MonitorsPublished on Dec 26, 2014
The December 16, 2014 attack on an Army run school in Peshawar by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has caused global outrage. The attacks led to over 148 deaths of mostly children and some school staff.
Was Peshawar really another 9/11?
< class="heading1">Analysis

The December 16, 2014 attack on an Army run school in Peshawar by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has caused global outrage. The attacks led to over 148 deaths of mostly children and some school staff. The adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, called the attack a "mini 9/11". This implies that the Peshawar tragedy is a moment in the history of Pakistan that will change the way it looks at security. But will the country really change its policies on militancy and terrorism?

Pakistan responded to the killings by lifting a six-year moratorium on the death penalty and began executing militants in state custody. The Army carried out airstrikes on suspected Taliban positions, allegedly killing several militants.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also announced that there would be no dichotomy between the country’s treatment of ’good’ Taliban and ’bad’ Taliban. He tried to emphasise that all militant groups would be dealt with equally and strictly.

The Pakistan Army and the ISI have patronised several militant groups due to Pakistan’s traditional policies of distinguishing between the ’good’ Taliban and the ’bad’ Taliban. Several of the Afghan Taliban’s top leadership are based in Pakistan and other extremist militants have also found sanctuary within the country’s borders, most recognisably, Osama bin Laden, albeit till May 2011.

These pursuits of the army led former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to warn Pakistan that if they kept snakes in their backyard, they couldn’t expect them to only bite their neighbours. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai also made similar remarks about the snake biting the trainer in Pakistan. Pakistan’s support to the Taliban in political battles taking place in neighbouring Afghanistan as well as to anti-India militant organisations has backfired with some of those groups turning around to target its patron State.

Questionable will

The will of the political and military leadership towards changing their outlook on terrorism is still questionable. Just days after the massacre, a Pakistani court granted bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, one of the masterminds of the 2008 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. After Indian outcry at the decision, Lakhvi has been detained under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) and Pakistani prosecutors have announced that they will appeal against the bail.

However, Hafiz Saeed, the prominent leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that launched the Mumbai attacks walks freely through Pakistan and regularly holds rallies denouncing India. He was also detained under the MPO in 2009 but was released soon after. After the school siege, he blamed India for the slaughter. Malik Ishaq, the former head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) was also detained for three years under the same Order but is on the verge of being released with the Pakistan government not seeking an extension of his detention.

Maulana Abdul Aziz, cleric of the pro-Taliban Lal Masjid in Islamabad, was unwilling to condemn the attack. But after leaders of Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia, an umbrella body of seminaries, issued their condemnations, he buckled under pressure. His initial refusal, however, triggered protests. The Peshawar attack has affected the collective conscience of the people of Pakistan and highlighted the lack of security in their daily lives. Muhammad Jibran Nasir, one of the leaders of the protests has also claimed that he has been threatened by Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesperson of the TTP splinter group, Jamaatul Ahrar.

Not an easy task

Despite the people’s outrage, it is still in doubt if the Pakistani state has accepted that all terrorism is bad. The ongoing army operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan targets TTP militants in the region and the TTP has said that the Peshawar attack was in response to it. But simultaneously, Mullah Omar, the man to whom most factions of the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban owe their allegiance, is believed to be in Quetta or Karachi. The ISI knows his whereabouts as well as those of the Haqqani network which works closely with the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan needs to clean up its internal militancy, here and now. The country must move away from its policy of defining terror as bad or good based on whether it aligns with its political goals. Without complete commitment to a state free of militancy, there will be no change in Pakistan’s security condition. The process of cleansing the country of militancy will not be an easy one nor will it be a short-term one. But if Pakistan wishes to escape being labelled a failing state by the world, the war against terrorism must become ’war against terrorists’.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka: An election that India needs to watch

N Sathiya Moorthy

Any nation-wide election in the neighbourhood is a treat and/or threat for India not to miss watching even otherwise. Advanced presidential polls in Sri Lanka, the second in a row, slated for 8 January 2015, demands India’s attention even more, given the nature of bilateral relations and cooperation, international engagement -- and more so, for a fuller understanding of the socio-political cross-currents in that country, which has mostly been missed all along.

As the largest nation in South Asia in every which way, India has a responsibility to self and the rest, for ensuring and enhancing peace and stability in the region. In terms of self-interest and that of those smaller nations without the required politico-diplomatic and economic-military muscle in its ’traditional area of influence’, India also has the responsibility to check against avoidable external influence and interference of the kind that has the potential to change the status quo -- whether in individual nations or the South Asian region as a whole.

The exceptions, flowing from a partial surrender of ’sovereignty’ by nations under the UN scheme and international norms, have proved to be a bugbear in many cases, in the post-Cold War years in particular. In the Indian and Indian Ocean neighbourhood, an example is being made out of Sri Lanka, for justifiable and not-so-justifiable reasons.

The need and demand for an honest and non-selective employment of the ’international due processes’ seems to have been given a go-by. Instead, the continuing global trend of the shifting of goal-posts in a world where might alone is being proved to be right is finding yet another testing ground in Sri Lanka. Or, so it seems. Through the past decades, India has repeatedly demonstrated its inherent unwillingness - hence, inability -- to get involved in inherently controversial ’regime-change’ exercises in the neighbourhood. Compared to ’more matured’ and extra-regional western democracies, which have had the uncanny knack of escalating trouble in already troubled nations the world over, India, as a State policy, has always displayed an ability, willingness and readiness to work with governments that the people of these nations elect. It’s true of India’s policy towards non-regional nations, too.

Yet, there has been no escaping domestic ’excuses’ in these countries for prospective defeats of electoral stake-holders taking the form of ’perceptions’ and ’proof’ that India was meddling in their ’internal affairs’. None has had any answers how such a course could help India, or the local stake-holders that India was purportedly backing. After all, India, despite its careful balancing-act, has remained an unmentioned electoral theme in neighbourhood politics and elections all the time, and has been named loudly at other times. India is more aware of this perception and predicament than is often credited in the nations concerned.

If such perceptions have influenced the post-poll poll ’India policy’ of incoming governments in individual nations in the neighbourhood, India could not help it. New governments, after a time, have found the truth for themselves and have often re-adjusted to the Indian reality and the reality that India does not have stakes or preferences in their internal affairs - other than the State-centric approach to security of the nation and the neighbours as well. They are also witness to the unfolding reality that election-centric political changes in India do not always have to change the State-to-State relations with individual neighbours, either.

Preference votes

It’s in this background that the upcoming election in Sri Lanka needs to be viewed and reviewed. The campaign team of two-term President Mahinda Rajapaksa is confident that he would sail through a third time, too. Despite their tall claims of a clean-sweep, the combined Opposition that has fielded Maithripala Sirisena, the one-time political and ministerial aide of President Rajapaksa, still hopes that their man would still make it, either by a small margin in the first-preference vote, or in the second/third preference round(s) - though no one has as yet started talking about it.

The Rajapaksa campaign has been openly charging western nations with ’conspiracy’ to cause a ’regime-change’ - a charge that it had made during the run-up to the 2005 polls, too. Now as earlier, the US, which was openly named, has promptly denied the charge. Before the current poll campaign, the Government side had claimed - without evidence -- that the West, particularly war-time peace-facilitator, Norway, had funded the Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarian Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a relatively new outfit charged with targeting the nation’s Muslim minority.

In the reverse flow, at least a few Opposition leaders in Sri Lanka have been making particularly avoidable mention about the Rajapaksa leadership involving the military in a post-poll scenario, should the incumbent lose the elections. In an email interview to the Mumbai-based South Asia correspondent of the Financial Times , London, President Rajapaksa has committed to a peaceful transfer of power, if he lost the polls.

The last time round, when President Rajapaksa won the post-war 2010 presidential polls by a huge margin, the Opposition continued to harp on ’computer jilmett ’ or fraud as the cause of victory. A senior aide of President Rajapaksa at the time, Sirisena has denied all such charges, sought to be revived by a section of his common Opposition under-writers. Whether it could hold until after the elections, particularly if President Rajapaksa were to win - or, lose - by a margin lower than the lowest-ever 2005 show would be on test in the coming days and weeks.

India can breathe easy that the Third Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution provides for a losing President to transfer power forthwith. It should also be aware that in close-fought contests, temptations to try and call for public protests of the ’Orange Revolution’, ’Arab Spring’ and the ’Umbrella Revolution’ kind could be tried out. In this era of the social-media, it only requires a few anonymous SMS messages to whip up mob frenzy. So what if post-facto investigations show that the ’disturbing’ messages had originated in some foreign nation or the other?

There is possibly no question of India getting involved politically or militarily in any perceivable dead-locked situation in Sri Lanka, as in any other. The question is how far would and could India need and go to check against ’interested’ international players getting involved more than at present - whatever the poll result. And how could India do it, if the need arose, without having to be seen as ’interfering’ in Sri Lanka’s affairs, itself?

The spirit of the ’sovereignty’ concerns that India had recognised while voting against the US-sponsored UNHRC-2014 resolution on ’accountability issues’ pertaining to Sri Lanka should guide and govern the Indian position. How innovative and initiative-driven would and could India be cannot be pre-judged. It’s the kind of ’balancing act’ that India has never felt comfortable with, or proved itself in - as, for instance, in neighbouring Bangladesh not very long ago.

’Tamils’ and ’Tamil Nadu’ factors

If this is an area that India should watch with as much concern as interest, it also has to look inwards for the influence of the Sri Lankan elections on the ’Tamil Nadu factor’. It would have to be more so and immediately if there is a resultant disquiet and signs of instability in Sri Lanka, post-poll. The latter could apply even if all political stake-holders in Sri Lanka acknowledge the electoral results, whatever that be. Internally, it would have to involve the Centre telling other constitutional stake-holders inside the country, where to draw the line, and when.

It’s not without reason. As the co-author of the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 and the facilitator of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, India has often times sworn by it. Occasionally, India has also spoken about a ’political solution acceptable to all stake-holders’ in Sri Lanka. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which swept the historic, post-war provincial council elections of the Tamil-exclusive North in Sri Lanka, too continues to swear by a ’political solution within a united Sri Lanka’.

In recent months in particular, the TNA, as the dominant and respected Tamil political player, has succeeded also in bringing around select sections of the vociferous Sri Lankan Tamil (SLT) Diaspora to accept such thinking. However, the Tamil Nadu polity continues to harp on ’separatist’ ideas viz Sri Lanka. Going beyond political players, the Tamil Nadu Assembly had passed a resolution, calling for a global SLT referendum on a ’separate’ Tamil State in Sri Lanka. It’s unacceptable to the Centre, but it has remained unenforceable under the specifics of federalist principles enshrined in the nation’s Constitution.

’Separatist’ demand

Going beyond the TNA and fellow-travellers, India however needs to read other signals emanating from the more committed and equally deep, ’separatist’ sections of the SLT Diaspora, who have not favoured from their agenda. Post-war, post-LTTE, they have at best changed their action-plan, from military and terror means, to international politics and greater public relations than what the LTTE was inherently capable of.

Even if belatedly, India should ask itself if the US and the rest of the West could provide the base, if not basis, for the TNGTE’s continued relevance to the ’Sri Lankan Tamil politics’ in the international arena, what could be a related message of the kind for India under certain circumstances. It goes beyond any theoretical perceptions that what’s happening to Sri Lanka could be repeated against India, too, should certain ’aggrieved’ and identifiable sections in the country could continue with their call for a ’separate state’, as used to be the case with ’Khalistan’ and ’Kashmir’.

In the immediate circumstances, India should be worried, instead, as to what could flow from TNGTE position and proposition, among other hard-line Diaspora voices, should there be a greater clamour for a ’separate State’, based on the much-awaited UNHRC findings on ’accountability issues’ and the like. What could be the Diaspora reaction and reaction-based action on the ground, should the US and the rest were to climb-down on the Diaspora expectations of the kind, if a ’regime-change’ in Sri Lanka met the expectations of the West, but not of the ’Tamil nationalist’ hard-liners?

The content of a media interview by US-based Viswanathan Rudrakumaran, the self-styled ’prime minister’ of the self-styled ’trans-national government of Tamil eelam’ (TNGTE) on this score reflects his intent, too. Rudrakumaran’s reference to a recent meeting of the ’TNGTE parliament-in-exile’, keeping the legitimate SLT leadership and constitutional apparatus out of it and the way hard-liners in the past had hijacked the moderate agenda after the latter had failed to meet the ever-shifting goal-posts, should make the TNA too thinking, but that is beside the point.

Internal discourse

Whoever wins, will the post-poll leadership in Sri Lanka be more tuned to the Indian position on finding a negotiated settlement to the ethnic issue? India too needs to acknowledge the changed Sri Lankan spectre between 1987 and 2015. As much as the divided Sinhala polity, the TNA too wants the India-facilitated 13-A reviewed - and an internal national discourse would only be in order.

Whether it takes the shape of the Rajapaksa-appointed non-functional Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), or the Rajapaksa-promised direct Parliament involvement (in his election manifesto), or any other form would depend also on the election results. But India cannot afford to ignore ground realities.

Sirisena has declared that he was against federalism and more powers to the Provinces, a view closer to that of President Rajapaksa, and not as much to his own prime minister nominee and main Opposition United National Party (UNP) leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Another of Sirisena’s current under-writers, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga, or CBK, as President had walked the extra mile in her time, only to be rebuffed by both sides.

’Accountability issues’

Sri Lanka’s presidential election results can also throw a few hints at what the international community (read: the West) would do - and could do -- at UNHRC’s March session. An ’independent’ investigation report on ’accountability issues’, undertaken without Sri Lankan Government’s cooperation and participation is due for presentation.

If the Rajapaksa campaign’s continuing charges of an international conspiracy for effecting a ’regime-change’ are to be considered seriously, then his victory or defeat could and should make a difference to the UNHRC-related perceptions and processes and procedures. India, having voted with the US resolution for two years in a row (2012-13) and abstained in 2014, would have to watch for internal and international signals, so as not to be left out in the lurch, one way or the other, all over again.

Given the voluminous work on hand, anything more than an ’interim report’ would read less credible than the three-man Darusman Report. The latter’s credibility itself continues to rest on its existence than contents. Against this, the Government-appointed probe into ’missing persons’ in the war-zone would remain an incomplete task, when the election results are known.

Sirisena, in his manifesto, has promised a domestic probe into ’accountability issues’, if elected, but how different would it be remains to be seen. So would be the effect of such a probe on the UNHRC investigations and follow-up action. The international community (those voting for the UN resolution and those against it) would need to remember Sirisena’s campaign commitments that no harm would be allowed to befall on the Sri Lankan armed forces or the Rajapaksa leadership and family.

Whoever wins or loses the presidential poll in Sri Lanka, a tricky situation awaits India, particularly considering its own China-centric concerns. It would be more so should President Rajapaksa won a third-term, not because his administration is seen as accommodating China too much and too fast. It would owe mainly to the UNHRC proceedings, where the Indian position could continue to influence Sri Lanka’s greater dependence on veto-powers like China and Russia, with their own regions of influence, to be able to influence the UNHRC vote, in turn.

The question is this: Should India vote with Sri Lanka and try and see if it would help slow down ’Chinese incursions’ in this region and at India’s cost - to national and regional security, good-neighbourly relations and regional power-projections and aspirations? Or, should India take the larger geo-strategic posturing, cooperate even more with the US and the rest of the West on Sri Lanka in Geneva, and pay the neighbourhood prize for it, if it were to come to that in the short and the medium-term.

The long-term is away and would matter to India if and only if China and Sri Lanka and the rest of India’s neighbours played the geo-strategic game the way the West would want them to do, if only to keep India on their own side in the ’Indo-Pacific region’. If the West called it the ’String of Pearls’ too far, too early, China seems to have worked on both the name and what it stood for, even more - giving it the name of ’Maritime Silk Route’ (MSR). Both have focussed on trade and investments for China, and development for the hosts. But hidden security concerns of India remain.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Af-Pak cooperation against terrorism

During a trilateral meeting among the ISAF Commander General John F Campbell, Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif and Afghan Army Chief Sher Muhammad Karimi in Rawalpindi, Afghanistan and Pakistan vowed greater cooperation in the struggle against terrorism. The cooperation is said to include coordinated attacks and intelligence sharing on militant hideouts. This meeting took place against the backdrop of raids launched by the Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan, which are said to be the base for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "United against terrorism: Islamabad, Kabul vow border coordination", "United against terrorism: Islamabad, Kabul vow border coordination", "Taliban sanctuaries: Afghans launch raids in TTP-infested Kunar", The Express Tribune, 23 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">20 militants join peace process

According to Afghan officials in north-eastern parts of Badakhshan province, 20 militants from the Taliban have joined the peace process through the National Solidarity Programme. The militants reportedly handed over their weapons to the government representatives.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Taliban join peace process in Badakhshan", Khaama Press, 21 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Wolesi Jirga rejects Budget

The draft national budget for the year 2015 was unanimously rejected by the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of the Parliament. The lawmakers said that the budget was unbalanced and the allocation of funds for different categories was unfair and unjustified.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Afghan parliament unanimously rejects draft national budget", Khaama Press, 24 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition movement soon

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia has declared that her party and its allies will soon launch a movement to oust the government.

Khaleda said "One year has already passed, and the condition of people as well as the country is getting worse. We have been pushed to the wall. We will take to the streets taking people with us to face the government..." BNP boycotted the 5th January election which resulted ruling Awami League to win many seats uncontested. Political analysts in Bangladesh opine that politics in the country might heat up as they fear clashes between the cadres of rival Awami League and BNP as the ruling party members may try to thwart opposition’s movements.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Movement to be launched soon to oust govt", The Daily Star, 22 December 2014; "2015 will be year of democracy, says Khaleda", The Independent, 24 December 2014; "Politics heats up", The Independent, 26 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Death for ex-Minister

Former state minister Syed Mohammad Qaisar was sentenced to death for the crimes committed by him during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. Bangladesh has initiated an International War Crime Tribunal to try all who have accused collaborating with Pakistan army and committed various atrocities on the freedom fighters during the 1971 War.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Gallows for ex-minister Qaisar", The Daily Star, 23 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Navy to get two submarines

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said this week that two avant-garde Corvettes will be added to the Navy fleet by next year while two modern submarines by 2016. Hasina further informed that the processes to commission two submarines are at the final stage.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Navy to get two submarines: PM", The Independent, 22 December 2014
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President visits India

President Abdul Hamid visited India this week on invitation of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee. During the six-day visit starting from 19 December, President Hamid had met many leaders including India President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Though the visit was a goodwill one but it certainly boosted the relationship further.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President returns from India visit" The Daily Observer, 24 December 2014; "Bangladesh president Mohammad Abdul Hamid to visit India", Live Mint, 18 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Australia cancels six more visas

The Australian High Commissioner Office in India confirmed on 24 December that visas of six Bhutanese working in Perth in Western Australia stand cancelled. This takes the number of visas of Bhutanese cancelled to 8 in 3 months.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Six more Bhutanese visas cancelled", Kuensel Online, 25 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India asks to flush out militants

India has asked Bhutan to flush out Indian militants including Bodo rebels who are said to have bases there. Indian security personnel fear that the militants might have slipped into Bhutan after killing 76 villagers in Assam on 23 December.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India asks Bhutan, Myanmar to flush out militants", The Times of India, 26 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade deficit up

The country’s trade deficit as of October has already surpassed the 2013 figures indicating that the trade balance could increase by the year-end. Trade deficit between January and October 2014 has reached Nu 22.9 billion already.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Trade deficit cross 2013 level by mid October", Kuensel Online. 26 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hung verdict in J&K polls

State Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir produced a hung assembly as no party succeeded in attaining majority seats. The Peoples Democratic Party emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats in the 87 member assembly.

The Bharatiya Janata Party made its most impressive performance, winning 25 seats, most of them in the Hindu-dominated regions of Jammu. The National Conference and the Congress received 15 and 12 seats each, throwing open a variety of post-poll alliance possibilities.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "PDP largest party in hung Jammu & Kashmir assembly, BJP to form govt in Jharkhand", The Times of India, 23 December 2014; "Jammu and Kashmir Head For Hung Assembly", The Indian Express, 23 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest against conversions

The Rajya Sabha proceedings were adjourned after opposition parties protested over recent mass conversions of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism by right-wing Hindu nationalist organisations affiliated with the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was criticised as well for remaining silent over the issue and not issuing a public reprobation.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Protests over conversions set back Modi’s reform agenda", Reuters, 22 December 2014; "Conversion issue rocks Parliament once again", The Times of India, 22 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New chiefs for security agencies

The government appointed new chiefs for India’s main external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and its largest paramilitary agency, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Rajinder Khanna, an IPS officer of the 1978 batch and of the Odisha cadre, was appointed the new spy chief. Khanna has held several key posts in the agency during his long tenure in intelligence. Prakash Mishra, Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Home Ministry, was appointed as the new CRPF Director-General.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "RAW, CRPF get new chiefs", The Hindu, 21 December 2014; "RAW and CRPF get new chief", The Indian Express, 21 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’No dilution of MGNREGA’

Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh clarified to the Lok Sabha that funding for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was not being reduced. He added that such an impression was cast because of funds being withheld after many states had failed to file audit reports in time. The BJP’s right-of-centre ideology has caused widespread apprehension that welfare measures like MGNREGA will be diminished by the new government.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "’MGNREGA won’t be diluted’", The Hindu, 20 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Credit growth, lowest

Demand for bank loans in the first nine months of this fiscal has fallen to its lowest since at least 1998, shows data from Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Credit growth so far this fiscal (between 1 April and 12 December) has slowed to just 2.68%, according to the data.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "April-December bank credit growth the lowest on record", Livemint, 25December 2014; "Non-food credit growth remains subdued at 11%", Financial Express, 23 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coal mines to be auctioned

The government on Thursday kick-started the auction process for cancelled coal mines with the launch of a portal for electronic bidding for 24 coal blocks in the first tranche. The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved repromulgation of the coal ordinance and necessary guidelines for mine allocations, a move that could make the kitty of coal-rich states fatter by Rs.7 trillion over the next 30 years.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Govt launches auction process for 24 coal mines", Livemint, 25 December 2014; "Government launches auction process for 24 coal mines", Economic Times, 25 December 2014; "Auction process for 24 coal mines kicks off, govt launches web portal", Indian Express, 25 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No presidency, post-65?

Possibly taking one-time electoral ally in the Jumhooree Party (JP) founder Gasim Ibrahim on the defensive, a parliamentarian belonging to President Abulla Yameen’s ruling coalition has moved an amendment to the Constitution, seeking to fix an upper-age limit of 65 years for the nation’s presidency.

If passed, the amendment could pour cold water on the presidential ambitions of Gasim, who polled 24 percent vote-share in the first round polls in 2013 but would be disqualified on age-grounds in the 2018 polls.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "First proposed amendment to constitution seeks to bar individuals aged 65 from the presidency", Minivan News, 25 December 2014; "Amendment proposed to disallow running for presidency after 65", SunOnline, 25 December 2014; "PPM accuses JP of misleading public, bringing government ACinto disrepute", Minivan News, 20 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Say ’no’ to foreign influence: MDA

In a possible reference to the increasing criticism of the Maldivian Government from foreign governments and international institutions, the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) partner in the ruling coalition has urged President Abdulla Yameen, not to provide opportunities for outsiders to influence the nation’s internal affairs.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "MDA calls not to provide opportunities to influence on internal affairs", SunOnline, December 24, 2014; "MP Nihan criticizes US statement", Haveeru Online, 22 December 2014; "’State is run in darkness’ says Transparency Maldives", Haveeru Online, 25 December 2014; "Govt. has started special rights protection efforts: VP Jameel", Haveeru Online, 22 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP expels Dy Speaker

In a none-too surprising move, the disciplinary committee of the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has recommended the expulsion of Deputy Speaker, ’Reeko’ Moosa Manik from the party, after he defied the whip and stayed away from parliamentary voting on the removal of two judges of the nation’s Supreme Court.

Moosa has since ruled out joining the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and said that the expulsion was aimed at scuttling his declared intention to contest against MDP chief and former President Mohammed Nasheed, in the primaries for the 2018 national elections. He pointed out that five other MDP parliamentarians have been let off with minor penalties for the same offence.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Committee removes Reeko Moosa Manik from MDP membership", SunOnline, December 22, 2014; "Reeko Moosa condemns MDP expulsion as a move to bar his 2018 presidential candidacy", Minivan News, 25 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China trade-links on upswing

Maldives has asked to be made a founding-member in the proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an initiative of China, and was also negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, it has been announced.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Maldives backs new Chinese investment bank, pursues free trade deal", Minivan News, 22 December 2014; "Maldives gets opportunity to become AIIB Founder Member", SunOnline, 22 December 2014; "We will get more assistance from China- Mohamed Hussein Shareef", Miadhu, 23 December 2014; "Taking loans from China will not increase the debt and create problems- Adheeb", Miadhu, 25 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yameen seeks Saudi investments

Declaring that Maldives was ’heaven on earth’, President Abdulla Yameen asked a visiting delegation of Saudi businessmen to invest in the country, for a taste of after-life on earth.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President Yameen urges Saudis to invest in Maldives and "get warmed up for" heaven", Minivan News, 25 December 2014; "Saudis will assist Maldives in various fields: Minister Shaheem", Haveeru Online, 24 December 2014; "We are proud of Maldivians for remaining upon Islam in this age- Dr. Abdulla", Miadhu, 25 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest over Chinese mines

The Letpadaung Copper mine protests after the Chinese company began fencing of off lands have forced the company to suspend fencing. Clashes between local farmers and the police have claimed one life. The Chinese government has said that it has urged its companies abroad to act responsibly and protect the environment.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "China Expresses Concern after Protests at Copper Mine", The Irrawaddy, 24 December 2014; "Fencing Suspended in the Controversial Letpadaungtaung Copper Mine Project", Eleven Myanmar, 25 December 2014; "Letpadung protester was killed by gun-shot says coroner", Democratic Voice of Burma, 25 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kyaukpyu port ready for oil to China

Crude oil brought by ships from Middle-east would be stored at oil tanks on Mandae Island prior to sending it to China. as on January 2015, large 1,00,000-ton oil tankers will be moored at the Kyaukpyu port.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Kyaukpyu Deep Sea Port to send oil to China", Mizzima, 24 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stock exchange with Japanese help

Myanmar has got the commitment from Japanese firms to help establish and run the country’s first stock exchange. The Yangon Stock Exchange will be established and a government-backed preparatory committee would be established for the same.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Japanese firms sign Yangon Stock Exchange Deal", Mizzima, 24 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese Foreign Minister in Nepal

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived on Thursday with a seven-member delegation on a three-day official visit. Wang, the first senior-level Chinese official to visit Nepal after the election of the Constituent Assembly last year, is likely to convey to the Nepali leaders, officials, intellectuals and policy makers about the foreign policy of the new Chinese leadership, particularly President Xi Jinping’s vision about China ’s neighbourhood.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "In Nepal, Wang to press China’s peripheral policy", eKantipur, 25 December 2014; "Nepal-China foreign ministry level talks begins", The Himalayan Times, 26 December 2014; "China hands over medical appliances worth Rs 200 m to Civil Service Hospital", Republica, 26 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese aid sought for road project

Nepal has requested China to provide financial assistance for the expansion and upgradation of Kathmandu-Rasuwagadi and Pokhara-Baglung-Beni-Jomsom roads, and expansion of the remaining section of the Kathmandu Ring Road.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nepal seeks Chinese assistance for road upgradation work", eKantipur, 21 December 2014; "Nepal-China IETC meeting reviews bilateral trade", Republica, 20 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Currency swap-deal

Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) and the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) have signed a currency-swap deal enabling the settlement of both cross-border and ordinary trade.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nepal, China sign currency swap deal", eKantipur, 25 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Call to facilitate consensus

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has said all sides should give up something to facilitate consensus building bid on the disputed issues of constitution.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "All sides should shun something for consensus: PM Koirala", Republica, 25 December 2014; "Leaders explore options to settle dispute over five districts", Republica, 26 December 2014; "Contentious issues will be finalized within a week: Nepal", Republica, 25 December 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM to head action plan

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today constituted a special committee for the implementation of the National Action Plan which was drafted after the Peshawar school attack as a comprehensive strategy to combat militancy in the country. According to media reports, the PM will lead the committee.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Prime Minister will supervise operation in major cities", The Nation, 26 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Seven killed in US drone strikes

Two US drones fired missiles at alleged militant hideouts in North Waziristan killing at least seven people according to intelligence officials. The attacks took place in the same area where the Pakistan Army has been mounting air-and-ground operation against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "US drones target 2 compounds in North Waziristan, kill 7", The Express Tribune, 26 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Warrant for Maulana Aziz

A court in Islamabad issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz in light of the ongoing protests organized by civil society members against him.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Non-bailable arrest warrant issued for Lal Masjid’s Maulana Abdul Aziz", The Express Tribune, 26 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Peshawar attack facilitator killed

Security forces killed a suspected militant in Khyber Agency accused of facilitating terrorists involved in the Peshawar Army school attack. Commander Saddam was killed in an exchange of fire with the security forces in Jamrud town.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Peshawar school attack: Alleged facilitator killed in Khyber Agency", The Express Tribune, 26 December 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BBS backs Rajapaksa, ACMC crosses over to Sirisena

The politically-controversial Sinhala-Buddhist, militant majoritarian group, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) has expressed unilateral support to incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 8 January presidential polls.

Almost simultaneously, the Muslim-majority, All-Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), a constituent of President Rajapaksa’s UPFA government, has crossed over and offered support to common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

< class="text11verdana">For information more see : "BBS pledges support to MR", Ceylon Today, 25 December 2014; "Bathiudeen quits Govt, backs Sirisena", The Island, 22 December 2014; "Minister and MP exchange blows"", Daily Mirror Online, 17 December 2014; "Rishad’s party splits; Hizbullah remains with MR", Daily Mirror Online, 23 December 2014; "ACMC attacks Maithripala Dismisses BBS support", Ceylon Telegraph, 26 December 2014; "Susil: UPFA confident of winning without Bathiudeen and SLMC", The Island, December 23, 2014; "CWC Deputy Leader to go with Maithri", Daily Mirror Online, 25 December 2014; "Upcountry People’s Front going in two ways in Presidential Election", The Nation, 22 December 2014; "Crossover attempt goes wrong", Daily Mirror Online, 24 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA, SLMC still undecided

With less than two weeks left, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) ruling the Tamil-majority Northern Province and also the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), partnering the ruling UPFA at the Centre, are yet to make their pick(s) for the presidential polls.

Another Tamil political group in the North, headed by former parliamentarian, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, has however called upon the Tamils to boycott the polls.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "TNA studying MR’s and MS’s manifestos", Ceylon Today, 24 December 2014; "Tamils Should Freely Exercise Their Franchise At The Upcoming Presidential Election: GTF", Colombo Telegraph, 24 December 2014; "Both Candidates Have Placed Sinhalese At The Center Of Polls: Tamil Civil Society Forum", Colombo Telegraph, 23 December 2014; "TNA agrees to hijack Tamils for ’unconditional’ support to Maithiri", TamilNet, Monday, 22 December 2014; Eelam Push to continue, The Sunday Leader, 21 December 2014; "SLMC still undecided on candidate", Ceylon Today, 26 December 2014; "SLMC still seeks unanimous decision", The Island, 21 December 2014; "Basil sure of SLMC support", Ceylon Today, 26 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rajapaksa for new constitution, post-poll

In his manifesto for the 8 January 2010 presidential polls, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has sworn by the present ’unitary State’ system, but has promised a new Constitution through consensus, where the Opposition’s concerns about the excessive powers in the hands of the Executive President would be addressed.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "MR promises new Constitution, reforms during his third term... reiterates commitment to unitary state", The Island, 23 December 2014; "Presidential Election Maithripala launches ’Maithri Administration and Stable Country’", The Island, 19 December 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tissa talks of ’secret pact’

Incumbent Health Minister and former Opposition UNP General Secretary Tissa Athanayake has charged UNP boss Ranil Wickremesinghe and the common Opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, of entering into a ’secret pact’ that would compromise the Sri Lankan armed forces personnel viz the UNHRC-ordered probe into ’accountability issues’.

Without denying the contents of the documents (as pointed out by Athanayake), both Wickremesinghe and Sirisena have said it was a ’forged document’, with the latter seeking SLR 2.5-billion in damages from Athanakaye.

< class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Tissa claims secret pact to reduce troops", Daily Mirror Online, 22 December 2014; "Sirisena to follow Rajapaksa on international war crime probe", Colombo Mirror, 19 December 2014; "Clarify nature of war crimes probe panel: GL to Maithri", Daily Mirror Online, 22 December 2014; "MS challenges MR for debate Over alleged secret pact with Ranil", The Island, December 23, 2014; "Maithri demands Rs. 2.5 bn from Tissa", Daily Mirror Online, 25 December 2014; " ’Secret’ doc can nullify MR’s Presidency if re-elected: Sarath", Daily Mirror Online, 25 December 2014; "They haven’t denied facts", Ceylon Today, 24 December 2014; "Sirisena planned conspiracy one and a half years ago - Basil", The Island, December 24, 2014’; "Govt. asks Sirisena where huge forex stash came from", The Island, December 25, 2014; " ’Only MS can settle Geneva crisis’ The Island, December 21, 2014

Primary Documentation


Press Release of Reception Dinner hosted by Bhutan Consulate in Kolkata, Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 22 December 2014


Press Release of President meeting Rakhine locals, President’s Office Myanmar, 26 December 2014


Pakistan Condemns US Drone Strike in North Waziristan, Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 23 December 2014




"High Risk List 2014", Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, December 2014

Rod Nordland, "Taliban Push Into Afghan Districts That U.S. Had Secured", The New York Times, 22 December 2014

Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, "Taliban publicize training camp in northern Afghanistan", Long War Journal, 21 December 2014

Opinion Pieces

Asmatullah Khan Wazir, "You can’t walk away", The Friday Times, 26 December 2014

Soraya Lennie, "Attacking Afghanistan’s Middle Class", Aljazeera, 25 December 2014

Christian Bleuer, "Rambo Was Too Late: Afghanistan in Western films (part I), from 1909 to 2001", Afghanistan Analysts Network, 23 December 2014

Jordan Olmstead, "Fixing America’s Aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan", The Diplomat, 23 December 2014

Moeed Yusuf, "Improved Ties", Dawn, 23 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Shah Husain Imam, "Hasina’s year that was", The Daily Star, 26 December 2014

Imtiyaz K Hasib, "Changes are vital for fulfilling democratic aspirations of people", The Independent, 24 December 2014

Dan Mozena , "Goodbye Wonderful Bangladesh", The Daily Star, 21 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Kuensel, "A fiery issue", Kuensel Online, 26 December 2014

Kuensel, "The national day message", Kuensel Online, 23 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Wajahat Habibullah, "Understanding the Kashmir mandate", The Hindu, 26 December 2014

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, "What Vajpayee would do", The Indian Express, 26 December 2014

Shiv Visvanathan, "Debating the conversion conundrum", The Hindu, 24 December 2014

Muzamil Jaleel, "The distance between Jammu and Kashmir", The Indian Express, 24 December 2014

Lisa Curtis, "A big, bold invite from Modi", The Hindu, 23 December 2014

James Glanz, Sebastian Rotella and David E. Sanger, "In 2008 Mumbai Attacks, Piles of Spy Data, but an Uncompleted Puzzle", The New York Times, 21 December 2014


Opinion pieces

Aung Naing Oo, "How election politics can harm chances of peace deal", Myanmar Times, 22 December 2014

Nay Htun Naing, "President Thein Sein Needs to Realize His Pledges", Eleven Myanmar, 22 December 2014


Opinion Pieces

Narayan Manandhar, ’The Middling Way’, eKantipur, 26 December 2014

Jagannath Lamicchane, ’More of the Same’, eKantipur, 26 December 2014

Mahabir Paudyal, ’Forget federalism’, Republica, 25 December 2014

Bhairab Raj Kaini, ’Money for greens’, Republica, 25 December 2014

Biswas Baral, ’The divine comedy’, Republica, 24 December 2014


Opinion pieces

The Editorial Board, "Pakistan’s Baffling Response to Extremism", The New York Times, 22 December 2014

Mirza Waheed, "Pakistan: The blood price of Faustian bargains", Al Jazeera, 21 December 2014

Ayesha Siddiqa, "Pakistan’s 9/11", The New York Times, 19 December 2014

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

T U Senan, "Tamils lacks political leadership", Colombo Telegraph, 26 December 2014

Kelum Bandara, "Rural voters to be a deciding factor", Daily Mirror Online , 25 December 2014

Aahithyan Ratnam, "TNA’s decision sensible: Vote for the better candidate for there is never a perfect candidate", Colombo Telegraph, 22 December 2014

Jehan Perera, "A war-time issue that is meaningful to more than the Tamil voter", The Sunday Leader, 21 December 2014

N Sathiya Moorthy, "Pooling and polling, then and now", The Sunday Leader, 21 December 2014

Siri Hettige, "Naked self-interest, Public good and popular politics", Daily Mirror Online, 20 December 2014

D B S Jeyaraj, "How Sri Lankans united briefly after the 2004 tsunami", Daily Mirror Online, 20 December 2014

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

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