MonitorsPublished on Dec 19, 2014
US President Barak Obama's visit to Myanmar late last year has opened the political space in the country for discussing amendments to the nation's Constitution. A day after speaking to Obama on 30 October,
Talks for amending the Constitution
< class="heading1">Analysis

US President Barak Obama’s visit to Myanmar late last year has opened the political space in the country for discussing amendments to the nation’s Constitution. A day after speaking to Obama on 30 October, President Thein Sein called a 14-party meeting to discuss the future of the country before the crucial 2015 elections. The President, Parliament, military and political parties, including the Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Suu Kyi, attended the meeting. Not much was achieved during the meeting, with many calling it a political stunt and the government caught with a surprise.

Following the quadric-partite talks, two separate proposals for talks remain before the President’s office. The first proposal for six-party talks between the President, Speakers of both Houses of Parliament, the Army chief, the Leader of Opposition and a representative of ethnic minorities was approved by the joint session of Parliament on 25 November.

In a more recent development, Yangnon Parliament adopted a resolution on 12-party talks that would comprise seven ethnic minority groups besides the national leaders. This is the second such formation by a regional parliament for discussing constitutional amendments.

Government’s reluctance

The 30 October dialogue, though not called to deliberate on constitutional amendments, underlined the need for a political dialogue among all the stake-holders for determining the future of the country. Parliaments, both Union and regional Houses, have upheld this view.

But the President’s office and the military have shown an insulated response on the Parliament resolutions for talks. Spokesperson of the President’s office has accepted difference of approach between the incumbents on one side and the Union Parliament and Opposition on the other.

Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut has said that the President was keen on the organisational part while Parliament is interested in the character. Even the military’s attitude is similar of that of the government. The military and the government are keen on engaging ethnic groups for talks, it appears.

The reluctance of the politico-military block to hold talks on constitutional amendments before the 2015 elections seems to be a reason for the deadlock. Challenging the position are Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann and opposition leader, Suu Kyi.

Shwe Mann has back-tracked from his earlier position of discussing constitutional amendments six months in advance of the 2015 presidential elections. He now has changed his position and has said that amendments to the Constitution could be made after the crucial 2015 elections. Shwe Mann’s unclear position has released the pressure on the government.

Shwe Mann’s new position could be understood only against his aspirations for running in the presidential elections. The NLD has however upped the ante for amending what it considers controversial sections of the Constitution.

Amending two Articles of the 2008 Constitution remain high on the agenda of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. This includes amendment to Article 436, which requires the vote of more than 75 percent of the Upper House for amending the Constitution, giving the military-nominated members comprising 25 percent of the Parliament’s strength and thus the leverage to veto amendments.

The other Article 59 (f) disallows a person spouse is a foreign national from running for the nation’s presidency. In October, the NLD’s proposal for amending Article 436 was put down by the military and USDP law-makers in Parliament, indicating the lack on USDP’s clarity on the charter reforms. As may be recalled Suu Kyi’s husband is of foreign origin, and under the present Constitution, she could be banned from contesting the presidential polls.

Future of talks

The future of political dialogue over amending the Constitution has already hit a rough patch. Suu Kyi has made her anxiety over talks, clear. She has favoured the four-party talks format over six or 12-party talks, but has held the issue urgent. The proposal of the ruling USDP is for bringing in a crucial third dimension to the discussion table- the ethnic minorities.

The Thein Sein government would have to come clean on their position on holding discussions on the amendments to the constitution unless they are hell-bent on defending the privileges of the Junta in 2008 constitution of Myanmar.

The log-jam over talks for amending the Constitution would continue unless the incumbent agrees to create an environment of trust among various political groups in the country before the crucial elections to be held in October or November’s next year. The USDP has also to articulate its position on holding of talks. Ethnic minorities and their joining the talks is very tentative, the proposal forwarded by the Union Parliament has named an Arakan National Party leader as the representative for ethnic minorities for the talks. This was not received well by many ethnic minority communities.

Suu Kyi has consistently raised doubts over the nature of reforms in Myanmar. The role of U.S. here is very important in pushing the Thein Sein government to hold talks for discussing amendments to the constitution, at a time when U.S. is already cautioned against back-sliding of reforms in Myanmar.

4-party, 6-Party or 12-party, the talks have to be representative of all groups in Myanmar and must cover all aspects of constitutional amendments proposed by the constitutional committee for Myanmar aspires to tread a path of democracy.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal: Speed-breakers in India relations?

Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came again in the forefront in the Nepali media. The country’s leading dailies raised a debate on whether Modi had interfered in Nepal’s internal matters while pointing out the perils of delay in writing the new Constitution. It was against the backdrop of Modi’s speech at the inauguration ceremony of Trauma Centre for Bir Hospital in Kathmandu before the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit took place during November 26-27, 2014. But before going into the debate, it is interesting to have a quick look into Nepal’s self projection in organising the two-day long summit.

The 18th SAARC summit was hugely successful both in terms of management and documentation, claimed the Foreign Minister of Nepal Mahendra Bahadur Pandey. Nepal has fruitfully demonstrated its diplomacy in multilateral forums like BIMSTEC and SAARC, the Foreign Minister said, adding that the country also efficiently established its leadership. The summit provided a good platform for the regional leaders to mingle and understand each other raising high hopes for the South Asian states in various ways and means to enhance intra-regional trade, investment, connectivity and economic cooperation; fighting terrorism and other forms of social menaces, increasing agricultural productivity, alleviating poverty, promoting quality education, providing better health services and promoting culture in the South Asian region.

It is worth-mentioning in this context that during the Summit, SAARC Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation (Electricity) was signed. The Leaders of the eight South Asian states directed their Ministers to hold a meeting within three months to finalise the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic and SAARC Regional Agreement on Railways considering regional connectivity as one of the most crucial aspect of trans-border cooperation in globalised world. All these raised high expectations in cooperation among the member states of this region.

At the end of the two-day SAARC summit, a ’Kathmandu Declaration’ with a theme of Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity, was adopted, which said the leaders recognised that after nearly 30 years of its existence, it is time to "reinvigorate" SAARC’s regional cooperation and "revitalise" the bloc as an effective vehicle to fulfil the developmental aspirations of the people. India. The Foreign Minister (FM) of Nepal showed his satisfaction as all member states of SAARC appreciated the theme of the summit chosen by Nepal. "At a time when we have yet to institutionalise republicanism as political transition continues, successfully organizing the summit has proven Nepal’s ability," he argued.

In the backdrop of hasty infrastructure construction and fast-track tender process in organising the SAARC Summit, Prime Minister (PM) of Nepal Sushil Koirala urged the ministers and officials concerned to release the details of expenditures incurred during the regional meeting. The Good Governance Committee of Parliament summoned Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal and other senior officials in mid-November to express concerns about the hasty preparations and tenders for city beautification and other logistical preparations. The Finance Ministry is yet to make public the total cost of hosting the summit. Stating that the 18th SAARC Summit had boosted Nepal’s image in the international arena, the PM thanked all the visiting dignitaries and officials, and his colleagues, ministers, security personnel and media for the success.

Did Modi breach diplomatic norms?

At the inauguration ceremony of the Trauma Centre for Bir Hospital in Kathmandu, Narendra Modi pointed to the risk of delay in writing the new Constitution for Nepal and urged political parties to write the statute by consensus. He warned about the risks involved in deciding the statute through numerical strength in the Constituent Assembly (CA). It is to be noted that the Opposition parties, which were defeated in the November elections for the CA, have been insisting on the "consensus-only" approach despite agreeing in March this year, to go for voting if consensus failed.

Modi’s advice to Nepal’s warring political parties on the Constitution-making process was criticised by the media in the country, which termed it as a "breach of diplomatic norms". "Indian PM breached diplomatic Lakshman rekha (norms)," the Kantipur wrote in its editorial. Another daily, the Nagarik, also accused Modi of practicing "new diplomacy" with his remarks. The newspaper noted that the Indian Prime Minister had demonstrated respect and goodwill during his August bilateral visit and desisted from displaying "big brother" attitude. "But he was apparently under intense pressure this time to correct that approach and hence resorted to the old policy."

Both newspapers also objected to the Indian PM’s warning about the risks of finalising Constitution through majority. The Annapurna Post, another national daily, noted that the Indian PM should have refrained from appearing to side with one political faction in Nepal while the Kantipur laid the blame on Nepali political leaders’ failure and dependence on outside powers for this interference. However, Kantipur’s sister-publication, The Kathmandu Post, took the suggestion positively in a brief mention in an editorial devoted to SAARC Summit. "It was well-intended advice," the newspaper wrote.

The Constitution could be passed with agreed contents and the amendments if required, Modi suggested. The UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based parties welcomed Modi’s suggestion on consensus approach though they thought the way Modi tried to dictate his view was not proper. It smacked of interference, they said. On the other hand, the Nepali Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey argued that "it was a friendly advice of India... we should not take it as interference,"

Another hiccup?

The proposed plan of Modi to address the public in Janakpur and Lumbini during his visit in the course of attending the 18th SAARC Summit raised controversy in Nepal. A section of the political parties and civil society openly criticised Modi’s plan. The security agencies were cautious about arrangements during his participation in public functions. Modi had been scheduled to visit Janakpur, the birthplace of Sita in the Ramayan and Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and another Hindu pilgrimage site, Muktinath, located in the southern mountainous region.

Modi had also planned to distribute some 3,000 bicycles to local school children at the Janakpur function. But his visit to Janakpur was cancelled as UCPN questioned it in Parliament. However, it was stated from the government side that the cancellation of Modi’s visit to the religious site at Janakpur was not the outcome of internal differences among political parties in, but owed to the the busy schedule of the Indian PM.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that PM Modi’s advice to Nepal’s political parties on the process of Constitution-making as well as his scheduled visit to Janakpur caused much tension in domestic political milieu. It happened at a time when Modi’s ’historic’ visit as the first Indian PM to visit Nepal in 17 years had raised high hopes in both countries. Under the circumstances, it remains to be seen if the recent tensions would emerge as a speed-breaker to the recent upswing in India-Nepal relations, or if they would wither away without causing much hiccups.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">USAID funds for power projects

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged $125 million on a gas-to-power project in Afghanistan. USAID’s Sheberghan Gas Development Project (SGDP) is a 4 year, $125 million initiative.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "USAID to invest $125 million on Gas-t-o-Power project in Afghanistan", Khaama Press, 15 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU extends police mandate

The mandate of the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan was extended by the Council of the European Union. It was extended from 1 January 2015 until 31 December 2016.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "EU extends police mission mandate in Afghanistan", Khaama Press, 18 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak army chief in Kabul

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif arrived in Afghanistan a day after the deadly attack by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants on the Army Public School in Peshawar. According to Pakistani security officials, Gen. Sharif will meet with Afghan military officials to discuss a possible joint military operation by Afghan and Pakistani armed forces.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Pakistan army chief visits Kabul following deadly Peshawar attack", Khaama Press, 17 December 2014; "Pakistan’s Army Chief Visits Kabul Day After Peshawar Attack", Tolo News, 17 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Victory Day celebrated

On 16th December the nation celebrated the 43rd Victory Day today with elaborate programmes to pay deep homage to the 30 lakh martyrs who laid down their lives for the country. On 16th December in 1971, Pakistani occupation forces surrendered after a nine-month war resulting in free, independent and sovereign Bangladesh. Celebrations began with 31-gun salute at the National Parade Ground at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, near Dhaka. Thousands of people thronged the National Memorial to honour the war heroes.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bangladesh celebrates victory over Pakistan in 1971",, 16 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border meet with Myanmar

Bangladesh and Myanmar met this week to discussion border issues. Main highlight of the meeting was Bangladesh’s proposal of setting up border liaison office. The Bangladesh side also expressed concerns over illegal crossing of the border by Myanmar nationals. Myanmar’s border police however said they had installed a fence to prevent trespassing. This meeting was important as Myanmar and Bangladesh relationship is facing tensions following of a Bangladesh border guards personnel at the Myanmar border in May this year.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bangladesh- Myanmar border meet", Dhaka Tribune, 18 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">National day celebrated

The King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, expressed profound pleasure in celebrating the 107th National Day of Bhutan and marking 9th year after being enthroned. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the people of Bhutan on occasion of the Himalayan country’s National Day on 17 December.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "His Majesty’s Address to the Nation on the 107th National Day", Kuensel Online, 19 December 2014; "Bhutan King issues corruption warning", Channel NewsAsia, 18 December 2014; "PM Narendra Modi greets people of Bhutan on national day", Zee News, 17 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition wants secretaries reinstated

Bhutan’s opposition has demanded the government reinstate the 3 governmental secretaries, whom the cabinet surrendered to Royal Civil Services Commission last week. The opposition said in a press release on 19 December that the government did not follow the due process of law before surrendering the secretaries.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Opposition wants secretaries surrendered", Kuensel Online, 19 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bail for Pak terror mastermind criticised

India registered its concern to Pakistan over its judiciary’s decision to grant bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operations chief and one of the key suspects in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. The Anti-Terror Court in Islamabad granted bail to Lakhvi, citing insufficient evidence to extend his detention, even as India claims that the information available to the prosecutors is sufficient. In addition to conveying its concerns through diplomatic channels, the Lok Sabha passed a resolution, urging the Indian government to take steps to expedite Lakhvi’s prosecution.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Resolution against Lakhvi’ bail in Lok Sabha; Modi says strong message conveyed to Pakistan", The Indian Express, 19 December 2014; "Lakhvi bail: India conveys ’strong concerns’ to Pakistan", The Hindu, 19 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ISRO launches GSLV Mk-III

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the 630-ton, three-stage GSLV Mk-III rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, marking India’s first step towards sending astronauts into space. This is the heaviest and largest rocket launched by India so far and contains an experimental crew module designed to accommodate three people.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "GSLV Mark III takes to the skies in test flight", The Hindu, 18 December 2014; "GSLV MK III Launch: Our big leap upward", The Economic Times, 19 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM heads monitoring group

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over the Project Monitoring Group, a monitoring body previously under the purview of the Cabinet Secretariat, in order to expedite investments worth $300 billion and boost manufacturing. The decision is in line with Modi’s campaign promise to reduce the size of government while making it more efficient, and is believed to supplement the ’Make in India’ project.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "PM Narendra Modi moves in to speed up $300 bn stuck projects", The Indian Express, 18 December 2014; "PMO to fast-track stalled big-ticket projects worth Rs 18 lakh crore", The Economic Times, 19 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC rejects Italian marines’ plea

The Supreme Court rejected travel request of two Italian marines under trial in India for their role in the death of two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012. One of the marines, Massimiliano Latorre, was denied permission to extend his stay in Italy to recover from a stroke. Salvatore Girone, the other accused was denied permission to travel home for Christmas. Italy responded strongly; its foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, said, ’Faced with such an attitude by the Indian authorities, the (Italian) government reserves the right to take all necessary measures, starting with the recall of the Italian ambassador from New Delhi, although that would not mean breaking off diplomatic relations.’

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "SC rejects marine’s plea to extend stay in Italy", The Hindu, 17 December 2014; "Marines issue: Italy may recall ambassador to India", The Times of India, 17 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Islamic State’ banned

India has formally banned the terrorist group ’Islamic State’ (IS) from operating inside its border in wake of the revelation that Mehdi Biswas, a 24-year-old engineer from Bangalore, was managing the group’s Twitter account. Earlier, several youth from Maharashtra had travelled to Iraq and Syria to join the fledging group that claims leadership of violent Islamic revivalism from al-Qaeda after mounting spectacular success in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India’s ban on Islamic State", The Hindu, 17 December 2014; IS banned in India, home minister tells Parliament", Hindustan Times, 16 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GST Bill gets Cabinet approval

The cabinet on Wednesday cleared the constitutional amendment Bill to ease implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) that seeks to unify India into a common market by replacing levies imposed by states and the centre. The cabinet’s approval will now clear the way for the introduction of the draft legislation in the ongoing winter session of Parliament.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "GST Bill gets Cabinet nod, likely in Parliament this session", Livemint, 17December 2014; Cabinet approves GST Constitutional Amendment Bill", The Times of India, 18 December 2014; "GST Bill deadlock between Centre, states ends", India Today, 16 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rupee slides

Asian currencies retreated this week, led by the Indian rupee’s slide to a 13-month low, as Russia’s financial crisis and a collapse in oil prices prompted investors to favour safer bets than emerging-market assets.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Rupee Leads Weekly Drop in Asian Currencies on Russia Concerns", Bloomberg, 19 December 2014; "Rupee slide triggered by local factors, not foreign fund exit", Economic Times, 18 December2014; "Falling rupee may spook rate cut hopes, says SBI", Business Today, 18 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US concerned about ’judicial independence’

Commending Maldives for achieving much during the infancy of democracy, visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal, has said that judicial independent and political threats remained an issue of concern.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Judicial independence still an issue in Maldives, says US assistant secretary of state", Minivan News, 18 December 2014; "US: Maldives faces judicial independence challenges", SunOnline, 18 December 2014; "US calls on Maldives to continue cooperative efforts to counter extremist ideologies", SunOnline, 18 December 2014; "Maldives has shown the world how much a young democracy can accomplish- US", Miadhu, 18 December 2014; "Discussion held between US and Maldives on ways to fight against terrorism", SunOnline, 17 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">After MSR, it’s FTA with China

At the first meeting of the Joint Trade Committee in Beijing, Maldives and China signed a MoU for the former to join China’s Maritime Silk Route (MSR) project. Both nations have also commenced discussions on a free trade agreement (FTA), for Maldivian fish exports to China receiving duty concessions.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "MSR deal sealed, Free Trade deal in the making", Haveeru Online, 17 December 2014; "Maldives signs MoU on Maritime Silk Route", SunOnline, December 16, 2014; "Laamu Link Road Project is a witness of the friendship between Maldives and China - Ambassador", Miadhu, 16 December 2014; "Million Chinese tourists expected to visit Maldives within two years- Ambassador", Miadhu, 16 December 2014; "Talks held with China to obtain sea ambulances" , Haveeru Online, 16 December 2014; "Siyam: China-Maldives relations will continue to strengthen", SunOnline, December 14, 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Incumbent voted out, new CJ sworn in

President Abdulla Yameen administered the oaths of office to Abdulla Saeed as the new Chief Justice of the Maldivian Supreme Court, hours after Parliament chose him, and voted out incumbent Ahmed Faiz Hussain and another Judge, based on the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). Earlier, Parliament had voted an amendment to the Judicature Act, to reduce the strength of the Supreme Court Bench from seven to five, and trifurcating the nine-Judge High Court, with three-Judge Benches in Male, the South and the North.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Abdullah Saeed sworn in as new Chief Justice", SunOnline, 15 December 2014; "Majilis approves nomination to appoint Justice Abdullah Saeed as Chief Justice", SunOnline, 14 December 2014; "Parliament approves removal of Faiz, Muthasim as Supreme Court judges", SunOnline, 14 December 2014; "SC bench change lawful, therefore backed by PPM: MP Nihan", Haveeru Online, 13 December 2014; "Termination in conflict with democratic practices: Ahmad Faaiz Hussain", SunOnline, 14 December 2014; "Supreme Court takes control of MDP’s Civil Court complaint on Faiz, Muthasim dismissal", Minivan News, 15 December 2014; "Case filed to High Court to annul amendment to Courts Act", SunOnline, 14 December 2014; "ICJ says Majlis has "decapitated the country’s judiciary" Minivan News, 18 December 2014; "MDP calls on six MPs absent from Supreme Court vote to answer disciplinary charges", Minivan News, 18 December 2014; "MDP decrees to penalize those who violated whip-line", Haveeru Online, 16 December 2014; "PG asks that MDP be penalized over controversial decree" , Haveeru Online, 15 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Male’s thirst quenched

With countries, starting with the Indian neighbour rushing large quantities of drinking water and also floating desalination plants, even as the repairs to the fire-affected lone desalination plant were being undertaken, the week-long thirst of Maldivians in the capital city of Male has been quenched, the Government Task Force, charged with the coordination and distribution work has said.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Water problem fully solved, says task force"", SunOnline, 15 December, 2014; "Dunya thanks foreign partners for help during water crisis", Minivan News, 16 December 2014; "Japan to grant MVR 12 Mn to repair damage to MWSC", Haveeru Online, 15 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yameen calls for security

With a series of violent incidents rocking various parts of the country, particularly the capital city of Male in recent weeks and months, President Abdulla, riding his campaign platform for increased foreign investments for job-creation and development, has said there would be no interest in investors if there is no security.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "There is no benefit for investors if there is no security- President", Miadhu, 16 December 2014; "President: Rights of people who infringe rights of others, must be restricted", SunOnline, 16 December 2014; "President ratifies amendment to Act, prohibiting threatening and Possession of dangerous weapons and sharp objects", SunOnline, 17 December 2014; "Parliament accepts Criminal Procedure Bill", SunOnline,15 December 2014; "’President will not hesitate to enforce death penalty’", Haveeru Online, 18 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt finds Koh Tao suspects innocent

The team formed by the Myanmar government to investigate the charges on 2 Myanmar nationals suspected in the murder of British tourists in Koh Tao of Thailand are innocent.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Koh Tao Suspects Inncocent: Govt. Investigation Team", The Irrawaddy, 18 December 2014; "Koh Tao murders: ’accused are innocent’ say Burmese investigators", Democratic Voice of Burma, 18 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suu Kyi negotiating China visit

Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is discussing an itinerary for a planned visit to China this month. A member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had said last month that the opposition leader would visit China in December.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Suu Kyi still negotiating China visit", Democratic Voice of Burma, 19 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’12-party meeting not unconstitutional’

Presidential spokesperson, Ye Htut has said that the Union Parliament considering the Regional Parliament’s proposal for 12-party talks for amending the constitution does not violate constitutional rules.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Proposed 12-party meeting does not violate Constitution, says presidential spokesperson", Eleven Myanmar, 17 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">From LDC to ’developing nation’

Nepal’s dream of moving to the group of developing nations is likely to come true, as the country has met at least two targets required for graduation. United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Haoliang Xu said different calculations show that Nepal had met two of the three goals, which are enough for the country to move from the league of least developed countries to that of developing nations.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "’Nepal meets targets for graduation from LDC’", The Himalayan Times, 18 December 2014; "Nepal top recipient among LDCs", eKantipur, 18 December 2014; "Asia-Pacific LDCs issues 24-pt declaration", Republica, 19 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Leaders given time to settle differences

Lawmakers from the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN-UML have been lobbying for a mechanism comprising top leaders of major political parties to either settle contentious issues in constitution writing within five days or prepare a questionnaire of disputes for voting.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "NC, UML for giving top leaders 5 days to settle disputes", Republica, 19 December 2014; "UML reiterates two-third majority if no consensus", Republica, 18 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More aid from US, China

The US and China are increasing their grant assistance to Nepal. China has agreed to increase its annual grant to RMB 800 million (Rs 12.9 billion) from the current RMB 150 million while Nepal could get US grant between $100 million and $600 million (Rs 59.98 billion).

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "US, China to raise aid to Nepal", eKantipur, 13 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kathmandu-Dhaka Bbus service

Direct bus service between Dhaka and Kathmandu might start in 2015 as Nepal has agreed in principle with a proposal made by Bangladesh to that end.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Direct bus service with Nepal likely", The Daily Star, 14 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">141 killed in terror-attack in school

At least 141 people were killed when Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan gunmen opened fire on the Army Public School in Peshawar. The dead include 132 children and nine staff members of the army-run school. Seven militants were killed in the operation undertaken by security forces to end the siege.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "132 children killed in Peshawar school attack", The Express Tribune, 16 December 2014; "Peshawar carnage: Condemnations pour in from home and world", The Express Tribune, 16 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Moratorium on death penalty lifted

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced that the ban on the death penalty in terrorism-related cases will be lifted. Addressing an All Parties Conference in Peshawar, the PM announced that his government would be ending the moratorium on death penalty.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "PM lifts moratorium on death penalty", The Nation, 18 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army retaliates in Tirah

According to the Inter Services Public Relations Director General Major General Asim Bajwa, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has begun supervising the ongoing military action against terrorists. 57 terrorists were killed during air strikes in Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Army retaliates to Peshawar attack with strikes in Tirah", The Express Tribune, 17 December 2014; "57 militants taken out in Tirah strikes", The Nation, 18 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PTI protests end

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan called off the four-month long countrywide sit-in protests in light of the terror attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Imran Khan announces end of PTI protests", Dawn, 18 December 2014; "For unity’s sake, Imran ends sit-in", The Nation, 18 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">26/11 mastermind granted bail

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) has granted bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in neighbouring India. He has however been detained under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail. The Pakistan Government has decided to challenge the bail in the High Court.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Mumbai attack ’mastermind’ Lakhvi detained under MPO", Dawn, 19 December 2014; ; "Pakistan govt decides to challenge Lakhvi’s bail in high court" The News International, 18 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Eight militants killed

Eight suspected militants were killed by security forces in Balochistan’s Ziarat district. This included seven militants and a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "8 militants, including TTP commander, killed in Ziarat" Dawn, 19 December 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President talks development, not ethnic issue

Campaigning among Tamil voters in the Northern Province for the 8 January re-election bid, President Mahinda Rajapaksa talked development without touching upon the ’ethnic issue’. Possibly alluding to his Government’s charge of an international conspiracy for ’regime-change’ in the country, President Rajapaksa said he cannot allow an ’Arab Spring’ kind of situation in Sri Lanka.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Can’t allow Arab Spring in SL: MR in Mullaithivu", Daily Mirror Online, 18 December 2014; "Mahinda invites Tamil leaders to join him to develop Sri Lanka", Colombo Mirror, 18 December 2014; "MR at first rally in the North, TNA not looking after its people", Ceylon Today, 19 December 2014"Sinister move to get Tamils boycott poll: Champika", Daily Mirror Online, 15 December 2014; "Premachandran denounces clandestine TNA deal with NDF", Tamil Net, 11 December 2014; "Top Tamil party urges Tamils to ignore presidential poll", Colombo Mirror, 18 December 2014; "EPDP-TNA clash in the North Seven injured in the melee", Ceylon Telegraph, 17 December 2014; "’If terrorists can enter politics, why not forces personnel?’", Ceylon Today, 14 December 2014; "Why JVP, UNP now silent about Sirisena’s siblings misconduct? - Mahinda poses question", Asian Tribune, 15 December 2014; "Govt. alleges secret meetings in S’pore", Daily Mirror Online, 16 December 2014; "Extremist forces behind common opposition: BBS", Daily Mirror Online, 16 December 2014; "War if Maithri wins - Susil", Ceylon Today, 17 December 2014; "Sirisena threatening to exercise executive, judicial, police power even before election - UPFA", The Island, 16 December 2014; "GL: Sirisena thy name is confusion", The Island, 18 December 18 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’No gap if Maithri wins’

With President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s camp saying that he would still be President until November 2016, when alone his six-year term ends, the combined Opposition has cited the Constitution to declare that their common candidate would be sworn in immediately if the results of the 8 January poll went in his favour.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "’Maithri will be sworn-in immediately’", Daily Mirror Online, 18 December 2014; "MR should vacate immediately: JVP", Daily Mirror Online, 18 December 2014; "Jilmaat: JVP disputes Sirisena’s claim", The Island, December 18, 2014; "I finished 75% of the war: CBK", Daily Mirror Online, 16 December 2014; "Sirisena reneged on vow made on casket of Buddha’s relics - Sangha Nayake Thera", The Island, 18 December 2014

Primary Documentation


Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Press Release on Terrorist Attack in Peshawar, Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 16 December 2014


Statement by Minister of State for External Affairs at the Council of Heads of Government meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 15 December 2014


Press Release of President Thein Sein Visit to Sagaing region, Myanmar President’s Office, 19 December 2014


Kathmandu Declaration for Sustainable Graduation of Asia-Pacific LDCs Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 18 December 2014

Press release on the terrorist attack at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 16 December 2014

Press Release on Ministerial Meeting of the Asia-Pacific LDCs on Graduation and Post-2015 Development Agenda, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal, 15 December 2014


Statement on Re-establishment of US-Cuba Diplomatic Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 18 December 2014

Telephone call by German Adviser on Foreign Policy and Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 17 December 2014

Chinese leadership conveys condolences over Peshawar Tragedy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 17 December 2014

Vigil at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 17 December 2014

Pakistan Missions Asked to Observe Three-Day Mourning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 16 December 2014

Afghan National Security Adviser’s Telephone Call, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 16 December 2014

Terrorist Attack in Peshawar, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 16 December 2014

Appointment of Dr. Maleeha Lodhi as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 15 December 2014

Speech by Head of Pakistan Delegation to the 13th SCO Council of Heads of Government Meeting (14-15 December 2014, Astana, Kazakhstan), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 15 December 2014

Response to Question about Indian Ministers’ Statements, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 13 December 2014



Opinion Pieces

Kamal Davar, , "Afghanistan: looming uncertainties", Livemint, 16 December 2014

Saeed Taji Farouky and Michael Mcevoy, "’An Army for Afghanistan’", The New York Times, 15 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Shashi Tharoor, "Thanking Bangladesh", Prothom Alo, 18 December 2014

Syed Badrul Ahsan , "Pakistan’s Bangladesh problem",, 14 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "Need to bolster local economy", Kuensel Online, 19 December 2014

Kuensel, "Looking straight into the soul", Kuensel Online, 18 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Faisal Devji, Nationalism as antonym of communalism", The Hindu, 19 December 2014

Ayesha Siddiqa "Strategic assets no longer maintainable", The Indian Express, 19 December 2014

Praveen Swami, "Such a long nightmare", The Indian Express, 19 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Maldives: Hasty change of Chief Justice raises more questions than answers",, 12 December 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Maldives: ’Water crisis’ shows India’s heart is as close as the two nations",, 11 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Dr Paul Fuller, "Blasphemy and offence in Burmese Buddhism", Democratic Voice of Burma, 14 December 2014

Tun Tun Win, "Where is the USDP Leading the Country?", Eleven Myanmar, 16 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Bhadra Sharma, "A Failed Mission’", eKantipur, 19 December 2014

Sujata Awale, "Is power really a priority?", The Himalayan Times, 19 December 2014

Subhash Ghimire, "Destroy Syndicates", Republica, 18 December 2014

Bishal Thapa, "21st century constitution", Republica, 16 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Shashi Tharoor, "Why We Cannot Ignore Pakistan", NDTV, 19 December 2014

Katherine E. Brown, "Opinion: Pakistan must not give in to Taliban dream of Islamic ’perfection’", CNN, 18 December 2014

Shashi Tharoor, "The Lakhvi Outrage", NDTV, 18 December 2014

Manzoor Ali, "An attack on Pakistan’s future", The Express Tribune, 17 December 2014

Peter Bergen, "Pakistan’s 9/11", CNN, 16 December 2014

"The Guardian view on the school killings in Pakistan", The Guardian, 16 December 2014

The Editorial Board, "The Taliban’s Massacre of Innocents in Pakistan", The New York Times, 16 December 2014

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Dr Kalana Senaratne, "Challenging a regressive regime", Daily Mirror Online, 18 December 2014

S I Keethaponcalan, "Presidential election and the TNA", Colombo Telegraph, 16 December 2014

Ranga Jayasuriya, "Maithripala should not upset the economic applecart", Daily Mirror Online, 15 December 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Do minorities count?", The Sunday Leader, 14 December 2014

Rajan Philips, "How can a parliament of cross-overs deliver on the promises of the Opposition?", The Island, 13 December 2014

Kumar David, "The challenges after regime change",The Island, 13 December 2014

Gnana Moonesinghe, "Presidential Elections 2015", The Island, 13 December 2014

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Afghanistan & Pakistan: Taruni Kumar
Bangladesh : Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Myanmar & Bhutan : Mihir Bhonsale;
India: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti, Manmath Goel
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale was a Junior Fellow in the Strategic Studies Programme and Indian Neighbourhood Initiative of ORF.

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