MonitorsPublished on Apr 30, 2018
South Asia Weekly Report | Vol. XI Issue 18


Myanmar: The challenges of new President

Sreeparna Banerjee President U Htin Kyaw‘s sudden resignation on 21 March came as a jolt to most of the people in Myanmar as well as the international community. Though rumoured to be a known and planned decision, the unclear formal statement only said that “...he wants to retire from his duties”. One of the most probable reasons cited has been his health, and the subject was one of the most speculated topics in the army as well as political fraternity since he was hospitalised, first in Bangkok and currently in Singapore. He had also been advised to avoid regular state functions by his senior party people. Though his role was strictly ceremonial, having no power over decision- making, he was still known for being a gentleman with few enemies. Incidentally, Htin Kyaw’s untimely resignation forfeits him from gratuity, pension as well as allowance of any form. Htin HKyaw’s resignation has since led to the ceremonial election of the new President in U Win Myint. He too had resigned from his position as speaker on 21 March, a move seen by many as a preparation by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) to put forward its own celebrated candidate. The Pyithu Hluttaw confirmed the election of Win Myint as the House of Representatives' nominee for vice-president on 23 March, paving the way for him to enter the election process to become the next President.

New leader

After a 30-year journey that has taken him from being a lawyer to a political activist, then elected law-maker and most recently House speaker — U Win Myint has reached a big turning-point in his life that now sees him poised to be named the country’s next 10th president. On 28 March, he was elected during the five-year term of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government after the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw voted him as the country’s next leader. He polled 403 votes out of the 636 ballots cast by MPs, defeating rivals U Myint Swe and U Henry Van Thio by large margins. Being a politician for nearly three decades in a country formerly ruled by the oppressive military junta was an attractive quality of U Win Myint in becoming the new president. Also his ability to maintain stability in the legislature during his two-year tenure as speaker has been an advantage for the top job along with his loyalty to the NLD.

Puppet or President?

Since the political manoeuvring is shaped by the military-drafted Constitution as President, U Win Myint will be constrained by both the military-drafted Constitution and the strong hand of Aung San Suu Kyi. It is well known that the military-drafted constitution prohibits Suu Kyi from the presidency because she was married to a foreigner and her children hold British citizenship. She instead serves as ‘state counsellor’ a new position created for her purpose since her party's landslide 2015 election victory, declaring she would work "above" the president. But her position has no official constitutional role. That makes it crucial for her to have a compliant friend as president as she manages an often fraught power-sharing arrangement with the still powerful military, which ruled the country for almost half a century. Myint is believed to be one of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s favourites among fellow senior NLD members. Mr. Win Myint has more political experience than his predecessor and is considered more of an activist. Having said this it must also be kept in mind that many consider that he will also be unlikely to make a difference as long as Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi maintains her grip on the civilian side of the government. On 17 April 2018, Win Myint granted amnesty to 8,500 prisoners, including 51 foreigners and 36 political prisoners. This release was a priority of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party when it took over power from a pro-military government in March 2016 which now got realised under the new president. Thus, tossing between U Htin Kyaw and U Win Myint may bring about no significant change for Myanmar’s democracy.

Challenges ahead

The current complex political and domestic situations in Myanmar, particularly internal armed conflicts and the crisis in Rakhine State, are the prominent challenges faced by the new head. It must be noted that no move has been taken as of yet to amend the constitution which was promised by the former President.  Changing the constitution may be a tough attempt as the military control three security ministries and have enough seats in parliament to veto constitutional changes. Thus it falls on the shoulder of the current president to take it forward.  The current constitution also allows the military to take full control of the government’s executive, legislative, and judicial powers if a “state of emergency” is declared. Pragmatically, if the new President is to rule with authority, however, he will have to work against both Suu Kyi’s tactics as well as the powerful military. But on a more prudent note, balancing of power relations will be a key method for the new president. For Myanmar’s citizens, the reshuffle has given them hope. Not only NLD but MPs from other parties are confident that U Win Myint will be able to rise to the challenges. So wishing all the very best to the new president in his new endeavour, time will tell whether he’s a puppet or not. (The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata)

 Nepal: Implications of Modi’s upcoming visit

Sohini Nayak The contemporary India-Nepal ties have entered a new phase of interaction post the inception of the new government in Nepal, under Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli. At a time when the historical baggage of the 2015 Indo-Nepal blockade is still freshly etched in each other’s memories, a new path of negotiation has been probable on the cards. As found quoted by PM Oli himself, the bilateral ties between the two countries have evolved and metamorphosed according to the “needs of times” and would indulge in catering to long term goals of friendship. This forward-looking approach is not only intrinsic to the advancement of connectivity issues and the impending cases of negotiation but also the bilateral conduciveness which is required for the overall prosperity of the region. This is all the more true in the presence of China and the all- weather friendship that it has begun sharing with Nepal, post the latter’s participation in the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Being the gigantic extra-regional actor that China is, such a notion is undoubtedly of great apprehension for India. With this growing closeness between the Himalayan kingdom and the Dragon state, in the Indo-centric locale, a new geostrategic power play is at existence. In this backdrop, the recent bout of interaction between the two neighbour countries may be explained. Scheduled on 11 May, the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal comes at the wake of the recent sojourn of the Foreign Minister of Nepal to China. After keeping up with the tradition of the first political visit to India, the next destination of Beijing could be well guessed. Though on a friendly note, the Chinese appreciation of the new federal structure of Nepal along with immense investments in line with the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) creates an open ended perception working.

Re-affirming negotiations

The focus of the newly formed coalition government in Nepal with the CPN-UML and Prime Minister Oli has been the implementation of the renewed foreign policy of ‘neighbourhood first’. In fact, China was also in praises for the independent and balanced foreign policy stance of the small buffer state. Though enveloped in constriction, China had also forwarded the idea of all the three countries- India, Nepal and itself- working towards achieving better comprehensive regional goals. The maiden visit of K P Oli after assuming power may be regarded as the precursor to the visit of Modi in the month of May. This official invitation to Nepal can be perceived as an attempt to ease the calculative premonition associated with the previous encounter, just the other month. The foundation of this new visit has already been made through the earlier discussions of two-way engagement in defence and security, connectivity, trade and agriculture. The fact that India had been standing by Nepal all throughout the crisis of the 2015 earthquake and would keep doing so was ingeminated. In a joint statement, both the Prime Ministers had addressed the all- inclusive development of a ‘prosperous and developed Nepal’ that would be in complete sync with “Sabkasaath Sabkavikaas” policy of the Indian government. The inauguration of the integrated check post at Birgunj, Nepal was also a major success. With the core intention of enhancing connectivity and the operationalization of cross-border trade and transit of goods, a new horizon of integration opened up. Apart from the Motihari- Amkelhgunj cross-border petroleum pipeline at Motihari, Bihar, India was also substantiated.

Environmental concerns

However, the Arun-III hydropower project was found to be missing from the agenda of negotiations. The State Bank of India is supposedly investing INR 80 billion in this mega vision. When completed by the end of 2022, Nepal can massively enhance its hydro-power potential. But the project has attracted a lot of environmental concerns as well in both the nations, although previously endorsed as an achievement. In the next visit due in May, this issue can be addressed to harness an unbiased opinion from both the ends, for public welfare. There were also extensive talks on partnership in agriculture. There may be a review on the Memorandum of understanding that has taken place between the two countries to promote and protect the agro-industry, the scientific community and the consumers as well. The one on one meeting was successful in its own right and has opened the new avenues of collaboration. The augmentation and expansion of inland waterways has been a very recent development in the Indo-Nepal relations. The untapped potential of the region could be harnessed with the proper utilization of the inland waterways that could cohere with the prevailing geographic conditions. This would be a kind of an additional connectivity prospect. This is rotating around the India-Nepal Joint Working Group (JWG), which also facilitates the ongoing cross-border rail link projects. There are three other railway projects in the pipeline—New Jalpaiguri-Kakarbhitta, Nautanwa-Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj Road-Nepalgunj—and the leaders emphasized the importance of implementing the three remaining links.

China visit

One of the dominant existential issues for a country like Nepal is to bolster its foreign policy so as to gain maximum benefit for development. However, as for the new government, there is certainly a point of dilemma that PM Oli and his Foreign Ministry are caught up in. This asymmetric dependence is not to India’s satisfaction because of the left-leaning tendencies of the country towards China. In this circumstance, the visit of Narendra Modi to China can bring about new assumptions and impressions in the Sino-Nepal as well as the Sino-Indian relationship. To be more precise, this visit has been planned between 27-28 April in Wuhan. Labelled as an “informal summit”, it has garnered a lot of curiosity. One of the noteworthy points is that Modi would be visiting China again, the very next month, again for the deliberations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit. There would also not be any agreements or joint statements made, just the plain but candid conversation. This has been named as the Modi-Xi Summit, which might have several bilateral and multilateral connotations. This visit will have a direct implication on the Indo-Nepal negotiations because it would be reflected in the meeting with Oli the next month as well. The unique relationship between these three countries has a direct effect on the balancing capabilities of Nepal. If better negotiation can be established between China and India, Nepal will be in a better position of gaining investment and economic benefits from both the end along with a peaceful border. Thus, Modi’s visit brings with itself several important notions of future deliberations that can successfully generate a greater framework of working together, be it through the BBIN grouping or the access to South- East Asia through China. (The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata)

Country Reports


Tackling terror resources

In the aftermath of masses being killed at a Daesh attack on a voter registration centre in Kabul despite intense security arrangements, the Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmas Barmak, Afghan ambassador to Paris and one other participated in the Paris hosted terror talks. The meeting attended by ministers from seventy countries and international organizations discussed ways of combating terror financing for Daesh and-Al Qaida. The Afghan minister spoke of fighting terrorism and eradicating their financial wealth in Afghanistan.

Insurgents’ ambush

The implications of the Taliban’s spring offensive may already be witnessed in the attack on the deputy provincial governor of the Logar province in Afghanistan. Qamaruddin Shakib, was killed by the Talibans near the vicinity of the Mohammad Agha district. In that regard President Mohammad Asraf Ghani has issued new orders to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to eliminate terrorist within the country. However no comment has yet been received in this regard from the Taliban.

Practical measures

Afghan National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar and his Pakistani counter-part recently interacted at the Ninth International Meeting of High Representatives for Security Issues at Sochi in Russia. Discussions were held on bilateral issues with emphasis on the bilateral agreement regarding the Afghan peace process which was reached during Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s visit to Kabul. Atmar promised that within an environment of trust in the government, pragmatic steps would be undertaken to implement the agreement.

Is Pakistan’s support farcical?

Former Taliban is recruiting fighters from the Shaikh Abdul Ghani madrasa for its spring offensive. Referred to as ‘Al-Khandaq’, this offensive is seen as a counter to further deployment of foreign forces in the country. In a Twitter post, he criticised the Afghan government for their misperception of expecting cooperation from Pakistan in the country’s fight against terror and for letting the security apparatus be infiltrated with ISI spies.


BIN bus service

In a move to strengthening connectivity amongst countries in eastern South Asia, a trial run of a bus service among the Bangladesh-India and Nepal was flagged off from Dhaka.   The Bus service launched under the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicle agreement signed by the four countries of eastern South Asia in 2015.  The bus travelled around 1100 kilometres connecting capital Dhaka with Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. The route of the bus was Dhaka-Rangpur-Banglabandha-Siliguri (India)-Kakarvitta (Nepal)- Bharatpur-Kathmandu. The route is around 1,100 kilometres long and would take around 30 hours to complete, officials said. Currently, Bangladesh has a bus route with only India.

Tarique seeks asylum

Secretary-General of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Pary (BNP) Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir informed that Tarique Rahman, the party’s acting chief submitted his passport to the Home Office of the UK for seeking asylum. BNP General Secretary’s comment followed State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam’s claim that Rahman had surrendered his Bangladeshi passport and renounced citizenship. Rahman is residing in London since 2007.


Record voter-turnout

The National Council election held on 20 April saw the highest ever voter- turnout at 54.3 percent, an improvement over 2013 and 2008 polls. The overall voting turnout of working men increased due to postal ballots and facilitation booth facility at the Dzongkhags. Of the total 234,535 voters that came out to vote the male voters comprised 50.6 percent and female voters comprised 49.3 percent.

103 b in domestic loan

Domestic credit swelled in the calendar year 2017 as financial institutions in the country lent Nu 103 billion in the market. About 24 percent or Nu 20.6 billion worth domestic credit was injected into building and construction while credit worth Nu 22.9 billion was in service and tourism sectosr and Nu 13 billion in manufacturing.

DPT names four candidates

The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) has nammed four candidates for the National Assembly elections likely to be held in August this year. Three of the four candidates are from Trashigang. Opposition Leader and DPT president Pema Gyamtsho, addressing party workers, said that the size of the crowd reflected the party’s support base. DPT, he said enjoyed popular support in Thimphu and Trashigang.


Modi meets Xi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a two-day visit to China, has met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, the capital of the Chinese province of Hubei. Before leaving for China, PM Modi said, "President Xi and I will exchange views on a range of issues of bilateral and global importance.

Facebook CEO summoned

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned by a Bhopal court, following a suit filed by a city-based start-up alleging "harassment". Swapnil Rai, who runs,, a business networking platform, alleged that Facebook stopped his paid advertisement campaign to promote his page after running it for three days and then issued a legal notice on the title of his portal.


Lawyer, Indu Malhotra became the first woman lawyer to be directly appointed as a Supreme Court judge. Ms Malhotra was one of the two people recommended by the collegium - a group of top judges - to be elevated to the top court bench. The government rejected Uttarakhand Chief Justice KM Joseph's elevation as the Chief Justice.


‘Doctrine of necessity’

Invoking the ‘doctrine of necessity’, the truncated three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court has exempted the controversial anti-defection law passed by 39 MPs in the 85-members Parliament, from the 50-percent quorum requirement. The court has also likewise approved of amendments to the Judges Act. This has nullified the controversial five-Judge Bench restoration of membership for 12 ‘defectors’, which was among the causes for the crisis-ridden proclamation of national Emergency, and also conferred Executive powers on President Abdulla Yameen to sack SC-HC Judges ‘convicted’ in criminal cases without parliamentary impeachment.


Ties with South Korea

Myanmar and South Korea have held ministerial talks on enhanced cooperation in trade and investment in Nay Pyi Taw. The Myanmar delegation was led by Minister of Commerce Than Myint, while the South Korean side was headed by visiting Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Kim Hyun-chong. The two sides touched on matters related to establishing an industrial zone for Korean companies investing in Myanmar, establishing a Korea Desk, and increasing cooperation between the Trade Promotion Department of Myanmar Ministry of Commerce and Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency.

Deepened cooperation

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and visiting State Counselor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi agreed on 26 April to further deepen bilateral trade and investment. The two leaders vowed to further boost political and diplomatic collaboration via facilitating all-level visits and people-to-people exchange. They also pledged to extend collaboration in military medicine, search and rescue, sport exchange, and agreed to hold the deputy ministerial-level defense policy dialogue in 2018.


US ends TOS

The Trump administration in the US has announced on 26 April an end to the temporary protected status (TPS) for roughly 9,000 Nepali immigrants that has been in place since the devastating 2015 earthquake, reported CNN. The move could force many to choose between returning to their still-recovering home country or living in the shadows in the United States.

New laws required

Chief Minister of Province-3, Dormani Poudel has said the provincial government is sensitive regarding legislating new Act and laws if the prevailing ones were found inadequate in the prompt construction of the houses for the earthquake survivors. On the occasion, NRA Chief Executive Officer, Yubaraj Bhusal, presenting the particulars of the works the NRA has carried out so far in support of the earthquake survivors, said the Authority has maintained fiscal discipline and transparency as well as provided the housing grants and other facilities to the earthquake affected families.

Hard choices

Madhesi parties left with three hard choices available to them amid little progress in coalition talks with the government. . The first option is to join the government accepting PM Oli's terms and conditions. The second option is to sever ties with the government and resume a fresh protest to press the government to amend the constitution.  The third option is to wait for opportune moment to join the government. RJPN leader Rajendra Mahato said that it is still too early to take a concrete decision.


Chinese support

Ahead of India-China meeting Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif met the Chinese Premier Xi Jingping on 23 April. In the meeting Premier Xi Jingping assured that China-Pakistan relations will remain as firm as ever without any rust. Khawaja Asif also met one of China’s top diplomats and State Councillor Wang Yi, who reiterated China’s strong political and military support to Pakistan. Pakistan will closely watch the declarations and statements made at the India-China meeting as Chinese support is crucial, particularly in the time of increasing international isolation and alienation from United States. Earlier China had blocked UN sanctions on Masood Azhar responsible for terrorist attacks in India.

Suicide-attacks in Quetta

The latest triple suicide-attack in Quetta has claimed the lives of seven Balochistan Constabulary personnel. Eight Frontier Corps along with fifteen others had been seriously injured. Two suicide explosions took place near the Frontier Corps checkpost in Quetta and the third bomber drove his motorcycle into a truck carrying Balochistan Constabulary personnel to airport. The attack has shocked the government officials as the location is one of the heavily guarded areas of the provincial capital. The Bomb Disposal Squad confirmed that 10-15 kg of explosive material was used in the attack. The area was immediately cordoned off and immediate security arrangements were tightened.

Sri Lanka

Fresh crises?

After defeating the JO-sponsored no-confidence motion (NCM), the coalition government under SLFP President Maithiripala Sirisena and UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe seems heading for fresh crises. The SLPP-JO of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has extended support to a JVP-sponsored constitutional amendment to end ‘Executive Presidency’, if followed by fresh elections – all of it requiring two-thirds majority and a Supreme Court clearance, which may have to wait, if it came to that. In the immediate, 16 SLFP ministers and other MPs who voted for the NCM have quit the Government and sought seat-allocation in the Opposition Benches even as Prime Minister Ranil is facing relatively mild tremors within the UNP following the much-hyped organisational revamping.



Opinion Pieces

Mohammad Zahir Akbari, “Successive Attacks on West of Kabul”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 25 April 2018 Mohammed Gul Sahibzada, “Policing reform key to prevent suicide attacks on cities”, Afghanistan Times, 25 April 2018 Zha Hyoung Rhee, “Peace, A New Start”, Afghanistan Times, 25 April 2018 Hamid Bamik, “Who Pay the Prices? Voters or Candidates?”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 24 April 2018 Mohammed Gul Sahibzada, “Afghanistan–victim of hidden agenda of Pakistan under the veil of international alliances”, Afghanistan Times, 24 April 2018 Liu Jinsong, “China, Afghanistan and United Nations: Work Together to Create a Community of Shared Future for Mankind”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 24 April 2018 Mohammad Zahir Akbari, “New Waves of Criticism over slow voter registration”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 23 April 2018 Mujib Mashal, “After Each Attack He Carried the Wounded. Then He Became a Victim”, The New York Times, 23 April 2018 Janjua Haroon, “Dozens dead in bombing at Kabul voter registration centre”, The Guardian, 22 April 2018 Ahmad Sahil, “Why Afghan ministries fail to spend their Annual Budgets”, Afghanistan Times, 21 April 2018 Liu Jinsong, “China and Afghanistan are Heart to Heart Brothers, Saving the Heart and the Children Admits of No Delay”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 21 April 2018


Afghanistan Times, “Extremism never daunts our plans Extremism never daunts our plans”, 26 April 2018 Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Elections: Ethnic Low Turn Out and Further Marginalization”, 26 April 2018 Afghanistan Times, “War causes devastation”, 25 April 2018 Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Who are the True Politicians?”, 25 April 2018 Afghanistan Times, “World Earth Day”, 23 April 2018 Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Another Attack in Barchi”, 23 April 2018 Afghanistan Times, “Secure voter-registration centers”, 22 April 2018


Opinion Pieces

Kaushik Basu, “Why is Bangladesh booming?”,The Daily Star, 27 April 2018 Nazmul Ahasan, “The quota movement signals an underlying discontent”, The Daily Star, 26 April 2018



Kuensel, “The third NC election”, 21 April 2018


Opinion Pieces

Arati Jerath , “Impeachment ‘Ghost’ Haunts BJP & Congress’s Sinking Ship of Trust”, Quint , 26 April 2018 Sandip Roy, “Modi-Xi bhai bhai does not mean Hindi-Chini bhai bhai, The Print, 27 April 2018 S Sivakumar, “India must evolve a new system to appoint judges”, Hindustan Times, 27 April 2018


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Ahead of presidential polls, West going slow on Yameen?”,, 24 April 2018


Opinion Pieces

Aloysius Damar Pranadi “Myanmar’s electricity goals depend on ODA”, The Myanmar Times, 27 April 2018 Lawi Weng “Ethnic Groups Have Lost Faith in the NLD”, The Irrawaddy, 27 April 2018 Tomoko Nishimoto “Youth Safety and Health at Work: Early Education Equals Early Protection”, The Irrawaddy, 26 April 2018 Kavi Chongkittavorn, “Making sense of ASEAN’s view on Rakhine”, The Myanmar Times, 25 April 2018 Kyaw Phyo Tha, “Chief Minister Nowhere in Sight While Yangon Suffers from Smoke”, The Irrawaddy, 25 April 2018


The Irrawaddy, “Selling the Country to China? Debate Spills Into Malaysia's Election”, 27 April 2018


Opinion Pieces

Shrijan Bahadur Malla, “Local units to the rescue”, The Kathmandu Post, 27 April 2018 Shyam Sharma, “Redesigning our universities”, Republica, 26 April 2018


The Kathmandu Post, “Stay the course”, 27 April 2018 Republica, “Heed these concerns”, 26 April 2018


Opinion Pieces

Zahid Hussain, “Facing a hybrid war”, Dawn, 25 April 2018 Khurram Hussain, “Between defence and development”, Dawn, 26 April 2018,


Dawn, Why Commonwealth”, 23 April 2018 The Express Tribune,A bed of nails”, 25 April 2018

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Rajan Philiips, “A tale of two giants...”, The Island, 29 April 2018 N Sathiya Moorthy, “’Neat closure’ for the new Constitution?”, The Sunday Leader, 29 April 2018 Kusal Perera, “Yahapalanaya works for MR comeback”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2018 C A Chandraprema, “JVP’s 20th Amendment: A Constitutional Trojan horse?”, The Island, 27 April 2018 Harim Peiris, “A diversification of Tamil politics as seen through the recent elections”, The Island, 26 April 2018 Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Opposition’s 20-A dilemma”, The Island, 25 April 2018 Jehan Perera, “Abolition of Executive Presidency has become viable”, The Island, 24 April 2018


Kelum Bandara, “Indo-Sri Lanka Accord needs modifications”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 April 2018


Afghanistan: Sohini Bose Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale India: Ketan Mehta Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee Nepal: Sohini Nayak Pakistan: Mayuri Banerjee
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