivian President", SunOnline, 18 March 2015; "Contract to establish free trade and a harbor project signed with a Dubai company", SunOnline, 19 March 2015; "Government to sign MoU with Dubai Ports World to develop port at Thilafushi", Minivan News, 19 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Military to have political role

President Thein Sein said that the military would continue to have a political role in order to support a transition to democracy but will eventually submit to civilian rule. The President said in an interview to a national broadcast channel.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Burma’s Military to Maintain Political Role, President Says", The Irrawaddy, 20 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Solar power plan for Mandalay

Solar Impulse 2, an aircraft powered by solar technology made a landing at the Tada-U airport shortly before 8 pm on 19 March. Mandalay Chief Minister Ye Myint, Minister of the President’s Office Soe Thein, Swiss ambassador Christoph Burgener and pilot Andre Borschberg were on hand to welcome Bertrand Piccard, who had flown the plane from Varanasi in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Solar Powered Plane Makes Historic Landing in Mandalay", The Irrawaddy, 20 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UWSA snubs ceasefire talks

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) did not show up for the 7th Nationwide Ceasefire Team’s between the Myanmar government and the rebel ethnic groups. The UWSA were invited as observers to the latest edition of talks.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "UNWA snubs cease-fire talks", Eleven Myanmar, 19 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China increases aid

Nepal and China are scheduled to sign an agreement on Tuesday on boosting Chinese grant aid to Nepal more than five-fold. The northern neighbour has already announced increasing its annual grant to RMB 800 million from the current RMB 150 million.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : Nepal, China to sign RMB800m aid pact, eKantipur, 17 March 2015; China increases aid, FDI significantly to Nepal, Business Standard, 18 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More doctors for Everest camp

Nepal is to increase the number of medical staff at the Everest base camp and improve provision for rescues on the mountain in an effort to cut casualties among climbers and support staff. The move comes as climbers start arriving for the busiest season on the world’s highest peak.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : Nepal provides more doctors and rescue equipment at Everest base camp, The Guardian 17 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Upgrading Indian boundary

The joint Nepal-India boundary upgradation works will start on Thursday. A senior government official said on Monday that they have received confirmation from the Indian side to begin the works based on the agreements made earlier.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : Nepal, India to start boundary upgradation works on Thursday, eKantipur, 17 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">State-owned power traders with B’desh

Prospects of greater electricity trade are prompting Bangladesh and Nepal to set up state-owned power traders and maximize the benefits of electricity commerce, as energy security holds key to development in the region.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : Bangladesh, Nepal setting up state-owned power traders, , Livemint, 18 March 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MQM leaders on exit control list

The Pakistan government is contemplating placing names of leaders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on the Exit Control List (ECL) after disclosures made by death row convict Saulat Mirza.

He has alleged that MQM’s leader, Altaf Hussain instructed him to kill Shahid Hamid, the then managing director of the power utility, Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (K-Electric). Member of the National Assembly Farooq Sattar has said that his party is being unfairly cornered.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "MQM leaders to be placed on ECL after Mirza disclosures", The Nation,19 March 2015; "MQM being unfairly cornered: Sattar", The Nation, 20 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">50,000 sq. km more in sea area

The United Nations’ Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (UN-CLCS) accepted Pakistan’s claim for the extension of its continental shelf limits from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles. Pakistan’s seabed territory has grown by about 50,000 square kilometres.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan gets additional 50,000 sq-km in sea area", The Nation, 20 March 2015; "Pakistan seabed territory grows by 50,000 square kilometres", Dawn, 21 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">HC dismisses Lakhvi’s plea

The Lahore High Court has dismissed Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi’s plea against his confinement. Lakhvi is the alleged mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. He had pleaded to declare his detention void as his release was earlier ordered by a higher judiciary.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "LHC dismisses Lakhvi’s plea against detention", The News International, 20 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karachi operation to continue

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has reiterated his stand on the completion of the Karachi operation and has said that he will soon visit the port city to personally monitor the progress made in the crackdown. He also added that the operation was launched the consent of all political parties and the required resources would be given to the law enforcement agencies.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Come what may: Karachi operation will continue, says Nawaz", The Express Tribune, 21 March 2015; "All parties backed Karachi operation: PM", Dawn, 21 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Intelligence school on cards

The Punjab government has announced that it will establish an intelligence school for the Counter-Terrorism Department. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has approved the project.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pre-emptive measures: Chief minister approves intelligence school for CTD", The Express Tribune 21 March 2015

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Right to shoot fishers: PM

For the second time in three weeks, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared that his nation had the right to shoot trespassing Indian fishers, poaching in the Sri Lankan waters.

Though the two Governments were working to resolve the issue through talks, the Sri Lanka Navy reserved the right in this regard, he told India’s NDTV.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see :

"Ranil reiterates SL’s right to shoot anyone entering its waters", Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2015; "Ranil names and shames media", Colombo Gazette, 17 March 2015; "Vigneswaran hits out at Ranil", Daily Mirror Online, 15 March 2015; "Calls for international war crimes probe ’insulting’: CBK", Daily Mirror Online, 15 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Reforms process on

With a view to pruning - and not abolishing, as promised - the government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has gazetted the draft constitutional amendment bill for public debate.

However, differences between the two major partners on advancing the parliamentary polls by a year, and conducting under a new/old electoral scheme, remained even as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa began visiting more localities across the nation’s Sinhala heartland, drawing huge crowds.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Gazette Notification issued President’s Powers pruned", Colombo Today, 16 March 2015; "Abolition Of Executive Presidency Comes A Cropper; Powers To Be Pruned", Colombo Telegraph, 15 March 2015; "Electoral Reforms To Be Introduced But Upcoming Polls To Be Held Under Old System", Colombo Telegraph, March 16, 2015; "UPFA insists no half-baked reforms prior to next poll", The Island, 16 March 2015; "No poll before electoral reforms-Nimal", Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2015; "No poll before electoral reforms-Nimal", Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2015; "UNP has no authority to decide on election: JHU", Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2015; "Now JVP decides to go for election after April 23", Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2015; "Maithri is UPFA Chairman", Daily Mirror Online, 15 March 2015; "Allow me to carry out duties as SLFP Chairman: Maithri", Daily Mirror Online, 17 March 2015; "Mahinda can back SLFP general election campaign - President", The Island, 15 March 2015; "Former President to contest for Prime Minister- Labor Party", The Nation, 17 March 2015; "Mahinda to contest for PM post", Colombo Gazette, 17 March 2015; "MR govt. defeated for standing up to India - Former Minister Amaraweera", The Island, 15 March 2015; "Foreign spies helped oust Mahinda - Gota", The Island, 17 March 2015; "Rajiva leaves govt.", The Island, 17 March 2015

Primary Documentation


RGoB Delegation at 3rd UN Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction, Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 March 2016


Riyaz Wani interviews Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam whose release from detention sparked a row in Parliament, "’Omar Abdullah Is The Symbol Of Atrocities In Kashmir, Not Me’", Tehelka, 21 March 2015

Managing Director of IMF meets PM, website of the Prime Minister’s Office, 16 March, 2015

P Chidambaram (former Finance Minister and Home Minister), "Across The Aisle: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty", The Indian Express, 15 March 2015

Prime Minister’s remarks at the Banquet hosted by the President of Sri Lanka, Ministry of External Affairs, 13 March 2015

Prime Minister’s remarks to Business Community in Colombo, Ministry of External Affairs, 13 March 2015

Prime Minister’s address to Parliament of Sri Lanka, Ministry of External Affairs, 13 March 2015


Press Release of a Workshop held on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 March 2015


Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Beijing, 19 March 2015

Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, New Delhi, 18 March 2015

Press Release on Hon. Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Mahendra Bahadur Pandey paying an official visit to China, 16 March 2015

Press Release on Hon. Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, Minister for Foreign Affairs meeting with H.E. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, 15 March 2015


Pakistan Releases 57 Indian Fishing Boats, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 21 March 2015

Approval of Pakistan’s Claim for Extension of Continental Shelf, Statement by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 20 March 2015

Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 19 March 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 19 March 2015


Attacks on the Churches in Lahore, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 16 March 2015




Matthew Rosenber and Mark Mazzetti, "More U.S. Troops Seen Staying in Afghanistan", The New York Times, 19 March 2015

Matthew Rosenberg, C.I.A. Cash Ended Up in Coffers of Al Qaeda", The New York Times, 14 March 2015

Opinion Pieces

Doug Bandow, "It’s High Time We Got Out of Afghanistan", Newsweek, 20 March 2015

Thomas Ruttig, "Talks with the Taliban, Again: This Time for Real?", Afghanistan Analyst Network, 17 March 2015

Jenifer Fenton, "How Obama handed Afghanistan a prisoner dilemma", Al Jazeera, 16 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "A need to be worthy of the occasion", Kuensel Online, 20 March 2015

Kuensel, "It takes all sorts", Kuensel Online, 17 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

"Indian economy to grow 7.7 percent this year, says OECD", The Economic Times, 19 March 2015

Sanjib Baruah, "Reimagining Dimapur", The Indian Express, 18 March 2015

"Five reasons why IMF chief Christine Lagarde is bullish on India", The Economic Times, 18 March 2015

"Maharashtra Budget 2015: BJP govt abolishes LBT, extends tax exemption on rice, wheat", The Financial Express, 18 March, 2015

Carol Giacomo, "In Rural India, Hoping for Jobs and Education in a Growing Economy", The New York Times, 16 March 2015

P Vaidyanathan Iyer, "BJP-PDP alliance in J&K: How two men worked out the deal and became friends", The Indian Express, 16 March 2015

Rakesh Sood, "Looking beyond nuclear liability", The Hindu, 16 March 2015

Ananya Vajpeyi, "The prison house of identity", The Hindu, 14 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Behind and beyond Nasheed’s trials and tribulations", South Asia Monitor, 20 March 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "After Nasheed’s conviction, Maldives at cross-roads again",, 18 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

Eleven Myanmar, "Technology trends and the new generation", Eleven Myanmar, 18 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

Kanak Mani Dixit, "Crafting a constitution for Nepal" The Hindu, 19 March 2015

Yubaraj Ghimire "Nextdoor: Nepal wants to know, India must tell", The Indian Express 16 March 2015

Subhash Nepali, "Missing the mark eKantipur, 20 March 2015


Opinion Pieces

Barnett R. Rubin, , "Ghani’s Gambit", The New York Times, 18 March 2015

Fatima Bhutto, "Pakistan’s Moral Catastrophe", "Pakistan’s Moral Catastrophe", 17 March 2015

Sri Lanka

Dayan Jayatilleka, "Duty & tasks of national intelligentsia", The Island, 20 March 2015

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya, "Social media and the polls", Daily Mirror Online, 20 March 2015

K Godage, "100-day deadline was a political faux pas", Daily Mirror Online, 18 March 2015

Gomin Dayasiri, "Article 70 (1) of the new Constitution: is it a powder keg? Living with minority governments till eternity", Daily Mirror Online, 18 March 2015

Elmore Perera, "Can we miss the woods for the trees?", The Island, 18 March 2015

C Rajamohan, "How to intervene", The Indian Express, 17 March 2015

Jehan Perera, "Govt making progress in rebuilding constructive relations", The Island, 17 March 2015

Sumanasiri Linayage, "Derailing constitutional change?", The Island, 17 March 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Heralding new neighbourliness in IOR", The Sunday Leader, 15 March 2015

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

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

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.


N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.

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