Showing posts with label South Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Asia. Show all posts

18 March 2018

Why This Is The Right Time For India To Restore Close Ties With Nepal

by Jaideep Mazumdar

Nepal’s new Prime Minister Khagda Prasad Sharma Oli, who assumed office for the second time in mid-February, is on a very strong wicket this time. Having won the mandatory motion of confidence by a three-fourth majority in the new House of Representatives after taking over as Prime Minister, Oli is sure-footed and confident this time, unlike the last when he headed an unstable coalition and was voted out after 10 months in office. In fact, Oli’s is the first stable government in Nepal after 60 long years – the last was B P Koirala-led Nepali Congress government that won the elections decisively in 1959. Since then, Nepal has seen 40 governments in 60 years.

15 March 2018

The Trouble With Bangladesh's Military

By Ryan Smith

The armed forces account for 6 percent of Bangladesh’s annual budget, totaling $3.2 billion in the year 2017-2018, according to official statistics. Yet Bangladesh’s military has proved to be incapable of showing strength in the face of repeated violations of its land, sea, and airspace by neighboring Myanmar.  Bangladesh’s military has failed to restore public confidence that it can defend the country’s territorial sovereignty. If there is an overriding message from these debacles, it is that the military is ill-equipped to defend the state because it has been practically unaccountable since the very foundation of Bangladesh. Instead, the military has captured much of the bedrock of the state it is supposed to defend.

5 March 2018

Bhutan, China to hold boundary talks next month

by Jyoti Malhotra 

Bhutan and China will hold the 25th round of their boundary talks in Thimphu next month. The teams will be led by Bhutanese Foreign Minister Lyonpo Damcho Dorji and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou. The boundary talks were cancelled last year in the wake of the Doklam crisis, when Indian and Chinese troops faced off in the remote Himalayan plateau for 73 days in territory claimed by both Bhutan and China. The standoff ended in August with troops from both sides withdrawing to their previous positions and China removing road-building equipment.

2 March 2018

America Needs to Reorient Its South Asia Policy

By Akhilesh Pillalamarri

South Asia is at the center of global geopolitical and economic trends. It is a rapidly developing region, containing a quarter of the world’s people. India, soon to be the world’s most populous country, is the fastest growing major economy in the world, having surpassed China last year. It also possesses nuclear weapons, as does neighboring Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous country. The region is situated between China and the Middle East, and between Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. A prime geopolitical location, if there is one.

26 February 2018

Maldives crisis: China sends a naval task force to muscle India, Australia out of power game

Jamie Seidel

CHINESE warships have entered the Indian Ocean, marking a significant shift in regional power. They’re there to keep India away from Beijing’s interests in the strife-torn Maldive Islands.

And their presence has implications for Australia.

Naval posturing is nothing new. Gunboat diplomacy has been a major player in great power games of thrones for centuries.

But it is odd for it to be played out so close to home.

In the South China Sea, US and UK Navy Deployments Won’t Change Anything

By Phillip Orchard

The turbulent waters of the South China Sea will get a bit more crowded over the next month. This week, a U.S. carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson docked in Manila – the first visit by a U.S. carrier to the Philippines since 2014. In mid-March, the Vinson will head to Da Nang for the first such visit to Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War. This comes a week after the U.K. Defense Ministry announced that a British frigate, the HMS Sutherland, would swing through the South China Sea in the coming weeks to assert the right of freedom of navigation in the contested waters.

19 February 2018

Is This the End of the Two-Party System in Bangladesh?

By K.S. Venkatachalam

Less than a year ahead of national polls, the leader of Bangladesh’s opposition party has been convicted of corruption.

Bangladesh’s democracy stands at a crossroads with the arrest and conviction of Khaleda Zia, chairman of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party. Zia, twice prime minister, was recently convicted by a Bangladeshi court and sentenced to five years in prison in a corruption case. Zia was accused of transferring 21 million taka($252,200) from the Zia Orphanage Trust to her personal account from 2006 to 2008.

18 February 2018

Understanding China’s Response to the Rakhine Crisis

Following attacks on police posts by an armed Rohingya militia in August 2017, reprisals by the Burmese government have precipitated a humanitarian crisis. More than six hundred thousand Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, where they face an uncertain future. Publicly stating that the root cause of conflict in Rakhine is economic underdevelopment, China—Burma’s largest neighbor and closest trading partner—has put itself in a position to promote its large-scale infrastructure investments as a means of conflict resolution. This Special Report examines the reason why Chinese engagement is likely to continue to prioritize a narrow range of issues in Rakhine that reinforce its own economic and diplomatic interests, but fail to influence the complex drivers of the current humanitarian conflict or the Burmese government’s involvement in human rights abuses. 

14 February 2018

Religion and Violence in Myanmar

By Matthew J. Walton

Since late August, more than 600,000 Rohingya have left Myanmar, fleeing a state-led campaign of violence against them. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority and predominantly live in Rakhine State, in Myanmar’s west. They have experienced persistent, institutionalized discrimination for years. (The members of the state’s Rakhine Buddhist majority believe that they, too, have been discriminated against, mostly by the central government.)

12 February 2018

India's New Gateway to Bhutan Northeast India could be Bhutan’s new gateway to the world.

By Nihar R. Nayak

India's New Gateway to Bhutan
Northeast India could be Bhutan’s new gateway to the world. 

Adding another feather to 50 years of diplomatic relations, Bhutan opened its second consulate office in eastern India on February 2, 2018 at Panjabari in Guwahati, Assam. Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay, who attended the Global Investors Summit 2018 hosted by Assam, was present at the inaugural ceremony. The office was inaugurated jointly by Bhutan’s Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji and Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal. Later, in the opening session of the investment summit, Tobgay said, in The Shillong Times’ words, that “Bhutan stands to benefit from a prosperous Assam and the country was looking forward to capitalize on the Global Investors Summit.”

21 December 2017

What Caused the Left Alliance's Landslide Victory in Nepal?

By Kamal Dev Bhattarai

In the recently concluded elections for the House of Representatives (Nepal’s lower house) and provincial assemblies of Nepal, the two communist parties, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and CPN (Maoist Center) — which joined forces for the elections under the banner of a left alliance — won a landslide victory. The left alliance has now secured overwhelming majorities in both the federal bicameral legislature (the House of Representatives and National Assembly) and the provincial assemblies. The left alliance is also likely to form governments in six out of seven provinces.

14 December 2017

Maldives downgraded to ‘fragile state’ by IMF

The Maldives has been downgraded to a “fragile state” by the IMF because of the tense political situation, the way business is regulated and how the country’s finances and budgets have been run in recent years. The new classification is the latest blow to the Maldivian economy from the institution, which has repeatedly spoken of the high levels of debt being driven by the current administration’s ambitious infrastructure scale-up.

Sri Lanka signs share ownership agreement with China on Hambantota Port commencing operations

Dec 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka on Saturday signed share ownership agreement with China on Hambantota Port formally handing over the operation of port to the state-owned China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort). The agreement was signed today between Sri Lanka Ports Authority and China Merchant Port Holdings, Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) under the patronage of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the parliamentary complex.

13 December 2017

China-Maldives FTA among 12 agreements penned during Yameen’s visit

A controversial Sino-Maldives free trade deal was among 12 bilateral agreements penned during President Abdulla Yameen’s three-day state visit to China. The FTA was signed by the Maldivian economic development minister and the Chinese minister of commerce at a ceremony held Thursday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing as President Xi Jinping looked on with President Yameen. The opposition cried foul after the country’s first FTA was rushed through parliament last month but the government says it will open up the world’s largest consumer market for tariff-free fish exports. The Maldives also committed to waive import duties for Chinese goods.

16 November 2017

Bangladeshi Hindus: Less Than 5 Per Cent, Very Soon

“‘Below five per cent’ is a huge psychological and physical setback for non-Muslims in an increasingly Islamist country. Once our population falls below 5 per cent, we are doomed. We will have to convert or leave the country.” Last week’s attack on Hindus at Thakurpara in Rangpur in which about 30 houses belonging to Hindus were torched and many more were looted follows a pattern. Islamist mobs, egged on by radical Wahhabi clerics, started burning and looting houses and attacking Hindus and temples after an alleged Facebook post by a Hindu defaming Islam. Investigations have revealed that the rumours about the Facebook post were patently false and spread by hardline Islamist clerics. Last year, too, false rumours about a fake Facebook post triggered widespread attacks on Hindus at Brahmanbaria that left hundreds of families homeless and 15 temples destroyed.

25 October 2017

Nepal: The Grand Leftist Alliance and its Aftershocks: update No. 353

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

The Grand Leftist Alliance forged on October 3 by the two major Communist Parties and the newly formed Naya Shakti of Baburam Bhattarai took the political circles by surprise. In the just concluded local body elections, the two parties- UML and the Maoist Centre fought bitterly with no holds barred in most of the constituencies and yet soon after the conclusion of the last group of elections in province number 2, the two joined together to form the alliance and thus pushing the democratic forces into a “panic mode.”

16 September 2017

No simple solution to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar

Lex Rieffel

Reporters on the scene are saying that 300,000 or more members of the Rohingya community (of Muslim faith) in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have fled across the border into Muslim-majority Bangladesh in the past two weeks. The refugees have been describing to reporters a litany of human rights abuses: homes burned, women raped, men beheaded, and more. 

Editorial writers and columnists around the world have slammed Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and leader of the National League for Democracy of Myanmar, for allowing the atrocities to occur and have even demanded that the Nobel Committee withdraw the Peace Prize awarded to her in 1991.

As a scholar focusing on Myanmar for the past 10 years, during which I have visited the country more than a dozen times, I know how horrible the situation is. I have been to Rakhine state and have seen the Rohingya confined to a refugee camp on the outskirts of the state capital of Sittwe. At the same time, I believe that much of the media commentary is misdirected. It fails to describe the complex origins of the problem and explain how intractable it is.


Why is Aung San Suu Kyi, the political leader of Myanmar, being “dethroned” by the international media and denounced by people who once idolized her? 

She has not publicly condemned the operations of the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, that prompted the flight of Rohingya to relative safety in Bangladesh. I will explain later why “Daw Suu,” as she is referred at times by Burmese citizens, has not done this.

Why is the Tatmadaw conducting these operations?

11 September 2017

India’s Balancing Act in Myanmar

By Harsh V. Pant

India’s approach to Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis demonstrates the tension between its geopolitical interests and values.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar this week has once again underlined why New Delhi struggles to maintain a delicate balance between its strategic interests and its democratic ideals when it comes to its neighborhood. This visit came at a time when the Myanmar government and Aung San Suu Kyi are facing global condemnation for their handling of the Rohingya crisis in a repeat of what had happened five years ago during a military campaign that displaced more than 100,000 Rohingya.

But this time the scale of the crisis is huge and Suu Kyi’s reputation itself is at stake. The United Nations has warned that up to 300,000 Rohingya could stream into neighboring Bangladesh as they flee “clearance operations” by Myanmar’s armed forces. For her part, Suu Kyi – the de facto leader of Myanmar – has blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” and has refused to take a conciliatory position. In her first remarks since the crisis started in Rakhine state last month, Suu Kyi has suggested that her government was facing its “biggest challenge.”

“It is a little unreasonable to expect us to solve the issue in 18 months,” she said. “The situation in Rakhine has been such since many decades. It goes back to pre-colonial times.” Though she made it clear that the government needed to “take care of everybody who is in our country, whether or not they are our citizens,” she also underlined that “our resources are not as complete and adequate as we would like them to be but still, we try our best and we want to make sure that everyone is entitled to the protection of the law.”

30 August 2017

The Bumpy Relationship Between India and Myanmar

By Amara Thiha

The relationship between Naypyidaw and Delhi is not smooth sailing, despite the recent visit of Myanmar military officers to India. Naypyidaw’s announcement about not setting up a trading zone at the Indian border, due to a lack of basic infrastructure and low trading volume, ends the series of negotiations between India and Myanmar for border trading. Although the India-Myanmar border is more than 1600 kilometers, border trading is still a castle in the air, as Myanmar needs infrastructure upgrades.

Three weeks after this announcement, India imposed a restriction on importation of pegon pea, toor dal, uradand moon dal. This restriction directly affects the Myanmar, with over 700 tons of pea and dal, approximately worth $500 million, now holding at warehouses. Although the trading guild informed the government of negotiations on the August 8, Naypyidaw’s diplomatic attempts on securing a safety net seem to be failing. This commodity represents approximately four percent of total export from Myanmar.

India is not the only country to impose restrictions on the import of agricultural products. China also restricted rice and sugar importing from Myanmar; however, commodities are smooth flowing through border trading. There may still be border trading along the Myanmar-India border and Tamu trading post, but dal is already a surplus commodity in India and the competition may tight for imported dal.

28 August 2017

Myanmar’s problem state

Lying on the border with Bangladesh, with more than 100,000 internally displaced people following bouts of violence in 2012 and 2016, Myanmar’s Rakhine State is racked with communal tensions that show no sign of abating. For the Rohingya Muslims, who account for roughly a third of the state’s population but who are deprived of citizenship, access to education and healthcare is severely limited by the government.

At the same time, the majority ethnic Rakhine, who are Buddhist, also face entrenched poverty after decades of neglect by government. Overall, 78 per cent of the population lives in poverty making it the poorest state in Myanmar, which is the poorest country in Southeast Asia.

On June 13, 2017, news broke that Renata Lok-Dessallien, the United Nations top official in Myanmar, was being replaced. A BBC report at the time cited her shortcomings as a leader: there were tensions among her ‘dysfunctional’ team, and her approach was perceived as failing to give priority to the rights of the Rohingya. Lok-Dessallien was known for her co-operative − some say sympathetic − relationship with the government that sought to coax decision-makers into changing their behaviour, rather than the uncompromising and very public approach to human rights protection advocated by others. Her dismissal has been taken as a repudiation of her strategy. It has raised questions for aid donors and diplomats in Myanmar. Can the international community effect change in Rakhine? And if so, how could this be done in a country where the military still holds the levers of power?