MonitorsPublished on Dec 12, 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leading a majority government after a gap of 25 years, took charge of the country on May 26 this year at an impressive swearing-in ceremony.
Six months of Modi Government
< class="heading1">Analysis

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leading a majority government after a gap of 25 years, took charge of the country on May 26 this year at an impressive swearing-in ceremony. Though technically the BJP-led National Democratic government is a coalition government, its six months’ performance has shown it has not experienced any constraints as during the previous 10 governments, including that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.

After coming to power on huge popular expectations and promises of Modi, the new government has now completed six months in office. Now it is time for an honest and critical appraisal of the performance of the government.

The government has ushered in many changes in both style as well as the form. It has also retained, rather has continued with, some of the policies of its predecessor UPA government.

By inviting head of states or chief executives of the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for the swearing-in, the government began with a well meaning initiative -- essentially a symbolic step to convey that New Delhi is keen to improve relations with its neighbours and countries in the region.

First, the style of the new government is far different compared to 10 years of the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) of the six-month-old government reminds one of former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, when this office carried lots of clout. Now it has again acquired the old status and an overwhelming power.

Thanks to the decisive and clear mandate, it has been possible for the Prime Minister to turn the PMO as his tool to guide and monitor his cabinet colleagues and the work of their ministries and departments. The PMO now consists of bureaucrats who have been personally selected and picked up none other than the Prime Minister himself. The PMO is the nerve centre of the Modi government.

With Modi taking personal interest in maintaining a close vigil on the functioning of his government, the decision making process has become swifter because discussions and debates in cabinet meetings are far less and rare now, compared to the history of last 25 years of policy making and decision making of different coalition governments at the Centre.

On the domestic front, the launch of Jan Dhan Yojna, which aims to bring the excluded into the country’s banking system over the next five years, is a major initiative of the new government. The scheme, which means opening of bank accounts of all those who are not part of the country’s banking network, will open doors for targeted subsidies, eliminating corruption.

If the financial coverage reaches the rural poor, then the Jan Dhan scheme in conjunction with Aadhar platform could facilitate a shift towards cash transfer of subsidies and plug outlets of corruption effectively.

In one of its first major decision, the government dismantled the Planning Commission which had acted both as a monitoring as well as policy making agency of the central government and had coordinated development and growth processes in states, union territories and the Centre for six decades. The Planning Commission had formulated twelve Five-Year-Plans for the country.

By doing away the Planning Commission, the BJP government displayed the biggest symbolic break from the Nehruvian framework which had remained the guiding principle of different governments that came to power in the last six decades.

The Modi government has claimed that a new institution would replace the Planning Commission which would be in tune with the changing times and would be federative in character, taking on board the requirements and specific needs of states.

Though the exercise for creating a new institution has begun, one can make an assessment on this score, mainly whether the decision to dismantle the Commission was right or wrong, only when it starts functioning.

Another notable decision of the new government has been to launch a ’Make in India’ programme which aims to raise the share of manufacturing in the GDP. It seeks to transform India into the manufacturing hub of the world because if this can be achieved, then it would generate employment for the bulk of unskilled and semi-skilled workers currently engaged in the agriculture sector.

The success or failure of this ambitious campaign would eventually depend upon the enabling environment -- by facilitating and improving the ease of doing business in highly centralised bureaucratic setup.

In his first Independence Day address, the Prime Minister captivated the country’s youth by talking of his dream of a Digital India by 2019 which will open doors for e-governance, IT-enabled education and telemedicine etc. It is an ambitious scheme under which last mile Wi-Fi connectivity and broadband would be ensured but promising something in different than providing it.

On the economic front, the government has taken some bold steps like raising the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit to 49 per cent from 26 per cent in defence sector through approval route.

Notwithstanding several administrative steps to facilitate investments and cutting the red tape, the government’s performance has not been exemplary and has belied expectations despite extremely favourable global environment. The prices of crude oil and other commodities have significantly come down and rising inflation has been arrested.

Despite the positive international economic environment, growth has disappointed as neither the credit taken off nor exports have picked up. Even investments have not gained the desired momentum.

But at the same time, the Modi government has not discarded what was good in the UPA government as it has repackaged many of its predecessor’s programmes and policies like its decision of retaining the UPA’s unique identity programme and linking it with administration of subsidy regime.

On the external front, the Prime Minister has been far too visible. In a short period, Modi has been to seven foreign destinations including Japan, the US, Australia, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Fiji. He has addressed the UN and has attended BRICS and SAARC summits in Brazil and Nepal. He has hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While the new government has taken many steps to improve its relations with country’s neighbours, Pakistan continues to remain a major challenge for the government. Ties with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives are acquiring a positive outlook.

In this context, it is worth noting the statement of the Prime Minister in Guwahati on December 1 that New Delhi would go ahead with a land swapping deal with Bangladesh to stop infiltration and find a solution to the long pending dispute between the two countries.

The change of stand on the land border agreement by the Modi government, which was opposed by the BJP during its years in opposition, will go a long way in developing positive ties with Bangladesh and will also be a signal to other neighbours that India was adopting a forward looking approach.

While the government and the BJP claim that Modi’s foreign visits and his engagements with global leaders would promote country’s image and would also bring in investments helping the economic growth in a significant way, but results would only be known in coming months.

The performance can be seen at present in a set of initiatives whose results are likely to be visible in months and years to come. But there are some disturbing and agonising trends which may pose serious challenge to the new government. Some developments and incidents of communal character in different parts of the country have the potential of threatening the already fragile social equations.

There is disquiet among the minorities as societal disharmony, communal temperatures and social tensions are on the rise. The government’s failure to rein in forces and elements which in many cases have close affinity to the ideological base of the ruling party may prove detrimental to the image of the BJP and its leader.

On the whole, the first six months of the new government has resulted in many initiatives but their implementation on ground resulting in concrete deliverables alone would be sole guarantee of the credibility of the promises made during the election campaign.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives: Hasty change of Chief Justice raises more questions than answers

N Sathiya Moorthy

In an unprecedented and unexpected move, the Government of President Abdulla Yameen has had two of the seven Supreme Court Judges removed after inadequately amending what possibly is an in-applicable law, in the process replacing Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz with Justice Abdulla Saeed, post haste. The pace and cause for the entire process is shrouded in mystery, and it remains to be seen if some clarity would emerge during the hearing of the cases that have challenged the law-amendment the Government seems to have concluded is an ’enabler’.

It can be called poetic justice for Justice Saeed after the then administration of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) President Mohammed Nasheed had its way in replacing him as the Chief Justice of the ’Interim Supreme Court’, when ’regularisation’ process, mandated by the new, 2008 Constitution, became due in 18 months. But it is not about ’poetic justice’.

The haste with which the Yameen government had the Parliament amend the Judicature Act, for the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to recommend the removal of the targeted two, and later name Justice Saeed for the by-now-vacant CJ’s post - and Parliament too voting upon them without much debate raises more questions than answers - both political, but more so constitutional. In the process, the Executive and the Legislature were content with following the letter of the law, if at all, and not the spirit of the law thereof.

It had begun with the Parliament voting 46-19 with one abstention, an amendment to the Judicature Act, for reducing the strength of the Supreme Court Bench from seven to five, and empowering the JSC to recommend, so to say, the name of two ’incompetent’ Judges and/or those found guilty of ’misconduct’, for removal through a simple majority. The new law gave the JSC just three days to recommend those names and Parliament seven days for voting on the same.

It was thus inherently clear that the JSC at least was not given adequate time, either to evaluate the alleged ’incompetence’ or ’misconduct’ as the case may be, and certainly giving adequate time for those charged thus to defend their fair name and reputation. It is as yet unclear on what material and/or parameters that the JSC had arrived at its recommendations, or how law and Constitution intend addressing the inexplicable damage caused to the person and reputation of the sacked Judges.

With a ’legally-bounden’ JSC, which on occasions had shown a streak of ’independence’ viz the Executive and the Legislature - and at times even the higher Judiciary -- in the past, losing no time in recommending the chosen names, Parliament voted out the two out, 53-21 with a ruling PPM member abstaining. The legislative clearance for the new CJ, only hours later, again without any debate or discussion, witnessed 55 MPs voting in favour, and the Opposition MDP staging a walk-out.

Among the MPs voting for Justice Saeed was six of the 13-member Jumhooree Party (JP), which decided to give its members the ’freedom of choice’, clearly indicating dissent that might have threatened to break the party. The MDP had issued a three-line whip for members to vote against the Judicature Act amendment, but at least one party MP, Deputy Speaker, ’Reeko’ Moosa Manik voted with the Government. The MDP staged a walk-out while the House voted on the sacking of the two Justices.

The MDP has since announced its decision to question six of its members - including ’Reeko’ Moosa, who has already declared his intention to contest the party primaries for the 2018 presidential polls, and those who were overseas - about their absence from the House. A group of party men, led by President Nasheed, staged a protest outside when the People’s Majlis, or Parliament, was voting on the removal. The party has since moved the Civil Court, challenging the amendment to the Judicature Act. Some individuals/lawyers have moved the High Court on similar grounds and more.

State spendings

None would have thought that the Government would read possible new meanings into Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad’s Budget-time suggestion for a relook at Chapter VII ’Independent Institutions’ under the Constitution, if only to economise on State spending. Nor did anyone foresee the possibilities when the parliamentary committee on Independent Institutions, chaired by an MDP member, submitted its recommendations to the full House on Judicature Act amendments less than a fortnight back.

It has however not gone unnoticed that the Government was pushing through the enabling legislation to reduce the SC Bench strength when the nation was still coping with the unprecedented ’drinking water crisis’ in the capital city of Male, caused in turn by a fire in the desalination plant. Thus, when the rest of the world was busy worrying about the Male crisis, at least a decisive section of the nation’s politics had other and more engaging agenda on hand. Or, so it seems.

Whether there was any link between the Government’s ’judicial reforms’ (?) for President Yameen to hand over power to JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, is also unclear as yet. The MDP-recommended course would have either involved both President Yameen and his Vice-President Mohamed Jameel stepping down voluntarily, and facilitating Gasim Ibrahim’s election as Parliament Speaker, for him to act as President for a maximum of 60 days, pending fresh elections to the nation’s two high offices.

It is anybody’s guess why the MDP should time its call for the presidential change-over to the ’water crisis’, or the rationale behind it choosing a non-party nominee to be ’President for 60 days’, if at all. The alternative could be mass defections from the Government side, to facilitate ’impeachment’ of the President and the Vice-President, and then Gasim’s election as Sepaker. All of these could get contested before the higher judiciary, as the 2013 presidential polls and many other political decisions of the three governments since the advent of multi-party democracy have done already.

Passing a ’resolution’ on the MDP’s petition, the Civil Court has condemned the amendment to the Judicature Act. The High Court is yet to take up the private petitions, challenging the change-of-guard in the Supreme Court and the processes followed. The parliamentary votes, for removal of two Judges and the appointment of a new CJ, followed by oath-taking by Chief Justice Saeed, may have rendered the cause of action in some of these cases infructuous, so to say. But the larger questions of law and Constitution remain to be agitated and addressed, if in the normal course.


"It’s a black day," outgoing Chief Justice Faiz said after Parliament voted his removal and that of brother-Justice Muthasim Adnan. It is ’unconstitutional’, he added. "The Constitution is very clear on how a judge can be dismissed from office. While those principles and procedures are there, doing it in a different way cannot be but unconstitutional," he said.

Justice Faiz may have a point. Article 154 of the Constitution has clearly laid down the procedure for removal of Judges of the Supreme Court. It’s ’impeachment’, without terming it as such, unlike in other democracies, with two-thirds majority in Parliament -- but based on a recommendation of the JSC on a judge’s ’incompetence’ and/or ’misconduct’.

The Constitution does not provide for any ’impeachment’, by whatever name called, by a simple majority. The question would arise if Parliament could similarly seek to ’impeach’ either a President or Vice-President, by amending some obscure law, pushing it all in un-seeming hurry, and claiming legitimacy to such acts and decisions.

The Constitution provides for a tentative upper age-limit of 75 years for Supreme Court Justices to be in service. Though Parliament is empowered to alter the ’terms of service’ of a Supreme Court Judge, or any other civil servant, the current amendment may have introduced a ’sense of insecurity’ for Supreme Court Judges to act as independent watch-dogs of the Constitution, as in other democracies. It was not certainly the intention of the ’Founding Fathers’ of the 2008 Constitution, most if not all of whom are still around and active in politics and public life.

Now that the two Judges are out of the Bench, it remains to be seen how the Supreme Court handles the current legal challenges, when they knock at its door, now or later. Curiosity would also inquire if Chief Justice Saeed would recuse himself from hearing the case, as he may be considered an ’interested party’. Thus, a smaller Bench than possibly intended would end up having to hear the cases that have far-reaching consequences for the freedom and independence of the Judiciary, and the latter’s inherent powers to interpret and enforce the Constitution.

’Presumptive’ Constitution

The genesis of the series of post-democratisation political ills that Maldives has been facing over the past six years could be traced to the ’presumptive’ nature of the 2008 Constitution, which should have been ’prescriptive’, instead. The ’flawed approach’ of the nation’s political class, coupled with their inadequate and improper understanding of modern, ’western democracy’ that they had imported wholesale into an insular and insulated Indian Ocean archipelago, purely on the strength of street-protests, cannot escape a share of the blame either.

It was thus that the pro-democratisation forces, with which the then 30-year-long leadership of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom too cooperated up to and/or beyond a point, could not but have the Special Majlis tasked with the job, to draft and pass a new Constitution that was personality-driven. The near-unanimous and singular aim of the ’Founding Fathers’ seemed wanting to balance Executive powers with Legislative checks-and-balances - or what they thought it was. In doing so, they could not have been expected to think either beyond their nose, or behind their backs.

President Nasheed, who replaced President Gayoom, the first one to be elected under the multi-party democracy scheme, continued with some of the purported mistakes from the past while in office. Out of it, under telling and unfortunate circumstances before his five-year term could conclude, Nasheed’s MDP has continued to target all State institutions that did not see eye-to-eye with the party’s ’new-generation’ line of thinking, which was selective in application and compulsive in expecting implementation. Those who have followed him as President have not covered themselves with glory, either, all of them together pushing the nation possibly back to the pre-democracy days, as the MDP often keeps reminding others - but not itself.

The Constitution, and by extension democracy and the nation at large may have already fallen victim to the vagaries of the political class. The numerously-strong new-generation youth of Maldives, with access to information and communication than his earlier ones, had laid great hopes on democracy and democratisation, having learnt to blame all of the nation’s ills on the status quo of the times. A frustrated youth, unemployed and at times unemployable because the State could not help make them one, could take to extremism of the kind that Maldives could not cope with. In a way, the pro-democracy movement was one such in its time.

With ’independent’ voting by six JP members and ’abstentions’ by an equal number of MDP parliamentarians helping the Government of the day on its latest political project, it’s anybody’s guess why the Yameen leadership did not consider working on an ’impeachment motion’ against the sacked Judges, if that was their intention and need - and after providing time for adequate discussions and debates at the parliamentary and national levels. Instead, they have sought to legitimise such ’removal’ by other means, yet leaving very many constitutional questions unanswered - and some of them, possibly unanswerable, too.

Maybe, it’s thus time for all stake-holders to engage in a national discourse for a democratised Maldives, where the relevance and usefulness of institutions, and the healthy precedents that this generation of leadership(s) have to set, if their grandchildren’s generation has to live in peace and prosperity, rather than stopping with politically-motivated short-term, piecemeal ’cures’. Such ’cures’, as the democratised six years have proved, more often than not, were/are worse than the ailment. The responsibility for initiating and directing that discourse lies with the Government of the day. Others cannot escape their part of the ’liability’ and ’accountability’, either.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four ministers appointed

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, through a presidential decree, has appointed acting ministers for the ministries of foreign affairs, finance, women’s affairs and trade and commerce. Mohammad Mustafa Mastoor has been appointed as acting finance minister, Syeda Muzghan as acting women’s affairs minister, Muzamil Shenwari as acting trade and commerce minister, and Atiqullah Atif as acting foreign minister.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "President Ghani appoints new acting ministers for four ministries", Khaama Press, 12 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US to keep extra troops post-2014

Outgoing US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during his visit to Kabul this past week announced that the US would keep an additional 1000 troops in Afghanistan for the first few months of 2015. This will bring the total number of US troops in the country post-2014 to 10,800 which will be reduced to 5,500 by the end of 2015. The decision to keep extra troops in Afghanistan was taken because the troop commitment from the other NATO countries was slow to materialise. Mr Hagel also gave reassurances that the US will remain committed to fighting all militant groups that operate out of Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "US to keep 10,800 troops in Afghanistan through early 2015: Hagel", Khaama Press, 6 December 2014; "Hagel: US Will Continue Fight Against Al-Qaeda, Taliban", Tolo News, 6 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghanistan world’s largest heroin producer

Afghanistan has been ranked as the largest producer of heroin in the latest report of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime. The report also ranked Afghanistan as the third largest producer of opium in the world after Myanmar and Laos.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Afghanistan World’s Third Largest Opium Producer: UNODC", Tolo News, 10 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RMG exports to rise to $50 billion

Bangladesh readymade garment manufacturer (RMG) were optimistic that RMG exports could touch $50 billion if government support them with favourable in policies. RMG exporters expressed such hopes during the country’s first apparel summit. The summit was organised with twin objective- to hit $50 billion garment exports by 2021, and to repair the sector’s image that was dented by industrial disasters. The three-day Dhaka Apparel Summit brought together retailers, trade body leaders, policymakers and scholars, especially from the US and the EU, the two main export destinations of Bangladeshi garments. RGM is Bangladesh major export product. Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporter after China and shipped garments worth $24.5 billion last fiscal year.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Firm, right step to $50b hope", The Daily Star, 8 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Oil spill threatens Sunderbans ecology

An oil spill from a crashed tanker has threatened the fragile economy of Sundarbans, world’s biggest mangrove. The tanker, carrying an estimated 350,000 litres of oil collided with another vessel and partly sank in the Sundarbans’ Shela river home of rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins as well as Bengal tigers that live in the region. Bangladesh officials have called the leak an ecological "catastrophe".

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Oil spill spreads over 60km", The Independent, 11 December 2014; "Bangladesh oil spill ’threatens rare dolphins", The Guardian, 11 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan PM’s visit

Bangladesh-Bhutan relations got a major boost with the visit of Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. During the visit Tobgay meet various top leaders including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh has urged Bhutan to consider it as a partner in its future hydropower projects. Also, Bangladesh has unilaterally offered Bhutan to use Chittagong and Mongla seaports and Lalmonirhat and Saidpur airports. Other highlights of the visit are two agreements signed between Bangladesh and Bhutan. The agreements include one on trade that will allow Dhaka and Thimphu to enjoy duty-free export of 90 items to each other. Under another agreement, Dhaka will allocate a piece of land at the city’s Baridhara to Bhutan for the construction of its permanent embassy.

Meanwhile, during the visit Tobgay handed over a text of the wireless message of Bhutan’s Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck sent to acting President Syed Nazrul Islam in 1971 recognising Bangladesh to Sheikh Hasina. Soon after the visit bangladesh claimed that Bhutan was the first country to recognise India ahead of India.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Partner us in hydro projects", The Daily Star, 7 December 2014; "Two deals signed", The Daily Star, 7 December 2014; "Bhutan was first to recognise Bangladesh", The Daily Star, 9 December 2014.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Russian orbital slot to be hired

Bangladesh will take on lease the orbital slot from the Russian Intersputnik company to launch the country’s first-ever Bangabandhu Satellite in the orbit. A meeting of the Cabinet Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by Finance Minister AMA Muhith, approved in principal a proposal in this regard. Earlier on September this year, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the ’Bangabandhu Satellite Launching’ project with an outlay of Tk 2967.95 crore, aiming to launch the country’s first satellite in the orbit. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) under the Post and Telecommunications Ministry will implement the project by June 2017.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "’Russian orbital slot to be hired’ for Bangabandhu Satellite", The Independent, 11 November 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt. secretaries surrender

The Prime Minister’s Office has surrendered three secretaries to the Royal Civil Service Commission for among many other reasons exceeding mandate and breaking rules. The cabinet secretary, economic affairs secretary and foreign secretary were the ones to be surrendered.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Govt. Secretaries ’surrendered’ to RCSC", Kuensel, 12 December 2014; "Three secretaries ’surrendered’ to RCSC", Bhutan Broadcasting Service, 12 December 2014; "Three secretaries surrender to RCSC and Committee of Secretaries discontinued", The Bhutanese, 12 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kholongchu project to begin in 2015

The 660 MW Kholongchu hydropower project in Trashiyangste would begin next year. Earlier project officials had said that construction of roads would begin this year, but delay in the bidding process delayed the work on the project.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Work on Kholongchu project to kick-off in 2015", Kuensel, 10 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Alipurduar highway becomes risky

Increasing incidents of robbery have made the Alipurduar highway stretch risky. Two men from Lhamoizingkha gave a slip to robbers on 9 December. With as many as 8 robberies reported before the said incident, say frequent travellers.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Alipurduar highway becomes risky", Kuensel, 11 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Essar signs oil deal with Russian firm

Essar Oil Ltd on Thursday signed a deal with Russia’s OAO Rosneft, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, to import 10 million tonnes (mt) of crude oil a year for 10 years, during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Essar signs 10-year multi-billion dollar oil deal with Rosneft", Livemint, 11 December 2014; "Russia’s Rosneft secures oil and gas deals with India", Reuters, 11 December 2014; "Rosneft says reaches preliminary oil supply deal with India’s Essar", Economic Times, 11 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SBI launches new economic indicator

The country now has another monthly economic index, with State Bank of India on Tuesday launching a tool that will primarily track manufacturing activity to offer a forward-looking economic trends. The SBI Composite Index rivals the existing data point from British lender HSBC.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "SBI launches home-grown index to track economic trends", The Hindu, 9 December 2014; "Newly launched SBI Composite Index signals revival in economy", Economic Times, 10 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India CAD widens due to higher gold imports

India’s current account deficit (CAD) widened to a five-quarter high of 2.1% of gross domestic product in the second quarter ended 30 September, as exports growth slowed and imports increased because of a rise in demand for gold.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India’s current account deficit widens to 2.1% of GDP", Livemint, 8 December 2014; "Gold import surge widens India’s CAD to 2.1% of GDP in Sep quarter", Business Standard, 9 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Putin meets Modi, attempts to revive ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday during a short summit where they discussed issues concerning trade, defense, and broader strategic ties.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Putin backs Make In India with copter, nuclear deals", Hindustan Times, 11 December 2014; "India Will Build At Least 10 More Nuclear Reactors With Russia’s Help: PM Narendra Modi", NDTV, 11 December 2014; "Russia to remain India’s most important defence partner: Modi", The Times of India, 11 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Uproar over conversion

There were protests in both houses of Parliament on Wednesday in response to reports about forced conversions of approximately 57 Muslim families to Hinduism in Agra, located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The Muslim families, which all belonged to a rag-picker colony, claimed on Tuesday that they were tricked into converting to Hinduism by Bajrang Dal -- a Hindu nationalist organization -- with promises of getting ration cards (documents that can be used to obtain subsidized fuel and food, and serve as identity cards).

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Agra: Muslim families deny changing faith, slam Hindu groups", Hindustan Times, 10 December 2014; "NDA government under fire from opposition over alleged forced conversion by RSS offshoot in Agra", IBN Live, 10 December 2014; "Opposition demands govt. clarification on Agra conversion", The Hindu, 10 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US envoy confirmed

The U.S. Senate confirmed Richard Rahul Verma as the next American ambassador to India on Tuesday. Verma was the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs at the State Department from 2009 to 2011. He will be the first Indian-American to serve as an U.S. ambassador to India.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Richard Rahul Verma appointed as US ambassador to India", Livemint, 10 December 2014; "Richard Rahul Verma to be U.S. ambassador to India", The Hindu, 10 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CJ, brother SC Judge to lose job

Maldives’ Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and a brother Judge are set to lose job after the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) recommended their names to Parliament to vote on their removal, under the hurriedly-amended Judicature Act, aimed at reducing the Bench strength from seven to five, and trifurcating the nine-Judge Male-based High Court to facilitate regional presence and access. The Opposition MDP, whose member had moved the Bill, voted against the Bill and is set to contest the JSC decision before the higher judiciary.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Parliament reduces Supreme Court bench to five judges", Minivan News, 10 December 2014; "JSC recommends dismissal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan", Minivan News, 11 December 2014; "Measures will be taken against members voting against the party line- MDP", Miadhu, 12 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Change President, Yameen urged

A meeting of the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called upon President Abdulla Yameen to hand over power to one-time electoral ally and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, triggering condemnation from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "MDP calls on the government to hand over to JP leader Gasim", Minivan News, 9 December 2014; "PPM condemns MDP’s "unlawful" resolution for handover of presidency to JP Leader Gasim", Minivan News, 8 December 2014; "Failure to prosecute serious crimes tantamount to "state-sponsored terrorism," says Nasheed", Minivan News, 11 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Majlis clears Budget

Parliament has passed MVR 24.3 m ($1.5 b) Budget-2015, 60-19 in an 85-member House, after voting against the 19 amendments proposed by the Opposition MDP and the Jumhooree Party members.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Parliament approves state budget for 2015 with 60 votes in favour", Minivan News, 10 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Drinking water crisis eases

With foreign countries, starting with India, and including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China rushing supplies in war-time speed, and custom-made spares for the broken-down desalination plant arriving from Singapore by a Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) aircraft, the week-long, unprecedented drinking water crisis in the capital city of Male seemed to be winding down.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Government scales down water relief effort" , Minivan News, 11 December 2014; "Custom built MWSC panels to arrive in the Maldives", Minivan News, 11 December 2014, "Foreign navy vessels supplying water to be sent back", Miadhu, 12 December 2014; " This cannot be fixed in politically desired speed: Taskforce", Haveeru Online, 8 December 2014; "USD 20 Mn required to repair MWSC’s damaged water plant", Haveeru Online, 7 December 2014; "People’s Majlis disrupted after disorder over water crisis", Minivan News, 9 December 2014; "Young men carrying box cutters attack protestors demanding free water", Minivan News, 11 December 2014; "Steady supply of bottled water would be made available until the crisis is resolved- President", Miadhu, 6 December 2014; "Water services would not be charged until the supply is fully back: MWSC", SunOnline, December 6, 2014; "Nasheed calls for inquiry into MWSC fire", Minivan News, 8 December 2014; "Both Transparency Maldives and MDP call for greater transparency in water crisis fund", Minivan News, 9 December 2014; "HRCM commends government response to water crisis", Minivan News, 11 December 2014; "Businesses crippled as crisis escalates", Haveeru Online, 6 December 2014; "Indian aircraft arrives to ease Malé water crisis", Minivan News, 6 December 2014; "Inidian Assistance continues to solve Water Shortage in Maldives", Miadhu, 6 December 2014; "Indian Air Force’s largest aircraft reaches Maldives carrying fresh water", Miadhu, 6 December 2014; "INS Sukanya transport 50 Tonnes of fresh water supply to Male’", Miadhu, 6 December 2014; "India will assist in providing fresh water till the Maldives water crisis is resolved", Miadhu, 6 December 2014; "PM Modi’s decision is to provide all assistance needed until water crisis is resolved- Sahare", Miadhu, 8 December 2014; "Friends in the international community help Maldives deal with water crisis", SunOnline, 5 December 2014"; "China donates $500,000 to help with Water Crisis" , Haveeru Online, 7 December 2014; "President to cut short trip and return home"", Haveeru Online, 6 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More Korean investment sought

President U Thein Sein called on South Korea to expand its investment in Myanmar during a meeting with South Korean President Park Guen-hye on 11 December. U Thein Sein is visiting South Korea for the ASEAN-South Korea Summit being held in Busan.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Myanmar sees more South Korean investment", Mizzima, 12 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian party opposes rice import

The Mizo National Front has opposed ruling party in Mizoram, Congress’s plans of importing rice from Myanmar. The import was made possible due to the Silchar-Lumding railway line, according to a report.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Indian Opposition Party slams plan to buy Myanmar rice", Mizzima, 11 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Zelander arrested for insulting religion

A New Zealand national was produced in court on 11 December after being arrested for insulting religion by using the image of Buddha wearing headphones.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "NZ bar manager arrested in Buddha insult storm", Democratic Voice of Burma, 11 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Petroleum product pipeline requested as a gift

Nepal wants the petroleum product pipeline proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a ’gift’ from India. However, the Himalayan nation is not willing to offer a 25-year exclusive contract to Indian Oil (IOC), which will lay the 41-km pipeline between the neighbours.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Nepal wants petroleum product pipeline as ’gift’ from India", The Financial Express, 9 December 2014;

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Feedback sent on BIPPA

The government has sent its feedbacks on the draft of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) proposed by China. Ministry of Industry (MoI) sent its responses on the China´s draft of the BIPPA via Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to the country´s second largest trading partner following broad consultations with stakeholders and experts. China had sent its draft of the BIPPA to the Nepal Government for comments three years ago

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nepal sends feedback on Chinese-proposed BIPPA", Republica, 12 December 2014; "Nepal forwards revised BIPPA draft to China", eKantipur, 12 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepali Congress leaders unhappy with Government

Speaking at the central committee meeting that started from today, the central committee members criticized the party leadership saying that taking decision on serious contents of constitution and government functioning by some leaders in the name of the entire party without holding consultations in the central committee meeting was an undemocratic practice.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "NC leaders express discontent over govt activities", Republica, 11 December 2014; "NC central committee meeting begins", Republica, 11 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PDCC report submitted to CA

The Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC) of the Constituent Assembly presented its fourth report to CA Chairman Subash Nembang on Wednesday. Consensus on key contents of a new constitution was not possible, despite several rounds of formal and informal meetings.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "PDCC submits fourth but incomplete report to CA", eKantipur, 10 December 2014; "CPDCC report tabled at CA", Republica, 10 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Al Qaeda leader killed in South Waziristan

According to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), a top Al Qaeda leader Adnan el Shukrijuma was killed in the Sheen Warsak region of South Waziristan Agency. The statement issued by ISPR said that Shukrijuma had moved into the area from the North Waziristan Agency due to the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb operation.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Top Al Qaeda leader killed in South Waziristan: ISPR", Dawn, 6 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">USA hands over senior Taliban leader to Pakistan

The United States of America has handed over a senior Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader, Latifullah Mehsud to Pakistan. Latifullah served as deputy to the TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud who was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan in November 2013

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "US hands over senior Taliban leader, Latifullah Mehsud, detained in Afghanistan to Pakistan", The Express Tribune, 7 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MQM activist gunned down in Karachi

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) activist, Qadir Bux Laasi, was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Chanesar Goth, Karachi. MQM Chief Altaf Hussain has strongly condemned the murder and demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "MQM activist gunned down in Karachi", The Nation, 12 December 2014; "MQM activist gunned down in Karachi", The News International, 12 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PTI’s Plan C kicks into action; two sides meet for talks

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) Plan C kicked into action in Karachi. PTI activists staged protests in 28 localities of Karachi uncluding Teen Talwar, Numaish, Hassan Square, Native Jetty, National Highway and Sher Shah. The deadlock between the government and the protestors was also broken as representatives of the government and the protesting PTI finally met to discuss the formal resumption of negotiations.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "’Tsunami’ hits partially closed Karachi", The Nation, 12 December 2014; "Govt, PTI engage in talks about talks", Dawn, 12 December 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President’s team harps on security, stability

With presidential polls scheduled for 8 January 2015, incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign has called upon voters to consider issues such as security and stability, along with development works of the past years.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Govt. asks voters to heed national security, stability and development", The Island, 7 December 2014; "Gota fears re-emergence of LTTE", Ceylon Today, 7 December 2014; "My Hands Are Not Stained With Blood Or Dirt: President Rajapaksa", Colombo Telegraph, 11 December 2014; "A cup of coffee will win over Ranil: MR", Daily Mirror Online, 12 December 2014; "US denies funding opposition to oust Sri Lanka leader", The Island, 6 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP calls for national govt

Calling for the formation of a national government at a party convention that unanimously endorsed the common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, UNP leader, Ranil Wickremasinghe, called for the installation of a ’national government’, post-poll, implying that they would be willing to share power with incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s SLFP, indicating a possible cross-over of the latter’s parliamentary group to their side.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Abolish Executive Presidency, form national government - Ranil", The Island, 7 December 2014; "Presidential powers, defence, 13 A: Sirisena contradicts himself", The Island, 7 December 2014; "Sirisena to reign from Polonnaruwa", The Island, December 7, 2014; "Mahinda told me Ranil was joining Govt - Maithripala", The Island, 11 December 2014; "CBK declares Arjuna A’galla SLFP organiser: She has no authority to do so - Yapa", The Island, 7 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BBS has no choice, TNA still has

The Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist outfit, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) has clarified that they would not be supporting either President Mahinda Rajapaksa or the common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena in the presidential polls of 8 January.

This even as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is yet to announce its decision, with senior party MPs clarifying that they would not boycott the vote, and would wait for the two manifestos before taking their decision.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "BBS not for Maithri or MR", Daily Mirror Online, 5 December 2014; "TNA, Opposition Hold Talks", The Sunday Leader, 7 December 2014; "TNA MP refutes crossover rumors", Nation, 6 December 2014; "TNA Already Signed Agreement With Maithripala Srisena", Asian Tribune, 6 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cross-over galore

With presidential polls fast approaching, it has been a week of cross-over. As if to settle score for losing the ruling SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena to be the combined Opposition candidate, the party admitted his rival UNP counterpart, Tissa Athanayake and also gave him the Health Ministry, held by the former.

Simultaneously, the SLFP also had JHU ideologue and former Western Province Minister, Udaya Gammanpilla, crossing over, after the party’s young model-turned-Councillor Hirunika Premachandra went to the Sirisena campaign. In the PC polls earlier this year, Hirunika came first in terms of preferential votes while Gammanpilla was the second.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Tissa sworn in as Health Minister", Daily Mirror Online, 11 December 2014; "JHU splits as Udaya switches allegiance to President", The Island, 11 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Imported rice from B’desh

The Government has signed an agreement with Bangladesh for immediate import of 25,000 tonnes of par-boiled rice for supply through the nation’s public distribution system.

It’s unclear if the import is related to the presidential polls, in the light of earlier experience of traders hoarding rice and jacking up prices to influence voting.

The Government at the same time reduced cooking gas price, for the second time in four months, reportedly owing to the steep fall in international prices.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Agreement signed with Bangladesh to import rice", Daily Mirror Online, 5 December 2014; "LP gas reduced by Rs 250", Ceylon Today, 7 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SLAF aircraft cashes

At least four men lost their lives when a Soviet-made AN-32 aircraft of the Sri Lanka Air Force crashed while flying from Kattanayake to Ratmalna base.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Plane crash in Athurugiriya", Daily Mirror Online, 11 December 2014

Primary Documentation


Joint Statement on the occasion of the visit of His Excellency Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan to Bangladesh, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Bangladesh, 8 December 2014


Joint Statement of Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay’s visit to Bangladesh, Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9 December 2014


PM’s media statement during the official visit of the President of Russian Federation to India | Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, 11 December 2014

Strategic Vision for Strengthening Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy Between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation, Prime Minister’s Office, 11 December 2014

Joint Statement on the visit of President of the Russian Federation to India for 15th Annual India-Russia Summit, Prime Minister’s Office, 11 December 2014

Remarks by Prime Minister at the World Diamond Conference in New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs, 11 December 2014

List of documents signed during the Official Visit of President of Russian Federation to India (December 10-11, 2014), Prime Minister’s Office, 10-11 December 2014

Prime Minister’s Media Statement during the Official Visit of the President of Russian Federation to India, Ministry of External Affairs, 10-11 December 2014

Statement by External Affairs Minister on Calling Attention Motion on Tamil Fishermen issue in Lok Sabha, Ministry of External Affairs, 9 December 2014

Special Address by External Affairs Minister on ’SAARC in a Globalizing World’ organized by South Asian University at IIC, New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs, 8 December 2014


Press Release of Myanmar becoming 171st State Party to the Biological Weapons Convention, Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9 December 2014


Keynote Address by Hon. Mr. Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 11 December 2014

Press Release about the Arab-Asia Business Partnership Summit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 11 December 2014

Press Release-Meeting with Advisory Committee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 9 December 2014


Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 11th December 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 11 December 2014

Chinese State Councilor Guo Shengkun calls on President and Prime Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 8 December 2014

Reaction to Indian MEA Statement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 8 December 2014

Adviser meets Iranian Economic and Finance Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 8 December 2014

Prime Minister’s Address at the London Conference on Afghanistan, London Thursday, 4 December 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 5 December 2014




Missy Ryan, "In Afghanistan, a tight timeline for new U.S.-led training and support mission", The Washington Post, 7 December 2014

Opinion pieces

Deedee Derksen, "All the President’s Strongmen", Foreign Policy, 8 December 2014

Kamal Siddiqi, "Talking to Afghanistan", The Express Tribune, 8 December 2014

"Backsliding in Afghanistan", The New York Times, 6 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Sushovan Dhar , "This land was made for you and me ", Dhaka Tribune, 12 December 2014

Fakhruddin Ahmed, "Bangladesh and India should be excellent neighbours", The Daily Star, 11 December 2014

Farid Bakht, " Democr@cy wanted: Dead or alive? Dhaka Tribune, 9 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Kuensel, "The parlours of Phuentsholing", Kuensel, 12 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Navroz K Dubash and Radhika Khosla, "The road from Lima", The Indian Express, 12 December 2014

Shiv Visvanathan, "Confronting the right wing", The Hindu, 11 December 2014

Srinath Raghavan, "For a warmer Russian bear hug", The Hindu, 10 December 2014

Muzamil Jaleel, "Jammu vs. Kashmir?", The Indian Express, 9 December 2014

Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav, "Being middle class in India", The Hindu, 9 December 2014

Sheikh Saleem & Vasundhara Sirnate, "Polls in the Time of Terror", The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, 8 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Tun Tun Win, "What we can learn from Thein Sein’s Rejection of Six-party talks",Eleven Myanmar, 8 December 2014

Lian Kaul Sang, "Building unity, one language at a time", Myanmar Times, 8 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Shyam K.C., ’Note of Dissent: Miles to go’, eKantipur, 12 December 2014

Daman Bahadur Ghale, ’Entering South Asia’eKantipur, 11 December 2014

Bhagirath Basnet, ’Time To Deliver’ Republica, 11 December 2014

Birendra P. Mishra, ’Long shadows’, Republica, 10 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Khurram Minhas, "Time to revisit Pakistan-Iran economic relations", Daily Times, 12 December 2014

Salman Ali, "China-Pakistan relations: a history", Daily Times, 6 December 2014

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Prof Siri Hettige, "Beyond good governance and rule of law", Daily Mirror Online, 12 December 2014

Kelum Bandara, "Top rung politicians on political somersaults", Daily Mirror Online, 11 December 2014

Gomin Dayasri, "Battle of the Blues", Daily Mirror Online, 8 December 2014

Jehan Perera, "Dealing with the Tamil concern of broken promises", The Island, 9 December 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Mahinda vs Mahinda, still", The Sunday Leader, 7 December 2014

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

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.