MonitorsPublished on Feb 27, 2015
After the horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December last year by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, Pakistan is trying to crack down on militancy in the country.
Pakistan, post-Peshawar
< class="heading1">Analysis

After the horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December last year by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, Pakistan is trying to crack down on militancy in the country. Militant violence has been a cause of immense concern to the nation for several years and the Peshawar massacre has been seen as a defining moment in the country’s history. While the government has taken several steps to limit the power and reach of terrorist groups in the country, it is questionable if these moves add up to a larger cohesive solution.

A week after the December 16 attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a day before the Christmas, announced the National Action Plan (NAP) which was meant to be a short-term agenda against terrorism. Immediately after the attack, the Prime Minister had announced that the moratorium on the death sentences of convicted terrorists would be lifted and the NAP emphasised that the execution of convicted terrorists will continue. This move has caused concern among human rights groups across the world.

Another clause involved opposition in the establishment of special trial courts for two years for the speedy trial of terror suspects. These special military courts are to be staffed by military officers and are meant to hold fast trials. In a country that has seen more military rule than successive democratic transitions, the establishment of military courts that fall outside the traditional judiciary should be a matter of concern.

The NAP also affirms a commitment to ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country. In January, there was speculation that the government would ban the Haqqani Network and the Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD) among other militant organisations that were functioning in the country. Pakistan has, in the past, used these two organisations as well as others as proxies in Afghanistan and India to pursue its own goals.

Choking terror-funding

Many commentators used the ban as the proof that the country had finally woken up to the terrorist threat that had engulfed it but the ban itself was shrouded in mystery. While the US said that it had received no confirmation of the ban, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, at a press conference, refused to comment on the issue. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, also said that the JuD had not been banned but that its accounts had been frozen. Frozen accounts also fit into the NAP’s clause of choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organisations.

The NAP listed the formulation of a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees, beginning with registration of all unregistered illegal refugees. While there may not have been much official movement on this clause, there have been disturbing reports of male members of Afghan families in Pakistan being detained and sometimes mistreated to encourage them to leave the country.

According to media reports, aid agencies and Afghan officials have noticed a trend after the Peshawar attack of 150-300 families returning to Afghanistan per day. Before the attack the number of returnee families per day was around 15. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), over 33,000 Afghans have returned since January. That number is over one and a half times the returnees during all of 2014.

Another measure undertaken by the government is to collect biometric information of all mobile phone users for a national database aimed at curbing terrorism. It is one of the world’s largest and fastest efforts to collect biometric information. All mobile phone users have been informed that if they do not verify their identities through fingerprints, their service will be deactivated.

According to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, there are at least 136 million cell phone subscribers in the country. However, the eventual efficacy of this move is questionable as terrorist groups are well versed in circumventing the government. Communication through satellite phones amongst militant organisations is not unheard of. Also, this move will make it easier to track people after an attack rather than prevent it. There are also concerns about privacy issues and the government tracking civilians.

Counter-terror training

Soon after the attack, Pakistan began to allow teachers to carry weapons into classrooms and even began training those who wished to do so. Students are also undergoing counter terrorist training to prepare them for attacks and to teach them to handle firearms, defuse explosives and provide emergency care. This approach of tackling violence with violence propagated by civilians complicates the problem further instead of providing a plausible solution.

Pakistan seems to have woken up to the problem of terrorism that is crippling its people but the strategies the country is adopting are aimed at dealing with the after effects of militant violence. Pakistan needs to weed out terrorism, root and stem, and for that it requires stricter and more urgent long term strategies. The first step that the government needs to take continues to be the most important - definitively breaking all ties with its terrorist proxies.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal: Need for India-China cooperation

Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

Nepal’s current electricity supply is not only insufficient and unreliable but also expensive. Despite having 83,000 megawatts (MW) of expected hydroelectric potential, about 42,000 MW of which is technically and economically viable and current annual hydropower output barely exceeds 700 MW -- less than the demand of 1,400 MW.

Only approximately 50 percent of the population has access to electricity. Out of this, only five percent of the rural populace has access to electricity from the national grid. Even residents in the capital city of Kathmandu experience load shedding several times a day during the dry season. In 2011, peak power demand in Nepal reached 950 MW, and is projected to continue increasing by around 7.5 percent annually until 2020. These electricity shortages have led to a heavy reliance on biomass in rural Nepal, which has negative health and environmental impacts, particularly for women and children.

In this backdrop, the two neighbouring Asian giants, namely, India and China, are interested in developing energy projects to take advantage of the nation’s natural resources. Situated between these two regional powers who aspire to be global powers, Nepal also intends to capture the opportunities and become a centre of geopolitical competition between India and China.

India’s investment

Recently Nepal has given an Indian company permission to build a 900 megawatt hydropower plant. The main intension is to ease chronic energy shortages by opening up its rivers to its larger neighbour. The two countries have already signed an agreement for the $1.04 billion project, which provides Nepal with free electricity and India energy for its power-hungry economy.

The project, which will be built by Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Limited, was originally cleared in 2008 but never implemented as Nepal demanded for greater benefits. Under the agreement SJVN will develop the plant on the Arun River in east of Nepal, and supply a fifth of generated electricity to Nepal for free. Nepal will earn $3.48 billion over 25 years in royalty, income and taxes from the plant, and will then take ownership of the project.

Indian firms are investing billions to develop Nepal’s hydropower potential, encouraged by an electricity trading pact signed between the two countries at the time of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in Nepal. Indian firms are negotiating with the government for power plants that would produce a total of 8,250 MWs while Kathmandu estimates $7 billion would be invested in its hydropower industry over the next 5 years.

Both the countries have agreed to implement large-scale projects such as the 5,600-MW Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project on the Mahakali River and Karnali hydropower project. It is true that growing Indian investment in Nepal’s energy industry comes as New Delhi looks to raise its influence in its smaller neighbours, where China is increasingly active.

China’s involvement

Earlier last year, a report published in Xinhua claimed that China has emerged as the largest FDI investor in Nepal, reaching USD 174 million dollars out of which its investments in Nepal’s energy sector has reached up to INR 4.23 billion in 2013. However, a group of experts argue that most of the Chinese investments are done in the form of loans rather than grants which make the Nepalese more cautious of Chinese intentions towards their economy.

In reality the Nepalese government has given permission to construction of a US$1.8 billion worth of dam on West Seti river by China Three Gorges Corp (CTGI). It is expected that the project with installed capacity of 750 megawatt (MW) would help bring relief to some of the estimated 40 percent of Nepal’s 28 million people who do not yet have access to electricity and also would pave the way to create jobs and cut poverty by the end of 2019.

"This is precisely the type of project Nepal has needed for a long time," said Ratna Sansar Shrestha, one of the country’s leading energy experts. In his view, West Seti should serve as an ideal project to help realize Nepal’s long-term goal of raising farm productivity through irrigation, and through efficient and pollution-free energy to industries and surface transport systems. It has been decided that CTGI will invest 75 percent of the project, with the remaining 25 percent the responsibility of the government’s Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).

It is to be noted in this context that the project had previously been given to Australia’s Snowy Mountain Engineering Corp (SMEC), which aimed to sell the bulk of electricity to India. However, SMEC could not mobilize adequate money even after 16 years of effort, and the Nepalese government scrapped the agreement last July and began negotiations with other interested parties.

The West Seti project involves construction of a 187 meter high and 445 meter long concrete dam to store regular river water and additional water received during the rainy season. About 16,000 villagers in the area need to be resettled.

Bridging the gaps

Chinese diplomats in Kathmandu have also consistently maintained that their country would not compete with India in Nepal. During his visit to Nepal Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China, Nepal and India should boost cooperation and seek common development. The Chinese foreign minister made the remarks at a joint press conference with his Nepalese counterpart Mahendra Bahadur Pandey. Responding to a question from the media, Wang said both Nepal and India are China’s good friends and neighbours, and China hopes that Nepal, due to its unique location, can serve as a bridge between China and India as well as a bridge between China and South Asia. But Indian security experts and intelligence agencies often construct alarming scenarios. To the diplomats the presence of a prominent Chinese company in Nepal is a serious strategic challenge. However, competition can turn into cooperation in the case of Nepal as India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi shows interest in neighbour first policy.

Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit Nepal in 17 years, stressed the importance of the 4 C’s — cooperation, connectivity, culture and constitution — to enhance bilateral ties. India has a traditional advantage not only in the political and cultural areas but also monetarily, by retaining the top slot as the highest energy investor in Nepal.

Moreover, Modi has assured Nepal to assist in the construction of a multi-lane motorable bridge over Mahakali River at Mahendranagar, which will allow traffic along the East West Highway to cross over the Mahakali River and establish a vital trade and transit linkage of far western region of Nepal with Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi. The Indian side is also considering construction of motorable bridges at the border points at Jhulaghat and Darchula.

In this scenario, both India and China should come forward to develop Nepal by investing in hydro-electricity not as competitor but as collaborator. Probably, trilateral cooperation between India, China and Nepal is important for the interest of the region. Stable and prosperous Nepal can only serve the security concerns of both the Asian giants.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban okays peace talks

The Taliban this week gave the green signal to hold preliminary peace talks with the Afghan government. The decision was said to have been taken following consultations between senior Taliban leadership and Pakistani and Chinese officials. The group has reportedly finalised seven representatives to take part in the negotiations with the Afghan government.

The insurgent group also claimed that five prisoners recently released from Guantanamo Bay will also take part in this dialogue. The talks are expected to begin in March in Doha. Earlier, President Ghani had expressed optimism about the prospects of the talks claiming that Afghanistan was on the "right track" and that "the grounds for peace have never been better than they are today".

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also gave assurances that any peace deal with the Taliban would not compromise the rights of the Afghan people. However, the Taliban issued a statement claiming that all the rumours about the upcoming peace talks were mere assumptions of the various media outlets.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Taliban leadership approves preliminary peace talks with Afghan govt", Khaama Press, 22 February 2015; "Taliban Finalize Peace Negotiators: Akbar Agha", Tolo News, 24 February 2015; "Ghani Optimistic About New Taliban Peace Talks", Tolo News, 21 February 2015; "Abdullah Vows Taliban Talks Will Not Compromise the Rights of Afghans" , Tolo News, 23 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US ready for slowing withdrawal

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited Kabul this week and claimed that the US was open to the idea of slowing the pace of withdrawal from the country. He said that the Obama administration was considering a stronger military relationship with the new government in Kabul.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "U.S. Open to Slowing Troop Pullout in Afghanistan", The New York Times, 21 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Avalanche kills 100

A deadly avalanche in Panjshir Valley this week resulted in the death of 100 people, 38 people wounded and about 13 people missing. Rescue operations were halted due to roads being blocked on account of heavy snowfall. As part of the rescue operations winter clothes and food has been distributed to the affected people.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Panjshir Avalanches Claim More than 100 Lives", , Tolo News, 25 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">First World Cup victory

Afghanistan beat Scotland by one wicket with three balls remaining to claim its first ever victory in a World Cup tournament. After having restricted Scotland to 210, Afghanistan was reduced to 97 for 7. A 96 run knock from Samiullah Shenwari was able to rescue Afghanistan and he was also awarded with the Man of the Match award. Afghanistan lost its first two matches to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Cricket World Cup: Afghanistan shock Scotland in final over", BBC News, 26 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian aid worker freed

Alexis Prem Kumar, a Christian priest and aid worker from India, who was kidnapped in Herat province by unknown gunmen eight months ago was released this week. Mr Kumar was kidnapped while visiting a school in Herat. Upon his return to New Delhi he had a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Kidnapped Indian Aid Worker Freed After 8 Months in Herat", Tolo News, 23 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arrest warrants against Khaleda

A Dhaka court has issued arrest warrants against opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia after she failed to appear in court in two corruption cases. Judge issues the warrant after he refused a bail plea by the defence, which said Zia needed more time because she was sick and concerned about her security because of political unrest. It was not clear immediately whether Zia would soon be arrested.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Arrest warrants for Khaleda", The Daily Star, 25 February 2015, "Bangladesh issues arrest warrant for ex-Prime Minister Zia after she fails to appear in court", Associated Press, 25 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Militant camp busted

Security forces raided a training camp in the south-eastern Chittagong district operated by an Islamist militant network that was conspiring undertake to carry out attacks in Bangladesh. In their raid on the camp in Banshkhali, a remote, hilly area covered in forest, the security forces arrested five people and recovered firearms, ammunition and other training material. Information of about the camp was revealed during interrogation of madrasa students who were arrested earlier from the town of Hathazari in Chittagong.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : Bangladesh raids militant training camp in remote area of Chittagong", Reuters, 22 February, 2015; "Militants’ training centre busted", The Daily Star, 23 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mamata meets PM

Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of Indian state of West Bengal, visited Bangladesh from 19-21 February. During her three-day visit to Bangladesh, Mamata met President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and discussed the Teesta water-sharing deal and the land boundary agreement, among other issues. The chief minister headed a 39-member delegation.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "About hilsa and Teesta", The Daily Star, 22 February 2015; "Bangladesh visit ’very successful", The Daily Star, 23 February 2015; "Mamata paves way for warmer ties", The Daily Star, 23 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">King’s birthday feted

The nation observed His Majesty The King’s 35th Birth Anniversary on 21 February. In the Prime Minister’s address at the celebrations held at Changlimthang, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay announced five pledges to King Jigme Keshar Namgyal Wangchuck.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nation celebrates His Majesty the King’s 35th birth anniversary", Kuensel Online, 23 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hydro project commissioned

Coinciding with the 135th birth anniversary, the 126 MW Dagachhu Hydroelectric Project was commissioned on 21 February. The commercial flow of energy from Dagachhu project to India began at 12.30 am and the total generation of 14.3 MW was recorded.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Dagachu hydropower project commissioned", Kuensel Online, 21 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Land Bill in Parliament

The Government introduced the contentious Land Acquisition Bill, officially the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015, in the Lok Sabha on 24 February amidst unanimous protest by the opposition. The opposition staged a walk-out immediately after the bill was introduced.

Raju Shetty of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), joined the opposition in terming the bill as ’anti-farmer and anti-poor’. BJP’s appeal for constructive debate received little support as Congress parliamentarians reminded it of its earlier circumscription of democratic debate by enacting the bill as an ordinance.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Govt introduces land acquisition bill in Lok Sabha, opposition stages walk-out", The Indian Express, 24 February 2015; "Govt bid to reach out to opposition ahead of Parl session", The Times of India, 22 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kejriwal joins Anna Hazare in protest

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal joined veteran activist Anna Hazare against the Land Acquisition Ordinance in New Delhi on February 24. Hazare was in the capital to raise awareness against the ordinance which dilutes farmer’s rights over land in order to accelerate the growth of industries.

Critics fear that the legislation will worsen the condition of agriculturalists and that industrial growth can take place without such stringent measures. This is the first time that Kejriwal and Hazare have joined hands after their common platform, the India Against Corruption (IAC) split in September 2012 following Kejriwal’s decision to form a political party. This also marks Kejriwal’s first protest since becoming Chief Minister on 14 February.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Arvind Kejriwal joins Anna Hazare’s protest against Land Acquisition Bill at Jantar Mantar", The Indian Express, 24 February 2015; "Kejriwal, Sisodia to sit on dharna with Anna today", The Times of India, 24 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Spying racket unearthed

Police officials arrested 14 people for their role in stealing classified documents from the Petroleum Ministry on 19 February. The suspects include junior government officials, middlemen who carried out the theft, energy consultants, and executives of top energy companies RIL, Essar, Cairns, Jubilant Energy, and ADAG Reliance. The police monitored the suspected persons after receiving complaints from ministry officials and after Intelligence Bureau sleuths had found sufficient information to merit the arrest. Documents seized suggest that the syndicate collected hundreds of sensitive documents like daily memos, legal papers and audit reports, some of which are said to have leaked even before they could reach the Prime Minister’s office.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Corporate espionage: Files were leaked before reaching PM, claim cops", The Times of India, 23 February 2015; "Petroleum ministry document leak case: Hunt on for 2, including a woman", The Financial Express, 26 February 2015;

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nitish Kumar returns

Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar took oath as Chief Minister of Bihar for the fourth time, on 22 February. Kumar, who is hailed as the face of the state’s revival, had stepped down nine months ago after his party fared poorly in the General Elections. The JD(U) invited partners Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to participate in government formation, but both deferred the decision to a later day.

The swearing in ceremony was attended by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav, and Assam CM Tarun Gogoi, among others. Kumar made customary pledges towards development and democracy, but also hinted towards reviewing policies of his predecessor Jitan Ram Manjhi.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nitish Kumar takes oath as Bihar CM", The Times of India, 22 February 2015; "Bihar CM to review Manjhi’s decisions", The Hindu, 22 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New railway budget hailed

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu presented the railway budget for 2015-16 in Parliament on Thursday. The budget envisages an investment plan of Rs.8.5 trillion over the next five years. If successful, this could have a multiplier effect on everything from the fortunes of steel companies to the country’s ability to attract foreign interest in railways and boost the government’s ambitious Make in India programme.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Rail Budget 2015: Key highlights", Livemint, 26 February 2015; "Narendra Modi’s imprint is starkly apparent in Suresh Prabhu’s maiden Rail Budget", Economic Times, 26 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Survey forecasts 8 pc growth

India’s economy will grow at a rate of more than 8 percent in FY 16 while consumer inflation will drop to between 5 and 5.5 percent, a government economic report said. The report also indicated India can increase public investments and still hit its borrowing targets, while saying the country needed to adhere to its medium-term fiscal deficit target of 3 percent of gross domestic product.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Expert views on India’s Economic Survey", Business Standard, 27 February 2015; "India in "sweet spot" of lower deficits, more growth - Economic Survey", Reuters, 27 February 2015; "Economic Survey: India economic growth to top 8.5% in 2015-16; scope for big bang reforms now", Financial Express, 27 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed held on terror charge

In a surprise move, the Maldives Police Service (MPS) has arrested former President Mohammed Nasheed on ’terrorism’ charge after the Prosecutor-General’s office converted the pending ’Judge Abdulla abduction case’ from being a criminal offence, under a 1990 law.

Nasheed was produced before the court, under dramatic circumstances, and the three-Judge Bench has announced its decision to have a quick hearing of the case, in which incumbent and former Defence Ministers are among the accused.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Former President Nasheed arrested under terrorism allegations", Haveeru Online, 22 February 2015; "Judge Abdulla takes leave", SunOnline, 22 February 2015; "Nasheed taken to court by police, for trial on terrorism charges", SunOnline, 23 February, 2015; "Nasheed denied right to appoint lawyer and appeal "arbitrary" arrest warrant, contend lawyers", Minivan News, 23 February 2015; "Nasheed to be detained until end of trial", Haveeru Online, 23 February 2015; "Lawyers request to change Nasheed to house arrest", SunOnline, 24 February 2015; "Nasheed lawyers request two judges as interveners", Haveeru Online, 21 February 2015; "Nasheed’s lawyers name Judges Didi, Yoosuf as witnesses, request their withdrawal from terrorism trial", Minivan News , 24 February, 2015; "Second hearing on Nasheed trial scheduled for Thursday", Haveeru Online, 25 February 2015; "Authorized no arrest, no torture: Nasheed", Haveeru Online 26 February 2015; "Nasheed denies ordering Judge Abdulla arrest, granted three days to answer charges", Minivan News, 26 February 2015; "Order to detain President Nasheed until the end of trail appealed",SunOnline, 26 February 2015; "Nasheed took deliberate fall: police", Haveeru Online, 24 February 2015; "Doctors have confirmed Nasheed was not injured, say police", SunOnline, February 25, 2015; "Police denies that President Nasheed’s arm was broken", SunOnline, 23 February, 2015; "Minister Jaleel, Didi, Ziyad given three days to appoint lawyer", Haveeru Online, 25 February 2015; "PG office: No evidence has been presented regarding Nasheed’s case", SunOnline, 25 February 2015; "Former Defense Minister Tholhath pleads not guilty to terrorism charges", Minivan News, 24 February 2015; "Police: HRCM blames police without investigation", SunOnline, 26 February 2015; "Independent medics kept from examining Nasheed: HRCM", Haveeru Online, 26 February 2015; "Home Minister: Any injuries, including self-harm to Nasheed’s body will be stopped", SunOnline, 27 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Concern over ’man-handling’

After observing the Maldivian situation for over 24 hours after President Nasheed’s arrest, India, the nation’s closest neighbour, has expressed concern over his ’arrest and manhandling’.

Other nations like the US, Canada, the UK and Sri Lanka too have expressed concern of varying degrees. So have the UN and the Commonwealth.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India concerned over ’manhandling’ of Nasheed", Haveeru Online, 24 February 2015; "US urge restoration of confidence in commitment to democracy", Haveeru Online, 24 February 2015; "UK advices caution in travelling to Maldives, EU concerned", Haveeru Online, 25 February 2015; "Commonwealth calls to respect rule of law", SunOnline, 24 February 2015; "Commonwealth, Canada express concern over denial of legal representation for former President Nasheed", Minivan News, 24 February 2015; "If Maldives want people to visit govt must act democratically- Richard Branson", Miadhu, 23 February 2015; "Nasheed calls for Indian protection in state of emergency", Minivan News, 21 February 2015; "JP, MDP demand Nasheed’s immediate release", Haveeru Online, 22 February 2015; "Nasheed arrested to divert the focus off Nazim- Sheikh Imran", Miadhu, 23 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Threat to quit C’wealth

Reacting strongly to statements from foreign Governments and international institutions on the arrest and alleged assault of former President Nasheed, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has reiterated the Government’s 2012 threat to quit Commonwealth-like institutions, which did not do anything good for the country. Answering overseas criticism, the Minister also said that countries cannot interfere in internal matters of others, and that they were following constitutional norms in the Nasheed detention, and the ’division of powers’ under the Maldivian scheme was complete.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "No country can interfere in internal matters: Foreign Minister", Haveeru Online, 24 February 2015; "Dunya: International community should not comment on things done according to constitution", SunOnline, February 24, 2015; "Foreign Minister’s statement contains falsehood- Office of former President Nasheed", Miadhu, 25 February 2015; "Government intimidation - beyond limit: JP", Haveeru Online, 25 February 2015; "Thousands hold a march in defence of constitution", Haveeru Online, 21 February 2015; "Police advices protesters to adhere to law", Haveeru Online, 22 February 2015; "MNDF denies rumors that they might use weapons", SunOnline, 25 February 2015; "Police test weapons to be used in protests", SunOnline, 27 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi visit in mid-March

Possibly seeking to set at rest media speculation flowing from former President Mohammed Nasheed’s ’arrest and manhandling’, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has reiterated that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be visiting the country in mid-March.

In particular, the Minister clarified that they were holding discussions with Indian officials on Modi’s visit.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Discussion ongoing on PM Modi visit: Foreign Minister", Haveeru Online, 24 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New aircraft for Air Force

The Myanmar Air Force has commissioned K-8W training planes and ATR-42 and BEECH-1900 D transport aircraft into service at the Meiktila Ground Training Base on 25 February. The K-8W training jets were assembled in Myanmar with the cooperation of China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Ceremony held for acquisition of new military aircraft" Eleven Myanmar, 26 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China warns on ties

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said at a press conference on 25 February that China forbids any organisation or individual from conducting activities that undermine China-Myanmar relations or border stability on Chinese territory. The statement comes at a time when clashes between Myanmar’s army and ethnic rebels continue in Kokang region of Myanmar.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "China says it forbids organizations, individuals from undermining China-Myanmar relations", Eleven Myanmar, 26 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade put at $ 25 b

Myanmar’s trade is expected to touch $25 billion in the fiscal year ending 31 March, said a Ministry of Commerce Report. Export earnings from both routes have so far amounted to $9.9 billion while $14.6 billion was spent on imports. Last fiscal year earned $9.8 billion from exports and spent US $12.1 billion on imports.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "US $25 billion trade expected this financial year", Eleven Myanmar, 26 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhattarai to visit India

Nepal’s former prime minister and key Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai, will be visiting India between February 28 and March 5. He is scheduled to attend a party event in Mumbai and spend time in New Delhi.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal’s ex-PM Bhattarai to visit India from Saturday", Hindustan Times, 25 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Everest climbers reassured

Nepal will arrange regular weather forecasts and tighten safety measures on Mount Everest to reassure climbers, an official said on Monday, after an avalanche killed 16 sherpas last year in the worst disaster in the history of the world’s highest mountain.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal reassures Everest climbers on safety a year after deadly avalanche", Reuters, 25 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC annuls discretionary powers

The Supreme Court has annulled two controversial provisions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission on Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances (CIED) Act that give discretionary powers to the transitional justice mechanisms for amnesty and to the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction to prosecute human rights violators.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "SC annuls discretionary powers of TRC, CIED", Republica, 26 February 2015; "Court rescinds amnesty clause", eKantipur, 27 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Alliance for Joint Agitation

CPN-Maoist Chairman Mohan Baidya has said that discussions were underway for a joint agitation with the 30-party alliance. He also urged the UCPN (Maoist) to come to street by denouncing the Constituent Assembly (CA).

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Discussions underway with 30-party alliance for joint agitation: Baidya", eKantipur, 26 February 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian FS coming

Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will visit Pakistan for two days from 3 March 2015. During his visit, Jaishankar will hold a meeting with Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and the two sides will discuss matters of mutual interest.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Indian secy to pay two-day visit to Pakistan", The Nation, 26 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army chief warns India

Chief of Army Staff, Gen Raheel Sharif, has warned India of a "befitting response" to the provocations along the Line of Control (LoC) days before the Indian Foreign Secretary is due to visit Islamabad. The warning was delivered during a visit to the border villages along the Sialkot Working Boundary.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "COAS warns India ahead of secy’s visit", The Nation, 27 February 2015; "Any provocation along Working Boundary will be responded befittingly: COAS", The News International, 26 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Haqqania students in Benazir killing’

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Rawalpindi was informed that students of Maulana Samiul Haq’s Darul Uloom Haqqania, Akora Khattak, were involved in the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The seminary administration has denied any connection with the suspects.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Haqqania students involved in Benazir killing, ATC told", The Nation, 27 February 2015; "Darul Uloom Haqqania students involved in killing of Benazir", Dawn, 26 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four Afghan diplomats detained

During a crackdown in Peshawar, security forces arrested four Afghan diplomats and dozens of Afghan nationals. Station House Officer Town Police Station Ibrahim Khan said that 27 of the 28 detained men, including the diplomats, were released as they were able to prove their identity and legal stay in Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "4 Afghan diplomats detained, freed in Peshawar", The Nation, 27 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ISI chief for US

Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar has left for an official visit to the United States of America. Sources say that during the visit, Lt. Gen. Akhtar will meet his US counterpart and other senior officials to discuss issues relating to intelligence.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "ISI DG leaves for US to discuss intel issues", The Nation, 26 February 2015

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coalition convulsions

Taking the intra-coalition convulsions to another level, UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe challenged former SLFP President Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest the parliamentary elections, which are expected to be announced at the conclusion of incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100-day programme, on 23 April.

The SLFP now headed by President Sirisena poo-poohed Wickremesinghe’s challenge. At the same time, the divisions within the party too showed up with one section mooting a ’national government’ as if to delay parliamentary polls, while the other said only the party, and not its UPFA allies, can decide if Rajapaksa could be the prime ministerial candidate

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Ranil dares MR to contest", The Island, 22 February 2015; "Ranil challenges MR", Daily Mirror Online, 23 February 2015; "It’s typical Ranil rhetoric - Dallas", The Island, 22 February2015; "SLFP moots national govt", Daily Mirror Online, 23 February 2015; "SLFP , not Wimal Weerawansa will decide on its Prime Ministerial candidate - Rajitha", The Island, 21 February 2015; "UPFA grassroots politicos all out to bring back MR", The Island, 24 February 2015; "President decides to pardon rebels", Ceylon Today, 22 February 2015; "SLFP-UNP talks over con. reforms deadlocked", The Island, 26 February 2015; "Fear of Mahinda’s return made UNP to moot national govt. trap - Vasu", The Island, 25 February 2015; "Despite LSSP Leader, Majority Of Its Members Supported Sirisena", Colombo Telegraph, 25 February 2015; "BBS chief Gnanasara may contest general elections", Tamil Guardian, 25 February 2015"; "JVP opposes national government move", The Island, February 23, 2015; "WPC coup in the making to oust CM Ranatunga", The Island, 22 February 2015; "Police Is Deliberately Remaining Inactive On Rajapaksa Crimes: Rajitha", Colombo Telegraph, 26 February 2015’; "Bribery and Corruption : Govt. admits investigations against ’big fish’ very slow", The Island, 26 February 2015; "260-member committee to probe corruption and malpractices of last regime", The Island, 26 February 2015; "Fresh Investigation Begins Into Lasantha Murder", Colombo Telegraph, 26 February 2015; "UPFA demands govt. to reveal investigations", Colombo Mirror, 26 February 2015; "Champika riled by Avant Garde chief going abroad despite CID probe", The Island, 26 February 2015; "Weerawansa accuses govt. of harassment, suppression", The Island, 23 February 2015: "Wimal’s wife arrested in hospital", The Island, 22 February 2015; "I Resigned: Ranil Asked Me To Read Butler’s ’Art Of The Possible’ - Rajiva", Colombo Telegraph, 25 February 2015; "Sirisena Govt Violates Basic Democratic Obligations Without Sharing Draft Bills: Friday Forum", Colombo Telegraph, 24 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM, CM spat on ’racist’ resolution

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Northern Province TNA Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran went on a spat after the former indicated that the Tamil ’separatists’ and ’Sinhala nationalists’ were racist-extremists.

Wigneswaran told newsmen in Jaffna that he was only speaking the truth on what was contained in the NPC’s ’genocide resolution’ and asking UNHRC to publish the probe report on war-time ’accountability issues’ forthwith and not delay it as announced at the Government’s instance.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Sri Lankan PM says NPC’s call for genocide investigation is ’racist’", Tamil Guardian, 24 February 2015; "Wigneswaran tells Sri Lanka PM nothing racist about demanding truth", Tamil Guardian, 25 February 2015; "Sri Lanka has history of broken promises - CM Wigneswaran", Tamil Guardian, 22 February 2015 "Nearly 27,000 acres of private land released", The Island, 22 February 2015; "Credible war crimes investigation will help regain respect - Govt.", The Island, 21 February 2015; "Tamil People Are Highly Disappointed And Dismayed: Shivaji Tells HR Chief", Colombo Telegraph, 23 February 2015; "Mannar Bishop, TNA protest against war crimes report delay", The Island, 25 February 2015; "30-35,000 bodies in Viswamadu alone says Bishop of Mannar", Tamil Guardian, 24 February 2015; "Tamil activists protest in front of US embassy in UK", TamilNet, Wednesday, 25 February 2015; "We Won’t Appear Before Presidential Commission On Missing Persons: TCSF", Colombo Telegraph, 27 February 2015; "Photos of Sampanthan, Sumanthiran set ablaze", The Island, February 26, 2015; "Unanimous Tamil support for Jaffna uni protest calling for release of UN report and rejecting domestic enquiry", Tamil Guardian, 23 February 2015; "Jaffna protesters resolutely call for international probe", Colombo Mirror, 25 February 2015; "USA, key actor behind deferral of OISL report: Mavai Senathiraja", TamilNet, 24 February 2015; "South African delegation visits Sri Lanka", Tamil Guardian, 25 February 2015; "SA reconciliation process resumes under new govt", The Island, February 25, 2015; "Colombo Court orders Jeyakumari to continue to be held in detention", Colombo Mirror, 24 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New army chief

Setting speculation at rest, President Maithripala Sirisena appointed Maj-Gen Crishantha de Silva as the 21st commander of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA).

Gen De Silva took over from Lt-Gen Daya Ratnayake, who retired on 21 February, and was elevated as a four-star ’General’.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Crishantha De Silva new Army Commander", Daily Mirror Online, 23 February 2015; "Daya Ratnayake promoted to rank of General", Daily Mirror Online, 23 February 2015; "Army shake up jolts MR government", Colombo Mirror, 21 February 2015; "Sirisena avoids confrontation with Ranil over new army chief", Colombo Mirror, 21 February 2015; "SF files case to regain parliamentary membership", Daily Mirror Online, 25 February 2015; "Yoshitha assigned to MR’s security detail", Daily Mirror Online, 25 February 2015; "Yoshitha wants to join his father’s security division-Ruwan", Daily Mirror Online,23 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President for China in March

After his successful India visit, President Maithiripala Sirisena is scheduled to visit China in March. According to reports, he is also likely to visit Pakistan during the month.

Ahead of the President’s China visit, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera left for that nation on an official visit.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Foreign Minister is off to China", Colombo Gazette, 25 February 2015; "China’s new ambassador vows to pursue Strategic Cooperative Partnership", The Island, 25 February 2015; "President Sirisena to visit London next week", Ceylon Today, 26 February 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">N-deal with Russia, Pak

Fresh from India after signing the civilian nuclear deal during President Maithripala Sirisena’s maiden overseas trip, the Government has revived talks with Russia and Pakistan, for separate nuclear agreements with both nations.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Pakistan set to sign civilian nuclear deal with SL", Daily Mirror Online 23 February 2015; "Champika discusses with Russian ambassador assistance in nuclear field", The Island, 21 February 2015

Primary Documentation


M. Haqyar Khosti, "China mediation: All roads go through Afghanistan", Voice of Jihad, 27 February 2015

"Statement of Islamic Emirate regarding rumors about negotiations", Voice of Jihad, 24 February 2015


Press Release of 35th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of King Jigme Keshar Namgyal Wangchcuck, Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 February 2015


Joint Statement during the First India-Bahrain High Joint Commission Meeting, Ministry of External Affairs, 23 February 2015


Press Release of the Third Myanmar-Japan Human Rights Dialogue held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 26 February 2015


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

Prime Minister Offers Relief Assistance to Victims of Avalanches in Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 February 2015

Prime Minister’s Message of Sympathy and Condolences to the President of Afghanistan over the Losses Caused by Avalanches, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan,26 February 2015

Visit of Kyrgyz Foreign Minister to Islamabad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 February 2015

Adviser’s condolence statement on loss of life in Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 25 February 2015

Fourth EU-Pakistan Political Counter-Terrorism Dialogue, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 February 2015



Opinion Pieces

Boria Majumdar, "Afghanistan’s victory over Scotland shows their fighting spirit", The Economic Times, 27 February 2015

Sudarshan Raghavan, "The unlikely life of Afghanistan’s first female taxi driver", The Washington Post, 26 February 2015

John Ford, "Reading Galula in Afghanistan", War on the Rocks, 25 February 2015

Kate Clark, "Because of Impunity: UN reports Afghan forces still torturing Afghans", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 25 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Wahiduddin Mahmud, "How does Bangladesh figure in India’s Look East Policy?", The Daily Star, 25 February 2015

Ashish Kumar Sen , "Is Bangladesh on the Brink? ", Atlantic Council, 25 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "Bhutan’s greatest, most valuable wealth is its people: His Majesty the King", Kuensel Online, 25 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Riyaz Wani, "Trapped In Its Own Image", Tehelka, 28 February 2015

Prem Shankar Jha, "Meeting point Srinagar", The Indian Express, 26 February 2015

Rajgopal Saikumar, "The rise of the liberal-right intellectual", The Hindu, 24 February 2015

R K. Raghavan, "Secrecy and information theft", The Hindu, 24 February 2015

Sandipto Dasgupta, "AAP’s Rise: Victorious, But Not Yet Formidable", Foreign Policy, 24 February 2015

Krishn Kaushik,"Ministry Leaks Will Continue, but India’s Lobbying Industry should be brought Under the Ambit of Law", The Caravan, 23 February 2015

Michael Kugelman, "How ISIS Could Become a Potent Force in South Asia", Foreign Policy, 21 February 2015

How ISIS Could Become a Potent Force in South Asia Qamar Waheed Naqvi, "The Myth Of The Muslim Population Bomb", Tehelka, 21 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Maldives at it again: courts, protests and arrests", Observer Research Foundation, 24 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Eleven Myanmar, "Ensure transparency in foreign loans", Eleven Myanmar, 26 February 2015

The Irrawaddy, "More questions than answers in the Kokang Dilemma", The Irrawaddy, 25 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Archana Thapa, "Masculinist logic", eKantipur, 27 February 2015

Dinesh Prasad Joshi Ratala, "Divide and rue", Republica, 26 February 2015

Bhairab Raj Kaini, "Within reach", Republica, 26 February 2015

Suman Khadka, "Drawing caste lines", eKantipur, 26 February 2015


Opinion Pieces

Aima Khosa, "Pakistan, not a home for the children of war?", The Express Tribune, 26 February 2015

Ahmed Rashid,"The need for civil society in Pakistan", Al Jazeera, 25 February 2015

Roger Cohen, "Pakistan in Its Labyrinth", The New York Times, 23 February 2015

Khaled Ahmed, "Becoming what we hate", The Indian Express, 21 February 2015

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Kelum Bandara, "SLFP strategies behind national government concept", Daily Mirror Online, 26 February 2015

Harim Peiris, "A national government versus a Rajapaksa comeback", The Island, 26 February 2015

S A C M Zuhyle, "Promoting harmony among a multi-racial society", Daily Mirror Online, 25 February 2015

K I Keethaponcalan, "Nugegouda: Rajapaksa exploited?", Colombo Telegraph, 25 February 2015

Dayan Jayatilleka, "Nugegouda and nationalism", Colombo Telegraph, 23 February 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Missing T’s in Maithri-Modi meet", The Sunday Leader, 22 February 2015

Rajan Philips, "The Nugegouda rally and the Government’s midlife crisis", The Island, 21 February 2015

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Sri Lanka: TN position and NPC resolution can delay refugees’ return", Observer Research Foundation, 20 February 2015

Augustine Fernando, "Need for a government with national unity", Daily Mirror Online, 21 February 2015

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

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

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