MonitorsPublished on Sep 25, 2014
The 55-45 percent Scotland referendum against independence has revived the on-again-off-again discourse of the kind among Sri Lankan Tamils (SLT), one more time. Rather, certain Tamil web campaigns have cited even a 'No' vote in Scotland to justify their demand for a referendum in the SLT community.
The Scots say it all
< class="heading1">Analysis

The 55-45 percent Scotland referendum against independence has revived the on-again-off-again discourse of the kind among Sri Lankan Tamils (SLT), one more time. Rather, certain Tamil web campaigns have cited even a ’No’ vote in Scotland to justify their demand for a referendum in the SLT community. Unlike on past occasions, they do not seem to have made any reference to issues of self-determination, sovereignty, territorial integrity and geography to bolster their argument, per se.

Unlike in Scotland or elsewhere, ’referendum’ is a much misused and abused word in Sri Lanka. There is a reference to the same in the India-Sri Lanka Accord and the consequent Provincial Councils Act, which was passed alongside 13-A, all of 1987 vintage. ’Referendum’ in context related to the tri-community Eastern Province for merger with the North, and not to any ’referendum’ for the Tamils alone, to determine support for a ’Tamils-alone’ nation carved out of Sri Lanka.

Over the past 25 years of ethnic travails and political transformation(s), stealthily ’referendum’ has been inserted into a revived discourse on ’self-determination’ without the use of the term, ’separatism’. The scope has been deliberately expanded even more to include the SLT Diaspora across the world, many holding twin-citizenship. Post-war, the idea seems to be to keep the issue alive and on slow-heat even as the moderate Tamil polity obtains whatever it can in terms of a political solution, whether through talks with the Sri Lankan Government or by appealing to the international community, including the Indian neighbour - and, not necessarily starting and/or ending with it.

Repeal-referendum and repeat-referendum

Whether political asylum-seekers or ’economic refugees’ then or now, the SLT Diaspora, barring those housed in the refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, India, none seem wanting to return home for good - or, intermittently, either, other than for social occasions like family weddings or annual festivals in the Hindu temples in their native villages. Less said about their children, who were/are born and brought up outside the country under local conditions (mostly western) and culture, language and education, the better.

All these sections of the SLT Diaspora would be misfits in the country and village of their parents and/or grandparents as they were when they first landed in the country/countries of their adoption. Or, in countries that had adopted them, to be more precise. Their association to their ’homeland’ would begin and end with a ’referendum vote’. The latter thus has the potential to throw up a result that once again would not reflect the ground realities and sentiments.

Among the Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka living outside the country, only those in the refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, continue to hold Sri Lankan citizenship, have their births, deaths and marriages registered in and/or by the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai. Or, so it seems. Rather than talking about the unworkable, those talking about ’referendum’ among the Tamils - and Tamils alone - should be facilitating the early and non-coerced return of those in the Indian refugee camps to return home, and exercise their voting right in the existing electoral scheme.

Any talk of a referendum of the kind anywhere in the world, if lost to the ’yes’ men, is always accompanied by an immediate demand or hope of another one five or 10 years down the line. It’s no different in Scotland now. Other than in specific cases, where communities had not gone to war with each other, talks for repeat-referendum can have an unsettling effect and the air getting thicker with mutual suspicions and avoidable allegations. It can destabilise nations and societies, and keep doing it constantly and repeatedly.

The irony of the referendum scheme as it exists is that nay-sayers even if they lose by a wafer-thin majority have lost their cause for good. The alternative, if at all, could lead to further separation, fragmentation and balkanisation. It has greater consequences for present-day Sri Lanka, as a substantial number of Sri Lankan Tamils (SLT), who are at the focus and centre of the ethnic issue, live outside the North and the East, and in the heart of Sinhala and Muslim communities. That all three Tamil-speaking communities of SLT, Muslims and Upcountry Tamils constitute a majority of the population in the national capital of Colombo too should not be overlooked or misunderstood.

In Sri Lanka, theoretically, the Sinhalas and the Muslims, not necessarily in that order, would be faced with the consequences of a referendum for separation, whether or not it leads to instant separation. Against this, there would be a constant Tamil call for another referendum, accompanied by allegations of referendum-fraud, if the ’yes’ men lost. Going by the Sri Lankan experience, they could be expected to make allegations of referendum-fraud itself an issue for further alienation, not only of the polity and society but also of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Underwriting separatism?

As was being said by some during the Scotland referendum, if the voter in England should have been asked instead on his wanting to continue under-writing the former’s development budget, the answer might have favoured today’s ’yes’ sayers but for a different reason. Whichever party was in power and whoever was President, the Government continued to send shiploads of food and medicines and other essential commodities to the Tamils in the war-ravaged North and the East.

That the LTTE appropriated it all every time ships arrived in or from Trincomallee for shoring up their war-time stocks is what made it even more cruel. Then, of course, they also voted Chandrika Kumaratunga as President in 1995, hoping that her dovish approach made the difference. The Tamils backed her, making her the President to have recorded the largest vote-share, then and since.

Ultimately, the LTTE made the difference. The LTTE also made out a different President out of CBK, and blamed her for the same. They made a different President out of Prime Minister Rajapaksa full ten years later in 2005. Starting off his tenure by reviving the peace talks, this time in Geneva, President Rajapaksa went on to be the tormentor and the ultimate destroyer of the LTTE.

Majoritarianism and authoritarianism

The Tamil ’separatist’ arguments that they had gone through it all too would not always sell. The mis-guided Tamil youth violence since the middle of the Seventies (and not mid-Eighties, after Pogrom-’83) made the difference to the Sri Lankan State’s approach, as different from the majority/majoritarian Sinhala polity since the Fifties.

It’s no justification for ’Sinhala majoritarianism’, which on the Tamil streets ended up as ’Sinhala authoritarianism’, too, but after a point. That the LTTE would become authoritarian in its time viz their own people, and the Sri Lankan State in regard to the JVP militancy might go on to support the argument that it’s all in the nature of the Sri Lankan soil and people, not to blame the polity and periodic issues alone.

Then and now, the Tamil promoters of youth violence and or ’democratic separation’ were securely ensconced in their western homes and jobs. It’s not as academic as the ideas and philosophies that they propounded. They continue to do so, with some or substantial help from host-governments. The hapless victims of those war and violence and terrorism in their thousands back home end up fight an unwinnable war - political and/or military - with the Sri Lankan State.

The Tamil social leadership and society need to acknowledge, even if grudgingly, that if the late S J V Chelvanayagam could not win a ’Gandhian protest’ for them against the mutually-competitive Sinhala polity, none else after him could. If LTTE’s Prabhakaran could not win the decades-old war of violence and terrorism against the Sri Lankan State, none after him can. Phrases like ’referendum’, repeated ’Gandhian-style’ protests or revival of militancy in the form of State-specific insurgency as against the LTTE’s brand of catastrophic terrorism, can fool many but not win anything for the protestors and the war-weary masses who have nothing more to lose, they having gained nothing through the troubled and destructive decades.

Taking all on board

On Scotland at the same time, there can be no denying the vocalisation of the ’yes’ votes or the more than substantial 45 percent support that cession commanded at the referendum. The three-party offer of Scottish devolution from the rest of the UK is believed to have made the difference to the vote. British Prime Minister David Cameron has only added to the post-referendum confusion by promising similar devolution, but in terms of legislature-vote exclusion, for the other three regions of a reduced and doubting Empire. It is unclear if the Cameron proposals, already shot down by the Labour Opposition in Parliament, also includes similar devolution for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Apart from the contradictions, confusion and complexities that it has flagged, Cameron’s plan, if made effective, could lead to confederating the UK from being the United Kingdom that it still is. It’s the kind of confusion that the UK can do without just now. If the No-campaign in Scotland, and their political backers in the rest of the country, would not want the region to walkout the UK, Cameron’s plans would have done that precisely to all of the Kingdom, and in just one stroke. It is the kind of confusion, contradiction and conflict that Sri Lanka needs to avoid, too. The continuing Indian suggestion for power-devolution ’build on 13-A within a united Sri Lanka’ is all about such confusions and their avoidance. Meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa when Scotland and the rest of UK was mulling over the referendum results, a two-man team of the ruling BJP in India is also reported to have reiterated the Indian position for the Colombo Government to talk to the TNA and ’take everyone on board’.

In an interview to the Indian newspaper, ’The Hindu’, President Rajapaksa had earlier expressed his willingness to talk to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), ruling the Tamil-exclusive Northern Province. With his ruling SLFP-UPFA retaining the Uva Provincial Council in a much-hyped and even more controversial election, President Rajapaksa can now be expected to make his next moves -- whatever they -- on the ethnic front.

President Rajapaksa and his Government have time till possibly the papal visit in January, followed by the UNHRC ’voting session’ in March, to revive the political processes on the ethnic front. Much as the TNA may feel convinced about its demand for bilateral talks leading up to the Parliament Select Committee (PSC), they also need to acknowledge that ’taking all on board’ means that they cannot escape the PSC - where and where alone decisions can be initiated, outside the full house of Parliament.

That way, the TNA has to muse on issues that the Government may accept upfront (if at all) but for which Parliament may not vote for. The ruling combine in general, and President Rajapaksa, otherwise, will have to make the world know their commitment to the PSC process, if the Committee and/or Parliament approve of TNA’s demands that may not be to its liking, politically, electorally, or otherwise. Be it the PSC now, or the APRC earlier, the SLFP leader of the ruling UPFA sort of reserved for itself the ’veto power’ to deny and decline what’s otherwise on offer. It proved it in the case of the APRC, earlier, little acknowledging that it’s not the sole political repository of the nation’s sovereignty in the country.

Taking all on board thus does not stop with the Government and/or the SLFP-UPFA talking to the TNA. The TNA has to remember that, as with the Scotland referendum, a PSC vote can go against it, too, when the question is devolution. The Government has to acknowledge that thoughtless talk about devolution without application of mind and sincerity can lead to a situation where PM Cameron, Sri Lanka’s bête noire from last November’s Colombo CHOGM, finds himself post-referendum.

The UK and its western allies have hopefully learnt their lessons on secession and separatism, from a succession of referendums in Scotland, now and later. Or, anything that encourages or kindles hopes of a referendum once, whatever the result at every turn. Learning from the Scottish referendum, the stake-holders in Sri Lanka need to acknowledge that vote is no substitute for talks - if the sincere bid is to resolve the ’national problem’, not prolong and postpone the agony.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghanistan: New government and peace prospects with Taliban

Isha Sharma

The electoral deadlock in Afghanistan was finally broken with the announcement of the winner of the presidential elections and the formation of a National Unity government. Ashraf Ghani, the erstwhile Finance Minister in President Hamid Karzai’s transitional administration, will head the new government and work along with Abdullah Abdullah in a power sharing set-up chalked out by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Ghani-Abdullah agreement eases much of the anxiety among the Afghan people as well as the international community following the deadlock over the question of auditing of votes.

But it is only a very tentative step towards a stable political transition. The new government faces serious challenges in the days ahead. One of the most contentious, and pressing, is the question of dealing with the Taliban. Presidential-elect Ghani has called out reaching an enduring peace with the Taliban. He believes that it can be achieved by acknowledging those who are bearing arms and understanding their internal grievances and external support base. But Ghani, with his experience in the Karzai government, is also acutely aware of divergent, vested interests which militates against a peaceful negotiations with the Taliban.

To deal with the issue of the Taliban, the Ghani-Abdullah government has to find a way through at least three mine fields. One is the Taliban’s stated position that it was against the Afghan Constitution and as such does not recognise the elections and its results. Second is the internal difference within the Taliban on negotiating with the government. Third is to deal with the active involvement of external players, including Pakistan.

There are serious internal differences within the Taliban which complicates the process of the dialogue and brokering a peace deal. The opinions not only differ horizontally, i.e. from a radical faction to a moderate one but also vertically because of a vague command and control protocol and absence of unanimity among different factions of the Taliban.

The Taliban is not a tightly knit organisation but a flexible structure of semi-autonomous network of allies and patrons with different centres of power. The only uniting factor is the overall leadership of Mullah Omar. The two main power centres are the shuras or councils of Peshawar and Quetta but there have been numerous splits and mergers among the networks belonging to these two main factions. It is interesting to note that over the years the Taliban has evolved from being a purely militant force to a group that articulates its ideas and interests on political lines. For instance, the different factions within the Taliban hold different opinions about holding elections albeit all of them function in one religious framework. The arrest of Mullah Baradar in 2010 led to a split in the Taliban leadership with Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansur heading one network and Mullah Zakir heading the other. Zakir’s alliance totally opposes the electoral process whereas Mansur’s alliance is willing to allow the electoral process to go forward as a step towards the facilitation of peace deal but it holds reservations about conducting the elections in the presence of foreign troops.

Besides the internal differences within the Taliban, Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan has made matters worse. The US’s ’capture or kill’ operations had crippled the Taliban operational capabilities but the group could regain its hold over eastern and southern parts of Afghanistan largely due to Pakistan’s overt and covert support. The US involvement in Iraq in the midst of the Global War on Terrorism was certainly another factor which helped the Taliban to regain its foothold after the 2001 bombing.

Among the external actors, the immediate challenge before Ghani is to bring to a close the protracted negotiations with the US over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO which would allow the foreign troops to act as a training and advisory force from next year. These agreements, however, could harden the Taliban stand against the presence of the US in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s position is not really clear on these issues. But it would not like its role in Kabul to be curtailed by the US presence.

The fact that it is not going to be easy at all for the new leaders to deal with the Taliban is clear from the divergence of interests between them expressed in the power sharing agreement. The agreement calls for "equitablerepresentation from both parties, and with attention to inclusivity and the political and societal composition of the country, with particular attention to women and youth, and persons with disabilities, for state institutions and agencies, including key judiciary and local administrative posts". These goals are in contrast with the Sharia based rule promoted by the Taliban.

Despite these tough roadblocks, the new President is likely to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Hamid Karzai and revive the dialogue with the Taliban. Karzai held secret talks with the Taliban before this year’s presidential elections which had further soured his relationship with the US. The Taliban, however, had not stopped its attacks despite participating in the talks with the Karzai. Earlier too, it had continued the attacks against the foreign troops in the midst of similar ’secret’ talks with different interlocutors.

The Ghani-Abdullah team cannot get away from dealing with the Taliban; earlier they do, better for them and their image among the people who had voted for stability, and not for another round of civil war. This could mean opening a dialogue with the Taliban, working with the US and resolving Pakistan’s anxiety over Durand Line. Working with other regional players like India, Iran and China could help the new rulers of Kabul in turning the tide for good.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ashraf Ghani new President

Ashraf Ghani was declared the new president of Afghanistan after he and Dr Abdullah Abdullah reached an agreement on the formation of a Government of National Unity. As per the four page document, Dr Abdullah or his nominee will occupy the position of Chief Executive, who will be answerable to the president. While the agreement had its fair share of critics, it was hailed internationally and Dr Abdullah claimed that the failure of the unity government would imply a failure for the whole of Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Ashraf Ghani Elected Next President of Afghanistan", Tolo News, 21 September 2014; "Candidates Sign National Unity Government Agreement", Tolo News, 21 September 2014; "Abdullah Optimistic About National Unity Government", Tolo News, 25 September 2014; "Unity govt ’failure will turn into a failure for everybody’: Abdullah", Khaama Press, 23 September 2014; "National Unity Govt. Agreement Welcomed Internationally", Tolo News, 21 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ministries shared among the two leaders

According to reports, the two leaders have agreed to an equal division of the key ministries among themselves. While Defence and External Affairs have been kept by Dr Abdullah, interior and finance have been kept by Dr Ghani.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Share of ministries among Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani", Khaama Press, 25 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai slams US in farewell speech

In his farewell speech, outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed that the US pursued its own interests in Afghanistan because of which there was no peace in the country. He also criticised Pakistan for sponsoring cross-border terrorism. However, he thanked India for all the assistance and aid that it has provided over the past decade to Afghanistan. He also thanked other countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Turkey, South Korea, Japan and China.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai praises India, takes one last swipe at US, Pakistan", The Times of India, 23 September 2014; "Afghan President Hamid Karzai slams U.S. government policy in Afghanistan", The Washington Post, 23 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">HPC admits peace talks failing

The Afghan High Peace Council admitted this week that their efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table have been unsuccessful. While it claimed that a number of Taliban officials were interested in talking to the government, they were either eliminated or imprisoned by the Pakistan authorities. Such admission came amidst reports that the Taliban have regained control over most of Sangin district in Helmand province.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Afghan HPC’s Policies Toward the Taliban a Failure", Tolo News, 24 September 2014; "Sangin District Falling in Taliban Hands" Tolo News, 25 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IS expanding influence in Ghazni

Government officials have warned that militants with links to the Islamic State are expanding their influence in southeastern Ghazni province. Militants are said to be campaigning in favour of the Islamic State and have closed numerous routes to Ghazni province since they are busy with planning their activities.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : Islamic State expanding activities in Ghazni province", Khaama Press, 26 September 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Corruption trial against opposition leader started

A Dhaka court this week started hearing about charges of corruption against opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Begum Khaleda Zia. Begum Zia charges of emblazing large sum of money from two series. Interesting, she did not appear at the court. Trials against Begum Zia have been pending for a long time. Reacting on the trial Begum Zia claimed that charges against her all false and she is not scared of getting arrested.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Trial in Khaleda’s graft case begins amid hullabaloo" Dhaka Tribune, 23 September 2014; "I don’t fear arrest, says Khaleda" The Independent, 24 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India-Bangladesh foreign ministers meet

India and Bangladesh relations got a major boost due to the meeting of the foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali with his Indian counterpart Ms Sushma Swaraj. The two ministers met at New Delhi during the third round of the India-Bangladesh foreign ministers’ Joint Consultative Commission (JCC). They reviewed the bilateral relations and discussed areas of cooperation between the two countries. The meeting greatly helped removing many apprehensions as the discussions were extremely free and frank and both sides put forwarded their respective view points. This meeting enhanced warmth between the two countries.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India-Bangladesh relations now ’truly multifaceted’", 20 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IS in Bangladesh

Security agencies unearthed a major network of the Islamic State who were on mission to recruit fighter from Bangladesh.An UK citizen of Bangladeshi origin was arrested from capital Dhaka who was recruiting fighters for IS. This incident highlights spread of IS network in the country. Authorities in Bangladesh are closely monitoring the developments regarding the IS both on the ground and at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that adopted a resolution over threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts this against the backdrop of the recent rise of IS.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Cops capture 2 ’ISIS recruitees", The Daily Star, 26 September 2014; Dhaka ’closely monitoring’ IS?developments", The Independent, 26 September 2014; "West trying to engage Bangladesh", The Independent, 24 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">A positive economic growth

Asian Development Bank (ADB) has forecasted a positive economic growth for Bangladesh. The country’s economy is expected to grow by 6.4 per cent in the 2015 fiscal year. Also, inflation is likely to come down to 6.5 per cent from 7.4 per cent in the previous year. Besides, current account of balance of payments is expected to show a higher surplus at 1.5 per cent of the GDP, up from 0.9 per cent in FY 2014. Exports also are going to register an upward trend.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "ADB projects 6.4pc growth in next fiscal" The Independent, 26 September 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan economy to benefit

Bhutan is said to benefit from the Indian government’s fast track economy development initiative, ’Make in India’, which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in India on 25 September to make India a manufacturing hub.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bhutan looks to cash in on Make in India initiative", Kuensel Online, 26 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Construction on Kholongchu project to start soon

Construction of the 600 MW Kholongchu Hydropower project in Trashiyangste is expected to begin by December. Bids will be floated on 1 October for the project, said officials.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Kholongchu construction to begin by September", Kuensel Online, 25 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nehru Wangchuck centre’s anniversary

The Nehru Wangchuck cultural centre celebrated its 4th anniversary on 26 September. An exhibition has been planned on the lines of the anniversary titled ’Puducherry Blue’ where artists from the SAARC region will exhibit their art works.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Nehru Wangchuck centre to celebrate fourth anniversary", Kuensel Online, 25 September 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BJP-Shiv Sena and NCP-INC alliances break ahead of Maharashtra polls

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, and Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ended their long standing alliances after failing to resolve differences over seat-sharing arrangement less than a month before the 288-member state assembly goes to polls on October 15. The split follows weeks of intense negotiations. Traditionally, the regional Shiv Sena fielded a greater share of candidates. Buoyed by its success in the national election, however, the BJP demanded more seats than Shiv Sena’s final offer of 151, leading to the rupture. The news was immediately followed by the NCP’s decision to part ways with the Congress.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Maharashtra polls: Shiv Sena-BJP, Congress-NCP alliances snap; it’s a 5-cornered fight" The Times of India, 26 September 2014; "25-year-old alliance in Maharashtra over differences in seat sharing" , India Today, 25 September 2014; "BJP dumps ally Shiv Sena, NCP calls off alliance with Cong over seat share in Maharashtra", Hindustan Times, 25 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC scraps 214 coal blocks allotted since 1993

The Supreme Court on Wednesday cancelled 214 of the 218 coal blocks allocated by the successive governments since 1993 and gave the companies awarded coal licences six months to wind up their operations.Four blocks run by the central government agencies have been spared the axe.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Coal Blocks Allocation Case Financial Express, 24 September 2014; "Supreme Court scraps 214 coal blocks", India Today, 24 September 2014; "Supreme Court ruling on coal blocks likely to hit economy: India Inc", The Economic Times, 24 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India’s forex reserves fall $3 billion in two weeks

India’s foreign exchange reserves fell for the second straight week as the country’s central bank sold dollars to prevent currency volatility after the US Federal Reserves said that it may withdraw monetary easing sooner than expected. Reserves fell by $1.615 billion in the week to September 12 to $315.698 billion

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "India’s reserves fall $3 billion in two weeks", The Economic Times, 19 September 2014; "India’s forex reserves dip US$ 1.62 billion in the week ended 12 September 2014", The Economic Times, 18 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Obama nominates Indian-American as new Ambassador to India

US President Barack Obama has nominated Richard Rahul Verma to the post of Ambassador to India. This does not mark Verma’s appointment; White House’s decision will be deliberated by the Senate, where as many as 99 nominations are awaiting confirmation. If confirmed, he will take charge of the office that has been vacant since Nancy Powell left her post six months ago. Verma has held a host of technical and policy assignments; he is currently Senior Counsellor the law-firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP and the Albright Stonebridge Group, an advisory group led by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He previously served the State Department, the US Air Force, and a number of prominent think-tanks.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Verma is Obama’s choice for Ambassador", The Hindu, 20 September 2014; "Obama Nominates Richard Verma as New US Envoy to India", NDTV, 19 September 2014;

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto pledges to ’take back Kashmir’

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), pledged to ’take back Kashmir’ during an election rally in Multan region of Punjab province. He made these comments in the presence of former Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Asharaf, indicating prior sanction from the party. PPP backs peace and dialogue with India and during its earlier term from 2008-13 was consistent in its official position. In fact, India has ceased to feature in Pakistan’s political rhetoric during this period, which makes Bhutto’s comment difficult to understand. While it was ridiculed by analysts and social media as a work of a dilettante, Bhutto’s motivation to reintroduce Kashmir in the country’s electoral calculus remain unknown. Nevertheless, the comment was condemned by all political parties in India and the Ministry of External Affairs.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "I will take back entire Kashmir from India: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari", The Times of India, 20 September 2014; "We’ll take every inch of Kashmir: Bilawal", The Hindu, 21 September 2014; "Parties condemn Bilawal remarks on Kashmir", The Hindu, 21 September 2014; "Bilawal’s comment on Kashmir ’far from reality’: MEA Spokesperson, The Indian Express, 20 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CPI (Maoist) observes 10th foundation day

Communist Party of India (Maoist) observed its 10th foundation day on 21 September across regions under its sway in central and eastern India. Fresh posters appeared across affected districts, urging people to continue supporting the armed movement. Several posters called to turn the guerrilla group into a ’People’s Liberation Army’, indicating a move towards more audacious attacks. The CPI (Maoist) was founded ten years ago in 2004 with the merger of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), People’s War (previously People’s War Group) and Maoist Communist Centre of India. Security forces stepped up vigil with increased frisking of vehicles, force deployment, and patrolling along the inter-state borders.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Tight security on Red day-eve", The Times of India, 21 September 2014; "Maoist day peaceful in Odisha’s tribal belt", The Times of India, 22 September 2014; "Police on alert for CPI (Maoist) anniversary in Bastar", The Hindu, 22 September 2014; "East Central Railway cancels 26 trains over Maoist threat", The Economic Times, 20 September 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC hauls HRCM members for reporting to UN Council

The Supreme Court has rescheduled a suo motu case against members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) after the panel told the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva that the nation’s apex court was interfering with the functioning of the lower judiciary.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Supreme Court schedules HRCM case hearing for Sunday", SunOnline, 24 September, 2014; "Supreme Court initiates suo moto case against HRCM members", SunOnline, 22 September 2014; "HRCM: DJA found no issues with UPR", SunOnline, 24 September 2014; "Report not intended to nullify legal power: HRCM", Haveeru Online, 24 September 2014; "UPR report shared with judiciary before submission, says HRCM at Supreme Court trial", Minivan News, 24 September 2014; "Education Ministry: Issues mentioned in UPR not brought to ministry’s notice", SunOnline, 21 September 2014; "HRCM rebuts Education Ministry claims", Haveeru Online, 22 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MSR threatens Indian Ocean security: Nasheed

In his first reaction to Maldives singing up for China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Route (MSR) during the recent visit of President Xi Jinping, former Maldivian President and Opposition MDP leader Mohammed Nasheed has said that the project would threaten Indian Ocean security as a whole.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Participation in Silk Road initiative would threaten Indian Ocean security, contends Nasheed", Minivan News, 23 September 2014; "Nasheed accuses Adhaalath leaders of radicalising youth", Minivan News, 23 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Teachers demand higher pay, MDP joins in

The Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has extended support to the nation’s teachers associations, protesting for a higher pay.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "MDP backs teachers’ protest", Haveeru Online, 21 September 2014; "No giving in to individual demands; Education", Haveeru Online, 21 September 2014; "Glass door of MDP office shattered again", SunOnline, 24 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Specialist doctors from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has promised to depute specialist medical doctors for serving the Maldivian population at Male’s Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), President Abdulla Yameen said on return home from a twin-nation visit of Sri Lanka and Singapore.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Lanka guarantees specialist doctors", Haveeru Online, 22 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Waheed leads team for UNGA

Former President, Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, is leading the Maldivian delegation for the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Former President Dr Waheed departs for UNGA", Haveeru Online,22 September, 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tata agreements by week-end

After delays and dilly-dallying for two years, revised agreements regarding the housing projects originally granted to the Indian industry major Tata will be signed by the weekend, Maldivian Housing Minister Mohamed Muizzu has said.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Housing Minister: All agreements relating to Tata flats will be signed by end of this week" SunOnline,22 September, 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Myanmar Army arrests its five soldiers

Myanmar’s Border Guard Force (BGF) has detained five of its troops suspected in the killing of Karen National Union (KNU) soldier whose body was found in the Moei river in the Karen state border town of Myawaddy on 21 September.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "BGF Arrests 5 Soilders for Suspected Involvement in KNU Killing", The Irrawaddy, 25 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt. has delivered on promises: Committee

A committee set up in the lower house of parliament to monitor government has reported that the government has delivered more than half of the infrastructure it promised to build for the public.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Govt Has Delivered on More Than Half of Its Promises", Eleven Myanmar, 25 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ceasefire accord hits roadblock

The ethnic bloc has failed to reach a consensus with the Government of Myanmar on four of the remaining five points of the proposed single-text nationwide ceasefire draft.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Ceasefire accord hits barrier on road to peace", Democratic Voice of Burma, 25 September 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Agreement to Expedite the Pancheshwar Project

Nepal and India have agreed to expedite the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Development Project, pending for 17 years, which has the capacity to generate 6,720 MW of hydropower along with increased irrigation facilities. The project on the Mahakali river is seen as a landmark development in Nepal-India cooperation in hydropower sector.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Nepal, India agree to expedite stalled Pancheshwar project", The Economic Times, 24 September 2014; "Pancheshwar project law rekindles hopes", eKantipur, 24 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal’s largest hydro power plant to be built by GMR

Nepal’s government has endorsed plans for GMR to build the Himalayan nation’s largest hydro power plant in a small step toward easing chronic power shortages and attracting new investment, officials said on Friday. The $1.15 billion Upper Karnali Hydro power plant would be the biggest private foreign investment in Nepal.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "GMR to build Nepal’s largest hydro power plant", The Hindu, 19 September 2014; "Nepal okays GMR’s $1.4-bn hydel unit plan", Business Standard, 19 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal’s prime minister meets with his Bangladeshi and Pakistani counterparts

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala held a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York of the United States on Thursday. The two prime ministers, who had arrived here to attend the UN General Assembly, discussed the matters concerning current political situation of both the countries, bilateral relations and mutual interests.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "PM Koirala meets his Pakistani, Bangladeshi counterparts Republica, 26 September 2014; "UNGA sidelines: PM meets Pak? Bangladesh counterparts", The Himalayan Times,26 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parties in Nepal close to agreement

Ruling Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML have reached closer to consensus on ending the House obstruction that has lasted for about eight weeks. Leaders involved in the negotiations say they expect some positive results from the fresh round of negotiations set to take place on Friday as both ruling and opposition parties are now serious toward ending the deadlock "soon."

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Major parties close to agreement on lifting House obstruction", Republica, 26 September 2014; "Madhesi parties in bid to set common agenda", eKantipur, 23 September 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indians must approach us to revive peace process: Pakistan foreign secretary

The foreign secretary of Pakistan has said that the onus is on India since it cancelled the foreign secretary level talks which were scheduled to be held in Islamabad in August in a resumption of the peace dialogue.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Revival of peace process in New Delhi’s hands: foreign secretary", The Express Tribune, 26 September 2014; "If Indians want to meet, they can approach us: Foreign Secretary", Dawn, 26 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan successfully test-fires Hatf-IX

On 26 September 2014, Pakistan conducted a successful test of the short range surface-to-surface Hatf-IX missile which is said to have nuclear capabilities with a maximum range of 60 kilometres. The Inter Services Public Relations has said that this was an important test for the Missile Programme of Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Pakistan successfully test-fires Hatf-IX" The Express Tribune, 26 September 2014; "Pakistan successfully test-fires Hatf-IX", Dawn, 26 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nine suspected TTP terrorists arrested in Islamabad

At least nine suspected terrorists belonging to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were arrested during a raid carried out by security forces in Islamabad on the basis of a tip-off about the presence of 14 terrorists.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nine suspected TTP terrorists arrested in Islamabad raids", Dawn, 26 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Political parties united for upholding democracy: PM Sharif

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing the Pakistani community in New York after meeting United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon, said that all political parties were united for upholding democracy in Pakistan and for the supremacy of the Constitution.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Political parties united for upholding democracy, says PM Nawaz", "Political parties united for upholding democracy, says PM Nawaz",

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MQM calls off Karachi sit-ins

Political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has called off sit-ins in Karachi. The decision was announced by MQM leader Faisal Sabzwari while addressing the participants of the sit-in outside the Chief Minister’s House on 25September 2014.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "MQM calls off sit-ins in Karachi", The News International, 26 September 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’UNHRC agenda ill-conceived’

Possibly for the first time for a Head of Government addressing the annual UN General Assembly, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka had the UNHRC had targeted his country with ’ill-conceived agendas".

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "MR blasts UNHRC" Daily Mirror Online, 25 September 2014; "MR holds bilateral discussions at UN headquarters" Daily Mirror Online, 24 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defence Secretary in China

Less than a week after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the country, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa landed there for what has been described, "to strengthen military ties" between the two countries.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ruling combine scrapes in PC poll

The ruling SLFP-UPFA combine of President Mahinda Rajapaksa recorded a narrow win in the Uva provincial polls, triggering speculation about early elections to the nation’s presidency, and also creating the atmospherics for the much-publicised organisational changes in the Opposition United National Party (UNP).

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Govt. narrowly retains Uva PC" The Island, 21 September 2014; "Ranil to be UNP presidential candidate", Daily Mirror Online, 23 September 2014; "Changes in the UNP: Sajith, Dy. Leader, Ravi Asst. Leader" Daily Mirror Online, 23 September 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Self-rule for Tamils within a united Sri Lanka’

In an affidavit before the nation’s Supreme Court, the Tamil-exclusive ITAK, or the Federal Party, has reiterated its objective for self-rule within a united Sri Lanka.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "ITAK affirms self-rule within a united Sri Lanka", Daily Mirror Online, 22 September 2014; "TNA files affidavit in SC on demand for North-East merger with federal powers", The Island, 22 September 2014; "’Military takeover’: Defence Ministry responds to CBK", The Island, 24 September 2014

Primary Documentation


President Karzai: If the US Wants Afghanistan to be a Good Friend, It needs to Match its Words with Actions, Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 23 September 2014

Press release by Hamid Karzai on announcement of election results, Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 21 September 2014

Press statement by UNAMA on announcement of election results, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 21 September 2014

Text of the agreement between the Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, Tolo News, 20 September 2014

Statement by the Press Secretary on Signing of a Political Agreement Regarding the Electoral Crisis in Afghanistan, The White House, 21 September 2014


Joint Statement on the Third Meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission held in New Delhi, High Commission of India in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 20 September, 2014.


Press Release of Bhutan’s Accession to Revised Kyoto Convention, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 September 2014


"English rendering of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s address at the launch of ’Make in India’ global initiative", Ministry of External Affairs, 26 September 2014

"Prime Minister’s statement prior to his departure for USA" Ministry of External Affairs, 25 September 2014

"Text of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s message on Swachh Bharat", Prime Minister’s Office, 25 September 2014

Narendra Modi, "Unleashing India’s Energy and Drive", The Wall Street Journal, 25 September 2014

US Congressman Pete Sessions and Shalabh Kumar, "New opportunities for India-U.S. trade", The Hindu, 24 September 2014


Order forming of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, Office of the President of the Union of Myanmar, 24 September 2014


Press Release from Permanent Mission of Nepal New York on 25th Sept. 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of India, 26 September 2014

Press Release from Permanent Mission of Nepal New York on 24th Sept. 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of India, 25 September 2014

Press release from Permanent Mission of Nepal New York on 23rd Sept. 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of India, 25 September 2014

Press Release on the visit of The Rt. Hon. Vice-President Mr. Parmanand Jha for Lhasa, China, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of India, 23 September 2014

Inaugural address by Rt. Hon. Mr. Sushil Koirala, Prime Minister of Nepal, at the Opening Session of the Sixth Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Interior/Home, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of India, 21 September 2014

Press Release on the visit of Rt. Hon. PM to NY, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of India, 19 September 2014


Adviser to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Participates in Meeting of OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir in New York, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 September 2014

PM Nawaz Sharif Meets with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 September 2014

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Calls on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 26 September 2014

Special Representative of the Secretary General on Afghanistan, Jan Kubis calls on the Foreign Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 25 September 2014

Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Condemns Terrorism and ’Foreign Terrorist Fighters’ at the UN Security Council Summit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 25 September 2014

Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 25th September 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 25 September 2014

Pakistan Condemns US Drone Strike in North Waziristan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 September 2014

Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security & Foreign Affairs addresses the 29th Special Session of the UN General Assembly on follow-up to the programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 September 2014

Foreign Secretary Attends Asia Society’s Event on Expanding Regional Economic Connectivity and the Meetings of OIC Contact Groups on Bosnia Herzegovina and Somalia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 September 2014

Foreign Secretary Projects Pakistan’s Perspective in his Speech to the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 September 2014

Prime Minister’s Visit to New York, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 22 September 2014

Message of Felicitations from the Prime Minister to the President-elect of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 21 September 2014

Message of Felicitations from the President of Pakistan to the President-elect of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 21 September 2014

Afghan Presidential Elections, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 21 September 2014

Pakistan Appreciates China’s Support for SCO Membership, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 19 September 2014



Opinion Pieces

"Democracy, Afghan-Style ", The Economist, 27 September 2014

Ahmed Rashid, "Afghanistan’s Failed Transformation ", The New York Times, 25 September 2014

Aryaman Bhatnagar, "A Turbulent Beginning to a New Phase in Afghanistan ", South Asian Voices, 25 September 2014

Jonah Blank, "Afghanistan’s Best Bet: Can Ghani and Abdullah Save their Country? , Foreign Affairs, 24 September 2014

Lyse Doucet, "Tumultuous birth of Afghanistan’s power-sharing accord ", BBC News, 24 September 2014

Chris Mason, "Fraud and Folly in Afghanistan ", Foreign Policy, 23 September 2014

Micheal Kugelman, "Four Questions for Afghanistan’s Future ", The Wall Street Journal, 22 September 2014

David Loyn, "What the Afghan power sharing deal means ", BBC News, 21 September 2014

Rod Nordland, "After Rancor, Afghans Agree to Share Power ", The New York Times, 21 September 2014

Kate Clark, "Finally, a Deal, but not yet democracy ", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 21 Septmeber 2014


Tim Craig, "Mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan soars as U.S. forces depart ",The Washington Post, 25 September 2014

Anthony H. Cordesman, "Security Transition in Afghanistan ",Center for Strategic and International Studies, 24 September 2014


Opinion Pieces

M Abdul Latif Mondal, "What follows poverty mapping? Dhaka Tribune, 23 September 2014

"Politics in Bangladesh: One and only one", The Economist, 20 September 2014

Rashid Askari "World peace and Bangladesh" Dhaka Courier, 25 September 2014


Dirk Willem te Velde (ed.) Enhancing productivity in Bangladesh’s garment sector: Current policy andresearch debates, DFID Growth Research Programme, September 2014


"What Make in India can mean to Bhutan", Kuensel Online, 26 September 2014

"The closeted Cabinet", Kuensel Online, 22 Septmeber 2014


Jason Burke, "Indian PM Narendra Modi prepares for US visit", The Guardian, 25 September 2014

Brajesh Upadhyay, "Will Narendra Modi’s visit boost India-US ties?", BBC, 24 September 2014

Syed Ata Hasnain, "No war, no peace", The Indian Express, 24 September 2014

Peter Ronald deSouza, "The larger picture, at Hriday Kunj", The Hindu, 24 September 2014

Suhrith Parthasarathy, "A case for whistle-blower anonymity", The Hindu, 24 September 2014

Javed Iqbal, "The Temptations of Peace", Tehelka, 20 September 2014

S D Muni, "Modi’s Neighbourhood Initiative (pdf)", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol - XLIX No. 38, 20 September 2014

Namrata Goswami, ’Pressure Diplomacy’, Outlook, 19 September 2014

Ashish Khetan, ’Return Of The Alternative: To counter Modi, the ’idea of India’ has to be made fashionable again’, Outlook, 19 September 2014


Hugo Cuello, "Behind the electoral reform debate", Myanmar Times, 22 September 2014

Aung Naing Oo, "An ugly chapter nears conclusion", Myanmar Times, 22 September 2014


Johannes Zutt, "Powering Nepal", eKantipur, 22 September 2014

Rudra Pangeni, "A month and half of work and momentum at Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project", Republica, 26 September 2014

Rudra Pangeni, "PDA with GMR likely to attract more foreign investment in hydropower", Republica, 19 September 2014



Ayesha Jalal, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics, Belknap Press, 2014


Anthony H. Cordesman, "Losing the "Forgotten War": The US Strategic Vacuum in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia", Center for Strategic & International Studies, 25 September 2014

Opinion Pieces

Talha Majeed Khan, "New generation of generals , Daily Times, 26 September 2014

Vikram Sood, "New Delhi has to be prepared for new Pakistan-based jihadi threats ", The Economic Times, 25 September 2014

Harris Khalique, "Best of three ", The News International, 25 September 2014

Ahmad Noor Waziri, "The Imran doctrine ", The News International, 25 September 2014

Iftikhar Ahmad, "Political crisis looming large ", The Nation, 25 September 2014

Teresita C. Schaffer, "India, Pakistan and the United States ", Brookings, September 2014


Sartaj Aziz, "Promoting U.S.-Pakistan Relations: Future Challenges and Opportunities", Council on Foreign Relations, 26 September 2014

Sri Lanka

Kelum Bandara, "UNP buoyed while UPFA gripped by political tremor", Daily Mirror, 25 September 2014

C A Chandraprema, "Harin loses election but wins superstardom", The Island, 22 September 2014

R M A M H Barry, "Progressive Realization of Human Rights and Domestic Obligations", Daily Mirror, 25 September 2014

Jehan Perera, "Protect Sri Lanka’s national interest from big power rivalries", The Island, 23 September 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "When China’s Xi came calling", The Sunday Leader, 21 September 2014

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

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.


N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.

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