MonitorsPublished on Mar 23, 2009
The week received mixed reactions from international community vis-à-vis Sri Lanka, some of which were in favour and some were against the military approach adopted by the Rajapaksa regime against the LTTE. Sri Lanka realized the importance of being friends with the permanent members
South Asia South Asia Weekly 64

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Sri Lanka’s friends and foes

The week received mixed reactions from international community vis-à-vis Sri Lanka, some of which were in favour and some were against the military approach adopted by the Rajapaksa regime against the LTTE. Sri Lanka realized the importance of being friends with the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council like China, Japan and Russia when they vetoed the in-house briefing on humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka stating it as the internal matter of the island nation. Later in the week, Sri Lanka’s efforts to win over the entire world community to its side received a blow when Norway and United Nations engaged LTTE’s main arms procurer Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) for talks over the future of the trapped Tamils in the war zone. Sri Lankans were further surprised at the frequently changing stand of the global powers when US Ambassador to Colombo Robert Blake called KP “an appropriate person for international community to talk” which again seems to provide international legitimacy to the terrorist organization.  

< class="maroontitle">Nepali Congress refuses to join Maoist-led government

< class="maroontitle">Prime Minister Prachanda’s recent proposal, to the main Opposition party Nepali Congress, to join the Maoist-led government has left the NC divided. In an attempt to lure in the NC, Prachanda even reiterated his party’s desire to continue with the multi-party system. Meanwhile, there were speculations that the NC may join the present cabinet and end the political hobnobbing. Initially, the NC had sent feelers and few prominent leaders suggested that the party was willing to join the cabinet if the Maoists created amicable atmosphere and implemented the past agreements. However, the NC President, Girija Prasad Koirala refuted such speculations but said that the party is open to the idea if the Maoists abided by the past agreements and return the seized property to their rightful owners.

On the other hand, several senior NC leaders strongly rebuffed such reports. NC acting President, Sushil Koirala vehemently opposed the idea of joining the government. He said, views expressed by few NC leaders, in favor of joining the government, were their personal rather than the party’s while Arjun KC warned that joining the coalition will be suicidal for the party. Former PM, Sher Bahadur Deuba also ruled out the possibility of joining the present coalition. Considering the current political developments, it appears that the Maoist-led government will continue to face difficulties. The failure to rope in the NC has further shattered the government’s pledge to continue with the politics of consensus.

< class="maroontitle">UK base NGO linked financing terror hub

On March 24 security forces discovered a mini ordinance factory inside a madrasa (Islamic School) which was used for training militants in Southern Costal district of Bhola. During the operation security forces arrested suspected militants and seized huge number of fire arms, explosive and jihadi literature, which were to be used by the militants. However, the most important aspect was that the terror hub that was operating under cover of a madrasa was funded by a United Kingdom based Non Governmental Organization (NGO) called Green Crescent. Green Crescent is run by Dr. Faisal Mostasa, a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin who sends fund to run the madrasa, orphanage and free medical centre in Bangladesh and it is listed with Charity Commission of United Kingdom. On further investigation it was revealed that the NGO received fund from middle east based charity organisation Human Appeal International which supposedly has links with  Hamas and Iraqi insurgent groups. This catch comes barely after a week when Bangladesh government declared to scrutinize activities of foreign funded NGO’s as they suspect that these NGOs are contributing in spreading militancy. Meanwhile, in a bid to curb militancy security forces has arrested Chief of Islamic Democratic Party, a party formed by Huji, this week. In the recent past the country has seen growing incident of fundamentalist militancy. But Awami League government that has come to power after the December 29 2008 election has pledged to root out terror from the country and has taken up stringent actions against such organizations. Country’s Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni expressing her opinion on this week said that militancy is not a big challenge for that country right now as a non communal government is ruling the country.

< class="maroontitle">Problem of managing growing Unemployment

Expressing concern over the rising rate of unemployment, Maldivian president Mohammed Nasheed admitted that there are over 25000 unemployed youth in the population of 300,000 many of whom are “on the verge of criminal activity” due to hard drugs. It is simply not because of the unavailability of jobs but young people themselves are unwilling to work as their families continue to support them financially. Morning session in schools left plenty of free time with youngsters to indulge in unlawful activities throughout the day. Government is now planning to introduce afternoon shifts in schools to keep them engage for the whole day. According to an estimate, one in every five girls and one in every six boys is unemployed. In atolls, this figure is quite high where 40% of the total population is unemployed. The scenario is worrying as the growing rate of unemployment is giving rise to gang culture and drug addiction. In a past few months, small country like Maldives reported six gang related murders.                                        

< class="maroontitle">‘Af-Pak’ Strategy unveiled
United States President Barrack Obama unveiled the long anticipated policy recourse aimed chiefly at defeating al-Qaeda and allied groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan on Saturday (March 28, 2009). Expectedly, the new policy has done away with the failed practice of not holding Pakistan accountable for its counter insurgency (COIN) commitments and neglecting the deteriorating state of governance in Afghanistan. It also aims at strengthening the annoyingly unpredictable democratic movement in Pakistan and wrestling control from the powerful army. Pakistan has been assured three times the aid it received under the Bush regime, a sizable portion of which is to be focused on building its economy and fostering development, especially in militancy prone regions. At the same time, the military is to receive more aid tailored towards its COIN needs, with greater emphasis on training.
The development has been welcomed by the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan as well as various European forces which are likely to commit more assets to Afghanistan and bolster the US led mini surge. This is by far the new government’s greatest foreign policy challenge. The Pashtun belt across the Durand Line has become an al-Qaeda Taliban stronghold since 2001 and has become the epicenter of the insurgency in Afghanistan, the spiraling terrorism in Pakistan as well as ‘Global Jihad’. The next phase of the US led mission in Afghanistan is clearly going to take place in this inhospitable terrain. The coming summer is going to witness greater area domination and populations security missions with the intent of weaning away the ’moderate Taliban’ from the insurgency. Obama and the other leaders must show perseverence in the face of greater casualties and not lower the mission objectives, not least for their own security.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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