MonitorsPublished on Nov 03, 2008
Sri Lankan President unveiled the biggest ever war budget in the history of the country in view of the ongoing war with the Tamil Tigers. The budget has seen the massive rise of 7% in the war expenditure to a record 1.6 billion dollars in the year 2009.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 44

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Biggest-ever war budget unveiled

Sri Lankan President unveiled the biggest ever war budget in the history of the country in view of the ongoing war with the Tamil Tigers. The budget has seen the massive rise of 7% in the war expenditure to a record 1.6 billion dollars in the year 2009. Businessmen, however, doubt that this would create a negative impact on the private investment, half of which have already fled the country. Prolong conflict with the Tigers have enormously shoots up the inflation rate which currently is hovering around 23%. The common man despite suffering hardships is not minding it because of the nationalist hype created around the civil war waged by the incumbent government. In fact, it now seems that the government is using the war as the populist element to shore up its popularity among the masses. Sources close to the government revealed that the President would likely to go for the snap elections to cash on his popularity. There are chances that if the war stretches well past next year then the popular sentiment might turn against the government as a result of the hardships they are undergoing on the vague pretext of the early completion of the war.  
< class="maroontitle">Tharus form armed outfit in Terai
Following the government's indifferent attitude and delay in addressing the grievances of the indigenous communities in Terai, the Tharuhat National Council (TNC), announced to formed an armed outfit, Tharuhat Liberation Army (TLA) in Nepal's far-western region bordering India. The TNC is an offshoot of the Maoists party and was formed following differences with the party's top leadership.
The TLA has been formed with the objective to carve out an autonomous Tharu federal state within the country. It declared to fight for the liberation of Tharu community. It demanded that the government recognize parts of Terai as Tharuhat Autonomous Region and all government establishments in the region should be headed by people from Tharu community. It warned to carry out armed insurgency if the government fails to pay heed to their demands. They have given three months ultimatum to the government and if it fails to ensure their rights the TLA will declare war against the state.
Of late, the Tharu community in Terai has started to reorganize themselves to oppose the demands by Madhesi parties to turn the entire Terai region into a single Madhesh province. The indigenous communities in the Terai are against being tagged along side with the Madhesi people and are opposed to creation of 'One Madhes Province'. 

< class="maroontitle">Hasina’s home return

< class="maroontitle">After long 5 months stay in abroad Sheikh Hasina Wajed the former Prime Minister and Awami League Chief, returned home on November 6. To welcome Hasina thousands of people thronged the streets of the capital Dhaka. With Hasina’s return the long standing uncertainty over future of her political career ended. Soon Hasina declared that her party would contest poll. Also Hasina declared that her party will be forming a grand electoral alliance to fight the coming election. Hasina went to United States of America for treatment after she was released on parole in June this year.

Timing of Hasina’s return also increased the significance of her home coming. Hasina’s return coincides with the week in which the government took certain important decisions that are necessary for holding elections. Emergency has been relaxed to facilitate electoral procedures. Also the government ordered the military to return to their barracks, which had been out since December 2006 for the aid of civil administration. The election commission declared the electoral schedule, which was put on hold as court decision was waiting over the issue of delimitation of constituencies. Besides, Anti Corruption Commission has cleared both Hasina and her rival Begum Khaleda Zia, former Prime Minister and Chief of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, of all charges of amassing wealth illegally. All these factors have brightens prospect for election.

In spite of these positive factors, Hasina still fears of conspiracies that might defer the coming December election and demanded that election should be held on the announced date on December 18.  The reason this has been due to BNP’s demand to reschedule the election as the party and its allies are not prepared for elections.

< class="maroontitle">Real Democracy at work

Democratic era in the Maldives has opened up a can of worms which was hitherto remained hidden from the public eye. Several reports from independent investigations have pointed the fingers on the government sources for irregularities and corruption found in various governmental dealings, be it in the field of Tsunami relief or biasness of media in favour of the ruling regime. There are accusations leveled against President Gayoom and his party that they have excluded certain sections of population having “particular political views” from Tsunami relief aid. Moreover, penciled signatures were obtained from the people against the actual amount which was later on copied against the higher amount. Investigating agencies also find state-run media responsible for allocating less time to the opposition candidates as against plenty of time made available to the President and the government run by him. The probe by investigating agencies however, demanded legal action against President Gayoom which was offered “protection and pension” by the state.                      

< class="maroontitle">Obama victory all set to diminish Army’s role in US-Pak relations.

With President-elect Barack Obama all set to enter the White House come January; ‘change’ is looming large over South Asia. It is unlikely that unilateral strikes in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan will increase from the already high level (there have been more than two dozen drone attacks in 2008, a four time increase over the previous year). But it is clear that the Democrats will do away with the Bush policy of signing cheques for the Army without holding it accountable.

In mid 2007, Senator Obama stated his intention to make aid conditional on Pakistan closing terrorist training camps, evicting all foreign terrorists from its soil and taking all measures to put an end to cross border attacks on ISAF troops in Afghanistan.  He also accused Pakistan of diverting aid meant for fighting Taliban associated elements towards its eastern front against India. Joe Biden’s proposed bill in the Senate to give Pakistan a $15 billion aid over a period of 10 years on development and social sector reform is another indication that after preferring to billet the Army for seven years, the US is finally bracing itself to engage with the civilian leadership.

Recent musings about appointing Bill Clinton as a special envoy to Kashmir  and the appointment of noted scholars Ahmed Rashid and Shuja Nawaz as consultants by CENTCOM indicate that the argument that solving Kashmir will stabilize Afghanistan might gain ground in Washington.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                  – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                       – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Kaustav Chakrabarti     – Pakistan
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.