The South Asia Channel

Rajapaksa Likely Defeated in Sri Lanka Polls; Modi Announces Development Funds; MQM Leader Shot; Afghanistan Suffers Revenue Shortfall

Sri Lanka Former President Rajapaksa likely to be defeated in polls Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s attempt to make a comeback in Sri Lanka’s general elections for the lower house has ended in defeat (Reuters). The ruling United National Party is likely to fall just short of an outright majority but Prime Minister Ranil ...

KANDY, SRI LANKA- AUGUST 14 : Former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa attends his party's final day of election campaign rally on August 14, 2015 in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's Election Commission has scheduled the polls on August 17, 2015, after Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the parliament on June 26, 2015.  (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
KANDY, SRI LANKA- AUGUST 14 : Former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa attends his party's final day of election campaign rally on August 14, 2015 in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's Election Commission has scheduled the polls on August 17, 2015, after Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the parliament on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Sri Lanka

Former President Rajapaksa likely to be defeated in polls

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s attempt to make a comeback in Sri Lanka’s general elections for the lower house has ended in defeat (Reuters). The ruling United National Party is likely to fall just short of an outright majority but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should still command enough support to form a stable government. If confirmed, the outcome would be a triumph for President Maithripala Sirisena, who beat his former ally Rajapaksa in a presidential vote in January and called early parliamentary polls to secure a stronger mandate for reforms. A total of 196 seats are being contested with a further 29 to be allocated by proportional representation in the 225-seat chamber.

Analysts predict that a defeat for Rajapaksa will keep Sri Lanka on a non-aligned foreign policy course and loosen its ties with China, which during Rajapaksa’s tenure invested billions of dollars in the country, some say effectively turning the Indian Ocean island into a maritime outpost.

India

Modi announces Rs. 1.25 trillion development funds for Bihar

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a special developmental package of Rs.1.25 trillion (approx. $19 billion) for the eastern state of Bihar (Hindu, TOI, LiveMint). He said his government will also continue to give the Rs. 400 billion (approx. $6 billion) due for infrastructure projects in the state, taking the total federal grant to Bihar to Rs.1.65 trillion (approx. $24 billion). Modi was speaking at a rally in the city of Ara, his third in the state during the past one month. Modi also blamed the state’s ruling chief minister Janata Dal party’s Nitish Kumar, who was not present at the event, for not using the funds available to the state from the federal government. The announcement of the special package can prove to be a game-changer for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming polls in the state at the end of this year.

Moody’s downgrades India’s economic growth outlook for 2015

The ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday cut its forecast for India’s economic growth to 7 percent this year from 7.5 percent because of “lower-than-expected rainfalls in the ongoing monsoon season” (Reuters). Moody’s maintained its forecast of around 7.5 percent increase in gross domestic product for 2016, but pointed to risks ahead that include delays to the government’s reform plans. Prime Minister Modi’s government was not able to push a much awaited and controversial tax reforms bill during the latest parliamentary session. Moody’s rates India at its lowest investment grade rating of “Baa3” with a “positive” outlook.

Indian space agency publishes detailed images of Mars canyon

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has published a detailed 3D image of Mars captured by its robotic probe Mangalyaan (BBC). ISRO said that the image was shot by Mangalyaan in late July and captures the Ophir Chasma, a canyon in Mars. The agency added that the Ophir Chasma is part of the largest canyon system in the solar system. India’s launch of its Mars mission in September 2014 marked the first time a nation successfully sent a mission to the red planet on its first attempt.

— Shuja Malik

Pakistan

MQM leader Rashid Godil shot

On Tuesday, Rashid Godil, an MQM leader, was shot and injured in Karachi (ET, Dawn). Godil’s car was attacked by four unknown gunmen on motorcycles as he traveled to MQM’s headquarters for a meeting with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman regarding efforts to reverse MQM lawmakers’ decision to resign en masse. Senior Superintendant of Police Javed Jiskani said that the driver had been killed and stated: “Godil was targeted after being identified.” According to Sindh Health Minister Jam Mehtab Godil is in stable condition. An MQM spokesman called the attack an “attempt to sabotage talks.”

Coal mine to open after landmark deal

On Monday, a consortium of local Pakistani banks signed an agreement with Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), a joint venture of the Sindh government and private companies, to open Pakistan’s first open pit coal mine in the Tharparkar district (ET). The agreement comes after years of delay in efforts to open the mine. The banks agreed to loan $500 million to the project. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah told an audience at the signing: “When we started work on Thar coal, no one believed in our ability to achieve the target.” SECMC CEO Shamsuddin Shaikh said work on the mine would be completed by 2018.

Modi makes veiled swipe at Pakistan in UAE talk

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a veiled swipe at Pakistan during the last day of a state visit to the United Arab Emirates (WSJ, ET, Dawn). During his talk, Modi stated: “Those who support terrorism must be on one side and those who believe in humanity on the other. Those who take the path of bombs and guns to fulfill their dreams won’t achieve anything.” Though he did not name Pakistan, Modi commented: “I am sure those that are being discussed here know it’s about them.” Modi’s visit and comments come as Pakistan’s relations with the UAE have cooled following Pakistan’s policy of neutrality in the Yemen conflict. When Pakistan refused to support Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash stated: “The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries.”

Afghanistan

Afghanistan suffers 7 billion afghani revenue shortfall

On Monday, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance reported a 7 billion afghani ($110.5 million) revenue shortfall (Pajhwok). Finance Minister Aklil Hakimi blamed the shortfall on a failure of tax collection in some provinces. Hakimi did not name any provinces but did warn: “You should achieve the target. You should gain more than that and those who collect more than the target will be rewarded but those who failed will be fired.”

Iran calls for legalization of Afghan refugees

On Monday, Ahmad Mohammadi Far, the General Director of Foreign Nationals and Refugees for the Iranian Ministry of Interior, said during a meeting in Kabul that Iran hopes to fully legalize Afghan refugees in Iran and provide them with benefits including health care (TOLO News). Far was attending the 19th in a series of tripartite meetings between officials from Afghanistan, Iran, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Far commented: “We want the legalization of Afghan refugees in Iran and we expect to reach an agreement on this issue at the meeting, and the Afghan government also backs our proposal.” Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Seyed Hussain Alemi concurred saying: “We hope to reach a final agreement at the end of this meeting regarding a strategy that could address the continued presence of Afghan refugees and resolve their problems.”

— David Sterman

Edited by Peter Bergen

Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

 Twitter: @Dsterms

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