MonitorsPublished on Mar 21, 2016
South Asia Weekly | Volume IX; Issue 12

Nepal: Prime Minister Oli off to China

Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury 

Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli on Sunday left for his week-long official visit to China. He is accompanied by a 50-member delegation. He has gone to Beijing at at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.

At least six memorandums of understanding (MoUs) are likely to be signed with China during Oli’s visit to the northern neighbour. According to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa, MoUs related to trade, transit and investment will be signed during the visit. Thapa said, “We will seek Chinese assistance in various infrastructure-related projects during the meeting with the Chinese leadership in Beijing”.

In addition, transit and transportation MOUs on importing fuel from China and agreements on bilateral trademark registration and protection, free trade and opening of a branch of a Chinese bank and Nepal’s new consulate general office in Chengdu of Sichuan Province are also expected to be signed during PM Oli’s visit.

Return via Tibet

While in Beijing, PM Oli will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li and Vice-President Li Yenchon on March 21. After his official visit to Beijing, he will leave for Hainan Province of China on  March 22 to participate in the annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia. He will also address the gathering.

Meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other senior Chinese government officials and party leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) are on the card. OLi will return home via Tibet on  March 24. On the other hand, the Foreign Ministry has officially announced the visit of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa to China. In Beijing, Thapa will meet his Chinese counterpart Yang Yi and senior Chinese political leaders and officials.

Trade & transit

Nepal is finalising the documents to sign a trade and transit treaty with China, similar to the one that exists with India. According to media reports, a proposal has already been forwarded to China for approval. If China agrees, Nepal will have access to Chinese sea ports for export and import to a third country, especially to import petroleum products through government to government (G2G) and business to business (B2B) deals to pave the way for private players to import fuel from the northern neighbour.

The nearest Chinese port from Nepal is Shanghai. If the two neighbours sign the pact, Nepal’s dependency on India for trade with the rest of the world will decline. Nepal is keen to improve its connectivity with China and the idea behind the trade and transit pact is to diversify Nepal’s trade. Nepal will also seek Free Trade Agreement with China during Thapa’s visit.

Top priority will be attached to duty free access for Nepali exports to China. Presently, China has granted duty-free access to 8,800 Nepali items, but many of them are not exportable to the north. Nepal seeks concessional treatment for exportable items, rather than the big numbers. On connectivity, Nepal’s priority is to open at least four border points namely- Kerung, Tatopani, Korala and Kimathanka. Though these four passes have an immediate prospect of opening for border trade there are other five points which will be considered gradually.

During the prime minister’s visit, Nepal and China will sign an agreement for Rs. 13 billon pledged by the Chinese President during the Boao Forum in his meeting with former President Ram Baran Yadav. A big chunk of the aid will be spent on widening the Kodari Highway that connects Kathmandu with the Chinese border.

Quake disruption

Following the April earthquake, Nepal’s trade with China via Tatopani in Sindhupalchok has been disrupted. As an alternative, the Rasuwagadhi border point with China has been opened but the road is difficult for big cargo vehicles to pass. It is to be noted here that Nepal accessed 1.3 million litre fuel granted by China via Kerung after India imposed an unofficial border blockade citing unrest in the Tarai.

The Nepali side is also planning to seek Chinese assistance for the construction of at least three petroleum depots in Pachkhal (Kavre), Battar (Nuwakot) and Khairani (Tanahun). Other items on the agenda include seeking Chinese grant and soft loan for developing reservoir-type Budhi Gandaki (12,00 MW), Kimathanka-Arun (400 MW) and Sunkoshi Third (585 MW) hydropower projects. Similarly, expediting loan agreement for construction of regional airport in Pokhara, opening up more trade routes, establishing one Nepali cultural centre in Beijing), up-gradation, expansion of Kodari Highway and Kathmandu-Kerung highway, construction of a bridge over the Simikot-Hilsa road section that will connect Humla district to Tibet, feasibility study of Kathmandu-Pokhara rail service and studying feasibility of mono rail in Kathmandu are also high on the agenda.

Updates for India

While the country has been charged up with Prime Minister Oli’s forthcoming China visit, Indian and Nepali leaders and officials have met to hold more talks on the sidelines of the 37th Ministerial Meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held at Pokhara on March 17. Nepal’s Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay said that a significant bilateral meeting has been scheduled between Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, India and Oli in view of the latter’s visit to Beijing.

“The visit to China is the second foreign trip of Prime Minister Oli and we expect the trip to be historic in nature, and that is why Mr. Oli will give a preview of the trip during his discussions with Ms. Swaraj”, Upadhyay said. Officials say China is keen to maintain a balanced relationship between her two giant neighbours in her present situation of political transition. One can cite Prime Minister Oli’s statement in this context. Oli during his six-day state visit to India made a strong pitch in New Delhi for a results-oriented partnership with both India and China, Nepal’s immediate neighbours.

The prime minister also said that Nepal had no intention of playing the India or China card. “We at times hear from certain quarters that Nepal uses that or this ‘card’ vis-à-vis its relations with neighbours. Such perceptions have no basis. There is no question of aligning with one or the other. We can’t do it and for us it is not a viable policy option either,” Oli said.

“As a neighbour, we have and will continue to have good relations with both based on their own merits and one is not comparable to the other. What we see rather is India and China coming together--be it in ever expanding bilateral trade or in multilateral negotiations on critical global issues like climate change,” he said.

Briefing the parliamentary International Relations and Labour Committee on his trip to China, PM Oli reiterated the same commitment to maintaining balanced relations with both of Nepal’s immediate neighbours-India and China, with focus on the country’s socio-economic development.

Before embarking on a week-long official visit of China, Oli has confirmed that he would make efforts to seek the landlocked country’s access to the sea through “all available routes”. In India, the Prime Minister signed an agreement for using the Visakhapatnam port for Nepal’s international trade.

(The writer is a Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata).

Myanmar: Suu Kyi chooses U Htin Kyaw for nation’s President

Mihir Bhonsale

NLD nominee U Htin Kyaw has become Myanmar’s first civilian President since 1962. The combined houses of the parliament elected U Htin Kyaw as the President of the Union of Myanmar on March 15. He is likely to take charge of the responsibility on April 30. Htin Kyaw was nominated by the NLD in the lower house on March 10.

Henry Von Thio, who was also nominated by the party in the lower house, has gone on to bag one of the two vice-presidents. The military bloc in the parliament selected and forwarded the name of the Rangoon chief minister, U Myint Swe, who became the second vice-president.

In fact, U Htin Kyaw’s election had remained a mere formality after the trust National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi showed in him, by picking him as her party’s nominee for the country’s presidentship. The election has ended the long wait over the ruling party’s presidential nominee after the NLD won the November 8 general elections, cornering more than 80 percent of the seats in the parliament.

Trusted aide

NLD supremo Suu Kyi chose trust as the defining characteristic for her party’s presidential nominee. She told her party MPs that Htin Kyaw was picked by her for his loyalty, his discipline and his educational background, which would benefit him as the leader of the country.

Htin Kyaw, a friend and long-time collaborator of the democracy icon, stood beside her during the testing times, especially when Suu Kyi was under the house arrest. He even did not mind driving Suu Kyi around. Htin Kyaw had resigned from the government service to join the NLD and was arrested for four months in 2000 for assisting Suu Kyi to travel outside Yangon.

Htin Kyaw was educated in Myanmar and the UK. He studied economics, statistics and computer science. He also has a degree in management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. He writes under the pen name Dala Ban, a Mon warrior and has a biographical book on his father to his credit.

He became the executive committee member of Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, run by Aung San Suu Kyi. Htin Kyaw comes from a family of NLD loyalists. His father, Min Thu Wun, a well-known writer, poet and scholar, had won the MP seat in the 1990 elections. Htin Kyaw is married to Su Su Lwin, a lower house NLD Member of Parliament.

Suu Kyi’s role  

After her party’s resounding win in October last year, Suu Kyi had indicated that she would assign a role for herself that is “above the president”. Speculation was rife about Suu Kyi pushing for the suspension of Article 59(f) of the Constitution that debars her from becoming President and thus make way for her to occupy the nation’s highest elected office.

The election of Htin Kyaw now has thus pushed aside all the speculations. Instead, his election may have affirmed Suu Kyi’s well-known statement of her standing “above the president”.

Whether Suu Kyi would join the government or keep managing the country’s affairs by continuing to be the party’s chair remains to be seen. The world will know what role Suu Kyi would assume for herself will be known only after Htin Kyaw assumes the presidency.

Observers say Suu Kyi might be eyeing the foreign ministry portfolio, by means of which she could formally represent Myanmar on international forums. By taking up this portfolio, she would be part of the high-power defence and security committee that has six seats reserved out of the total of eleven members.

However, becoming a member of the cabinet will require her to relinquish her post as the party supremo, a risky proposition that she is likely to forego. It can be said that whatever role she assumes, the highly centralised power structure in the country is split into two, to accommodate Suu Kyi.

Than Shwe’s influence

The nomination of U Myint Shwe as the vice-president by the military has once again indicated the continuing influence of senior general Than Shwe. He was the Chairman of the erstwhile State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) that was dissolved in 2007. Myint Shwe is said to be close to him.

Myint Shwe was the former head of special operations in Yangon  and is remembered  for his infamous role in the crackdown on democracy protestors in 2007, better known as the ‘Saffron Revolution’.

Suu Kyi, after her victory in the 8 November elections last year, had met Than Shwe and discussed transfer of power. The SPDC chairman had praised Suu Kyi’s abilities and had promised his cooperation. Suu Kyi’s meeting with Than Shwe and the bringing back of Myint Shwe, who was on the verge of being phased out from the corridors of power, has fuelled speculations on an understanding between Suu Kyi and the senior general.

Than Shwe’s successor in the military, Min Aung Hlaing, has got himself a second term and he would steer the parliament through his nominees on key issues like the constitutional amendments and peace process. Suu Kyi would hope to have a constant dialogue with the military.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata)

Country Reports


Hezb-e-Islami for talks

In a statement released on 13 March, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami, said he and his group would join peace talks with the Afghan government “to show Afghans we want peace”. Hekmatyar, designated a “global terrorist” by the U.S. Department of State and blacklisted by the UN, and Hezb-e-Islami have aligned with the Taliban in the past and have previously attacked government targets.

For more information, see: Veteran Afghan insurgent leader says he will join peace talks”, The Washington Post, 13 March 2016

Fifth district falls to Taliban

On 15 March, Khan Neshin became the fifth district in the embattled Helmand province to fall under the control of the Taliban. A firefight between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces personnel broke out on 14 March night and continued into 15 March. The fall of Khan Neshin comes in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Musa Qala and Now Zad districts on 21 February.

For more information, see: Taliban fighters seize Afghan territory as NATO chief visits Kabul”, The Washington Post, 15 March 2016

US men to be punished

More than a dozen U.S. military personnel face punishment for their role in the bombing of a’ Doctors Without Borders’ hospital in Kunduz that killed 42 people last year. The punishments, which have not been publicly announced, are administrative -- not criminal -- with a few being severe enough to end chances of promotion.

For more information, see: More than 12 punished for mistaken hospital attack in Afghanistan”, Associated Press, 17 March 2016

ISIS on the run: Ghani

During NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Kabul, Afghan President Ahsraf Ghani chose to highlight the successes of the country’s campaign against the Islamic State (IS), and downplayed the continued struggles against the Taliban. Ghani said, “Daesh (IS) is on the run. They are running for cover.”

For more information, see: Asked about Taliban, Afghan leader touts success against Islamic State”, Reuters, 15 March 2016


Bank governor quits

Governor of Bangladesh Bank, the country’s central bank,  resigned after he faced criticism for mishandling of the incident of cyber theft that led to siphoning of $101 million from the bank’s reserve. The incident of cyber theft has   rattled authorities across the globe the threat posed by hackers.

For more information see: “BB governor quits over cyber heist”, The Daily Star, 17 March 2016; It was like a militant attack, an earthquake: Says a dejected Atiur about the heist, aftermath”, The Daily Star, 17 March 2016; “Committee to analyse why BB authorities hid the cyber-heist”,  Dhaka Tribune, 16 March 2016; “‘RCBC allowed fund withdrawal despite stop order’”, Dhaka Tribune, 16 March 2016, “Cyber heist irks PM”, The Daily Star, 15 March,  “Bangladesh Central Bank Chief Quits Over $101 Million Heist”,, 15 March 2016

Foreign firm for airport security

In a bid to upgrade security at the Hazrat Shahjajal International Airport in Dhaka to international levels, the government has decided to appoint a foreign security firm. This measure was taken to meet the conditions outlined by the UK. Earlier this month, British government put a ban on direct air cargo shipment from Dhaka   expressing concern over security.

For more information see: “Foreign security firm to inch into Dhaka airport”, Dhaka Tribune, 15 March 2016

Direct container vessel to India

Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan inaugurated the container vessel service between Bangladesh and India under the Coastal Shipping Agreement. Khan observed that the bilateral coastal shipping service would boost trade between the two neighbouring countries by reducing freight time and cost.

For more information see: “Bangladesh-India direct container vessel service inaugurated”, Dhaka Tribune, 16 March 2016

Diesel as ‘goodwill gesture’

As a goodwill gesture India has started supplying diesel to Bangladesh. The first train carrying 2200 tonnes of gasoil was flagged off in from Siliguri on Thursday. The move is a significant step in strengthening energy cooperation between India and Bangladesh.

For more information see: “Indian gasoil for Bangladesh as ‘goodwill gesture’”,, 17 March 2016


Japan to fund projects

The Exchange of Notes for the USD 8.5 million Japanese grant aid project for improvement of machinery and equipment for construction of rural agricultural roads (Phase III) was signed in New Delhi on March 15. Ambassador V Namgyel of Bhutan to Japan, and Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu of Japan to Bhutan signed the Exchange of Notes.

For more information see: “Japan to fund four projects worth USD 8.7M”, Kuensel, 16 March

84th happiest country

Bhutan may be known as the happiest country in the world, but according to a UN happiness report, it is ranked 84 out of 157 countries around the world. Overall, Bhutan scored 5.196 in the “happy index”. The happiest country in the world, Denmark scored 7.526 points. The report was released March 16 in Rome by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations.

For more information see: “Bhutan 84th happiest country in the world”, Kuensel, 17 March 2016

Hydro-met services

The Department of Hydro Met will set up flood warning and weather stations along the Wangchhu Basin. The Paro international airport and the capital city with its numerous historic monuments fall in the Wangchhu basin. The department has so far installed such stations in Punatsangchhu and Mangdechhu basins considering that the rivers flow from most of the 25 potentially dangerous glacier lakes in the country.

For more information see: “Hydro Met going the next mile”, Kuensel, 16 March 2016


Jailed students back at JNU     

JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya — who were in judicial custody for more than three weeks after their arrest on sedition charges in connection with a controversial event organised on the university campus on February 9 — were granted interim bail for six months by a sessions court on Friday.

For more information see: Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya back at JNUThe Hindu, 19 March, 2016

Deepa to take on Mamata

The Congress has fielded former Union Minister Deepa Dasmunsi against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from Bhawanipore Assembly segment in the State. The development assumes significance as the State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had said that Congress leader Omprakash Mishra would be contesting election from the same constituency.

For more information see: “Deepa to take on Mamata in Bengal Assembly polls”, The Hindu, 19 March 2016

Small savings, PPF rate cut

The government slashed interest rates on small-savings schemes, including the Public Provident Fund and Kisan Vikas Patra. The decision is aimed at aligning these administered interest rates closer to the market rates. The new rates will come into effect on April 1 and will be valid till June 30.

For more information see: “Small savings rates slashed, PPF rate cut to 8.1% from 8.7%”, The Hindu, 19 March 2016

‘Operational readiness, must’

The 'Make in India' vision is a priority for defence procurement but "operational readiness" is the military's primary task as "we don't want people to look at us with big eyes", Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said. "We need adequate equipment and that cannot change”

For more information see: “Make in India a priority but operational readiness must for military: Parrikar”, IBNLive, 19 March 2016


Yameen for reforms, but...

President Abdulla Yameen has reiterated his earlier plans for legal reforms in the country, as sought by the political Opposition, but declined once again, their demand for pre-negotiations release of all ‘political prisoners’, starting with jailed former President Mohammed Nasheed, convicted on ‘terrorism charge’.

For more information, see: “Maldives pres again reject politicians' release, hints at wider legal reforms”, Haveeru Online, 14 March 2016; “Maldives vows more pressure on opposition for talks”, Haveeru Online, 14 March 2016; “Maldives opposition again snubs govt invite for Nasheed talks”, Haveeru Online, 14 March 2016

HC upholds Nazim’s term

The Male Bench of the Maldives High Court has confirmed the trial court’s conviction of former Defence Minister, Col Mohamed Nazim (retd), and also the 11-year jail term under anti-terror law, for possessing an illegal weapon and on charges of targeting President Abdulla Yameen and other senior government functionaries. In a separate development, another jailed ex-Defence Minister Tholath Ibrahim told another Bench of the court that the nation’s armed forces arrested Criminal Court Chief Judge, Abdulla Mohamad under the direct and specific orders of then President, Mohammed Nasheed (now on ‘medical leave’ from 13-year imprisonment in the case).

For more information, see: “Maldives court upholds ex-minister's jailing”, Haveeru Online, 15 March 2016; “Appeals court upholds ex defence minister’s arms smuggling conviction”, Haveeru Online, 16 March 2016; “Maldives ex-defence minister pins judge arrest on Nasheed”, Haveeru Online, 16 March 2016; “Adheeb and some MNDF officers charged in the Presidential Launch case”, SunOnline, 14 March 2016; “Deposed VP engineered $5 mln embezzlement, Maldives prosecutors tell court”, Haveeru Online, 14 March 2016

Anti-IS pact with India

Going beyond intelligence-sharing, Maldives has decided to sign a pact with the Indian neighbour to fight ‘Islamic State’ (IS) terrorism, during Foreign Secretary Ali Naseer Mohammed’s meeting with counterpart S Jaishankar in New Delhi.

For more information, see: “India, Maldives to finalise pact to fight Islamic State”, The Hindu, 15 March 2016; “Maldives parliament adopts secret terror groups bill”, Haveeru Online, 16 March 2016; “Saudi Arabia to fund housing for Maldives soldiers”, Haveeru Online, 14 March 2016


President-elect trims govt

In his first move as president-elect, U Htin Kyaw has proposed a government shake-up that will slash the number of ministries while reducing the ministerial headcount by more than 75 percent. The plan is to be debated in parliament on March 18.

For more information see: “NLD reduces government ministries”, Myanmar Times, 18 March 2016; “President-elect proposes cuts to number of ministries”, DVB, 17 March 2016; “‘Ethnic Affairs’ Portfolio Created, MOI Survives in NLD’s Ministry Pruning”, The Irrawaddy, 18 March 2016

Ethnic groups welcome

Both signatories and non-signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) have welcomed the country’s new president and vice-president elect. The United Nationalities Federal Council, a groups of 9 non-signatory groups that abstained from signing the NCA called the election as a harbinger of positive developments to come.

For more information see: “NCA Signatories, Abstainers Welcome New Leadership”, The Irrawaddy, 17 March 2016

China to push construction

China signaled on March 17 that it would push with the new government the construction of the Myitsone dam. The outgoing president, Thein Sein had suspended the construction of the $3.6 billion dam project by China.

For more information see: “China to Push Burma’s New Government on Stalled Myitsone Dam”, The Irrawaddy, 18 March 2016; “China to push for restart of Myitsone dam”, DVB, 18 March 2016


Madhesis “force” Oli to China

In a bid to seek China’s support for ongoing struggle of Madhes, the leaders affiliated to agitating Madhesi Morcha and other Madhes-based parties’ alliances have decided to meet Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Wu Chintai at Hotel Sangrila on March 18. The Madhes-based alliance was scheduled to meet Ambassador Chintai on March 17 to submit a memorandum requesting the northern neighbour to support the agendas of the agitating Madhesi and Janajati communities.

For more information, see:Morcha leaders to submit memo to Chinese Ambassador on FridayThe Kathmandu Post.  17 March 2016

SAARC meeting

The 37th foreign ministerial meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries concluded in Pokhara on March 17 with the declaration to convene the 19th Summit in Pakistan on November 9-10. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli inaugurated the March 17 meeting, the last of the four-day-long foreign ministerial meetings of SAARC members. A one day secretary-level meeting was held on March 16, and two-day joint-secretary level meetings on March 14 and March 15.

For more information, see: ”SAARC foreign ministerial meeting concludesRepublica. 17 March 2016; “Next Summit date confirmed”, The Kathmandu Post, 17 March 2016

International trade fair

The fifth edition of the Nepal International Trade Fair got underway at Bhrikuti Mandap on March 17 with President Bidhya Devi Bhandari inaugurating the mega event which hosts 340 stalls and exhibitors from Nepal, China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Speaking at the ceremony, Bhandari said that organizing international trade fairs in Nepal would be key factor in the economic integration of the South Asian region.

For more information, see: Nepal Int’l Trade Fair 2016 beginsThe Kathmandu Post, 18 March 2016; “Nepal International Trade Fair kicks off”, The Himalayan Times, 17 March 2016


SC lifts travel ban on Musharraf

The Pakistani Supreme Court on 16 March ordered the government to lift the travel ban on former president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf, currently awaiting trial on charges of treason and other crimes, is now free to leave the country after returning from self-imposed exile in 2013. Musharraf remains free on bail in connection to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and the 2006 death of a prominent cleric, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Musharraf was acquitted in Bugti’s murder case in January 2016. Musharraf, 70 years old, is in ill health and will travel abroad for medical care.

For more information, see: Pakistani court lifts travel ban on former military ruler Musharraf”, Reuters, 16 March 2016

Iran President coming

Pakistan is preparing for a visit from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the end of March, according to a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune on 17 March. According to the report, Pakisan’s Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan ordered the drafting of a comprehensive plan to expand trade ties between the two countries. The planning comes amidst concern over smuggling sparked by discrepancies between Iranian and Pakistani data on the extent of trade – Pakistan registered that it had exported only 16.5% of what Iran recorded as imports from Pakistan.

For more information, see: Pakistan prepares for Rouhani’s visit as illicit trade continues”,  The Express Tribune, 17 March 2016

ISIS commander killed

On 17 March, Pakistani police announced that they had killed an alleged commander of the Islamic State, Kamran Gujjar, in Karachi. The police stated that they were conducting a search party when they came under fire. Gujjar had previously been wanted for working with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and according to police confessed to his role in a number of killings.

For more information, see: Daesh commander killed in Karachi encounter”, Dawn, 17 March 2016

Bus bomb kills 15

On 16 March, a bomb exploded in a bus carrying government employees in Peshawar just after 8:00am local time. 15 people were killed and 53 others were injured when an improvised explosive device planted in a piece of luggage that was left behind detonated when the bus was traveling in Saddar, the city center and a busy area of Peshawar. According to Abbas Majid Marwat, a senior police official, the bus was transporting the employees from the town of Mardan to Peshawar, both in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

 For more information, see: Pakistan: Bus bomb explosion kills 15 in Peshawar”, BBC News, 16 March 2016

Sri Lanka 

Rajapaksa had no say: Fonseka

Seemingly contradicting his parliamentary speech earlier, Regional Development Minister and war-time army commander, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has said that then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the latter’s brother and Defence Secretary did not hae any say in the conduct of field operations. At a Colombo news conference, he also reverted to his original assertion against ‘war crimes’ and ‘mass killings’, but indicated that the Rajapaksas had to be investigated for corruption and nepotism, even in high-value defence deals.

For more information, see: “Fonseka: Rajapaksas had no say in making battlefield decisions”, The Island, 17 March 2016; SF certain Pottu Amman dead”, The Island, 18 March 2016; “Release person imprisoned over my suicide attack: SF”, The Island, 17 March 2016; “SF in favour of int’l probe”, Daily Mirror Online, 12 March 2016; “Presidential alert on mysterious Cabinet Paper on Ottawa Treaty”, Ceylon Today, 13 March 2016; “Chandrika lauds eradication of terrorism, but condemns failure to promote reconciliation”, The Island, 15 March 2016; “President rules out foreign judges in war crimes probe”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 March 2016; “UNHRC work in SL help addressing rights issues: Moon”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2016; “GSP+: EU advises SL to be patient”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2016; “EU calls for improvement in good governance if Sri Lanka wants GSP Plus facility...*Post war reconciliation, rehabilitation would also count – Neven Mimica”, The Island, 15 March 2016

Rajapaksa dares to hand over power

In the midst of frequent nation-wide power shut-down, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking at ‘joint Opposition’ rally, focussed as much on the nation’s economy as on war-victory, and challenged his successor-government leaders to “give it to me”, if they “cannot run the country”. He also said that the Rajapaksas would continue to be in power even if they were sent to prison, one after the other.

For more information, see: “If you can’t run the country, give it to me: MR”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 March 2016; “MR: I won’t give up politics even if my entire family is thrown behind bars”, The Island, 17 March 2016; “Debt trap not from loans obtained by my Govt: MR”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 March 2016; “Govt. should not to use current power crisis to sell off electricity infrastructure – Ex-President”, The Island, 17 March 2016; “Govt. looking at privatising non-strategic investments to cut debt”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 March 2016; “Govt. regrets having granted huge public sector salary hike”, The Island, 17 March 2016; “SL seeks USD1.5 bn stand-by arrangement from IMF”, The Island, 17 March 2016; “Power outage triggers alarm amidst govt. moves to attract investment...Singapore forum not affected – Dr. Harsha de Silva”, The Island, March 15, 2016;  “Govt. opts for nearly eight-hour power cuts to manage mega crisis”, The Island, 15 March 2016; “UNP: Jt. Opp. involved in blackouts”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 March 2016; “Engineer’s warnings ignored: Power Crisis”, The Island, 17 March 2016; “Army to protect CEB facilities; Engineers rule out sabotage...Longest power outage in 20 years”, The Island, 14 March 2016; “Chinese Co. confident of completing Port City on time”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2016; “Port City resuming under amended terms: Ravi K.”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 March 2016; “Weerawansa fires broadside at India”, The Island, 16 March 2016; “Yoshitha granted bail”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 March 2016

Primary Documentation


Press Release

37th Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers on 14 -17 March 2016, Pokhara, Nepal, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 March 2016



Opinion pieces

Laura Bush, “How Afghanistan’s women are helping the country move forward”, The Washington Post, 7 March 2016

Fahd Humayun, “Winter of Discontent”, The News, 9 March 2016

Aimal Faizi, “Afghanistan: Stop calling for more wars”, Al Jazeera, 16 March 2016


Opinion Pieces

Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz, “Right to Information: Impact of High Court ruling”, The Daily Star, 15 March 2016

Alexandra Stark, “To Counter ISIS, Bangladesh Needs to Solve Its Home grown Violence”, The Diplomat, 16 March 2016



Kuensel, “Are we really doing that well?”, Kuensel, 15 March 2016

Opinion Pieces

Kenji Hiramatsu, “We will never forget the grateful assistance rendered to us by BhutanKuensel, 11 March 2016


Opinion Pieces

T N Ninan, “Is the worst over for banks?”, Business Standard, 19 March 2016

Shekhar Gupta, “State-sponsored anarchy”, Business Standard, 19 March 2016

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “Globalisation in question”, Indian Express, 19 March 2016


Opinion Pieces

Latheef Ahmed Veeral, “One bad apple”, Maldives Independent, 15 March 2016 

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Supreme Court concludes hearing in Nasheed appeal”,, 14 March 2016


Opinion Pieces

Yun Sun, “Myitsone: The Incoming NLD Govt’s First Big Test”, The Irrawaddy, 11 March 2016

Fiona Macgregor, “NLD must act: Yanghee Lee identifies urgent needs of Myanmar’s women”, Myanmar Times, 18 March 2016



Republica “Forest fires in Nepal”, Republica.  18 March 2016

Opinion Pieces

Madhu Raman Acharya, “China matters “,Republica. 18 March 2016

Navin Singh Khadka “Watered down”, The Kathmandu Post.  18 March 2016


Opinion Pieces

Rafia Zakaria, “Between intent and reality”, Dawn, 16 March 2016

Mohammad Ali Babakhel, “Why repeatedly Charsadda?”, The Express Tribune, 17 March 2016

Muhammad Anwar, “Women’s rights in ‘Naya Pakistan’”, The Express Tribune, 17 March 2016

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Ameen Izzadeen, “Get on with the job, forget Rajapaksa’s deep State”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 March 2016

Malinda Seneviratne, “Scuttling reconciliation from within”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 March 2016

Kelum Bandara, “Blackouts could have been avoided”, Daily Mirror Online, 17 March 2016

Kamanthi Wickremesinghe, “The devil behind the darkness?”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2016

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “The Washington model and the China card”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 March 2016

Rohan Wasala, “Sarath Fonseka’s performance and American precedents”, The Island, 16 March 2016

Jehan Perera, Sarath Fonseka’s performance and American precedents”, The Island, 15 March 2016

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Armed forces for policing work, again?”, The Sunday Leader, 13 March 2016



Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Shubh Soni & Pushan Das

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Nepal: Dr Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury & Sreeparna Banerjee

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