MonitorsPublished on Jan 12, 2009
It appears that the LTTE debacle and the protest voices emerging from Tamil Nadu as an aftermath has no effect on the bilateral relationship of India and Sri Lanka if a recent visit of the Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon to Sri Lanka is any indication.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 54

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">India, Sri Lanka finds a common ground

It appears that the LTTE debacle and the protest voices emerging from Tamil Nadu as an aftermath has no effect on the bilateral relationship of India and Sri Lanka if a recent visit of the Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon to Sri Lanka is any indication. In a 30 minute meeting with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, the two sides agreed to fight the common enemy – terrorism. While putting emphasis on a political solution, Indian side appreciated the Sri Lankan approach which succeeded in tackling and ultimately defeating the forces of separatism. Sri Lankan side on the other hand, expressed its gratitude for the continued understanding that New Delhi has for the issues of mutual concern. Sri Lankan foreign ministry has reiterated its acceptance of the 13th Amendment enshrined in Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as the final solution of the ethnic conflict engulfing the nation. Meanwhile India has announced the second round of humanitarian aid of approximately Rs. 40 million to the war-affected civilians in the North of Sri Lanka. Both the sides however, described Menon’s visit as a reflection of India’s steadfast friendship with Sri Lanka as well as the maturity of the bilateral relationship.  

< class="maroontitle">Maoist party renamed as Unified CPN-Maoist

< class="maroontitle">Following a merger with another communist faction Unity Centre (Masal) party, the CPN-Maoist has renamed the party as Unified CPN-Maoist. The formal announcement of the unification between the two parties was made in Kathmandu amid a mass political gathering. The Maoists Chairman, Prachanda will continue to head the united party. The new party has decided to have maximum of 175-member Central Committee members that includes 38 from the Unity Centre (Masal). In the first meeting of the CC of the party, it elected 45 politburo and 15 secretariat members. However, in a major shift from its earlier ideological stand, the new party has decided to drop Prachandapath as its guiding principle in the changed political context.
In a related development, the political parties were able to evolve consensus to elect Chairpersons for the 14 committees under the Constituent Assembly and another nine parliamentary committees. The parties reached understanding to share the 19 committees. Despite facing opposition, the former UML General Secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal, was elected as the Chairperson of the Constitutional Committee with the backing of several bigger parties. Apparently, the Constitution Drafting Committee is faced with a daunting task to perform. It has to consolidate the varied opinion of all the political parties and maintain the stipulated time frame for drafting the new Constitution. However, being a senior and experienced politician, it is expected that Madhav Nepal, would be able to evolve consensus, between the parties and bring convergence to the varied opinions. In fact, the Constitution drafting process is closely linked to army integration issue and if the drafting process is obstructed it is likely to delay the integration process.

< class="maroontitle">Bangladesh might give port transit to India

< class="maroontitle">To give a new trust to boost India-Bangladesh relations Bangladesh is contemplating on providing port transit to India. The issue of port transit is likely to be discussed during the Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Dhaka in early February this year. For a long time India has been urging Bangladesh for providing port transit to it’s land lock north eastern states. But the issue of transit has become a big political issue in that country. Political parties like Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Nationalist party perceive this as a threat to the country’s sovereignty. During the rule of the recent military backed caretaker government India raised the transit issue but it saw opposition inside the country. Looking at the opposition the government declined to discuss the issue.  However with Awami League coming into power after the December 29 Parliamentary elections in 2008, the bilateral relationship have changed significantly and there had been an upward trend in the relations. Awami League in its election manifesto declared that it wants to develop a friendly relationship with India. Bangladesh will benefit immensely by earning revenues if it provides this facility to India. Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty on January 12 said that the issue is not a political one-India sought the transit to enhance trade between the two countries.

In an another bit to strengthen the relations both the countries are all set to hold their first ever joint military exercise in February.  The exercise would be held in Jorhat in the state of Assam India. There will be five officers and 15 soldiers from Bangladesh and the similar number from India participating in the drill. The plan of this joint exercise for the joint was discussed during the visit of a military delegation from Bangladesh to India in December. This is the outcome of the efforts of Bangladesh army Chief General Moeen Ahmed who visited in India in March 2008 with the intention of developing military to military ties between both the countries. The ties were cemented with the visit of Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor’s visit to Bangladesh in August 2008.The joint military operations is a very positive sign and this will contribute in the confidence building between both the countries as India wants Bangladesh’s cooperation in flashing out  northeastern insurgents and anti India militant groups.

< class="maroontitle">Supreme Court reigned supreme

< class="maroontitle">In a tussle between legislative and judiciary, it was the latter that has finally had its upper hand. Given the fast approaching deadline for the February 15 parliamentary elections and the untimely recess of the Majlis without passing the election bills, it is the decision of the executive to file petition to the highest court of land. Supreme Court acting as the guardian of the Constitution, decided wisely in favour of revoking Majlis’s recess to avoid constitutional crisis in the country. Under a new constitution it was clearly written that a failure to conduct parliamentary elections on time would result in a constitutional void. By handling over the issue to the Supreme Court instead of dealing it himself, Nasheed government did an excellent job in keeping the mouths of his opponents shut. 

< class="maroontitle">Zardari and Gilani rift

< class="maroontitle">The dismissal of Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Mahmud Ali Durrani has exposed the growing rift between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Durrani was sacked by Gilani after the former admitted to the media that Kasab, accused in the Mumbai attacks, “had Pakistani connections”.  This move came despite Durrani’s admission that he acted upon Zardari’s orders while making the announcement on Kasab’s involvement. Gilani’s refusal to go back on his decision despite Zardari’s attempts has only added fuel to the speculations about the rift at the top. Another issue on which both the leaders are likely to have serious differences of opinion is the repeal of the 17th amendment which gave unprecedented powers to the President. The Prime Minister is keen to replace the legislation and has promised support to the Opposition parties on bringing the new legislation. Gilani believes that all powers should be bestowed on the Prime Minister as provided under the 1973 Constitution.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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


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