MonitorsPublished on Feb 16, 2009
With LTTE pushed to less than 100 sq km of area, there are strong rumours of Prabhakaran committing mass suicide with hundreds of his supporters. The incident is going to be video taped so that it can later be shown to incite sentiments of
South Asia South Asia Weekly 59

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Mass suicide threat by Prabhakaran

With LTTE pushed to less than 100 sq km of area, there are strong rumours of Prabhakaran committing mass suicide with hundreds of his supporters. The incident is going to be video taped so that it can later be shown to incite sentiments of the aggrieved Tamilians the world over. The government has denied such rumours amid LTTE’s twin air strikes on Colombo which killed two and injured 54. The aircraft crashed even before hitting their actual targets with both the pilots. It is now believed that the LTTE’s air wing has lost all of its aircrafts though the actual number of aircrafts with the group remains a mystery. The amount of explosives found from the debris raised fears about the possibility of a 9/11-like attack on Sri Lanka. After these attacks, LTTE has once again demonstrated its capability of hitting the capital at will. This is a strong indication of many such future attacks on vital installations in Sri Lanka even after the completion of military operation against the LTTE. 

< class="maroontitle">Growing Nepal-China ties concern India
In the wake of increasing Nepal-China relationship, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon undertook a two-day visit to Nepal to take stock of the current political situation and escalating the Terai problem. During his visit to Kathmandu, he met with Prime Minister Prachanda, Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav, Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala and several important political leaders. Over the years, Beijing's interest in Nepal has been growing. Interestingly, Menon's visit follows a series of Chinese delegations to Nepal, including a six-member team from the Communist Party of China led by Vice Minister in CPC's International Department, Liu Hongcai. Though, the Indian establishment maintained it had no problems with the growing Nepal-China bilateral relations, it was actually concerned over these new developments. Menon's visit can be termed highly significant as it took place at a time when China's interest was growing in Nepal following differences cropping up among the major political parties over several key issues, including the Army integration and peace process. During his meetings, Menon said that India gave highest priority to relations with Nepal. He reiterated continued support for Nepal's development, peace process and the Constitution- drafting process. He, however, requested the Nepali political leadership to work cohesively to draft the new Constitution and solve the differences based on mutual understanding. He underscored the need for high-level security arrangement at the open borders between the countries.

< class="maroontitle">Bangla Minister retracts on HuJI

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry in a statement said that Mr. Hasan Mahmud, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, was misquoted by the media regarding his statement about Harkat-ul Jihad Al Islami (HuJI). In an interview to the Indian media, Mr. Hasan Mahmud said the HuJI, the anti India militant group, continued to exist in Bangladesh. During his interview,  Mr. Mahmud said though HuJI was banned in Bangladesh, it was in hideout.  He also offered to hand over Anup Chetia, leader of United Liberation Front of Assam leader, who was in Bangladesh jail since 1996. It was this statement of Mr. Muhmud that created a feeling of optimism in India. The Foreign Ministry retraction, however, has come as a blow to the Indian expectation that Bangladesh would take decisive action against anti-India groups. For long India has been asking Bangladesh to deny terrorist groups targeting India operative space.

< class="maroontitle">Nasheed’s coalition complets 100 days

Amid praise and setbacks, Mohamed Nasheed’s coalition has completed 100 days in office. While highlighting the achievements of the government, Vice President Dr Mohammed Waheed said though miracles cannot be expected from the government, it did make a significant progress on its election pledges which included changing schools to single session and old-age allowances. There are ‘privatisation initiatives’ in the offing and talks were on to build an international airport in Male. Efforts were being made to bring the level of household expenses down. On health and housing front, the government has decided to build 10,000 houses and provide health care insurance to about 100,000 people. Government is also planning to make drug laws more stringent in order to prevent people from being addicted to drugs.

The resignation of the Presidential advisor Dr Hassan Sayeed, however, demonstrated growing cracks in the coalition. It was the second resignation after the Home Minister Gasim Ibrahim resigned from his position just 21 days after the new government took over.
< class="maroontitle">Troubled truce in Swat 
Pakistan agreed in principle to the demands of militant leaders in Swat to enforce Shariat in the Malakand Division in North West Frontier Province. Malakand Division comprises the Swat, Malakand, Dir, Buner, Shangla and Chitral district, and accounts for almost one third of the province's landmass. Negotiations with the defunct Tehrik Shariat-e-Nifaza Muhammadi (TNSM) leader Sufi Mohammad and the NWFP Government culminated in the leader's son-in-law and commander of the local Taliban Mullah Fazlullah calling a 10 day cease fire.
The government agreed to make amendments in the controversial 1999 Nizam-e-Adl-Regulation so as to make it more amicable to the local militants. The army has taken a reactive position after renewed military operations (Rah-e-Haq III) since the last week of January were successful in restoring state's control in parts of Swat. In exchange, Sufi Mohammad has promised to 'convince' Fazlullah and his supporters to lay down arms.
According to the deal, the proposed changes will be brought into effect only after peace has been restored in the region. This is the government's latest attempt at arriving at a political solution to the militancy in the Frontier. In spite of carrying inherent risks, is a step in the right direction. Similar deals in April and May 2008 soon after the coming of power of the incumbent Awami National Party (ANP) were unsuccessful as both sides could not agree on the kind of Shariat that was to be put into practice.
If successful, the deal will pacify one of the most pressing demands of the locals and initiate the process of integration of local elements of the 'Taliban' into the mainstream. This therefore will sideline the more extremist elements of the Taliban which remains at best amorphous. It is crucial for the government of Pakistan to ensure that this deal does not become a liability in the greater war on terror.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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