Vol. V Issue. 36
Afghanistan:'Green on Blue' killings cause of worry for US
07 September 2012
The recent US decision to suspend training of Afghan local police has underlined the growing worries in Washington over the incidents of Afghan soldiers killing American troops in 2012. In what is being termed as 'Green on Blue' attacks, 45 NATO personnel have been killed since January, 12 in August alone. Toll from these 'insider-attacks' accounts for one-in-seven of all NATO deaths thus far in the year.
The US Special Forces which were training the newly-created Afghan village militia has since suspended their training schedule and now wants the 16,000-strong force to be screened to identify the 'bad apples', meaning those influenced by the Taliban groups. A eight-step vetting process has been put in place for recruits and NATO training requirements have been suitably modified.
The spike in the killings of NATO troops by Afghan soldiers as the US begins draw down of its combat troops from the battle field has been a source of concern for the American strategists who are relying on a smoother security transition in the next year or so to claim 'victory' before exiting. An integral part of the exit or draw-down plan has been to transfer the responsibility of securing and safe-guarding provinces to the Afghan policemen and military.
There is therefore a greater thrust on building capacities among the Afghans to protect their people and property as the foreign forces leave the country. US and other allies have made heavy investments, both in terms of monetary and manpower, to build and strengthen various elements of Afghan security forces, principally Afghan Local Police, Afghan National Army and Afghan Village Militia.
The NATO effort to build the Afghan security forces literally from a scratch has been fraught with critical problems from the beginning itself, primarily due to the over-ambitious nature of the project, reluctance on the part of donors for a long-term financial commitment and recruitment problems. Poor quality of recruits, large number of AWOLs and infiltration and influence of the Taliban have been dogging the Western project to create a security infrastructure in Afghanistan. The 'insider- attacks' have added to the problems, dampening the process of a 'honourable exit' of US troops by 2014.
What has magnified the worries for the US is the evidence that many of these attacks were carried out by the Afghan Local Police trained by the US Special Forces which have been quite successful in containing the Taliban and other allied groups in the rural areas. Their success had obviously attracted the Taliban attention and there have been persistent attempts to infiltrate the force. The killings show the Taliban's success in turning at least some of the US-trained soldiers to their cause.
Taliban chief Mullah Omar, in a statement released on Aug. 16, claimed that his men had "cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year" .He asked Government officials and security personnel to defect and join the Taliban as a matter of religious duty.
A report commissioned by the US Army in May 2011 titled ''A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility-A Red Team Study of Mutual Perceptions of Afghan National Security Force Personnel and US Soldiers in Understanding and Mitigating the Phenomena of ANSF-committed Fratricide-Murders'' highlighted some of the serious issues of conduct and perception. These included the US violating the privacy of women, strip-searching ANSF personnel at checkpoints, killing of civilians, urinating in public, killing animals and being abusive to ANSF personnel in general. The US soldiers blamed their Afghan counterparts for drug use, incompetence, AWOL, unsafe weapon handling, corruption, complicity with militant groups, bad morale, lack of hygiene, killing of dogs and massive thievery.
Whatever may be the reason, the killings have forced the US to designate 'guardian angels' in each unit who are tasked to provide security cover to the trainers. In mid-August, the number of such guardian angles was raised. The killings have also spurred NATO to expand its counter-intelligence operations in Afghanistan at the battalion level. ISAF Commander John Allen has directed all US and NATO personnel to carry loaded weapon at all times. Afghan authorities in turn have dismissed ''hundreds of soldiers'' found to be 'Talibanised'. A move is underway to probe the antecedents of at least 75 per cent of the force and enroll every one in the force in a biometric database.
A further increase in the Green on Blue attacks might boost the morale of the Taliban and other militants fighting the NATO forces and complicate the withdrawal plan 2014.
(The writer is a Vice-President at Observer Research Foundation)
Bangladesh: International terror networks threaten peace
Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee
Despite the Government's efforts to eradicate militancy from Bangladesh, the international terror networks are active in Bangladesh. The arrest of the operative of Pakistan based militant organisation Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM) from capital Dhaka in August have raised an alarm in the security agencies of the country. Existence of such terror group not only threatens stability of Bangladesh, a country working to establish secular values, but also peace in the region.
Security agencies of Bangladesh arrested Moulana Mohammad Yunus, the local coordinator of JeM. Yunus had the mandate to recruit Rohingyas from Bangladesh for the militant organisation. The existence of the JeM network was unearthed after a group of Rohingyas were arrested from Hazarat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, trying to leave that country with forged passports. It was also revealed that financial support for the group's activities in Bangladesh came from Pakistan.
Discovery of JeM network in Bangladesh is important at a time when various international religious militant organisations are flagging recent incidents of violence between Rohingyas and ethnic Buddhist Rakhines in Myanmar to garner support for jihad globally. Rohingyas are Muslim ethnic group residing in the Rakhine state in Myanmar neighbouring Bangladesh. The Government of Myanmar does not recognise Rohingyas as its citizens. Pakistan based organisation Tehrik-e-Taliban has threatened the Myanmar Government of dire consequences unless it takes action against the perpetrators of violence committed on the Muslims. Some of the Pakistani media reports have also claimed that the leaders of Jamaatud Dawa, the frontal organisation of dreaded banned militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), have made a visit to the affected areas in the Myanmar and Bangladesh border.
These developments are of special significance to Bangladesh as large numbers of Rohingyas are living in Bangladesh as refugees for decades. Rohingyas in Bangladesh has been easy recruits for the Jihadi groups for a long term. Rohingya Solidarity Organisation, an armed group of the Rohingyas active in Bangladesh, has been known for having close linkages with international terror organisations. It is feared that Rohingyas with help from international terror groups might create disturbances inside Bangladesh as the country is presently pursuing a policy of push back and is preventing further entry of Rohingyas.
Fear is also expressed over the possibility of the international communities in association with local groups trying to create disturbance in the country. The Government has acted strongly against both domestic and international terror organisations. And the Government's counter terror drives have greatly disturbed the network of the terror organisations, who for a long time enjoyed safe heaven in the country and was utilised this to carry out terror activities in India.
International terror networks had been active in Bangladesh for a long time. India had been repeatedly raising this issue with Bangladesh, but the previous Governments denied their existence. However, now there is a change in the Government's attitude to terrorism. It has taken many steps to counter terror, including the execution of leaders of the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a domestic terror group, and arresting of many top leaders of various militant groups, including members of the international organisations who had been operating in the country. To prevent terror financing, it enacted laws and upgraded banking system. It also undertook various social initiatives, including reforming the educational system of the country, to create awareness to fight terror. The government also signed agreements with countries to fight terror. All these moves were widely appreciated.
However, there is still apprehension that terror organisations might try to derail the security cooperation between India and Bangladesh which has been working successfully for some years now. It was Bangladesh's help that resulted in the arrest of several leaders of various insurgent groups of north-eastern states who were hiding in Bangladesh. The reason for such apprehension is because of the discovery that Harkatul-Jihad Bangladesh was involved in sending terror SMSes to north-eastern people living in different cities across India in the aftermath of the recent ethnic riots in Assam between tribal Bodos and migrant Bengali Muslims.
The resurgence of such international network in the country has increased the need for the international community to strengthen its counter terror initiatives. Strengthening international cooperation is the only means to fight international terrorism.
(The author is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)
Ershad not for polls under party Govt
HM Ershad, chairman of Jatiya Party, an influential ally of Awami League Government, this week claimed that the general elections cannot be free and fair with parliament ifl not dissolved. Ershad expressed apprehension that if the national election was held before dissolution of the House, lawmakers would influence the election results of their constituencies. He called upon the Government to resolve the conflicts centring the constitution's 15th Amendment that provides for parliamentary polls under the incumbent Government.
The Government introduced the 15th Amendment to the constitution last year, scrapping the caretaker Government system. The main opposition BNP and allies have since been demanding restoration of the system to oversee the parliamentary polls.
Source: The Daily Star, September 4, 2012
Hotspot of investment
Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Home Affairs Zulkifli Masagos this week said that Bangladesh is gradually becoming a preferred destination for Southeast Asian investors due to cost competitiveness and a suitable geographical location.
Masagos opined that the world was defeated by the growth of China for more than half a decade. But the world today has decided 'China plus one' strategy. Everyone is now looking beyond China for investment due to the rising production cost there, and Bangladesh could be such a place, he added. Masagos made these observations during his visit to Bangladesh this week.
Source: The Daily Star, September 5, 2012
60,000 resettled in US
The US and the International Organisation for Migration of Bhutanese refugees from Nepal has so far resettled 60,000 refugees. The 60,000th refugee was recently deported from Nepal to the US on September 4. The US, in coordination with the International Organisation for Migration, began resettling Bhutanese refugees residing in eastern Nepal in 2007. Besides the 60,000 refugees in the US, some 11,000 have already been settled in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand and the UK as part of the third country resettlement programme initiated in 2007 in association with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Over 100,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees have been residing in various camps of eastern Nepal since early 1990s after the Bhutan Government introduced the "One Nation One People"policy to resurrect the Bhutanese cultural identity.
Source: deccanherald.com, September 6, 2012
UN award for Govt agency
For empowering more than 160,000 people to read and write in the last two decades, Bhutan's Non-Formal Education has bagged the UNESCO Confucius Prize for literacy. The prize was awarded at UNESCO headquarters in Paris today as a part of the International Literacy Day celebrations along with a cash prize of US $ 20,000
Bhutan shared this award with Indonesia and Rwanda. The Non-Formal Education programme first began in 1992 with five centers and 300 learners. Today, Bhutan has 953 centres across the country with the enrollment of about 13,000 learners.
Source: bbs.bt, September 6, 2012
Another step towards WTO
Bhutan has been making efforts to gear itself to become a member of the World Trade Organisation. The nation had applied for its membership in 1999 and was granted an observer status in 2000. Since then, Bhutan has made progress in bilateral and international negotiations and is a few steps away from becoming a WTO member.
Now a training session on 'Capacity building on International Trade' is on for the representatives from various Government departments and agencies involved in trade or trade related issues.
Source: bbs.bt, August 29, 2012
'Wait for next polls, allow us to rule,' PM tells BJP
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday came down strongly on the BJP for obstructing Parliament over the coal blocks allotment controversy, saying it was a "total negation of democratic politics"to now allow the party with a majority to function.
The stance of the main Opposition party is a "diversionary tactics"to keep the Government in a state of crisis, the Prime Minister said.
Ahead of the last week's session, which saw Parliament caught in the no-work melee continuing from the previous one, the BJP put the blame on the ruling establishment for the continuing logjam in the House, underlining that while it had made an offer to break the impasse, the Government had not come forward to accept the same.
"The NDA has offered to resolve the deadlock if all the allotments made were cancelled and the process whereby the screening committee decided these allocations were subjected to a judicial probe", NDA acting chairman, L K Advani, wrote on his blog. "The Government is not yet prepared for this."
Source: The Indian Express, September 1, 3, 2012
Economic growth languishes
Indian economic growth languished near its slowest in three years in the quarter that ended in June but was slightly better than expected, signaling the worst may be over for Asia's third largest economy and dashing investor hopes of an early rate cut.
India's quarterly GDP grew 5.5 percent, driven by a rebound in construction and financial services, provisional Government data showed on Friday, just above the 5.3 percent posted in the three months ended in March and slightly higher than economists had forecast in a Reuters poll.
Source: www.reuters.com, August 31, 2012
China has never deployed a single soldier in PoK: Liang
The People's Liberation Army has "never deployed a single soldier"in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie has told The Hindu, describing reports of PLA's presence in the region as "totally groundless". At the end of Guanglie's visit, China and India unveiled plans to resume joint military exercises, a gesture aimed at strengthening defence ties but that experts say will do little to resolve long-standing territorial disputes.
In a statement issued after Guanglie met with his Indian counterpart A K Antony, the two sides said joint military exercises would resume "at the earliest". The announcement was made after Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony met his Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie, in New Delhi. This is the first time the two countries have agreed to hold joint military exercises since 2008.
Source: The Hindu, September 3, 2012, www.wsj.com, September 5, 2012
US simplifies visa procedure
The US today announced the introduction of a new visa processing system throughout India to further standardise procedures and simplify fee payment and appointment scheduling while Australia decided to put in place a new arrangement that will provide Indian parents wishing to visit their children settled down under the option of staying there for a longer period.
Source: The Tribune, September 6, 2012
Sugar exports to Iran
India has sealed deals to export 176,000 tonnes of sugar to sanctions-hit Iran so far this year and a vessel with 32,000 tonnes of that, the last consignment, is being loaded at a southern port, trade sources said on Thursday.
"Of the 176,000 tonnes, about 146,000 tonnes have already been moved out of the country. Most of these deals have been through Dubai-based traders," one of the sources said.
Source: www.reuters.com, September 6, 2012
US top diplomat expected
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake is scheduled to visit Maldives on Wednesday, and meet with President Mohammed Waheed and former President Mohamed Nasheed.
"He will express the US support for all Maldivian parties to chart a way forward that respects Maldivian democratic institutions, the rule of law and the will of the Maldivian people," a statement issued by the US State Department read.
On his one-day visit, the former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives will also hold a round-table with civil society leaders and address a news conference at the American Centre in Male.
Blake also visited the Maldives in late February to help resolve the political tensions that sparked following President Nasheed's resignation. He is part of a five-day tour of some South Asian countries, including Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Source: Haveeru Online, September 8, 2012
Threat to quit C'wealth
The State Minister of Foreign Affairs and daughter of former President of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Dunya Maumoon, has said the Maldives would likely leave the Commonwealth if not removed from the formal agenda of the Commonwealth's human rights and democracy arm.
Addressing a news conference, Dunya said, "We call on all the member countries of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to remove us from the agenda at the earliest possible opportunity. We do not altogether deserve to have been put on this agenda".
Dunya stated that following the release of the report by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), many foreign countries had complimented the commission's work. While she expressed concerns that "reactions from two countries are somewhat worrying", she declined to name either country.
"There may not yet be an official decision by the President himself, or by any other high-level Government official. We do not want to highlight this just yet. But from what I have heard, and the information I have received, there are a lot of people who no longer want Maldives to remain a Commonwealth members."
Dunya's comments were echoed by President Waheed's Political Advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed."The CMAG seems in no hurry to remove the country from its agenda. This is a continuing infringement on our sovereignty and is tantamount to holding us hostage,"Saeed wrote, in an article for the local newspaper Haveeru."Since the publication of the CoNI report there has been absolutely no justification for keeping the Maldives on CMAG agenda -not even for a single day,"he said.
"In view of this I would now argue that if CMAG does not remove the Maldives from its agenda in its next teleconference on 11thof this month, we should end our relationship with the Commonwealth and look to other relationships that reflect modern realities of the world,"Saeed said.
For former President Mohammed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic party, former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem accused the Government of trying to unduly influence international organisations. Talking to Miadhu Daily, former Foreign Minister Naseem said that the Government can never achieve this."The Government cannot challenge organisations like CMAG. And the people won't accept this either,"he said.
Source: Minivan News, September 5, 2012, Miadhu, September 6, 2012
Govt would consider 'clemency' for Nasheed
The Government has said it will have no involvement in the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, adding it would consider the possibility of offering clemency should he eventually be found guilty.
Nasheed, who has started his campaign for re-election, has critcised the trial over his role in the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed earlier this year to be expedited. The former President has alleged that the trial against him is politically motivated to prevent him from contesting in presidential elections scheduled for 2013.
President's Office Media Secretary Masood Imad claimed that the Government was committed to its pledge of not interfering in the Maldives judicial system and played down fears of the trial being politicised.
"We would regret any parties or international organisations trying to politicise this trial,"he said. "However, after a judgment on the case has been given, if there is an opportunity to do so, I'm sure President Waheed would consider the possibility of clemency (for former President Nasheed)."
The comments came after Department of Judicial Administration Spokesperson Latheefa Qasim confirmed that the decision had been taken to appoint three judges for the trial against President Nasheed, then Defence Miniser Tholath Ibrahim and three senior army officials of the time.A week earlier, the High Court held that the suburban Hulhumale Magistrate Court
Source: Minivan News, September 6, 2012
PIC for action against 'rogue police'
The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has published a summary of one of its three reports concerning the February 2012 events on their website.Of the three separate reports the PIC has said it will release, the one published (in Dhivehi language)covers the events the investigation carried out to see if the police had committed any unlawful acts during the events of February 6 and 7, at the time then President Mohammed Nasheed quit office.
The report highlights nine different incidents. In five of these, the report states that the commission will further investigate the role of the police and take necessary legal action. Regarding the matter of police withdrawing from and returning to the Artificial Beach on the night of February 6, the report states that the order to retreat was given by then President Mohamed Nasheed. It goes on to say that in refusing to obey this command, the police in the area had been acting in accordance with provisions in the Constitution and the police act, while concluding that then Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh, Deputy Commissioner of Police Ismail Atheef, Chief Superintendent of Police Farhad Fikry, Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed, Superintendent Ibrahim Adnan Anees and Superintendent Ahmed AbduRahman had acted against these laws, namely Article 244(a) of the Constitution, Article 6 (8) of the Police Actand the official police oath.
The report states that the commission believes that police occupying Republican Square had made valid and justifiable demands. It details these demands to have been for the Commissioner of Police to meet them, agree to not give them any more unlawful commands, and to provide a guarantee that no action would be taken against the officers for the events of that night.
While highlighting that police themselves have a constitutional right to go on strike, the report notes that it was wrong for them to have remained in the Republican Square after civilians joined the area and the gathering turned into a politically-motivated one. The report notes that it was some among these citizens who called for the resignation of then President Mohamed Nasheed.
With reference to the damage caused by officers to the police headquarters, the report says: "With reference to the videos and accounts reviewed by the commission, we have found that some among the police officers gathered in the Republican Square on February 7 entered the [police HQ] Shaheed Hussain Adam Building, damaged property, broken the panes of a window, took down the police flag, threatened senior officers and committed violent acts against them. These are disciplinary and criminal offences which should not have been seen from police officers."
It furthermore states that these will be treated as separate offences and legal action would be taken against those involved. The PIC report states that supporters of MDP and other civilians had marched into the area where the police were chanting their mission statement. The report claims that this led to clashes in which persons from both sides sustained injuries. It notes that the MDP supporters were allowed to approach the police because MNDF officials who were tasked with cordoning off the area had retreated.
Source: Minivan News, September 6, 2012
India briefed on GMR deal
The Government of Maldives has brought to the attention of Indian Government, the problems associated with its agreement with GMR for the management of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA). Discussions took place during the visit to India by Maldives Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed and Trade Minister Ahmed Mohamed, when they met India's Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh and Shipping Minister, G K Vasan.
Transport Minister Ahmed Shamheed said in Male later that he informed the Indian Government that the does not facilitate the development of the airport according to the Government's plans. Specific issues discussed include the fact that the agreement does not mention the construction of a new runway, and the problem of Airport Development Charge (ADC).
"The Civil Aviation Minister talked about this issue in detail, while we were on the subject of foreign investments. Until now, the Indian Government had been aware only that the Maldivian Government has an agreement with GMR. So we took the opportunity to explain the problems associated with this agreement. It was a good chance to inform them of this,"he said. Shamheed said that he assured the Indian Government that Maldives will not treat foreign investors unjustly.
The two Ministers visited India to seek a solution to the problems faced by Maldivian vessels entering Indian harbours, due to recent changes made to Indian regulations. Discussions also took place on the commencement of Maldivian's flights to India.
Meanwhile, GMR has notified Villa Air, owned by Jumhooree Party founder Gasim Ibrahim of the termination of its credit facility, subsequent to piled-up unpaid bills for its Flyme Services.A letter sent on 27 August to Villa Air by GMR's Credit Control Manager Hawwa Fajwa states that unless the bills are paid, the credit facility which commenced on 28 August for oil, ground handling, and passenger service fees, would be terminated.
Source: SunOnline, September 7, 2012
Constitutional court judges impeached
Parliament on September 4, 2012 ousted nine constitutional court judges in the culmination of a long-running standoff that observers say exposed growing political rivalry within the regime.
Three-quarters of Lower House law-makers voted to impeach the members of the Constitutional Tribunal, whose duties include interpreting provisions under a controversial 2008 charter drawn up by the former junta, and vetting new laws to ensure they conform with the text. The Upper House voted for the impeachment last month.
The row erupted after the court, in response to a request by President Thein Sein to study the issue, passed an order in February which limited the power of parliamentary committees and commissions to summon ministers for questioning. It was seen as the country's first major political crisis since the end of direct military rule which pitted the Government against the parliament.
The impeachment was supported by all political parties, including the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) as well as Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
Source: straitstimes.com, September 6, 2012,hindustantimes.com and irrawaddy.org, September 7, 2012
KNU signs Code of Conduct
The Karen National Union (KNU) and Government peace negotiators have signed the second draft of a troop "code of conduct"after two-day peace talks concluded in the Karen State capital Pa-an September 4, 2012.
The code of conduct will now be submitted to President Thein Sein for approval. It will be reviewed by his office and then finalized by the KNU and Naypyidaw peace delegation in the next round of negotiations, she added.
The Government delegation also agreed in principle for the repositioning of its frontline troops. However, the military relocation sites proposed by the ethnic rebels first have to be reviewed by Vice-Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The KNU and Naypyidaw representatives agreed to hold further talks over the Government's troop relocation and withdrawal from areas of Karen State populated by Karen communities, said peace broker Hla Maung Shwe, who was at the Pa-an meeting as part of the Government delegation.
Source: irrawaddy.org, September 5, 2012
Anti-Rohingya march by monks
Hundreds of monks took out a march on the streets of Mandalay in support President Thein Sein's suggestion that Muslim Rohingya be deported or held in camps. This is the biggest rally in the nation since the end of junta rule.
The monk who led the march, Wirathu claims that as many as 5,000 monks had joined the procession, with another several thousand people taking to the streets to watch.
Source: straitstimes.com, September 3, 2012
End to 'child soldiers'
According to the state media, army has discharged child soldiers after the country agreed with the United Nations (UN) to curb the use of underage recruits. Forty-two minors were allowed to resign from the armed forces and were handed over to their parents.
There are believed to be thousands of under-18 in Myanmar's state army and ethnic armed groups, although the exact figure is unknown. In June, Myanmar signed an agreement with the UN pledging to prevent the use of child soldiers and allow access to military units to check for underage recruits.
The agreement was part of efforts by Myanmar's reformist Government to shed its international pariah image following the end of decades of military rule last year.
At the same time the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said that it is working with the Government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in arresting the practice of underage solders.
Source: straitstimes.com, September 4, 2012; irrawaddy.org, September 5, 2012 2012
VP meets PLA deputy chief
Vice-President U Nyan Tun met with visiting Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese Peopl's Liberation Army (PLA) General Ma Xiaotian in Nay Pyi Taw on September 6. The visiting militant chief also met with the Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's Defense Services Vice-Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing.
Ma is visiting the nation as apart of a goodwill visit to Myanmar at the invitation of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's Defense Services and Commander-in- Chief of the Army, Gen Soe Win.
Source: english.peopledaily.com.cnhttp://english.peopledaily.com.cn/, September 7, 2012
French firm for oil explorations
French oil and gas giant Total has acquired a 40 per cent stake in an exploration field off the coast of Myanmar. This is the company's first investment in the country since sanctions were eased.
Total has been in Myanmar since 1992 -- before international sanctions against the military junta were ratcheted up -- and operates the offshore Yadana gas field that fuels power plants in Thailand.
In its first investment in Myanmar since 1998, it bought for an undisclosed sum a 40 per cent stake in Block M-11 in the Martaban basin from Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production, which remains the operator.
Source: straitstimes.com, September 3, 2012
Maoist faction serves ultimatum
The Mohan Vaidya 'Kiran'-led Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, which split from the parent party in June, has threatened to launch a struggle -and armed revolt 'if necessary' -if their demands are not met. It is preparing to present a 70-point demand to the present Maoist caretaker Government.
The party has inserted more clauses directly related to India into the political advisory that include scrapping of the 1950 Nepal-India Treaty of Peace and Friendship; the 1965 bilateral security pact; the Mahakali treaty; the Small Development Projects supported by Government of India; the Upper Karnali and Arun-3 hydropower contracts given to Indian companies and cancellation of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.
The other demands are annulment of the airport management handover bid to an Indian firm, controlling the open border with India and removing the provision of direct Indian assistance. The revised memo also calls an end to the presence of American soldiers in Nepal in the name of training and controlling natural disasters. In the memorandum, the party has also sought strict measures to control anti-Chinese activities in the country.
Source: ekantipur.com.com, The Hindu, September 3-5, 2012
Chinese police deport Tibetans
Chinese border police have deported to Nepal two groups of Tibetans who had sought to re-enter Tibet in hopes of reuniting with their families, according to Nepali and Tibetan news sources.
One group of 11 men were forced over the border to Nepal in August 29, while a second group of four men and a woman was sent back on August 23. All had been held by Chinese police at a detention centre in Shigatse, Tibet, after being detained at border crossings at Dram, Nangpa La, and Nyalam.
Source: Radio Free Asia, September 1, 2012
UN mission faces vacuum
With the resignation of Gyan Chandra Acharya as the Permanent Representative of Nepal to the UN, the most challenging diplomatic mission is expected to be headless for an unspecified period.
It is not sure when Acharya's successor will be picked as there is no Parliament, and hence no parliamentary hearing is possible, a constitutionally mandatory provision to appoint someone to the diplomatic post.
The Cabinet accepted the resignation of Acharya who was last week appointed as the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Islands Developing States by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Though the Government is planning to address the pressing issues through ordinances, it is yet to take a final decision to this effect in the wake of President Ram Baran Yadav's recent move to reject two election related ordinances.
Besides the UN mission, Nepali Embassy in India is headless for over 18 months whereas ambassadors to Malaysia and Thailand are also yet to be appointed.
Source: thehimalayantimes.com, September 1, 2012
US remove Maoists from terror list
The US Government has revoked the designation of the United CPN (Maoist) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity and removed it from the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL).
The decision came two days before the new US envoy Peter W. Bodde, is arriving in Kathmandu. US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert O Blake, and a delegation of US Peace Corps are also scheduled to visit Nepal later next week.
The Maoist party was designated a global terrorist entity by the US in 2003 and added to the TEL the next year following the murder of two security guards serving at the US embassy in Kathmandu and minor bomb explosions by the Maoist cadres at the US Information Center in Kathmandu.
Source: myrepublica.com, September 7, 2012
Indian PM likely to meet Sri Lankan President
In their first substantive interaction after India's contentious vote at the UN Human Rights Council censuring Sri Lanka, PM Manmohan Singh and President Mahinda Rajapaksa are likely to meet during the latter's 'private visit' to India starting September 20.
Government sources confirmed that India has conveyed Singh's inclination to have a meeting with Rajapaksa, who has not hidden his displeasure over India's vote in favour of the US-sponsored resolution, even as they suggested that the feelers for such a meeting first came from the Lankan side.
The last time the two leaders met was on the side-lines of the Rio+20 summit in June but, as the president told TOI during the course of an exclusive interview last month, they barely had time to dwell on any bilateral issue. Rajapaksa is expected to lay the foundation stone for a Buddhist university at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh on September 21 in what Lankan authorities have described as a private visit.
Sri Lankan Government sources confirmed that the president will be in Delhi on September 20 but refused to reveal anything more. Interestingly, Indian officials were at pains to explain that they responded by communicating the Government's desire for a meeting between the two leaders only after some "positive indications" from the island nation for such a meeting.
Rajapaksa, who called upon India to have a relook at its policies in the region in an interview to TOI recently, will be at Sanchi also at the invitation of the Madhya Pradesh Government which is helping build the university. While the Indian Government has been in rapprochement mode after the UNHRC vote, reflected in the decision to allow the Kapilavastu relics to travel to Sri Lanka last month, authorities here were also concerned that a visit at the invitation of a state Government couldn't strictly be a private trip.
The meeting will come against the backdrop of latest strife over the issue of alleged attacks on Indian fishermen by the Lankan navy and almost retaliatory attacks in Tamil Nadu on Lankan pilgrims, forcing Sri Lanka to issue a travel advisory asking its citizens not to travel to the state. India was cautious in its response but assured that it will continue to work for the safely of all Lankan visitors.
Tamil Nadu leaders, including Chief Minister Jayalalitha, have repeatedly appealed to the Centre to stop "attacks'' on Indian fishermen by Lankan navy. Rajapaksa had told TOI though that the Sri Lankan law had to be upheld in dealing with fishermen who strayed into its waters and cited the development in which Lankan Navy had even detained some Chinese fishermen.
It remains to be seen how Tamil parties react to discussions underway between the two countries to facilitate the meeting between Singh and Rajapaksa. Talking about the Sanchi visit, one of the UPA constituents in the state, VCK, recently urged the Government to not allow Rajapaksa to set foot in the country.
Source: Daily Mirror Online, September 5, 2012
Karunanidhi withdraws opposition to Rajapaksa's MP visit
DMK president M Karunanidhi on Wednesday virtually withdrew his party's opposition to Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse's visit to Madhya Pradesh on September 21 to lay the foundation for a Centre for Buddhist Studies in Sanchi.
In a long statement, the DMK chief dwelt on the attack against Lankan pilgrims and said the fundamental distinction between "imparting training to Lankan military personnel in our army establishments"and the visiting sporting and cultural teams should be noted. He also blamed the Tamil Nadu Government led by Jayalalitha for sending back the two Sri Lankan football teams, which was followed by the attack on visiting Lankan pilgrims on Tuesday.
Appealing for peace, Karunanidhi said: "We should not do anything here that can subject the Tamils in Sri Lanka to more distress and suffering, as lakhs of Tamils there are still struggling for survival. Raking up issues in Tamil Nadu will only make the displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka more vulnerable and complicate their rehabilitation."
Source: Daily Mirror Online, September 6, 2012
No fishermen in Sri Lanka custody, says India
No Indian fisherman is in Sri Lankan custody and the Government is engaged with the neighbouring nation to ensure that the fisherfolk carry on their livelihood safely, India, Parliament was informed on Thursday.
"Presently, there are no Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody on fisheries related charges. However, some Indian nationals have been arrested in Sri Lankan waters on charges of smuggling narcotics and contrabands," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said in Rajya Sabha.
He said officials from Indian High Commission in Colombo and Consulate in Jaffna are in regular touch with detained Indian nationals and extending all possible consular and legal assistance to them, he said. Amid uproar in the House, Krishna tabled the statement in response to a Calling Attention Motion by V Maitreyan (AIADMK) and another member.
The Minister said the Government and the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka have consistently taken up issues relating to incidents of firing or apprehension of Indian fishermen with Sri Lankan Government so that its navy acts with restraint and the fishermen are treated in a humane manner. "...as soon as the reports of apprehension of Indian fishermen are received, the Government through diplomatic channels takes up the matter of their expeditious release and repatriation with Sri Lankan authorities," he said.
"As a result, fishermen apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy have been released and repatriated expeditiously," he said. The minister said India continues to remain engaged with Sri Lanka to ensure fishermen on both sides "continue to pursue their livelihood in a safe, secure and sustainable manner
Source:Daily Mirror Online, September 7, 2012
25 killed at funeral
At least 20 people were killed and 50 wounded in a terror attack during a funeral in the village of Shagai in the Durbaba district of eastern Nangarhar province. Most of the people died of their injuries.
The Taliban in most of the cases target government officials at public functions, including weddings and funerals. In this case, the apparent target was Durbaba district chief Hamisha Gul who was there to attend the funeral.
The fight against Taliban and other insurgents group have resulted in many casualties. According to a recent UN report more than 1,145 civilians were killed and 1,954 others injured, 80 per cent of them by militants, during the first half of the year.
Source: AFP, September 4, 2012
Indian foreign Minister's visit
Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna went on a three-day visit to Pakistan. He has spoken about renewing and rebuilding the bilateral ties through regular dialogue and talks. India's main focus is terrorism and she wants Pakistan to do more on that area.
The other main issue was trade. The outcome of the visit was the visa agreement and another agreement between the national council of arts. However, there has hardly been progress on other issues like Kashmir, the Siachen glacier, the Sir Creek sea boundary, and other water issues. On the nuclear CBMs talks, there have been no formal talks.
Pakistan accuses India of delinking itself from Pakistan and not treating them equally on the issue. The Joint Anti-terror Mechanism (JATM) has been dropped by India but Pakistan on its side favours it and calls for strengthening it.
Source: nation.com, September 07, 2012
Aid group told to leave
Pakistan has accused aid group workers and organizations like Save the Children of being US spies during the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The US Government has, however, denied that such a relation between the CIA and the aid organizations existed.
The Pakistan intelligence official says that there are enough proofs to show the link between the two. One Pakistani national, Dr Shakil Afridi, has been arrested and sentenced to 33 years in prison for his involvement in anti-national activity.
Save the Children too has denied being involved with CIA and also rejected the Pakistani claim of Dr Afridi being employed by them. Many foreign aid community in Pakistan fear that the link between CIA and reputed organistions can cause danger to their staff and its daily functioning around the world.
Pakistan has given a week time for foreigners working at Save the Children to leave the country.
Source: guardian.co.uk, September 5, 2012
Pak not happy with Afghanistan's efforts
Pakistan has expressed concerns that Afghanistan is not doing enough to tackle militancy and terrorism. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Kher has called for a "matching effort" from the Afghan side regarding this.
Pakistan has deployed around 1,50,000 troops and established over 900 check posts along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan believes that its people suffer the most from unilateral military actions because there has been no coordinated or collective action from the Afghan side. Minister Khar has also said that these actions are inconsistent with international law and they complicate the situation on the ground.
She spoke about her government's support to reconciliation and dialogue with Afghanistan but at the same time she wants to see "matching effort" on Afghanistan's side in securing the sensitive border.
Source: news.com ,September 05, 2012
US casualties cross 1,974
After nearly 11 years of war in Afghanistan, approximately 1,974 US military personnel have reportedly died in the country, according to an Associate Press Count (APC) report.
The Defence Department's official tally shows slight increase in the number of casualties. More than 1,650 military service members have died in Afghanistan as result of hostile action.
Since the beginning of military operations in Afghanistan, 17,382 US soldiers have been wounded. Outside Afghanistan, around 118 members of the US military died in support of the Operation Enduring Freedom.
Source: Associated Press, September 5, 2012
Afghanistan & Pakistan: Wilson John;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;