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CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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The Top Ten Stories in South Asia, 2015

by Alyssa Ayres
Afghans listen to a radio broadcast run by the Islamic State militants, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 19, 2015. Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the airwaves to win recruits as they try to build strength and replace the Taliban as the leading force in the Islamist insurgency. Officials have been increasingly concerned by the broadcasts, which encourage young people to find a sense of direction in the radical movement (Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters). Afghans listen to a radio broadcast run by the Islamic State militants, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 19, 2015. Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the airwaves to win recruits as they try to build strength and replace the Taliban as the leading force in the Islamist insurgency. Officials have been increasingly concerned by the broadcasts, which encourage young people to find a sense of direction in the radical movement (Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters).

Each of the past two years, I’ve done a roundup of the developments and stories that mattered the most in South Asia. In 2014, India’s historic national election and the coming together of Afghanistan’s hard-won unity government topped my list. The year before, Indian women’s political activism, and Nawaz Sharif’s election in Pakistan’s first transfer of power from one civilian to another, were my top two picks. Looking back at those posts compared with the ten events I’ve selected for 2015, this year suggests a markedly less hopeful mood. The most chilling development has been the steady trickle of reports about the self-proclaimed Islamic State and its presence in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, border areas of Pakistan, and possibly in Bangladesh. Other developments in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Maldives present a mixed picture of both progress and setbacks. Here is my selection of 2015’s most consequential stories in South Asia: Read more »

Fresh Upheavals in the South Asian Region

by Alyssa Ayres
Birgunj, Nepal: Madhesi protesters block the highway connecting Nepal to India in a general strike against Nepal’s new constitution on November 4, 2015 (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters). Birgunj, Nepal: Madhesi protesters block the highway connecting Nepal to India in a general strike against Nepal’s new constitution on November 4, 2015 (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters).

From the day he assumed office, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made clear his priority on establishing strong ties across the South Asian region. His open invitation to the leaders of all the South Asian countries to attend his inauguration set the tone for a foreign policy focused on building economic ties and regional connectivity, a pragmatic bid to overcome South Asia’s longstanding problem as one of the least economically integrated regions in the world. Initial Indian diplomacy with Bangladesh and Nepal helped deliver gains toward a more consolidated South Asian region, at peace and focused on development and economics. Political change in Sri Lanka ended the divisive Rajapaksa era, one of increased tensions with India, and Colombo’s new government immediately expanded ties—with a strong trade component—with India. The South Asian Area of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in November 2014 resulted in region-wide agreements on transportation connectivity, an important infrastructure step to enhancing economic ties. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 18, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Japan-debates-military-bills Masahisa Sato (top C), a member of the upper house special committee on security, and other lawmakers shout as they crowd around Yoshitada Konoike, chairman of the upper house special committee on security, during a vote at an upper house special committee session on security-related legislation at the parliament in Tokyo, Japan, September 17, 2015. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Japan clashes over military bills. A heated brawl broke out in Japan’s upper house of parliament on Thursday over contentious legislation that signaled the most dramatic shift in Japanese military policy since the end of World War II. The package of eleven bills, which the lower house passed earlier this year under similarly contentious circumstances, will allow the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), to fight overseas and defend allied nations. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 21, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Bangkok-bombing People pray at the Erawan Shrine, the site of Monday's deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, August 20, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Bombing in Bangkok. On Monday evening a bomb exploded within the popular Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, killing at least twenty people and injuring over 120 more. Thai authorities are investigating a suspect identified as a foreigner, who was caught on CCTV footage leaving a large backpack near the shrine, in connection with the blast. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on March 13, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy of Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. U.S. rebukes UK for joining Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The UK announced that it would become a founding member of the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite the urging of the United States. Washington has openly lobbied against the AIIB, influencing South Korea and Australia to eschew membership, but Britain’s decision opens the door for other Western countries to reconsider. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 9, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A bouquet of flowers is pictured at the site of a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident last Wednesday during a New Year's celebration on the Bund, with Shanghai's Pudong financial district in the background, January 6, 2015. Chinese state media and the public criticised the government and police on Friday for failing to prevent the stampede in Shanghai that killed 36 people and dented the city's image as modern China's global financial hub. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: DISASTER BUSINESS) A bouquet of flowers is pictured at the site of a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident last Wednesday during a New Year's celebration on the Bund on January 6, 2015 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. New  Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai. A deadly stampede broke out among the hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Shanghai’s Huangpu River waterfront on New Year’s Eve, resulting in thirty-six deaths and forty-nine hospitalizations. This past Wednesday, grieving loved ones gathered in memorial of those lost. Ahead of the festivities, the government feared overcrowding and went so far as to cancel a planned light show along the Bund; predicting smaller crowds than in previous years, five thousand fewer officers were posted during the celebration, and those on duty were unable to control the crowds.  Read more »

Sri Lanka’s Victory for Democracy

by Alyssa Ayres
Sri Lanka's newly elected president, Mithripala Sirisena, waves at media as he leaves the election commission in Colombo on January 9, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy: Reuters). Sri Lanka's newly elected president, Mithripala Sirisena, waves at media as he leaves the election commission in Colombo on January 9, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy: Reuters).

In a stunning upset today, Sri Lanka’s Maithripala Sirisena defeated ten-year incumbent strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sirisena is a former member of President Rajapaksa’s cabinet who defected, with more than twenty other members of parliament, to lead an umbrella opposition coalition just two months ago. Rajapaksa conceded with the vote count still underway; at the time of his concession early on Friday morning, the election results posted showed a nearly 52 percent lead for Sirisena against almost 47 percent for Rajapaksa. Read more »

The Top Ten Stories in South Asia, 2014

by Alyssa Ayres
Photo credit: Alyssa Ayres Photo credit: Alyssa Ayres

It was a busy news year in South Asia, with events that will have far-reaching consequences for the region. Between India’s historic election, a hard-won unity government in Afghanistan, and ongoing political turmoil in Pakistan combined with shocking terrorist attacks, South Asia made the front pages around the world for many different reasons. Like last year, I’ve tried to sift through the year’s developments and assess which will have lasting effects on the countries in the region and beyond. Herewith my personal selection of 2014’s most consequential stories in South Asia: Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 31, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A member of a military rescue team pauses during search operations at the site of a landslide at the Koslanda tea plantation near Haldummulla on October 30, 2014. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters) A member of a military rescue team pauses during search operations at the site of a landslide at the Koslanda tea plantation near Haldummulla on October 30, 2014. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Vietnam and India strengthen defense and energy ties amid territorial disputes with China. The two nations signed a number of agreements following a meeting this week between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Most notably, Vietnam agreed to further open its oil and gas sector to India, while India agreed to provide Vietnam with four off-shore patrol vessels. Prior to his two-day state visit, Dung called for a larger Indian role in the South China Sea, in spite of criticism from China. Both Hanoi and New Delhi are embroiled in territorial disputes with Beijing: Vietnam in the South China Sea and India along the Himalayas. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 12, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice (L), shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) U.S. national security advisor Susan Rice (L), shakes hands with Chinese president Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing on September 9, 2014. (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice visits Asia. Susan Rice is in Beijing for three days of meetings, including a forty-five minute private session with Chinese president Xi Jinping, in preparation for U.S. president Barack Obama’s visit to China in November. Much of the conversation focused on the close calls between U.S. and Chinese military ship and aircraft in recent years, and a senior Chinese military officer told Rice that the United States should stop its close-up aerial and naval surveillance of China. Read more »