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

26 November 2019

Belt And Road Initiative: Challenges For South And Southeast Asia – Analysis

By Dr. Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat and Dendy Indramawan



The euphoria about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Indonesia and elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia (SEA) has been felt since 2017, particularly following the country’s participation in the BRI Summit in Beijing that year, where Indonesia (along with other SAARC and ASEAN member states) was expected to receive massive investments from China to support several infrastructure projects.

This year, the debates concerning the BRI are again becoming prevalent after Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, as Indonesia’s representative, signed 28 BRI projects last April. Among the various debated subjects is the growing concern about the real nature of the BRI. Is it a Chinese developmental initiative or a geopolitical instrument that uses debt-trap as a tool to bring targeted countries into the desired terms?

Aung San Suu Kyi Will Go to the Mat for Myanmar’s Military in The Hague

Candace Rondeaux

One of the enduring mysteries in recent years is what happened to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Somehow, some way, the woman known as “the Lady of Burma”—who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 after she spent 15 years under house arrest in Myanmar for her democratic activism—seems to have lost her soul. Her drive to the top of Myanmar’s political hierarchy and quest to burnish her political legacy have been relentless, but also devastating for all those who once hailed her commitment to democracy and nonviolence.

Since she became the de facto civilian head of Myanmar’s government following landmark elections in 2015, assuming the newly created position of state counselor, equivalent to prime minister, Aung San Suu Kyi has emerged as one of the most virulent defenders of the military junta that separated her from her family for years and ruled Myanmar for decades—and whose generals still wield most of the power in the country. This week, however, the Nobel laureate showed just how much she will compromise for the sake of power when she announced that she will personally lead the legal team defending Myanmar against charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice. Next month, she will travel to The Hague to fight tooth and nail in a case brought to the ICJ recently by Gambia, with the support of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, alleging that Myanmar’s military committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in its campaign to drive minority Rohingya Muslims out of western Myanmar.

25 November 2019

Climate Change and South Asia’s Pending Food Crisis

By Rabiya Jaffery

Are South Asian governments adapting to climate change’s impact on agriculture in the region?

Experts predict that ensuring food security for South Asia’s expanding population will be one of the chief problems the subregion faces in the coming years. Countries of the region will need to place addressing food insecurity among their top policy agendas to ensure stability.

South Asia is currently home to nearly 1.8 billion people — the majority living in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — and has been the fastest growing region for the past five years.The UN estimates that the population of the region will grow by 40 percent by 2050.

“The growing population will demand a higher supply of secure food, water, housing, and energy to maintain stability,” says George Stacey, an analyst working with Norvergence, an environmental advocacy NGO. “This is why countries in the region need to ensure they have the policies in place to adapt to the increasing number of people living there in coming years.”

And Stacey, among other climate experts, says that the challenge to secure food for South Asia’s growing population is exacerbated by the threats of climate change.

24 November 2019

The Fate of Sri Lanka’s Tamil National Anthem

By Dishani Senaratne

What the past (and future) of the Tamil version of the national anthem tells us about minority rights in Sri Lanka.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former defense secretary and brother of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, emerged victorious in Sri Lanka’s presidential election last Sunday. Gotabaya was largely backed by the majority Sinhalese-Buddhists while ethnic Tamils and Muslims were in favor of Sajith Premadasa, the presidential candidate of the United National Party (UNP)-led New Democratic Front (NDF). Acknowledging the role played by the Sinhalese-Buddhist vote base in his rise to power, Gotabaya urged Tamils and Muslims to join his effort to build one Sri Lanka.

But against the backdrop of a surge in Sinhalese-Buddhist supremacy, media reports on the imminent abolition of the Tamil national anthem have surfaced.

The national anthem of Sri Lanka was composed by Ananda Samarakoon (1911-1962), a composer and music teacher. In post-independent Sri Lanka, the Tamil national anthem was mostly sung in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern provinces. With the rise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the late 1980s, the Eelam song gained momentum in Tamil-speaking regions while the Tamil national anthem was rarely sung in Sinhalese-majority areas. The 1978 Sri Lankan Constitution provided exclusive sanction to the Sinhala national anthem but the Tamil translation was also given constitutional recognition by way of the third schedule to the seventh clause. Nonetheless, the 13th amendment to the constitution declared Sinhala and Tamil as both official and national languages, whereas English was declared the link language. Such ad hoc language policies exacerbated the ethnic divisions among the Sinhalese and Tamils amid escalating violence between the LTTE and the security forces.

Nepal: Oli’s Health And Internal Party Dynamics – Analysis

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Some two month ago, it looked as if Prime Minister Oli had become all powerful as seen by his disdain for not only the opposition leaders but also towards the seniors within his own merged party- the Nepal communist Party. Most critical were some of his own erstwhile senior colleagues of UML like Madhav Nepal who complained about Oli’s style of working when vital decisions having long term impact were being taken without consulting other senior colleagues. 

Oli had not given in on Constitutional amendments either that he promised for the Madhesi groups leaving the once powerful Upendra Yadav getting more and more isolated. Despite being requested by most of the leaders of his party including Baburam Bhattarai, Upendra Yadav is said to be unwilling to give up his post hoping that Oli will abide by his earlier commitment. He may have to wait indefinitely!

Oli has also continued to keep Dahal- his co chairman of the Party guessing without ruling out the possibility of sharing the PM’s post.

All this appears to be changing. Oli now is seen to be consulting his senior colleagues and in fact had delayed the long pending cabinet reshuffle in trying to get a consensus on the new cabinet.

22 November 2019

Nepal Between China and India

By Ankit Panda

Tika P. Dhakal discusses Nepal’s geopolitical circumstances between India and China.

In October 2019, President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to visit Nepal. Relations between China and the Himalayan state have been quickly advancing in recent years amid growing concerns in India and elsewhere that Kathmandu is decisively pivoting toward Beijing. Xi’s visit elevated ties between the two countries a “strategic partnership of cooperation.” To probe Nepal’s geopolitical circumstances between its two giant neighbors, The Diplomat’s senior editor, Ankit Panda, spoke to Tika P. Dhakal, a foreign affairs commentator from Nepal. Apart from writing regular column in Kantipur Daily, Dhakal engages with regional think tanks and the strategic affairs community.

The Diplomat: Has Nepal started an irreversible geopolitical shift away from India, or is this perception exaggerated?

21 November 2019

Sri Lanka Has a New Strongman President

By Ravi Agrawal , Kathryn Salam

Welcome to Foreign Policy’s weekly South Asia Brief. The highlights this week: Gotabaya Rajapaksa is Sri Lanka’s new president, a new political map of India stirs controversy, and Pakistan faces a biblical-scale locust crisis.

If you would like to receive South Asia Brief in your inbox every Tuesday, please sign up here.

The Rajapaksas Are Back in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s new president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, promised at his swearing-in on Monday to ensure tolerance for all religions and cultures, but it might not be so simple. Rajapaksa won 52.3 percent of the vote on Saturday. He was supported—by his own admission—mainly by the Sinhalese majority, most of whom are Buddhists. Minority Tamil Hindus and Muslims voted mostly for his opponents.

Both minority groups have reason to fear their new government. Rajapaksa was Sri Lanka’s defense minister from 2005 to 2015, overseeing the brutal crushing of the Tamil separatist movement and ending 25 years of civil war. The United Nations Human Rights Council is still waiting for Sri Lanka to conduct a credible investigation into war crimes in those years.

Will Gotabaya Revisit Sri Lanka’s Hambantota ‘Debt Trap’ With China?

By Ankit Panda

The new president’s election manifesto pledged to “revisit” the 99 year lease transfer of Hambantota port.

On Sunday, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former Sri Lankan defense chief accused of human rights violations, won the country’s presidential elections. Gotabaya rode a wave of Sinhala nationalist sentiment and security concerns, which were made all the more acute after this year’s deadly Easter bombings, claimed by a local Sri Lankan extremist group pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. His victory fits neatly into a narrative about South Asian states turning gradually to illiberal democracy (at least, so writes James Crabtree at the Nikkei Asian Review). He was sworn in on Monday.

Here at The Diplomat, Sudha Ramachandran sums up what might be expected of Gotabaya on domestic and geopolitical issues. “Much will depend on the new government’s relations with Beijing,” she concludes. Much of the pre-election commentary focused on Gotabaya’s likely approach to China through the frame of the tremendous rapprochement between Beijing and Colombo that had taken place during the presidential tenure of his brother, Mahinda. (Mahinda, term-limited from seeking the presidency, is a likely contender for the prime ministership, parliamentary politic permitting.)

5 September 2019

Data and Development: Harnessing AI in Nepal

By Manish Gyawali

Creating a strong economy should be central to any country’s developmental plans. It is clear that the best choice for a country to grow its economy today is to accept the tenets of economic liberalism: keep markets free and competitive and minimize governmental interference in markets. 

In developing countries, in which governments often have a stronger role to play in economic growth and development, it is essential that accurate data be used as the basic input in policymaking. The reasons for doing so are self-evident: collecting accurate data serves as the most reliable metric of the “baseline” state of a country. Changes in the data therefore reflect actual changes on the ground. 

Today, we have new modes of data collection that are more reliable than those used in the past. Traditionally, surveys were seen as the main instruments of data collection. Information obtained from surveys is often accurate, but designing them is difficult and time-consuming. Thankfully today, we have a plethora of other data sources that may be more current and more reliable. These new data sources include data retrieved from the internet such as the outputs of web crawling and social media, telecommunications data, and geospatial data. 

8 August 2019

How South Asia can continue as world’s fastest growing subregion

By Lei Lei Song

Since 2014, South Asia has been the fastest growing subregion in the world, with its eight economies collectively boasting average annual growth of 7.0%. This is higher even than East Asia (6.2%), which includes China; Southeast Asia (4.9%); and the Pacific (4.7%). To carry on this impressive performance beyond the next couple of years, though, will require reforms and investments.

Strong growth in South Asia has been largely driven by the performance of Bangladesh and India, with growth averaging above 7% in the past five years. Domestic demand in terms of consumption and investment has been strong. Major reforms such as the introduction of a goods and service tax in India and measures to make it easier to do business across the subregion have helped promote private investment. In next two years, India is expected to continue to grow above 7%, while Bangladesh’s growth is around 8%.

28 July 2019

July 2019 Issue VOLUME 12, ISSUE 6


In our cover article, Matt Bryden and Premdeep Bahra trace the evolution of the jihadi terrorist threat in East Africa over the last three decades. They argue that al-Shabaab’s January 2019 attack on the Dusit D2 luxury hotel compound in Nairobi, Kenya, “brought together three strands of al-Shabaab’s organizational DNA: its Somali provenance, its ideological affiliation with al-Qa`ida, and its growing cohort of trained, experienced East African fighters. The successful combination of these traits in a single operation suggests that al-Shabaab’s longstanding ambition to transcend its Somali origins and become a truly regional organization is becoming a reality, representing a new and dangerous phase in the group’s evolution and the threat that it poses to the region.”

Our interview is with Catherine De Bolle, the Executive Director of Europol, who previously served as Commissioner General of the Belgian Federal Police between 2012 and 2018.

4 July 2019

Nepal: The Guthi Bill And Lessons Learnt (Brute Majority Is Not Enough) – OpEd

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

The Controversial Guthi Bill, its abrupt withdrawal from the Parliament and subsequent massive but disciplined demonstration against the Government’s attempt to nationalize Guthis should be a good lesson for Oli Government. 

First, the Government thought that with its brute majority it could get through the bill without considering or even attempting to explain to the people the benefits. This was a mistake. The second mistake was to treat it as law and order problem in the early stages. In the end, it brought, the power of the common man to the fore as against the might of the Government. What is left unsaid was tht the powerful Newar community cannot be trifled with and particularly with their centuries old traditions and practices.

Guthis are socio economic institutions that have been present since the fifth century. These institutions that are mainly held as trusts have certain obligations like conducting the many festivals of the valley with the proceeds of the endowed land and donations from the public. Of late the income from the endowed lands has not been sufficient but these festivals like the many “Rath yatras” one sees in Kathmandu were the result of generous donations of well to do people. There was active participation of the public in all these festivities.

3 July 2019

The Indo-Pacific Is the New Asia

By Melissa Conley Tyler

It’s official. We live in the Indo-Pacific. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations released a joint statement this week in Bangkok during its annual summit called the “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific”. It defines the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions as a single interconnected region, the Indo-Pacific. While it won’t stop people from disliking the term, it suggests that the Indo-Pacific is now the shared geographic term for conceiving of this region.

The controversy over naming the region has generated heat for some time. For some, the Indo-Pacific concept is seen as divisive. In Australia, there have been debates over whether it’s an objective statement of geography or a loaded political term used to signal support for US over China.

It’s also been contested term in the wider region. China doesn’t like the term, complaining about a scent of containment. India supports it (that’s the “Indo-” bit), as does Japan. France recently released an Indo-Pacific strategy. But the big issue is the United States’ support for the term culminating in its Indo-Pacific Strategy released this month.

Southeast Asia has been a battleground for the term. For decades, the identity of the region has been one of “Asia” in a wider Asia-Pacific (Think the “Malaysia, Truly Asia” campaign).

2 July 2019

Myanmar: Current Developments – Analysis

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan.

The unilateral cease fire ordered by the Army ends Sunday and there is as yet no sign whether the ceasefire will be further extended by the Army. 

For the first time, there were fewer incidents of fighting between Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army in June. However an incident near Sittwe port and the destruction of construction materials of an Indian project for Kaladan Bridge should be of concern to India. 

The Chinese are now back in their attempts to revive the Myitsone dam but the local leaders do not seem to be convinced! 

It is now learnt that Sheikh Hasina in her visit to China in the first week of July is likely to press China to intervene and persuade Myanmar to start taking back Rohingya refugees.
Will the Unilateral Ceasefire be Extended by the Myanmar Army?

The unilateral ceasefire ordered by the Tatmadaw (except in Western Command in Rakhine State) ends today. The first cease fire was from December 21, 2018 to April 30 2019 and the second one extended at the behest of China was between April 30, 2019 to June 30 2019. There is no information as yet whether the Chinese would move again for another extension as they should as most of the conflict areas are on the Chinese border.

1 July 2019

How the digital economy is shaping a new Bangladesh


With the advent of rapid digitalization, many developing countries like Bangladesh are focusing on the digital economy: a global market for digital outsourcing.

The digitalization of a country’s economy not only drives innovation in its service industry, it also fuels domestic job opportunities, enabling faster economic growth. In the quest to lower costs and risks, many large corporations in developed nations like the US, UK and Australia are turning to IT outsourcingfrom countries including Bangladesh, leading to a recent boom in freelancing.

Freelancing jobs include everything from computer programming to web design, tax preparation, and search engine optimization. This has generated a wide range of new opportunities for people in emerging markets that did not previously exist. Asia has become the number-one region for providing outsourcing services to the rest of the world.

27 June 2019

Fighting Venom With Venom: Is There A Case For Using Al Qaeda Against ISIS?

by Uddipan Mukherjee

A major difference of ideology between Al Qaeda and ISIS is with regard to attacks on places of worship of non-believers (minorities) as well as non-conformist Muslim groups.

To contain an ultra-radical ISIS, an Al Qaeda can be a tactical option.

However, a solution to end Islamic terrorism can explored with a combination of military, political, propaganda and sociological tools.

ISIS, through its recently posted video on 29 April 2019 commended the suicide bombers of the Lankan attacks of April which took away the lives of around 250 individuals.

Your brothers in Sri Lanka have healed the hearts of monotheists with their suicide bombings, which shook the beds of the crusaders during Easter to avenge your brothers in Baghouz.Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, 29 April 2019, Al Furquan Media Of Islamic State Of Iraq And Syria (ISIS)

Why have we forgotten one of WWII’s most important battles?

By Lydia Walker

The Battle of Kohima has much to teach us about how we remember the past.

Earlier this month, international leaders congregated in Normandy to celebrate its wartime anniversary, which included a commemorative parachute jump. D-Day was one of the many smaller wars that made up World War II, yet the battles, images and people of that invasion have become central to our memory of the war. By contrast, little such fanfare will mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima today, even though its landscape, too, is saturated in history.

The bloody three-month long siege of Kohima took place in the Himalayan foothills of Nagaland, in northeast India, the region which hangs over what is now Bangladesh and borders what is now Myanmar. Though the allied victory against the Japanese was a major turning point on par with the Battle of Stalingrad, we won’t see world leaders travel to Kohima for its remembrance. This battle has been comparatively forgotten because of where it occurred and who fought and lived there.

22 June 2019

Orban and Aung San Suu Kyi Gave in to Hate the Same Way

By Azeem Ibrahim

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her pro-democracy activism and her resilience in advocating for the cause of democracy in the face of terrible repression by the socialist military junta of Myanmar.

Around the same time, a young Viktor Orban was feted as one of Europe’s future democratic leaders after playing an instrumental role in Hungary’s post-communist transition to democracy. Had the field been less crowded in Europe, Orban could well have been nominated for the same honor as Aung San Suu Kyi, and for the same reasons.

Back then, you would have expected the fellow University of Oxford graduates to have a lot in common. Alas, the two also have much in common today—just all the wrong things. A summit between the two on June 5 epitomized the painful truth: On opposite sides of the earth, the two leaders have converged toward the same rejection of everything they once stood for.

Orban is reviled by many at the moment as the spiritual father of European right-wing populist illiberal democracy. He is a highly successful domestic politician who casts a long shadow over European politics and the West’s long-standing efforts for a peaceful and cohesive Europe under a liberal political and economic consensus.

19 June 2019

Nepal: “ A Summer of Protests”- Does PM Oli care?

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

This summer, Nepal is seen to be witnessing protests on various issues all of the Government’s own making.

The first was the Media Council Bill which is still attracting a large number of protests. There has been no attempt by the government to explain the Government’s stand! (We have a paper on this)

Then came the advertisement in the Public Service Commission calling for filling up of vacancies of over 9161 local government posts- a responsibility over which the centre has no moral jurisdiction when the States are mandated to do so under the Constitution. This is being done without even ensuring proper quota under the reservation scheme. No doubt the States and particularly the Madhesi groups are up in arms.

Then there is the Guthi Samsthan bill by which the Government ,wants to nationalize the Guthi properties and bring them all under a National Commission- a project the Government had been planning since last November. There was no hurry to take over the Guthi functions done by private institutions under proper checks and there have been no complaints of misappropriation or misuse. Guthis are socio-economic Institutions to fulfill religious, public and cultural functions. Yet the the Government was in a hurry to upset the powerful Newar Community of the valley who allege that it is a direct assault on their cultural heritage!,

11 Years on, Has Nepal’s Republic Succeeded?

By Peter Gill

Pessimism about Nepal’s politics is common, despite significant changes since the declaration of the republic in 2008.

In Nepal, May 28 marks Republic Day, commemorating the date in 2008 when an elected Constituent Assembly brought an end to the country’s centuries-old monarchy and declared it a federal, democratic republic. This year, the president and a minister marked the holiday by inaugurating a new Republic Memorial at a park that was symbolically carved out of the old royal palace grounds, known as Narayanhiti, in central Kathmandu. But after the VIPs left, the monument did not open to the public as planned. Like many state construction projects, it has faced repeated delays since it began in 2012, and workers are now completing finishing touches and removing scaffolding.

Across the street from the Memorial’s closed gate is a small teashop where office workers and local youth gather in the mornings. Hari Ballav Pant, the shop’s gregarious, grey-mustachioed owner, grew up in the neighborhood and has seen it change dramatically over the years. During the monarchy, he ran a business shampooing carpets inside Narayanhiti Palace. When asked what the new Republic Memorial means to him, Pant replies tersely.