MonitorsPublished on Aug 17, 2009
The Sri Lankan government has decided against cutting back expenditure on defence, given that a fragile peace has been established only recently after the decimation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
South Asia Weekly Report 85
Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Thai authorities arrest new LTTE chief, deported to Colombo

The Sri Lankan government has decided against cutting back expenditure on defence, given that a fragile peace has been established only recently after the decimation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Talking tough, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said no one will be allowed to harm the interests of the nation. The President seemed oblivious to the allegations that the police and paramilitary forces are taking undue advantage of the extra powers given to them. In fact, the Sri Lankan police came under severe criticism when two young men were shot dead by the cops in an alleged false encounter last week.

< class="maroontitle">Bangladesh Rifles to change name to get a makeover

Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) is all set for a complete makeover. The BDR is likely to be rechristened as Border Guard Bangladesh and the uniform would be changed to brown combat colour.  The suggestions for the change in name and uniform came up following a meeting between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BDR Chief Major General Mainul. The prime minister has already given her nod for the proposal. These measures have been taken to boost the morale of the force following the February munity, when sections of BDR personnel revolted against their senior officers, who were on deputation from the army. Nearly 57 army officers were killed, including the chief of the force.

< class="maroontitle">India & Maldives expand defence ties

The defence ties between India and Maldives got a boost from a recent visit of the Indian Defense Minister A K Antony to the atoll nation. The Maldivian authorities have expressed concerns about the security of their uninhibited atolls, which may become a hub of terrorist activities and narcotics drug trade, given the fragile security scenario in the Indian Ocean region. Besides the archipelago has also highlighted the need to protect its vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as well as to develop and enhance maritime surveillance and aerial mobility capabilities. During his recent three-day visit, Antony said that countries in South Asia face common security threats and that New Delhi was willing to extend whatever support Maldives would require. A series of measures were agreed upon, which includes among other things an offer to establish a comprehensive maritime surveillance plan by installing a network of ground radars and linking them up with the Indian Coastal Command. Analysts have claimed that the Indian endeavours aims at keeping Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean at bay.        
< class="maroontitle">Uncertainty looms large as Taliban struggles to find Baitullah’s successor

After Baitullah Mehsud’s death in a drone attack, the Pakistan Taliban struggled last week to find a successor amidst new arrests, further complicating the groups’ future trajectory. After a reported feud between two of the major contenders for the leadership, the Taliban received another blow when its spokesperson, Maulvi Omer, was arrested from Mohmand Agency on Tuesday (August 18). In what appears to be a power struggle before a leader was formally announced militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud killed Maulvi Nazir, a leader of the rival tribe. Towards the end of the week, two senior leaders of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) -- Faqir Mohammad, a close ally of al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri and Hakimullah Mehsud, a young Taliban leader who orchestrated the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March -- claimed leadership of the TTP shaura or council. Clearly, two scenarios are likely in the near future -- the new TTP leader might fail to unite the various rival tribes under one banner and the group may crumble under its own weight. More ominously, the groups comprising TTP might find common ground and renew attacks on the State, a threat Pakistani intelligence organisations have already identified. The recent suicide attack in Swat that killed three people and subsequent warnings that more attacks are to follow after Ramzan suggests that Baitullah Mehsud’s death will only give temporary relief to Pakistan.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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