MonitorsPublished on May 28, 2019
Exploring the problem of human trafficking within the Rohingya community, India-Sri Lanka cooperation against terrorism and other recent developments from South Asia.
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XII; Issue 21


Myanmar: Rohingyas, victims of trafficking

Sreeparna Banerjee

During mid-May, the Bangladeshi police rescued around 69 Rohingyas who were being trafficked to Malaysia by boats. These innocent, displaced people comprising 43 women and 11 children were promised work or marriage once they reached the other side of the seas. Scores of Rohingya Muslims have boarded boats in recent months to try to reach Malaysia, part of what authorities fear could be a new wave of people smuggling by sea after a 2015 crackdown on trafficking.

The Rohingyas are a majority stateless Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar. After the mass exodus in 2017 due to the ruthless military crackdown, they are displaced. In addition to being a fundamental abuse of human rights and dignity, the lack of being a citizen and currently displaced has reduced their economic opportunity, has restricted their movements and opportunities for family reunification, and has heightened the risk of human trafficking. In Bangladesh, they also feel that they are unwanted. This isolation and desperation is increasing incidences of trafficking.

Trapped and exploited

The trafficking networks in and around the South and South East Asian nations have existed since time immemorial. The recent addition of Rohingyas in 2017 to Bangladesh and the deplorable conditions in camps has made them easy prey for the traffickers. Coupled with this, the unwillingness of the displaced population to return back to their former state and the stalled repatriation efforts between the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar has given a considerable push to these illegal activities. Thus, women and children are exploited for commercial sex and forced into bonded labour. Kidnapping is a common tactic used by traffickers in the camps.

Traffickers also lure men, women, and children with false job promises in fishing, begging, and, for girls specifically, domestic work. Once an offer is accepted, individuals are often trapped, abused, and not paid the agreed amount. Physical and sexual abuse is common for women and girls, who are frequently forced into prostitution after accepting jobs as domestic workers.

Lacking data

Most times, trafficked victims are shamed to reveal their horrific experiences. Coming from an extremely conservative community, the fear of being labelled and stigmatised in public hinders women and children from narrating their harrowing experiences when rescued. Their parents, relatives or spouses also think twice before reporting this heinous crime and thus many cases remain undocumented.

Reports received have always been in bits and pieces and a holistic figure is missing. For instance, police records showed that on 5 January, Rohingya girls and one boy were rescued from being trafficked into India. Also reports from Rapid Action Battalion reflected that earlier in February and 11 March,  Rohingya Muslims were rescued from Chittagong, which is about 170 km from the camps.

Thus an official figure comprising the number of Rohingyas who have been trafficked has not yet been released by the Bangladesh government but aid agencies have come up with various numbers which highlight the severity of the issue. The United Nations' International Organization for Migration (IOM) has identified about 204 cases of trafficking so far which they claim are just the tip of the iceberg. Newspaper reports from various NGOs suggested that 200 Rohingyas were rescued in the last few months.

Steps required

The Bangladesh government has stated that improving people's livelihood at the camps is the only way to curb human trafficking from the area. But the reality remains that Bangladesh bars the Rohingyas from leaving the camps, or holding jobs other than participating in small-scale cash-for-work programmes run by the humanitarian agencies.

In the past, traffickers misled hundreds of people who wanted to go to Malaysia and trapped them in camps in the border areas of Thailand and Malaysia, torturing them until their families agreed to pay up to $1,800, a fortune for impoverished migrants.

This came to light in 2015 with the discovery of scores of mass graves believed to contain the bodies of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants. With trafficking on the rise, Bangladesh law enforcers have also stepped up activities to crack down on trafficking. Last week Bangladesh police killed two of the suspected traffickers who were Rohingyas in a gunfight. The Malaysian government has announced that it would set up an official inquiry to investigate human trafficking camps in its bordering areas.

Myanmar still remains staunchly silent regarding any issue dealing with the Rohingyas. Being criticised from all quarters of international humanitarian agencies or the powerful Western neighbours, any steps towards repatriation has not yet been worked out. Though a secret MoU was signed between Myanmar with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) regarding the creation of necessary conditions for the return from Bangladesh to their homes in Rakhine, Myanmar in June 2016, either the conditions or the MoU was not made public. Even Bangladesh was not shown any such document. Recent newspaper report suggests that this MoU has been extended by Myanmar and the rest of the party for another year. But the validity of such an important document remains questionable and whether any step will be taken along those lines needs to been observed.

Thus, integrated solutions at national or regional level gets only delayed which shows the lack of urgency to address this issue. It is important to understand that real solutions need to be created within formal policy framework for rehabilitating these stateless people.

Sri Lanka: Working with India to end jihadi terrorism?

N Sathiya Moorthy

After offering prayers at the holy shrine of Dallada Maligawa, or the ’Temple of the Tooth’, Kandy, Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu recently promised the Sinhala-Buddhist top clergy New Delhi’s full support to Sri Lanka in dealing with the common threat of ‘jihadi’ terrorism. Ahead of the annual Buddhist high-point of Vesak festival, the High Commissioner also met with Most Venerable Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatu Chapter and the Most Venerable Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Mahanayake Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter.

An Indian High Commission news release in Colombo said that the High Commissioner ”discussed the prevailing security situation with the Most Venerable Mahanayake Theras and offered India’s full support to Sri Lanka in dealing with the common threat of jihadi terrorism... Both the Mahanayake Theras deeply appreciated India’s unconditional and strong support for Sri Lanka including in the security sphere”.

It is interesting – or, ironical -- to note that the High Commissioner had discussed post-blasts security situation, especially ‘jihadi’ terrorism, when there was no such report about any meeting of the kind with either President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe or Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana – tasked with both security and/or external cooperation in such matters. That is to say either no such meeting took place, or if any of it happened, it was off the media radar.

Ironical coincidence

As irony would have it, Vesak this year fell on 18 May, coinciding with the original ‘Victory Day’, at the end of the successful war on LTTE terrorism. The ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’ (SLT) community the world over, starting with the nation’s North and East, observed the day as ‘Martyrs’ Day’ just as the LTTE and their successors have been observing ‘Heroes’ Day’ on 27 November, each year. That the Vesak and the ‘Victory Day’ should fall in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan should complete the contemporary Sri Lankan irony. Across the seas, India was observing the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, a victim of daring LTTE terrorism on Indian territory – cross-border terror of a different kind!

Whatever it be the Easter blasts has made the Sri Lankan nation more responsible and poignant, even if only for the present. It is all a reflection of the nation’s mood and inability to absorb and digest the Easter blasts a decade after Sri Lankans had thought that all forms of terrorism and militancy were well behind them – and for good. Barring President Sirisena celebrating his son’s wedding in the first weeks of the blasts with certain pomp and colour, the nation itself played low-key.

Thus, the annual May Day rallies for political parties to demonstrate their strength and support for one another, the Vesak and the ‘Victory Day’ all remained low-key affairs compared to the past. The politically-messaged May Day rallies did not happen as it fell only days after the blasts, as thankfully no party or leader had the insensitivity or courage, or both, to call cadres to come up to a venue of their choice for demonstrating their power-projections months ahead of the presidential polls, due in December.

Such cancellations did not have anything to do with the memories of a May Day rally years ago when an LTTE suicide-bomber assassinated incumbent President Ranasinghe Premadasa – but was an acknowledgement of a belated realisation that terrorism was back and real even in a Sri Lanka without LTTE.

A full month after the blasts, the Sri Lankan security agencies have made countless arrests, including those of ministerial and gubernatorial aides, and also a parliamentary staffer. Yet, there is no knowing if President Sirisena is going to act against H L A M Hizbullah, his nominee as Eastern Province Governor, any time soon. Likewise, there is no knowing if PM Wickremesinghe intends taking cognisance of the references, including a public statement of Army commander, Lt-Gen Mahesh Senanayake, against Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.

Sinister campaign

Sad but true, in the early hours and days of the Easter blasts when media reports spoke about Indian intelligence agencies alerting their Sri Lankan counterparts precisely to the same, a sinister campaign of sorts commenced in the Colombo social media, pointing fingers across the Palk Strait. Sections of the traditional media also questioned how Indian counterparts obtained an alert on the ‘alert’ before Sri Lankan investigators got wind of the same.

Full four weeks after the event, peripheral socio-political groups have begun making similar insinuations, or so would it seem. After DNA tests, the security agencies in Sri Lanka are convinced that Easter terror master-mind Muhammad Zahran is dead. But now comes peripheral doubts why two suicide-bombers were assigned to Colombo’s prestigious Shangri-La Hotel, when it was only one for other terror-targets. Who knows next someone may ask why Zahran chose to preside over the suicide-attack at Shangri-La and not at another site.

Interestingly, some such groups have also sought to make vague link between the blatant security-failure in Sri Lanka and the Thirteenth Amendment to the nation’s Constitution, if only to bring in India’s name into the discourse. They have pointed to the constitutional bar on President Sirisena, re-introduced by his own hand-maiden of a 19-A, to remove the nation’s Inspector-General of Police (IG), Punith Jayasundara, for not acting effectively on the Indian alert.

Rather than questioning the security failure at their end, they have gone on to point to the re-introduced 19-A provision, restoring the Constitutional Council and High-Posts Committee, supposedly of independent persons. When President Sirisena could ‘sack’ then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, for his share in the ‘security lapse’, he could not do so in the case of IG Jayasundara, despite pious declarations to the effect soon after returning from Singapore, where he was when the blasts occurred.

Police powers and 13-A

Those who have since raised the issue linked to 19-A have also made what could be termed only as a mischievous reference to India-facilitated 13-A, three-plus decades ago. It was a part of a politico-constitutional package that the government of then President J R Jayawardene offered the Tamils as a natural follow-up to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord he signed with visiting Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in July 1987.

Now, however, questions have been raised about the viability of 13-A, especially in terms of ‘police powers’ for the nine Sri Lankan Provinces. Left unimplemented through and through for the forgotten Constitution Assembly to address the issue, among others, ‘police powers’ for the Provinces meant that they would have powers over the appointment and administrative jurisdiction of the civilian uniformed force at their own disposal.

The current criticism, restricted to peripheral groups just now, is to wonder how would have the situation been if Provinces too had their own police powers and there is no way their own IGs could be sacked for what tantamount to ‘dereliction of duty’ or whatever. “If the President, the appointing authority, does not have powers to sack, or require the resignation of one IG, for what is seen as his failure to secure the Sri Lankan State from the Easter day carnage, what could be done with nine, or ten IGs, under near-similar circumstances?”. Or, that seems to be the question.

The fact is that answers to questions such as this lie in 19-A, not in 13-A. In terms of jurisprudential powers, the appointing authority, under any set of administrative laws, should have had powers to terminate the services of those that were so appointed. High-posts committee and such like bodies created or re-created under 19-A should have at best been designated as ‘vetting committees’, not assigned the powers to de facto appointment of persons to high posts in the Government, reducing the President to be only the de jure appointing authority.

Predecessor President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 18-A sought to correct this anomaly, as inserted into the Constitution by Governments before his. However, owing to apprehensions of misuse and abuse by the Rajapaksas, and also to score yet another political-point over him in the post-war period, the Opposition parties of the time, and also the nation’s vibrant civil society, sought to shout down 18-A but without success.

When the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe leadership came to power after defeating incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential poll of 2015, 19-A restored the High-Posts Committee and the like. The current crisis, if it was the real one, did not flow from (India-facilitated) 13-A. If at all, multiple persons in responsible persons, with shared responsibility and accountability, might have taken it up with the political administration, if known to them – and not sat or slept over the same, as became the case with the incumbent 19-A appointee. 

Job on hand

At the height of the LTTE war and victory, the ruling Rajapaksa clan in Sri Lanka became more alive to, and aware of, the possibilities that awaited the nation if the situation was allowed to remain static. They had inherited a flawed judgment on seeking Indian and international assistance in terms of intelligence-input, going beyond seeking fighting machines from other nations. The flaw dated back to President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who swung to the other end, worked with the LTTE, instead, to have the Colombo-requisitioned IPKF out, and unceremoniously so.

It did not become positive cooperation under later-day President Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga (CBK), to who, however, should go the credit of keeping India in the loop after a break. CBK’s successor in President Rajapaksa was willing to shed his past India-centric reservations and opposition to 13-A and also to ‘Operation Poomalai’, the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) humanitarian mission to air-drop food and medicines to the Tamil civilians caught into the Govt-LTTE cross-fire in Sri Lanka’s North.

Not only did the Rajapaksas readily shed their reservations to seeking intelligence support from India and the US, which they otherwise might have despised in terms of Sri Lanka’s domestic politics of the time. Both President Rajapaksa and his brother and war-time Defence Secretary Gota Rajapaksa, have since publicly and repeatedly acknowledged India’s aid and assistance in neutralising the LTTE militarily and as a terror outfit. Even if politically timed and motivated, their acknowledgement is a reiteration of their approach to working to end terrorism, with Indian and other international help.

It is thus that the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) sank eight weapons-laden cargo ships of the LTTE away from the nation’s shores. No one has then or since asked if the success story belonged exclusively to Sri Lankan intelligence of the time, or if others too had a (bigger) share to the credit. No one also asked then or since how SLN had the courage and confidence to leave its shores open to possible ‘Sea Tigers’ attack of the LTTE when its main armada had sailed away to tackle the terror outfit’s weapons-vessels in the high seas.

The other instance of international, or regional cooperation related to the arrest of Indian fishing vessel ‘Sri Krishna’, hijacked by the ‘Sea Tigers’ for transferring their weapons and ammunition from their earlier ships in the high seas, to their hideouts on land. The Maldivian Coast Guard played a significant role, based on intelligence alert from elsewhere. It was the ‘Sri Krishna’ arrest that brought to light the LTTE’s habit of hijacking ‘innocent vessels’ for their intermittent use, and also to the fact that the terror-outfit might already been running short of boats for their use. The latter was a reflection on the efficiency and efficacy of the boat-based SLN commando operations against LTTE’s attack vessels.

In context and in contrast, Sri Lanka Army chief Lt-Gen Mahesh Senanayake, in his first news conference on the Easter Day serial-blasts, indicated that the perpetrators might have travelled to India, visited Kerala, Bengaluru and even the troubled Kashmir, for training. If true, it was too sensitive a matter to have been shared in and with the public, especially if such information had not gone to the Indian counterpart agencies already and there was confirmation that the latter were not acting on the same – a la IG Jayasundara!

Indian agencies, including Jammu and Kashmir police, were quick to retort, saying that Zahran or the rest had not travelled to the State, hence had not trained there in bomb-making and the like. Instead, it would have served the Sri Lankan security agencies’ purposes if they had asked their counterparts if there was any likeness of the Easter blasts’ modus and material used in similar blasts anywhere India, so as to identify connecting points, before making any such non-existent link of whatever kind.

Worse still, Sri Lankan media, including social media, reports also indicated that their security agencies might not have acted upon the Indian tip-off, as they were wary of New Delhi allegedly making non-existent connections to the Pakistani ISI with every terror-attack in the region, thus possibly jeopardising Colombo’s ties with Islamabad. If true, such assumptions would have to be made at the level of Sri Lanka’s political administrators and Foreign Office, and not at the level of security and/or intelligence agencies. Two, if there was/is truth in Gen Senanayake’s statement on the Kashmir links of the Easter blasts perpetrators, an ISI link needed to be explored and investigated -– not, overlooked and ignored!

Country Reports


Advisor held for terror

Haji Delawar, an advisor to the Upper House of Parliament (Senate House), has been arrested by a Special Unit of the Afghan Police Special Forces on the charge of supporting terrorist groups in Kabul. During the operation the police have also confiscated fake documents, con vehicle registration plates, illegal weapons, an armoured Landcruiser, a Hilux vehicle and 700,000 Pakistani rupees. According to the Ministry of Interior, Delawar is now in police custody and investigations are underway.

Floods threaten minaret

As devastating floods hit the Ghor province of Afghanistan, the 800-year-old minaret of Jam is in danger of total collapse. Social media purportedly showed the minaret’s vicinity covered in mud and water as the river close to it has over-flown its banks. The collapse of this ancient monument would be a blow to the heritage properties of Afghanistan after the Bamiyan Buddha’s were destroyed. Authorities have been requested to pay immediate attention to protect the Minaret.


ID cards for Rohingyas

United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) has informed that it had registered more than 250,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and is providing identification cards. The UN agency informed that for many these cards are their first ever identification cards. The cards will help to proof of their right to return to Myanmar in the future. Around 740,000 Rohingyas from neighbouring Myanmar are living in Bangladesh as refugees after they fled their home in the Rakhine province following a military crackdown in August 2017.

Forum for China road

The Bangladesh-China Silk Road Forum has been launched in Dhaka. The aim of this forum is to establish lasting links under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) between the two countries for mutual benefit. Bangladesh Prime Minister's foreign affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi and Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Zhang Zuo spoke at the inauguration of the forum. Rizvi in his address informed that Bangladesh has not only joined BRI but also joined BCIM-EC (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor). He further informed that his country has no reservation and welcome the launch of the forum. In 2013, China proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative aims to build a trade and infrastructure network that will link Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road. Bangladesh is a member of BRI.


Indian envoy presents papers

The new Ambassador of India to Bhutan, Ruchira Kamboj, presented her credentials to His Majesty the King, on 17 May. Ambassador Kamboj is the first woman Ambassador of India to Bhutan and succeeds Amb Jaideep Sarkar who was appointed as the next High Commissoner of India to the Republic of South Africa.

PHPA hands over hospital

The Punatshangchu hydroelectric project authority (PHPA) handed over the 60-bed hospital at Wangdue to the health ministry on 21 May. The hospital is also identified as an Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (EmONC) and Trauma centre is expected to provide healthcare services to the people of Wangdue, Gasa, Punakha, Tsirang and Dagana. Construction of the hospital began in August 2013.


BJP wins landslide victory in  General Elections

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and its leading member, the BJP, have won a landslide victory in the 2019 general elections. The BJP itself has scored 303 seats in the Lok Sabha. This election will not only see a smaller opposition, but is also result in many new candidates in the Lok Sabha. The Prime Minister, who will be sworn in on 30 May, has also stated in his post-election speech that he vows to tackle some of the more systemic problems within the country, such as caste discrimination and economic inequality, making them the more major highlights of the next five years of BJP governance.

ISRO launches RISAT-2B Satellite

ISRO, India’s Space Research Agency, launched a new ‘spy satellite’, capable of providing visuals even under the most adverse weather conditions at 5:30 AM on Wednesday. The launch of this satellite also sees the new indigenously produced Vikram Processor as part of the machinery on board the satellite. This satellite is said to provide the capabilities to detect hostile encampments, monitor agricultural patterns, forest research and possible natural disaster zones in India. This satellite is an indigenous upgrade of the previous RISAT series of satellites, which were acquired from Israel.

National People’s Party MLA and six others killed in militant attack

Militants suspected to be affiliated with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCM), an insurgent group, gunned down Tirong Aboh, a sitting MLA from the Khonsa West constituency of Arunachal Pradesh and six others, including two security personnel. All seven of the victims died on the spot of the firing, which took place around 11:30 AM. This attack has drawn sharp criticism from the President of the NPP and the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad K Sangma. The Union Minister Kiren Rijiju has also urged strong action against the suspects of this attack.

Injustice done to former CJI staffer, states retired Supreme Court judge

Justice Madan B. Lonkar, a former Supreme Court Judge, has spoken out against the handling of the sexual harassment case of the former staff member of the CJI, Ranjan Gogoi. Citing problems in the mandate of the in-house inquiry committee, along with the initial handling of the charges, which saw the CJI himself handle the matter, the retired judge has stated that these are a few examples of institutional bias which crept in during the course of the investigation. The judge has also stated that the woman who brought the charges against the CJI must be given a copy of the in-house committee’s report, which found no substance in the allegations.


Ibu backs Afeef for Speaker

In what could possibly a top-rung showdown in the ruling MDP with 65 of 87 MPs in the new Parliament, being sworn in 28 May, President Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Solih seems to be singing a different tune viz party boss and a predecessor in Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed. At a party meeting weeks after Nasheed (unilaterally?) declared Mohammed Aslam for Majlis’ Speaker, Ibu publicly praised another veteran Hassan Afeef, Interior Minister in the second Nasheed Government (2010-12), but tempered it saying that both aspirants belonged to the MDP and he as President would not and should not endorse anyone. The Opposition PPM-PNC combine with nine MPs, anticipating internal strife within the MDP rival, has publicly backed Afeef, should there be an vote. There are also other MDP aspirants for the post, including Rozaina Adam, and the parliamentary party will vote on the Speaker nominee at their meeting on 27 May, a day before the official vote in Parliament, which would follow the swearing in of the new Majlis members.

Chagos’ vote defended

At the UN General Assembly, Maldives’ relatively new government of President Ibrahim Solih voted with the ‘minority group’ comprising the US, the UK, Australia, Hungary and the US on the ‘non-binding opinion’ of the International Court of Justice for Britain handing over the Chagos Islands to Mauritius as the rightful owner. The US is operating a military base on the Chagos island of Diego Garcia, and Maldives argued that the change of ownership of the island-group could affect its current UNCLOS claims to larger EEZ. As many as 116 countries voted in support of the ICJ finding and 56 others abstained despite pressure from the US and the UK.


MoU with Philippines on aviation

Myanmar and the Philippines have signed an air services agreement, aimed at enhancing cooperation in the aviation sector. The signing took place following the third meeting of Myanmar-Philippines Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation in Myanmar's capital Nay Pyi Taw on 22 May. The joint commission meeting discussed a wide range of issues covering promotion of bilateral relations and people-to-people contact, and cooperation in various sectors including operation of direct air link as well as fight against illicit trafficking and abuse of drugs.

Need for fair election

Myanmar President U Win Myint has urged proper preparation for the holding of a free and fair general election in 2020. Meeting with the Union Election Commission (UEC), led by its Chairman U Hla Thein, in the capital of Nay Pyi Taw on 21 May the president called for preparation of voters list, formation of all levels of election sub-commissions systematically, proper assignment of election officials, full security of the stations and demarcation of constituencies as well as ensuring that constituents have full voting rights. He also instructed to prevent election crimes and irregularities.


High altitude rail to China

Nepal and China have remained determined to progress with the trans-border railway, which supposedly would pass through high altitudes. However, the geographically difficult terrain has come in way of its smooth operation. Nonetheless, Chinese ambassador To Nepal, Hou Yanqi, was recently heard discussion the matter with the introduction of higher technology and scientifically advanced processes which would set the dream in a congenial setting for fulfilment.

Oli congratulates Modi

As Narendra Modi and the NDA emerged victorious in the 2019 General Elections of India, PM K.P Sharma Oli was found ‘tweeting’ a congratulatory message for him. Given the present geopolitical circumstances prevailing in South Asia, with the overarching presence of China, whether a new dynamics will emerge between the two neighbours, would be noteworthy.


PM congratulates Modi

Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide electoral victory in India, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted his congratulations to Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies for winning the general elections for the second time. He added that he looked forward to working with PM Modi towards “peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia”. The Indian Prime Minister thanked him for his good wishes and reciprocated with the words that he has always given “primacy to peace and development in the region”.

Cautions against constitutional change on J&K

The Pakistani Foreign Office has warned India against changing the constitutional status of “occupied Kashmir”. It stated that “Pakistan opposes any move which violates the United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute”. It further held that until a UN administered plebiscite is held in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions any change cannot be made and hence cautioned India from using high-handed tactics to suppress the “freedom movement” that is sweeping the province.

Sri Lanka

BBS boss freed

President Maithripala Sirisena, who refused to pardon anti-Muslim ‘Buddhist nationalist’ leader and controversial Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) boss Gnanasara Thero, coinciding with the annual religious festival, Vesak, has since ordered freedom for the monk, only days later. Out of prison, the Thero, whose organisation was identified with the anti-Muslim riots in 2013, has promised to ‘release’ the names of more persons associated with the National Towheed Jamaath, identified with the Easter Day serial-blasts that claimed over 250 lives in three churches and as many luxury hotels in the country.

Rishad faces no-trust move

In the light of the Easter serial-blasts, the Opposition SLPP-JP, identified with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has moved a no-trust motion against Tamil-Muslim party leader and the all-important Industry and Commerce Minister, Rishad Bathiudeen, for alleged links of his aides to the blats’ perpetrators. The Opposition however boycotted the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) set up by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, saying that it was an attempt to delay action against the controversial minister, and dilute the cause, to facilitate his continuance. Rishad reportedly threatened to withdraw the support of his five-MP ‘All-Ceylon Makkal Congress’, if either President Maithripala Sirisena or Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe demanded his exit from the ministry.



Opinion Pieces

Hujjatullah Zia, “‘Republicanism’ and ‘Fundamental Rights’ Non-Negotiable”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 22 May 2019

Fahim Abed and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Lawmakers Scuffle Over Disputed Speaker’s Role in Afghan Parliament”, The New York Times, 19 May 2019


Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Afghan Political Parties: At the Crossroad of Going Forward or Backward”, 23 May 2019

Afghanistan Times, “Fears to press freedom”, 22 May 2019


Opinion Pieces

Imtiaz A Hussain, “Galloping Bangladesh: Emperor with no clothes?”,The Daily Star, 18 May 2019

NahelaNowshin, “Development for whom?”,The Daily Star, 24 May 2019

Mostafiz Uddin, “Diplomacy in the apparel world”, The Daily Star, 23 May2019

Aziz Ahmed, “Increased interoperability of land forces with allies and partners: A Bangladesh perspective”, The   Daily Star, 23 May 2019



Kuensel, “The bold boulder business”, 18 May 2019


Opinion Pieces

Neeraj Mishra, “Rahul Gandhi's Big Failure Was to Not Promote Fresh Faces in the Congress”, The Wire, 23 May 2019

M S Santhanam, “Election Manifestos Have Pushed Matters of Scientific Research and Policy to Margins”, The Indian Express, 23 May 2019

Gautam Bhatia, “Should India Limit The Terms Of Elected Leaders For The Sake Of Better Governance?”, Outlook India, 8 May 2019


Opinion Pieces

Wei Yan Aung, “On This DayThe Day Mandalay Was Born”, The Irrawaddy, 24 May 2019

Thomson Reuters Foundation, “Warnings Over New Law to Protect Workers in Thai Fishing Industry”, The Irrawaddy, 24 May 2019


The Irrawaddy, “Sri Lankan with Suspected Easter Bombing Ties Arrested in Yangon”, 23 May 2019


Opinion Pieces

Mohan Nepali, “Free the press”, Republica, 23 May 2019

Narayan Prasad Wagle, “No more bad management”, The Kathmandu Post, 20 May 2019

Dharma Adhikari, “Whose Media Council?”, Republica, 22 May 2019


The Kathmandu Post, “The government needs to allocate more funding towards the education sector”, 23 May 2019

The Himalayan Times, “Listen to lawmakers”, 16 May 2019

The Kathmandu Post, “The shadow government needs to know its purpose to be effective”, 22 May 2019


Opinion Pieces

Asha’ar Rehman, “Partying together”, Dawn, 24 May 2019

Asif Durrani, “How we eroded rule of law?”, The Express Tribune, 24 May 2019


Dawn, “After Modi’s win”, 24 May 2019

The Express Tribune, “On the sidelines”, 24 May 2019

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Together, we go!”, Ceylon Today, 21 May 2019

Jehan Perera, “A rational approach to countering extremist violence is needed”, The Island, 21 May 2019

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Between a ‘secured’ State and a ‘Security State’”, Colombo Gazette, 20 May 2019


Daily Mirror Online, “Modi’s landslide and lessons for Sri Lanka”, 26 May 2019

Daily Mirror Online,Voices of dissent against Rishad...”, 24 May 2019


Nirmala Kannangara, “No Agreement for Permanent US Base in SL - US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 May 2019


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Sohini Bose

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Ameya Kelkar

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee

Nepal: Sohini Nayak

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