MonitorsPublished on Jan 02, 2015
With NATO's combat mission in Afghanistan finally coming to an end this past week, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will now be responsible for security throughout the country.
Security challenges remain
< class="heading1">Analysis

With NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan finally coming to an end this past week, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will now be responsible for security throughout the country. Although a few thousand foreign troops will still conduct counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban and the al Qaeda, the bulk of the residual force has shifted to a supporting and training role. As Afghanistan gears itself for the beginning of a new phase in the country’s modern history, a number of security challenges remain.

For starters, the Taliban continues to remain a resilient force. The weeks leading up to the final military drawdown have been among the most violent in the past few years. Civilians and public places have been targeted with an increasing frequency with the objective to instil a sense of fear among the masses, especially against the backdrop of new fledgling government in Kabul and the withdrawal of the foreign forces. In fact, according to UN estimates, civilian casualties have seen a sharp increase in 2014 as compared to the last few years. From the broader strategic perspective, the Taliban has continued to make significant inroads into southern and eastern Afghanistan highlighting the military potency of the group in capturing and holding territory.

It is the continuing strength of the Taliban that forced the new government to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the US and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO within days of assuming office, but also forced Kabul to lift the ban on night raids - seen as an effective military strategy - that had been banned by the predecessor Hamid Karzai’s government. Moreover, US President Barack Obama agreed to increase the number of US troops - albeit a marginal increase -- that will remain behind in Afghanistan.

Equal, if not stronger

Their military resilience also ensures that the prospects for a peace agreement with the group remain remote. The group, which has faced military reversals over the years and is said to be suffering from war fatigue, has not been significantly suppressed for it to be compelled to enter into peace talks with the government.

In fact, if the group does agree to enter into any negotiations with the government, its present military strength would allow it to bargain with the government from an equal, if not stronger, vantage point. Such a scenario may result in the government granting concessions to the Taliban, which in the long run could have a significant detrimental impact on the security situation in Afghanistan.

It seems unlikely that this military balance would be tilted in favour of the Afghan government in the near future. If at the peak of the US surge in 2009-11, the foreign troops were unable to significantly undermine the insurgency, the impact of a considerably smaller residual force remains to be seen. This problem is compounded by the fact that the ANSF will now take the centre stage.

While the ANSF has shown steady progress over the years, there are concerns about its ability to operate against the insurgents on its own. It suffers from a number of problems - lack of appropriate equipment, poor leadership, high rate of illiteracy and attrition, corruption and an inability to manage its own day to day affairs - which has rendered it incapable of achieving the required breakthrough in the existing military stalemate in the near future. It is considered, at best, to be a force capable of keeping the insurgents at bay but even the sustainability of that minimum achievement will depend on the continuation of foreign aid.

Besides this unfavourable military equation, the Taliban is likely to use the foreign military presence to continue its insurgent activities. The acting chief of the National Directorate of Security claimed this week that the Taliban, in the wake of the military withdrawal, should no longer have any excuse to continue its war in Afghanistan.

’Not fooled by transition’

However, the Taliban, on numerous occasions, have insisted on a complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as a prerequisite for any political settlement. It, thus, comes as no surprise that despite the withdrawal, the Taliban issued a statement claiming that it cannot "be fooled by transition of ISAF missions or by changing the name of NATO missions". The group warned that it will continue its "jihad and struggle so long as a single foreigner remains in Afghanistan in a military uniform".

In a situation like this, a strong political leadership is an absolute necessity to guide the nation at such a critical juncture. Some positives in this regard can be seen in some of the foreign policy decisions taken by President Ashraf Ghani. This includes the signing of the strategic pacts with the US and NATO. But it is his out-reach to Pakistan that could have a bigger impact on the security situation in the country.

Given Pakistan’s support and links with the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, its future policies towards Afghanistan are extremely critical for the country’s future. As of now both countries have agreed to enhance border cooperation and agreed to jointly tackle the menace of terrorism in the region. Although, this is a good start, especially given the state of bilateral ties towards the end of Hamid Karzai’s reign, only time will tell how constructive a role Pakistan can play in the future.

However, at the same time, differences between President Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah that has led to a delay in the formation of the cabinet - months after both assumed office - has given rise to a sense of disappointment. The longer it takes for the two leaders to form the cabinet, the tougher it is going to become for the government to deal with the various challenges confronting it.

(Aryaman Bhatnagar is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: President Hamid’s India visit strengthens bilateral ties

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid’s visit to India, from December 18-23 on the invitation of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, was far beyond than just a goodwill visit. The visit devoid of any landmark outcome still highlighted importance Bangladesh gives in nurturing its relationship with India. The visit provided major boost to the bilateral relationship.

It was Hamid’s maiden visit to India as the President of Bangladesh. He met India’s top leadership, including President Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

He also visited West Bengal, one of the Indian States bordering Bangladesh, and met Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. In the meetings, the President discussed various issues of bilateral importance which helped both the sides to put across their view points. A significant aspect of the visit was the display of the warmth by the leadership of the two countries.

Upward trajectory

India-Bangladesh relations are on an upward trajectory for the past few years. The last United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in India and the Awami League government in Bangladesh deserve the credit for transforming the relationship. The leaderships of both the countries took special initiatives to improve relations. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited in India in 2010 and then Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh visited Bangladesh in 2011, giving a big boost to the relationship.

The defeat of the UPA in the 2014 national elections led to some speculation about the future of the relationship. A major reason for this scepticism was the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) stand on the issue of the illegal migration from Bangladesh during the election campaign. Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina herself had expressed concerned over this. Observers of the bilateral relationship suggest it was this concern that led Bangladesh to send Parliament Speaker, and not the President or the Prime Minister, in response to Modi’s invitation for the oath-taking ceremony of his BJP-NDA government.

Special interest

Like its predecessor, the present BJP government has shown a special interest is having a friendly relationship with Bangladesh. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Bangladesh in July, which was her first stand-alone visit abroad as the minister, played a crucial role in restoring the confidence of the Bangladesh government. Swaraj, during her visit, made it clear that Bangladesh is an important neighbour for India. Improving relationship with neighbours is one of the corner stones of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s foreign policy. In this regard, Modi chose Bhutan for his first foreign visit as Prime Minister of India. This gesture of Modi’s earned him admiration among the people also in Bangladesh also.

Since then, there have been various high-level exchange of visits between the two countries. They have also discussed various areas of cooperation in the fields of energy, connectivity, economic relation, etc. Considering the potential, the visits of the top leadership give major thrust in realising the potential. In this regard, President Hamid’s visit has been very timely. In fact, there should be frequent exchange of visits of top leaderships of the two countries.

(Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee is a Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Military drawdown completed

NATO formally ended its combat mission in Afghanistan on 28 December. The formal ceremony was held in a gymnasium in Kabul and its details were kept a secret in order to avoid any possible attack from the Taliban. The NATO officially shifted to training and supporting role on 1 January 2015, which will now be known as the "Resolute Support Mission" Under this new mission, about 12500 to 13500 troops will remain behind in Afghanistan. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a ceremony held at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, hailed the "successful completion" of the security transition.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "NATO flag lowered in Afghanistan as combat mission ends", The Washington Post, 28 December 2014; "Nato marks transition to new Afghanistan mission", BBC News, 28 December 2014; NATO’s Resolute Support Mission Begins Thursday, Tolo News, 31 December 2014; "Ghani Congratulates Nation on Completion of Security Transition", Tolo News, 1 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban vows to continue fighting

The Taliban declared that they would continue to carry out their insurgent activities despite NATO formally ending its combat mission in Afghanistan this week. The Taliban also issued a statement claiming victory against NATO. In the meanwhile, Rahmatullah Nabil, the acting chief of the National Directorate of Security, claimed that since the foreign combat mission has been ended in Afghanistan, there was no reason for the Taliban to continue fighting.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Taliban vows to continue fighting as NATO combat mission ends", Khaama Press, 29 December 2014; "Afghanistan conflict: Taliban declares ’defeat’ of Nato", BBC News, 29 December 2014; "No More Excuse for Taliban to Continue War: NDS", Tolo News, 1 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">High officials sacked

President Ashraf Ghani, during his visit to Herat, dismissed a number of high ranking officials. The dismissed officials included 15 police chiefs, eight district governors, five border police commanders and the Herat appellate court prosecutor. These officials were dismissed as part of a plan to solve Herat’s organised crime problem.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Ghani Sacks Officials in Herat Visit", Tolo News, 28 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khaleda for polls under neutral regime

Opposition Bangladesh National Party chief Begum Khaleda Zia called for new polls under a non-partisan technocratic administration, warning of a fresh wave of protests if the government failed to accept her demand. BNP boycotted the January 5 general election as the ruling Awami League declined to accept its demand of non-party caretaker government for conducting election.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Hold dialogue or face movement", The Daily Star, 1 January 2014; "Bangladesh’s Zia demands new polls under neutral regime", The Daily Mail, 31 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jamaat leader sentenced to death

A T M Azharul Islam, the assistant secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami was sentenced to death by the war crimes tribunal for the crimes committed during the country’s war of independence in 71. This is the second death sentence the special court has issued in two weeks. Soon after the verdict Jamaat-e-Islami hosted two days of dawn to dusk shutdown in protest of the verdict. However, media claimed the protest could not make much impact as it received very little support of the people

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Punished to the Maximum", The Daily Star, 31 December 2014; "Bangladesh Sentences Senior Islamist Politician to Death", The Wall Street Journal, 30 December 2014; "Hartal today, tomorrow", The Daily Star, 31 December 2014; "Jamaat’s hartal ended amid poor response", Bangladesh Observer, 1 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Connectivity, FTA with China

Bangladesh-China relationship got a major boost following visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. During his visit Wang Yi met top leaders of the country including Prime Minister Shiek Haisna, Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali and leader of Opposition Begum Khaleda Zia. During the visit, he held various discussions regarding strengthening the relationship. A major highlight of the visit was Bangladesh proposing establishment of rail and road connectivity between Chittagong and Kunming. China also proposed a free trade agreement with Bangladesh

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Beijing positive on Ctg-Kunming road", The Daily Star, 29 December 2014; "Chinese FM meets PM, Khaleda", The Daily Star, 29 December 2014; "China proposes FTA with Bangladesh ", The Dhaka Tribune, 29 December 2014; "Eyes on 5 priority areas", The Daily Star, 30 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Surplus in energy trade

The energy trade balance in 2013 recorded a surplus of Nu 21.43 billion at a time when overall trade deficit stood at Nu 122 million. Export of hydropower also the country’s top export, earned an income of Rs. 11.2 billion.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Energy trade balance records Nu 120 M surplus", Kuensel Online, 2 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Private sector role in hydro-power

Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay asked the private sector to ready itself for having a pie of the hydro-power sector. In a networking dialogue with the private sector, Tobgay urged investors to invest in hydropower and construction sectors to prepare in terms of competitiveness and productivity.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "PM urges private sector to prepare for hydropower", Kuensel Online, 30 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Surrendering secretaries not acceptable

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) on 29 December conveyed to the Cabinet that it was not in a position to accept the surrender of secretaries and has asked the Cabinet to submit details and evidence of the charges against them. Earlier, three Cabinet secretaries were surrendered by the Prime Minister’s office on 12 December.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Not in a position to accept surrendered secretaries: RCSC" Kuensel Online, 30 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IED blast kills one in Bengaluru

One person was killed and several injured when a low-intensity Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded at Church Street in Bengaluru over the weekend. The pipe bomb, thought to be locally manufactured, was placed in front of a popular restaurant. The blast bore similarities with previous attacks in Pune and Chennai, prompting investigators from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu to join the Bangalore police in collecting evidence.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "A pipe bomb, say experts", The Hindu, 30 December 2014; "Bangalore blast kills woman", The Indian Express, 29 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CBI drops charges against Amit Shah

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) acquitted Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case of 2005. The special CBI court led by M B Gosavi observed that Shah was ’involved in the case by the CBI for political reasons’. While the BJP said that it stands vindicated, Congress, on the other hand, accused the ruling party of manipulating the apex investigation agency.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Amit Shah discharged, court finds no evidence", The Hindu, 30 December 2014; "Sohrabuddin fake encounter case: Charges against Amit Shah dropped", The Times of India, 30 December

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ordinance for coal and FDI reforms

President Pranab Mukherjee signed two important ordinances, related to greater foreign direct investment in insurance, and to pave the way for electronic auditing of coal blocks. The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014 and the Insurance Amendment Bill were cleared by the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Opposition party opposed the ordinance on the grounds that the bill was still being discussed in Rajya Sabha, where a select committee review had raised objections that were not adequately debated in Parliament.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President signs coal, insurance ordinances", The Hindu, 27 December 2014; "Before he cleared land ordinance, President Pranab asked Government why the hurry", The Indian Express, 2 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Plan panel gives way to ’NITI Aayog’

The government announced the replacement of the Planning Commission with the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog. NITI will be chaired by the Prime Minister, and include a governing council comprising Chief Ministers of all states, and lieutenant governors of union territories, as well as regional councils to address issues specific to regions and states. Arvind Panagariya, the well known economist and proponent of free-market model is slated to be the first Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog, which will also draw expertise from universities and research organisations.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "NITI Aayog replaces Planning Commission, Prime Minister Modi bids farewell to ’one size fits all’ approach", The Indian Express, 2 January 2015; "Niti Aayog: Arvind Panagariya slated to be Vice Chairman of new Think Tank", The Economic Times, 2 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Safeguards for n-plants

Indian initiated steps to incorporate the last of its remaining civilian nuclear reactors into the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Units 1 and 2 of the Narora Atomic Power Station in Bulandshahar in Uttar Pradesh will join 20 other facilities that will now have access to imported uranium. Greater transparency towards the international watchdog agency completes the process underlined by the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India to complete process of placing nuclear power reactors under IAEA safeguards", The Economic Times, 28 December 2014; "Indian n-facilities under IAEA safety umbrella", The Hindu, 29 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fire-exchange at Pak border

Indian and Pakistani security agencies exchanged fire in yet another ceasefire violation, resulting in the death of one Indian solider and four Pakistani troops. According to the Indian version of the event, Pakistani Rangers fired without provocation at 13 border outposts in the Samba sector in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan, which suffered greater causalities, disagrees and blames India for the latest breech in the ceasefire that had come into place in 2003.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Kashmir: Five troops killed in India, Pakistan clashes", BBC, 1 January 2015; "LoC tension: Rajnath talks tough", The Hindu, 2 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yameen against threats to tourism

Ahead of Jamaican Grammy Award winner Sean Paul’s cancelled visit to Maldives to perform on New Year’s Eve, President Abdulla Yameen referred to social media threats to the event and cautioned the nation against the adverse impact of the kind affecting tourism industry, the nation’s economic mainstay.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "President Yameen warns of adverse impacts on tourism from threats against guests", Minivan News, 29 December 2014; "President: Political ideologies may differ, but we should agree on some issues", SunOnline, 29 December 2014; "Minister Adeeb: I will stand against extremism", SunOnline, 30 December 2014; "Sean Paul cancels Maldives show", SunOnline, 30 December 2014; "Threat against Sean Paul, a ’hoax’: Govt", Haveeru Online, 29 December 2014; "Jamiyyathul Salaf calls on government to cancel "sinful" Sean Paul concert", Minivan News, 27 December 2014; "Security Forces: We will do whatever possible to maintain harmony", SunOnline, December 29, 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Row over age for presidency

Possibly irked by the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) call for President Abdulla Yameen to hand over power to one-time Jumhooree Party (JP) ally Gasim Ibrahim, a ruling coalition member has moved Parliament for fixing a 65-year upper age-limit for the nation’s high office.

If the bill seemed aimed at disqualifying JP’s Gasim from contesting the presidency in the 2018 polls, a party colleague said outside Parliament that the lower age-limit for the post should be reduced to 18 years - again as those below 25 years of age comprised half the nation’s population.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Minimum age limit of President’s should be lowered to 18 to benefit the youth- Ali Hussein", Miadhu, 28 December 2014; "Gasim wins second place in popular newsmaker list"", Miadhu, 31 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cashiers posts only for locals

A Minister has announced decision not to allow expatriates to be employed as cashiers from April next, so as to provide better job opportunities to the local youth.

It followed President Abdulla Yameen’s New Year speech, where he promised to create more job opportunities for the local youth.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Foreigners barred from cashier jobs as President promises work for Maldivians", Minivan News, 31 December 2014; "Economy will boost when Maldivians get Maldivian jobs- President", Miadhu, 31 December 2014; "Economy will boost when Maldivians get Maldivian jobs- President", Miadhu, 31 December 2014; "President Yameen: Remarkable milestones reached in fulfilling electoral pledges in 2014", SunOnline, 1 January 2015; "New developmental heights in sight for 2015: President", Haveeru Online, 1 January 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Presidential polls in November

The Union Election Commission in a special message on 31 December said that the polls would take place in early November. The statement issued also said that at present the commission is busy with compiling the complete list of voters.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "2015 Elections to be held in November, says UEC", Eleven Myanmar, 1 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Letpadaung protests continue

Protests by villagers affected by the Letpadaung Copper Mine run by Chinese company Wanbao continue for the third day after a sit in protest was launched by villagers around the mine in Sagaing Division. Police firing on the protestors had on 22 December claimed a life and left several were injured.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Protests continue at Letpadaung Mine Site", The Irrawaddy, 31 December 2014; "Warning shots fired as Letpadaung Protests continue" Mizzima, 30 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army captures KIA outpost

The army of the Union Republic of Myanmar has captured a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) outpost in Kar Mine a jade mining town in Hpakant. According to a KIA spokesperson the 5th Light Infantry Battalion based in Gongyi near Kar Mine Township had launched an assault on 27 December.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Burmese army captures KIA outpost near Hpakant", Democratic Voice of Burma, 30 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Push for timely statue

Constituent Assembly members from the ruling parties have unveiled programmes to put pressure on top political leaders and office-bearers for initiating the voting process in the CA so that the outstanding issues of constitution writing may be resolved in time to ensure the new constitution by the January 22 deadline.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "CA members to press top leaders for timely statute", eKantipur, 1 January 2015; "Congress to push for timely statute", The Himalayan Times, 31 December 2014; "Nepal parties urged to decide on Constitution", The Hindu, 1 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China increases aid, five-fold

China will increase official aid to Nepal by more than five times from fiscal 2015-16, officials said on Friday, to develop infrastructure in the landlocked nation. The jump in assistance was announced after talks between visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Nepali counterpart Mahendra Bahadur Pandey.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "China raises Nepal aid five-fold in regional diplomacy push", Reuters, 26 December 2014; "’Nepal can bridge China, SAsia’" eKantipur, 27 December 2014; "Nepal? China to work in nine core areas", The Himalayan Times, 26 December 2014; "China assures rail link with Nepal", eKantipur, 28 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New bids for road schemes

Nepal has asked India to be allowed to select the contractors to build the Indian-funded postal road itself as those appointed by the southern neighbour have been abandoning the project midway.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Let us select road contractors: Nepal", eKantipur, 31 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Fishing boat’ explodes of Indian coast

According to officials, the crew of a Pakistani fishing boat blew up and sank their vessel after trying to evade capture at the hands of the Indian navy in a high-speed chase at sea. All four people on board are believed to have been killed.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "India claims Pak fishing boat explodes", The Nation, 3 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Probe-call into Rangers’ death

Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with India over the death of two soldiers of the Punjab Rangers in Zafarwal Sector. The Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has written a letter to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj urging for an investigation.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan calls for probe into Rangers killing", The Nation, 3 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army not for military courts

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has said that the establishment of special courts is not the desire of the Army but the need of extraordinary times and that there will be a return to the original system when normalcy returns.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Military courts not the desire of the army: army chief", The Express Tribune, 2 January 2015; "Special Courts not desire of Army but need of extraordinary times: COAS", The News International, 2 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Shelving Musharraf’s trial

The federal government is considering shelving the treason trial against Pakistan’s former military ruler, Gen Pervez Musharraf. According to media reports, sources said that the federal government wants the issue to linger on till the special court’s functioning becomes irrelevant.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "A year on: Govt may shelve Musharraf’s treason trial", The Express Tribune, 3 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rejecting mercy pleas

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has written to President Mamnoon Hussain urging him to reject the mercy pleas of five prisoners of terrorism.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nawaz advises president to reject mercy please of five prisoners on death row", The Express Tribune, 2 January 2015

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC asked to fast-track ’Lakhvi case’

The federal government has requested the Supreme Court to hear the matter on an urgent basis of an appeal filed against the Dec 29 Islamabad High Court verdict suspending the detention orders of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2009 Mumbai terror attacks.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Govt wants SC to urgently take up its appeal in Lakhvi case", Dawn, 3 January 2015

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA backs Sirisena

After delaying the decision for long, the five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) ruling the Northern Province, has announced its decision to support the common Opposition candidate and former Health Minister Maithirpala Sirisena, in the 8 January presidential polls.

However, a section of the TNA has backed the ’boycott’ call given by some Tamil civil society groups even as campaign-managers of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and also the Sinhala-Buddhist ’nationalist’ Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) have claimed ’Tamil extremist’ designs in the TNA backing for Sirisena.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Sampanthan announces decision to back Sirisena in SL presidential elections", TamilNet, 30 December 2014; "War freed TNA from clutches of ruthless Tigers", The Island, 30 December 2014; "Sampanthan explains TNA’s decision to support Maithripala Sirisena", The Island, 30 December 2014; "National issue: TNA won’t accept backdoor deal", The Island, 30 December; "Shivajilingam urges TNA to avoid backing any particular presidential candidate", TamilNet, Saturday, 27 December 2014; "I cannot vote against my conscience: Aananthi Sasistharan", Tamil Guardian, 31 December 2014; "TNA loses civic council to UPFA", TamilNet, Wednesday, 31 December 2014; "President urges Batti Tamils to vote for him", Ceylon Today, 29 December 2014; "Mahinda reiterates his re-election as CWC extends unconditional support", Colombo Mirror, 28 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SLMC, ACMC cross over

Ahead of the presidential polls, two Muslim-centric political parties, namely, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the All-Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), with constituencies in the Tamil-speaking North and the East, have crossed over to the Opposition camp, after withdrawing their Ministers from President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "SLMC for Maithri", Daily Mirror Online, 28 December 2014; "SLMC pledges support to MS, but won’t topple UPFA-run Eastern PC", The Island, 28 December 2014; "8 mps go with hakeem to maithri", Ceylon Today, 29 December 2014; "Refusal to carve out new district is the reason-SLFP", Daily Mirror Online, 28 December 2014; "Hakeem rejects Govt charges", Daily Mirror Online, 1 January 2015; "Rishad, Mannar Bishop reconcile", Ceylon Gazette, 30 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Take some, give some

Common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena has been drawing criticism from the rival Rajapaksa camp, and his repeated assertions in favour of backing the army presence in the war-affected Tamil-majority Northern and Eastern Provinces, and also defend the present government and the armed forces in ’accountability issue’ probe by UNHRC-mandated probe.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Army will not be withdrawn from Jaffna - Sirisena", The Island, 1 January 2015; "We will not allow LTTE to rise aided by Tamil diaspora - Maithri", Tamil Guardian, 31 December 2014; "BBS says TNA joined Maithri to spread extremism", Daily Mirror Online, 30 December 2014; "LTTE shops display Sirisena’s pictures in Toronto -Bandula", The Island, 30 December 2014; "Chandrika calls President dictator and Prabhakaran gentleman", The Island, 1 January 2015; "Dinesh accuses Maithri", Ceylon Today, 1 January 2015; "Govt partner alleges TNA trying to avenge LTTE defeat", The Island, 31 December 2014; "Gunaratnam says change won’t help", Daily Mirror Online, 1 January 2015; "Gunaratnam: JVP shaken to core by its support for MS", The Island, 1 January 2015; "MR trying to replace Muslim leadership with Salman Khan - Ranil", The Island, 31 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Youth uprising’ cautioned

Opposition JHU leader Rathana Thero has warned of ’youth uprising in the country in two years, if the nation was not rid of corruption.

The caution came even as the JHU has been campaigning for the common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena on ’good governance’ issues, and the Government criticised UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his comments on the need for a free and fair presidential poll"

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Govt criticises UN chief", Tamil Guardian, 31 December 2014; "Rathana Thera warns of youth uprising", The Nation, 1 January 2015; "Now, Ariyaratne warns of Lankan spring", The Island, 1 January 2015; "Opposition accuses government of funding LTTE", Tamil Guardian, 30 December 2014; "Mahinda warns against Facebook threat", Tamil Guardian, 29 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pollsters give rivals victory

In a numbers game on the presidential elections, two different universities in the country have given President Mahinda Rajapaksa and common Opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena a clean-win in the 8 January polls, giving the winner 53 percent of the vote-share, three-percentage points over the mandated minimum requirement of 50 percent.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Kelaniya University survey predicts win for MR" Daily Mirror Online, 31 December 2014; "Colombo University Survey predicts Maithri victory", Daily Mirror Online, 31 December 2014; "Presidential Election 2015 Pre Election Opinion Poll: Top Line Report", Centre for Policy Alternatives, 27 December 2014

Primary Documentation


Statement of Islamic Emirate regarding the end of the failed ISAF mission in Afghanistan, Voice of Jihad, 29 December 2014

Statement by the President on the End of the Combat Mission in Afghanistan, The White House, 28 December 2014

Transition ceremony kicks off Resolute Support Mission, NATO, 28 December 2014


Interview with Deputy ISAF Commander Carsten Jacobson, DW, 28 December 2014


Press Release of Prime Minister’s Meeting with Chief Economist World Bank, Bhutan Cabinet Secretariat, 29 December 2014


Arvind Kejriwal, "A city safe for women — it’s possible". The Indian Express, 2 January 2015

External Affairs Minister’s opening remarks at the 8th India-Republic of Korea Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) in Seoul, Ministry of External Affairs, 29 December 2014

Address by External Affairs Minister at Indian Community Reception in Seoul, Ministry of External Affairs, 28 December 2014

PM’s message to the Nation on Good Governance, Website of the Prime Minister of India, 25 December 2014


Myanmar President concludes Western Myanmar Trip Myanmar President’s Office, 29 December 2014


Afghan Acting Commerce Minister Calls on the Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 2 January 2015

The Adviser writes to the Indian External Affairs Minister, calling for investigation on killing of Punjab Rangers Personnel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 2 January 2015

Annual Exchange of Nuclear Installations and Facilities list between Pakistan and India, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 1 January 2015

Exchange of List of Prisoners between Pakistan and India on 01 January 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 1 January 2015

Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 01 January 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 1 January 2015




Ryan Koronowski, "The War in Afghanistan By The Numbers", Think Progress, 1 January 2015

Bilal Sarwary, Afghans decry economic and security woes", Aljazeera, 29 December 2014

Pamela Constable, "NATO flag lowered in Afghanistan as combat mission ends", 28 December 2014

Opinion Pieces

Monica Bernabe, "A "Pending Issue": Pakistani Balochs seeking shelter in Afghanistan", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 31 December 2014

"Why the U.S. still has a role in Afghanistan", The LA Times, 29 December 2014

"A report card on 13 years in Afghanistan", The National, 29 December 2014

Joshua Keating, "Is America’s Longest War Really Over?", The Slate, 29 December 2014

Matthew Rosenberg, "Around an Invisible Leader, Taliban Power Shifts", The New York Times, 28 December 2014



Nurul Islam, Political Economy of State Interventions in the Bangladesh Food-grain Sector", IFPRI Discussion Paper 01404, December 2014

Opinion Pieces

Nadeem Qadi "Sheikh Hasina’s year ", Dhaka Tribune, 2 January 2015

Prof. Ataur Rahman, "The challenge of competitive cooperation", The Daily Star, 31 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "Rumour: What cost?", Kuensel Online, 2 January 2014

Kuensel, "For a permanent solution", Kuensel Online, 27 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, "The Centre we need", The Indian Express, 1 January 2015

Jairam Ramesh and Muhammad Khan "Fencing the farmer out", The Hindu, 31 December 2014

Namrata Goswami, "Where armed insurgents roam about freely", The Hindu, 31 December 2014

Prem Shankar Jha, "A crisis, an opportunity", The Indian Express, 31 December 2014

Ravi Venkatesan, "Making ’Make in India’ happen", The Hindu, 30 December 2014

Ashutosh Varshney, "The 2015 question", The Indian Express, 30 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, "A decade after the 2004 Tsunami - recalling the turning point for disaster management", Minivan News, 24 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Than Htut Aung, I will Tell the Real Truth (21)", Eleven Myanmar, 1 January 2015

Gabrielle Paluch, "Myanmar Enters Election Year with Powerful Military Largely Unchanged", Voice of America, 30 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Rajendra Ghimire, "Different but equal" eKantipur, 2 January 2015

Kanak Mani Dixit, "High-end Nepal" eKantipur, 2 January 2015

Dr. Lhamo Yangchen Sherpa, "Wrong side of history", eKantipur, 2 January 2015

Shambhu Ram Sinkhada,"Hit or miss?", Republica, 31 December 2014

Saurav Ghimire, "Modern slavery", Republica, 31 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Zarrar Khuhro, "2014: Of Empire and Umpire", Dawn, 2 January 2015

Suhasini Haidar, "Taking on good, bad, all Talibans", The Hindu, 2 January 2015

Arifa Noor "2014: The year that wasn’t", Dawn, 1 January 2015

I.A. Rehman, "Year of the dharna", Dawn, 1 January 2015

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Dr Kalana Senaratne, "Manifestos and the political pulse", Daily Mirror Online, 30 December 2014

Rohana V Wasala, "Global English and SL elections", The Island, 30 December 2014

Jayadeva Uyangoda, "Desire for change; hope for democracy’s survival", Daily Mirror Online, 29 December 2014

Ranga Jayasuriya, "Why a future government will not probe mega corruption", Daily Mirror Online, 29 December 2014

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, "Betraying Ravana: The Nation-State-Hero Triangle", Daily Mirror Online, 29 December 2014

Jehan Perera, "President needs to be mindful of his main strength", The Island, 29 December 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "War crimes, hence war the poll issue again?", The Sunday Leader, 28 December 2014

Rajan Philips, "The last 10 days before the poll and verdict", The Island, 27 December 2014

Vidya Abheyagunawardana, "New president must put us on disarmament map", Daily Mirror Online, 27 December 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Sri Lanka: An election that India needs to watch",, 26 December 2014


Maithripala Sirisena, "Sri Lanka’s sovereignty will remain intact under me", Daily Mirror Online, 2 January 2015

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, "I will be more of a statesman than politician", Daily Mirror Online, 1 January 2015

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

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