Prime Minister Hasina’s ruling Awami League party won 289 parliamentary seats out of 300 in a December 30, 2018 election marred by wide-spread vote-rigging, ballot-box stuffing and intimidation. Harassment, intimidation and violence during the pre-election period made it difficult for many opposition candidates and their supporters to meet, hold rallies, and/or campaign freely. The clashes between rival political parties and general strikes that previously characterized the political environment in Bangladesh have become far less frequent in the wake of the Awami League’s increasing dominance of the country and crackdown on dissent. Many civil society groups have expressed concern about the apparent trend toward a one-party state and the marginalization of all political opposition groups.
Prime Minister Modi’s BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government won a decisive mandate in the May 2019 elections, winning a larger majority in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) than in 2014. The new government’s first 100 days of its second term were marked by the removal of special constitutional status from the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) The government’s decision to remove J&K autonomy was preceded by a heavy paramilitary build-up in the State, arrests of local opposition leaders, and cutting of mobile phone and Internet services. Internet connections have since been largely opened, but with continued severe limitations on data download speeds to the extent that everyday activities of Kashmiris often take hours or need to be completed outside the region.
A number of areas of India suffered from terrorist attacks by separatists, including Jammu and Kashmir and some states in India’s northeast.
In December 2019, the government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which promises fast-tracked citizenship to applicants from six minority religious groups from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, but does not offer a similar privilege to Muslims from these countries. The new law sparked widespread protests that sometimes-included violence by demonstrators, government supporters, and security services.
Maldives is a multi-party constitutional democracy, but the transition from long term autocracy to democracy has been challenging. Maldives gained its independence from Britain in 1965. For the first 40 years of independence, Maldives was run by President Ibrahim Nasir and then Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was elected to six successive terms by single-party referenda. August 2003 demonstrations forced Gayoom to begin a democratic reform process, leading to the legalization of political parties in 2005, a new constitution in August 2008, and the first multiparty presidential elections later that year through which Mohamed Nasheed was elected president.
In February 2012 Nasheed resigned under disputed circumstances. President Abdulla Yameen’s tenure, beginning in 2013, was marked by corruption, systemic limitations on the independence of parliament and the judiciary, and restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and association. Yameen’s tenure was also characterized by increased reliance on PRC-financing for large scale infrastructure projects, which were decided largely under non-transparent circumstances and procedures.
In September 2018, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won the campaign for president running on a platform of economic and political reforms and transparency. The MDP also won a super majority (65 out of 87) seats in parliamentary elections in April 2019, the first single-party majority since the advent of multi-party democracy. President Solih has pledged to restore democratic institutions and the freedom of the press, re-establish the justice system, and protect fundamental rights.
There is a global threat from terrorism to U.S. citizens and interests. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners and “soft targets” such as restaurants, hotels, recreational events, resorts, beaches, maritime facilities, and aircraft. Concerns have significantly increased about a small number of violent Maldivian extremists who advocate for attacks against secular Maldivians and are involved with transnational terrorist groups. For more information, travelers may consult the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2015/index.htm
U.S. citizens traveling to Maldives should be aware of violent attacks and threats made against local media, political parties, and civil society. In the past there have been several killings and violent attacks against secular bloggers and activists. For more information, travelers may consult the State Department’s 2019 Human Rights Report link: https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/maldives/
Maldives has a history of political protests. Some of these protests have involved use of anti-Western rhetoric. There are no reports of unrest or demonstrations on the resort islands or at the main Velana International Airport. Travelers should not engage in political activity in Maldives. Visitors should exercise caution, particularly at night, and should steer clear of demonstrations and spontaneous gatherings. Those who encounter demonstrations or large crowds should avoid confrontation, remain calm, and depart the area quickly. While traveling in Maldives, travelers should refer to news sources, check the U.S. Embassy Colombo website for possible security updates, and remain aware of their surroundings at all times.
U.S. Embassy employees are not resident in Maldives. This will constrain the Embassy’s ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in an emergency. Many tourist resorts are several hours’ distance from Malé by boat, necessitating lengthy response times by authorities in case of medical or criminal emergencies.
10. Political and Security Environment
Despite improvements to the security situation in recent years, the presence of foreign and domestic terrorist groups within Pakistan continues to pose some threat to U.S. interests and citizens. Terrorist groups commit occasional attacks in Pakistan, though the number of such attacks has declined steadily over the last decade. Terrorists have in the past targeted transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, military installations, airports, universities, tourist locations, schools, hospitals, places of worship, and government facilities. Many multinational companies operating in Pakistan employ private security and risk management firms to mitigate the significant threats to their business operations. There are greater security resources and infrastructure in the major cities, particularly Islamabad, and security forces in these areas may be more readily able to respond to an emergency compared to other areas of the country.
The BOI, in collaboration with Provincial Investment Promotion Agencies, has coordinated airport-to-airport security and secure lodging for foreign investors. To inquire about this service, investors can contact the BOI for additional information.
Post is not aware of any damage to projects and/or installations. Abductions/kidnappings of foreigners for ransom remains a concern.
While security challenges exist in Pakistan, the country has not grown increasingly politicized or insecure in the past year.