MonitorsPublished on Mar 30, 2015
Nepal and China have agreed in principle to take up a joint project on infrastructure development of the Nepal-China Economic Belt. The decision was taken at the Foreign Ministers' level meeting held in Beijing recently to commemorate the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two neighbours.
Nepal: India's sensitivity to connectivity with China
< class="heading1">Analysis

Nepal and China have agreed in principle to take up a joint project on infrastructure development of the Nepal-China Economic Belt. The decision was taken at the Foreign Ministers’ level meeting held in Beijing recently to commemorate the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two neighbours. During the meeting, China proposed a $40 -billion worth of Nepal-China Silk Road Economic Belt. The project includes development of rail network from Tibet to Kathmandu, which will be extended further to Patna, India. China intends to extend the Silk Road Economic Belt to South Asia, by working out a blueprint of connecting Nepal with the Eurasian transport corridor.

According to experts, under the terms of the deal signed at the end of December 2014, China will be able to ship goods through the Himalayan nation, with Nepal earning transit fees. For some analysts, the move has a geopolitical motive as well because it will enable Beijing to bypass the US’ new ’Asia Pivot’ by which Washington hopes to increase its influence in the area through bilateral agreements with Japan and India.

Under this new Silk Route blueprint, China wants to open up the transportation channel from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea, from which would radiate rail and road routes connecting East, West, and South Asia. In this context China wants to be connected with Nepal, through an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway. The rail line from Lhasa has already been extended to Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city. China plans to build two lines from Shigatse: one line would lead to Kerung, the nearest Chinese town to the Nepal border. The line would further be extended to Rasuwagadhi in Nepal, The second line would head to Yadong on the India-Bhutan border.

Financial assistance

It is to be noted that China has also increased its financial assistance to Nepal from 150 million RMB to 800 million RMB. According to Nepal’s Finance Secretary Suman Sharma,"" This is the largest amount of support extended by the Chinese government to Nepal and this reflects the close, friendly and cordial relations between these two countries.

At the 11thsession of the Nepal-China Joint Economic and Trade Committee held in Beijing on December 17-18, Nepal also requested the Chinese side to expedite the construction of Inland Clearance Depots (ICDs) in Larcha and Rasuwa and help widen and upgrade the Dhulikhel?Tatopani road.

Nepal has also requested the Chinese side for harmonizing work hours of custom offices, establishment and upgrading necessary infrastructure at custom points in Tatopani and Rasuwagadi. The ministry has reported that the Chinese side responded positively to both the requests. Moreover, both the sides have agreed to increase cooperation in the tourism sector as well.

The Chinese side had asked Nepal to further relax visa provision to Chinese nationals in Nepal to promote Chinese tourists visiting Nepal and create conducive environment for early completion of China-funded projects, including Kathmandu Ring Road expansion project. The joint press release after the meeting showed that the two foreign ministers reviewed the existing bilateral relations and exchanged views on issues of mutual cooperation.

A Chinese expert on Nepal said it was no secret that security cooperation was focused on curbing Tibetans’ activities, both along the border and within the exiled community. Nepal is home to more than 20,000 Tibetans. This week, Tibetan groups said Nepali authorities had banned any public activities to mark the March 10 anniversary of "uprising day". Tibetan overseas groups said the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office had been denied permission to hold activities, seen by them as a sign of increasing restrictions imposed at the behest of China.

India’s concern

Nepalese involvement in the New Silk Road will enable Nepalese goods to travel throughout Eurasia and could spur an economic renaissance in the country. Nepal is currently connected to international trade routes only through India. It is true that Nepal’s relations with India have improved since Prime Minister NarendraModi’s visit, which has raised high hopes and expectations. However, it is also true that China has been able to pour more money into developing Nepal’s infrastructure than India. The Chinese Foreign Minister has pointed out that relations between China and India are mutually reinforcing. "Nepal and India are also reinforcing their relations for mutual benefit and we encourage positive interaction."

Observers say that the rail connectivity with China will spur the globalisation of the Nepalese economy. Once a rail connection with China is established, Nepalese goods can be transited to the international markets through the Eurasian transportation network. Against this backdrop it is important for India to deliver what she has promised for the development of Nepal to increase trust between two neighbours.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan: No cause for disgust in this line of duty

Taruni Kumar

Just two hours after attending the Pakistan National Day celebrations at the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi, which were presided over by the Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit, Minister of State (External Affairs) Gen V K Singh (retd) posted a series of tweets on his Twitter account defining the words "duty" and "disgust". This undiplomatic and highly unorthodox move by the Indian government’s representative to the event has raised questions about India’s Pakistan policy.

While the Minister did not directly refer to the Pakistan National Day celebrations, the timing of the tweets makes the connection evident. According to media reports, Singh did not spend a long time at the reception, ate and drank nothing and kept a grim face during his stay. When asked about his presence at the celebrations by reporters, he is quoted to have said that the Government of India had to send a Minister of State, so they sent him and he "went there and came back".

The standard procedure for National Day receptions of embassies of all countries involves the government nominating a Cabinet Minister or a Minister of State as its representative. Singh has earlier been a representative at the Chinese and Saudi embassy receptions.

Gen Singh is the former Indian Chief of Army Staff and this background has led to questions about the government’s decision to choose him as its official representative to the Pakistan National Day reception which was also attended by Hurriyat leaders. The practice of the Pakistan High Commission hosting the Hurriyat leaders at this annual reception has been ongoing for two decades and was not unexpected. However, despite these factors, the Indian government was well within its rights to send Singh in his capacity as MoS (External Affairs) as the official representative.

Abdul Basit said that he didn’t think that India had any objections to Hurriyat leaders being present at the event. In response, Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the Indian External Affairs Ministry, reiterated India’s stated position that there is no place for a third party in the resolution of India and Pakistan’s issues. He said that the government of India prefers to speak for itself.

Bilateral dialogue

While Gen VK Singh’s tweets may have reflected negatively on the India-Pakistan dynamic, Pakistan’s National Day began positively with the Prime Minister NarendraModisending his greetings to his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. He also conveyed his belief that all outstanding issues between the two neighbours could be resolved through "bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence".

Prior to Prime Minister Modi’s election, there was a belief that a BJP-led government at the Centre would take a hardline on Pakistan. However, the Indian Prime Minister showed that he was aiming for better relations with India’s western neighbour when he invited Prime Minister Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony along with other SAARC leaders.

The Indian government has pursued a mixed approach towards Pakistan since then. While on the one hand, India cancelled foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan in August 2014 because of Abdul Basit’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders, it softened its stand this year and declared that Pakistan could meet with these leaders at any time except immediately before official-level talks.

After the August 2014 cancellation of talks, Pakistan took the stand that since India was the one to cancel, the ball was in India’s court to resume talks. Though India did not immediately give in to this, the Prime Minister did send the newly appointed foreign secretary S. Jaishankar on a ’SAARC yatra’ to show his commitment towards improved relations with India’s neighbours. This ’yatra’ included a trip to Pakistan which broke the impasse between the two countries on talks.

VK Singh’s discomfiture at being present to celebrate India’s neighbour’s National Day shows a departure from the line taken by the Modi government. The latter seems willing to make compromises to bring both countries to the negotiation table. In a situation as historically complicated as India and Pakistan’s, the approach that espouses tolerance and compromise seems more productive than one where sharing in a neighbour’s celebrations is cause for disgust.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Afghanistan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ghani, Abdullah in the US

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, along with his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, undertook his first visit to the US since coming to power in October 2014.

During this visit, President Ghani addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress, where he thanked the American soldiers for their sacrifices and commitments to Afghanistan over the past decade, called for stronger US-Afghan relations, and the need for Afghanistan to become a self-reliant nation. He also spoke about rising threat of the Islamic State in the region. President Ghani also delivered speeches at the Pentagon, the State Department and in New York, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Ghani Hails US Sacrifices In His Address to Congress", Tolo News, 25 March 2015; "Ghani addresses Congress, Eager to Rebuild Afghan-US Ties", The New York Times, 25 March 2015;

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US to decelerate drawdown

US President Barack Obama, in a joint press conference with President Ghani during the latter’s visit to the US, announced that the US will maintain the 9800 US troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2015. As per the initial drawdown plans, the US was expected to reduce the total American troops in the country by 50 percent by the end of 2015.

President Ghani welcomed the US decision and claimed that the flexibility in the drawdown schedule would help Kabul to ensure a smoother security transition in the country. The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also announced the alliance’s support for the US decision.

Moreover, during a joint press conference of the two Afghan leaders, US State Secretary John Kerry and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, the US announced its commitment to continue funding a 352,000-member strong Afghan security force through 2017 and also fund the Afghan government’s reform agenda.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "No American Soldier To Leave Afghanistan This Year: Obama", Tolo News, 25 March 2015; "NATO Welcomes Obama’s Decision of Slowing Drawdown From Afghanistan", Tolo News, 27 March 2015; "Two Important US Pledges To Afghanistan At Camp David", Tolo News, 24 March 2015;

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protests against lynching of woman

There were massive protests in Afghanistan this week against the killing of Farkhunda, an Afghan woman who was beaten to death, burnt and then thrown in the Kabul River last week by a mob. The incident took place in the presence of the police and occurred after a Mullah had accused her of burning the Holy Quran.

These allegations have been denied by the investigating team terming them as ’baseless’. The protestors chanted anti-police slogans for their failure to stop the incident and called upon the justice system of the country to prosecute the accused. The police have arrested 18 suspects.

Earlier in the week, in a sign of protest, women carried her coffin, marking a departure from the usual Afghan funeral customs.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Kabul mob attack: Women help bury ’wrongly accused’ Farkhunda", BBC News, 22 March 2015; "Protests Continue in Kabul OverFarkhunda’s Death", Tolo News, 24 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Alarm over IS’ spread

There have been increasing concerns among Afghan policymakers about the rise of the Islamic State in the region. A number of members of the House of Representatives claimed that the recent killing of 13 people in the MaidanWardak province, the first place where reports of the Islamic State had first emerged.

There is a growing worry that, if unchecked, the Islamic State may soon reach Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani had also warned of the threat of the Islamic State during his speech at the US Congress claiming that the group was sending fighters into southern and western Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "MPs Alarmed At Potential Daesh Activity Near Kabul ", Tolo News, 25 March 2015; "President Ghani: ISIS a terrible threat to Afghanistan and region", Khaama Press, 26 March 2015

Bangladesh

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">City corporation election

Amidst continuing political violence elections are scheduled to be held in three major city corporations in the country. Although both the political parties are interested in participating in the election and ruling Awami League is preparing to launch its campaign.

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party is divided on their plan of campaign. Considering the developments the question that prevailing among people whether all party participation in the election of the city corporations will mark and end to the three month long country-wide blockade that has caused more than 300 lives.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "City Corporation Elections 2015 : Cornered BNP vs upbeat AL", The Daily Star, 27 March 2015; "An exit strategy for BNP", The Daily Star, 26 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Independence Day celebrated

The country celebrated its 45th Independence Day this week with much festivity. On March 26, 1971, father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared Bangladesh’s independence following the crackdown on unarmed Bangalis on the midnight of March 25 by the Pakistani occupation forces. After a nine-month bloody War of Liberation, the people of the country achieved its cherished independence on December 16, 1971.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nation celebrates 45th Independence Day",Dhaka Tribune, 27 March 2015;

Bhutan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">WTO quandary to end soon

The Bhutan government would soon take a decision on whether to join the World Trade Organisation. The question over the decision over accession of WTO by the country was raised during a recently held workshop, to which Economic Affairs Minister, NorbuWangchuck, the decision would be taken early next month.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "WTO quandary expected to end soon", Kuensel Online, 26 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Electrification incomplete

Two years have passed since the deadline for rural electrification but Shingkhar, Zhemgang’s rural electrification is not yet complete. The yearlong contract was awarded in October 2011, all works were to be complete by 11 November 2012.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Electrification incomplete two years past deadline", Kuensel Online, 25 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Branding happiness

Bhutan’s happiness concept will now be used to promote brand Bhutan, according to a strategy that a Singapore-based branding consultant, Future brand has come up with. The consultant has also recommended that the brand Bhutan board be formed under the Prime Minister and the Gross National Happiness Commission be tasked with the job.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Branding happiness for Bhutan", Kuensel Online, 26 March 2015

India

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC ’no’ to law curtailing free speech

The Supreme Court on 24 March declared Section 66A of the Information Technology Act to be unconstitutional. The controversial legislation restricted freedom of opinion by giving the executive powers to punish citizens posting comments in the social media considered ’offensive’ or ’menacing’.

The apex court bench described it as ’open-ended and unconstitutionally vague’, adding that it "arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately" encroached the right to free speech and right to dissent. Section 66A was generously used by politicians of different denominations to stifle criticism by claiming slight to religious and ethnic identity.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Supreme Court takes freedom of speech to the Net by striking down much abused Section 66A", The Indian Express, 25 March 2015; "The judgment that silenced Section 66A", The Hindu, 26 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ex-PM moves SC

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh moved Supreme Court to exempt him from appearing in a special court to defend his role in the allocation of coal blocks which was later found to have been compromised in favour of interested parties.

Singh is implicated for criminal conspiracy and breach of trust, and blamed for accommodating Hindalco in the 2005 allocation of the Talabira-II coal block in Odisha. In his petition delivered on 24 March, the former two-time Prime Minister claimed that the summoning order was against the principles of legal jurisprudence and was not based on any evidence suggestive of criminal conspiracy.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Coal scam case: Manmohan Singh moves Supreme Court against summons", The Indian Express, 26 March 2015; "Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Challenges Summons in Coal Scam Case", NDTV, 25 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade & defence talks with Qatar

India and Qatar held bilateral talks related to defence, security, and trade on 25 March during Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani’s visit to New Delhi. The Emir met with Prime Minister NarendraModi and signed cooperative agreements focused on infrastructure development, information and communications, media, and science.

They also sought closer cooperation in counter-terrorism, and alluded to a greater role of the United Nations in conflict resolution. The two countries also signed a pact on transfer of prisoners, which will facilitate nationals serving sentences to complete the remainder of their term in their home country.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "We trust the Indian economy, we’ll invest here, says Qatar Emir", The Times of India, 25 March 2015; "India invites Qatar to participate in mega transport projects", The Economic Times, 25 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Security posts targeted in J&K

Militants launched two attacks against security forces’ camps in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir. The first attack targeted a police base in Kathua on 20 March in which three security personnel were killed and ten others were injured.

The two attackers, disguised in army uniforms, were killed in a subsequent skirmish. Barely 24 hours later, a team of 2 militants, believed to have infiltrated across the International Border alongside the other assailants, attacked an army camp in the adjoining Samba district. Both the militants were killed in the ensuing six-hour gunfight, in which three army personnel and a civilian were also injured.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Terror attack at police station in J&K, 6 killed; encounter ends", The Times of India, 20 March 2015; "Militants attack Samba army camp", The Hindu, 21 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Naval plane crashes off Goa

A Dornier-228 maritime surveillance aircraft crashed about 25 nautical miles off the coast of Goa on 24 March. The aircraft, which was carrying 3 officers, was on a routine training mission. One officer was rescued by fishermen, while the remaining two are missing.

The Navy deployed more than six warships and other aircraft in search operations. Rescuers found the fuselage of the sunken aircraft, but are yet to locate the missing officers.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Dornier crash: Hunt of for missing naval officers; duo believed to be of Lieutenant rank", Daily News and Analysis, 26 March 2015; "Navy orders probe into crash of surveillance aircraft", The Hindu, 25 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">High revenue from telecom auctions

The third telecom airwaves auction concluded on 25 March, 2015, after requisite permission was granted by the Supreme Court to the government. The auction which began on 4 March, 2015 saw 19 days of intense bidding by the country’s top operators.

The government raised 1.10 trillion rupees through the auction, the amount being a third higher than what the government had anticipated. The government aims to sponsor its fiscal deficit with the payments received from the auction. More than Rs 28,000 crore will be received in initial payments over the next 10 days, followed by annual instalments beginning 2017.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : ""Spectrum auction: Idea spends most for airwaves", The Financial Express, 27 March 2015; ""Supreme Court allows govt to conclude telecom airwave auctions", Reuters, 26 March 2015

Maldives

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nazim sentenced to 11 years

The Male criminal court trying former Defence Minister, Col Mohamad Nazim (retd), has sentenced him to undergo 11 years in prison after the police claimed to have recovered weapons in a midnight raid on his wife’s residence when he was still in office.

Though the State had dropped charges of a coup attempt (which was officially claimed outside the court) the prison term would disqualify him from contesting elections for a period.

Nazim was known to be aspiring to contest the presidential polls, either in 2018 or 2023, and became popular after as the head of the ministerial Task Force, entrusted with the handling of the drinking water crisis in capital Male in early December, 2014.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Ex-Defence Minister Nazim found guilty of smuggling weapons, sentenced to 11 years in jail", Minivan News, 27 March 2015; "Colonel Nazim sent to Asseyri prison", Miadhu, 27 March 2015; "Maumoon ’begged’ to free Nazim: Imran", Haveeru Online, 25 March 2015; ""Ex-defence minister’s brother urges police to disobey police chief", Minivan News, 22 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP hints at deal?

By declaring that ’Maldives need to change on coming Sunday’, when government offices begin functioning after the usual two-day weekend, Opposition MDP Chairperson, Ali Waheed, may have indicated that the party might have struck a deal with President Abdulla Yameen.

Addressing an Opposition rally, Ali Waheed said that President Yameen could grant clemency to jailed predecessor Mohammed Nasheed, who in turn had refused to prefer time-consuming appeals against his trial court conviction and imprisonment for 13 years.

This, even as the Opposition reiterated that their protests and rallies were not aimed at toppling the government, and called upon the Yameen leadership to engage them in a dialogue, for which they had set up a combined team.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Maldives needs to change on Sunday- Ali Waheed", Miadhu, 27 March 2015; "Maldivians still waiting for peace: Umar", Haveeru Online, 26 March 2015;"Nasheed conviction "grossly unfair," highlights "judicial politicisation," says ICJ", Minivan News, 26 March 2015; "’Nasheed trial outcome may have been pre-determined’",Haveeru Online, 21 March 2015; "Govt invites UN, Commonwealth, EU to observe appeal process of Nasheed", Miadhu, 24 March 2015; "UN human rights chief expresses strong concern over "hasty and apparently unfair" Nasheed trial", Minivan News, 18 March 2015; "Maldives will "emerge victorious over adversarial states," says President Yameen", Minivan News, 23 March 2015; "Gayoom denies rifts within government", Minivan News, 26 March 2015; "Indian High Commissioner former President Gayoom", Haveeru Online, 23 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Oppn denies charge

The combined political Opposition has denied the charge that their agreement to work together, to expose the ’dictatorial’ conduct of the government of President Abdulla Yameen, was not aimed at ousting him.

The clarification came after a section of the local media reported otherwise, citing the document that the MDP, JP and AP had signed earlier.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Opposition parties sign agreement to oust President", Haveeru Online, 26 March 2015; "Agreement to overthrow government, a lie: parties", Haveeru Online, 26 March 2015; "Police declare opposition protests not peaceful, threatens crackdown", Minivan News, 27 March 2015; "Former MDP President Dr Didi arrested", Minivan News, 26 March 2015; "Three vehicles set on fire", SunOnline, 27 March 2015; "Reporters arrested a concern, reporters turning activists a greater concern: Shaheeb",Haveeru Online, 26 March 2015; "Contest now on for MDP leadership ticket: Adeeb", Haveeru Online, 23 March 2015; "Amendments prohibit civil servants from holding political party posts", Minivan News, 26 March 2015

Myanmar

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Student protestors charged

Bago court charged 69 students on charges that carry a maximum sentence of 3 years in jail on 25 April. The students had been arrested two weeks back for protesting against a new education law in Letpadan town when the police allegedly cracked down on protestors.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Burma Files Charges against 69 Education Law Protestors ", The Irrawaddy, 26 March 2015; Bago court charges 65 protestors as relatives express anger outside ", Myanmar Times, 26 March 2015; Sixty-nine charged for ’rioting’ in Letpadan ", Democratic Voice of Burma, 25 March 2015;

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade dispute with Thailand resolved

The deadlock over import of fuel from Thailand was resolved after Thai officials and traders met in Mae Sot on 24 March to resume fuel exports to Myanmar, which they had banned earlier. Myanmar officials subsequently also reversed the import of products from Thailand after the latter reversed its ban.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Thailand, Myanmar Swiftly Resolve Trade Dispute", Eleven Myanmar, 25 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">KIO ready for talks amidst fighting

A Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army committee is poised to resume talks with the government in an effort to avoid battles like that which occurred on 21 March. KIO had halted peace talks last year when the government force had attacked its post.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "KIO OKs Return to Peace Talks, Fighting Continues", Eleven Myanmar, 26 March 2015

Nepal

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President leaves for China

President Ram Baran Yadav has left for the People’s Republic of China on an official visit at the invitation of the Government of China on Thursday. He will address the Boao Forum for Asia: Annual Conference 2015 in the morning of March 28 which is being held at Boao, Hainan Province of China from March 26-29.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "President Yadav leaves for China to attend Boao Forum meet", eKantipur, 26 March 2015; ’Secure Xi’s visit to Nepal, eKantipur, 23 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ADB says Capital Expenditure Low

Nepal’s capital expenditure is much lower than what is required to close the infrastructure deficit, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Tuesday. The country requires capital spending to reach 8.2-11.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), but it has stood at just 3.3 percent over the last four years.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "ADB: Nepal’s capital expenditure too low", eKantipur, 25 March 2015; "ADB asks Nepal to expedite constitution writing to push growth", Business Standard, 24 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pipeline cost to be shared

Nepal is likely to share 27 percent of the total cost of the proposed Nepal-India cross-border petroleum pipeline.

As per the final draft of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) approved by the Law Ministry, Nepal will spend IRs 750 million out of the total projected cost of IRs 2.75 billion.

The rest will be borne by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), according to an official at the Ministry of Commerce and Supply (MoCS).

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal likely to share 27pc cost", eKantipur, 27 March 2015

Pakistan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US praises efforts in Afghanistan

The United States of America’s Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Dan Fieldman during a briefing in Washington lauded Pakistan’s sincere efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "US lauds Pakistan’s efforts in Afghanistan", The Nation, 28 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Undecided on Yemen

During a policy statement in the National Assembly, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has clarified that Pakistan has still not decided to send troops to Yemen to participate in the conflict brewing in the Middle East. It has, however, pledged to protect the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed Pakistan International Airlines to arrange two airplanes for the evacuation of Pakistanis stranded in Yemen. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has urged the government to not get involved in the Yemeni conflict.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Sending troops to Yemen not decided yet", The Nation, 28 March 2015; "PM Nawaz directs two PIA planes to evacuate Pakistanis from Yemen", The Express Tribune, 28 March 2015; "Pakistan must not join Yemen war, says Imran", Dawn, 28 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">15 militants killed in Khyber

Fifteen militants were killed in a clash with security forces in Khyber Agency according to the military’s public relations wing. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) approximately 30-35 militants attacked a security forces checkpost in Tirah Valley.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "15 militants killed in Khyber Agency", Dawn, 28 March 2015; "15 terrorists killed in Khyber Agency", The News International, 28 March 2015

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Divided still over 19-A

Even after the government presented the promised 19th amendment to the Constitution, curtailing presidential powers and the like, the ruling SLFP-UNP ’national’ coalition is divided over specifics.

As the official Opposition in Parliament, the SLFP has said certain provisions could be cleared only through a public referendum. Non-SLFP members of the UPFA too have expressed their reservations on certain other provisions.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Parties fail to reach consensus on 19A", The Island, 24 March 2015; "19A a ’Constitutional Coup’-JHU", Daily Mirror Online, 24 March 2015; "JVP accuses govt. of duping masses", The Island, 26 March 2015; "Electoral reforms: Decision within 10 days", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015; "National reconciliation to priority of govt. ? Ranil", The Island, 26 March 2015; "Sri Lanka’s first Field Marshal appointed", The Island, 22 March 2015; "Cabinet balloons to 40 as 26 more SLFPers luck out Number of ministers rise to 77 with five more State Ministers and 10 deputies", The Island, 22 March 2015; "It’s a great political betrayal ? Wimal", The Island, 22 March 2015; "Focus on Northern Province as Premier meets TNA, Forces top brass", The Island, 26 March 2015; "Wigneswaran urges SL State to respect international principle on resettlement", TamilNet, 23 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MPs back pro-Mahinda call

Defying a party ban on participating in rallies of t he kind, more than 25 MPs belonging to President MaithripalaSirisena’s SLFP participated in a ’bring back Mahinda’ public meeting at Ratnapura, promoting prime ministerial nomination for former President.

Media reports said that thousands of people attended the rally, despite the heavy downpour.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "In definace of party ban More than 25 SLFP MPs, CM, 400 PC, LG members at pro-Mahinda rally", The Island, 26 March 2015; "Let’s show our unity to the enemies of the nation ? Mahinda", The Island, 26 March 2015; "No issues with contesting MR: UPFA", Daily Mirror Online, 22 March 2015; "Speaker to decide if SLFP can hold post of Opposition Leader", The Island, 24 March 2015; "Govt says President Rajapaksa has over and above entitled security, vehicles", The Island, 24 March 2015; "MR given security which he did not provide Chandrika", Daily Mirror Online, 24 March 2015; "Basil to return soon", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015; "Court orders check on Gota’s accounts", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015; "Govt decides to go ahead with ’presidential palace’ at KKS it earlier criticised", The Island, 24 March 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Strategic partner’, still: China

Chinese President Xi Jinping told visiting Sri Lankan counterpart MaithiripalaSirisena that Beijing considered the South Asian nation a ’strategic partner’ in the region, and hoped that there would be further boost to bilateral relations.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "China says SL is a strategic partner", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015; "Colombo Port City project back on track", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015; "Colombo Port City: British experts dispelled environmental concerns - China Harbour", The Island, 26 March 2015; "China considering visa on arrival facility for Lankans", The Island, 26 March 2015; "China calls for convergence of economic policies", The Island, 22 March 2015; "US says SL to face tough challenges", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015; "EU delegation discusses GSP+ restoration", The Island, 26 March 2015; "Four Indian Navy ships arrive in Trinco today", The Island, 26 March 2015

Fishers’ deal denied

After the third round of fishers’ talks at Chennai, which the Indian media portrayed as success, the Sri Lankan Government has clarified that no agreement had been reached to allow Indian fishers into Sri Lankan waters.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "’No Indian fishers will be allowed in SL water’", The Island, 26 March 2015; ""No agreement on 83 days of fishing: Ministry", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015

Primary Documentation

Afghanistan

President Ghani’s address to the US Congress Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 25 March 2015

US-Afghanistan Joint Statement The White House, 24 March 2015

Bhutan

Press Release on the Observance of International Day of Happiness in Rangsit University Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 March 2015

India

List of Agreements /MoUs exchanged by External Affairs Minister and her Qatari counterpart Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammed Al Attiyah during the visit of Emir of Qatar to India Ministry of External Affairs, 25 March 2015

P Chidambaram (former Finance Minister and Home Minister), Across the Aisle: Equity suffers Rs 75,000-crore blow The Indian Express, 22 March 2015

English Rendering of PM’s "Mann kiBaat" address on All India Radio The Prime Minister’s official website, 22 March 2015

Interview of Chief Election Commissioner H.S. Brahma, "Law not a panacea for poll ills: CEC" The Hindu, 21 March 2015

Dr Ashwani Kumar (MP, Rajya Sabha and former minister for law and justice), "Failing the fairness test" The Indian Express, 20 March 2015

External Affairs Minister’s address at International Conference on "India and Indian Ocean: Renewing the Maritime Trade and Civilizational Linkages" in Bhubaneswar Ministry of External Affairs, 20 March 2015

Myanmar

Statement of Government Army’s Clash against Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar President’s Office, 24 January 2015

Nepal

Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 27 March 2015

Press Release on Rt. Hon’bleDr. Ram Baran Yadav, President of Nepal paying an official visit to the People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 25 March 2015

Pakistan

Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 26March 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 March 2015

Pakistan and Japan hold annual Foreign Secretary level Consultations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 March 2015

Pakistan Condemns Terrorist Attack in Kabul, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 25 March 2015

Response to Statement of Spokesperson of the Indian MEA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 March 2015

Visit of His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar to Pakistan, 23-24 March 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 March 2015

Curtain Raiser-Visit of the Emir of the State of Qatar to Pakistan 23-24 March, 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 22 March 2015

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

Bibliography

Afghanistan

Reports

Matthew Rosenberg, "Ghani addresses Congress, Eager to Rebuild Afghan-US Ties", The New York Times, 25 March 2015

Matthew Rosenberg, "Finally Towards a Complete Afghan Cabinet? The next 16 minister nominees and their biographies", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 24 March 2015

Matthew Rosenberg, "ISIS Recruits Afghans in Chilling Video", CNN, 24 March 2015

Opinion Pieces

ParnianNazary, "To preserve gains in Afghanistan, continued US presence is essential", The Hill, 27 March 2015

Tridivesh Singh Maini, "China and India: Competing for Influence in Afghanistan", The Diplomat, 27 March 2015

Thomas Ruttig, "The Unity Government’s First Six Months: Where is the governance?", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 26 March 2015

Nancy A. Youssef, "Everything the White House Told You About Bowe Bergdahl Was Wrong", The Daily Beast, 26 March 2015

Heather Barr, "What President Ashraf Ghani Should Do to Reassure Afghan Women", The Newsweek, 26 March 2015

Danielle Moylan, "A Lynching, Then Anger in Afghanistan", Foreign Policy, 25 March 2015

Mohammed UmerDaudzai, "Afghanistan and Pakistan: The False Promise of Rapprochement", The New York Times, 22 March 2015

Michael O’ Hanlon, "A clean slate for US and Afghanistan", BBC News, 22 March 2015

Bangladesh

Opinion Pieces

Dr. Abdullah Shibl, "How currency war might affect Bangladesh", The Daily Star, 26 March 2015

Bhutan

Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "Goaded into yielding ground", Kuensel Online, 25 March 2015

The Bhutanese, "Is Bhutan’s Media Freedom Really Slipping?", The Bhutanese, 23 March 2015

India

Opinion Pieces

AG Noorani, "Dynasty in democracy", Frontline, 3 April 2015 (print edition)

KuldipNayar, "Secularism has weak roots", The Indian Express, 26 March 2015

Christophe Jaffrelot and Jusmeet Singh Sihra, "So who needs reservations?", The Indian Express, 23 March 2015

M K Narayanan, "Hitting all the wrong notes in J&K", The Hindu, 20 March 2015

AatishTaseer, "How English Ruined Indian Literature", The New York Times, 19 March 2015

Maldives

Opinion Pieces

Ravi Joshi, "India’s stakes in Maldives power struggle", The Economic Times, 24 March 2015

N SathiyaMoorthy, "Maldives: ’Democracy-deficit’ and ’coercive diplomacy’", Observer Research Foundation, 20 March 2015

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

Interview

Zaheena Rasheed, "President Yameen will not resign and go home, says PPM MP Nihan", Minivan News, 27 March 2015

Myanmar

Opinion Pieces

Eleven Myanmar, "This Year Key For Myanmar", Eleven Myanmar, 26 March 2015

Aung NaingOo, "End in sight for nationwide ceasefire", Myanmar Times, 24 March 2015

Nepal

Opinion Pieces

Kanak Mani Dixit, "The Accountability of SushilKoirala", eKantipur, 27 March 2015

Hari Bansh Jha, "Power of One", Republica, 25 March 2015

Nandan P. Adhikari, "Protect them", Republica, 24 March 2015

Kent Harrington, "The Asian Project", Republica, 24 March 2015

Pakistan

Opinion Pieces

Omar R Quraishi, "OPINION: Why Pakistan should not take sides in the Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict", The Express Tribune, 27 March 2015

Ishaan Tharoor, "Pakistan’s long history of fighting Saudi Arabia’s wars", The Washington Post, 27 March 2015

EjazHaider, "Pakistan should stay out of Yemen", Newsweek, 26 March 2015

Brahma Chellaney, "India’s Pakistan policy in tatters", LiveMint, 25 March 2015

Mohammed UmerDaudzai, ""Afghanistan and Pakistan: The False Promise of Rapprochement", The New York Times, 24 March 2015

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Sam Samarasinghe, "Dealing with two Asian Super Powers and President Sirisena’s China visit", The Island, 27 March 2015 K Godage, "Do we have an India policy?", The Island, 27 March 2015 KamanthiWickremesinghe, "Spitting venom then: Sitting pretty now", Daily Mirror Online, 27 March 2015 Prof JayadevaUyangoda, "Losing the Reform moment, once again", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015 C Narayanasuwami, "Some thoughts about good governance", Daily Mirror Online, 26 March 2015 Neville Ladduwahetty, "Devolution in India and Sri Lanka", The Island, 25 March 2015 N SathiyaMoorthy, "Modi’s Sri Lanka Visit: Came, saw, won over...", South Asia Monitor, 25 March 2015 SumanasiriLinayage, "National government: What for?", The Island, 24 March 2015 JehanPerera, "Freedom to speak and hold to account is basis of good governance", 23 March 2015 N SathiyaMoorthy, "Bracing up for parliamentary polls", The Sunday Leader, 22 March 2015

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan : Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh : JoyeetaBhattacharjee;
Myanmar & Bhutan : Mihir Bhonsale;
India: KaustavDharChakrabarti and Shruti Gupta;
Maldives & Sri Lanka : N SathiyaMoorthy
Nepal : Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan : Taruni Kumar

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Author

Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury is Senior Fellow with ORF’s Neighbourhood Initiative. She is the Editor, ORF Bangla. She specialises in regional and sub-regional cooperation in ...

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