MonitorsPublished on Jun 15, 2009
Sri Lanka is seeking foreign aid for the resettlement of 280,000 predominantly Tamil refugees, officially known as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), languishing in camps without any access to basic amenities like food, clothing and sanitation.
South Asia Weekly Report 76

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Rajapaksa goes around the world for foreign aid

Sri Lanka is seeking foreign aid for the resettlement of 280,000 predominantly Tamil refugees, officially known as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), languishing in camps without any access to basic amenities like food, clothing and sanitation. The island nation could do with the aid, as the war-torn economy urgently requires massive infrastructure and construction projects. President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his team are already visiting several countries to help them understand the humanitarian problem facing Sri Lanka. The West, however, till now has kept its distance. But countries like Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Iran have come all out in support of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. Sri Lanka has sought aid from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Rajapaksa also claimed that Iran has agreed to assist it in two projects worth US$ 16.5 million. Rajapaksa is also believed to have broken a new ground with the military junta on his recent visit to Myanmar. Throughout its war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), both China and Pakistan had helped the Sri Lankan army with arms and ammunition. It is now widely believed in the media circles that Pakistani pilots and planes turned the tide in favour of Sri Lanka during its war with the LTTE.  

< class="maroontitle">Indian foreign secretary visits Nepal to defuse border row

Amidst the political uncertainty, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon visited Kathmandu to express India’s concern over the current situation and the future of peace process in Nepal. His visit comes amidst serious allegations against Indian paramilitary force, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), of encroaching upon Nepali territory. During his two-day stay in Kathmandu, Menon met Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and several important ministers, including senior leaders of different political parties. He also met the former Prime Minister Prachanda

Talking about the border row, Menon said the dispute should be resolved through discussion between representatives of the two countries. He said the rhetoric around the dispute was only a propaganda strategy to fulfill vested political interests. He, however, assured that genuine issues will be resolved at the diplomatic level. He also reiterated India’s commitment to extend support to Nepal in its transition phase to establish complete democracy and take the ongoing peace process to its logical end. He said the relationship between the two countries would be placed at highest level. By this important visit, Menon, has sent a positive signal to the Nepali leaders about India’s support to the mountain country.

< class="maroontitle">Bangladesh is now part of the Asian Highway Network

Bangladesh finally joined the Asian Highway network after the Cabinet approved the project on June 15. The decision brightens the prospect of connecting Asia and Europe by road. Asia Highway, a project sponsored by the United Nations and the Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), was the topic of major debate within the country. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) believes the project is a threat to country’s security. The BNP, which was in power earlier, had declined to sign the deal. The present government feels that this project will contribute towards the country’s development. Interestingly, the decision on the route is still awaited. The country has three options: Benapole-Jessore-Dhaka-Kachpur-Sylhet-Tamabil; Hatikamrul-Dhaka-Kachpur-Sylhet-Tamabil and Mongla-Jessore-Hatikamrul-Dhaka-Kachpur-Chittagong-Cox’sBazar-Teknaf-Myanmar border. The government is expected to participate in the negotiations for route finalizations.

Meanwhile, to deal with acute power crunch the country took a major step in using the daylight by resetting its clock by an hour earlier. From June 19 Bangladesh’s clock is ticking seven hours ahead of GMT. The country, however, will revert to its standard timing, six hours ahead of GMT in October 1. The country plans to implement the same from April 1 in future. It is believed that this measure will help to save approximately 200 megawatt of electricity.

< class="maroontitle">Maldivian economy to further decline in 2009, warns IMF

A visiting mission from the International Monetary Fund said during a visit to the atoll nation that 2009 may not be good for the Maldivian economy. The IMF mission forecast a decline of 4.5% in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country’s three main industries – tourism, fisheries and construction – have been adversely impacted by the global economic slowdown. IMF’s Asia-Pacific advisor Jeremy Carter said the government expenditure is also going up in disbursing salaries to government employees. According to an estimate, the salary and wage expenditure in the Maldives is more than Rf 1 million (US$ 78,000). The huge salary bill is also the result of an increase in the number of the employees. Carter warned that such a high wage bill is not sustainable for more than six months. The new government, headed by President Mohamed Nasheed, also inherited a massive budget deficit to the tune of Rf 1.4 billion when it came to power in November 2008.

President Nasheed has slashed the wage bill by 20 per cent with immediate effect to stave off the impending economic crisis. The Maldivian Monetary Authority has also raised their hands by saying that pumping extra money into the Maldivian markets would not solve the problem because excessive liquidity in the markets would lead to an imbalance in the demand and availability of dollars.          

< class="maroontitle">President Zardari meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
President Asif Ali Zardari met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Yekaterinburg, Russia on Tuesday (June 16). In a meeting that lasted 40 minutes, Manmohan Singh reiterated to his counterpart the Indian stand on resuming the peace process only after Pakistan takes tangible steps against terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba that directly threaten India. The two leaders agreed to meet again in Egypt next month
However, it is widely believed that the thaw in relations is influenced by strong pressure applied by the United States. The US wants Pakistan to divert more of its military resources from its eastern border and deploy them against the al-Qaeda and Taliban. Washington argues that partial demilitarization of the Line of Control in the Kashmir valley will enable Pakistan to conduct more extensive counterinsurgency operations along its western border.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                       – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee       – Bangladesh
      • Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti – 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.