MonitorsPublished on May 03, 2016
South Asia Weekly | Volume IX; Issue 18

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

Nepal: A year after the worst earthquake

Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

While Nepal has marked the first anniversary of its devastating earthquake, the memories of loss are still very fresh in the minds of the survivors in the areas like Barpak, Gorkha, the epicentre of the 25 April earthquake as well as Dolakha in the east, near the epicentre of the 12 May earthquake. Nearly 9,000 people died and 22,302 were injured in the two earthquakes that struck Nepal last year. The first was a 7.6-magnitude earthquake which caused most of the damage and loss of life while a large number of aftershocks followed, including one that measured 6.8 on 12 May 2015. The nation’s 31 districts out of 75 were affected, out of which seven were declared ‘severely-hit’ and seven 'crisis-hit', five 'hit with heavy losses', six 'hit' and six 'slightly affected' for the purpose of prioritizing rescue and relief operations.

According to National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), 6,08,155 residential buildings were completely broken down while 2,98,998 were partially damaged.  Furthermore, 2,687 government buildings (including schools and health centres) completely collapsed and 3,776 were partially damaged.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the quakes shattered or damaged more than 800,000 houses. The western and central districts are most badly affected where Government buildings, some stretches of roads and Kathmandu Valley's famous historic monuments along with the Unesco world heritage properties - were destroyed or heavily damaged. Many villages in the north of Kathmandu were poorly hit by the quakes.

In the famous trekking destination of Langtang, situated about 100 km north of Kathmandu, an entire settlement was buried and washed away by a massive landslide, killing more than 100 people, including international trekkers and local villagers. Of 181 foreigners who died in the earthquake or are still missing, 63 were in Langtang.

Homeless in the homeland

Nepali government figures give us an idea that about 500,000 families were made homeless by the quakes. However, the number estimated by the aid agencies is much higher, with millions homeless. According to the IFRC about 4,000,000 (four million) people are still living in sub-standard temporary shelters where they are facing several health hazards.

It also has estimated that more than 800,000 homes were damaged. Despite achievements of earthquake recovery efforts in many areas, little progress has so far been made in helping survivors to rebuild permanent homes. The government has provided N-Rs 25,000 ($ 250) for families to buy corrugated sheets and warm clothes and paid out N-Rs 40,000 ($ 400) for the death of each family member. The victims of the earthquake have received some small payments from the government - for hardship and compensation for the loss of relatives. However, most of that money has not been paid.

It is estimated that the lives of eight million people, almost one-third of the population of Nepal, have been impacted by these earthquakes pushing back more than one million people below poverty line. The disaster also further exacerbated inequities in Nepali society ning geography, income and gender. Poorer rural areas have been more adversely affected than towns and cities due to their inferior quality of houses. More women and girls died than men and boys, partly because of gendered roles that disproportionately assign indoor chores to women.

It has been said from the Government side that an assessment of total loss and damage caused by the quake has already been done, but it is yet to officially start its much-delayed reconstruction mission and a group of government officials blame a four month long blockade at the Nepal-India border for hampering post-earthquake reconstruction programmes. The unrest was due to Madhesi parties in southern Nepal protesting against a new constitution which they said disadvantaged them.

Rehabilitation delays

In order to promptly complete the reconstruction work of the structures affected due to devastating earthquakes in a ‘sustainable’, ‘resilient’ and ‘planned manner’, and ‘to promote national interests and provide social justice’ by making resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced families, the Government has made an Act entitled Relating Reconstruction of Earthquake Affected Infrastructures Act, 2015. As a result of it the NRA was set up only in December 2015 as a national body with extra-ordinary jurisdiction.

While preparing its Post Disaster Need Assessment (PDNA), the Nepali government initially estimated that it would need $7bn for reconstruction. However, presently the authority is seeking 811 billion Rupees to implement its reconstruction programme for the next five years due to ‘unspecified cost factors. NRA spokesperson Ram Thapaliya has indicated that international donors are being asked to extend their commitment for reconstruction programmes.

"The donors have already pledged half of the amount and we are in the process of seeking commitment for the rest," he has said. He has also opined that work is under way to help those in need and speed up the reconstruction process. "In March, we started distributing grants, worth $500 in first stage, to around 800 families for reconstruction…Now another 5,000 families are in the process of getting that amount." Ram Thapaliya, joint secretary of the National Reconstruction Authority, says delay​s became unavoidable and promises for widespread reconstruction are now set to begin.

It has been decided that the District Development Committee (DDC) is to expedite the grant agreement process in the 11 worst-affected districts where the surveys on the same have concluded. The names of those benefiting from this agreement shall be published in their respective VDC, District Development Committee and municipalities. Similarly, the construction of a community residence shall be started in each district shortly. The Education Ministry and Health Ministry would initiate reconstruction task of at least one school and health institution in every district very soon.

But that hasn't suppressed the anger. Many believe government corruption is the real cause of delays. The lack of progress in reconstruction and rehabilitation is most stark in the countryside. Whole villages are still shattered and broken. According to Himal news magazine, a popular weekly which has run an investigative cover story in its recent edition, the agencies spent an estimated $1bn. The magazine wrote "Where did the money go? Of the 1 billion dollars that were raised, two-thirds were spent by donor agencies, international NGOs and their local partners, and only one-third of that amount actually reached the victims." The aid workers say the main problem is bureaucracy - and that some donors have become frustrated and given up as a result.

The writer is a Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata chapter

Sri Lanka: India and the return of the ‘federal’ word

N Sathiya Moorthy

Some 15 months into the new government, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on the one hand and the party-controlled Northern Provincial Council (NPC) in Sri Lanka have revived calls for a ‘federal solution’ to the ethnic issue. They were expected to rake up the issue either around or after the twin-polls of 2015, if not as a poll issue in either or both.

The NPC resolution, at the behest of tough-talking chief minister, Justice C V Wigneswaran, was expected for long. The organisational initiative, by the TNA ‘Leader of the Opposition’ in Parliament, is targeted against the government at the Centre and the majority Sinhala polity.

The organisational is also aimed at ensuring that the NPC does not walk away with all the glory among the Tamil-speaking population. Such a course would have left the TNA in general, and its incumbent leadership in particular, irrelevant.

“Our demand for federalism should not be misconstrued as something in favour of separatism. Let the Central government share power with all the Provinces uniformly. We expect other Provinces to fall in line with us so that we all can have greater powers,” The Hindu quoted C V K Sivagnanam, on the ‘federalism’ resolution.

Sivagnanam clarified that they were not for ‘special powers’ for the re-merged stat. He was possibly implying the likes of ‘asymmetric devolution’ much less than that for neighbouring India’s Jammu and Kashmir state.

The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in the immediate neighbourhood is a goo example of ‘asymmetric devolution’. Sivagnanam did not specify the same by name. However, he did refer to the ‘Indian model’ in the overall context of ‘federalism’.

The NPC’s “proposals on constitutional reforms were essentially based on the constitutional models of two countries — India and Switzerland,” The Hindu report said, quoting him.  “In the case of India, there should be states demarcated on the basis of languages. This was one of the reasons for the proposed merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces as “Muslims in the East are all Tamil-speaking people,” Sivagnanam said further.

“Conscious of the pluralistic character of the Eastern province where the population was more or less evenly distributed among Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese, the NPC chairperson said for getting the support of the Muslims, the resolution talked of creating an autonomous council,” The Hindu report said. “Taking into account aspirations of hill-country Tamils, the NPC suggested another autonomous body,” it added.

Call for dissolution

Before the current NPC resolution the ‘Tamil Council’, a northern Jaffna-based organisation, headed by chief minister Wigneswaran, had resolved on the ‘federal’ question in February. Critics claimed that it was aimed at forcing the TNA leadership to commit.

Even without the NPC resolution now, the TNA was expected to only move on similar lines while presenting its case on the new constitution the nation. The current Parliament has since converted itself into a constituent assembly, and the TNA would have to actually agitate the cause there.

It’s going to be a tougher task for the TNA than with the parliamentary select committee (PSC) route proposed by predecessor President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda’s PSC was expected to focus exclusively on the ethnic issue. The present constituent assembly is tasked with a whole pile of issues and concerns, real and otherwise.

The current process could derail. Or, the ethnic issue might not have get the desired time and energy. Clubbing together political solutions to different issues in a single volume like a new constitution can have consequences.

Sri Lanka’s experience in the matter is not encouraging. In 2000, then President Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga, CBK, had offered a ‘political package’ better than any since the India-facilitated 13th amendment to the constitution. It was clubbed with other extraneous and even more controversial issues.

In an unprecedented move, the UNP Opposition of the time found it easier to burn down the new constitutional amendment draft inside parliament. Parliament thus threw the baby along with the bath-water. In hindsight, it is unclear why an astute politician like CBK did not see the writing on the wall.

SLFP opposition, still

The official faction in the SLFP partner in the present-day ruling coalition lost no time in opposing a ‘federal solution’. The party/faction is led by President Maithripala Sirisena, and by CBK and Mahinda R before him. As a senior party and ministerial aide of Mahinda when he was president, Sirisena could not have done differently.

"The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is very clear in its policy to oppose a federal solution. Such a solution would be unconstitutional and would lead to disturbances by strengthening extremism,” senior party leader, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, told the media.  The official SLFP faction seems to have pre-empted any serious discussion on the subject with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s senior UNP partner in government.

Minister Samarasinghe had headed the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNHRC sessions and stoutly defended the Rajapaksa government’s position on ‘accountability issues’. Partners in the self-styled ‘joint opposition’ identified with Rajapaksa now have gone further, with a demand for NPC’s dissolution. A peripheral group, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), a breakaway faction of the one-time militant left-nationalist JVP, too has attributed motives to the TNA.

Alongside, ‘federalism’ call, R Sampanthan, the party’s octogenarian ‘Leader of the Opposition’ in Parliament, visited ‘occupied’ Tamil properties in army-occupied territory in northern Killinochchi town, without the required clearances. It was a physical ‘demonstration’ of the TNA’s demand for the ‘vacation’ of civilian land by the armed forces.

The two Tamil demands on ‘federalism’ and ‘army occupation’ has takers in the moderate sections of majority Sinhala community, though not necessarily polity. They have greater purchase in the ‘international community’ (read: West).

However, both may be stymied by the continual and at times inter-connected arrest of ex-LTTE cadres and commanders with large cache of weapons, with intent to use them. To hard-line sections within the Sinhala polity, it’s a hand-in-glove, daggers-drawn affair, all over again.

After the ‘LTTE experience’, moderate Sinhalas may squirm without answers. Sinhala hard-liners would happily cite the Tamil moderates’ unwillingness to condemn the LTTE through the two-plus decades of terrorism, to hit out at the TNA as ‘apologists’ and co-conspirators for ‘separatism’, still.


TNA parliamentarian and international spokesperson, M A Sumanthiran, has since commended the ‘federalism’ demand for other sections of the nation’s polity to consider. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader, Minister, Rauff Hakkeem too has said as much – but for exactly opposite reasons.

There are imponderables in the NPC resolution and TNA position. It’s one thing for the TNA to make a ‘political demand’ but another for the NPC as a creature of the current constitution to go against what’s still the ‘unitary’ spirit and character of the same.

The 13th amendment to the constitution and the Provincial Councils Act under it provide for referendum in the Eastern Province for a merger into the North. The reverse is not possible. In 2006, the Supreme Court struck down the 1987 merger in the absence of the mandated referendum, among other reasons.

The resolution infringes upon the rights of the EPC and the multi-ethnic Eastern population. Sivagnanam later commended the NPC resolution to other PCs, but he has not considered the possibility of the other eight resolving against ‘federalism’, or unconnected issue(s) binding on the NPC.

Acceptance level

As the immediate/larger neighbour and a co-signatory to the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, the parent-document for 13-A, today may be the right time for India to take a closer and clearer look at the ethnic component of bilateral relation. Later on, it would become too hot as in the past, from inside and outside, fore India to take meaningful positions and purposeful initiatives.

From within India, the southern Tamil Nadu polity is immersed in state assembly polls. Moderation with the aim to broad-base electoral alliance and voter-acceptability has silenced pan-Tamil peripheral parties and leaders like the PMK, Vaiko, Thirumavalavan and Seeman, to play down the ‘ethnic issue’ just now.

In the company of the Congress ally from the war-years again, the DMK too has been silenced. Non-delivery of unintelligent commitments from the 2014 parliamentary poll campaign has silenced the BJP. AIADMK chief minister Jayalalithaa is thus left singing solo, but she again is focussing only on fishers’ issue and Katchchativu, not the ethnic issue, per se.

In a way, it’s a now or never situation for India, if it wants to play a constructive role in the neighbourhood as a whole and Sri Lanka in particular. It may also be time for India to study and comprehend the mutual concerns of the Sri Lankan stake-holders, for its own good.

Arresting the drift

Interestingly from within Sri Lanka, PM Ranil’s UNP has maintained stoic silence over the NPC resolution and Sampanthan’s ‘unauthorised’ entry into ‘army territory’. Party’s Education Minister Akhila Viraj Kariyavasam however quipped if arresting Sampanthan or chief minister Wigneswaran could solve the issue.

The government partners in the UNP and the SLFP seemingly drifting away on the ‘ethnic issue’ could mean that a negotiated settlement may have already become difficult even before anything had begun this time round. There is also the ‘Muslim question’, which the TNA seems want to assume and proceed with.

The last time Tamil moderates held the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, again by default, was in 1977. Mutual assumptions and consequent suspicions on either side of the ‘ethnic divide’ worsened the escalating situation, leading ethnic violence, terrorism and outright war(s).

Today, when it is all behind the nation, the Sri Lanka’s political, social and civil society stake-holders should be recalling their past mistakes and rectify them forming step after step towards a negotiated settlement. They should feel the remorse, not strive to revive them.

India as the closest and responsible neighbour has an ever-continuing stake in lasting ethnic peace in Sri Lanka. Given the continuing complexities, India should stay away. Yet, India should be nudging the Sri Lankan stake-holders to arrest the avoidable current drift and/or dramatisation of the past.

India should encourage the Sri Lankan stake-holders to arrest the current drift, then discuss, debate and decide on a negotiated settlement. It should ensure that third nations stayed away. Sri Lanka has the right socio-political climate just now to negotiate without external facilitation. Sri Lankans also have enough ‘ideas’ on power-devolution, they do not need more, from anywhere, any time.

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

< style="color: #0a83cf">Country Reports

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

Taking Pak to UNSC

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani threatened to lodge a formal complaint against Pakistan on 25 April in an address to a joint session of Afghanistan’s two houses of parliament . In his address, Ghani  said, “If we do not see a change, despite our hopes and efforts for regional cooperation, we will be forced to turn to the U.N. Security Council and launch serious diplomatic efforts.”

For more information, see: Afghanistan President Demands Pakistan Take Military Action Against Taliban”, 25 April 2016

Taliban denies ‘Pak role’

The Qatar-based political office of Afghanistan’s Taliban on 27 April denied reports that a Taliban delegation is in Pakistan to discuss joining peace talks with the Afghan government. Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, said that that the delegation travelled from Qatar to Karachi, Pakistan to discuss “close relations, long border, and commercial transactions” between Pakistan and the Taliban.

For more information, see: Afghan Taliban Confirms Delegation Visiting Pakistan”, VOA, 27 April 2016

Dostum denied US visa

Days before Afghanistan’s first vice-president Abdul Rashid Dostum was scheduled to depart for a trip to meet with officials in New York and Washington, D.C., this month, U.S. officials threatened to deny his visa, forcing him to cancel his trip. The U.S. State Department refused to comment to the New York Times on 25 April for privacy reasons, but Dostum has been called the “quintessential warlord” by the State Department in the past. Dostum is considered a ‘war criminal’ by the United States.

For more information, see: Afghanistan’s Vice President is Barred From Entering the US”, The New York Times, 25 April 2016

Russia for new format

Russia is interested in facilitating peace negotiations in Afghanistan alongside the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China, however, not as a part of the QCG. On 27 April, Zamir Kabulov, a Russian envoy to Afghanistan, was cited by Interfax news agency as saying that Russia considers the current format of talks inefficient. While Russia does not plan to join, according to Kabulov, Moscow is interested in creating a new format.

For more information, see: Russia Ready to Join Afghan Talks: Interfax Cities Russia Official”, The New York Times, 27 April 2016

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

Signs climate pact

Pledging to take measure to save the earth from the the disastrous consequences of climate change Bangladesh has signed the historic Paris Climate Agreement. Around 175 countries, including China and the USA, signed the deal at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday. Environment and Forests Minister Anwar Hossain Manju signed the agreement on behalf of Bangladesh.

For more information see: “Dhaka signs Paris Climate Agreement”, The Daily Star, 24 April 2016

Milliant attacks

The week saw a series of incidents of suspected militant attacks.  In one of such incidents an USAID employee and a private university student was killed in capital Dhaka. In another incident an university teacher and also a cultural acticist was killed in Rajshahi. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina blamed opposition for the recent killings.

For more information see:2 hacked to death in Dhaka flat”, The Daily Star, 26 April 2016 ; “BNP-Jamaat clique carrying out killings”, The Daily Star, 26 April 2016

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

Paris Pact signed

Bhutan has joined 174 countries to become a signatory to the Paris Agreement for Climate Change, said a foreign affairs ministry press release. The signing was done at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on April 22 by Bhutan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Kunzang C Namgyel.

For more information see: “Bhutan signs Paris Agreement on climate change”, Kuensel, 27 April 2016

Discrepancy denied

A major discrepancy in the financial system has deprived most of the incumbent local government (LG) members of their retirement benefits. A thrompon, who completed his tenure recently, received all the post-retirement benefits, while the other LG members like gups and tshogpas may receive gratuity only. This is because deductions for retirement benefits were made from the thrompons’ salaries.

For more information see: “Discrepancy deprives LG leaders of PF”, Kuensel, 29 April 2016

Opposition calls Govt. indecisive

After calling it a “Committee Government” during the last session of Parliament, the Opposition has now branded the government indecisive, inconsistent, and incoherent. Criticising several decisions of the government, Opposition Party members accused it of damaging public trust and confidence in the government at a press conference on April 27.

For more information see: “Opposition says government is indecisive”, Kuensel, 29 April 2016

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

No to diesel-run cabs in Delhi  

The Supreme Court on Saturday refused to give more time to taxi operators in the National Capital Region (NCR) to switch from diesel to the cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG). The deadline for the change, which has been extended twice, is April 1.

For more information see: “No more diesel-run cabs in Delhi from tomorrow”, The Hindu, 30 April 2016

No bidder for Kingfisher brands

Auction of brands and trademarks of Kingfisher Airlines turned out to be a damp squib on Saturday as lenders failed to attract a single bidder for sale of these pledged assets at a reserve price of Rs 366.70 crore in their efforts to recover unpaid loans from beleaguered Vijay Mallya.

For more information see: “Auction fails as no bidder turns up for Kingfisher brandsBusiness Standard, 30 April 2016

PM to address US Congress

US House speaker Paul Ryan has invited Narendra Modi to address a joint session of the US Congress on June 8, virtually confirming that the Prime Minister will be traveling to Washington on a state visit although the trip is yet to be officially announced by the White House or the PMO. This will be Prime Minister Modi's fourth visit to the US since he assumed office two years ago, but his first State visit.

For more information see: PM Modi to address US Congress joint session on June 8, The Times of India, 29 April 2016

India, Pak to remain in touch

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had an almost 100-minute meeting Tuesday with visiting Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary but there was no indication that the two countries had been able to unlock the diplomatic deadlock and resume the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process. The foreign secretaries met in Jaishankar’s South Block corner office where they raised “issues of concern”, sticking to stated positions and rhetoric. The bilateral took place on the sidelines of a meeting of senior officials of the Heart of Asia conference.

For more information see: India, Pak agree to remain in touch: Foreign Secys break the ice, remain frosty, The Indian Express, 27 April 2016

Isa’s visa cancelled

Days after China raised objections to India issuing a visa to Germany-based Uighur leader Dolkun Isa to visit Dharamsala for a conference later this month, New Delhi withdrew the visa Monday, leaving several red faces in the government. India’s move to grant the visa was seen as a retaliatory measure after China blocked the listing of Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist at the UN.

For more information see: Red faces in Govt, Uighur leader Dolkun Isa’s visa cancelled after Chinese protests, The Indian Express, 25 April 2016

Copter for Maldives

As part of its defence diplomacy, India today deployed an advanced light helicopter MK III in Maldives, to be based at Kadhdhoo Island in Laamu Atol. The helicopter will assist Maldivian forces in undertaking search and rescue, casualty evacuation, coastal surveillance, maritime reconnaissance, communication and logistic duties. The Indian Naval contingent, headed by Cdr Rohit Gupte, an experienced helicopter pilot, comprises four officers and 21 sailors.

For more information see: India deploys copter for maritime surveillance in Maldives, Business Standard, 27 April 2016

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

No sympathy: Yameen

In a strongly-worded statement targeting the political Opposition once again, President Abdulla Yameen has said that he had no sympathy for parties who called for international sanctions against the nation without thinking about the consequences, or seeking inputs from the government.

For more information, see: “No sympathy for parties who call for measures without considering status: President Yameen”, Miadhu, 25 April 2016; “President: Those who don’t pay defamation fine cannot be kept from jail”, SunOnline, 24 April 2016; “PPM accuses Indian newspaper of defaming Gayoom”, Maldives Independent, 24 April 2016; “Maldives and the Commonwealth’s formal agenda: both sides claim victory”, Maldives Independent, 23 April 2016

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

Panglong-style talks

State counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, met with eight non-state armed groups and the Myanmar Army on April 27, calling for the convening of a “Panglong-style” peace conference within two months and encouraging all stakeholders to help make that happen.

For more information see: “Suu Kyi Calls for ‘Panglong-Style’ Peace Summit by June”, The Irrawaddy, 27 April 2016; “Suu Kyi’s call for ‘second Panglong’ gets lukewarm reception”, DVB, 28 April 2016; “Aung San Suu Kyi calls for peace conference within next two months”, Mizzima, 28 April 2016

Protest against US

Hundreds of Buddhist nationalists staged a protest in front of the US Embassy in Yangon on Thursday afternoon, to oppose the embassy’s use of the word “Rohingya” to refer to the stateless Muslims in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

For more information see: “Nationalist Buddhists protest at US Embassy against its use of word ‘Rohingya’”, Myanmar Now, 28 April 2016; “Nationalists rally against US embassy’s use of term ‘Rohingya’”, Myanmar Times, 29 April 2016;

Logging banned

Myanmar has banned lucrative logging operations as the newly-elected government of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi steps up a battle on deforestation, an environment official said on April 28. Burma banned export of raw timber logs to slow deforestation and boost its own production. By 2010, forest cover had shrunk to 47 percent of land area from 58 percent in 1990, Forestry Ministry data showed.

For more information see: “Government imposes logging ban, in latest bid to save forests”, DVB, 29 April 2016

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

Flames under control

The massive inferno which threatened to ravage Bagbazaar downtown of Dadeldhura has been taken under control after two hours. The fire completely burned down a grocery shop and Baijanath Wool Industry, and inflicted losses on a dozen more shops. The Nepal Army, Armed Police Force and Nepal Police personnel reached the incident site in time but could not control the fire initially.

For more information, see: “Dadeldhura fire under control after two hoursRepublica 29 April 2016; “Dadeldhura fire under control after 2-hrsThe Kathmandu Post.  29 April 2016

Water shortage

People of Lalpur, a VDC along the East-West Highway, have been facing acute shortage of water for drinking and irrigation for almost a year. The locals, who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, have installed tube-wells for irrigation but the tube wells have dried up. They are even struggling for drinking water as wells used to be their prime source of water.

For more information, see: “Excessive land mining at Chure causes water sources to dry upRepublica 29 April 2016

Fuel crisis: Genuine or staged?

Even though supplies have gradually improved, rampant black-marketeering and hoarding of cooking gas have plagued the market, according to the Department of Supply Management (DoSM). “The market is still in shortage of kitchen fuel despite improvement in supplies,” said Laxman Shrestha, director at the department. “The shortage is not totally due to poor supply.” Based on complaints filed by consumers, the deparment has raided several gas sellers in the past few days.

For more information, see: “Black market fuels crisis of cooking gas: DoSMThe Kathmandu Post.  29 April 2016

Bilateral talks with UK

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa met British Minister of State Hugo Swire at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK  in London on Thursday. During the meeting, matters pertaining to bilateral relations, development support from the United Kingdom, reconstruction process, and exchange of high-level visits were discussed. Such other visits at high political level would continue to take place, he hoped.

For more information, see: “DPM Thapa holds high level political meetings in LondonThe Kathmandu Post.  28 April 2016

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

Case against sharia courts

A Pakistani judge accepted a case against Jamaat-ud-Dawa (Jud), an Islamic charity widely acknowledged as a front for the militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, who are accused of running unauthorized sharia courts in Lahore. The case was brought by Khalid Saeed, a real estate agent, who filed a lawsuit after JuD summoned him in January to appear at the organization’s court in Lahore to resolve a property dispute.

For more information, see: Pakistan Courts Order Ruling on Muslim NGO’s Illegal Sharia Courts”, The New York Times, 27 April 2016

No breakthrough

Indian and Pakistani Foreign Secretaries S. Jaishankar and Aizaz Chaudhary met on 26 April in New Delhi on the sidelines of the ‘Heart of Asia’ senior officials’ meeting in an attempt to resume the peace dialogue between the two sides. “I would not say there is a breakthrough, but we conveyed our concerns forthrightly,” Chaudhry said. He said he had stressed the need for a “structured, sustained and result-oriented comprehensive dialogue process”, resolving the Kashmir dispute and conducting a fair trial in the 2007 Samjhauta Express attack case.

For more information, see: No breakthrough at Delhi talks, says Pak Foreign Secretary; India remains hopeful”, The Indian Express, 28 April 2016

North Waziristan ‘cleared’

Pakistan has done everything it can to root out militants from the Waziristan region, its foreign secretary said on 27 March. Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry when asked to respond to Afghanistan’s request for Pakistan, said to reporters in New Delhi, "Pakistan has already taken all necessary action against all groups operating in northern Waziristan and elsewhere." The Afghan government has grown increasingly frustrated by what it perceives as Pakistan’s ambivalence about bringing Taliban leaders to the negotiating table with Afghanistan.

For more information, see: “Pakistan Says Has Taken Steps to Root Out Militants in Waziristan”, The New York Times, 27 April 2016

Ghani statement denied

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on 26 April that Pakistan is not solely responsible for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria placed responsibility on the entire quadrilateral group, which includes the US, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, to bring peace to Afghanistan.

For more information, see: Bringing Taliban on the table not sole responsibility of Pakistan: FO”, Dawn, 26 April 2016

23 die of ‘food poison’

At least 23 persons have died and dozens of others have become sick in a wave of deaths believed to be caused by baked goods tainted with pesticides. According to the authorities, the deaths began when a resident of Punjab province on 17 April bought sweets to distribute to friends and family after the birth of his grandson.

For more information, see: At Least 23 Dead in Pakistan After Eating Tainted Sweets”, RFE/ RL, 29 April 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Sri Lanka 

Sirisena confident

Ahead of the annual May Day rally of the official faction of the SLFP headed by him, President Maithripala Sirisena has declared that the government of UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe headed by him could not be ‘toppled’. In an obvious reference to predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, he said that the dreams of those that thought of toppling the government will not be ‘fulfilled’.

For more information, see: “Govt. cannot be toppled: President”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2016; “We try to protect SLFP: Joint opp.”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2016; “UPFA to refrain from inviting MR for SLFP rally”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2016; “Prez all out to foil MR’s comeback bid...vows to adopt constitutional and legal measures to achieve that end”, The Island, 27 April 2016; "SLFP should be restructured- President", Daily Mirror Online, 24 April 2016;  “President to take several new political decisions after May 1”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 April 2016; “MS surprised, sorry some media want authoritarian ruler back”, The Island, 28 April 2016

Tamils for ‘federal’ solution

The Tamil-majority Northern Provincial Council has passed a resolution, seeking a ‘federal solution’ to the ethnic issue. Simultaneously, the organisational wing of the TNA, which controls the NPC, has also made a separate but similar demand. Party leader R Sampanthan also created a personal precedent of sorts by ‘visiting’ Tamil homes inside areas still designated as ‘army camps’ without the required permits.

For more information, see:Sri Lanka Tamils Look for Federal Solution”, PTI/New Indian Express, 27 April 2016; “NPC not for special powers: Sivagnanam”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 April 2016; “Federal unit in re-merged NE ...N PC resolution should be examined like any other proposal – TNA”, The Island, 24 April 2016; “Sri Lanka President's Party Opposes Federal Solution”, PTI/New Indian Express, 25 April 2016; “PHU to President: Dissolve NPC”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 April 2016; “FSP urges Tamils to beware of TNA motives”, The Island, 25 April 2016; “NSC to take up Sampanthan incident”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 April 2016; “TNA: Sampanthan went to a private land; Not a camp”, Daily Mirror Online, 28 April 2016; “Minister condemns TNA barging into army camp”, The Island, 25 April 2016; “UNP: Will the arrest of Sampanthan solve issue?”, The Island, 26 April 2016; “Sampanthan, others storming army camp: Probe hushed up”, The Island, 26 April 2016; “Another ex LTTE leader arrested”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2016; “Chava explosive cache: Ex-LTTE intelligence head in East arrested”, The Island, 26 April 2016; “Unidentified gang abducts ex-LTTE commander in East”, The Island, 24 April 2016; “Sri Lanka’s interest in TN politics wanes”, Daily Mirror Online, 24 April 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Primary Documentation

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

Press Releases

Bhutan joined 174 countries to become a signatory to the Paris Agreement for Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 26 April 2016

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

Press Releases

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

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

Press Releases

Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Pretoria, South AfricaMinistry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 28 April 2016

Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, London, U.K.Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 28 April 2016

Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Washington D.C., USA Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 26 April 2016

Press Release issued by Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations, New YorkMinistry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 23 April 2016

Statement delivered by Honorable Mr. Kamal Thapa, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals at the UN General AssemblyMinistry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 22 April 2016

Comment of Spokesperson on reported participation of some members of the diplomatic corps in an interaction organized by the Federal AllianceMinistry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 22 April 2016

Press Release issued by Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations, New York Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 22 April 2016

Press Release issued by Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations, New YorkMinistry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 21 April 2016

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

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


Afghanistan in disarray”, The Express Tribune, 26 April 2016

Peace in Afghanistan”, Daily Times, 28 April 2016

< style="color: #0a83cf">Bangladesh 

Opinion Pieces

Tahmima Anam, “A Burst of Energy in Bangladesh”, The New York Times, 27April, 2016

Matt Vasilogambros, “The Bloody Fight Over Bangladesh’s Secularism”, Atlantic, 26 April 2016

Dr. Abdullah Shibli, “Carbon Tax? Is there a slam-dunk case for it?”, The Daily Star,  24 April 2016

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

Opinion Pieces

Rinchen Dawa, Rethinking college education in Bhutan, Kuensel, 23 April 2016

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

Opinion Pieces

T N Ninan, “Bofors redux?”, Business Standard, 30 April 2016

Mihir S Sharma, “How BJP has trumped Congress at politics”, Business Standard, 30 April 2016

Shekhar Gupta, “Writings on the Bengal wall”, Business Standard, 30 April 2016

C Raja Mohan, Raja-Mandala: Aligning with the far to balance the near, The Indian Express, 26 April 2016

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

Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Heading for political deadlock”, South Asia Monitor, 28 April 2016

Dunya Maumoon, Foreign Minister, Maldives, “A tale of two Maldives”, Maldives Independent, 26 April 2016

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Political stalemate remains”,, 25 April 2016

Asim Zahir, “Politics of radicalisation: How the Maldives is failing to stem violent extremism”, Maldives Independent, 25 April 2016

Xiena Saeed, “No sympathy for people like us”, Maldives Independent, 24 April 2016

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

Nay Phone Latt, “We will handle the land dispute issues seriously”, Myanmar Now, 28 April 2016

Nehginpao Kipgen, “India needs to do more in Myanmar”, Myanmar Times, 27 April 2016

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


Republica, “Covered in blood”, Republica,  27 April 2016

The Kathmandu Post, “Hot airThe Kathmandu Post,  29 April 2016

Opinion Pieces

Dr Robert S Kittel, “Visit Nepal”, Republica.  27 April 2016

Umesh Raj Regmi, “Not so fast The Kathmandu Post.  29 April 2016

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


Another missed opportunity”, The Hindu, 29 April 2016

Opinion Pieces

Ayesha Siddiqa, “Something’s got to give in Islamabad”, The Hindu, 29 April 2016

Khurram Husain, “Lead the way, Mr Prime Minister”, Dawn, 28 April 2016

I.A. Rehman, “A tale of twin states”, Dawn, 28 April 2016

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

Malinda Seneviratne, “NPC resolution is both a threat and an opportunity”, Daily Mirror Online, 28 April 2016

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “NPC resolution is both a threat and an opportunity”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 April 2016

Jehan Perera, “Further disregard of Tamil polity will further justify federalism”, The Island, 26 April 2016

R M B Senanayake, “Further disregard of Tamil polity will further justify federalism”, The Island, 26 April 2016

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Alerts ahead of ‘Mayday call’?”, The Sunday Leader, 24 April 2016

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

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Shubh Soni & Pushan Das

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

Nepal: Dr Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury & Sreeparna Banerjee


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