A few links covering developments in South Asia this week:
Elections in India are officially underway (see The Diplomat’s primer on what’s at stake in the elections and how they actually work). Voting began on Monday in the northeastern states of Assam and Tripura with an incredibly high turnout in both states (by general democratic election standards, not just Indian ones). In Tripura, 85 percent of those eligible to vote ended up voting while Assam had a turnout of 75 percent. So far, voting has gone on peacefully in these states with no reported violence by anti-government forces such as the United Liberation Front of Assam. The northeast of India has traditionally voted for the Congress and will likely do the same in this election. Despite this, the BJP appears to be well-poised to take an overall victory.
If you missed it, we’ve had a couple pieces on The Pulse covering the manifestos of both the Congress and BJP, with a particular focus on what they mean for Indian foreign policy following the election.
According to India’s Economic Times, Russian supercomputing firm RSC group and the Russian Academy of Sciences have extended a hand to India to set up a joint supercomputing facility with the intention of rivaling China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer. Tianhe-2 is currently the world’s fastest supercomputer, while India and Russia have systems ranking at 83rd place and 37th place respectively. Alexey Shmelev, cofounder and chief operations officer of RSC group, indicated that the deal would involve technology sharing between Russia and India. The deal would represent another significant technical cooperation initiative between Russian and India, who already cooperate in several key areas, including nuclear and defense technology.
In a setback to its already weak human rights credentials, Sri Lanka reiterated its intention to not cooperate with the recent United Nations Human Rights Council resolution calling for an independent inquiry into war crimes in the country during the final days of the 26-year civil war between the government and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE). Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told reporters: “Where the government is required to do anything to support the investigation or to participate in it, the government will not do that … Nobody can come here without the cooperation of the Sri Lankan government.” The resolution was led by the United States. India, in a somewhat controversial decision domestically, abstained from the resolution.
Political troubles aside, Sri Lanka had reason to rejoice on Sunday when it defeated India in the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup finals, taking the championship.
A Japanese delegation headed by the president of the Japan International Labor Foundation visited Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in Kathmandu. Koirala expressed interest in inviting Japanese investment and development assistance to Nepal.
Finally, the past year of political unrest and infighting in Bangladesh will take its toll economically. The IMF issued a new growth projection of six percent for the country, citing its political problems. Textile exports remain strong in the country, but imports, remittances, tax revenue, and credit growth have all suffered. Inflation continues to rise as well.