MonitorsPublished on Jan 09, 2020
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XIII; 1

Sri Lanka: Politics, not just economy and geo-strategy, behind China ties

N Sathiya Moorthy

The post-India visit announcement of Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, ruling out re-negotiations with China over the predecessor government’s done-deal on southern-most Hambantota Port, has surprised none. The Indian strategic community thankfully did not lose sleep over Gota’s New Delhi commitment to revisit the debt-equity swap-deal, for them to feel upset and cheated all over again.

Some of the Indian and western initial mis-perceptions and consequent original mis-representations over the Hambantota deal owed to their waking up late and believing that the Rajapaksas were the sole cause China gaining a foothold in Sri Lanka.

Today, when the Rajapaksas are back in power in the island-nation, possibly stronger than in the past, it may be time for the Indian strategic community especially to re-visit the past and make corrections to their concepts and approaches that had not helped New Delhi in any which way. In doing so, they need to re-read their Sri Lankan history, honestly fixing the date of the original China deal on Hambantota, going beyond popular perceptions.

In doing so, the strategic West too needs to study and understand the Sri Lankan political/national pre-occupation with China. If that was after all the case, and ask themselves the ‘why’ of it and find answers deriving from Sri Lankan State perceptions – and acknowledge them from the way Colombo (too) perceives them.

Strategic significance

Facing the strategic Indian Ocean sea-lanes, the Hambantota Port is of strategic significance to India, especially in times of tensions in the shared waters with Sri Lanka. At such times, as needs to be provided for, India’s east-west-east sea-trade within the country could not risk circumnavigating Sri Lanka’s southern seas. In the post-Cold War era, Hambantota in Chinese hands remains a sore thumb even more for the US, whose Diego Garcia military base lies across the Indian Ocean

It is thus that Indian and international media highlighted President Rajapaksa’s choice of India for his maiden overseas visit after taking over, and also his media interviews on ‘re-negotiations’ over Hambantota. His brother and incumbent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the chief architect of the original Hambantota concession as President (2005-15) had strongly opposed the swap-deal by successor Sirisnea-Wickremesinghe dispensation, and vowed to take back Sri Lankan territory, handed over to China through a 99-year-long lease.

Back in Colombo after his first-ever meeting with India’s strongman Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gota Rajapaksa did not lose much time to declare that re-negotiations was just not possible. After discussions with a visiting Chinese special delegation, he declared that the swap deal was a ‘commercial’ proposition and nothing could be done to reverse it.

In doing so, Gota R did not reveal the details of either the original Mahinda deal or that of the swap pact involving their political bete noire – not that anyone in his place was expected to do so. However, he did not say if there was a re-negotiations or repudiation clause in either deal, and if not what was the ‘commercial’ aspect that held back Sri Lanka seeking a review through the next nearly hundred long years.

Sri Lanka ‘first’

As the events of the past decade has shown, independent of whoever is in power in Colombo, they adopt a ‘Sri Lanka First’ policy as far as fulfilling the domestic aspirations of their individual and collective constituencies. Leave the Rajapaksas’ SLPP or parent SLFP or rival UNP, even the Tamil parties in the country are talking only about the ‘aspirations of our people’. Sor for a Sri Lankan State apparatus, in which the elected polity has the final say, to address Indian and global concerns viz China was just out of the question. It remains so, and will continue as such.

Before the ethnic issue hit the roof and tied down the nation as a whole in three-decades long ethnic war, Sri Lanka was projected to put even a fast-growing Singapore behind in growth figures. An entire generation after Independence had been fed that myth and had grown on it, too – and often got re-injected into the new generations’ psyche, both by their political leaderships. The latter’s international interlocutors said even more– as if to show, if not prove, what the nation had lost out to the war and why permanent peace was needed in the larger context.

Hambantota fitted the bill, for it was also a developmental dream of the Sri Lankan nation before the avoidable advent of the ethnic war. Even without the ethnic war, violence and terrorism, the nation had faced two JVP insurgencies, one before (1971) the LTTE’s advent (1975) and the second one (1987-89) in the aftermath of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord and the arrival. Giving the moderate mid-sections no cause for frustration and alienation became an obsession with the Sri Lankan State and the Sinhala majority polity – especially the ‘Big Two’ in the ‘liberal/capitalist’ UNP and the breakaway ‘socialist’ SLFP.

Hambantota fitted the nation’s imagination since Independence as successive Governments had talked about the same, from time to time. Rajapaksas were not even the first one to invite China. Before them, Mahinda’s predecessor and party boss in the pre-split SLFP in President Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga (CBK) was the one who put a final seal of approval for developing what Sri Lankans thought was an ancient port put to disuse over centuries, and even invited China – but only after India had declined the invitation.

The global strategic community should thus return to the old diary of events and fix the ‘blame’, if at all there was any, on where it mattered. For his part, President Mahinda, in the footsteps of predecessor Kumaratunga, even cancelled the MoU that her Government had signed with China, and revived it only after New Delhi had once again turned down the offer to put in money which the latter did not possess.

The rest of the world did not have money, or would not give money, until Colombo swung their way in solving the ethnic issue – also, for them to be able to send back the accumulated Tamil refugees, whom they did not otherwise want but were afraid of acknowledging as such. They did precious little when Mahinda’s successors did precious little to reverse the trend, be it on the China front or on the ethnic score – thus now making their revived apprehensions on Gota’s election, suspect in the eyes of the average Sri Lankan – especially the majority Sinhala.

Bedrock of policy

Unlike assumed otherwise, ‘western liberalism’ seems to be the bedrock of China’s Third World policy. Huge investments, which the West cautions the beneficiary-nations like Sri Lanka as a ‘debt-trap’ has provided useful diversion for China as the global strategic community has often been misled into believing in the obvious and not fathoming deeper.

Put if crudely, if required, smaller nations eternally twisted around by the West with selective deployment of their neo-con’s newer interpretations of State’s rights, responsibilities and accountability with each passing day, they too are in eternal need of a dependable ‘big brother’, whose veto vote counts in the UNSC and whose political pull works even if partially in fora such as UNHRC.

Sri Lanka is one such case, and it happens to be in India’s immediate and sensitive neighbourhood. Other South Asian nations of course excluding Pakistan, but including ‘friendly’ Bangladesh, dependable Bhutan and unsure Nepal are all prospective candidates for Chinese political largesse as much as the visible economic aid – which of comes with a tag, long and huge.

In Sri Lanka’s case, for instance, the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe dispensation got its way with the West at UNHRC, making the latter believe that it was otherwise. So, when the Hambantota swap-deal happened under the duo’s care, the West could not humiliate itself by condemning it in public, as they had done with the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.

If none else, the larger Sri Lankan State apparatus was aware of and alive to the in-built pitfalls and pot-holes in the co-authored UNHRC resolution 30/1 on accountability issues and ethnic reconciliation. They were not unaware of the possibility of being pulled up before the UNHRC and the UNSC later, and acknowledged the need for them to fall back on China (and Russia) in the exercise of their veto-votes.

The strategy was simple against the Rajapaksas’, which was simplistic. The latter wanted to take the West head-on, from the UNHRC stage itself. The duo, whether or not they had discussed the Colombo strategy in any detail, played along with the West at UNHRC – also because the latter had created the mood and worked with them on the methods for them to replace the Rajapaksas after the UNP’s long summer without power for full 25 long years.

The duo, especially then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, reserved China – and Russia – for a future date, if the West did not get the message by then, but the Rajapaksas played the latter along too early in the game, and lost out, both at the international arena  of UNHRC and nearer home in Elections-2015. With the West reviving past and forgotten pressures on the Rajapaksas, now back in power, it remains to be seen if they would stick to their old ways, or adopt the Wickremesinghe cunning, in their own way.

Bhutan: Relations with India in 2020

Mihir Bhonsale

A new year seems to be in the offing in the India-Bhutan relations with close relations between the political leaderships. On the New Year day, the top leaders of both nations greeted each other, expressing satisfaction over the past year and agreeing to take the relations ahead in the new year. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, on 1 January.

Both the nations have developed close political and economic cooperation. Other areas include security, trade and hydropower. Last year had seen bilateral exchanges, initially by Prime Minister Lotay Tshering to India, followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that enhanced political ties and expanding the horizons of cooperation between the two countries.

The decade past

Bilateral trade increased from Nu. 45 billion in 2010 to Nu. 75.4 billion in 2018. In the year 2019 provisional figures (January to September) bilateral trade touched Nu.63 billion. India continues to be the largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI’s) in Bhutan.

India has committed a sum of Nu. 4,500 crore for the 12th Five Year Plan that begun in 2018 and will continue till 2023. India has also granted a transitional Trade Support Facility of INR 400 crore over a period of five years to strengthen bilateral trade and economic linkages.

Hydropower cooperation in 2019 also surged ahead with the two countries signing the tariff agreement for the Mangdecchu hydropower project, a project taken with an intergovernmental model financed through 70 percent loan and 30 percent grant from India.

In the year 2019, the two countries held another round of discussion on the 2,585 MW Sankosh hydropower project and it was confirmed that the project would be developed under the authority model. The two countries are behind the target of developing the installed capacity of 10,000 MW.

The present hydro installed capacity in Bhutan with Indian technical and financial assistance till date is 2,136 MW from 4 projects. The projects currently under construction include 1095 MW Punatsangcchu-I, 990 MW Punatsangcchu-II and 600 Kholongcchu hydropower projects. Punatsangcchu-I and II projects that have witnessed delays are expected to be commissioned in 2024-25 and 2022-2023 respectively.

The decade ahead

Bhutan begins an important phase in the second decade of the twentieth century when it is set to graduate into a middle income country by 2023. The current five year plan in Bhutan is the last milestone before the shift. India’s share of grants in expenditure of the 11th plan to the 12th plan has reduced and may reduce further owing to the country’s imminent graduation into a middle income group.

Trade remains concentrated in the electricity exports and comprise 40 percent of Bhutan’s exports. The hydropower exports to Bhutan are limited to India. The high share of hydropower in exports and in GDP of the country is an area of vulnerability for the economy and the country is in dire need of diversifying its exports.

The manufacturing sector needs a tremendous boost and more foreign direct investment (FDI). Bhutan is also considering revision of its Foreign Direct Investment Policy and CSI policy to enable investment and private sector growth.

Another area of concern is Bhutan’s rising external debt that increased to Nu.170 billion in the 11th plan period compared to Nu.95 billion in 10th plan, owing mostly to hydropower loans. The non-hydro loan has been reduced from Nu.41 billion to Nu.37 billion in the plan.

Slowing of India’s economy has consequent effects on Bhutan. Bhutan’s dependence on India’s economy is such that with India’s growth rate falling, Bhutan’s GDP growth rate decreased by half from 2017 to stagger at 3 percent in 2018. India’s demonetization of currency notes and introduction of GST had also added to Bhutan’s economic woes.

Despite a few irritants, the political climate and the understanding between the leadership of the two countries will act as a fulcrum for bilateral relations to surge ahead, ironing out existing challenges and opening new horizons of cooperation.

Country Reports


Ceasefire likely?

Reports suggest that the Taliban’s ruling council has agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan, potentially paving the way for a peace agreement to be signed between the Taliban and US negotiators. Four Taliban officials are said to have met with the ruling council for a week before arriving at the decision to implement a temporary moratorium on violence, although the Taliban chief is yet to approve the decision. The duration of ceasefire is likely of to be 10 days.

MNCs sued for terror-payments

G4S, the UK-based security giant, and MTN, the South African telecom- provider, have been identified among six other multinational corporations in a US lawsuit alleging that they made “protection payments” to terrorists operating in Afghanistan. The allegation suggests that the either the companies provided funding to various terror outfits that were part of an Al-Qaeda led syndicate, or turned a bling eye to “protection payments” being to the militant groups, to preserve their business interests in Afghanistan. MTN stated it would defend its reputation in the court of law, however, G4S declined to comment on the matter.

‘Aadhar’ with India aid

In the last week of December 2019, the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner of India, and the Unique Identification Authority of India organized a capacity-building programme for the Afghanistan Central Civil Registration Authority. Afghan officials visited the UIDAI office in Chandigarh to gather in-depth knowledge of the Aadhaar system, with the help of live demonstrations of the software used. Inspired by the Indian experience, Afghanistan too is looking to launch their own mechanism facilitating a biometric and demographic database of its citizens.


Living in India illegally

Major-General Shafeenul Islam, Director-General of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB),   informed that around 1,000 Bangladesh nationals were detained in Bangladesh in 2019 for living in India “illegally”. For the first time in recent decades, authorities have made public the number of its citizens who had lived “illegally” in India. The government have always denied infiltration into India.

Border telecom shut down

Earlier in the week, Telecom operators shut down services along the border with India, following a government order citing security concerns. The government ordered the suspension of mobile services within one kilometre of the international boundary. Later, the government ordered restoration of services.

Enterprise body with China

Chinese Enterprise Association in Bangladesh (CEAB) was launched in Dhaka to bolster trade and investment ties with China. Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi and Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming attended the launched ceremony. The CEAB has about 240 Chinese companies in Bangladesh.


Rush of regional tourists

Despite December being a low season for tourism in Bhutan, the country is in the midst of a huge rush of regional tourists, mainly from India and Bangladesh. Rumours that Bhutan is going to charge stand at Nu 4,000 a day as Sustainable Development Fee for regional tourists from January 2020. The rush began on 23 December when around 1,800 to 1,500 tourists a day approached the Regional Immigration Office in Phuentsholing for permits. This increased to around 2,000 tourists a day from 27 December onwards and the figure excludes those flying in by air via Delhi and Kolkata.

New economic roadmap

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering has called for the 21st century economic roadmap must begin with the change in mindset and this new way of thinking should be ingrained in every Bhutanese mind,. For now, the country has just recorded another submissive GDP growth of about 3 percent in 2018, one of the lowest.


PM ignores Imran on New Year

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted his counterparts in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives on first day of New Year in telephonic conversations. The courtesy calls to the leaders of South Asian countries was a gesture to reinforce India’s commitment to its “neighbourhood first” policy that underscores a vision of shared peace and prosperity. Mr. Modi shared his thoughts and discussed the progress of bilateral relations including some major issues of regional importance that transpired in 2019 and sent good wishes for the New Year from the people of India. However, the existing tensions between Pakistan and India made it inappropriate for such a courtesy call with Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan.

India’s first CDS

Outgoing Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat was Army Chief Bipin Rawat was appointed as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on 30 December 2019. As CDS, Gen. Rawat’s foremost task is to integrate the armed forces and simplify the procedures for weapons procurement. The decision to create the post of the CDS was announced by Prime Minister NarendraModi on Independence Day 2019. The three service chiefs of the Indian Air Force, Indian Navy and Indian Army will report to the CDS, who will also head the Department of Military Affairs. The CDS will further sharpen the coordination between the forces and will act as principle military advisor to the Defence Ministry. The CDS fulfils the long-standing need for higher-level military reforms that were identified after the Kargil War of 1999.

Internet restored in Kashmir hospitals

After nearly five months of total internet blockade, broadband and internet services were restored in 80 hospitals of Kashmir on Thursday. The internet services to all educational institutions, hospitals, government offices and mobile phones were snapped on 5 August 2019 when New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution of India and bifurcated the state of J&K into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. The move to restore internet in hospitals was will give the much-needed relief to both doctors as well as patients. The restoration of broadband and internet services will help patients to receive free medical facilities, especially with respect to the centrally-sponsored medical schemes like theAyushman Bharat. The move also symbolises the fact that daily life in Kashmir is limping back to normalcy; however, internet is still denied to large sections of the civil society, including media.


Developmental threat

Human-driven pressures on island-reef systems is pushing a majority of Maldives islands to a threshold beyond which it cannot naturally adapt to climate risks such as sea-level rise, scientists have found, according to a Maldives Independent, report based on the findings in the Nature. According to the study, “20.1 percent of inhabited and exploited islands (eg: resorts, airport islands) have already reached a tipping point and that 46.2 percent may reach it over the coming decade(s).” According to the results, only 12 percent of inhabited and exploited islands preserved natural defences and 16.7 percent of these islands have suffered limited undermining whilst 46.2 percent of islands suffered a “partial but significant” undermining of coastal protection services.

Economic buffer

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that a total of MVR 2.6 billion had accumulated in the Sovereign Development Fund (SDF) over the course of three years. Created in 2017, the fund is intended to act as an economic buffer in times of crisis and aid repayment of major foreign loans taken for development purposes. The Sovereign Development Fund is financed through the Airport Development Fee (ADF). According to ministry statistics, MVR 1.3 billion was deposited in the Sovereign Development Fund in 2019 while a figure of MVR 1.2 billion was deposited in 2018


Rice export declines

Since the start of the 2019-20 fiscal year, which began on 1 October, Myanmar has been exporting roughly 10,000 tonnes of a rice a day at prices 5 percent to 10 percent lower than last year. “Over the last 90 days or so of the current fiscal year, a total 900,000 tonnes of rice has been exported. The moisture content in Myanmar’s rice has stabilised and prices have held steady,” said U Myo Thura Aye, central executive committee member of the Myanmar Rice Federation. So far this year, African countries have been the major market for Myanmar’s rice followed by ASEAN countries.

Ethic affairs panel revived

The ruling National league for Democracy (NLD) on 2 January revived its 15-member ethnic affairs committee in what is being seen by some as an effort to improve its chances of winning this year’s election. Legislator Inhtwanga Naw Seng of Kachin State will chair the committee, and Karen State Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint and government Peace Commission Chair U Tin Myo Win will serve as vice-chairs. U Tin Myo Win replaced Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu as vice-chair because the latter was busy with other duties, U Myo Nyut said.


Modi, Oli talk ‘border’

Tension over the border dispute between Nepal and India has been brimming higher. In this circumstance, the telephonic conversation between the Prime Ministers of the two countries- Narendra Modi and K. P Sharma Oli have been found to be focused on easing this issue through renewed neighbourhood first vows. The resolution can only be found through diplomatic routes and shall be resolved as early as possible.

“Visit Nepal’ a failure?

The province of Karnali in Nepal has inaugurated the Visit Nepal Year (VNY) campaign for 2020. However, as witnessed, there has not been much progress in preparing the major tourist attractions or centres for the yearlong campaign. Rara Lake, Sinja Valley, Phoksundo Lake are some of the top spots that are still appearing to remain neglected. Hence, the success of this campaign is still doubtful, unless the government steps up its tourism game.


Age-bar on Service chiefs

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-I-Insaf (PTI) will table the bill to amend the Army Act to fix the maximum age of three service chiefs at 64. The move comes after the Supreme Court suspended the August 2019 notification issued by PTI declaring extension of the terms of the military chiefs. The supreme court gave six months to the government to legislate on the reappointment and extension of army chief’s tenure that would provide certainty and professional assurances for those holding such posts in the future. However, the government, which will table the bill seeking such amendments to the Army Act on Friday, needs support of the opposition parties. Any amendment needs two-thirds approval from both senate and National Assembly. The PTI is confident of the Bill getting clear majority as the opposition parties like PML-N have assured unconditional support.

UAE offers $200-m aid

Crown Prince and deputy chief of UAE armed forces, Sheikh binZayad Al Nahyan, visited Pakistan on Thursday and held talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan. The meeting focussed on regional, international and bilateral issues. The Crown Prince extended his country’s support to Pakistan’s commitment towards regional peace and stability. He went on to note that Pakistan and UAE enjoy a burgeoning strategic partnership. After the visit, Sheikh binZayad Al Nahyan also allocated USD 200 million support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) projects in Pakistan from the UAE’s Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.  The visit gained significance, coming weeks after Pakistan’s last-minute withdrawal from theKuala Lumpur summit – reportedly following reservations expressed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Details shared with India

On 2 January, both India and Pakistan shared the details of N-facilities and prisoners with each other. Pakistan handed over a list of 282 Indian prisoners in Pakistan to Indian High Commission at Islamabad. India also handed the same list of 267 Pakistani prisoners who are held captive in India. Furthermore, both the countries also shared the details of nuclear facilities and installations under the Article-ii of the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities signed in 1988. According to the aforementioned agreement, both countries must routinely share these details on January 1every year. However, the release process of the prisoners is complicated among the two hostile neighbours and it usually takes more than a year for India to seek the release of its fishermen who regularly get arrested by Pakistan marine security agency for the alleged violation of the international maritime boundary.

Sri Lanka

President swears by ‘maroon shawl’

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has sworn by the philosophy symbolised by the Kurahan Satakaya (maroon shawl) though he did not wear it as his other family members did. “Even though I do not wear this shawl, I stand for the same profound philosophy of constant dedication to the poor that is symbolized by the maroon shawl,” he said in his maiden speech to Parliament. Since the days of their uncle D M Rajapaksa and later their father D A Rajapaksa family members wore the maroon shawl, representing the millet farmers of native  Giruvapaththuwa.



Opinion Pieces

Hy Rothstein and John Arquilla, “What the ‘Afghanistan Papers’ actually reveal about ‘forever wars’”, The Washington Times, 2 January 2020

Bob Hennelly, “Will 2020 signal an end to America’s endless wars? Don’t count on it”, Salon, 2 January 2020


Afghanistan Times, “Welcome 2020”, 31 December 2019

The Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “No True Democracy Unless Women’s Voices Heard”, 2 January 2020

Afghanistan Times, “The Puzzle of Ceasefire” 30 December 2019

The Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Stark Difference Between Taliban’s Insurgency and Mujahidin’s ‘Jihad’,, 30 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Mohammed Norul Alam Raju and Faima Rahman, “Why saving the Sundarbans is so urgent”, The Daily Star, 2 January 2019

Fahmida Khatun, “Our way forward in 2020”, The Daily Star, 1 January 2019

Nazrul Islam, “How our rivers fared in 2019”, The Daily Star, 31 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Sonam Tshering, “The historic new year gift- Gyalsung – our constitutional duty”, Kuensel, 28 December 2019


Kuensel, “Investments in agriculture must grow”, 28 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Priyaranjan Jha, “Identifying illegal migrants through NRC process will be cumbersome, costs far outweigh benefits”, The Indian Express, 3 January 2020

Suhasini Haider, “The new worry of depleting diplomatic capital”, The Hindu, 2 January 2020


The Hindu, “Arms and the man: On Gen Rawat's comments”, 30 December 2019.

The Indian Express, “Ideas abide”, 1 January 2020


Opinion Pieces

Nyein Nyein, “Myanmar Rebel Armies Extend Truce but Fighting Continues”, The Irrawaddy, 3 January 2020

Nan Lwin, “China Quietly Pushing Myanmar to Back Its Development Plan for Irrawaddy River”, The Irrawaddy, 30 December 2019

San Yamin Aung, “Why Does the Myanmar Military Rebuff the Work of the Constitutional Amendment Committee?”, The Irrawaddy, 30 December 2019


Opinion Pieces

Sushrey Nepal, “The current government is breathing down our necks”, The Kathmandu Post, 3 January 2020 Yogesh Bhattarai, “Why Visit Nepal?” Republica, 2 January 2020

Pramod Mishra, “The adoption of multilingualism in Province 2 is significant”, The Kathmandu Post, 2 January 2020


The Kathmandu Post, “Oily business”, 3 January 2020

The Himalayan Times, “Clear the dues”, 3 January 2020


Opinion Pieces

Zahid Hussain, “A decade to nowhere”, Dawn, 01 January 2020

Syed Akther Ali Shah, “Supremacy of the Constitution”, The Express Tribune, 02 January 2020

Talat Masood, “The New Year’s national resolve”, The Express Tribune, 01 January 2020

Inam Ul Haque, “The Gordian knot of civil-military relations in Pakistan”, The Express Tribune, 31 December 2019


The Express Tribune, “Decrease in terrorism”, 3 January 2020

Dawn, New year challenge, 1 January 2020

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Sarala Fernando, “Re-setting foreign policy: security, economics and human rights”, The Island, 5 January 2020

D B S Jeyaraj, “Past under Mahinda resurfacing under Gota”, Daily Mirror Online, 4 January 2020

M S M Ayub, “UNP’s suicidal politics”, Daily Mirror Online, 3 January 2020

Ravi Nagahawatte, “Ambitious Sri Lanka sees China on the horizon”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 January 2020

Kelum Bandara, “Prez reaches out to LG members in view of general elections”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 January 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “The year that was, the year that is”, Ceylon Today, 31 December 2019

Jehan Perera, “Development can be the framework in which institutions are strengthened”, The Island, 31 December 2019

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Justice for minorities”, Colombo Gazette, 30 December 2019


Afghanistan: Shubhangi Pandey

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Ambar Kumar Ghosh

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee

Nepal: Sohini Nayak

Pakistan: Ayjaz Wani

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.