MonitorsPublished on Apr 25, 2016
South Asia Weekly | Volume IX; Issue 17

< style="color: #0a83cf">ANALYSIS

Bhutan: Challenges to sub-regional connectivity

By Mihir Bhonsale

Bhutan’s National Assembly, which reconvenes on May 26, is set for a stormy session. During the session, it will take up for ratification the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA), which was originally signed by the Tshering Tobgay government in June last year. However, the government failed to get it ratified by the Assembly as it was voted down in the winter session of the parliament last November.

Never before in the history of Bhutan has an international agreement, after being signed by the government, had been voted down until endorsement of the BBIN MVA became unavailable in November 2015.

The incumbent government has been caught unawares in dealing with this very sensitive issue of an international agreement aimed at opening up the movement of goods and people.

At stake are relations with close neighbours, India, Bangladesh and Nepal. The BBIN MVA intends to revolutionise road-connectivity in the region. The latest meeting of the proposed regional bloc in Dhaka on March 29-30 ended on an inconclusive note, mainly owing to Thimphu’s indecision.

Challenges to integrity

According to critics of the BBIN MVA, once operational, it could pose challenges to the integrity and sustainability of the Himalayan kingdom. These concerned were voiced in winter session of the Assembly.

The main reason for stymying the ratification of the agreement was the  confusion over the number that constitutes majority votes in parliament for adoption of an international agreement. The  the opposition also wanted a thorough assessment of the impact for BBIN MVA for all Bhutanese stakeholders.

Among the important stake-holders within Bhutan are truck-owners, tourist agents and taxi associations who have already voiced their concerns before Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. This includes their losing business to outside competition, risks of travelling beyond Assam and West Bengal, infrastructural constraints and use of subsidised fuel.

The government is said to have quickly acted on the proposal of the truck-owners association for limiting foreign trucks at the border. Bangladesh and later Nepal were asked to limit the movement of trucks at borders with Bhutan. Thimphu already has a similar restriction imposed on India.

Bhutan is a protectionist society with conservation of culture and environment accorded priority over and above the economy. Thimphu boasts of a unique path to development that swears by ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) as an indicator of nation’s progress, as against GDP elsewhere. The anxiety of BBIN’s impact on environment and culture is also palpable in the country.

Recourse for the region

Bhutan’s unique position within the Indian sub-continent is palpably felt by larger nations like India and Bangladesh pushing for connectivity. Bangladesh has clearly stated that Dhaka would wait for Thimphu’s nod before it signs the protocols itself.

The two draft protocols that were discussed in the Dhaka meeting were Protocol for Movement of Regular, Non-regular and Personal Vehicles for Implementation of BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) and Protocol for Movement of Cargo Vehicles for Implementation of MVA.

The first protocol relating to movement of vehicles has evinced more disagreement than the second relating to the movement of cargo vehicles. New Delhi, eager to attract more investment to her land-locked North-eastern states, had pushed for including the movement of non-scheduled vehicles and personal vehicles in the protocol, a tough ask for Bhutan to agree.

Critics in Bhutan fear that a surge in irregular or non-scheduled traffic would overwhelm her infrastructure besides posing a threat to her environment and culture. Her position relating to the second protocol with cargo vehicles is more explicit compared to the first protocol, where it proposes that the Himalayan nation would regulate the number of vehicles allowed within its borders and time such vehicles spend in Bhutan.

Domestically, the government perhaps could fix a limit for the number of vehicles it would be permitting under its bilateral or trilateral agreements and show how the numbers are calculated. It would also have to state the measures it will take to mitigate the environmental impact of regional vehicles and whether such vehicles would be subjected to tax or local emission standards.

At the same time, the country needs to overcome hurdles to connectivity, improve road infrastructure without ignoring security, immigration and customs inspections would be required on visiting vehicles. How the government would overcome the limitations and ensure these aspects also need to be shared.

There is no doubt, that sooner or later Bhutan would be joining the new sub-regional bloc. There is a strong political will in Bhutan to finalise the draft protocols of the agreement. However, it needs to engage in a dialogue with stakeholders within the country and with its BBIN partners to iron out issues without sacrificing the real intent of the agreement.

The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata.

Maldives: Political stalemate remains

By N. Sathiya Moorthy

Supporter of former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed | Photo: Shaari

At its much-anticipated meeting in London, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has (once again) called for an “inclusive, purposeful, time-bound and forward-looking political dialogue, initiated by the Government and with the constructive participation initially of representatives of all political parties, aimed at achieving deeper and enduring understanding between the government and opposition parties of their respective roles and responsibilities, a shared sense of national priorities, and overall a stronger climate of political pluralism in Maldives”.

To this end, the CMAG sought “steps to be taken by the Government to enable the release of political leaders under detention or custody and the return of those from outside the country, so that all political leaders can contribute to political life in Maldives, including the political dialogue and the 2018 elections, pursuant to the Commonwealth Charter and the inalienable right of the people of Maldives to choose their political representatives”. In this context, the CMAG also called for steps “to prevent the ongoing use of anti-terrorism or other legislation to stifle national political debate, and to address concerns raised regarding due process in judicial cases involving political figures”.

Despite other domestic stake-holders, including jailed religion-centric Adhalaath Party (AP) leader, Sheikh Imran, much of the political focus has remained on jailed former President Mohammed Nasheed, now on ‘medical leave’ in the UK, and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The government is yet to comment on repeated international calls (of the West) for freeing all ‘political prisoners’, and include their leaders in the all-party negotiations for political reforms, which the Yameen leadership has anyway promised and ‘initiated’ (!).

Positive fall-out

One positive fall-out of the CMAG resolution, if the government moves forward on this score, would be to free Nasheed and other ‘political prisoners’ and then commence reforms-talks with them all. The government has since changed its stand and has said that it was ready to negotiate with jailed political leadership. The MDP promptly rejected the government offer, as in the past, and has said that it would negotiate with Nasheed in prison. Other Opposition parties could be expected to follow suit.

A theoretical alternative could still be for Nasheed returning home and negotiating with the government on the larger political issues from his prison cell, could be for them to start up talks in some overseas venue. If there is no movement on this score, the dead-lock would have to continue. For the MDP, it has achieved so much – and would not want to ease the diplomatic pressure on the government. For the Yameen leadership, in political terms, it has yielded so much. If anything, it could not be seen as yielding even more, particularly without any promise or commitment of any kind from the other side

Going by the CMAG resolution again, the initial negotiations would still have to involve only ‘domestic stake-holders’. If the MDP insists on Nasheed leading/participating in the negotiations, as has been the case thus far – and naturally, so -- and the government is serious about the CMAG resolution, it would have no choice but to hold separate talks with the domestic stake-holders, some in Maldives and some outside. That is, unless of course, the government facilitates early and favourable end of the pending court case and ongoing conviction and jail-term against Nasheed, and facilitates his early return home as a freeman.

Privileges denied

Almost on the eve of the CMAG meeting and after the visit of Tamrat Samuel, senior advisor to the UN’s department of political affairs, to help revive deadlocked political talks, the Yameen leadership precisely offered as much without much loss of time. It has since offered to talk to leaders in prison, which President Yameen had stoutly declined until now.

At the same time, Yameen also signed an amended law from parliament, passed a fortnight earlier, denying post-retirement benefits to court-convicted former presidents. Nasheed alone would be covered under the law just now. In real terms however it does not matter much either to Nasheed or the MDP.

Confusion also surrounded the government overnight revoking Nasheed’s extended medical leave for spinal surgery in the UK, where he has been for weeks now. The revocation was revoked later, with the government explaining that Nasheed’s lawyer had caused a confusion by declaring that Nasheed was not being operated upon on the day President Yameen told the public as much.

With Nasheed’s photographs in hospital bed began doing the rounds, the government possibly felt convinced and compelled to revoke the revocation. Earlier after cancelling Nasheed’s medical leave ahead of Yameen’s India visit this month, the government clarified that they were ready to reconsider any such request if fresh documents were produced, as required.

Along with Nasheed’s, the government also simultaneously revoked the medical leave extension for ex-Minister Nazim and jailed parliamentarian, also going by the same name. Both were away in Singapore, and the latter was even reported to have ‘fled’. The former minister however returned to Maldives after the revocation of medical-leave extension, and was sent on ‘house arrest’ instead of prison.

Terrorism law

On the CMAG resolution relating to the use, misuse or abuse of ‘terrorism law’, the unmentioned specific reference once again is to Nasheed’s trial and conviction in the ‘Judge Abdulla abduction case’. The Supreme Court reserved orders without setting a date for pronouncing its verdict on the twin appeals of the State and Nasheed against his trial court conviction and procedural issues before the High Court, weeks ago. The verdict in the case could also apply to the conviction and sentence against Adhalaath Party’s Sheikh Imran, former Defence Ministers Col. Mohamad Nazim and Tholath Ibrahim, and others.

Unless the Supreme Court throws out the conviction and sentencing of Nasheed, the chances of the ‘Judge Abdulla case’ reverting back to the High Court, if not a re-constituted trial court, for fresh hearing under normal criminal laws cannot be ruled out. In its defence in the Supreme Court, Nasheed’s defence too had submitted to the possibility, but only to argue that the trial did not have any leg to stand on under ‘terrorism law’. The fact of Judge Abdulla’s arrest, and Nasheed’s video-graphed claims on the same being what they have neither been contested, nor disproved.

A dead-line oriented approach has neither threatened anyone, nor produced results. At best, it has pushed only the other side to the wall, from which it could only fight back. Whatever applies to Nasheed viz the Yameen government could also apply to the latter, viz the international community. In doing so, the western friends of Nasheed need to look at the Maldivian ground realities closer than they are accustomed to in this case and elsewhere, too.

There is no denying the fact that in politico-electoral terms, Nasheed and the MDP may still be the most popular leader and party, respectively. But they were not the ‘absolute winners’, in 2008 the first-ever pro-democracy elections of 2008, on their own. For reasons that had helped them in 2008, also contributed to the electoral defeat in 2013, whatever be the criticism and more.

The CMAG resolution now has referred to the 2018 elections. If the implication, if any, is for Nasheed to contest, issues and deadlines could get too complicated for all that. If then, the 2018 presidential polls were to be postponed on that ground – or, on the ground of ongoing political negotiations at the time, or a pending court case on the Nasheed front, or his imprisonment – it could be counter-productive to all the current initiatives of the international community and in the name of democracy. It would be more so for Maldives, and in more ways than one.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter

< style="color: #0a83cf">COUNTRY REPORTS

< style="color: #0a83cf">Afghanistan

Kabul attack claims 64 lives

A truck full of explosives detonated on 19 April on an Afghan government security compound in central Kabul in a Taliban-coordinated attack that killed at least 64 people and wounded 347 others. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, issued a statement that claimed responsibility for the attack.

For more information, see: Kabul Blast Death Toll Rises to 64 and Afghan Taliban kill at least 28 in major attack in central Kabul

Taliban commander killed

A key Taliban commander and 13 other militants on 19 April were killed during a clash in northern Kunduz province. Mullah Khair Mohammad, the commander, is the second Taliban commander to be killed this week in the Qala-e-Zal district of the province. The other Taliban commander, Haqyar, was killed in a clash along with seven other militants on 18 April. Clashes persist in Qala-e-Zal where a military operation is underway to clear the area of insurgents.

For more information, see: Key Taliban Commander Killed in Kunduz:  MoI

Army launches drone

The Afghan army, aided by American advisers, launched its first unmanned surveillance drone on 18 April from a base in Helmand province. The army will receive eight systems from Washington which include six drones each. “Before this technology, they relied on human and signals intelligence," Maj. Jason White, a U.S. Army adviser, said in reference to the Afghan army in a statement

For more information, see: Afghan Army Launches First Surveillance Drones

China for deepened security ties

A senior Chinese military officer indicated to a visiting Afghan envoy that China wants to have deeper security ties with Afghanistan. China is willing to "deepen counter-terrorism intelligence, joint drills, personnel training and other areas of practical cooperation", Fang Fenghui, a member of the Central Military Commission which controls China's armed forces, told Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the Afghan national security advisor.

For more information, see: China Eyes Deeper Military Ties with Afghanistan

< style="color: #0a83cf">Bangladesh

IS plans attacks on India

International militant group Dae’sh or Islamic State eyes attacks in India and Myanmar from its base in Bangladesh considering that the Muslims in the region, especially those in Myanmar, live under oppression from Buddhists and Hindus. “We believe the Shariah in Bengal won’t be achieved until the local Hindus are targeted in mass numbers,” says Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, the man it says is leading the operations in Bangladesh, in an interview with the group’s propaganda magazine Dabiq.

For more information, see: Dae'sh reveals plans for Bangladesh, region and Reiterates home minister as IS magazine publishes interview linking Bangladesh

PM ‘no’ on religious sentiments

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said hurting religious sentiments of others by writing something is not acceptable. “We perform our religious rituals. But why should we tolerate anyone writing filthy words against our religion?” she questioned.

For more information, see: Bangladesh PM says writing against religion won't be tolerated

Forex reserves up

In a major boost to country’s economy foreign currency reserve touch $29 billion mark. Bangladesh Bank speculates that the reserve may cross 29 billion by the end of April. Analysts believe that the reserves are rising steadily because of increased export and reduced import.

For more information, see: Bangladesh foreign currency reserves near $29 billion despite Fed Reserve hack steal

Debt-account with AIIB

The government is going to borrow $165 million in a maiden loan from the newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).The money would come for funding three power-sector development projects.

For more information, see:  BD plans to open debt account with AIIB

< style="color: #0a83cf">Bhutan

New hydel-power project

Construction of the Nikachhu Hydro Energy project in Trongsa could start as early as July this year. Tangsibji Hydro Energy Ltd, the project developer, awarded the final contract for civil and hydro-mechanical works of the 118MW project to Hindustan Construction Company Ltd on April 20.

For more information, see: Nikachhu Hydro Energy will be a model project

Aircraft damaged

The national airline’s Airbus A319 that was damaged by a freak hailstorm over Guwahati on April 16 was in no real danger despite the extent of damages sustained. The Flight KB-140 was bound for Bangkok via Guwahati with 103 passengers onboard.

For more information, see: Aircraft windshield cracked, nose punctured

British royals return

The visit to Bhutan by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge of the United Kingdom, which took place at the invitation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, concluded on April 16. During the two-day visit, Their Royal Highnesses received an audience with His Majesty The King and The Gyaltsuen.

For more information, see: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge conclude trip to Bhutan

< style="color: #0a83cf">India

President rule stays 

The Supreme Court stayed the Uttarakhand High Court judgement that quashed the declaration of President's Rule in the State till April 27. Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi assured the SC that President's Rule will not be revoked and that BJP would not form the government in Uttarakhand till April 27.

For more information, see: SC stays Uttarakhand HC judgement quashing President's Rule

War-game against tactical n-attack

A strike formation of the Indian Army undertook drills to counter any tactical nuclear attack on its mechanized unit, as part of the war games being conducted in the deserts of Rajasthan. The simulation came as about 30,000 soldiers took part in a major exercise Shatrujeet, led by the Mathura-based elite Strike Corps, which  it is honing its skills to counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) warfare.The aim of the CBRN simulation was to validate the army’s response in case its faces a tactical nuclear attack.

For more information, see: Indian Army holds war game to deal with tactical nuclear attack

Permanent commission

Breaking gender barrier, seven women officers of Short Service Commission batch of 2008-09 have been granted permanent commission by Indian Navy. The Navy is the last of the three wings of the armed forces in the country to allow permanent commission for women. While the Army and Air Force allow permanent commission for them, the Navy had limited women officers only to short service commission of 14 years. The Navy is also finalising a policy for women officers to serve on select warships that have appropriate facilities for women.

For more information, see: Indian Navy: Breaking gender barrier, 7 women officers of SSC granted permanent commission

Nine killed in landslide            

At least nine labourers were killed and another eight went missing when a massive landslide triggered by incessant rains hit a labour camp in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The incident occurred at 3 a.m. when 17 labourers engaged in construction works were inside the camp.

For more information, see: Nine killed, eight missing in Arunachal landslide

‘Double-standards dangerous’

Seeking strong global action against terror networks, India on Monday warned the international community that if it continues to adopt “double standards” in dealing with the menace there will be “serious consequences”. In her address at the Foreign Ministers meeting of RIC (Russia-India-China), External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the grouping must lead the world in fighting terrorism. Significantly, Swaraj’s remarks came after she raised with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, before the trilateral, the issue of China blocking India’s bid at the UN to have JeM chief and Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar designated as terrorist.

For more information, see: Double standards in dealing with terror is dangerous: Sushma Swaraj

< style="color: #0a83cf">Maldives

Not on CMAG agenda

Obviously dissatisfied with the government over the earlier resolution of prescriptions with one-month deadline, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), meeting in London, has since called for ‘measurable’ results. The government in particular pointed to Maldives getting included in CMAG’s ‘agenda’, implying possible future sanctions, on the ‘democracy reforms’.

For more information, see: “Maldives off the CMAG agenda”, Maldives Independent, 20 April 2016; “Commonwealth foreign ministers seek ‘clear, measurable progress’ on Maldives”, Commonwealth Secretariat, 20 April 2016; “Commonwealth’s concern over ‘continued misuse’ of anti-terrorism law in Maldives”, The Hindu, 21 April 2016; “Commonwealth concerned over anti-terror law in Maldives”, Maldives Independent, 22 April 2016; “Government invites jailed opposition leaders to join talks”, Maldives Independent, 20 April 2016; “Maldives remains ‘very hostile for independent and opposition media’”, Maldives Independent, 21 April 2016

‘Revocation’ revoked

The government revoked the earlier revocation of extension of ‘medical leave’ for jailed former President Mohammed Nasheed, now in the UK, for a spinal surgery. The government cancelled the halting extension of medical leave after Nasheed’s lawyer in Male claimed that he was not undergoing the surgery on the day President Yameen said it had been scheduled. The revocation of the revocation came when Nasheed went in for surgery a day later.

For more information, see: “Government reconsiders revoking extension of Nasheed’s medical leave”, Maldives Independent, 20 April 2016; “Home Minister requests review of Nasheed’s medical leave retraction”, SunOnline, 20 April 2016; “Government reconsiders revoking extension of Nasheed’s medical leave”, Maldives Independent, 20 April 2016; “President Nasheed’s Office: Nasheed will go under anesthesia today”, SunOnline, 20 April 2016; “Commissioner of Prisons suspended from work”, SunOnline, 20 April 2016; “Figures who left nation best to stay abroad: Dr. Muizzu”, Miadhu, 21 April 2016; “Nasheed stripped of ex-president’s privileges”, Maldives Independent, 19 April 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Myanmar

NLD for new constitution?

The National League for Democracy (NLD) may scrap efforts to amend the constitution and instead seek to write a new charter, a legal adviser to the party has revealed. Lawyer U Ko Ni said it was now clear that the party was “wasting time” trying to amend the current constitution, as the military holds veto powers and is currently unwilling to make major changes.

For more information, see: NLD could draft new constitution

More to be freed

More political prisoners are to be freed over the coming week, a senior government official said on April 22, as three more were released from prisons in Mandalay Region. Lawyer U Zaw Win from Pyin Oo Lwin was released from Mandalay’s Oboe Prison after two charges against him were dropped, while two students held in Myingyan for allegedly breaching the flag law were also freed.

For more information, see: More political prisoners set for release next week

Suu Kyi ‘fifth most influential’

Time magazine on Thursday released its annual list of the world’s “100 Most Influential People,” with National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi taking a spot for the fifth time among its pantheon of the powerful.

For more information, see: Suu Kyi Scores Obama Byline With 5th ‘Most Influential’ Listing

< style="color: #0a83cf">Nepal

Madheses warn of protests

Leaders of the agitating Madhes-based parties on April 21 met with ambassadors of over 20 countries and informed them about the protests they are all set to launch soon. For a week, the agitating parties have been holding talks with various stakeholders, including civil society members, to discuss about the nature of the fresh protests they are about to launch. The agitating parties are yet to fix the dates for their protests.

For more information, see: Agitating Madhes leaders meet foreign diplomats

More land for airport

The Cabinet on April 19 approved the Tourism Ministry’s proposal to acquire an additional 288 bighas of land for the expansion of Gautam Buddha Regional International Airport in Bhairahawa. Tourism Secretary Prem Rai said “The plan to acquire the additional land is aimed at avoiding any possible congestion at the international airport in future. The airport will also require a larger space for a radar station, security base and runway,”

For more information, see: Gautam Buddha Regional Int’l Airport: Cabinet okays proposal to acquire more land

Quake memorial

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari is set to lay the foundation stone for the construction of the earthquake memorial pillar on coming Baisakh 12 (April 24) which marks the completion of a year of the 'Gorkha Earthquake'. Local Development Officer of Gorkha Narayan Prasad Acharya shared that the President is scheduled to lay foundation stone for the earthquake memorial park to be constructed in Barpark-4 in commemoration of those killed in the Gorkha Earthquake.

For more information, see: Prez to lay foundation stone for Earthquake Memorial ParkNRA announces 2-day commemoration and Earthquake anniversary: Barpak, the epicentre, still in ruins

< style="color: #0a83cf">Pakistan

Baloch rebels surrender

The Pakistani government announced on 19 April that more than 140 rebels surrendered to government authorities in Baluchistan province. According to a provincial government spokesman, Anwaar ul Haq, the rebels were from groups including the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Lashkar-e-Balochistan. Haq said they laid down their arms on 18 April.

For more information, see: Pakistan says more than 140 rebels surrender in province drawing China investment

12 army officers sacked for graft

In an unprecedented move, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on 21 April dismissed 12 army officers from service on charges of corruption. The dismissals come two day after Sharif stated that "across the board accountability is necessary for the solidarity, integrity and prosperity of Pakistan.” Five brigadier generals, three colonels and a major general are among those removed from the army by Sharif. There has been no official statement regarding the move.

For more information, see: Gen Raheel dismisses 6 army officers from service over corruption

Policemen attacked

Gunmen shot and killed seven police officers on 20 April in two coordinated attacks in Karachi city, capital of the southern Sindh province. The officers were killed minutes apart in separate attacks, according to Home Minister Suhail Anwar. The attackers targeted the policemen who were deployed to the city to provide security for polio workers administering a vaccine to children.

For more information, see: Seven policemen guarding polio workers shot dead in Karachi

Army operation in Punjab

On 16 April, Pakistan’s army took over an operation being conducted by security forces to flush out a criminal gang holding 24 hostages on an island in the riverine area of Rajanpur in Punjab province. The security operation, which involves more than 1,600 policemen and Rangers, is now in its eleventh day. General Asim Bajwa, the head of the army’s public relations, made the announcement on Twitter writing, "Army troops deployed. Take over charge of op. Cordon reinforced, Police&Rangers already in op will cont to participate under Army." At least six police officials have been killed in the battle for the island.

For more information, see: Army takes over operation against outlaws in Punjab’s Rajanpur: ISPR

Bank branch in China

Habib Bank Limited (HBL), Pakistan’s largest bank, announced on 18 April it now has a license to operate a branch in the Chinese city of Urumqi. The bank said in a statement, "HBL will be establishing banking operations in Urumqi, the largest city of the province of Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan along the traditional Silk Route." HBL is the first South Asian bank to be granted such a license.

For more information, see: Pakistan’s largest bank granted Chinese license

< style="color: #0a83cf">Sri Lanka 

Tejas for air force?

After rejecting Pakistan’s China-designed JF-17, Sri Lanka is said to be considering the Indian-built ‘Tejas’ fighters as replacement fighters for the nation’s air force. Sri Lanka is said to be interested in the current version of Tejas -- which the Indian public sector HAL is first supplying to the Indian Air Force – and not the upgraded version, which is being planned.

For more information, see: “India's fighter jet Tejas catches SL attention”, Daily Mirror Online, 19 April 2016; “Three Indian naval ships in Colombo”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 April 2016; “SL Navy divers training with US navy in Guam”, Daily Mirror Online, 16 April 2016; “Dhaka objects to SL continental shelf claim”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 April 2016; “Pakistan pledges to buy more tea from Sri Lanka”, The Island, 15 April 2016

Cameron’s hopes

A day after his junior minister, Hugo Swire in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had indicated that Sri Lanka needed to do more on reconciliation, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was looking forward to working with the government on this score. Nearer home, TNA Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, R Sampanthan, publicly aired reservations on the government’s plans to build 65,000 houses for war-displaced in the Tamil-majority Northern and Eastern Provinces, as a part of post-war ethnic reconciliation.

For more information, see: “Cameron looks forward to working with SL govt”, Daily Mirror Online, 15 April 2016; “65,000 houses; Sampanthan expresses serious concern”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 April 2016; “Mahinda confirms he will attend JO May Day rally”, The Island, 19 April 2016; “The country was a piece of cake then: MR”, Daily Mirror Online, 18 April 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">PRIMARY DOCUMENTATION

< style="color: #0a83cf">Bhutan

Press Releases

PM attends 30th Annual General Meeting of BCCI, Cabinet Secretariat, April 21, 2016

PM meets Mr. Diego Roberto Palacios Jaramilio UNFPA, Cabinet Secretariat, April 21, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Myanmar

Press Releases

State Counsellor offers New Year’s Message, President Office, April 18, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Nepal

Press Releases

Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister of Nepal sent a condolence letter to H. E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, April 17, 2016 Press Release: Hon. DPM and FM leaving for New YorkMinistry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, April 19, 2016

Press Release on attack on cda a.i., Embassy of Nepal in RiyadhMinistry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, April 15, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Bibliography

< style="color: #0a83cf">Afghanistan

Opinion pieces

Dexter Filkins, Not Even Kabul is Safe From The Taliban, The New Yorker, April 19, 2016

Nick Paton Walsh, Afghanistan must recognise Taliban are winning, CNN, April 21, 2016

Roxanne Roberts, What does Afghanistan need?  Some major rebranding, says its 32-year-old ambassador, The Washington Post, April 21, 2016

Abdul Basit, The Implications of the Taliban’s Spring Offensive in Afghanistan, April 22, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Bangladesh


Saleemul Huq, Climate finance in Bangladesh: Learning from experience, The Daily Star, April 16, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Bhutan


Kuensel, Putting safety first, Kuensel, April 22, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">India

Opinion Pieces

C Raja Mohan, Raja-Mandala: India, OIC and the Kashmir charade, The Indian Express, April 19, 2016

Abhijnan Rej and Prashant Kumar, Banning surge pricing is bad economics, Business Standard, April 22, 2016

Mihir S. Sharma, India, a Union of economic models, Business Standard, April 21, 2016

Ramchandra Guha, Which Ambedkar?, Indian Express, April 21, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Maldives

Padma Rao Sundarji, “The Maldivian Muddle”, Deccan Chronicle, April 19, 2016

Opinion Pieces

< style="color: #0a83cf">Myanmar

Fiona Macgregor, In the fight against slavery, women are not just victims, Myanmar Times, April 22, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Nepal

Opinion Pieces

Giulia Vallese, One year on, Republica, April 19, 2016

Narayan Shrestha, Post-Paris climate talksThe Kathmandu Post.  April 22, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Pakistan

Akbar Zaidi, The problem of making peace, The Hindu, April 22, 2016

Madiha Batool, Has Pakistan gone too far?, Daily Times, April 22, 2016

Dr. Pervez Tahir, Economy, politics and Panama Papers, The Express Tribune, April 21, 2016

Sakib Sherani, Offshore tax havens, Dawn, April 15, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Sri Lanka

M. S. M. Ayub, “Lack of inclusiveness: Sampanthan, Dinesh in the same boat”, Daily Mirror Online, April 22, 2016

Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, “A matter of trust and confidence”, Daily Mirror Online, April 20, 2016

Lacille de Silva, “The two classes of people in Sri Lanka, politicians and the people”, Daily Mirror Online, April 19, 2016

Jehan Perera, “Continuing need for civil society pressure on government”, The Island, April 18, 2016

N. Sathiya Moorthy, “Blue-water navy, without a name”, The Sunday Leader, April 17, 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Contributors:

Afghanistan and Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

Bangladesh: Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan and Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Shubh Soni and Pushan Das

Maldives and Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

Nepal: Dr. Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury and Sreeparna Banerjee

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