MonitorsPublished on Dec 17, 2019
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XII; Issue 50

Bangladesh: Why this call for global attention to climate migrants?

Joyeeta Bhattacharya Drawing global attention to the problem of climate migration, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought a new framework to tackle the problem. She gave this call at the Spanish capital of Madrid earlier this month, where she attended the Conference of Parties-25(COP-25), the UN flagship summit on Climate Change. PM Hasina suggested that migration was an effective adaptation strategy and expressed the need for a proper discourse to protect the right of the climate migrants. Her comment displayed the agony of Bangladesh, which is affected badly by climate-change. On the verge of graduating from a least developed country into the middle-income group, Bangladesh feels it had only a limited role in the climate-change, and so it is looking to the global community for help because of its global nature. The concern is whether the global system is equipped to meet Bangladesh’s expectation on the issue of climate migrants.

Coastal threat

Bangladesh, a populous deltaic country, has been prone to various natural calamities like cyclone and floods, river and coastal erosion. Climate-change has increased the intensity of occurrence of the natural calamities, resulting in displacement of people. For years, hundreds and thousands of people are forced to migrate from rural areas to urban centres due to the adverse impact of climate-change in Bangladesh.   The impact of climate is felt more in the low-lying areas, primarily in the coastal region where the displacement of people is higher largely because of the sea-level rise.  Around one-third of the population lives in the coastal area in Bangladesh. Notably, a major portion of the country has less than five metres of elevation. By 2050, Bangladesh is estimated to lose 11 percent of its land, and around 15 million Bangladeshis will be displaced. Every one in seven Bangladeshis is likely to be displaced. Normally, climate migrants are moving inwardly, mostly into urban areas. The fear is that the trend might change in future. Already, the land is scarce and the pressure on the land will increase due to climate change. A glimpse of the future challenges of Bangladesh could be assessed from the situation in already congested Dhaka.This city receives the highest number of climate migrants. To develop a global action plan for climate migration, there is a need to develop a common definition of the climate migrants. Presently, there is no specific definition because of the difficulties in differentiating between a climate migrant and other migrants. Again, there is very limited data that suggests climate change has been the sole driver for migration. Climate change is widely accepted as a contributing factor in migration.

Non-binding agreements

The issue of climate-induced migration requires a comprehensive solution that will address all the challenges. There are two major international efforts in addressing the issue of climate migration. One was the 2015 Agreement of Paris Climate Change, in which signatories requested the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate-Change to suggest recommendations on the issue of displacement of people by climate change. Two, The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration adopted by 164 countries in Marrakech in 2018. These agreements, however, are legally non-binding and hence could not help much. The situation is expected to worsen in coming time when the mobility of the people will increase. Call of the time demands for an in-depth study of the problem. The international community should help the affected country by funnelling necessary aid and technical knowhow in mitigating and adapting to the climate change.

Bhutan: Development partnership with India

Mihir Bhonsale Bhutan’s development cooperation with India has grown in strength since the bilateral development cooperation began with the Himalayan nation’s First Five Year Plan in 1961. India had funded Bhutan’s first and second Plans in entirety. Bhutan is currently into the 12th Plan that began in 2018. India has committed an assistance of Rs. 45 billion for the implementation of the development projects and Rs. 40 billion for transitional Trade Support Facility during the plan. In the 2nd Annual talks on India-Bhutan development cooperation held in New Delhi on 29 November, both sides reviewed the implementation of the projects undertaken with India’s assistance during the 12th Plan. A total of 51 large and intermediate projects and 359 Small Development Projects and High Impact Community Development Projects are at the various stages of implementation. India’s share of development assistance in the 11th plan was close to 75 percent of the external grants received by Bhutan. Thus, India continues to be Bhutan’s topmost donor with nearly 3/4th of the assistance.

India’s share in grants

India’s share in the total value of external grants received by Bhutan have witnessed an increase since 2008, a year when the Himalayan kingdom transitioned to a parliamentary democracy. Table: External grants received by Bhutan and India’s share
Year 10th Five Year Plan (2009-2013) 11th Five Year Plan (2013-2017) 12th Five Year Plan (2018-2023)
India Nu. 33 billion Nu. 49 billion Nu. 45 billion
Other Nu. 17 billion Nu. 17 billion Nu. 16 billion
Total Nu. 50 billion Nu. 66 billion 61,651
% share of total grants by India 66.22 74.54 72.99
% share of grants by other funders 33.78 25.46 27.01
Source: “TWELFTH FIVE YEAR PLAN 2018-2023”, Gross National Happiness Commission, 2019, “Eleventh Five Year Plan 2013-2018”, Gross National Happiness Commission, 2013, “Tenth Five Year Plan 2009-2013”, Gross National Happiness Commission. India’s share in the external grants received by Bhutan increased from Nu. 18 billion in the 10th Five year to Nu. 33 billion in the 11th five year plan -- an increase of more than eight percent (Table). While India’s share in the grants that Bhutan received increased from 66.22 percent in the 10th to 74.54 percent, the share of grants by other donors declined from 33.78 percent to 25.46 percent (Table). In the 12th plan period beginning 2018, India committed Nu. 45 billion, out of the projected external grants of Nu. 61 billion. India’s assistance is projected at 73 percent share of Bhutan’s external grants which slightly lesser than in the 11th Five Year Plan (74.54 percent). The share of grants from other donors (excepting India) in the 12th plan period is also projected to come down. However, the share of other donors has increased from 25.46 percent in the 11th plan to 27.01 percent in the 12th plan period. The 12th five year plan has factored in the process of pulling out of the donors, meaning fewer grants for the programs. India, the European Union and Japan are the Bhutan’s largest donors. Bhutan is trying to diversify her sources of funding in the 12th Plan, from multilateral agencies or funds. including climate change.

Increase in share

The share of domestic revenue in the total expenditure is projected to increase from Nu. 128 billion in the 11th plan to Nu. 217 billion in the 12th Plan. Bhutan had made a conscious decision not to seek increase in the grant from India. The 12th Plan documents note that Bhutan is gradually achieving self-sufficiency and hence a large portion of the Plan amount is projected to come from internal revenue. The 12th Five Year Plan size is Nu. 310 billion of which the current expenditure is Nu. 194 billion while capital expenditure mainly for new constructions is Nu. 116 billion. Internal or domestic revenue in the 12th plan is expected to cover expenditure to the value of Nu. 218 billion. Thus, the country is still staring at a deficit of Nu. 29 billion in the 12th plan, which is aiming at walking the last mile to LDC graduation through economic growth and  the Gross National Happiness principles of safeguarding environment and culture and ensuring a good governance system. However, without foreign direct investments, private sector development and sustained efforts from the civil society, Bhutan is unlikely to be able to bridge the gap of Nu 29 billion.

Country Reports


Abdullah questions the IEC

On 11 December 2019, as the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that they would likely declare election results soon, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah warned that he, along with his supporters, would not accept results obtained via fraudulent means. Abdullah took to Facebook to note that the election commission had failed to fulfil its legal responsibilities, and to regain the trust of the Afghans, it must reconsider its decisions. One of the main issues highlighted by Abdullah is the counting of votes registered with biometric devices but carrying a timestamp falling out of legal voting hours.

Suicide-attack on US base

On 13 December 2019, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad announced that the recently resumed talks between US officials and the Taliban had been “briefly paused” yet again, owing to a suicide attack on a US military base just outside of Kabul, planned and executed by Taliban militants. The deadly attack that took place in Bagram, located in the northern province of Parwan, was launched with the suicide bomber detonating his explosive-packed vehicle outside a hospital building near the military base, killing two civilians and injuring over 70 injured.

Taliban kills soldiers

On Friday evening, 13 December 2019, 23 members of the local army, operating under the command of the Afghan Ministry of Defence, were killed at the hands of a group of Taliban infiltrators in Qarabagh District in the central province of Ghazni. Though sources suggest the number of casualties is 23, a spokesman of the Ministry of Defence claims 9 soldier lives were lost in the assault. The attack was carried out by 7 individuals that are said to have “taken the weapons of the soldiers” and joined the ranks of the Taliban.

EU scheme to empower women

On 10 December 2019, the European Union formally launched a scheme to empower Afghan women at an event in Brussels. As part of the programme, Afghan women will receive education and training in the neighbouring countries of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Beginning the pilot project with 50 Afghan women, it was announced that the numbers would keep increasing gradually, with the aim of helping those women become highly skilled personnel.


Radicalism on the rise

The incidents of terrorism has come down in the past three years in the country, according to Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP). Nevertheless, CTTC has cautioned that the threat of radicalisation is rising.  There has been a 90 percent reduction in the terrorist activities in the country compared to 2016 CTTC claimed. To CTTC radicalisation is rising through the Dawahilallah Forum -- an extremist propaganda tool of banned militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ATB). The number of members increased from 550 to 3,000. CTTC made these revelations in a study presented at on preventing and countering violent extremism in Dhaka this week.

Factory fire claims 13

At least 13 people were killed and around 20 people were critically injured in an incident of fire in a plastics factory outside capital Dhaka. The fire in factories is common in Bangladesh and put into question the safety of workers in the factories in the country. The country has record one of the world’s worst industrial disasters that killed thousands of workers in 2013. Soon after the incident, there were talks about improving labour safety in factories. The present incident suggests no major progress achieve until date.

Ministers cancel India visit

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan recently cancelled their scheduled trips to India after reports of unrest in the North East after the Central government passed a new Citizenship law. The Foreign Minister was scheduled to visit Delhi last week. His trip was cancelled at the last moment, on the ground of participating in functions relating to the celebration of the victory of Bangladesh. The Home Minister, who was supposed to visit Shillong in the north-eastern state of Meghalaya, highlighted deteriorating law and order situation in the state due to public protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the Indian Parliament. The media in India claimed that the ministers cancelled their visit due to the expression of popular anger in Bangladesh about the passing of the CAB that many feel like an insult to the country and discriminatory. CAB has a special provision to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who fled to India to escape persecution. The government sources, however, did not provide any concrete reason for the cancellation of the visit.


GDP growth rate crashes

The country’s economy in 2018 had its second worst year ever on record with GDP touching 3.03 percent, the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) report has mentioned. The last time the economy had such poor numbers was in 2012-13 following the INR crisis when GDP touched a record low of 2.12 percent. From the report it is clear that the two biggest hits to the GDP came from electricity and construction given their large contribution or share of the GDP which is 14.20 percent and 11.27 percent respectively.

Bangladesh sending health specialists

The critical shortage of medical specialists in the country is expected to ease starting from next month when 16 specialists from Bangladesh would arrive in the country. Eight months ago, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering’s state visit to Bangladesh signed an MoU, the two secretaries of health ministries’ signed a Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration in the health sector.

Korea supports school feeding

Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has committed to contribute $ 4 million to the World Food Programme Bhutan until 2023 to support school feeding in the country. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two agencies to support the transition and scaling-up of the school feeding programme to a national school nutrition programme was signed yesterday. This, according to education officials, would address the double burden of malnutrition by focusing on the reduction of micronutrient deficiencies, over nutrition and non-communicable diseases. WFP phased out last year and handed over 30,000 of its beneficiaries to the government. The project is also part of Bhutan’s strategic plan 2019-2023.


CAB becomes law

Both Houses of Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), and with President Ram Nath Kovind giving his assent, it has become law.   The Act seeks to amend the definition of illegal immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation. They will be granted fast-track Indian citizenship in six years. The opposition says the Bill discriminates against Muslims and violates the right to equality enshrined in the Constitution. In the meantime, violent protest have triggered in the north-eastern state of Assam against the new law.


Strains showing?

In the Indian capital of New Delhi separately but on the same day, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Parliament Speaker Mohammed Nasheed were talking different tones on their nation’s ‘China debts’ and related issues, exposing intermittent strains within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party of President Ibrahim Solih. Shahid, who co-chaired the Joint Commission meeting with counterpart S Jaishanker, said that they were re-negotiating debt with China, even while reiterating security relations (exclusively) with India. A former President, Nasheed, who was re-elected MDP chief recently, continued to maintain that they would cancel pending China agreements, including a bilateral FTA, which he claimed needed fresh parliamentary clearance.


Suu Kyi at ICJ

The attention of the country this week has been focused on the hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, as State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi defended the nation. On 11 December, the State Counsellor appeared before the ICJ to deny the accusations of genocide levelled against Myanmar by Gambia over the government’s military crackdown in Rakhine State in August 2017. Aung San Suu Kyi's rejection of genocide claims against Myanmar at the UN's top court referred to a number of previous international cases where genocide could not be proven. The only finding of genocide in the ICJ's history concerned the 1995 Srebrenica in Bosnia.

UEC prepares for polls

The Union Election Commission co-organized a meeting with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 12 December to discuss preparations of security measures for the 2020 General Election. The meeting was attended by UEC members, representatives from its State/Region offices, officials from the General Administration Department, officers from Myanmar Police force and responsible persons from the USIP. U Hla Thein, the Chairman of UEC, said that a successful holding of elections needs participation of relevant stakeholders, including MPF for security measures.


Polls next month

A total 18 National Assembly members will be elected in January 2020. The Election Commission has zeroed  in on 23 January as the date. Internal negotiations among the Nepalese political parties have also begun. The Cabinet might witness the introduction of some new faces as well.

The ‘onion’ effect

One of the primary aspects of neighbourhood diplomacy is the spill over domestic issues. One such aspect is the ban of onions from India due to extreme shortage. In this circumstance, Nepal has turned to China for the same. It is noteworthy how one small ingredient can be an important determinant of geopolitical strategy and neighbourhood diplomacy, given the skeptical Indian stance on the Nepal-China friendship.


Bank fund for E-corridor

Pakistan and the World Bank signed a project agreement worth $406.6 million for financing the Khyber Pass Economic Corridor (KPEC) project on 13 December 2019. The project plans to constructs a 48km four-lane, dual carriageway, high-speed and access-controlled motorway from Peshawar to Torkham in order to make an attempt to promote economic development and ensure betterment of the areas falling in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa area. The project would aim at public-private partnership and private financing for developing clusters of economic activity, economic zones and expressways.

PM visits Saudi Arabia

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan went to Saudi Arabia for a day-long visit on 14 Decembaer as part of Pakistan’s efforts to ensure better understanding between Riyadh and Tehran. The Prime Minister was expected to talk with the Saudi leadership on issues concerning bilateral relations and overall situation in the region.

Sri Lanka

Friendship and domination

In talks with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister, Motegi Toshimitsu, President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa reiterated his intention that Sri Lanka does not want to get involved in rivalries among world powers, and said, “We seek friendship and reject domination by others.” When Minister Toshimitsu expressed Japan’s commitment to the concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific region and added defence, security and stability were the priority areas of regional cooperation, President Rajapaksa said,, “The Indian Ocean must remain a zone of peace free of any conflict.” Likewise, when Minister Tashimitsu also told President Rajapaksa, “Japan wishes to set up a bilateral mechanism to oversee the successful implementation of mutually agreed development projects. It will help to introduce high-tech Japanese companies to Sri Lanka”, President Rajapaksa said, “Ours is a small economy. But we have a skilled, educated and talented workforce. My intention is to build an employment-oriented, technology-driven economy. We seek Japan’s assistance to reach that goal.” The President also said that he was open to foreign investments from all countries, especially the countries from the region such as China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and Singapore.



Opinion Pieces

Mujib Mashal, “A Bitter Election Dispute Sends Afghanistan Back to the Brink”,The New York Times, 12 December 2019 Zarlasht Halaimzai, “The United States’ Fatal Flaw in Afghanistan? Excluding Afghans”, The Washington Post, 12 December 2019 William Hartung, “Afghanistan: A Way Out?”, Forbes, 12 December 2019


The Daily Outlook Afghanistan,Afghan Citizens: The Casualty of Corruption”, 11 December 2019 The Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Delay in Election Results: Human and Economic Consequences,” 10 December 2019 The Kabul Times, “Kabul’s Alarming Air Pollution”, 9 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Sunera Saba Khan and Fahmida Haq Majumder, “Bottlenecks facing Bangladesh’s export sector”, The Daily Star, 11 December 2019 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana , “Riding the wave of technological innovation”, The Daily Star, 10 December 2019 Anupan Debashis Roy, “The politics of salt and soil”, Dhaka Tribune, 11 December 2019 Sheikh Iraj, “Freelancing can become Bangladesh’s gateway to a vast digital economy”, The Independent, 13 December 2019



The Bhutanese, “A Big Rethink”, 7 December 2019 Kuensel, “Promoting local produce”, 10 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Hitesh Jain, “Citizenship Bill makes distinctions that are reasonable, does not violate Article 14”, The Indian Express, 13 December 2019 Manash Firaq Bhattyacharya, “India is losing the promise of inclusivity”, The Indian Express, 13 December 2019 Happymon Jacob, “The Delhi Dogma Falacy of the right”, The Hindu, 12 December 2019


The Hindu, “An exoneration: On clean chit to Modi”, 13 December 2019 The Hindu, “Instant Reward: On Karnataka defection politics”, 11 December 2019 The Hindu, “Lethal misgovernance: On Anaj Mandy fire tragedy”, 10 December 2019 The Indian Express, “Region’s Edge”, 12 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Joe Kumbun, “Myanmar Needs More Engagement From the West, Not China”, The Irrawaddy, 13 December 2019 Mon Mon Myat “Political Correctness and the Genocide Case Against Myanmar”, The Irrawaddy, 12 December 2019 Tony Waters, “Politics, Fear, and Myanmar’s Anti-Politics Machines”, The Irrawaddy, 11 December 2019 Joe Kumbun, “A Black Swan for Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi”, The Irrawaddy, 10 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Amish Raj Mulmi, “The year the Sino-US tussle came to Kathmandu”, The Kathmandu Post, 13 December 2019 Dinesh Bhattarai, “Democratic socialism is what we need”, Republica, 12 December 2019


The Kathmandu Post “Kathmandu goes to sleep by 10, what are tourists going to do?” 13 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Haroon Sharif, “Dynamics of Digital Economy”, Dawn, 14 December 2019 Farrukh Khan Pitafi, “Trial By Fire”, The Express Tribune, 14 December 2019 Faisal Bari, “Higher Education Funding Cuts”, Dawn, 13 December 2019 I.A. Rehman, “Importance of Routine”, Dawn, 12 December 2019


The Express Tribune, “Let a thousand flowers bloom”, 14 December 2019 The Express Tribune, “Facilitating Expats”, 14 December 2019 The Express Tribune, “Punjab LB Elections”, 14 December 2019

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

D B S Jeyaraj, “Switzerland connection in LTTE fund-raising activity”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 December 2019 Kusal Perera, “New Rajapaksa Government in power crisis”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 December 2019 M S M Ayub, “13-A just a cudgel in India’s hand”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 December 2019 Malinda Seneviratne, “Curbing ‘executive’ enthusiasm”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 December 2019 N Sathiya Moorthy, “A Tamil Nadu angle to the CAB”,, 12 December 2019 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Hambantota route to UNHRC?”, Ceylon Today, 10 December 2019 N Sathiya Moorthy, “Revisiting ‘em both, 19-A and 13-A”, Colombo Gazette, 10 December 2019


Afghanistan: Shubhangi Pandey Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale India & Pakistan: Ambar Kumar Ghosh Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee Nepal: Sohini Nayak
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