Nov 15, 2019

Sri Lanka's strongmen ready to return in presidential vote

A rally for the ruling party in Colombo. Photo: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP via Getty Images

The next president of Sri Lanka will be elected on Saturday, and he will take charge of a country still recovering from April terror attacks that left 277 dead.

Driving the news: The front-runner appears to be Gotabaya Rajapaksa, known for crushing the Tamil Tigers a decade ago as defense minister — allegedly committing war crimes in the process. His brother, Mahinda, was president then and would return as prime minister.

  • Many minorities fear the election of a president associated with Buddhist hardliners, particularly at a time of intense animosity toward Muslims in the wake of April’s attacks, Deutsche Welle reports.

Zoom out: The U.S. and China are competing for influence in South Asia, particularly in this "strategically located but heavily indebted Indian Ocean island nation," the FT's Amy Kazmin reports from Colombo.

  • Relations with the West suffered during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s strongman presidency (2005–2015), and he turned to China. He allegedly profited personally from Chinese-funded projects, the FT notes.
  • The current administration repaired relations with the U.S. and India, but it was riven with infighting and was unpopular.

What to watch: The ruling party has nominated Sajith Premadasa, the son of an assassinated former president, the current housing minister and a comparatively fresh face. But the emphasis on security in this election appears to play to the Rajapaksas' strengths.

Go deeper: Sri Lanka's Muslims face persecution in wake of terror attacks

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Civil war defense chief wins Sri Lanka presidential election

Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a rally. Photo: Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the defense secretary during Sri Lanka's civil war, has won the island nation's presidential election, BBC News reports.

Why it matters: This is Sri Lanka's first election since the Easter Sunday terror attacks that left 277 dead earlier this year.

Go deeperArrowNov 17, 2019

India passes restrictive citizenship amendment targeting Muslim migrants

Protest against the Indian government's citizenship amendment bill. Photo: Arindam Dey/AFP/Getty Images

India passed a citizenship amendment on Wednesday that, for the first time, makes religion a criterion of acquiring Indian nationality, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Concerns continue to grow that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is turning the country into a Hindu nationalist state. The amended citizenship law creates a pathway to citizenship for Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Parsi and Sikh migrants who fled from Pakistan and Afghanistan before 2015, but excludes Muslims entirely, Al Jazeera reports.

Go deeperArrowDec 11, 2019

India's citizenship bill continues Modi's Hindu nationalist offensive

Demonstrators and security personnel Dec. 12 in Guwahati. Photo: Biju Boro/AFP via Getty

India's parliament passed a bill this week that would link citizenship to religion for the first time in the country's history.

Why it matters: This is the latest in a series of steps by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that could "fuel the sentiment that Muslims are a kind of permanent underclass," says Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment. "The damage that could do to the social fabric is potentially enormous."

Go deeperArrowDec 13, 2019