MonitorsPublished on Aug 04, 2020
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XIII; 31

Afghanistan: Foreign fighters complicate peace prospects

The presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan presents a serious challenge in securing counterterrorism gains of the past, while ensuring that the Taliban delivers on the promise of ensuring non-use of Afghan soil to plan attacks against the US or its allies.  

Shubhangi Pandey

The 26th report of the United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, published on 23 July 2020, showed that over 6,000 Pakistani insurgents remain in hiding in Afghanistan. The report claimed most of them to be members of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group, which is known for targeting the Pakistan military as well as the civilian population.

Further, the report said that TTP fighters in Afghanistan are closely associated with the Islamic State affiliate in the country, more commonly known as the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP), which is based in the eastern part of the country. Although ISKP stands weakened in the face of an assertive Afghan military campaign, it retains the capability of launching large-scale high profile attacks in Afghanistan, states the report. Some of the major attacks conducted by the group, soon after the signing of the US-Taliban agreement, include the indirect firing at President Ashraf Ghani’s swearing in ceremony in Kabul on 9 March, the attack on a gurudwara in Kabul, and that on a funeral procession in Nangarhar Province.

As per the report, Al-Qaeda too remains active in at least 12 provinces in Afghanistan, with an estimated strength of 400–600 fighters. The group reportedly maintains close contact with the Haqqani Network (HQN), a group that pledges allegiance to the Afghan Taliban but maintains independent command and control, and lines of operation, out of North Waziristan in Pakistan. The HQN takes care of the Taliban’s bidding in the Loya Paktia region of Afghanistan, while also covertly playing the role of a proxy force for Pakistan, to represent the latter’s strategic interests Afghanistan.

There also exist a number of Central Asian and Uighur insurgents in Afghanistan, belonging mainly to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) operational predominantly in Faryab Province, the Islamic Jihad Group (IJU) -- a splinter group of the IMU, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is active in the Takhar, Kunduz and Badakhshan Provinces. The reportedly extensive presence of foreign fighters presents a serious challenge in securing counterterrorism gains of the past, while ensuring that the Taliban delivers on the promise of ensuring non-use of Afghan soil to plan attacks against the US or its allies.

Dangerous asymmetry

The US-Taliban agreement, signed on 29 February 2020, laid down the conditions for a phased withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, to be completed by mid-2021. The fundamental conditions for the withdrawal included Taliban guarantees to ensure non-use of Afghan soil by any entity to devise attacks against the US or its allies, and the start of intra-Afghan talks within a stipulated time frame. While the signing of the agreement and consequent chain of events has brought the US closer than its ever been to ending its two decades-long military campaign in Afghanistan, the success of the deal hinges on the will of the Taliban more than the US would like to admit.

The deal, in a sense, puts the onus of ensuring US counter-terrorism interests on the Taliban itself, making it the principal guarantor of US strategic objectives in Afghanistan – ironical indeed. As the US continues to retreat militarily, the Taliban will presumably feel less and less obligated to hold up their end of the bargain, rendering the security situation in Afghanistan susceptible to compounded conflict. Not to forget, the Taliban had made similar counterterrorism assurances to the US vis-à-vis the Al-Qaeda, just prior to the catastrophic episode of 9/11.

Despite Taliban assurances to the US in keeping with the deal, there are reports of HQN hardliners that form the lethal military arm of the Taliban, strengthening their tactical alliances with the ISKP and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in an effort to disrupt the peace process and continue the fight. While the HQN remains under the larger Taliban apparatus and pledges allegiance to Taliban chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, it operates independent of the Taliban and in the process, arguably grants the latter a considerable degree of plausible deniability, at least on paper. As per intelligence reports received by the Indian security apparatus, the Taliban has joined hands with the Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT), as well as the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), to carry out operations in the Kunar – Paktiya – Paktika – Nuristan - Khost region, and Nangarhar - Kandahar - Helmand provinces in Afghanistan, respectively.

The Taliban also maintains steady contact with the Al-Qaeda, and it would be a great folly to assume otherwise, given that the two groups share the same Islamic ideology that forms the basis of their collective fight against the West. The Taliban can therefore be expected to refrain from abandoning their association with the Al-Qaeda, in so far as it continues to benefit the Taliban operationally, and Al-Qaeda activities are not traced back to the Taliban.

The US-Taliban deal falls remarkably short of providing a sustainable and fool-proof mechanism for ensuring delivery on commitments made by the insurgent group, with the text only mentioning unspecified “enforcement mechanisms” for implementation. One obvious limitation in implementing the agreement would be the complex task of ascertaining the Taliban’s compliance with its counterterrorism commitments, compared to the easily determinable retreat of uniformed foreign forces from Afghanistan.

The inability or unwillingness of the Taliban to sever ties with other militant groups brings out its vulnerable disposition to possibilities of internal revolt, as Taliban cadres identify deeply with the common cause that binds them all. Moreover, the continuing violence despite explicit commitments to talks with the Afghan government arguably indicates a lack of intra-Taliban consensus on negotiating peace.

However, whether the Taliban becomes visibly divided over talks or not, intensified conflict would be guaranteed in both circumstances. Worse still, if the emerging and strengthening links between the Taliban and foreign terrorist groups remained unchecked, enduring peace would also remain a far-fetched proposition in Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka: Taking India ties forward, post-poll

N Sathiya Moorthy

The completion of the parliamentary polls in Sri Lanka this week should set the tone for a stable government for the next five years. This is a substantial time-period for the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to set in policy-changes, where needed, and put in motion those that he has decided upon since assuming office in November last.

The parliamentary polls were postponed twice owing to Covid-19 pandemic, and its very conduct at present has proved to be an add-on feature for the Gotabaya team, with his brother and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minster. However, the ruling combine, led by the Rajapaksa-led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), have sought a two-third majority in the 225-seat Parliament, to help them push through constitutional amendments, if not a new Constitution.

Domestic politics, and more so the economy, are at the focus of the Sri Lankan government just now, and it will continue to remain so for a considerable length of time. Post-poll now, the President can be expected to call in elections to the nine Provincial Councils (PC), which the predecessor government had found new ways to postpone, fearing sure defeat.

The ruling combine’s fears from the past were proved right, time and again. The presidential poll saw Gotabaya polling 52.25-percent vote-share. In the nation-wide local government elections in February 2018, the SLPP combine polled the single-largest 40 percent vote-share, without next-to-nil from the Tamil-majority North and relatively low in the multi-ethnic East.

National problem

Apart from domestic politics and economy, the government will have to take a re-look at the inherited foreign and security policies, as well. They were in turn a take-off from the predecessor Mahinda regime (2005-15). It is inevitable that the immediate and larger neighbour India is intrinsically linked to all three areas, as they also of common concern to both nations.

On two issues of domestic political concern, India was involved in the unsuccessful bid to resolve the ‘ethnic issue’ politically, and also in alerting Sri Lanka about the impending Easter Sunday blasts in the country, last year. On the blasts-centric security front, there is appreciation in Sri Lanka on the Indian assistance. The nation was aghast that Colombo did not act on actionable, specifics.

On the domestic political front, the India facilitated 13th Amendment still forms the core of any future solution to the ethnic issue. President Gotabaya has reiterated past Rajapaksa belief that certain portions of 13-A cannot be implemented and asked the stake-holders to look for/at alternatives.

Immediately after the LTTE’s exit in May 2009, the option was there for an incremental roll out powers promised under 13-A, to a Tamil Province. However, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which replaced the LTTE as the ‘sole representative’ of the Tamils, wanted more, and even got the draft for a new Constitution, put out under the previous regime.

Addressing an election rally recently, Prime Minister Mahinda clearly pooh-poohed the TNA’s poll manifesto demand a ‘federal solution’, after all but giving it up in favour of the new draft Constitution. He said that the TNA was seeking through political means what the LTTE could not get through military means -– a separate State.

A lot on this score will depend on the results of the elections, both at the national-level and also in the Tamil areas. The TNA hopes to win at least 20 of the 29 seats available to them, but the fight this time seems to be tougher than earlier – mainly because Tamil critics of the party, including the post-LTTE generation, feels that the party ‘wasted’ five long years under the previous regime, and did not bargain enough for their critically-needed parliamentary support.

In the early days of the parliamentary poll campaign, PM Mahinda declared that any political solution to the ethnic issue will address the concerns of all three communities – Sinhala, Tamil and Muslims – and not just one of them. The fact that the fourth ethnic group, the Upcountry Tamils of Indian origin slipped his mind is also a reflection on the ethnic pegging order, where India has emotional, though not political stake.

Currency-swap and ECT

Sri Lanka’s economy was the worst hit by Covid in relative terms than the rest of the world. Internal squabbles in the previous government was bad enough for a tottering economy, and the Easter blasts worsened the crisis, especially in the tourism sector, which is both a job-giver and forex-earner. Covid-19 only added to the woes when the Rajapaksa regime was settling down to business.

Taking a realistic view of the economic situation, Gotabaya, on his maiden overseas visit as President, sought a $ 1.1-b currency-swap facility from India. Prime Minister Mahinda, who followed weeks later, urged counterpart Narendra Modi to grant three-year moratorium on pending loans, totalling about $ 900 million.

After ‘technical discussions’, the two sides have agreed to (an initial?) $ 400-m swap, as sought for now. Discussions on the remaining swap-request and loan-deferment are pending.

However, sections within India is the Sri Lankan decision to ‘re-think’ India’s partnership in the tri-nation development of the Colombo Port Eastern Container Terminal (ECT), after the predecessor Government in Colombo had agreed to the same. It is to be noted that the new-found Rajapaksa fervour for not letting foreign interests to be in possession / control of ‘national assets’ has not applied to the much more controversial Hambantota Port, where China has a 99-year-old lien.

The Chinese lien over Hambantota was facilitated alternatively by the Rajapaksas’ predecessor regime and the intervening administration of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe, with support from an otherwise hard-line President Maithripala Sirisena. The latter also continued with Chinese involvement in Colombo Port City project, which Wickremesinghe had said, he would scrap, ahead of the victorious 2015 polls.

In recent weeks, Power Minister Mahinda Amaraweera reiterated the forgotten Colombo demand for Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to surrender 25 oil tanks that had been leased out to the public sector entity in eastern Trincomalee, that too in the company of a Sri Lankan State enterprise. This should put at rest earlier suggestions for the two countries creating a ‘strategic buffer’ for both nations, utilising the remaining tanks.

The previous government in Colombo offered the China-built Mattala International Airport, not far away from Hambantota, to India, for conversion into a training facility. Mattala is the world’s ‘emptiest airport’, and yet the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government did not take forward their own proposal. It was also the case with their plans for inviting India and Japan to join hands to fund trilateral development of eastern Trincomalee port and town.

Post-Galwan China

Sri Lanka, along with other neighbours, has suddenly increased in importance for a section of the Indian strategic community, viz China, post-Galwan border clashes. Their concerns and expectations viz Sri Lanka lack clarity and specifics, but they see a China hand in every Sri Lankan move, and want New Delhi to gain an upper-hand in all neighbourhood affairs viz Beijing.

There is nothing to suggest that there are any ideological linkages between any government or ruling party in Sri Lanka and China, now or earlier. However, a realistic assessment of their own economic and diplomatic situation has forced them to lean onto China until other shoulders are firm and available, now and ever.

From the perspective of the Indian strategic community, New Delhi has given more to Colombo over the past decades than has got back in return – viz Pakistan earlier and China now. In the post-Cold War era especially, the Sri Lankan State and the majority Sinhala polity acknowledges an eternal need for veto-power’s consistent backing at the UNSC and by extension in such other UN affiliates as the UNHRC.

In Colombo’s perception, India had the political and diplomatic clout with regard to the affairs of South Asia, once accepted internationally as the ‘traditional sphere of Indian influence’, possibly no more. The Indian vote for the US-sponsored UNHRC resolution on ‘war crime probe’ at the UNHRC in 2012 was the clincher, in terms of numbers of political influence.

In his Independence Day on 4 February, President Gotabaya indicated that Sri Lanka would quit institutions that works against its interests. The obvious reference was to the UNHRC session in March 2021, when a co-authored resolution by Sri Lanka and the prime movers will come up for vote.

Both China and India will be voting members at the time, elected on a rotational basis. While in 2012, there were enough indications that some other Third World nations took the hint from India, they having no direct political interest in Sri Lankan affairs, China was known to have canvassed among some of them, to vote against the American resolution – and thus in Sri Lanka’s favour.

The Sri Lankan State, Sinhala and Tamil communities and also the international community will be keenly watching the Indian position at the time. That can dictate the future course of bilateral relations between the two IOR neighbours in South Asia, though there cannot be an overnight reversal, not until even a ‘neutral’ Sri Lanka can pay up China, its dues from massive debts incurred by two  different regimes through 15 long years.

Country Reports


Ceasefire for Eid

Following the decision by President Ghani to release all 5,000 Taliban fighters in captivity, in keeping with the insurgent group’s precondition for talks, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire starting on the holy festival of Eid on 31 July 2020. US special envoy ZalmayKhalilzad has reportedly said in talks with Kabul that the ceasefire could likely extend if prisoners are released on Friday itself. The Taliban too has announced the release of the remaining Afghan forces by Eid, as a goodwill gesture, as tweeted by the group’s spokesperson Suhail Shaheen.

Al-Qaeda camps in Helmand

The governor of Helmand province Yasin Khan quoted intelligence reports to share that the Al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters have established terror camps in the region, and are training Taliban fighters there. He emphasised that the Taliban had indeed not severed ties with the Al-Qaeda, and that the latter continues to provide military and financial aid to the group. A recent report submitted to the UN Security Council indicates the presence of 400-600 Al-Qaeda fighters in the country, and state that the group maintains strong links with the Haqqani Network, the Pakistan-based wing of the Taliban.


IS claims bomb-blast

International militant organisation Islamic State claimed responsibility for  a bomb blast that injured 5 persons in a police station in capital Dhaka this week. Security agencies arrested 3 persons suspecting their involvement in the blast and rejected Islamic States links.  The security agencies, however, termed IS claim to be baseless. Earlier too, IS had claimed responsibility for militant activities in Bangladesh but authorities denied these claims.

India gifts 10 locomotives

India handed over 10 broad-gauge diesel locomotives this week.  The locomotives were handed out under India’s grant assistance programme and it fulfils a commitment made during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in 2019. The locomotives have been modified to adhere to the Bangladesh Railway requirements and are expected to contribute to  enhancing railway connectivity in the country.  Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen thanked India for offering Bangladesh the diesel locomotives and termed the gesture as a mark of enduring friendship between the two countries.


Curbing tobacco-smuggling

Prime Minister Dr.Lotay Tshering announced on 30 July that to curb the illegal movement of people across the border (smuggling of tobacco) during the pandemic and to control the tobacco black market in the country, the government has asked the Bhutan Duty Free Limited to be the main vendor of tobacco products in the country. Tobacco smuggling is one of the major illegal activities along the border with more than 30 individuals being apprehended daily. Citizens would be able buy the specified quantity of tobacco products for personal consumption from the Bhutan Duty Free Limited outlets by paying 100 percent tax. The Prime Minister explained that the import of tobacco products is not banned but only there is a ban on sale of tobacco products.

India sends medicines

The Indian Embassy in Bhutan handed over a consignment of medical supplies to the Health Ministry to deal with Coronavirus pandemic. The medical supplies include N-95 masks, Personal Protective Equipment, and essential medicines. According to a press release of the Indian Embassy in Thimphu, the gesture is a reflection of the special bond of trust and understanding shared between India and Bhutan.

Overseas medicare hit

Referring patients to hospitals outside the country has become difficult, especially after the outbreak of Covid-19 in India. Bhutanese patients are mostly referred to India and most are cases of cancer and heart patients. About 60 patients are referred for treatment outside the country in a month. But after the outbreak of Covid-19, the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital could refer only one patient in the last four months. The pandemic, however, has given an opportunity for Bhutan to start some treatments here in the country besides radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Only the complicated cases that cannot be treated in the country will be sent outside for treatment.


Rafale fighters arrive

The much-awaited first batch of Rafale fighter jets from Dassault, France, arrived in India last week. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, received the fleet at Ambala. The five fighters were flown to India by IAF pilots from France with halt at UAE. These aircraft are part of the deal that India signed with France to purchase 36 double engine fighter planes from Dassault It is expected that the induction of these fighters would boost IAF capacity, especially in the light of the continuing border tensions with China.

Ayodhya puja on Aug 5

After the Supreme Court judgment in the Ayodhya case last year, the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the temple will take place on 5 August. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be present on the occasion at 12:30 pm that day. The temple trust has also invited all the BJP leaders like L.K. Advani, M M. Joshi and Kalyan Singh, who were associated with the temple movement. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath are also expected to be present at the ceremony, to be held under Covid safety protocol.


China asks to pay up

China’s Exim Bank has asked the Maldivian government to pay up $10 million (MVR 154 million), which is possibly an unpaid instalment from the total $127 million loan to ‘Sun’ Ahmed Siyam, an ally of former President Abdulla Yameen against the  ‘sovereign guarantee’ offered by the former regime.  Generally, the facility is available only to governments and the state sector, and except the Sun Group, all debtors with ‘sovereign guarantee’ for a total $9 billion Chinese loan were public sector undertakings. In another related development, a Singapore court has ruled that international Hilton hotel chain can demand details on Sun group’s assets after a local arbitrator awarded $ 29 m in damages for cancelling a long-term contract for a resort-island, with 16 more years to go.

Opposition meets Indian envoy

The Opposition PPM-PNC combine called on Indian envoy Sunjoy Sudhir, complaining about the government of President Ibrahim Solih withdrawing misappropriation charges against jailed former Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb, and how it implies conviction of party boss and former President, Abdulla Yameen, by a trial court in capital Male. Yameen is now in prison, after appealing the lower court sentencing him to five years in fine and $ 5-m in fine. They said that there was no case against Yameen after the charges against Adeeb had been withdrawn. Apart from senior PPM-PNC leaders, the delegation included former President, Mohammed Waheed Hassan Malik and former Vice-President, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, respectively special advisor and advisor for the PPM-PNC combine.

ACC reopens Yameen case

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has reopened probe into allegations of illegal oil trade involving State Trading Organisation (STO) when former President Abdulla Yameen was earlier Finance Minister under the regime of half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Originally launched in 2011 under MDP President Mohammed Nasheed’s administration, it is being revived after an MP submitted a written demand in Parliament. The case involved the Gayoom-Yameen duo using STO’s Singapore branch for black-market oil trade worth $ 800 m to Myanmar, subverting existing sanctions against the military junta.


$ 171-m loan from ADB

Myanmar parliament approved to get $171.27 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for projects on promoting rural electrification. According to the deputy minister of Ministry of Electricity and Energy U Khin Maung Win, the loans will be used to get more electricity in Kayin state, Ayeyarwady and Magway regions, to covert 66KV power system for 1,535 villages to get electricity in the eastern part of Bago region and to build 66KV transmission lines and substations in Tanintharyi region, Chin and Rakhine states.

Covid ban extended

Myanmar's national-level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment on Covid-19 has issued an announcement on 29 July to extend the effective period for prevention measures to 15 August. The government has lifted the restriction on gathering of more than five persons to mass gathering of more than 15 persons, which will take effect on 1 August. It has also extended the suspension period of all operating international commercial passenger flights at the Yangon International Airport until 31 August.


‘Ideological polarisation’

Divide within the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has been very prominent in the recent past. In a clash of ideologies between Prime Minister K. P Sharma Oli and Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the former has supposedly been enjoying an upper hand. In fact, demands of the PM’s resignation have also been heard in the country. A Standing Committee meeting of the part has also failed to put aside the differences. In such crisis times of COVID-19 how feasible it is to move on the lines of disagreement only time can reveal.

Tourism sector tries revival

After incurring heavy losses, the tourism sector -- one of the major economic lifelines of the country -- is contemplating to jump back into business. Even though the pandemic situation is still in its full momentum, mountaineering activities have resumed. Permits were issued by the Department of Tourism. Along with this, quarantine modality of international visitors is being discussed by the Ministry. Nonetheless, home-stays are also in a dilemma over this move. In order to revive the economy, this sector must be back- slow yet steadily.


Laws to meet FATF mandate

The senate and national assembly of Pakistan approved two bills within minutes to help the country for meeting the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) requirements. The two bills, Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the United Nations Security Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 include measures of freezing and seizure of assets, travel ban, and arms embargo on the entities and individuals, who are designated on the sanctions list of the United Nations and impose heavy fine and long term jails for those facilitating militancy. The two Bills passed by the National Assembly fulfil the requirements of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which put Pakistan on its grey-list in June 2016 after Islamabad agreed to implement a 27-point plan of action. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the senate showed maturity for the sake of national interest and the ambitions to blacklist Pakistan by FATF are defeated.

Fishers protest against India

The fishermen of Pakistan carried  the coffin of Abdul Karim Bhatti, who died while in the custody of Indian authorities in Karachi. They demanded equal treatment of prisoners of this kind from both sides. The fishermen will continue their protest outside Indian High Commission in Islamabad as well as outside the UN offices.

Sri Lanka

PM against 19-A, federalism

Addressing campaign meetings ahead of parliamentary polls, due on 5 August, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, brought in by the predecessor Government, ‘violated people’s rights’. He also said that by demanding ‘federalism’ in its poll manifesto, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was trying to obtain through political means what the LTTE could not do through militant means, namely, ‘secession’. Both Prime Minister Mahinda and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa are on record that they will scrap 19-A, and has sought two-thirds majority in Parliament, for the purpose.

Death for MP candidate

The Ratnapura High Court has sentenced former Deputy Minister Premalal Jayasekara and two others to death in connection with a shooting incident in Kahawatte while setting up a stage for a political rally. Jayasekara is a candidate for the ruling SLPP combine in the 5 August parliamentary polls. Shantha Dodamgoda, who was injured when shots were fired at him while setting up a stage for NDF presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena during the 2015 presidential election campaign, died of injuries later.



Opinion Pieces

Farzad Ramezani Bonesh, “The Role of Afghanistan’s Resources in Security”, Asia Times, 30 July 2020

Mohammad ZahirAkbari, “Will Negotiations with the Taliban Lead to Peace in Afghanistan?”, The Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 26 July 2020


The Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Talks or Political Game?”, 29 July 2020

Afghanistan Times, “Extremely Heartbreaking”, 27 July 2020


Opinion Pieces

Harsh Pant & Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, “The enduring logic of India-Bangladesh ties”., 29 July 2020

Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, “Bangladesh too on Chinese radar” , The New Indian Express, 29 July 2020

Tasneem Tayeb, “How do we address human trafficking during a pandemic?”, The Daily Star, 31 July 2020


Opinion Pieces

Sonam Tshering, “RAA must expand beyond mere publication of reports”, Kuensel, 25 July 2020


Kuensel, “A bold and practical decision”, 31 July 2020

Kuensel, “Invest in skills development”, 29 July 2020


Opinion Pieces

Mary E John, “Poverty, not age of marriage, is responsible for women’s poor health indicators”, The Indian Express, 31 July 2020

Bhaskar Ramamurti, “An education policy that is sweeping in its vision”, The Hindu, 31 July 2020

Faizan Mustafa, “Rajasthan High Court’s interim order in Sachin Pilot case raises serious questions”, The Indian Express, 31 July 2020

Varghese K. George, “The limits of Rahul as Gandhi”, The Hindu, 30 July 2020


hindustantimes, “Convene the Rajasthan Assembly”, 29 July 2020

hindustantimes, “India needs a robust EIA process”, 28 July 2020

The Telegraph, “Data haze: Towards a digital control raj?”, 28 July 2020

The Telegraph, “Looking back: One year of Article 370 abrogation”, 28 July 2020


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “China asks Maldives to pay up ‘private loan’, an eye-opener for all debtor-nations?”, , 30 July 2020


Opinion Pieces

James Gomez and Khin Mai Aung ,“Hate Speech Threats Proliferate in Myanmar, Southeast Asia”, The Irrawaddy, 27 July 2020

Nan Lwin, “New Challenge for Myanmar as US Seeks to Loosen China’s Grip in Southeast Asia”, The Irrawaddy, 24 July 2020


Opinion Pieces

Neelesh Maheshwari, “The elusive dream of a land-linked Nepal”, The Kathmandu Post, 30 July 2020

Lajja Dixit, “Safeguarding mental health during COVID-19”, Republica, 28 July 2020

Mahabir Paudyal, “Fake news can destroy Nepal's relations with India, China and the US”, Republica, 27 July 2020


The Kathmandu Post, “Go local”, 29 July 2020


Opinion Pieces

Rafia Zakaria, “End of an era?”, Dawn,30 July 2020

Imran Jan, “Kabul should embrace the Taliban”, The Express Tribune, 29 July 2020

Syed Mohammad Ali, “Afghanistan and our region’s stability”, The Express Tribune, 31 July 2020

Kamran Yousaf, “Pakistan, Bangladesh rapprochement?”, The Express Tribune, 27 July 2020


The Express Tribune, “Reformative restraints”, 31 July 2020

Dawn, “SAPMs’ resignation”, 31 July 2020

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

M S M Ayub, “Will 13-A go along with 19-A?”, Daily Mirror Online, 1 August 2020

Dr Upul Wijayawardhana, “The tale of two Presidents”, The Island, 1 August 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Amending the Amendments”, Colombo Gazette, 1 August 2020

Ameen Izzadeen, “Protect democracy and walk tall on the world stage”, Daily Mirror Online, 31 July 2020

Ravi Nagahawatte, “Mahinda must update himself!”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 July 2020

Kelum Bandara, “UNP turns hard on SJB ahead of polling day”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 July 2020

Neville Laduwahetty, “Forthcoming general elections and its aftermath”, The Island, 29 July 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Key to the post-poll future”, Ceylon Today, 28 July 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Did Sajith get his timing right?”, Colombo Gazette, 28 July 2020

Jehan Perera, “Strengthening the presidency is the dominant campaign theme”, The Island, 28 July 2020


Susith Fernando, “There is threat of fascism at present”, The Island, 1 August 2020

Sandun A Jayasekara, “Out-of-the-box-thinking is the need of the moment: Ajit Nivard Cabaraal”, The Island, 1 August 2020

Ranga Jayasuriya, “A case against 2/3 majority”, The Island, 28 July 2020


Afghanistan: Shubhangi Pandey

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Ambar Kumar Ghosh

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee

Nepal: Sohini Nayak

Pakistan: Ayjaz Wani

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