MonitorsPublished on Jan 09, 2015
The Himalayan nation is far from resolving its governance woes more than five years after the democratisation and a change of elected government. If charges of corruption against government functionaries were not enough,
Mired in a power tussle
< class="heading1">Analysis

The Himalayan nation is far from resolving its governance woes more than five years after the democratisation and a change of elected government. If charges of corruption against government functionaries were not enough, the power tussle between the bureaucracy and the political leadership has mired good governance in all kinds of controversies. All’s not well in the nation that values Gross National Happiness (GNH) over economic growth.

The nation, still at the infant stage of democracy, is affected by the pangs of reforms. In the backdrop is a booming hydro-power sector and heightened expectations of good governance from citizens. Tackling the ills of governance remains a challenge for the country’s political and executive leadership.

Back-to-back controversies

Two back-to-back controversies rocked the public sector of Bhutan in the latter half of 2014. Allegations of financial irregularities have surfaced at the highest levels of permanent executive - or, civil services. This was followed by the Cabinet surrendering three cabinet secretaries on 12 December.

The government explained the dismantling of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) as "exceeding its mandate by discussing issues outside the scope of its terms of reference" and "withholding information, including important decisions from the government." The Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Secretariat also accused the Economic Affairs Secretary of misusing the CoS.

External relations with India were also said to be at stake owing to the controversy. The joint statement of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Cabinet Secretariat said that the letter sent by the CoS to the Indian Government was in conflict with the advice of the Office of the Attorney- General.

The Royal Civil Services Commission (RCSC), the apex institution of civil services, in a press statement refused to accept the "surrendering" of the secretaries. The RCSC cited provisions in the Constitution, the Civil Service Act of Bhutan, 2010 and the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations, 2012 to justify its position. The tussle between the RCSC on the one hand and the Cabinet Secretariat and the PMO on the other, is set to intensify with neither side ready for a compromise. The rift between the political leadership and the bureaucracy has exposed not just the chinks in governance but has also raised serious doubts over governability, where conflict of interest is a recurring aspect.

Governance under democracy

Not long ago (in 2013) the people of the tiny nation ousted the Jigme Thinley government to elect the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The predecessor government of Bhutan was no less embroiled in controversy on financial and other irregularities with key political leaders and bureaucrats convicted on corruption charges. The PDP fought the elections on the promise that it would provide good governance.

While, the PDP took credit for successfully providing an alternative to Thinley’s DPT, the nation’s bureaucracy seemingly helped by their Indian counterparts patted their own backs for the vote swing. This difference in perception, especially on the bureaucracy’s part has further aggravated the power tussle.

An instance of the bureaucratic community’s aspirations was its reluctance to accept democratic reform citing the wishes of the people of Bhutan who wanted the monarchy system to continue. Hence, in recent times, vested interests of certain bureaucrats have repeatedly come to the fore.

The DPT which is the principal opposition party is trying to reap political dividends out of this confrontation. The incumbent and the opposition party DPT have accused each other of high-handedness in the case.

Resolving the problem

Breaking the deadlock between the Cabinet Secretariat and the RCSC is urgent for the people to continue to have faith in the institution of government. The Cabinet is to answer RCSC’s demand for clarifications. Constitutional and other legal provisions are the reference point.

Either the judiciary has to be involved or the King has to intervene in resolving the matter. The latter seems to be highly unlikely, considering the King’s intentional distance from interfering in the day-to-day affairs of the country. There are also the institutions like Anti Corruption Commission whom the Cabinet has entrusted to investigate allegations of corruption.

However, the main contention remains of curbing corruption and for it the RCSC and the political executive have to work hand-in-hand. For a compromise to be reached, political will and accountability of the civil servants become important.

The RCSC must also ascertain whether there was any conflict of interest on part of cabinet secretaries. Personal and political vendetta must be overcome for reaching a compromise in the interest of the people of Bhutan.

Laws like the Right to Information Act and institutions like Corruption Commission need to be strengthened to ensure transparency and accountability and for improving governance in the country. Jigme Keshar Namgyel Wangchuck has already cautioned government functionaries against corruption during the Nation Day Address. It is time for Bhutan to reassess the functionability of institutions and introduce reforms for achieving the cherished socio-economic development, measured by Gross National Happiness. Unless, this is done the nation would be far from making its people happy.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India, Pakistan stuck on the beaten track as tensions rise again

Dr. Satish Misra

When in May 2013 a democratically-elected government replaced another in Islamabad and a new government assumed charge in New Delhi in May 2014, there was considerable hope of improvement in relations between the two neighbours. Those hopes were dashed sooner than expected, marking the return of tensions between the two south Asian countries.

On Wednesday, January 7, Pakistan decided to restrict the New Delhi-Lahore-New Delhi bus service up to Wagah border. Buses operating on Amritsar-Lahore-Nankana Sahib route have also been restricted and now don’t go beyond the border town. Islamabad has cited "terror" as a reason for taking this step.

The Delhi-Lahore bus service was launched in 1999 as part of the people-to-people contact programme. Then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled to Pakistan on the inaugural bus in February 1999. The bus service connecting Amritsar- Lahore-Nankana Sahib began in 2006.

Boat terrorism

The curtailing of the bus services is the latest setback to already deteriorating bilateral ties. Tensions between the two traditionally-hostile neighbours have been rising for last couple of weeks and took a serious turn on the New Year’s Eve when a Pakistani boat allegedly carrying "explosives" for terrorist activities was shown burning on the Gujarat coast after it was pinned down by Indian Coast Guards.

On the boat-bound terrorists, claims and counter-claims are being made from both sides. The Indian government claiming that the Pakistani boat was carrying terrorists. Islamabad has denied it, stating that it was a boat of "smugglers", firing on international border in Jammu and Kashmir has been going on for the last few months now.

Armed skirmishes, shelling and exchange of fire between Indian security forces and Pakistan Army on the international border and line of control (LoC) began mid-July last year rather within a month of the assumption of power by the BJP-led NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Jingoism on the rise

As doubts over the boat incident came to be expressed in a section of the media and the Opposition parties, including the Congress, asked pertinent questions over the veracity of the official version of the incident, Defence Minister Manohar Parikar had to make a forceful defence of the claim of the Indian Coast Guard that the occupants of the Pakistani boat were "suspected or possible terrorists" who were in touch with Pakistani maritime officials and the Pakistani Army.

Jingoism is rising every passing day on both sides. This eminently suits the ruling parties in Islamabad and New Delhi. Though two different sets of reasons are dictating the course of events for the Nawaz Sharif government and the NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi but this serves them well for diverting the popular attention from real problems confronting the two people.

Every day front-page headlines are screaming about deaths and destruction on the border. On the Indian side, village population has been vacated as shelling from Pakistani. Five jawans, including two army personnel and one woman have been killed in one week of the New Year.

On the other Pakistani media and the Islamabad government are also presenting their version which blames Indian side for killing of military and civilian population on their side. The Pakistani government has strongly denied that the boat carried any explosives or it had terrorists.

Border firings

The Pakistani firing on the J&K border became more pronounced during the assembly elections in the state and it was possibly an attempt to influence the course of the elections. Possibly even now, it is continuing to impact the course of post-election political developments in the state.

The other explanation of firing is possibly that the Pakistani Army is pushing some militants across the border for creating troubles and to undertake some terrorist operation. Pakistan has been doing this in the past too, and it would be no surprise that its Army is doing it again.

The Pakistani Army is under tremendous pressure after the killing of the 142 persons including 131 school children in a terrorist attack on an Army school in Peshawar three weeks ago.

Tough challenge

The civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing tough challenge domestically for a host of reasons. Though the economy grew by 4.14 per cent in 2014 yet it is not enough to take care of the growing population. Social peace is fragile as sectarian violence continues to rise every passing year.

The stranglehold of the Pakistani Army over the country’s political and economic system has not diminished a bit and thus poses a serious challenge to the democratically elected government In Islamabad. It restricts the freedom of action and policy options of the democratically elected government. The military establishment must also be feeling emboldened with the latest certification from the US government that Pakistan has prevented terror groups from operating in the country.

In this kind of circumstances, escalating tension at the India border could and would go a long way to divert the popular attention away from the internal problems to enemy India.

The BJP-led NDA government began on a promising note when it invited the Heads of State or Government of the members of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on the occasion of the oath taking ceremony of the new government. But this has proved to be short-lived as one incident after another continued to bedevil relations. Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif even avoided meeting in New York during the UN general assembly meeting. A meeting at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu turned out to be a mere photo opportunity.

The Modi government, which assumed power on May 26 last year, appears to have become a prisoner of its own rhetoric. During the Lok Sabha election campaign, the BJP leaders including Narendra Modi had promised strong action against Pakistan for its various anti-India acts.

If the government does not take strong steps against various anti-India acts of Pakistan, then the Modi government would not only be ridiculed by the opposition but would also be perceived weak in the eyes of its core constituency including uncommitted supporters who had overwhelmingly voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls and in subsequent assembly elections.

Forcing India’s hands

Assembly polls for electing a government for the national capital of Delhi are likely to take place next month and it appears impossible for the BJP-NDA government at the Centre to take any steps to reduce tensions on its border with Pakistan.

The situation is developing dangerously as both sides are treading a path which can force them into a major armed confrontation. Both governments have their own limitations. The prevailing political situation and domestic circumstances in two countries puts heavy constraints on the two governments.

A terrorist attack may force New Delhi’s hands to take a retaliatory action. This may generate a dynamics which may be impossible to either guide or control?

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Special military operations approved

During a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), the government of Afghanistan approved special military operations in a bid to tackle the terrorist activities by anti-government armed militant groups, which would include military raids. While military raids were recognised as a highly significant and effective military technique, the Afghan security forces were urged to respect Islamic values, the Afghan culture and the Afghan Constitution while executing such operations.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Afghanistan approves special military operations against insurgents", Khaama Press, 8 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban offered govt posts

The new government in Kabul has reportedly offered posts to Taliban leaders in the yet to be announced cabinet. The Ministry of Rural Affairs, the Borders, and Hajj and Religious Affairs along with governorship of Helmand, Nimruz and Kandahar provinces are said to have been offered to the Taliban leaders. However, the Taliban claims that it has turned down this offer on account of the security pacts signed by the new government with the US and NATO.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Afghanistan offered posts to Taliban leaders in new government", Khaama Press, 9 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to support textile industry

The Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha and the acting Minister of Commerce and Industries for Afghanistan Muzamil Shenwari signed an MoU this week through which both sides agreed to cooperate in developing closer economic relations and bilateral cooperation in the field of textiles, clothing, cotton, man-made fibre and handlooms.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India pledges support in developing textile industry in Afghanistan", Khaama Press, 8 January 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">A week of political violence

The week in Bangladesh witnessed countrywide political violence following faceoff between the two major political parties ruling Awami League and its rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) surrounding anniversary of 5th January parliamentary election.

The political violence led to death of 7 persons and disturbed daily lives of common people. The problem further intensified due to confinement of the BNP Chief and former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia in her party office in the diplomatic enclave of the Dhaka city.

However, government denied any of such charged and claimed that it has to take such step for her security. Situation remained tensed for the entire week as both the sides denied for any compromise. There are fears that situation might boil down further as BNP planned to intensify their protest movement.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Seven dead in Bangladesh’s election anniversary protests", Reuters, 8 January 2015; "Govt goes tough", The Independent, 5 January 2015; "Mounting tension results in violence", Dhaka Tribune, 6 January 2015; "Khaleda calls non-stop blockade ", Dhaka Tribune, 6 January 2015; " Hasina advises Khaleda to reorganize her party first", Dhaka Tribune, 6 January 2015; "BNP’s future plans hinging on conceived rally", Dhaka Tribune, 9 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Train to Kolkata

In mode to strengthen connectivity between India and Bangladesh a new Dhaka-Kolkata direct train under ’Maitree Express’ service was launched this week. Railways Minister of Bangladesh Mujibul Hoque inaugurated the extension of the service at the Dhaka Cantonment Railway Station.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "New Maitree Express train launched", The Independent, 6 January 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Policy to attract investment

A major policy change has taken place allowing foreign direct investment firms to repatriate dividends in convertible currency like US Dollar and Indian Rupee. This would be of great help to FDI companies involved in priority service sectors like hotels.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "FDI policy relaxed to attract investors", Kuensel Online, 8 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Debate over RCSC’s response

At a time when the cabinet is busy collecting evidences and details that would back its surrender of 3 secretaries, a discussion has emerged on what the Royal Bhutan Services Commission was implying the Civil Services Act, Civil Services Rules and the Constitution,

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "What the RCSC is trying to convey" Kuensel Online, 3 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Power import till 2017

The country would continue to import small amounts of power to meet the domestic demand during winter months till the year 2017. The Druk Green Power Corporation has projected that the domestic demand will continue to grow gradually in a short term, until the first mega project gets commissioned at a lower rate.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Electricity import to increase until 2017", Kuensel Online, 6 January 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi felicitates Diaspora

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), or Indian Diaspora Celebration, the annual felicitation of non-resident Indians across the world. Modi urged the diaspora community to contribute to India’s development and promised reduced red tape in travel and investment opportunities.

The event took place in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar, which will also host the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, a business conclave organised by the State Government where US Secretary of State John Kerry and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim are scheduled to speak.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "PM to NRIs at Pravasi Bharatiya Divas: India is full of opportunities now", The Times of India, 8 January 2015; "Narendra Modi inaugurates Pravasi Bharatiya Divas", The Hindu, 8 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Economist Arvind Panagariya, vice-chief of NITI Aayog

Prominent US-based economist Arvind Panagariya was appointed as vice-chairman of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, the successor to the Planning Commission.

Panagariya was widely speculated for the post, given the compatibility between his stand in favour of free-market economics and the incumbent government’s ideological grounding in the political right. Panagariya is the Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy at Columbia University.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Arvind Panagariya named vice-chairman of Niti Aayog", The Economic Times, 7 January 2015; "Arvind Panagariya: The man who will run PM Modi’s policy commission", The Times of India, 5 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Row over sunken ’terror boat’

Following the sinking of a boat intercepted by the Coast Guard off the coast of Gujarat, the identity and intent of its dead occupants sparked controversy. The boat, believed to have originated from Pakistan, was thought to be on a terrorist mission akin to the 26/11 attack of 2008.

After initial vacillation, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar termed the boatmen as ’suspected terrorists’ and ruled out them being smugglers, on grounds of the suicidal act of blowing up the boat to avoid arrest.

Earlier, the Congress had accused the government of sensationalising the incident, withholding information, and making unsubstantiated claims about the boat’s terror credentials.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Congress, BJP trade charges over Pakistani boat issue", The Hindu, 5 January 2015; "Pakistan boat had suspected terror links, says Manohar Parrikar" The Hindu, 5 January 2015; "’Terror boat’: Congress questions govt’s claim, BJP says opposition speaking Pak language", The Times of India, 4 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New funds for green energy

As part of its blueprint for energy security, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government plans to float five funds of $5 billion each, targeted at promoting green energy sources.

The ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) plans to get the help of state-owned and private sector financial institutions such as Power Finance Corp. Ltd (PFC), Rural Electrification Corp. Ltd (REC), Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), IFCI Ltd, SBI Capital Markets Ltd and ICICI Bank Ltd to create a corpus of $25 billion.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India plans five $5 billion green energy funds", Mint, 9 January 2015; "Narendra Modi Government To Raise $25B For Green Energy Funds: Report", International Business Times, 9 January 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">50 locals in foreign wars

In the light of six more Maldivians, including an ex-soldier and murder-accused, were reported to have joined the Syrian civil war recently, the nation’s police has said that the total number of those fighting in foreign wars added up to over 50.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Over 50 Maldivian militants fighting in foreign wars, reveals Commissioner of Police", Minivan News, 8 January 2014; "Azlif Raoof, aspiring ’jihadi’ attempted to take his family", Haveeru Online, 8 January 2015; "Two immigration officers and Afrasheem murder suspect among group of seven jihadis", Minivan News, 8 January 2015; "No pending charges against Azlif Rauf, says Criminal Court", Minivan News, 8 January 2014; "Hithadhoo school to become Maldives’ first Arabic medium school", Minivan News, 8 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tourism fete ’against Islam’

The Government-sponsored ’Tourist Arrival Countdown’ show was a ’conspiracy against Islam’, the religion-centric Adhaalath Party has said.

Coming as it does after Jamaican dancehall fame, Sean Paul had cancelled his trip following social media threats to him, traced to the country, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb said that the tourism promotion programme, involving American singer Akon and Indian film-star Priyanka Chopra was aimed at just that , adding "Maldives does not belong to the ’Islamic state’."

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "’Akon’s performance, conspiracy against Islam’", Haveeru Online, 7 January 2015; "Intentions are to promote Maldives, not defy Islam’ says Minister", Haveeru Online, 4 January 2015; "Priyanka: No performance today!" SunOnline, January 8, 2015; "Priyanka Chopra presents awards to key players in tourism industry", SunOnline, January 9, 2015; "Tourism Ministry targets 1.4 million tourists for 2015", SunOnline, January 5, 2015; "Maldives drops as preferred tourist destination", Haveeru Online, 6 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet united, says Govt

Seeking to silence speculation and rumours over differences within the higher echelons, the Government claimed that the Cabinet was united.

The speculation flowed from Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim went overseas on personal work, and President Abdulla Yameen named Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb to hold additional charge.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "’Cabinet as united as ever’ says President’s Office", Haveeru Online, 6 January 2015; "Tourism Minister Adeeb temporarily in charge of Defense Ministry", Minivan News, 4 January 2015; "President Yameen takes another trip to Singapore", Minivan News, 8 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Nasheed wanted law-change’

Parliament Deputy Speaker and former Chairperson of the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), since sacked from primary membership, has said that MDP leader and former President Mohammed Nasheed had asked a party MP to seek some controversial amendments to the Judicature Act.

The MDP, including the MP who had moved the amendments, voted against the law, but which when passed by the ruling coalition, was cited to remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and another Judge from the seven-member Bench, whose strength had been brought down to five.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Amendments to Judicature Act submitted on request of President Nasheed, says Reeko Moosa", Minivan News, 5 January 2015; "Moosa’s removal from MDP membership filed to Appeal Committee", SunOnline, 4 January 2017

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yameen fetes new Sri Lankan leader

President Abdulla Yameen and three former Maldivian Presidents have, in separate messages, congratulated neighbouring Sri Lanka’s new elected President, Maithripala Sirisena.

Soon after the Sri Lankan poll results were known, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon left for Colombo to convey the Maldivian Government’s felicitations to the new President, personally.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President Yameen congratulates new Sri Lankan President", SunOnline, 9 January 2015; "Three former presidents congratulate Sri Lanka’s new President Sirisena", SunOnline, 9 January 2015; "Foreign Minister Dunya departs for Colombo", Miadhu, 9 January 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ethnic groups attend Independence day

As many as 13 ethnic armed group representatives attended the 67th independence day parade on 4 January. The government had invited 16 ethnic groups while Kachin Independence Organization, Karenni National Progressive Party and Chin National Front did not send representatives. Suu Kyi did not attend the parade.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : President to host ethnic leaders for Independence Day talks", Democratic Voice of Burma, 4 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN Rapporteur begins visit

The UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar, Yanghee Lee arrived in the country on 7 December. Lee is said to access the current human rights situation in Rakhine state and northern Shan States. The UN envoy met the country’s civil society organizations and political prisoners on 7 and 8 December.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "UN rapporteur to examine human rights in Arakan, Shan states", Democratic Voice of Burma, 6 January 2014; "UN rapporteur meets Myanmar civil society organizations", Mizzima, 9 January 2014; "UN Special Rapporteur Begins tour to Myanmar", Eleven Myanmar, 8 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Voters’ list in Feb

Union Election Commission is set to release a preliminary voter’s eligibility list in early next month. The UEC began working on the voter list in November last year.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "First Phase of National Voter List Preparation Near Completion: UEC", The Irrawaddy, 8 January 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Constitutional questions remain

Constituent Assembly members who took part in the debate on Constitutional-Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC)’s report today were divided on how to settle the disputed issues of the constitution, with some laying emphasis on consensus and others on majority.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "CA debate on CPDCC report concludes", The Himalayan Times, 8 January 2015; "CPDCC assigned to resend report by Jan 13", The Himalayan Times, 8 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade Fair in March

The Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) is scheduled to hold the fourth Nepal International Trade Fair from March 12 at Bhrikuti Mandap. The five-day event will have more than 300 stalls representing national and international traders.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nepal International Trade Fair to be held in March", eKantipur, 9 January 2015; "FNCCI organizing int’l trade fair in March", Republica, 9 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Passport for ’third gender’

Nepal will issue passports to sexual minorities, adding a third gender category, an official said on Wednesday. In Nepal, activists said the third gender recognition on passports would help tackle widespread discrimination against the country´s sexual minorities.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nepal’s ’third gender’ passport", Republica, 7 January 2015; "Nepal to issue passports with third gender for sexual minorities", Reuters, 7 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Attack condemned

The government has condemned the attack at Charlie Hebdo , a French magazine, on Wednesday. "The Government of Nepal is deeply shocked to learn about the terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris, France, resulting in the death of its editor, other media persons and security personnel," said a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nepal condemns Charlie Hebdo attack", eKantipur, 8 January 2015; "Govt condemns attack on Paris paper", The Himalayan Times, 8 January 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Three-tier scrutiny of madarsas

As part of the recently announced National Action Plan (NAP) on Counterterrorism, the Ministry of Interior has launched a three-tier scrutiny of some madarsas that have identified by the intelligence agencies for their alleged links with terror and banned organisations.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Three-tier scrutiny of seminaries with terror links launched", The Nation, 10 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Seven killed in blast

At least seven people were killed and 17 others were critically injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up on being stopped from entering an Imambargah in Chitti Hattian of Rawalpindi by security.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "7 killed in blast near Pindi Imambargah", The Nation, 10 January 2015; "Uptick in violence: Blast near Imambargah kills 5 in Rawalpindi", The Express Tribune, 10 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nine courts to try terrorists

The Pakistan Army has initiated the process of establishing military courts to try suspected terrorists three days after the Parliament approved the 21st constitutional amendment paving the way for these courts.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Trying terrorists: Nine military courts will be set up, says ISPR", The Express Tribune, 10 January 2015

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sirisena is President

Ending the tension and speculation of the past week, the nation elected common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena the new President, by a four percentage point vote-share victory in the 8 January polling, which incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa had advanced by nearly two years.

The new President took over in a hurriedly-arranged colourful function in the capital Colombo’s Independent Square, and administered the oaths to new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as per the pre-poll public announcement.

The two leaders, without losing time, promised national reconciliation, State protection to his predecessor, and also cautioned that the police would arrest anyone resorting to violence.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "President Sirisena assures Mahinda of state protection, calls for peaceful celebrations", The Island, 9 January 2015; "Maithripala Prez, Ranil Premier", The Island, 9 January 2015; "Ranil thanks MR for smooth transfer of power", The Island, 9 January 2015; "Hakeem backs new President", The Island, 9 January 2015; "TNA will not accept positions in Maithri govt; But will support Advisory Council", Asian Mirror, 5 January 2015; "JVP to decide on journey with new govt.", The Island 9 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi invites MS to India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned Sri Lankan President-elect Maithripala Sirisena even as the latter established a comfortable lead, and invited him to India.

China too was early on congratulated the President Sirisena, the US, which along with the UN, had called upon President Rajapaksa to ensure free and fair elections, congratulated him for ensuring the same. Nearer home in the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu, political parties mainly focussed on President Rajapaksa’s defeat.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Modi telephones MS, invites him to India; TN parties hail MR’s ouster", The Island, 9 January 2015; "China congratulates President Sirisena", The Island, 9 January 2015; "US commends MR for smooth transfer of powers", The Island 9 January 2015; "Govt. concerned over ’misplaced’ UN statement", Daily Mirror Online 8 January 2015; "EC warns of re-poll in case of violence", Daily Mirror Online 5 January 2015; "Mahanayakes, Bishops call for peaceful polls", The Island 5 January 5 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pope visit confirmed

Pope Francis will be the first global dignitary that the new Sirisena-Wickremesinghe is scheduled to receive after assuming office, when His Holiness arrives in Colombo on a planned two-day visit.

The Pope comes at the invitation of the outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Pope’s visit as scheduled", The Island, 7 January 2015

Primary Documentation


India and Afghanistan sign MoU on textile cooperation, Embassy of India, Kabul, Afghanistan, 7 January 2015

Special Instructions of the Islamic Emirate’s leadership regarding precautionary means to prevent civilian casualties in the ongoing Jihad, Voice of Jihad, 4 January 2015


News of Bhutan SEAL Awards, Bhutan Ministry of Economic Affairs, 5 January 2015


Brinda Karat (member, CPM politburo), "The divided city", The Indian Express, 8 January 2015

Welcome Address by Minister of External Affairs & Overseas Indian Affairs at the Inaugural Session of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2015, Ministry of External Affairs, 8 January 2015

Ram Madhav (vice president and general secretary, BJP), "The city of activism and hope", The Indian Express, 7 January 2015

External Affairs Minister’s address at the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Ministry of External Affairs, 7 January 2015

Interview with Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, " ’Did many things that Nitish could not’ ", The Hindu, 6 January 2015

Text of PM’s address at the 102nd Indian Science Congress, Website of the Prime Minister, 3 January 2015

Devendra Fadnavis (Chief Minister, Maharashtra), "Here’s looking at you again, Mumbai", The Indian Express, 3 January 2015


Press Release on terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo magazine in France on 7 Jan 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 8 January 2015


Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 8Th January 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 8 January 2015

Statement on the Terrorist Attack in Paris, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 8 January 2015

Pakistan-Bahrain Joint Press Statement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 8 January 2015

President’s Letter of Condolence to the French President, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 8 January 2015

Visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to Bahrain, 7-8 January 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 6 January 2015

Response to Indian MEA Spokesperson’s Remarks, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 6 January 2015

Pakistan Condemns US Drone Strike in North Waziristan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 5 January 2015




Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil, "China Creates New Avenue for Afghan Peace Talks", The Wall Street Journal, 6 January 2015

Daud Qarizadah, "Afghanistan’s pace-setting president seeks results", BBC News, 6 January 2015

Opinion Pieces

Thomas Ruttig, Kate Clark and Obaid Ali, "104 Days without a Government - and Counting: The national mood sours", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 9 January 2015

Martine van Bijlert, "After the Rollercoaster Comes What? Afghanistan in 2015", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 7 January 2015

Candace Karp and Michael O’Hanlon, "Protecting the Gains in Afghanistan", The Wall Street Journal, 7 January 2015

Michael Kugelman, "What You Won’t Hear in Afghanistan in 2015", Foreign Policy, 7 January 2015

Gabriel Domínguez, "What can NATO’s new Afghanistan mission achieve?", DW, 6 January 2015

James Stavridis, "All Is Not Lost in Afghanistan" , Foreign Policy, 5 January 2015

Peter Bergen, "Why U.S. needs to stay in Afghanistan", CNN, 5 January 2015


Opinion Pieces

Syed Badrul Ahsan, "Bangladesh and India: Opportunities for a consolidation of ties", The Daily Observer, 7 January 2015

Mohd Fahad Ifaz, "The $150bn startup called Bangladesh", Dhaka Tribune, 5 January 2015


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "Sharing information", Kuensel Online, 8 January 2015

Kuensel, , "Letting private sector grow", Kuensel Online, 3 January 2015


Opinion Pieces

Christophe Jaffrelot, " ’Reconversion’ paradoxes", The Indian Express, 7 January 2015

Suchitra Vijayan, "Islamic difference and radicalisation", The Hindu, 7 January 2015

M. C. Madhavan, "Can India catch up with China?", The Hindu, 6 January 2015

Sanjay Kumar and Pranav Gupta, "When the elephant disappears", The Hindu, 5 January 2015

Peter Ronald deSouza, "Speaking truth to power", The Hindu, 3 January 2015


Opinion pieces

Eleven Myanmar, "All Parties Must Strive For Peace", Eleven Myanmar, 7 January 2015

Eleven Myanmar, "New Year and Old Issue", Eleven Myanmar, 4 January 2015


Opinion Pieces

Jagannath Adhikari, ’Most of the people’, eKantipur, 9 January 2015

Roshan Sedhai, ’No country for women’, eKantipur, 9 January 2015

Tika P. Dhakal, ’Forget Deadline’, Republica, 8 January 2015

Mahabir Paudyal, ’Now or never’, Republica, 7 January 2015

Pramod Aryal, ’Good Earth’, Republica, 7 January 2015


Opinion pieces

Khaled Ahmed, "Because of India", The Indian Express, 10 January 2015

Syed Mohammad Ali, "Flawed thinking about Pakistan", The Indian Express, 9 January 2015

Tarek Fatah "India, Pakistan on the brink, again", Toronto Sun, 6 January 2015

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Did the minorities ’fix’ Mahinda Rajapaksa?",, 9 January 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Sri Lanka’s new government, and India and China",,9 January 2015

Ameen Izadeen, "After crucial polls, priority for good governance", Daily Mirror, 9 January 2015

Jehan Perera, "Keeping misgovernance at bay after elections", The Island, 5 January 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Of rains, opinion polls and first preference vote", The Sunday Leader, 4 January 2015

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

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.


Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale was a Junior Fellow in the Strategic Studies Programme and Indian Neighbourhood Initiative of ORF.

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