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India last week became the first of Sri Lanka’s creditors to officially back the crisis-hit country’s debt restructuring programme by sending financial assurances to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF has made its $2.9-billion package for Sri Lanka contingent on “receiving financing assurances from the island nation’s official creditors. China, Japan, and India are Sri Lanka’s three largest bilateral lenders. Sri Lanka will now have to get similar assurances from China and Japan before it receives the crucial IMF aid. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who visited Colombo on January 20, said India did not wait for other bilateral creditors but did “what is right” for Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. The decision, Mr. Jaishankar said, was a reassertion of India’s belief in the principle of “neighbourhood first”, and “not leaving a partner to fend for themselves”. Last year, India had extended nearly-4-billion-dollar assistance to Sri Lanka, by way of credits and roll overs.
Separately, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is holding talks with Tamil parties seeking a solution to the county’s ethnic question, said his government would “fully implement” the 13th Amendment, which guarantees a measure of power devolution to the island’s provinces. Mr. Jaishankar, in his meeting with President Wickremesinghe, also raised the issue, saying the full implementation of the 13th Amendment was “critical” for power devolution. So what’s the 13th Amendment? In this profile titled “A promise of devolution”, Meera Srinivasan answers this question.
China’s shrinking population
China’s population declined by 8,50,000 in 2022, the first such fall since a nationwide famine in 1961, marking a landmark demographic shift for the world’s second-largest economy. The National Bureau of Statistics in Beijing on January 17 said the national population stood at 1.411 billion at the end of 2022. India will overtake China as the world’s most populous nation in 2023, according to UN estimates. China had earlier rolled out a “One Child policy” to control population growth, which was later rolled back. Over the past decade, the government had run campaigns to boost birth rates, but the latest numbers reflect changing social values. The demographic changes will have economic consequences too, argues The Hindu in this editorial. In The Hindu FAQ, Ananth Krishnan is explaining what are the factors behind China’s declining population.
Designation of a terrorist
Abdul Rehman Makki, a fundraiser and key planner of the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has been placed on on the international sanctions list by the ISIL and al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council (UNSC). China had earlier placed a “technical hold” on the proposal by India and the U.S. to sanction Makki. Beijing lifted its hold now, allowing the back listing to go on. But China’s hold stays on four other Pakistani terrorists--, Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha, 26/11 handler Sajid Mir, LeT recruiter Shahid Mehmood and Abdul Rauf Azhar (Masood Azhar’s brother). “It is possible that the Makki designation is the result of behind-the-scenes India-China negotiations at a time the relationship is mired in issues over the LAC standoff. The test of this diplomacy will perhaps be known if and when China acts on the listings of the four other terrorists,” The Hindu writes in this editorial.
What will happen to Makki after being put on the UNSC list of global terrorists? Suhasini Haidar explains in The Hindu FAQ.
The Top Five
- The illogical rejection of the idea of South Asia: South Asia appears to be the exception and the outlier to the most logical principle now — regional cooperation, writes Suhasini Haidar.
- Signals of a slow return to peace in Syria: As Syria enters the 13th year of its lethal civil conflict, a bomb explosion in Istanbul on November 13, that killed six persons, seems to have accelerated a diplomatic process which could bring peace to that tormented land, writes Talmiz Ahmad.
- The futility of underbalancing China: India needs clarity on how its key strategic partnerships and defence agreements will come to its aid in the event of an escalatory situation with China, writes Happymon Jacob.
- The political flux in Pakistan: The effects of political engineering by the deep state to certain ends for the 2018 election can still be felt in Pakistan especially in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, writes Suba Chandran.
- Jacinda Ardern | The woman who defied realpolitik: New Zealand’s Prime Minister, who announced her resignation citing burnout, offered an alternative leadership model rooted in a moral vision rather than political opportunism and rose to become a global hero of liberalism, G. Sampath writes in The Hindu Profiles.