- South Asia Weekly
- Feb 08 2016
India: Challenge to federative spirit in Arunachal Pradesh?
The north eastern state of Arunahcal Pradesh, bordering China, was brought under the central rule on 26 January, the day on which the nation celebrated its Republic Day.
The imposition of the President’s rule using the much decried and highly controversial Article 356 of the Constitution on a state where a democratically- elected government was in place throws up many questions, both political and constitutional. It also raises doubts about the promises made by the present-day ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) about strengthening the federal set-up, made during the 2014 poll campaign. The mantra of “cooperative federalism” was used extensively in the electoral discourse of the prominent leaders of the BJP, including the prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, now the PM.
The Union Cabinet, chaired by PM Modi, held a meeting on Sunday, 24 January, and invoked Article 356 to recommend the central rule on Arunachal Pradesh. President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent after a day on Tuesday after seeking clarifications from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The Centre’s notification said:”Taking cognizance of the constitutional breakdown that has taken place in the State of Arunachal Pradesh, the Union Cabinet” had recommended to the President to issue such a proclamation.
According to Article 356 of the Constitution, President’s rule can be imposed in a state “if a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”.
The imposition of the Central rule on a state which had democratically-elected government has come under severe criticism from the non-NDA parties but the BJP led government has defended its move saying that the state was facing a constitutional crisis and there was a breakdown of law and order.
Whether the Modi government was right in recommending President’s rule on Arunachal Pradesh or not, will be decided by the Supreme Court as the petition challenging the central rule filed by Assembly Speaker Nabam Rebia is being currently heard.
Notwithstanding the final judgment of the Supreme Court, a couple of observations by the justices on the five-judge constitutional bench are worth taking note of. The bench observed that State governors on whose ‘advise’ President’s rule is imposed, are political appointees and therefore cannot have unbridled powers.
In an yet another intervention, the Supreme Court took strong note of a submission that all decisions of the Governor are not open to judicial review and said it cannot be a mute spectator when democratic processes are being “slaughtered”.
In order to understand the issue, a closer look at the political developments in the state needs to be taken. The Congress has been ruling the state with the support of 47 MLAs in the 60-member Assembly. First signs of a crisis surfaced when Chief Minister Nabam Tuki sacked his Finance Minister Kaiko Pul. This led to a vertical split within the Congress legislature party, with 21 of the 47 legislators rebelling against the Chief Minister.
The rebel Congress legislators have openly sided with the 11 legislators of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and two independent MLAs to unseat Tuki. They have been accusing the Chief Minister of financial mismanagement and corruption.
In a pre-emptive move against the rebels convening the Assembly on the Governor’s order, the Tuki government locked down the legislature building and the Speaker disqualified 14 out of the 21 dissidents to bring down the numbers required for a majority against the Government.
It is worth noting that disqualification under the anti-defection law is subject to judicial review and the rebels could have challenged the Speaker’s order in the court of law. Instead, the Deputy Speaker, a dissident himself, moved hurriedly to revoke their disqualification.
All the rebels along with 11 BJP and two independent MLAs held a ‘sitting’ of the ‘Assembly’ at a community centre to impeach the Speaker and the next day they gathered at a hotel to pass a “no-confidence” motion against the Tuki government. They also elected the sacked finance minister as the new leader to make him eligible for the chief minister’s chair.
Governor J P Rajkhowa gave permission to law-makers to hold a meeting at makeshift place. The Chief Minister and the Speaker had declared both the meetings as “illegal and unconstitutional”.
It must be said that the Speaker should have held an Assembly session by January 14, but the political crisis started developing in December itself when rebels became active seeking support from the BJP law-makers.
The Tuki government would have lost in the event of a floor test but it appears that there was some urgency to the act as the Governor stepped in to reschedule the state Assembly session from January 4 to December 16. The Governor asked Deputy Speaker T N Thongdok to take up the motion seeking the removal of Speaker Rebia from the post. Rebia retaliated by expelling 14 MLAs.
Forced by the series of developments, the two sides approached Gauhati High Court. Speaker Nebia obtained a major relief on December 18 when the Gauhati High Court directed the Governor’s order to be kept in abeyance till February 1, 2016. Through a subsequent order, the court stopped the Speaker from holding any session till January 4.
Crux of the issue
The Supreme Court was approached and the case has been referred to a constitution bench. The bench has begun to deliberate upon the entire sequence of events leading to the imposition of the President’s rule on the state.
In a prima facie comment during the hearing of several pleas over the imposition of the President’s rule in the state, the bench headed by Justice J S Kehar wondered whether the Governor could act in his discretion in convening the Assembly session.
And this point is the crux of the whole issue. An answer to this would resolve many issues as the Centre had appointed Rajkhowa as the Governor of the state in May, 2015 after shifting Lt-Gen (Retd) Nirbhay Sharma from Itanagar to Aizwal. It was said at that time that the state BJP leaders were not happy with Gen Sharma and that is why Rajkhowa, an Assamese by birth, was brought to the Itanagar Raj Bhavan. Was it so important to bring in a new Governor in the Congress-ruled state?
Such moves raise doubts on the BJP-ruled Centre’s belief in the federal principles, about which there was so much talk during the Lok Sabha elections. Since independence, there have been 124 instances of President’s rule being imposed on states. This includes six times on JJammu and Kashmir and 10 instances of the central rule in Manipur. It is for the second time that Arunachal Pradesh has come under the President’s rule with first being imposed in November 1979 which lasted till January 1980.
A detailed analysis of all instances of the President’s rule being imposed since the promulgation of the Constitution shows that the Congress has used Article 356 for 88 times during its 54 years of its being in power at the Centre, while non-Congress governments (NDA, Janata Party, etc) have imposed central rule 36 times during a total of 14 years in power.
Notwithstanding the statics or indulging in blame-game, bringing Arunachal Pradesh under central rule appears to be a case of violation of the federative principles. The judgement of highest court of the land, hopefully, will clear many lingering doubts on the use of the Article 356 though its earlier judgement in S R Bommai versus Union of India had clarified many issues.
(Dr. Satish Misra is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)
Afghanistan: Making ‘Operation Resolute Support’ to work
Kriti M. Shah
Afghanistan seems to be slowly and steadily losing its war on terror. The year 2015 was the bloodiest year of fighting in Afghanistan since the US-led international intervention in 2001. The resurgence of the Taliban, the arrival of the ‘Islamic State’ coupled with political bickering and corruption in Kabul have caused an increase in effective insurgent attacks and higher security forces and Taliban casualties.
The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), a term for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP), require immediate solutions for its chronic problems that are causing an overall security deterioration in the country. With the change in timeline for the withdrawal of the US troops, ‘Operation Resolute Support’ must use the time given to address the existing gaps in the nation’s security infrastructure.
‘Operation Resolute Support’ began on 1 January 2015 with the goal to “train, advise, and assist” the ANSF for them to assume their security functions of defeating insurgency, protecting the population from internal and external attacks and maintaining overall security in the country. The ANDSF has demonstrated its ability to hold territory once cleared by insurgents.
But without the same level of coordination and intelligence-support as before, they continue to remain in a defensive position, limiting their agility across the country and their ability to take new ground. In addition poor logistics, maintenance, operation planning, gaps in delivering aerial support and deficiencies in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) have all eroded the credibility of the ANDSF and undermined the government in Kabul.
Another fundamental problem with the Afghan security forces has been the centralisation of government and administrative positions, which has resulted in a strong patronage system centred in Kabul. As a result of this, many generals and military leaders are appointed based on their political affiliations. They then use their positions of influence to enrich themselves by appropriating large amounts of donor and resource money for themselves. This is done by selling fuel earmarked for the army and taking the salaries of ‘ghost’ soldiers who do not exist.
The lack of Afghan air-support assets has been another shortfall of the ANDSF that has proven to be a great boost Taliban insurgency. Dominated by patronage networks and factional interests the security forces also tend to prevent information or intelligence from being distributed the way it should. Officials tend to not share knowledge, apprehensive that it might give other security forces an advantage in the internal competition.
All of these issues combined with increasing insurgent threats have lead the ANDSF to suffer a loss of more than 20,000 soldiers in 2014 due to death, injuries and desertions. At the present rate such trends will not only worsen the security situation but also lead to a failure of Operation Resolute Support.
The US and NATO should ensure that the ‘Operation’ focuses on the critical areas where the ANDSF is lacking. Their support should range from short term needs such as air support and intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance to long term requirements such as institutional development on planning, budgeting and training. While the fledgling Afghan air force has already taken on responsibilities, ‘Operation Resolute Support’ should focus on developing a quality cadre of air commanders capable of delivering close air support and medical evacuations.
In addition, structural reforms within the bureaucracy and the armed forces are also desperately needed. The government must work to bolster a transparent and systemic ANDSF recruitment and vetting process given the nepotistic nature of the present forces.
With the support of the US and NATO, Kabul should also build logistical, maintenance and supply chain systems that rely on civil servants and not politicians serving their own selfish needs. By making the financial management systems of Ministry of Defence (that looks after the ANA) and the Ministry of Interior (that regulates the ANP) more transparent, the government can ensure that donor-driven funds and aid are being used effectively and are not siphoned off at the source.
In addition to the institutional changes, the ANP should move towards a community policing model that relies on building relationship and trust with the villages and communities they protect. While the popularity of the Taliban has decreased over the years, the Taliban still hold loyalties in the hearts of many citizens residing in rural areas and other traditional Taliban strongholds.
The ANP should focus on changing this mindset and building a relationship with citizens in such fragile areas. Effective engagement at all levels of the community will enable better information and intelligence gathering and will help the ANP address conflicts and skirmishes at a local level before they escalate.
Leaders must also show flexibility in incorporating the country’s ethnic and tribally diverse population into the national security architecture. This can be done by localising the security apparatus to ensure that that the police protect local community ties and that such communities believe that the police force can be held accountable.
Despite progress in operational planning, there is no Afghan-led mechanism that is in place to link management of personnel, resources and objectives. The Law and Order Trust Fund Afghanistan (LOTFA) which is tasked with managing international funds to pay the salaries of Afghan police officers, has made significant improvements in its latest July 2015 programme.
However, there is still no course of action for transferring fund management to Afghan ownership. ‘Operation Resolute Support’ should therefore assist the Afghan government in taking ownership of its own funds and aid, enabling them with the skills needed to create, allocate and enforce budgets and deliver salaries to troops.
Overall, it is of vital importance that the US maintains troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016 to train, advice and assist their Afghani counterparts. They should ensure that international aid focuses on development of the ANDSF as well as on human capital, including education and literacy training for officers in the ANA and the ANP.
By focussing on institution-building and addressing bureaucratic inefficiencies, the US can hope to strengthen the ministries’ abilities to manage the complex security organisations in an increasingly threatening security environment. In turn, all this can help make ‘Operation Resolute Support’ a resounding success.
(Kriti M. Shah is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation in Delhi)
Economic corridor with India
Afghanistan CEO Abdullah Abdullah appeared before a group of industry representatives in New Delhi on 3 January to promote the development of an Afghan-Indian economic corridor. The corridor, which would link Afghanistan, India, Iran, and other parts of Central Asia, would have Iran’s Chabahar port as its base. Abdullah believes the port could “act as a gateway towards opening new energy and trade routes not only in Afghanistan but in Central Asia as well.” India and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding in May 2015, but the project to develop the port stalled.
For more information, see: “Kabul seeks Indian Help With Iranian-Afghan Trade Corridor”, RFE/RL, 5 February 2016
17 insurgents killed
On 4 February, local officials in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province said Afghan security forces launched an operation that killed 17 Taliban insurgents in the Ali Abad district.The clash came after members of the Taliban attacked military outposts in Kunduz on 3 February. Commenting on Taliban casualties, Mohammad Masoum Safi, a provincial security official, said, “Two senior commanders of the Taliban Mawlawi Neyazi and Mawlawi Abdul Hai are among the dead.
For more information, see: “17 Taliban Insurgents Killed in Kunduz Operation”, TOLO News, 4 February 2016
Taliban kills boy-fighter
On 3 February, Afghan officials announced that a 10 year-old boy, Wasil Ahmad, was shot and killed as he walked outside of his house in Tirin Kot city, the capital of Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, on 1 February. Last summer, along with his uncle, a former Taliban fighter who four years ago changed his support to the Afghan government, Ahmad fought against the Taliban. At one point, due to an injury to his uncle, he took command of the troops defending their district in Uruzgan. “He fought like a miracle,” his uncle, Mullah Abdul Samad, said. “He was successfully leading my men on my behalf for 44 days until I recovered.” The Taliban claimed responsibility for Ahmad’s death via their website.
For more information, see: “Afghan insurgents kill 10-year-old boy who joined militia”, Associated Press, 3 February 2016
German aid for migrants
In a visit to Kabul on 1 February, Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister, pledged Germany’s on-the-ground support to Afghanistan for “as long as necessary,” in exchange for the Afghan people’s commitment to stay in Afghanistan and “build up this country”. "We can only get support in Germany for the major engagement in Afghanistan if the German population has the firm impression that the youth and the people of Afghanistan have faith in their future," de Maiziere said. Of the one million migrants who settled in Germany last year, around 150,000 were Afghans.
For more information, see: “Germany offers Afghanistan help to take back migrants”, Reuters, 1 February 2016
BNP to list ‘martyrs’
Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Nazrul Islam Khan has said his party will prepare a “complete” list of the Liberation War martyrs in a bid to honour them properly.“There are controversies and differences of opinions about the number of martyrs. The number can be 29 lakh, or 30 lakh or 31 lakh … why should we remain unsure about their numbers? It's important we prepare their complete list,” the BNP leader opined. Meanwhile, International War Crime Tribunal, the tribunal in charge of the trial of war criminals of liberation war of 1971, in a verdict observed that it is an undisputed and settled fact that 30 lakh people laid down their lives during the Bangladesh's War of Liberation.
For more information see: “BNP to make list of 1971 martyrs”, The Daily Star, 1 February 2016; “30 lakh martyrs a settled history: Observes war crimes tribunal in judgment”, The Daily Star, 3 February 2016
Strained ties with Pakistan
Bangladesh and Pakistan relationship became strained after its embassy staff was harassed in Pakistan. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Pakistani envoy in Dhaka and handed him over a note verbale, protesting the incidents. The relationship with Pakistan has been facing jolts for some time as Pakistan is upset over Bangladesh initiating trial of the War Criminals of 1971 war. Meanwhile Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali has ruled out any possibility of cutting ties with Islamabad amid diplomatic tensions running high between Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Dhaka, Delhi to counter terror jointly
Sushma Swaraj, India’s external affairs minister, this week expressed her country's strong resolve jointly work with Bangladesh to fight terrorism and violent extremism. She said this during her meeting with state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam in New Delhi.
For more information see: “Dhaka, Delhi to work together in combating terrorism”, Prothom Alo, 4 February 2016; “India will ‘whole-heartedly’ support Sheikh Hasina’s government: Sushma Swaraj”, bdnews24.com, 5 February 2016
Second power-line sought
Power Ministers of India’s north-eastern states have sought approval of Power Ministry to establish alternative transmission network between Tripura and West Bengal via Bangladesh to strengthen inter-regional transmission network.Tripura Power Minister Manik Dey informed that this will not only establish connectivity with national grid for providing upgraded connectivity in transmission system but will also reduce the line length of about 500 km.
For more information see: “Bangladesh–India alternative transmission line sought”, The Financial Express, 1 February 2016
Slips in ‘economic freedom’
Bangladesh has been ranked 137 internationally in terms of economic freedom. This is a fall from its previous position. Earlier it was ranked 131. Areas that Bangladesh scored badly were of corruption, business and labour. 2016 Index of Economic Freedom is an annual publication by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal.
For more information see: “Bangladesh slips to 137th place”, The Daily Star, 2 February 2016
Water, a problem
Bhutan is faced with the problem of abundant waters. While the country has one of the highest per capita water availability in the world, accessibility for various purposes is fast becoming a growing challenge said experts formulating the National Integrated Water Resources Management Plan. The draft plan was discussed at the first stakeholder consultation meeting on Febraury 4.
For more information see: “The problem of plenty”, Kuensel, 5 February 2016
EU lauds development plan
The new European Union (EU) ambassador to Bhutan, Tomasz Kozlowski, spoke with Kuensel’s Gyalsten K Dorji on cooperation between Bhutan and the EU. From 1982-2014, the EU has contributed more than Euro 90 million to Bhutan.
For more information see: “Bhutan has a well-established plan for development: EU ambassador”, Kuensel, 4 February 2016
Excess baggage affects Druk air
The national airline, Drukair, has been subjected to public criticism following a large amount of passenger baggage offloaded and left behind in Bangkok over the past few days. As of February 2, the airline had 400 pieces of luggage weighing approximately 5,000kgs remaining at Suvarnabhumi international airport in Thailand, according to Drukair commercial general manager, Ugen Tashi.
For more information see: “Drukair overwhelmed by excess luggage”, Kuensel, 4 February 2016
India on Thursday kicked off a major display of maritime might, with ships from 50 navies converging on the country's east coast. Ninety ships including from the US, French, British and Chinese navies are taking part in the International Fleet Review in the Bay of Bengal — a ceremonial inspection and parade of boats and crews.
For more information see: Show of maritime might at International Fleet Review, The Times of India, 04 February 2015
For more information see: “Investors’ meet draws Rs. 1.33 lakh cr. Investments” The Hindu, 5 February 2016
‘No’ to Pak offer
The Indian Army refused to accept Pakistan Army’s help to rescue soldiers trapped under snow due to yesterday’s avalanche near Siachen Glacier in Ladakh. The Indian Army said that they do not require any help as they are adequately equipped to carry out the search and rescue operations. Specialized teams of the Army and the Air Force have been deployed to carry out the search and rescue operations in the area, where temperatures range from minus 42 degrees in the night to minus 25 degrees during the day.
For more information see: Siachen Avalanche: Indian Army refuses Pakistan's help, ABP Live, 05 February 2016
Big-ticket divestment likely
The big thrust areas of Union Budget 2016-17, will be the agriculture and transport sectors and big-ticket disinvestment, including strategic sales in high-value companies such as BHEL, and oil and defence public sector units (PSUs)
For more information see: “Big-ticket divestment likely” The Hindu, 5 February, 2016
Meet draws Rs. 1.33-lakh cr
Curtains came down on the two-day Invest Karnataka-2016, attracting investments of Rs. 1,33,177 crore. The State also announced the setting up of the Karnataka Investment Company, comprising representatives from industry, business and senior government officials.
Yameen hand in graft?
Promoters of private sector SOF, owned by Mohamed Allam Latheef, a close associate of jailed and impeached Vice-President Ahmed Adheeb, have claimed that they had diverted all of the $ 70 million that government auditors say had been siphoned off from public sector MMPRC to government officials, including President Abdulla Yameen. The Opposition has demanded action while Yameen’s PPM held a rally, and denied the allegations.
For more information, see: “Maldives tourism graft suspects link stolen funds to pres, ruling party”, Haveeru Online, 6 February 2016; “Maldives regulator warns penalty on banks in tourism graft”, Haveeru Online, 6 February 2016; “Maldives fires graft-laden tourism company head”, Haveeru Online, 1 February 2016; “Jailed Maldives ex-pres vows return to stop govt looting nation's riches”, Haveeru Online, 5 February 2016; “Maldives opposition accuses govt of money laundering, terrorist financing”, Haveeru Online, 4 February 2016; “Maldives ruling party denies links to tourism graft”, Haveeru Online, 7 February 2016”; “Thousands gather for Nasheed and Jameel’s message from London”, Maldives Independent, 5 February 2016; “Jameel highlights reform record in message of thanks”, Maldives Independent, 7 February 2016; “Maldives opposition announces coalition with self-exiled ex-VP”, Haveeru Online, 2 February 2016; “Police block anti-corruption walk”, Maldives Independent, 5 February 2016; “Adeeb pledges support for the opposition”, Maldives Independent, 4 February 2016
Indian FS in CMAG
India’s Foreign Secretary, S Jaishankar, is on the visiting Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, to urge the Maldives Government to hold talks with the political Opposition for national reconciliation, even as the Supreme Court reopened the ‘Nasheed case appeal’, against the conviction and 13-year jail-term on the former President.
For more information, see: “Indian Foreign Secretary part of CMAG group”, Miadhu, 7 February 2016; “Delegates from European Parliament arrive in Maldives”, SunOnline, 7 February 2016; “Commonwealth diplomats, EU MEPs to visit Maldives next week”, Maldives Independent, 3 February 2016; “Jailed Maldives ex-pres meets Commonwealth chief”, Haveeru Online, 1 February 2016; “SL watching Maldivian situ. very closely-Cameron”, Daily Mirror Online, 29 January 2016; “Nasheed’s terrorism appeal begins at Supreme Court”, Maldives Independent, 3 February 2016; “Maldives moves Islamist leader back to prison after judge criticism”, Haveeru Online, 7 February 2016; “Chief of Defense Force meets Indian Navy Chief “, SunOnline, 7 February 2016
Justice for all: Yameen
In his annual address to the people’s Majlis, President Abdulla Yameen said that his Government has succeeded in establishing justice in the country, and has strengthened civil and criminal justice system under the five-year action plan, prepared by the Attorney-General’s office.
For more information, see: ““Translation of President Yameen’s 2016 presidential address”, Maldives Independent, 4 February 2016; “Opposition boycotts People’s Majlis opening”, Maldives Independent, 4 February 2016
NLD delays decision
Aung San Suu Kyi said on February 4, that her party’s highly anticipated nomination for the presidency could take longer than expected. The NLD leader told a press conference that the all-important nominations for president and vice- president may not be made until next month.
For more information see: “Struggle over the presidency appears to postpone nomination”, Myanmar Times, 4 February 2016
Shwe Mann to chair key panel
The new parliament’s lower house on February 5 appointed the former lower house and union speaker Shwe Mann as the chairperson of the Legal Affairs and Special Issues Assessment Commission.
For more information see: “Shwe Mann lands key advisory role”, Democratic Voice of Burma, 5 February 2016
New investments cleared
The Myanmar Investment Commission approved 31 new local and foreign projects in January, mostly in the real estate and garments sectors, according to figures published by the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.
For more information see: “MIC approves 31 investments in January”, Myanmar Times, 4 February 2016
India to open oil supply
India’s Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan on February 4 said that the Indian government was ready to supply petroleum products to Nepal as per the current demand. In a meeting with Nepal’s Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay in Mumbai, Minister Pradhan said the Indian Oil Corporation was ready to make arrangements for additional supply of fuel apart from the regular quota of the Nepal Oil Corporation.
For more information, see: “Ready to boost oil supply to Nepal: Indian minister”, The Kathmandu Post, 5 February 2016
Fuel, transport costs cut
The Office of the Prime Minister (PMO) and Council of Ministers on February 4 directed Nepal Oil Corporation to reduce fuel prices citing continuous drop in crude oil prices in the international market. The PMO also ordered Department of Transport Management (DoTM) to reduce fares of public transportation. A Cabinet meeting on Thursday asked Ministry of Commerce and Supplies to direct NOC to adjust petro prices with international rates as per the auto pricing mechanism.
For more information, see: “PMO directs NOC to reduce fuel price”; The Kathmandu Post, 4 February 2016; “PM's office orders reduction in fuel prices, transport fares”, Republica, 4 February 2016
CIAA plays big role
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) here February 4 submitted its annual report of Fiscal Year 2071/072 to President Bidya Devi Bhandari amid a programme held at the Rastrapati Bhawan Shital Niwas. Receiving the report submitted by CIAA Chief Commissioner Lokman Singh Karki, President Bhandari said that the CIAA has significant role in ensuring good governance by making the government accountable.
For more information, see: “CIAA has big role in ensuring good governance: Prez Bhandari”, The Kathmandu Post, 4 February 2016; “CIAA settled 21,648 complaints last year”, Republica, 4 February 2016; “CIAA demands more teeth”, The Himalayan Times, 4 February 2016
PIA row still on
Confusion persists on arrangements made by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to accommodate passengers affected by a country-wide strike as private carriers Airblue and Shaheen Airlines declined to accept passengers holding PIA tickets. With over 350 flights cancelled since the strike against the government's proposed plan to privatise the national airline commenced, the PIA management announced on 4 February an agreement with Airblue and Shaheen Airlines to facilitate thousands of domestic and international passengers affected by the strike. However, passengers continued to suffer as the airlines refused to facilitate them.
For more information, see: “Passengers suffer as Airblue, Shaheen ‘turn down’ PIA tickets”, Dawn, 5 February 2016
Rs. 250-m for PoK
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 5 February announced the allocation of Pakistan Rs. 250 million for the development of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The announcement came during a visit to Muzaffarabad to mark Kashmir Day. “Government’s priority is to give the people of Kashmir their due rights,” PM Nawaz said, while addressing a joint session of the the provincial assembly. Referring to the long-drawn Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, the premier said, “Differences between countries is not unusual, but not being able to resolve issues for decades is a matter of concern.”
For more information, see: “PM announces Rs 250 million for AJK’s development”, The Express Tribune, 5 February 2016
IMF releases $497 m
As part of the $6.7 billion bailout agreed to by Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) three years ago, the IMF on 5 February released another $497 million instalment during a meeting between Pakistani and IMF officials in Dubai. The release comes despite Pakistan’s failure to privatize its state-run power supply companies and sell other state firms that are under water, both of which Pakistan agreed to do as part of the bailout terms. An IMF statement read, “While many structural benchmarks have been met, measures pertaining to the energy sector reform and restructuring of loss-making public enterprises are yet to be implemented." Facing a foreign currency exchange deficit that covered less than six weeks of imports, the IMF loan helped Pakistan avert a default in 2013.
For more information, see: “Pakistan shelves plan to privatise power firms, but IMF approves new loan”, Reuters, 4 February 2016
Resolution misinterpreted: MS
In his National Day address, President Maithripala Sirisena said that the UNHRC resolution on war-crimes and accountability issues has been misinterpreted to cause discord among the armed forces. Taking off from where Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had left, inside and outside Parliament, he also cautioned the nation’s media against abusing the freedom.
For more information, see: “President: Geneva Resolution misinterpreted to cause discord among armed forces...Media urged not to abuse freedom or face the consequences”, The Island, 5 February 2016; “Singing national anthem in Tamil receives mixed reactions”, The Island, 7 February 2016; “Govt. working on reconciliation: PM”, Daily Mirror Online, 1 February 2016; “Constitution does not permit foreign judges to sit in judgment – Ranil … they can only participate in domestic inquiries”, The Island, 1 February 2016; “Govt. making different statements on UN resolution: GL”, Daily Mirror Online, 1 February 2016; “UNP, SLFP agreed on UN resolution”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 February 2016; “Joint. Opp. wants to work independently”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 February 2016; “Joint Opposition to boycott Independence Day celebrations”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 February 2016; “TN parties express concern over Maithripala's stand”, Daily Mirror Online, 7 February 2016
India satisfied: Sushma
On a two-day visit to the southern neighbour, to co-chair the Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Commission, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that her nation stood behind the Maithri-Ranil leadership on reconciliation and development. Given the contradictory signals emanating from Colombo on war crimes probe in recent weeks, Prince Zeid also visited Sri Lanka during the week, ahead of the March session of the UNHRC that he heads now.
For more information, see: “Zeid, Sushma, Wang have talks with Govt”, The Sunday Leader, 7 February 2016; “India fully satisfied with SL’s works-Swaraj”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 February 2016; “Sushma Visit: India, Sri Lanka Review Bilateral Issues”, IANS, 6 February 2016; “India assures Sri Lanka of support for reconciliation...Tamil leaders meet Sushma Swaraj, express willingness to work with Colombo”, The Hindu, 6 February 2016; “Sushma Swaraj meets Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka...The External Affairs Minister also met Eastern Province CM Nazir Ahmad and leaders of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress”, The Hindu, 6 February 2016; “Ready To Work With Govt To Find Political Solution: TNA Tells Swaraj”, New Indian Express, 6 February 2016; “India To Help Repatriate and Resettle Tamil Refugees”, New Indian Express, 7 February 2016; “India should urgently engage with Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora Groups: Global Tamil Forum”, Indian Express, 5 February 2016; “TPC and ITAK in talks as draft proposals come out”, The Sunday Leader, 7 February 2016; “Big Sushma Push for Enlarging Economic Footprint in Sri Lanka”, New Indian Express, 7 February 2016; “'Indian fishermen destroying livelihood of SL fishermen'”, Daily Mirror Online, 6 February 2016; “North, south fishers to protest in Colombo today against Indian poaching”, The Island, 5 February 2016; “Sri Lanka to revamp bilateral ties with China”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 February 2016
The police have arrested Navy personnel, Yoshitha Rajapaksa, son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with three others, in a forex fraud case from the past. All four were remanded and taken to the prison.
For more information, see: “Yoshitha Rajapaksa remanded”, Daily Mirror Online, 30 January 2016; “Yoshitha declines prison meals; now food from home”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 February 2016; “Mighty hurry to arrest Yoshitha but not for E'pitiya violators: MR”; Daily Mirror Online, 1 February 2016; “Yoshitha arrest not a political victimisation'”, Daily Mirror Online, 1 February 2016; “Refer Yoshitha's case to Court without delay: Nimal Siripala”, Daily Mirror Online, 2 February 2016
PM meets new Japanese Ambassador, Cabinet Secretariat, 4 February 2016
President U Thein Sein meets Thai Chief of Defense Forces and Party, President’s Office, 4 February 2016
“Press Release on Government of Nepal's concerns over the media coverage attributed to political leaders of Bihar State of India making statements about Nepal”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal, 2 February 2016
Shahmahmood Miakhel, “In Afghanistan, No Leadership Means No Elections”, Foreign Policy, 29 January 2016
Shuja Rabbani, “Taliban peace talks: First empower the minorities”, Al Jazeera, 3 February 2016
Eltaf Najafizada and Natalie Obiko-Pearson, “Bin Laden’s Backers Want to Destroy Islamic State in Afghanistan”, Bloomberg, 4 February 2016
Asaduzzaman, “The implications of Paris agreement for Bangladesh”, The Daily Star, 4 February 2016
Binodkumar Singh, “Bangladesh in 2015: Delivering justice amidst rise of extremism”, South Asia Monitor, 4 February 2016
T.N. Tonmoy Islam, “Like an emperor losing his clothes: A case of Bangladesh”, Dhaka Tribune, February 3, 2016
Ashfaqur Rahman, “Bangladesh: Gateway to three civilisations”, The Daily Star, 1 February 2016
Kuensel, “Avoiding excess baggage”, Kuensel, 5 February 2016
Dorji Tshering, “Private schools and inequality in education”, Kuensel, 30 January 2016
Raja Mohan, Raja-Mandala: Towards Trumpistan, The Indian Express, 02 February 2016
Samir Saran & Abhijnan Rej, Engage the dragon on Balochistan, The Times of India, 04 February 2016
Rathin Roy, “Anatomy of the revenue deficit”, Business Standard, 5 February 2016
Akash Prakash, “Stress tests for Indian banks”, Business Standard, 5 February 2016
Ashutosh Varshney, “Modi’s Idea of India-2”, Indian Express, 5 February 2016
N Sathiya Moorthy, “Nasheed’s ‘medical leave’ and political campaigns abroad” , www.orfonline.org, 4 February 2016
Mizzima, “German ambassador says investor sentiment, Myanmar relations could improve under new govt”, Mizzima, 2 February 2016
Toily Kurbanov, “A Parliament geared to go”, Myanmar Times, 2 February 2016
“Malaya fever”, Republica, 3 February 2016
“Sparks in the dark”, The Kathmandu Post. 5 February 2016
Santosh Acharya, “Young developers”, Republica, 2 February 2016
Navin Singh Khadka, “At your own risk”, The Kathmandu Post, 5 February 2016
Jon Boone and Kiyya Baloch, “Balochistan: Pakistan’s information black hole”, The Guardian, 4 February 2016
Tim Craig, “By way of computers and headsets, Islamic teaching flows out of Pakistan”, The Washington Post, 1 February 2016
Saeed Shah, “Pakistani Film Sparks Effort to End Evil Honor Killings”, The Wall Street Journal, 2 February 2016
M S M Ayub, “International community need not worry about matters of State interest-President Sirisena”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 February 2016
Malinda Seneviratne, “The name, flag and Anthem of a nation”, Daily Mirror Online, 5 February 2016
Jehan Perera, “Political challenge of carrying people through transitional justice”, The Island, 3 February 2016
N Sathiya Moorthy, “Soft pressure already on ‘soft power’”, The Sunday Leader, 31 January 2016
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
Coordinator : Mihir Bhonsale