MonitorsPublished on Jan 25, 2016
South Asia Weekly | Volume IX; Issue 4

Has Sri Lanka’s China policy really changed?

N Sathiya Moorthy

One year down the line, it is anybody’s guess if the change of Government in Sri Lanka has effected any major shift or change in the nation’s foreign and security policy, particularly neighbourhood policy impacting on the larger northern Indian neighbour in particular. The answer is ‘yes-and-no’ at the same time. It’s not without reasons, either.

Recently, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared that the China-funded Colombo Port City project and other developmental schemes of the kind would continue on stream. His Government had stalled the prestigious Port City project for review after Wickremesinghe had announced that the scheme would be shut down if the joint Opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, became President.

Sirisena was elected in the 8 January 2015 polls – but nothing seems to have changed on the China front, barring a stoppage of work on the Port City project, for an internal review. It’s more so for those in India who had unilaterally concluded that a change of government/President in Sri Lanka would work out to India’s advantage vis a vis China. To ‘em all, the Port City Project was a ‘gone case’ for China, and a ‘test case’ for India – by extension (of their fertile imagination). It was/is not to be, and rightly so from a Sri Lankan perspective, per se.

Logistics hub

PM Wickremesinghe has also since declared that Sri Lanka would (continue to) be a ‘logistics hub’ (in the Indian Ocean). It was one of the five ‘hubs’ that erstwhile President Mahinda Rajapaksa had pronounced as a part of his ‘Mahinda Chintanaya’ poll manifesto in the first electoral outing of 2005. Before Rajapaksa, the late President J R Jayewardene too had hoped to make Sri Lanka a ‘second Singapore’ in the region, based on such medium and long-term economic goals for his country.

Sri Lankan reservations on the India-abandoned(?) Sethusamudram Project and any new/expanded port in Vizhignam or Kochi in southern Kerala State were based on the assumption that it could impact on the India trade of Colombo port. As is known, 70 percent of Colombo port’s businesses originate/terminate in India, particularly the southern States. South India does not have an international port like the one in Colombo, and that has made a positive difference to bilateral trade, politics and economy, over the past decades.

To say that Ranil’s ‘logistics hub’ scheme had its origins in Rajapaksa’s ‘Mahinda Chintanaya’, or ‘Mahinda’s Thoughts’, is not to suggest that the former had taken it from the latter, or Rajapaksa had lifted the idea from Jayewardene, or Wickremesinghe is only following in the footsteps of Rajapaksa. This could sound particularly discomforting for sections of the Indian strategic community in particularly. They had refused to understand and/or acknowledge concepts such as ‘national priorities’ and national consensus in the case of neighbourhood nations while rightly claiming and attesting to the existence of the same in the Indian context.

‘Vikramaditya’ visit

What should endear the new Sri Lankan dispensation to these sections of the Indian strategic community might be INS Vikramaditya’s port-call at Colombo while traversing from the west coast to the east coast of India, recently. It was the first Sri Lanka touch-down by the aircraft-carrier of the Indian Navy. It happened around the time three Chinese naval vessels and also three smaller Indian naval vessels were on port-call duty at Colombo.

More recently, President Sirisena made a particular reference to these naval visits from China and India, and also an upcoming one from the Japanese Navy. Sirisena said it was all a ‘blessing’ for Sri Lanka. It may again be an unacknowledged reference to the ‘naval’ hub that Rajapaksa’s ‘Mahinda Chintanaya’ had talked about – and thus, an extension of the ‘national consensus’ in action.

India in general and sections of the Indian strategic community in particular were upset – and justifiably so – when the Rajapaksa Government granted permission for two Chinese submarines to traverse the shared waters with India, in 2014. It is unclear if they would now consider the Colombo berthing of ‘INS Vikramaditya’ as the new Sri Lankan dispensation’s tit-for-tat viz the predecessor, of an Indian tit-for-tat for China. What they should instead be concerned, if at all, should be the continuity and frequency of Chinese naval vessels to Sri Lankan ports.

If Vikramaditya visit were an Indian tit-for-tat viz China, then the question arises if India would have been satisfied if the Rajapaksa dispensation too had invited an Indian carrier or submarine, to berth in Sri Lankan ports. If not, the question arises if the Vikramaditya visit now will be cited in future by Sri Lankan Governments – this and others – to ‘balance off’ India against other strategic adversaries, by inviting/permitting berthing facilities for their naval vessels, together or separately or alternatively.

India’s concerns in this regard flow from the existence of geo-strategic and/or neighbourhood adversaries of the US kind in the ‘Cold War’ era, to be replaced by China, post-Cold War. Pakistan has been a continuing and at times active player in India-Sri Lanka neighbourhood waters and specifically in the latter’s from time to time.

Accord’s Appendix

It’s anybody’s guess if India still considers the sanctity of the Appendix to the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, in which reference was/is made to Sri Lanka not allowing nations inimical to India to use Sri Lankan ports, starting with eastern Trincommalee. If Sri Lanka is to serve as a ‘logistics hub’, both in the maritime and naval arenas, then the question would arise if India would be justified in staking its claims, based on a Cold War era pact. Most, if not all other provisions proper of the Accord remain still, mostly on paper – or, in divergence and dilution.

The Rajapaksa regime, soon after the Chinese submarines’ visits, repeatedly claimed that Indian naval vessels were welcome in Sri Lanka. As he pointed out, however, most maritime and naval vessels using Sri Lankan ports were from other end of the globe, and needed facilities for refuelling, servicing and transhipment of goods (meant mostly for India), apart from rest and recuperation for their crew members.

India did not need these services, the Rajapaksa leadership had surmised, and for reasons of proximity to Indian bases and ports. Hence, an Indian naval visit to Sri Lanka had to be a formal port-of-call, as has been the case with ‘INS Vikramaditya’ and other vessels. It could only be that way, unlike the Chinese PLA-N submarines or other naval assets of other nations.

Neighbourhood duty

In the past, India demonstrated its will and willingness to rush the Navy and Air Force to help/assist Sri Lanka at the height of the ‘Asian tsunami’ of 2014. The tsunami had hit south India in general, Tamil Nadu in particular, from across Sri Lanka – along with Indian military assets in the Andamans. Before the tsunami, Indian Navy and Air Force, along with the Army was in Sri Lanka during the IPKF era (1987-89).

Together, the IPKF and tsunami proved a few things. One, India could and would rush military assistance to Sri Lanka whenever required, and at short notice, independent of the calamitous situation nearer home. Two, on both occasions, most especially in the case of the IPKF, Indian armed forces would pack up and go when the Colombo Government wanted it so.

In all this, India also showed that it would not hold past grudges of the ‘IPKF withdrawal’ kind, when Sri Lanka was in urgent need of external help and assistance. Rather, India considered it a neighbourhood duty to rush help to whichever neighbour that was in distress and India was in a position to help. India had thus offered assistance to adversarial Pakistan when the nation was hit by earth-quakes.

Living in the past

Critics of the other remain in both countries to date. They are mostly from the strategic community, whose personal experiences and memories may cloud their present-day perceptions. They still live in the past, and do not want to forget the past – lest possibly the present could render them irrelevant, too. They have also often overlooked the ground reality that Governments in the two countries have their own perceptions and understanding of each other, independent of whoever is in power – or, not.

Critics of Sri Lanka in India often recall the Sri Lankan decision to offer re-fuelling facility to Pakistan Air Force at the height of the ‘Bangladesh War’ in 1971. It was just six months after the ‘first JVP insurgency’, which India helped militarily neutralise. In the post-Cold War era, they now relate to China in particular, but with reference to the post-war Rajapaksa dispensation. They are unsure about their own views and perceptions of the new regime in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan critics of India have not stopped recalling ‘Operation Garland’ (1987), of Indian Air Force aircraft dropping food and medicines to the Tamils cornered by the Sri Lankan forces in the Northern Province. Nor would they acknowledge that ‘Tamil militancy’ in their country preceded the Indian training and arming of them at least by a decade. Indian aims at training the Tamil youth at ‘self-defence’ followed ‘Pogrom-‘83’.

Over 250,000 Tamil-speaking from Sri Lanka had risked their lives in mid-sea, to reach the safety of India. These had set off a ‘demographic imbalance’ in a sensitive sea-bordering southern State like Tamil Nadu. Yet, even the Sri Lankan preference for Pakistan during the ‘Bangladesh War’, India readily the conceded the Sri Lankan position on IMBL-Katchchativu issues (1974, 76).

It was so in the case of the Upcountry Tamils of recent Indian origin (IOT). India was still busy setting its post-Partition, Independent house in order, when the Sri Lankan State and polity almost stealthily disenfranchised the IOT, without reference to the Indian neighbour. Yet, when the ‘Stateless’ IOT population also became the target of the militant JVP left in its first avtar, India readily signed Shastri-Sirimavo repatriation agreement (1964), almost on the dotted line. History could not repeat itself. Nor could it be allowed, then or now.

In its ‘peace war’ with the West, the Rajapaksa regime had counted on India as the immediate, large and influential neighbour for sympathy and support – and on China, for the all important ‘veto’ at the UN Security Council. China does not have a veto in the UNHRC, and the West took Sri Lanka there. Rajapaksas’ successors are also burdened. It’s neither surprisingly, nor shockingly so.

Though speaking of Chinese funding, the current regime seems to be keen mostly on projects already on stream, or on which preparations had been made by the Rajapaksa leadership. They have started negotiating with the IMF (an extended fiscal arm of the West), for a stand-by arrangement (SBA), blaming the emerging forex crisis on the unpredictable nature of the Arab-Gulf economy and internal remittances by Sri Lankan workers, there.

Yet, the new regime also despatched Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake to China for the inaugural of the China-floated AIIB, a States-sponsored international bank. Western analysts see as a competition to Bretton Woods institutions, namely, the IMF and the World Bank. Rajapakse had signed in Sri Lanka as a founder-member of the AIIB, and the Maithri-Ranil duo may have had little flexibility in the matter. But for the nation’s Finance Minister to be present at the inaugural does say a lot, after all.

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

Pakistan: Anti-terror initiatives lack seriousness

Kriti M. Shah

The attack at Bacha Khan University has once again questioned Pakistan’s earnestness on fighting terror. The attack in Chardrassa, orchestrated a year after the attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar that killed 133, has exposed many gaping holes in Pakistan’s internal security apparatus.

Following the APS massacre, the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) has seen numerous arrests, raids on militant organisation offices and military offensives in North Waziristan and Karachi. The Nawaz Sharif government harps on the ‘success’ of the NAP by solely focussing on the figures of the arrests made, raids conducted and weapons seized.

Although there is now a greater sense of security among the masses with increased military and government crackdown on extremism, the university attack on 20 January is a grim reminder of the failure of the government and military to successfully create a national counter-terrorism agenda in the year after the APS massacre.

The attack in Chardrassa, claiming 22 lives, has once again brought the focus back on the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). The NACTA was formed in 2008 with the task of drafting a national security strategy after consultation with different stakeholders. In 2012, the cabinet approved the draft bill, making NACTA a legally- mandated body of the government.

The NACTA was envisioned to be a centralised organisation for coordination and intelligence-sharing among intelligence and law- enforcement agencies to curb acts of terrorism and counter extremist ideology. However, since the passing of the 2013 NACTA Act, the organisation has been regrettably non-functional. Without full activation of this centralised command, Pakistan will lose its war on terror.

The NACTA was formed in December 2014, after the APS massacre. Except for its first meeting, the Board of Governors of the organisation, who are required to ‘meet as and when required but it shall meet at least once in each quarter of the year’, has not had a single meeting.

The office ‘national coordinator’, the effective head of NACTA, who is tasked with the responsibility to execute the policies implemented by the body, has been occupied by five people within the last two years. This has meant that the organisation remained redundant body with no action or progress on any of its initial objectives.

In the budget for the fiscal year 2015-16, no funds were allocated for NACTA. The Minister of Finance remarked that NACTA’s budget had been included in the budget for the Interior Ministry. The latter denied that claim. This reflected the lack of seriousness on part of the government to harness the potential power of NACTA.

Ironically, only a few days before the Chardassa attack, the Finance Ministry released P-Rs 800 million for NACTA. In addition to the already sorry state of affairs, out of the 206 posts within the body, only 60 posts are filled, leaving 71 percent vacant.

Immediate agenda

The activation of NACTA to its full potential must be an immediate agenda of the Nawaz Sharif government in order to win the war on terror. The body has a vital role to play, being a point of coordination amongst intelligence and security forces fighting militants in the country.

The Chardassa attack is a jolting reminder of just that. Military crackdowns and set up of military courts to try terrorists have only short term consequences and cannot ensure the long term survival of the state. A comprehensive long-term plan to counter-extremist ideology, improved intelligence-sharing among law enforcement agencies and beefing up of internal security to prevent attacks on Pakistani soil. While making NACTA effective and efficient is a crucial part, there are other actions the government and the military must take in order to purge terrorism from Pakistani soil.

The government must control terrorist and extremist propaganda. The inability to do this has resulted in terrorist organisations radicalising impressionable youth to join their forces and launch more attacks on Pakistani and international soil. It must also take stricter action against members of banned militant organizations such as Jaish-e-Mohammad.

The fact that terrorist organisation leaders such as Maulana Masood Azhar are allowed to address rallies of thousands freely in Pakistan reflect the double-standards of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism policy. In addition to this, the government has largely ignored taking action on the vast network of terror financing in the country.

The Terror Financial Investigation Unit (TFIU) is the only organisation in the country that deals solely with terror financing. However, without a professional head and inadequate staffing for many years, the TFIU’s abilities are considerably restrained.

The setting up of military courts and the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty has led to the execution of many convicts. However the government must begin to address problems in the civilian judicial system through which many terrorists have walked away scot free by threats, extortion, kidnappings and murders of judges, lawyers and witnesses.

How to repair the system and secure the stability of a civilian-run judicial system are questions that the Sharif government has turned away from, readily allowing the military to dictate the rule of law as it sees fit. It must therefore enhance the capacity of courts, supporting them with legislation making it difficult for terrorists to get away. The set up of specialised units with enhanced military and intelligence capabilities is also warranted. Better provincial counter-terrorism networks with increased coordination with a central command, namely NACTA will help Islamabad rein in extremist it its entirety and effective safeguard Pakistan society.

As an organisation that develops national de-radicalisation agendas to eradicate terrorism, the commencement of NACTA is an imperative. The Nawaz Sharif government, for a start, should begin by appointing a national coordinator, one that does change on an ad-hoc basis. It should also solve the hurdle of financing for the organisation and release funds that will kick start the programme against terrorism immediately.

Such actions will allow for the development of a basic structure within the organisation that can begin drafting a counter terrorism framework. Gradually filling up of vacancies with experts, diplomats, policy makers and experienced professionals will help Pakistan give terror a real fight.

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

Country Reports


Suicide-bomber kills seven

On 20 January, seven employees of the TOLO News television network were killed in Kabul when a suicide bomber drove a car into a minibus that was carrying them, and detonated it. The attack occurred near the Russian embassy in west Kabul, though no Russian workers were targeted. Zabihullah Mujahid, claiming the Taliban’s responsibility for the attack, said, “Thanks to Almighty God and his support, and with the prayers of those Muslims who were vexed by spy workers of Tolo, the attack was successful. The vehicle was destroyed and swallowed by fire with all its spies, and its corrupt passengers killed.” The Taliban has been highly critical of Afghan news agencies’ coverage of the ongoing conflict in the country.

For more information, see: Suicide bomb in Afghan capital targets journalists, kills seven people”, Reuters, 20 January 2016

US to target ISIS

 In response to ISIS’ growing footprint and number of attacks carried out in Afghanistan, US President Barack Obama has approved Secretary of Defence Ash Carter’s request -- originally made in December 2015 -- to legally target ISIS in Afghanistan with increased military action. The U.S. military now has the authority to engage the Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS in its efforts to expunge the extremist groups from the country. “We are prepared to take action against any terrorist group that poses a threat to U.S. interests or the homeland, including members of ISIL-K,” said a senior administration official in a statement. ISIL-K (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - Khorasan) is the U.S. government’s acronym for the group's affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For more information, see: U.S Clears Path to Target Islamic State in Afghanistan”, Wall Street Journal, 19 January 2016

Ghani for Davos

 President Ashraf Ghani will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland with heads of state, diplomats and security officials (including U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense, John Kerry and Ash Carter), and business executives from around the world starting this week. Ghani has plans to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Vice President of the United States Joe Biden at the forum. Ghani’s attendance comes on the heels of the conclusion of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), where officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States met in Kabul on Monday to discuss peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

For more information, see: Ghani Leaves Kabul for World Economic Forum”, TOLO News, 20 January 2016


 14 deported for terror-links

Singapore deported 14 Bangladesh for jihadi conspiracy. The deported persons are supporters of the militant outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team. Singapore police had arrested 27 Bangladeshi construction workers, during November-December, over terror plans in the island-state. Later in December, the country deported 26 of them.

For more information see:  “14 Bangladeshis deported by Singapore loyal to Ansarullah Bangla Team, say police”,, 21 January 2016; “Bangladeshis in Singapore condemn militancy”, Dhaka Tribune, 22 January 2016

Denied AIIB entry

Bangladesh’s will not be a member of China-sponsored Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as chief promoter China has halted the request.  Foreign Minister M A M Muhith said that the bank rejected the country’s membership request because it was not ratified by Bangladesh parliament.

 For more information, see: Bangladesh denied AIIB membership”, Dhaka Tribune, 20 January 2016

BBIN members meet

After the success of the motor vehicle agreement, the sub-regional grouping of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) has planned to extend the partnership in areas including- water resources management, power trade, and the establishment of railway links. The decision was arrived at the two-day meeting of the third joint working group of BBIN member countries held in Dhaka this week.

For more information, see: BBIN discusses collective water management, moots rail agreement”,, 20 January 2016


 Friendship offer for Japan

Marking the completion of 30 years of relations with Japan, a Bhutan-Japan Friendship offer was launched simultaneously in Thimphu and Tokyo. Japanese tourists visiting Bhutan will not have to pay the mandatory minimum daily package rate of $ 200 per person. They will only pay the daily royalty of $ 65 per person per night.

For more information see: “Bhutan-Japan friendship offer launched”, Kuensel, 20 January 2016

Snow showers in Thimphu

The home ministry declared a day’s holiday on account of the country’s first snowfall. Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay tweeted the news early this morning and advised citizens to drive safely.

For more information see: “First snowfall, Holiday declared in Thimphu”, Kuensel, 20 January 2016


 Suspension lifted

The Executive Council of the University of Hyderabad 'terminated' the action taken against the 5 research scholars. The Council after taking into account the extraordinary situation prevailing on the University campus, and after discussing about the issue in detail, resolved to terminate the punishment imposed with immediate effect.

For more information see:Hyderabad varsity lifts suspension of five Dalit studentsThe Hindu, 21 January, 2016

Rajnath assures action against those behind Malda violence                  

Rajnath Singh described the violence at Kaliachak in West Bengal Malda district as "not a small incident" and said that the truth should be brought into the public domain. Addressing a party rally at Ashoknagar, Mr. Singh assured the gathering that those behind the incident will be put behind bars.

For more information see: “Rajnath assures action against those behind Malda violenceThe Hindu, 21 January 2016

Fiscal road-map to stay

With just over 40 days left for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to present the Union Budget 2016-17, budget-makers are said to be veering towards sticking to the current medium-term fiscal consolidation roadmap and set a fiscal deficit target for the next year at 3.5% of gross domestic product.

For more information see: Budget 2016: FinMin veering in favour of retaining fisc road map; PM may decideBusiness Standard, 21 January 2016

Tejas production next year

Manohar Parrikar said full-scale production of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas will begin by next year "As per my primary report, it is appreciated by other countries who are interested... By next year, we are starting full-scale production," he told reporters at the NCC Republic Day camp here.

For more information see: Full-scale production of Tejas by next year: ParrikarBusiness Standard, 21 January 2016


Nasheed for surgery in UK

Jailed former President Mohammed Nasheed left for the UK after the Government granted him one month’s leave for undergoing spinal surgery – but only after last-minute hiccups over his refusal to sign related documents as per law and tradition. En route to London, Nasheed created a stir at Colombo by meeting with western diplomats, and the Sri Lankan Government came up with a denial after reports claimed that President Maithripala Sirisena had met with him even as the US Secretary of State John Kerry dubbed the ‘prison leave’ as ‘release’.

For more information, see: “Maldives' jailed ex-pres leaves for surgery as govt reminds sentence remains”, Haveeru Online, 19 January 2016; “Deadlock on jailed Maldives ex-pres surgery ends as family signs declaration”, Haveeru Online, 18 January 2016; “Nasheed’s brother agrees to act as guarantor”, Maldives Independent, 18 January 2016; “US says jailed Maldives ex-pres 'release' step in right direction”, Haveeru Online, 19 January 2016; “Sri Lanka pres meets Maldives ex-pres en route to UK”, Haveeru Online, 19 January 2016; “Nasheed meets top diplomats in Colombo”, Maldives Independent, 20 January 2016; “Jailed Maldives ex-president thanks world leaders for medical release”, Haveeru Online, 19 January 2016; “Nasheed didn’t meet MS or any other politician: FAM”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 January 2016; “Sri Lanka secured Nasheed’s release for medical treatment in UK – Ravi K: … it was a humanitarian gesture”, The Island, 20 January 2016; “Maldives ex-leader lands in London after prison release: aide”, Haveeru Online, 21 January 2016;  “Umar says Nasheed spit of the face of a prison employee”, SunOnline, 18 January 2016;  “Maldives' jailed ex-pres' lawyer rejects 'spitting' claims”, Haveeru Online, 18 January 2016

Should ‘serve’ nation’: Prez

In a loaded statement, President Abdulla Yameen said that Maldives awaited jailed predecessor Mohammed Nasheed, now away in the UK on ‘prison leave’ to return home and serve the nation. However, he clarified that Nasheed would have to defend his case in the Supreme Court, where he has preferred a delayed challenge against his 13-year prison term in the ‘Judge Abdulla abduction case’.

For more information: “Maldives pres 'awaits' Nasheed's return to 'serve nation'”, Haveeru Online, 22 January 2016;”Maldives pres admits turbulent past year, vows 'hopeful changes'”, Haveeru Online, 22 January 2016; “Maldives opposition urges peace talks reboot”, Haveeru Online, 21 January 2013;“Maldives downplays intl pressure, says Nasheed's leave 'humanitarian initiative'”, Haveeru Online, 19 January 2016; “Maldives lambastes Amal Clooney for 'compelling tale'”, Haveeru Online, 22 January 2016; “Maldives high-profile convicts' lesser punishment debate leaves legal experts torn”, Haveeru Online, 22 January 2016

India to git aircraft

At a meeting with visiting Maldivian counterpart Adam Shareef, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar announced a gift of a fixed-wing aircraft to the Ocean neighbour apart from an already committed second helicopter. This, even as China promised to meet the 2017 deadline for the Male-Hulhumale ‘Friendship Bridge’, and Maldives expressed hopes about securing developmental funding from the newly-formed, China-led AIIB.

For more information, see: “India to gift Maldives helicopter, aircraft”, Haveeru Online, 21 January 2016; “India to donate military aircraft, new helicopter to Maldives”, Maldives Independent, 20 January 2016; “India pledges support for Maldivian army”, Miadhu, 21 January 2016; “Maldives hopeful of securing financing from Chinese-led bank”, Maldives Independent, 21 January 2016; “Have been given assurance bridge will be completed in time: Dr. Muizz”, Miadhu, 21 January 2016


 Buddhist leader arrested

Former Buddhist monk and leader of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, U Gambira, aka Nyi Nyi Lwin, was arrested without a warrant by around 20 police officers at his hotel room in Mandalay, On 19 January. He was taken to a Mandalay police station and charged with entering the country illegally under Section 13(1) of the nation’s 1947 Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act.

For more information see: “Saffron Revolution leader U Gambira arrested in Mandalay”, Mizzima, 21 January 2016; “Burma re-arrests Saffron Revolution leader Gambira”, DVB, 20 January 2016

Military names parliamentarians

The list of military personnel appointed as members of regional and state parliaments was announced on 17 January. The list was compiled at the instruction the commander-in-chief of the Defence Services in accordance with the Region Parliament Election Law and was sent to the Union Election Commission, which later announced the appointees after evaluating them.

For more information see: “Military announces appointees to the regional parliament”, Eleven, 17 January 2016

Rebel armies clash leads

Deadly fighting has again broken out between rebel armies the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA) and Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) in Shan state. On Monday a skirmish in Hsipaw Township of northern Shan State erupted between the ethnic armed organisations.

For more information see:Casualties as rebel armies clash in Shan state”, DVB, 19 January 2016


 SEZ Bill cleared

Parliament on 22 January approved the proposal, seeking consideration on the Bill Related to the Special Economic Zone. Industry Minister Som Prasad Pandey explained that the Bill has been brought with the plan of import substitution, promoting exports and operating special economic zone. The Legislature-Parliament meeting also approved the proposal seeking consideration on the Industrial Enterprises Bill, 2071 today.

For more information, see:House approves proposal on SEZRepublica, 22 January 2016

Nets trophy

Nepal beat Bahrain U-23 to lift Bangabandhu Gold Cup football tournament in Bangladesh on January 22. Bimal Gharti Magar, Bishal Rai and Nawayug Shrestha netted for Nepal to claim the title. Nepal took an early lead in the fifth minute with score from Bimal. Bishal doubled the advantage in the 87th minute. Nawayug sealed the victory with the final goal through a header in the added time.

For more information, see:Nepal lifts Bangabandhu Gold Cup; beats Bahrain 3-0Republica, 22 January 2016; “Nepal defeat Bahrain 3-0 to lift Bangabandhu Gold Cup titleThe Kathmandu Post, 22 January 2016; “Anfa announces cash rewards to title winning playersThe Kathmandu Post, 22 January 2016


Taliban kill 22 in varsity

At least 22 people were killed and more than 50 injured at Bacha Khan University in the northwestern city of Peshawar on 20 January when four armed militants attacked the campus. According to the Charsadda district police chief Saeed Wazir, security forces killed the attackers before they could detonate suicide vests.

Khalifa Umar Mansoor, a Pakistani Taliban leader, called reporters in Peshawar to claim responsibility for the attack, and he confirmed that four of their men were involved. Mansoor said the attack was in response to the December execution of four men convicted of aiding the 2014 Peshawar school attackers. However later Taliban spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani denied that the group had carried out the onslaught.

 For more information, see: APS mastermind claims Bacha Khan University attack, 22 killed”, Dawn, 21 January 2016

JeM condemns crack-down

 Syed Salahuddin, chairman of the United Jihad Council (UJC), a militant alliance based in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, condemned on 20 January the crackdown by the Pakistani government on the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). "We are at a loss to understand whether they (the Pakistan government) are concerned about the interests of the country that feeds them or that of its enemy?" Salahuddin said at a news conference.

"Pakistan is not only an advocate but also a party to the long-standing Kashmir dispute and therefore the Pakistani people, government, and media should play the role of a patron rather than of an adversary." Salahuddin previously claimed responsibility for the attack on India’s Pathankot air base on January 2. His claim was met with scepticism among Indian security officials who blame JeM.

For more information, see: Militant who claimed responsbility for Pathankot attack warns Pakistan aginst crackdown”, Reuters, 20 January 2016

Hosting Saudi-Iran talks?

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on January 19 offered to host talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia to reconcile the rival nations. Sharif met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran and told reporters that Iran expressed an interest in improving relations with Saudi Arabia. Tensions increased between the historic rivals after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on January 2. Sharif has described reconciling the two countries as Pakistan's "prime duty and sacred mission."

 For more information, see: Pakistan Offers to Host Saudi-Iran Reconciliation Talks”, The New York Times, 19 January 2016

Sri Lanka

 IC must stay away: MS

In possibly the most direct reference of the kind since assuming office, President Maithripala Sirisena has said that the international community should stay away from matters of State interest. Contradicting the known position of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sirisena said that only local judges and processes should be involved in investigations into war-crimes and accountability issues.

For more information, see: “Int’l community needn’t worry about matters of state interest: MS”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 January 2016; “Govt, EU agree on speedy implementation of Geneva resolution”, The Island, 21 January 2016; “UK denies interfering in drafting of SL’s new constitution...Reconciliation key to economic growth – Hugo Swire”, The Island, 17 January 2016;  “David Cameron takes some credit for reforms in Sri Lanka... Domestic War Crimes Inquiry Mechanism to be discussed with UNHRC Chief - Hugo Swire”, The Island, 18 January 2016; “New Constitution: PM assures unitary status, transparency in framing process”, The Island, 18 January 2016; “‘I won’t do Constitution-making with G. L. Peiris and his junta’ – Ranil”, The Island, 17 January 2016; “MR urges govt not mix up other constitutional changes with abolition of executive presidency and electoral reforms”, The Island, 18 January 2016; “MR: Hold fresh polls to elect new government once new constitution is promulgated”, The Island, 18 January 2016; “Former North and East Chief Minister considers federalism best solution”, The Island, 20 January 2016

 Port City on, says PM

In what could be considered a reversal from his pre-poll position, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared that the stalled China-funded Colombo Port City project would be revived, and that there was no bar on projects of the kind, funded by China. He referred to the visits of naval and maritime vessels from various countries, including India and China, and said that Sri Lanka wanted to be a ‘logistics hub’, a position originally propagated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his time in office.

For more information, see: Will go ahead with Port City project: Ranil”, Daily Mirror Online, 21 January 2016; “Ravi in Beijing for opening of new China-led infrastructure bank”, The Island, 17 January 2016; “Chinese, Indian, Japanese naval visits huge blessing for Lanka – President: Vows to thwart new separatist campaign”, The Island, 22 January 2016; “Britain rules out Defence Pact with Sri Lanka...Premature says Hugo Swire, willing to engage across the board”, The Island, 18 January 2016; “SL's relation with India has suffered: Ranil”, Daily Mirror Online, 21 January 2016; “Indian aircraft carrier calls at Colombo port”, Daily Mirror Online, 21 January 2016; “India deploys submarine-hunters in Andaman and Nicobar islands to counter Chinese forays”, The Island, 20 January 2016; “Minister sees first hand, poaching by Indian fishermen”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 January 2016; “Foreign Fishing Vessels Act to be amended to fight poaching”, The Island, 20 January 2016

Primary Documentation


Press Releases

Ministerial delegation to attend investment road show in Japan, Ministry of Economic Affairs, 19 January 2016


Press Releases

Thura U Thet Oo Maung presented his Credentials to Her Excellency Madame Park Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 21 January 2016


Press Releases

Joint Press Release on Third JWG meetings at Dhaka issued by Embassy of Nepal, DhakaMinistry of Foreign Affairs, 21 January 2015

Statement on Terrorist Attack in PakistanMinistry of Foreign Affairs, 21 January 2015



Opinion pieces

Syed Kamran Hashmi, “Let Afghans decide their future”, The Daily Times, 22 January 2016

David A. Andelman, “Pakistani Taliban attack kills hope for talks”, USA Today, 20 January 2016


Opinion Pieces

Sheikh Hasina, “Developed nations must do their part”, Prothom Alo, 18 January 2016

Adnan R Amin, “Bangladesh at Bloggerheads”, The Daily Star, 16 January 2016

Fayazuddin Ahmad, “Developing Democracy: Role of the young people”, The Daily Star, 19 January 2016

Ahmad Ibrahim, “Livelihood”, The Daily Star, 22 January 2016


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, “All for one”, Kuensel, 21 January 2016

Kuensel, “The onus is on the user”, Kuensel, 22 January 2016


Opinion Pieces

Rahul Jacob, “Ending open defecation”, Business Standard, 21 January 2016

Jaimini Bhagwati, “Wilful fraudsters and errant banks”, Business Standard, 21 January 2016

Devangshu Datta, “Shifting India to clean energy”, Business Standard, 21 January 2016


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Nasheed’s ‘release’: “Wait and watch in Maldivian reconciliation process”, South Asian Monitor, 22 January 2016

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Nasheed cleared for spine-surgery in UK, but upset by conditions”,, 18 January 2016


Opinion Pieces

Francis Fukuyama, “Exporting the Chinese model of economic growth”, Myanmar Times, 21 January 2016

Jorge Valladares, “Leadership and the transition: a matter of patience, compromise and courage”, Myanmar Times, 20 January 2016



Behind closed doorThe Kathmandu Post, 22 January 2016

Black dotsRepublica, 20 January 2016

Opinion Pieces

Kosh Raj Koirala, “Unprepared NepalRepublica, 19 January 2016

Navin Singh Khadka “Contingency planThe Kathmandu Post, 22 January 2016


Opinion Pieces

Muhammad Amir Rana, “After Peshawar: Reassessing the terror threat”, Dawn, 20 January 2016

Zoha Waseem, “Then, Charsadda happened”, The Express Tribune, 20 January 2016

Zahid Hussain, “The demon we created”, Dawn, 20 January 2016

Rafiullah Kakar, “Making sense of the CPEC controversy”, The Express Tribune, 21 January 2016

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Carlo Fonseka, “Revolution or evolution”, The Island, 22 January 2016

M S M Ayub, “Forthcoming LG elections give birth to a ‘party- splitting season”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 January 2016

Malinda Senaviratne, “The Presidential fixation with constituency”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 January 2016

K S Ratnavel, “Is Constitution-making a closed-end process for Tamils?”, Daily Mirror Online, 21 January 2016

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, “Towards a new centrist convergence?”, Daily Mirror Online, 20 January 2016

Prof G L Peiris: “Constitution-making: A flawed process”, The Island, 20 January 2016

Jayadeva Uyangoda, “Constitution-making: Some reflections”, The Island, 19 January 2016

Jehan Perera, “Non-stop attempts to make ethnic nationalism as a political strategy”, The Island, 19 January 2016

N Sathiya Moorthy, “To court, or not to court”, The Sunday Leader, 17 January 2016


Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kriti M. Shah

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Shubh Soni & Pushan Das

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N. Sathiya Moorthy

Nepal: Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury & Sreeparna Banerjee

Coordinator: Pratnashree Basu

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