Vol. V Issue. 30
Nepal: The big fight!
27 July 2012
The tussle for supremacy and one-showmanship between Maoist Chairman Prachanda and Prime Minister Babauram Bhattarai is indicative of the internal weakness of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). This newly-seen rivalry can cost the nation's Constitution-making dearly, a process which has already suffered a heavy setback due to the split in the UCPN (Maoist) last month.
At the party plenum a few days ago, the war of words between leaders close to UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Vice-Chairman Baburam Bhattarai turned nasty over a trivial matter ? on who should present the report of the Bhojpura State Committee prepared sometime back. Ashok Jaisawal from the Dahal faction and Baliram Sah from the Bhattarai faction clashed over who should present the report first.
Unfortunately, the matter didn't stop there. Cadres close to Bhattarai hurled chairs targeting the chairman. Some members of the Young Communist League had to intervene to save Dahal, who would have otherwise been seriously injured. Similarly, the Bhattarai faction accused Janardan Sharma and Hemant Prakash Oli -- both close to Dahal -- of manhandling Bhattarai. Senior Maoist leaders Debendra Paudel, Hisila Yami, the Prime Minister's wife, and Nabaraj Subedi had to intervene to save Bhattarai from attacks.
Media reports suggested that the two factions engaged in a scuffle when Sah was allowed to present his views during the closed session. Dahal's supporters said Sah was not the person selected by the majority to speak on behalf of the Bhojpura State Committee. Soon, both the factions started hurling chairs and water bottles at each other. Police personnel had to intervene to bring the situation under control while the bodyguards escorted Prime Minister Bhattarai out of the plenum hall.
The incident came as a surprise to many at home and abroad who considered Dahal still in control of the party command and Bhattarai to be the frontman for Dahal. The reality is that ego-clash between the duo, now visible publicly, surfaced soon after Bhattarai became Prime Minister in August 2011. Bhattarai was elevated to the highest post, although reluctantly, by Prachanda who wanted to mend his deteriorating ties with India and to balance the relationship between Nepal's two giant neighbours ? India and China.
An India-educated Prime Minister was seen soon to be drawing praises and considerable support from New Delhi. Prachanda, on the other hand, had tarnished his image in the eyes of New Delhi, especially when he ignored the message from the southern neighbour not to meddle with the Nepal Army. Prachanda had to step down as Prime Minister while attempting to sack the then Army Chief Rookmangud Katawal in 2009. Bhattarai was also seen to be acceptable to the non-Maoist sympathisers nearer home, especially with Kathmandu's upper middle class. But for Prachanda, it was only a tactical choice.
The two Maoist leaders did not enjoy an absolutely cordial relation. While Bhattarai did not want to be perceived as a virtual lame-duck Prime Minister, Dahal was sceptical of Bhattarai getting a free hand in every issue of national concern. Dahal silently supported Bhattarai when the latter signed the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) with India. Dahal, however, refrained from supporting the agreement publicly when Bhattarai was criticised in several quarters for having signed the "anti-national" agreement during his State visit to India. Dahal was weary of a backlash from the hard-liners. When the UCPN (Maoist) finally split after Mohan Baidya walked out of the party, the Baidya camp cited BIPPA as one of the primary bones of contention with the mother party.
The plenum incident has also come at a time when Prachanda is strongly contemplating the revival of the dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA), an option which the Prime Minister has totally shunned. The CA was dissolved on May 27 after four extensions. Bhattarai announced at midnight on May 27 the unfortunate dissolution of the CA and called for fresh elections on November 22. He said that there were "no options left" but to go back to the people after all consensus broke down over the issue of State restructuring and federalism for a new Nepal.
Clearly, there is an ideological difference between Prachanda and Bhattarai. The tussle at the plenum indicated that Dahal is no longer considered to be the leader of the same stature even in his own party. Chairman Prachanda had sided with Bhattarai's line of peace and Constitution and spoke of "progressive" agenda when Bhattarai became the Prime Minister. But it is now clear that he did not fully back Bhattarai on crucial Government decisions. The inability of the present Government (now a caretaker) to accomplish the twin tasks of peace process and Constitution-writing is directly related with Bhattarai's growing rift with the party supremo.
The cadres are naturally frustrated. The leaders who participated in the plenum severely criticised Chairman Dahal's political document and the performance of the Government. They sought clarification from the leadership over BIPPA, the proposed extradition treaty with India and the Government's move to hand over the management of the Tribhuvan International Airport to an Indian firm. They considered all these "anti-people" and "anti-State".
The most striking grievance of the cadres is the vagueness in the party's political line. They have questioned the party leadership for not identifying the party's principal enemy. It has to be noted that Dahal's latest document is silent on the issue of national sovereignty, among other things. The failure to ensure respectable integration of former Maoist combatants in the Nepal Army too is another bone of contention in the party at present.
There is thus no convergence on the future course of action in the party. In addition to the recent split, factionalism in the Maoist party, which emerged as the single largest party in the 2008 CA polls, could weaken the support-base of this revolutionary party that fought a decade-long civil war which cost the country more than 13,000 lives. Most importantly, the new rivalry is certain to weaken the agenda of inclusiveness, social justice and economic development ? all-imperative for Nepal's stability.
The people and the political workers are getting impatient. The country is witnessing an ethnic divide ? mainly Brahmin-Chettri on one side, and Madhesis-Janajatis on the other -- across party lines and ethnic groups are emerging stronger every day. Such a situation could soon erupt in fresh confrontations and violence. It would be better if the Maoists shed aside their internal differences and work towards generating a consensus among all political stake-holders to end the current stalemate and decide on the next course of political action for the nation.
(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)
Pakistan: Targeting the Hazara Shias
The targeting of the Hazara Shia community in Balochistan has exasperated the internal problems of Pakistan. At least 800 men, women and children have lost their lives and some 1500 injured since 2001. Around 110 members of the Hazara community have been killed in 2011. The major includes the Mastung bus attack, where 26 Hazara Shia pilgrims coming from Iran were brutally murdered by militants of the sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. In fact 2011 witnessed the highest number of systematic targeting on the Hazara.
The Hazara people are basically a Persian-speaking ethnic group originating from the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan. They have a large diaspora which consists of many communities around the world. Over half a million Hazara live in Balochistan Province of Pakistan, mostly in and around the city of Quetta. However this minority community of Pakistan suffers a dual peril due to their sect (Shia) and ethnicity (Hazara). Increased attacks on Shias and in particular Hazara Shia demonstrate the increasing marginalisation both groups face in Pakistan.
While sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia militant groups has been a persistent problem in Pakistan, more recent attacks have primarily targeted ordinary Shia, particularly the Hazara Shia. Sunni militant groups such as the supposedly-banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi operate with impunity even in areas where state authority is well established such as the Punjab province and the port city of Karachi.
The reasons for the systematic killings of the Hazara vary. They are being killed because they are anti-Taliban and because they do not agree with the policy of strategic depth towards Afghanistan. Hazaras are also considered as pro-Northern Alliance and their patriotism is eventually suspected. Even the community's refusal to fight the Baloch has led them to become targets of unabated violence. However most importantly by virtue of being Farsi-speaking Shias they are considered pro-Iran and pro-Northern Alliance. Apparently the Frontier Corps also blame the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) for the Hazara killings. Such allegations have been ruled out by the Hazara leaders.
Some even blame the security forces and the Intelligence agencies for the killings. Members of the community further contend that the Hazara killings are designed as a counter-insurgency campaign to divert the attention away from the activities of the security forces in Balochistan. Religious radicalism is in fact flourishing in the Province in order to offset the rising activism of the Baloch nationals.
The real issue in Balochistan apparently was and continues to be political and administrative. The authorities have mostly turned their back on the religious atrocities. The reality is that the security forces controlled by the military, including Intelligence agencies and the Frontier Corps, continue to act outside all formal mechanisms of civilian oversight.
The enduring attacks on the Hazara highlight the complete breakdown of the law and order machinery in Balochistan. The most important factor behind Shia Hazaras being targeted is in fact religion. Pakistan, a Sunni-dominated country, has a brutal history of Shia persecution where Sipah-e-Sahaba and its militant wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have slaughtered a number of Shias since their inception. The fact that the killings have taken place on international highways with security check-posts on both sides somewhere establishes the link of the security forces to the attacks.
The consequences of these sectarian attacks have proved to be fatal not only for the Province but for Pakistan as a whole. Post 2001 with the inception of the global war on terror the internal problems of Pakistan have increased many folds. The economy is in dire state. Pakistan has been witnessing acute human rights crisis. The minorities are being targeted because of their religious and political affiliations. The increase in sectarian violence against the Hazara has dis-engaged them from their existing social networks. This community is relatively more educated and therefore provides demographic dividend to the region. The attacks have forced them to migrate to metro cities.
The implications of sectarianism are multi-faceted. On the one hand it destroys the social fabric while on the other hand it produces economic chaos. Balochistan possesses great economic potential and has over a period attracted a lot of investment from global players like the US, China and Russia. However the on-going strife can very well jeopardise the investment scenario in Balochistan. It will prove to be very distressing for Pakistan's economy.
The continued violence has also been responsible for encouraging various militant groups to target religious minorities. Eventually the outrageous law and order situation in the province has further been aggravated. The on-going target killings have sent out a distressing message to the people that their Government would not act to protect them. It is therefore important for the authorities to apprehend the fact that Pakistan's problem of extremism is a greater threat to the country than terrorism.
(The writer is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation)
Baidya's China visit
The newly-formed Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Chairman Mohan Baidya has said that China is worried about the possibility of Nepal losing its sovereignty due to increasing interference international power-centres, on the federal issue. He was talking to newsmen in Kathmandu, after a 10-day visit to China, where he held talks with the chief of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party and other senior officials.
Baidya described the northern neighbour's concern as positive and explained that Chinese leaders expressed such concern out of their wish to see stability in Nepal. Baidya also informed that he assured the Chinese side that his party would not allow any forces to disintegrate Nepal.
Baidya is advocating federalism to ensure ethnic autonomy, right to self-determination and for social equality of the downtrodden communities. Baidya said that some international power centres may conspire to disintegrate Nepal but "we are well aware of that. "According to him, the Chinese leaders, however, did not recommend any solution to the Nepali problem.
While applauding China for adopting policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, Baidya said his party has serious grudges with India."There is no unequal treaty between Nepal and China but there are some unequal treaties with India and we are demanding termination of those treaties," he said. He also said he has no plans to visit India.
Source: myrepublica.com, July 27, 2012.
The caretaker Government has announced a partial budget for the fiscal year 2012-13 amounting to NRs 161.02 billion, which is just the one-third of the total estimated budget for the new fiscal year that began on July 16.Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun announced the budget through an ordinance amid a programme at the National Planning Commission.
The Government announced the budget only for four months as the Opposition parties, mainly the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have been saying that caretaker government should not be allowed to present full budget. They had also submitted a memorandum to President Ram Baran Yadav asking him to reject the government's bid to bring a full budget through ordinance.
While announcing the new budget, Pun claimed the economic growth in the current fiscal year was the highest in three years. He assured that the government would continue big projects in Nepal despite the announcement of partial budget.
Source: ekantipur.com, nepalnews.com, July 16-17, 2012.
Govt 'no' to Supreme Court
The Government has refused to comply with the Supreme Court's order in the Non- Reconciliation Order (NRO) judgment implementation case. According to officials, the Prime Minister was not authorised to reopen the graft cases against the President without the advice of the federal Cabinet.
However the Supreme Court has directed the Prime Minister to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The Government has stated that the Supreme Court's order was in utter disregard to the Constitution.
Source: The News International, July 25, 2012.
Fierce protests in Punjab
There were protests in all major cities across Punjab with demonstrators taking to the streets to voice their frustrations at prolonged power outages. Angry marchers called for the federal Government to stop treating Punjab unfairly and demanded that the energy shortfall be addressed on a priority basis.
After negotiating with the police officials, they agreed to halt their protest while delivering an ultimatum to the federal Minister for Water and Power to end the prolonged load-shedding for the month of Ramzan.
Source: The News International, July 24, 2012.
Eight killed in Bajaur market blast
At least, eight persons were killed and 22 injured as a result of a blast in the Pashat market of Salarzai area in Bajaur agency. The blast destroyed two vehicles and four shops.
According to officials, among those killed were two children and three of the injured were reported to be in critical condition. No group has yet claimed the responsibility for the blast. The Salarzai is a pro-Government tribe and has been on the hit list of militants for a long time.
Source: The Express Tribune, July 26, 2012.
Security ties with France
The French Government has reiterated its willingness to help Pakistan strengthen its security infrastructure in order to tackle internal threats from terrorist groups. The issue was discussed during a meeting between French Secretary General Defence and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani in Paris.
The French side also agreed to help and support Pakistan in building the capacity of its Law Enforcement Agencies. The meeting was held in the context of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's visit to France last year when both the countries signed three joint declarations.
Source: Dawn, July 27, 2012.
Action plan to implement LLRC Report
The Cabinet has approved the National Action Plan for the implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations, External Affairs Minister G.L Peiris announced. The National Action Plan was formulated by a group of eight persons allied with government agencies and ministries and headed by President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga.
The Action plan deconstructs every recommendation in the LLRC report into a series of steps and assigns a key responsible agency, a key performance indicator and time frames for completion. "Every recommendation has one or more steps, and some of the recommendations are overlapping. What we have done is to break it down into its constituent parts and list out implementation strategies," Peiris said. He said the recommendations could be grouped into four areas, such as National policy, the last stages of the war, human rights, and resettlement and development.
Weeratunga defended the delay by Government agencies to implement the LLRC recommendations due to the lack of budget allocations. "Certain agencies have already implemented the short-term recommendations of the report. However the report was released last year after the budget. Therefore there were no resources allocated in government agency budgets for the implementation of these plans," he said. To counter this lack of funds the Treasury had now been informed of the need for separate budget lines for each ministry in the coming year, to implement the recommendations.
One recommendation he elucidated on was 9.9 which calls for disciplinary action to be taken against those involved in misconduct during the last stages of the war. He stated that the first step was to complete on-going disciplinary action according to military statues, which could be done in 12 months. Secondly, to take follow-up action in filing action or issuing a charge sheet, which is set to take 24 months and finally to have the cases filed in court, which will also be done in 24 months. The task force, that began its work in midMay, also calls for a fourth Land Commission in order to deal with the various issues of land ownership.
Source: Daily Mirror, July 27, 2012.
Statute changes, if needed
The government would not hesitate to bring in Constitutional amendments if necessary to implement the LLRC recommendations if they clash with the Constitution, said Cabinet spokesman and Information and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.
He said that 60 per cent of the recommendations (the short and medium-term ones) had already been implemented and that the long term recommendations would be implemented after the legal, constitutional and national security aspects have been assessed. He added that the conclusion of resettlement activities, restoration of civil administration, removal of security forces camps, development of infrastructure, a large number development projects, removal of fishing restrictions, rehabilitation of LTTE suspects and their social integration were some of the recommendations.
Source: Daily Mirror, July 27, 2012.
Hedging deal: CPC loses appeal
Sri Lanka's State-run oil company-Ceylon Petroleum Corp (Ceypetco)- lost an appeal against a London court ruling which ordered it to pay nearly $162 million plus interest for non-payment of dues to Standard Chartered Bank linked to hedging deals, Government officials said.
Last year, Ceypetco appealed against the ruling in favour of Standard Chartered, which went to court after the oil firm refused to make hedging payments to the bank.
"It has been reported that the order is against us," the island-nation's Attorney General Palitha Fernando told Reuters. "First of all we have to see what the order was, then we are looking at (the) possibilities of appealing in the House of Lords."
Ceypetco had refused to make hedging payments to five banks including Standard Chartered, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank. The State oil company, which imported some 26 million barrels at a cost of $2 billion in 2007, needed to hedge its purchases of crude oil and refined products on the international market.
It was exposed to the record oil rally of 2008, when oil hit an all-time high above $147 a barrel for US crude CLc1 in July, before crashing to less than $40 a barrel in December of that year. Standard Chartered argued that Ceypetco had always been aware that a fall in oil prices would have made it liable to make payments to the UK-based bank.
Source: Daily Mirror, July 27, 2012
Basil wants more investments from India
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa has suggested to India to conduct a special Sri Lanka promotion programme with the objective of promoting Sri Lankan products and attracting more Indian investors. Minister Rajapaksa made this proposal when he met India's Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.
In response, Minister Ramesh proposed Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Kochin as ideal sites for the promotion programme and added only the tourism sector had shown a steady improvement after the war and the possibility to develop other sectors was high.
At the outset the two ministers reviewed the progress of the ongoing development projects initiated with the Indian government's financial assistance and agreed that those projects were progressing satisfactorily and on course with the expected time schedule.
The ministers decided to expedite preparatory work for the Sampur coal power project, complete them within the next few months and start construction work in September this year.
Minister Ramesh said economic cooperation between the two countries was now at a peak level. The benefit of this relationship should go to both countries. Therefore it was highly imperative to make necessary adjustments and improvements in bilateral trade and commercial dealings in order to make it a two-way flow.
Minister Ramesh has communicated the interest of some big Indian IT companies to set up an IT park in Sri Lanka with modern and sophisticated facilities. An IT park can serve the regional as well as the international markets, he said. Sri Lanka has many professionals of international standard in different fields, therefore the services of Sri Lankan expertise could be obtained for the IT Park.
Source: Daily Mirror, July 28, 2012
US condemns border-shelling by Pakistan
The US condemned continued shelling by Pakistan on the border Provinces of Kunar and Paktika, ending months of silence and diplomatic neutrality. In the past three months, 1300 rockets have hit the two Provinces which have led to the deaths of eight civilians, besides causing twenty-two injuries.
On July 25, 2012, the US broke the practice of neither 'confirming of denying' the attacks. It rebuked Pakistan, and called for an immediate halt to the shelling. The International Security Assistance Force or ISAF issued a statement which 'condemns the indirect fire attacks from across the Durand Line. We continue to work with the Afghan Ministry of Defence, and the Pakistan government to ensure an end of these attacks'. Separately, Omar Daudzai, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Pakistan met with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to lodge a strong protest against the persistent cross-border shelling. For more than two years, Pakistan has been accused of shelling border regions which has resulted in the killing of civilians, loss of property, and forced migration of thousands of villagers. Pakistan insists that the shelling is often in retaliation to similar attacks mounted by Afghan security forces.
Source: Tolo News, Khaama Press; July 26, 2012
Governor criticises security measures
Mohammad HalimFedae, the Governor of the central Province of Maidan Wardak, has criticised the transition of security from international forces to Afghan units and termed the strategy as 'irrational'. He added that Afghan forces are not sufficiently trained and equipped to perform critical security missions on their own. He also cautioned against further delegation of the counterinsurgency operations to local forces.
During a meeting with senior and police officials, he said, ' unfortunately, the transition process was irresponsible. They say that security is not good in Wardak, Maidan and Logar province but they still want us to get ready for fourth phase of transition'. During the same week, two separate convoys carrying Afghan and US troops came under attack by the Taliban. An Afghan National Army vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb which injured three soldiers. Another convoy was ambushed while travelling between two camps. Besides, heavy clashes took place between security forces and militants in the Jalrez district of the Province.
Source: Khaama Press, July 26, 2012; Tolo News, July 26, 2012
India urged to speed up treaties
India and Bangladesh relationship got a major boost with the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries in Delhi this week. Bangladesh's Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes and his Indian counterpart Ranjan Mathai represented their respective countries at the meeting.
The meeting was a follow-up to the Joint Consultative Commission meeting held in New Delhi in May this year provided had opportunity not only to review the developments in the bilateral relations but also to express concerns. At the meeting, Bangladeshurged India to take steps on an urgent basis to implement the land-boundary agreement and sign the Teesta river water-sharing treaty. While, India urged Bangladesh to provide virtual transit so that it can connect Tripura with Paschimbanga and Chennai with cables and provide new voice and internet service routes.
India and Bangladesh relationship improved in past few years. Meetings between leaders and officials of the two countries have contributed in improving the relationship.
Source: The Daily Star, July 26, 2012
Minister quits over World Bank charges
Controversial Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain, main suspect in the alleged corruption of Padma Bridge, had resigned from the cabinet. Finance minister AMA Muhith claimed that Hossain had to resign from the Cabinet to fulfil World Bank's condition to release $1.2 billion loan committed to the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project.
The World Bank (WB) in June this year laid down four conditions for reviewing its decision of the cancellation of the loan to the bridge projects. The Bank cancelled the loan claiming that it had found 'credible evidence' of corruption conspiracy in the bidding process.
Earlier, the Government showed reluctance in removing Hossain and analyst observers that it was the key reason that led WB to cancel the loan on June 30 making construction of the project uncertain.
The resignation of Hossain has brightened the prospect of WB of reviewing its decision.
Source: The Daily Star, July 25, 2012
Unrest in textile sector upsets exporters
The Government has promised top Western buyers of the country's garments that it will address unrest in the textile sector over soaring living costs. In June, more than 300 major clothing factories were shut down for more than a week as tens of thousands of workers rioted for a 50 percent hike in wages, amid rising rent and food prices. Representatives of 19 global garment buyers including Wal-Mart, H&M, Gap, Carrefour and Marks & Spencer met the labour minister to convey their concerns over the violence.
Readymade garment (RMG) is the major export product of Bangladesh. The country earned $19 billion from export of RMG last year, 80 percent of total national export.
Source: AFP, July 26, 2012
Highest inflation in 10 years
Inflation for the second quarter for the year (April-June) increased by a record 13.53 percent when compared a year ago. This is the highest ever increase in prices since 2003 and was largely because of shortage of rupee, and the weakening of rupee against the dollar.
With the Indian rupee scarce in the economy, prices of goods and services, especially vegetables, cooking oil, fruits, toiletries and construction materials registered a sharp increase, as these goods became scarce. This is also fuelled since by a weak ngultrum against the rupee in the informal exchanges. The other reason for increasing prices is the exchange rate fluctuation between the dollar and the rupee. The rupee continued to decline against the dollar since the end of 2011.
According to the consumer price index, compared to the previous year's same quarter, prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 18.3 percent, alcohol and narcotics by 24 percent, clothing and footwear by 21.1 percent, household maintenance and service by 27 percent, gas and other fuels by 6.9 percent, transportation by 3 percent, and recreation and culture by 13.8 percent. From quarter to quarter, prices increased by 5.8 percent, compared to the previous quarter, the highest increase ever.
Significant increase was recorded in narcotics (domaandpaney), which increased by 71 percent, compared to the same quarter last year. Prices of fruits and vegetables were also up by 23 per cent from the previous quarter (January-March). In the non-food group, clothing went up by 13 percent, rentals by 2.4 percent, and personal care by 13 percent.
The purchasing power of ngultrum was also recorded at 56 chetrum for the second quarter ending June 2012. In other words, Nu 56 fetched the same amount of goods and services in 2003 that Nu 100 fetched today.
Although not comparable to the present increases, because of the changes in the market basket and base year, inflation in 1983 reached 20 percent. At that time, only 71 products were included in the market basket. The highest price rise was recorded in cereals by 29 percent, and which had a weightage of 38 percent in the consumption pattern. In 1992, inflation was 16 percent. In 2003, more products were included in the basket of commodities, taking the number to 363 from 71 commodities. The base year for computing inflation was also changed to 2003.
Source: kuenselonline.com, July 26, 2012.
Tata hydel project next year
The $200 million, 126-MW Dagacchu hydel project which is being developed by India's Tata Power in collaboration with Government of Bhutan is expected to be commissioned by next year.
The private power producer has 26 per cent in the nearly $200 million-project, while 74 per cent is held by the Bhutan government. Electricity generated from the plant would be sold to India.
Sixty per cent of the funding is through debt, while the remaining amount is by way of equity. Manila-headquartered Asian Development Bank (ADB) are among the lenders for the project.
Source: economictimes.indiatimes.com, July 22, 2012
Four parties to register with the EC
With an eye on the 2013 General Elections four emerging political parties are expected to register themselves with the Election Commission. These are the Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party, Druk Chirwang Tshogpa, Druk Me-Ser Tshogpa and Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa.
Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party is planning to apply for the registration with the ECB in the first week of September. The party has about 17 candidates confirmed. Out of the 17 candidates, four of them are women.
Druk Chirwang Tshogpa has decided to stick to the party name. Earlier they called it Druk Democratic Socialist Party. The party has 14 confirmed candidates. Three of them are women. While the Druk Me-Ser Tshogpa has about seven confirmed candidates.
Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa in its press release said that the party has 31 conformed candidates out of 47.
Source: bbs.bt, July 20, 2012.
Pranab, the President
Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, 76, who was declared elected as the 13th President on Sunday, assumed charge after taking oath in the Central Hall of Parliament on Wednesday. The oath was administered by Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia.
The UPA nominee defeated the former Lok Sabha Speaker, P A Sangma, by 3, 97,776 value-votes. While Mukherjee polled 3,095 votes (value 7, 13,763), Sangma got 1483 votes (3, 15,987), under a scheme in which Members of Parliament and State Assemblies are assigned electoral value, based on population figures, to make it more representative.
Source: The Hindu, July 23-25, 2012
UPA standoff ends
The six-day standoff between the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ended today with the latter forcing the Congress leadership to agree to a UPA coordination committee which is set to become the main decision making body of the ruling coalition outside the Cabinet.
Earlier, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday to review the continuing standoff with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), even as the political crisis in Maharashtra escalated.
It took a time to work out a solution as the Congress was understood to be "agreeable" to setting up the 'coordination mechanism' that the NCP sought, which had brightened chances of an end to the current standoff between the allies. The NCP, however, was undecided over whether to follow the same approach towards its partner at both the Centre and in Maharashtra.
Crisis managers in the Congress had tried to keep ally NCP in good humour on Friday, a day after NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel sent their resignations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on issues related to the functioning of the Government and coalition.
While Pawar assured Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi that his party would continue to remain in the UPA and support the government, he met them separately in the last 24 hours and explained why the NCP has decided to pull out of the government.
Source: The Indian Express, July 26, 2012, The Hindu, July 25, 2012, The Asian Age, July 21, 2012,
Allies oppose FDI in retail
As soon as the result of the presidential election was announced on Sunday, the leaders of the Samajwadi Part, the Left parties and the JD (S), who had supported UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee, turned to policy issues and asked the Government not to go ahead with the controversial decision allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail before achieving wide-ranging consensus.
Source: The Asian Age, July 23, 2012.
Army called out in Assam
The riot-torn Kokrajhar district of Assam witnessed sporadic incidents of violence on Thursday even as flag marches were conducted by the Army and additional paramilitary forces deployed.
Earlier, the Army was called out in Assam on Tuesday after the situation in the violence-torn Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri districts deteriorated. The rail link between the State and the rest of the country got snapped and miscreants among Bodos and Muslims torched houses in a large number of villages.
In a serious humanitarian crisis, more than 1, 70,000 people have taken shelter in 121 relief camps. Earlier, unabated violence on Monday forced the Assam government to issue shoot-at-sight orders in Kokrajhar district.
Source: The Hindu, July 25-27, 2012
Monsoon, now below average
It is now official. The Union Government has rolled out a contingency plan of drought-tolerant crop varieties to cope with deficient rain this monsoon season.
Crucial monsoon rains are now expected to be below average, the government said on Monday, turning to contingency plans as rainfall has been about a fifth below normal so far and recent rains have not been enough to ease concerns.
The monsoon lost momentum last week, falling 22 percent short of averages and raising the risk of a drought year in one of the world's leading producers of grains and sugar just as global prices hit record highs and domestic food prices soar.
The Government scaled down the weather office's latest forecast of rains at 96 percent of a 50-year average towards 92 percent of the average -- still avoiding classification as a drought.
"The progress of the monsoon so far has not allayed earlier concerns," the statement from the prime minister's office said. "The intensity and spread of rainfall over the next week or so needs to be watched carefully," it added.
Source: The Hindu, July 27, 2012.
Maruti Suzuki declares lock-out
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd Saturday declared a lock-out at its Manesar factory in northern India until local authorities complete their probe into a riot by some of its workers that killed a senior official earlier this week.
The company said that reopening the violence-hit factory in the northern Haryana state could jeopardise the security and risk lives of its employees until the workers guilty of instigating a mob that set parts of the plant on fire are identified.
"We can't further risk the lives of our employees and workers," R.C. Bhargava, chairman of India's largest car maker by sales, told reporters at a press conference.
Source: www.wsj.com, July 21, 2012.
Subsidies, motivated: President
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has said that politically-motivated expenses made by the State for the sake of temporary gains, have resulted in alarmingly high levels of State expenditure. He made this observation at the first Independence Day celebrations of his presidency, on July 26.
The President stressed the importance of increasing income and reducing expenditures, and called upon the Maldivian people for their cooperation in these efforts."We have to make changes to the tax system. The subsidies provided by the State for the benefit of Maldivian citizens, end up also benefitting foreign nationals and tourists. The government income from these areas should be higher than what it is today," he said.
Waheed noted that the country was at a dangerous cross-road when he became President on 7 February 2012; however, the constitution of a unity government inclusive of different political ideologies has resulted in reasonable improvements in the country's situation over the past five months. "We are caught up in a political storm, hoping for a calm destination where people's fundamental needs are better fulfilled," the President said.
Source: SunOnline, July 27, 2012.
Three months to comply with Indian standards
The Indian Government has made the decision to allow a period of three months from July 26, for Maldivian cargo vessels to comply with their new standards.Transport Minister Ahmed Shamheed told Sun Online last night that Maldivian vessels will be allowed entry to Indian ports in the meantime.
He said that during this time, the Maldivian Government will make efforts to obtain India's approval for the local Transport Authority's classification certificate.
Under the new regulation, vessels which weigh over 300 tons and are more than 25 years old should have International Authority of Classification certificate, or a classification certificate approved by the Indian authorities. They must also have P&I insurance.
Maldives imports large quantities of basic commodities such as dhal, onion, potato, garlic, egg, etc. from India. Demand for imported commodities rise every Ramadan, which also pulls up prices.
Source: SunOnline, July 26, 2012.
Taliban threat in Myanmar
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called upon the Myanmarese Government to end the sectarian violence targeting the Rohingya Muslims in western Arakan State in the nation. A letter to this effect was send by the Secretary-General of the OIC to the President Thein Sein.
On the other hand, the Pakistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) released an official statement calling on the Pakistani Government to cut its relations with Myanmar and shut down the Myanmar Embassy in Islamabad.
The TTP has also threatened the Government to that it will not only attack Myanmar's interests anywhere but will also attack the Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban said such acts would be reprisals for alleged State-sponsored murders of Muslim Rohingyas over the past two months.
Source: irrawaddy.org, July 26 and 27 2012; mizzima.com, July 27, 2012.
Suu Kyi focuses on minorities
National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San SuuKyi has called for laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities in her first parliamentary address.
'To become a truly democratic union with a spirit of the union, equal rights and mutual respect, I urge all members of parliament to discuss the enactment of the laws needed to protect equal rights of ethnicities,' she said.
Source: straitstimes.com, July 26, 2012.
UN expert to study HR issues
The UN expert on human rights is to visit the country at the invitation of the Government. Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana will tour the country from July 30 to August 4.
In a statement released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Mr Quintana spoke of Myanmar's 'ongoing human rights challenges, including ... recent violence in Rakhine state, as well as continuing armed conflict, particularly in Kachin state'.
Mr Quintana is to meet government officials, politicians, the National Human Rights Commission and civil society in Naypyitaw and Yangon, according to the Geneva-based agency. He also requested visits to Rakhine state and Kachin state and will report his findings to the UN's Human Rights Council, the OHCHR said.
Source: straitstimes.com, July 25, 2012.
Laos, venue for pace talks
The government's peace-negotiating delegation has selected Laos as a venue for the next round of ceasefire talks with ethnic Kachin rebels. According to sources at the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the government delegation responded to the Kachins' proposal that future peace talks be held in a third country other than China or Thailand by choosing Laos.
"It seems Laos is a more comfortable venue for them to have a meeting with us," said a KIO official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The previous Government negotiators, led by AungThaung, met with KIO officials in the Chinese border town of Ruili.
Source: irrawaddy.org, July 27, 2012.
Weak currency helps investments
The kyat, which is weakening at the fastest pace among Asian currencies, is making the nation look more attractive to companies seeking to shift production.
The currency dropped 1.7 percent in the past month to about 871 per dollar, more than other exchange rates in the region, reducing labour costs in a country where manufacturers can employ six workers for the price of one in Guangzhou,China.
According to MaungMaung Lay, Vice-President of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry believes that exporters in the labour-intensive garment industry wish the currency to be weak, around 900and the government is Government is trying their level best to make that happen.
Source: bloomberg.com, July 26, 2012.
Take-over of Singapore company
Myanmar business group Max Myanmar has announced a S$70 million proposed reverse takeover of Singapore-listed Aussino Group's bed linen portfolio.
An agreement between the two states that the Aussino group will acquire the entire issued share capital of Max Strategic Investments (MSI), an investment holding company incorporated in Singapore, from Max Myanmar Group (MMG).
After the acquisition, MSI plans to operate petrol kiosks by buying over Max Myanmar's energy business unit. Max Myanmar currently operates 21 petrol kiosks across various cities in Myanmar, including Naypyidaw, Yangon and Mandalay. In exchange, Aussino will issue about 219 million new consolidated shares to MMG at 32 Singapore cents each.
Aussino says the deal is aimed at tapping into the high growth potential of the energy sector in Myanmar.
Source: channelnewsasia.com, July 25, 2012.
Afghanistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Ankit Arvind
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;