MonitorsPublished on Apr 25, 2014
As foreign troops begin to leave Afghanistan, criticism of the international coalition's handling of the war has been pouring in from all corners. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for People and Press showed that a majority of the public does not think the US has achieved its goals in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: A story of US failure and mismanagement
< class="heading1">Analysis

As foreign troops begin to leave Afghanistan, criticism of the international coalition’s handling of the war has been pouring in from all corners. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for People and Press showed that a majority of the public does not think the US has achieved its goals in Afghanistan. Fifty two percent of Americans say the US has mostly failed in its Afghan mission. This grim outlook has mainly been formed in the past two or three years, since withdrawal was announced.

The West, experts and general public alike, have turned their attention from war to fruits of war and are in self-assessing mode.

Dysfunctional military policy

The coalition forces came under fire when Wikileaks released US military logs of the war in Afghanistan in 2010. The 75,000 documents that were leaked gave a devastating picture of the handling of the war, revealing hundreds of instances of unreported civilian deaths, or "blue on white" incidents in military terms as well as many other instances of misconduct and brutality.

More recently, New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall said that the US and its allies were fighting the wrong enemy, lamenting America’s blind spot when it comes to Pakistan. The US has trusted Pakistan time and again to deliver peace and reign in its terrorist networks, expecting a different result each time. It is now leaving Afghanistan without having brought about any significant and demonstrable change in Pakistan’s policy towards its neighbour. Many US commanders in Afghanistan have also expressed their frustration at not being able to stem the insurgency from its source as they did not have a mandate to operate on the eastern side of the Af-Pak border.

Other narratives explaining the reasons for failure in Afghanistan say that the US approached the war with very little understanding of their enemy. Anand Gopal, in his recently published book on the war, says the international troops were sucked into settling scores for whoever they were aligned with rather than going after the real enemy. Analysts now believe that even if the US had not been distracted by the Iraq war and had maintained a large troop presence since the beginning, it would have made little difference to how the war played out. The underlying mismanagement and dysfunction of the US and NATO forces was why the war dragged on for 13 years.

Wasteful aid and assistance

It is not only the military operations that have been criticised. The international aid and assistance programme, led by the US, is also deemed a botched operation largely due to lack of a comprehensive strategy. The Afghan economy is propped up by external aid and assistance. The size of aid, both security and civilian, is about the same as the entire GDP of the country, which is a disturbing sign for any post-conflict developing society. The US has promised to sustain financial support to the country till 2017. But 10 years of aid has led to very few results.

Aid has not worked mainly due to corruption, fragmented parallel delivery systems, weak governance, and poor effectiveness originating from the practice of throwing money at aid agencies without proper planning and alignment of local needs. Furthermore the aid is channelled directly to the Afghan ministries (instead of USAID direct assistance programs) where officials are free to use it as they please, which on many occasions means misappropriation.

Lack of a comprehensive strategy was admitted by USAID’s former head in Kabul, William Frej, who said that though the agency had built a huge number of schools and hospitals, it lacked an overarching strategy. A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction details the findings of two global auditing firms hired by the US to determine whether aid to Afghanistan was working. The findings were disheartening to say the least. Many of the projects funded by state agencies were found to be incomplete, badly constructed and in one case not even wanted by the US military.

The US has spent $ 80 billion in reconstruction since 2001, with half of it going towards building and maintaining the police and military of Afghanistan. SIGAR officials say that unleashing billions of dollars into a country that has no financial structure to absorb such huge amounts of funding was the main problem. They call it "aid on steroids". At the time these large releases were made, Afghanistan did not have a public financial system, budgetary experience, or a dependable banking system. Money went unaccounted for since it was being carried around in cash. It also made it very easy to pay people off, thus encouraging a corruption culture in a society where kickbacks are expected.

The mistakes of the past need not continue. The development budget, which consists of paying for donor financed government projects, will become more crucial after 2014, since aid agencies will most likely wind up their operations. In the face of expected reduction in international aid, efforts must now turn towards increasing local content of aid, putting more aid on government budget, and domestic contracting so that the economic effect is felt. A strategy must provide Afghanistan with a continuous sustainable income stream so that the government can afford to pay its own civil servants and focus aid money to actual developmental programmes.

At the Tokyo conference on Afghanistan in 2012, international donors pledged US$ 16 billion in civilian aid for four years after troops leave at the end of this year. It is up to the donors now to ensure that this aid is effective. Lesser aid may not impact adversely if that aid is delivered properly. The international community has to manage this change, mitigate impacts, and put aid and spending on a more sustainable path. However, violent fluctuations in aid can be damaging and destabilising, as it happened when Soviet aid stopped after withdrawal leading to collapse in state structures.

Survival of the Afghan state is dependent on its security forces as well as economic development that can give its citizens a stake in the country’s future. Continued engagement from international donors to support Afghanistan in both those areas is important. One hopes this self reflection on the part of the US will lead to some course correction and it will help clean up the mess it is partly responsible for.

(The writer is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: A path-breaking cooperation on power with India

Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

India and Bangladesh energy cooperation attained new height as Bangladesh agreed to provide transit facility for 6000Megawatts of Indian power transmission line while part of the quantum could be used by Bangladesh. The decision followed the meeting between the power secretaries of the two countries, held in Dhaka earlier this month. A committee will look into the feasibility of transmitting power through Rangia Raota in Assam to Borakpur in Bihar through Boro Pukuria in northwest Dinajpur in Bangladesh. This decision has opened a new horizon for energy cooperation. It also highlights the changing mindset of the officials of both countries, especially in Bangladesh, who had earlier showed no interest in providing any kind of transit to India.

Cooperation in the power sector has been one of the fruits of the improving relationship. India-Bangladesh cooperation on power started in November 2009 following the visit of a high level delegation from Bangladesh to India. The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding during the visit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister to India in January 2011. The important features included exchange of power through grid connectivity between the two countries; joint venture investment in power generation and capacity development of Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). The MOU also mentioned that a Joint Steering Committee (JSC) co-chaired by both the power secretaries and a joint working group (JWG) would be constituted to promote and facilitate the cooperation. According to the MOU, the JWG would meet at least twice a year while JSC would meet at least once a year.

The work of grid connectivity was completed in October 2013. Bangladesh is importing 500 Megawatts of electricity from India.

A joint venture company has been formed between NTPC of India and BPDP in the name of India-Bangladesh Friendship Power Company to construct a thermal power plant at Bangladesh. The plant is likely to cost $1.50 billion and India and Bangladesh will have equal partnership in production. The foundation stone for the 1320 MW plant was laid in October 2013.

The power cooperation emerged following realisation that power crisis of power, affecting both the countries, can be addressed only through mutual cooperation. The locally available resources are not sufficient to fulfill the rising demand. Natural gas reserves in Bangladesh, a major source for the country’s power generation, is dwindling rapidly. Bangladesh is desperately looking for alternative sources. In India too, though power is produced through various resources, all these are not sufficient to meet its demand. Moreover, imported coal is becoming expensive.

India’s north-eastern region has huge hydro power potential. But it is unable to exploit its hydro power as transporting power is a major challenge. India’s northeast region is connected with the mainland through a narrow corridor known as chickens neck at Siliguri and there is not enough space for laying transmission lines to transmit power.

The present development is a win-win situation for both countries. Following this decision, India will be able to utilise the hydro-potential of northeast India. Bangladesh will also benefit as it will receive a portion of the energy without making much investments. So, benefits of cross border power cooperation will lead to effective utilisation of natural resources; increase in the reliability of power supply; economy in operation and mutual support during contingencies. It will also bring about a large scale transformation in the sectors, contributing to further economic growth. It will act as the single most effective confidence building measure through the participation of multiple stakeholders.

However, some reservations are expressed regarding the sustainability of the present turn in the cooperation on power. It mainly arises due to failure by India and Bangladesh to formalise the trilateral gas pipeline with Myanmar. The Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline could not be realised as the then government in Bangladesh laid down some conditions which India declined to adhere to. As a result, the subcontinent failed to exploit the benefits of discovery of natural gas in Myanmar, which was later offered to China.

Experience, however, suggests that in South Asia, confidence building measures developed by the economic stakeholders have been very effective. This has contributed in good relations among the countries in the region. Besides, there are talks about establishing a mechanism to build a regional grid between India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. In fact, talks among India, Bangladesh and Bhutan have been already initiated.

The development in the power cooperation between the two countries is a break from the past as it, for the first time, put behind the traditional issue of security. Here, the border is not looked upon as threat to the traditional view of security, but instead the proximity to each other is seen as an opportunity to build up cooperation to face the challenges of non-traditional threat of power crisis, a major factor for the development of the country.

However, to strengthen the power cooperation, the two countries should find new avenues for cooperation. Some suggest initiatives like inviting Bangladeshi investment in the hydro power projects in the northeast India, reviving the trilateral gas pipeline from Myanmar and cooperation in the non-traditional source of energy.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rana Plaza disaster: Justice still awaited

Workers and family members of the deceased gathered on the site of Rana Plaza tragedy demanding compensation for victims and punishment to culprits.

Relatives of 8 persons who had become victims of forced disappearance since December last year also gathered in front of Jatiya Press Club on 24 of April, 2014 demanding the government to help rescue their dear and near ones.

One year has passed since the Rana Plaza collapsed killing 1,135 people but the Anti-Corruption Commission has not yet completed its investigation into corruption allegations against the building owner, Sohel Rana.

Addressing the crowd, BNP Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam accused the Awami government of misusing the huge fund collected for helping the victims’ family members. He said, "We know Rana Plaza owner is an Awami League leader. We also know the workers were forcefully taken into the building to join works despite repeated warnings as it developed cracks".

Many trade unions and other organizations held programmes and placed wreaths at the Rana Plaza Monument and the graves of the victims at Jurain.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The New Nation, 25 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">HC allows lower court to conduct Khaleda Zia’s trial

The High Court of Bangladesh has cleared way for the lower court to run trial proceedings against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and eight others in the ’Zia Orphanage Trust’ and ’Zia Charitable Trust’ corruption cases.

The High Court summarily rejected two petitions filed by Khaleda challenging her indictment in two graft cases filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).The ACC in July 2009 filed the Zia Orphanage graft case against Khaleda, Tarique and four others for embezzling over Tk 2.1 crore by forming the "fake" trust. The commission filed the Zia Charitable graft case in August 2011 against Khaleda and three others for abusing power in setting up the charity.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Case against JeI leader set to enter final stage

The criminal case proceedings against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali are set to enter the final stage as the International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday fixed 27 April, 2014 for closing arguments.

Quasem, the alleged chief of the Al-Badr force in Chittagong, faces 14 charges, including for murders, committed in the port city between November and 16 December, 1971.

According to the prosecution, ’Dalim Hotel’ was an Al-Badr torture camp from June 1971 and was controlled by Mir Quasem Ali. Most of the 24 prosecution witnesses testified that they had seen Quasem at Dalim Hotel when they were taken there by Al-Badr men.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 24 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pact inked with India for four hydropower projects

In a move that will strengthen the strategic partnership between India and Bhutan, the two countries have signed a preliminary pact for the joint construction of four hydropower projects in the landlocked country that is expected to generate 2,120 megawatts (MW) of electricity, a foreign ministry statement said on 21 April.

The agreement between Bhutan and India was signed on Monday in Thimphu, the statement said.The largest of the four projects is the 770MW Chamkarchu project; the others include the 600MW Kholongchu hydel power project, the 180MW Bunakha project and the 570MW Wangchu hydel project, the statement said.

"Hydropower cooperation with Bhutan is a classic example of win-win cooperation, providing clean electricity to India, generating export revenues for Bhutan, and further strengthening our bilateral economic linkages," it said.

Three hydroelectric projects totalling 1,416MW, which includes the 336MW Chukha project, the 60MW Kurichu project, and the 1,020MW Tala project, are already operational in Bhutan and are supplying electricity to India, according to the Indian foreign ministry.

Three others totalling 2,940MW, which include the 1,200MW Punatsangchu-I, the 1,020MW Punatsangchu-II and the 720MW Mangdehchu project that are under construction, and are scheduled to be commissioned by 2018, a foreign ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 22 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MoU on cooperation in audit of public finances

India and Bhutan have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to strengthen bilateral cooperation for improving work methodologies and exchange of information in the field of audit of public finances. The MOU was signed by Shashi Kant Sharma, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and Dasho Ugen Chewang, Auditor General of Bhutan in Thimpu on Tuesday.

It would be in force for a period of six years from today.The MOU aims at improving professional knowledge and skills of staff members of the two countries in the field of audit by exchange of experience and by strengthening their knowledge.Under this MOU, India will impart training every year to two audit officers of the Royal Audit Authority of Bhutan in the IA&AS course, in the National Academy of Audit and Accounts, Shimla.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu Business Line, 22 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">World’s largest climate-change adaptation project

Bhutan will soon start implementing the largest Climate Change Adaptation project in the World. The project is the second adaptation project in Bhutan funded through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) with an investment of US $ 11,491,200. The first was the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) mitigation project in Lunana, which was

implemented from 2008 to 2013 with UNDP as the implementing agency.The project is designed to respond to immediate and urgent climate change adaptation needs prioritized through the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) published in 2006. Key areas of focus will be on effective measures to reduce flood and landslide risks in Phuentsholing and the neighbouring industrial estate of Pasakha.

Consequently it will build community resilience by designing and building systems for water harvesting, storage and distribution in selected villages. The project is also expected to improve the quality, analysis and dissemination of climate information on a timely and reliable manner to respond to extreme weather events.

This will involve expanding and upgrading the network of meteorological stations for real-time weather observation and forecasting, and strengthening the National Weather and Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre.

UNDP’s Karma Rapten, Head of the Environment and Disaster Management Unit says, "The project will enhance national, local and community capacity to prepare for and respond to climate-induced multi-hazards to reduce potential losses of human lives, national economic infrastructure, livelihoods and livelihood assets. The project has been designed to address the immediate and urgent climate change adaptation needs prioritized through the update of the NAPA undertaken in 2011, involving review and updating of the earlier NAPA produced in 2006."

Sonam L. Khandu, the Project Manager says "Adaptation interventions for the impacts of climate change on Bhutan were identified in the 2006 NAPA document and we are now pleased to see steady and progressive support being provided through the LDCF to implement these urgent interventions."

The project document was jointly signed between UNDP, Gross National Happiness Commission and the National Environment Commission at Tashichhodzong, Thimphu Bhutan on 18 April 2014.

The project will be implemented by various implementing partners from different sectors, the Phuentsholing Thromde and Tarayana Foundation and will be coordinated by the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS). The UNDP will provide technical and advisory support as well as help management of the project during the implementation period (2014-2017).

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bhutan Observer, 21 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Elections enter sixth phase

Elections to form the 16th Lok Sabha entered its sixth phase on 24 April in which 11 states voted to put 117 candidates in Parliament. Enthusiastic voters in West Bengal, Assam, and Tamil Nadu improved 2009 turnout figures; in West Bengal it was 81.4 percent, Assam 77.6 percent and Tamil Nadu 73 percent.

Other states like Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh showed an increase of over 10 percent from last time. Mumbai also improved its numbers from 2009 by 11 percent, but is behind other metropolitan cities like Delhi and Bangalore.

This phase of the elections was also marred by violence. Militants shot dead a polling officer and critically injured five others in Nagbal area of Shopian in Anantnag constituency. The third seat in Jammu and Kashmir to go to polls, voters in Anantnag suffered militant intimidation throughout the day, leading to a mere 28 percent turnout.

In Assam’s Kokrajhar constituency, an incident of mob violence left a policeman dead and two others injured. A supporter of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) was also killed in a clash with Congress workers at Nagarbera area under Guwahati constituency. 14 others were injured.

There were also sporadic incidents of violence in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where villagers clashed with security forces in Dausa and torched a government vehicle.

With Thursday’s round of balloting, the polling ended in seven states and 349 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies. Polling for the remaining 194 seats will be held on April 30 (89 seats), 7 May (64) and 12 May (41).

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC lifts iron-ore mining ban in Goa

Nearly one-and-a-half years after it banned mining in Goa, the Supreme Court has allowed an annual cap of 20 million tonnes of iron ore extraction in the state. The final capacity that will be allowed to be mined in the state will be decided by an expert panel within the next six months.

A special forest bench headed by Justice AK Patnaik said the panel would also advise how the extracted dumps are to be utilised. Further, no mining lease would be granted around one kilometre of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, the court said, directing the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to identify such eco-sensitive areas. If further said there cannot be deemed renewal of lease after 2007.

The Goa government has been ordered to formulate a scheme within six months for utilising the funds generated by e-auction. Workers on rolls for all mining firms will be paid 50 percent of the wage during the period for which they were out of work due to the SC stay order, the court said.

The court banned mining operations in Goa in October 2012, after a report submitted by a previous commission showed that illegal mining in the state had resulted in a loss of $5.8 million to the exchequer in the last 12 years. Before the ban, Goa was India’s third-largest iron ore exporting state. This was the second illegal mining case to come before the Supreme Court; the court previously kept mining operations on hold for over a year in the neighboring state of Karnataka.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 21 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC to revisit Section 377

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on admitting a curative petition challenging the apex court’s December verdict criminalizing same-sex intercourse.

In December the court upheld the colonial-era Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which penalizes same-sex intercourse with up to 10 years of imprisonment. A curative petition, which is typically heard by judges in chambers, is the final recourse for challenging a Supreme Court judgment.

The arguments will be heard by a four-judge bench comprising chief justice P. Sathasivamand justices R.M. Lodha, H.L. Dattu and S.J. Mukhopadhaya The petitioners who include the Naz Foundation Trust, filmmaker Shyam Benegal, parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual persons, academicians, mental healthcare professionals and Voices Against 377, an umbrella of non-government organizations, will make their arguments to convince the bench to reopen the case.

If the court agrees with the petitioners, it will issue a notice to the other side—astrologer Suresh Kumar Koushal and some religious organizations—for a full hearing by a new bench. The decision by the apex court comes days after it passed a landmark judgement granting third gender status to transgenders, declaring that they must be guaranteed healthcare, jobs and education by both the states and centre.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mint, 22 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pact signed with US to counter tax-evasion

India and US have concluded an ’in substance’ agreement under Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act(FATCA) to combat possible tax evasion by Americans through Indian financial entities.

The FATCA requires the US government to sign IGAs with various countries, including India, where American individuals and companies may hold accounts and other assets. The US said India has consented to Model 1 - Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) under FATCA. As per Model 1, financial entities will be required to report information on US account holders to the US IRS (internal revenue service) through CBDT.

Market regulator Sebi plans to issue guidelines for market intermediaries in this regard this fiscal. Other regulators like the RBI are also expected to issue guidelines to ensure compliance with FATCA.

While FATCA became a law way back in 2010, the final regulations were issued for it in January 2013 and it is set to come into effect from 1 July, 2014 after signing of IGAs with different countries. The law aims to check and impose withholding tax on illicit activities of some wealthy individuals who use offshore accounts to evade millions of dollars in taxes. A noncompliance with FATCA entails 30 percent withholding tax on certain US source payments.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Economic Times, 22 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President says will link rest of the globe with South Asia

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said that the projects unveiled at the Maldives Investment Forum in Singapore are designed to position Maldives to take advantage of its strategic location as a hub and gateway for commerce, innovation and creativity, linking the rest of the globe with South Asia.

The President made this remark while speaking at the ceremony to inaugurate the Maldives Investment Forum in Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore. He said that the government is committed to bringing the necessary reforms to the economic sector facilitate economic transformation, a key pledge of his government.

"The projects launched today seek to engage private investors in the delivery of key pieces of infrastructure critical to effect national level transformative economic vision. It will indeed play a catalytic role in sustaining our growth, diversifying the economy and creating employment for youth population," he said.

The President noted that many long-time investors and senior business personalities in Maldives were present the forum, and said that their commitment to and participation in the forum gave the government comfort and confidence that the economic and trade policy it has pursued was heading in the right direction.

The President said that as a growing small economy, the economic vision of the Maldives is to become a resilient, diversified high income economy in the next decade, and that foreign investments and private sector engagement is a key ingredient and pathway to achieve this goal.

"The Maldives is entering a new phase of development. As a small, forward-looking middle-income developing country, we are transitioning into a stable and mature democracy. Building on decades of sustained and stable economic growth, we have embarked on an ambitious economic agenda to transform the economy. The transformative change envisions active engagement of private sector. As a growing small economy, our economic vision is to become a resilient, diversified high income economy in the next decade. We believe foreign investments and private sector engagement is a key ingredient and pathway to achieve this goal.

"This forum is a manifestation of the government’s desire to engage with private investors. This is a beginning of the series of events to continue and sustain a proactive dialogue with the international business community. We are committed, to explore openings for increasing foreign investment flows to non-traditional sectors to lift Maldives beyond the image of a ’picturesque postcard’."

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four airport projects for PPP investment

The Ministry of Transport and Communication has decided to develop four new domestic airports, and invited investment in these projects. This was announced at the ongoing Maldives Investment Forum in Singapore.

The locations of the four new airports will be Haa Alifu Huvahandhoo, Alifu Alifu Mathiveri, Faafu Magoodhoo, and Meemu Muli. Coordinator at Transport Ministry Abdulla Jameel said that the airports will have 1.2 km to 1.8 km runway strips with facilities up to ICAO standards.

He said that these projects will follow the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. There are no airports in these regions, but tourism is expanding in these areas. PPP has proven to be a very successful model in the past. We hope to implement these projects at a fast speed," he said.

The government has decided to lease the airports for a period of 25 years. Moreover, to subsidise the operation, the developer will be eligible to get one or two islands, free of acquisition cost, to develop tourist resorts for a lease period of 50 years. The government has also decided to exempt import duty, and to allow investors to propose alternatives regarding payment of land rent and other fees.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 25 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt has to pay compensation to GMR: Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said that the Maldivian government would have to grant the compensation sought by GMR Group following the termination of the agreement to develop and manage the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

The President made this remark while speaking to reporters prior to departing to Singapore on an official visit, to participate in the Maldives Investment Forum. "The government would have to pay the compensation sought by GMR. We are working towards reducing the compensation amount," said President Yameen.

The agreement with GMR was terminated by the government of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed. President Yameen said that discussions are also ongoing between the government and Singapore’s Changi Airport Group, and that assistance from such groups is necessary in the development of local airports.

He said that there is great support for the Maldives Investment Forum in Singapore, and investment will be sought during the Forum for the development of a youth city in Hulhumale’, and the construction of a bridge between Male’ and Hulhule’.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed criticises indirect taxation

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has criticised the recent amendments to customs duties, arguing that a strong economy cannot be built upon regressive taxes. "We have noticed that indirect taxes such as import duty have a very bad impact on the economy," the acting president of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) told local newspaper Haveeru.

"The tax that is being derived from the poorest man’s toothpaste is equal with the tax levied on the richest man’s toothpaste. We do not believe that this is a smart way of generating state income," he said.

Nasheed’s comments followed the approval of amendments to the Import-Export Act which increased import duties on a range of goods as part of the current administration’s revenue raising measures.

He told local media that history had shown progressive taxation, with greater contribution from higher earners, was the best technique to raise state revenue. During this week’s final debate on the government-sponsored amendments, MPs of the opposition MDP severely criticised the indirect tax hikes, contending that the burden of increased prices of goods would be borne by ordinary citizens.

Once the amendments are ratified by the Ppresident, a 15 percent tariff will be reintroduced for construction material, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, silk, wool, woven fabrics, cotton, man-made filaments, wadding, special yarns, twine, cordage, ropes, cables, carpets and other textile floor coverings, lace, tapestries, trimmings and embroidery.

Tariffs are also set to be increased from the current zero percent to five percent for sugar confectioneries and diesel motor oil and raised from 10 to 15 percent for organic chemicals and compounds of precious metals, rare-earth metals, radioactive elements or isotopes.

Nasheed suggested that progressive taxation such as the Business Profit Tax (BPT) - introduced during his presidency alongside Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Tourist-GST - would produce a more sustainable economy.

These three taxes were shown this week to have contributed to nearly three-quarters of the state’s revenue in the first quarter of the year, amounting to over MVR2 billion. The introduction of these taxes has seen State revenue quadruple since 2010.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, 23 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No re-vote for 13 MP seats, rules HC

The High Court has delivered verdicts today in 13 election-related cases filed by losing candidates in the March 22 parliamentary polls seeking annulment of the results.

In 12 cases, the High Court ruled that there were no grounds to annul the results and order a re-vote as the evidence submitted was not sufficient to prove electoral fraud.

In the case concerning the Lhaviyani Kurendhoo constituency, the court ruled that there were no grounds to grant the request for a recount of ballot boxes.

Losing candidates from both opposition and government-aligned parties had challenged the outcome of the Majlis elections.

The 13 constituencies were Haa Dhaal Nolhivaram, Shaviyani Funadhoo, Lhaviyani Kurendhoo, Lhaviyani Naifaru, Kaafu Kaashidhoo, Vaavu Felidhoo, Thaa Thimarafushi, Laamu Isdhoo, Gaaf Alif Villigili, Gaaf Alif Gemanafushi and the mid-Hithadhoo, Hithadhoo North and Feydhoo constituencies in Addu City.

While opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates for Kaashidhoo, Nolhivaram, Feydhoo and Funadhoo filed cases at the High Court on their own accord, cases concerning the Villigili, Isdhoo, and Gemanafushi constituencies were filed by the party.

The rest of the cases were lodged by candidates of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and its coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP).

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, 23 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">International workshop on East Sea

An international workshop on the East Sea was held in Yangon, Myanmar on 24 April. Co-organised by the Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies and India’s Stratcore Group, the event attracted more than 150 Myanmar officials as well as researchers from the US, Australia, Japan, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In his opening remarks, Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister U Thant Kyaw said that the conference is intended to provide full, accurate and objective information on East Sea disputes, maritime challenges to ASEAN and its stability, and the role of the association and countries in and outside the region in addressing the disputes.

It also offered a chance for scientists, researchers and members of the public to discuss solutions to the disputes, contributing to protecting an environment of peace and maritime security in the East Sea.

At the event, ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh affirmed the role and responsibility of ASEAN in promoting the peaceful settlement of East Sea disputes, especially its determination to accelerate the signing of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

Presentations delivered at the seminar focused on analysing recent East Sea disputes between China and several ASEAN countries, the irrationality of China’s nine-dot line claim, and maritime security challenges.

Scholars stressed the need to solve the East Sea disputes by peaceful means, including the signing and enforcement of the COC.

They also highlighted the role and responsibility of the international community and concerned countries inside and outside the region in protecting peace and security in the East Sea.

As the largest event held in Myanmar since it assumed the ASEAN Chair early this year, the workshop played an important role in promoting ASEAN consensus and solidarity against maritime security challenges in the East Sea, as well as peace and stability in the region.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Nhan Dan Online, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maintenance work on two major rivers

Myanmar government will carry out maintenance work on two major rivers -- Ayeyawaddy and Chindwin in the country, aiming at improving navigation on the two rivers, official media reported on 24 April.

The government will spend 12 billion Kyats (12.5 million U.S. dollars) on removing sandbank and maintenance of riverbeds and waterways of the two rivers with preventive measures against erosion of the rivers, the Ministry of Transport was quoted by the New Light of Myanmar as saying.

Of the 12 billion Kyats’ budget, 127 million Kyats will be allocated to the maintenance of Twantay Canal, which is vital for transportation by waterways to and from Yangon and the Ayeyawaddy delta region in the southwest.

According to the ministry’s Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River System, the Ayeyawaddy River is eroding at many places along the river and the directorate is currently repairing places where erosion is most serious.

The directorate disclosed that it has completed the assessment on the possibility for building four low-head dams on the Ayeyawaddy River in central Myanmar recently.

The water level of the Ayeyawaddy River reached above its danger level of 1,260 cm in the rainy season but falls to 720 cm in summer in Mandalay.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Xinhua, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US to consider support for peace process

The US Embassy in Myanmar says it will seriously consider any request from the Myanmaresegovernment and ethnic minority groups to support ongoing dialogue as part of the country’s peace process, after an ethnic army leader recently called for greater US involvement.

During a visit to the United States that began last week, Gen. Gun Maw, the deputy commander in chief of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)—the biggest armed group still fighting the Burmese government—asked US officials to increase their presence in the peace process to ensure an improvement in the human rights situation for ethnic minorities.

"General Gun Maw’s visit to Washington and New York City was very helpful to enable candid discussions at senior levels with US government officials about the state of the peace process here," a spokesman for the US Embassy in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Gun Maw is thought to be the most senior KIA official ever to visit the United States."We support dialogue as the best and only way to address the root cause of longstanding conflict, and to ultimately achieve lasting peace, justice, reconciliation and equitable development in Burma," the embassy spokesman said. "And we will consider seriously any request that comes from both the union government and the ethnic nationality representatives to support the ongoing dialogue."

In an interview with Reuters on 21 April, Gun Maw indicated that the presence of US observers would be welcomed. "We would like to have the US present at the peace process as a witness, so this agreement will become strong," he was quoted as saying. "At present, we are still asking the US to be involved. Whether they will be, we don’t know yet."

The Burmese government said this week that conflicts with ethnic armed groups should be considered a domestic issue only. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told The Associated Press on 22 April that his government would listen to advice from other countries, but added that the US track record of ending conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan was "not impressive."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Irrawaddy, 23 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Election of CA committee heads

The five different committees of the Constituent Assembly (CA) are likely to get their heads on April 24, three months after the first CA meeting and six months since the November election. Four of the CA committees are almost certain to get their heads chosen unopposed as the major political parties in the CA have reached an understanding to pick the heads through consensus.

The major political parties have filed candidacy for the heads of the CA committees as per an understanding among them with regard to sharing the three thematic committees and leaving it to the other parties to head the other two committees, which are procedural in nature. UCPN (Maoist) is to head the Committee for Constitutional and Political Dialogue and Consensus Building, the Nepali Congress will head the Constitutional Drafting Committee and CPN-UML the Committee to Study and Determine Constitutional Records. However, Khambuwan Rastriya Morcha, which has only one seat in the House, has filed candidacy for the Committee for Constitutional and Political Dialogue and Consensus Building.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More teams withdraw, Everest season in jeopardy

Several foreign climbing expeditions have called off attempts to scale Everest following an avalanche that killed at least 13 local guides, meaning Nepal faces an entire season without a single ascent of the mountain for the first time in decades. The toll from the April 18 accident was the highest in a single day in Everest history, and many Sherpas who are angry over their treatment at the hands of foreign mountaineers and the government have refused to guide visitors up the climb. Three Sherpas are still missing since an avalanche struck while they were fixing ropes and cracking snow and ice to carve out a route for foreign climbers through the Icefall, near the base camp for most climbs on the Nepali side of the mountain. The U.S.-based International Mountain Guides (IMG) became the largest team to pull out in response to the tragedy. It had around 40 climbers in three teams on the mountain. Earlier this week, the government said it would raise the minimum insurance cover for Everest guides by 50 percent, set up a relief fund for the welfare of the victims’ families and pay for the education of their children. The accident has shocked the international mountaineering community and highlighted the risks that Nepalese guides run to help foreign climbers scale Everest. It has also provoked criticism that the government takes hefty fees for climbing permits but does little for the guides themselves. Guiding foreign climbers is the main livelihood for Sherpas, helping them make up to $7,000 - and some even more - each year in a country with an average annual income of just over $700.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India sealed for third-phase polls in Bihar

The Election Commission (EC) has deployed 143 companies of Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF), 74 companies of Bihar Military Police (BMP) and 20,523 district police jawans for the third phase of polls in Bihar on April 24. "Apart from the security forces, 3,003 patrolling magistrates, 949 sectoral magistrates and 456 zonal magistrates have been deployed," Additional Chief Electoral Officer R. Lakshmanan said. Since Supaul, Araria and Kishanganj constituencies are located on the Indo-Nepal border, the Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) for the first time during this general elections, has sealed the international border. "The Indo-Nepal border will remain sealed till the end of polls tomorrow. We have intensified patrolling and deployed our intelligence personnel all along,"

SSB DIG Deepak Kumar told PTI. To bolster security arrangements, two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters will patrol the skies over Banka constituency which is a axal-infested district.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 23 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Joint conservation with India, Bhutan

India, Nepal and Bhutan have agreed to join hands on an initiative for Kanchenjunga trans- boundary landscape to address biodiversity conservation in a sustainable way in the Himalayan region. During a consultative experts’ meeting here, the three countries decided to carry out joint conservation efforts in the Kanchenjunga landscape covering an area of about 16,000 square kilometres and stretching along eastern Nepal, Sikkim and northern parts of West Bengal in India and western Bhutan. Kanchenjunga Landscape, which includes as many as twenty protected areas with rich biodiversity, is one of the important areas for biodiversity conservation in the Himalayan region. Bhutan’s Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests Dasho Sherub Gyaltshen stressed on the importance of conserving natural resources and said his country will extend its full commitment for such a noble programme. According to Nakul Chettri, the Program Coordinator of ICIMOD, the workshop will review and share findings of the feasibility assessments,

finalise the country-wise landscape boundaries, discuss landscape conservation and development opportunities and agree on a work plan for additional activities that needs to be implemented.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 18 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hamid Mir shot, claims ISI behind shooting

A senior journalist, Hamid Mir, was wounded after being targeted in Karachi by gunmen. He claims that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is responsible for orchestrating the attack.

These claims were conveyed by his brother, Amir Mir, while speaking to the media outside the Aga Khan Hospital where the wounded journalist is being treated.

Amir Mir, also a journalist, said that the Hamid Mir had informed some visiting intelligence officials about the threat he was facing from the ISI. He said that his brother was aware of the agency’s method of threatening journalists and media houses for "biased reporting" of certain national issues.

Hamid Mir’s television channel, Geo TV has been taken off-air in some parts of Pakistan according to cable operators. The defence ministry urged the national media regulator to cancel Geo TV’s broadcasting license after it aired allegations that the ISI was behind the attempt to kill Hamid Mir.

This assassination attempt comes soon after another high-profile journalist, Raza Rumi, survived a similar bid by gunmen in Lahore.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Aerial bombing kills 35 militants

Jet planes bombed hideouts of militants in various areas of Khyber Agency. Security sources said that 35 militants were killed and 14 others injured in the aerial bombing which took place in the Sipah area of Bara tehsil and Koka Khel area.

The operation was carried out on a tip-off that militants who were involved in the Sabzi Mandi blast in Islamabad and the attack on the police in Charsadda were present in the area according to military sources.

This was the first aerial operation against insurgent hideouts in two months and the first time that the military is known to have used air strikes against militant hideouts since the TTP announced a ceasefire on March 1 to help peace talks. The group said that it would end the ceasefire recently complaining of little progress in negotiations with the government.

The TTP spokesperson, Shahidullah Shahid, was quoted as saying, "This is the first attack since the extension in ceasefire has expired. If government is empowered and serious in negotiations we will continue them."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 24-25 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hatf-III test-fired

Pakistan has conducted a successful field test of the Hatf III (Ghaznavi) missile according to an Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release. The launch was part of a field training exercise.

The short range surface-to-surface ballistic missile can carry nuclear and conventional warheads to a range of 290 km.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 22 April 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China pledges support at UNSC

Describing it as an ’all-weather’ friend to Sri Lanka, China on Thursday pledged to continue its support to Sri Lanka at UN forums, the President’s Office said. The pledge was made when China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin met President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees on Thursday.

"We will continue to support Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)," Mr. Liu said. "Sri Lanka will always find a friend in China." President Rajapaksa thanked China for its support to Sri Lanka at the UNHRC this year. China voted against the resolution on Sri Lanka in Geneva last month and defended Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and national security.

"We suffered for 30 years and with your help, we managed to defeat terrorism," the President said. Mr. Liu thanked President Rajapaksa for his personal interest in Sri Lanka-China bilateral relations. "You have established a close friendship with the Chinese leadership," Mr. Liu said, adding that this personal relationship "will play a guiding role in China-Sri Lanka relations." President Rajapaksa thanked China for its support to Sri Lanka in the past decades, pointing out that many of Sri Lanka’s landmark infrastructure projects were carried out with Chinese assistance.

The President also encouraged Chinese investors to come and invest in Sri Lankan industries. President Rajapaksa visited China in May 2013 during which time the two countries elevated their relationship to one of "strategic cooperation," a significant milestone in bilateral relations.

During discussions in China last year, Vice-President Li Yuanchao said China will continue to strengthen relations with Sri Lanka and to expand cooperation into new sectors in what he described as an equal partnership.

Upholding that pledge, Mr. Liu told President Rajapaksa that China places great importance on development projects in Sri Lanka and would like to focus on continuing development on infrastructure, including southern highways and railways.

"I believe we will continue to work together to enhance cooperation in infrastructure, economic, trade and investment," Mr. Liu said. "Our cooperation should expand to a higher level." The Vice Foreign Minister also spoke about Sri Lanka’s concern on the balance of trade and said that the negotiations on the free trade agreement will help address these concerns.

"For China, Sri Lanka is an important partner in the Indian Ocean region," he said while thanking Sri Lanka for assisting in the development of the 21st century maritime silk route and adding that the two countries "should deepen connectivity in the sea and in the air."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FM briefs diplomats on terrorist-funding

External Affairs Minister G L Peiris oday briefed the Colombo based diplomatic community regarding the action taken by the Sri Lankan government against groups and individuals involved in terrorist funding and other activity connected with plans to revive terrorism.

The Minister said that the government’s action in designating 16 groups and 424 individuals had been taken under United Nations Security Council Regulation1373 which not only empowered governments to resort to such measures but imposed on States an imperative duty to effectively suppress terrorist funding. Regulations had been framed for this purpose under Sri Lankan legislation, and timely action has been taken on the basis of these Regulations, he said.

The Minister conducted the briefing with the assistance of Chief of National Intelligence, Maj-Gen Kapila Hendawitharana, representing the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development.

"The principal purpose of the briefing was to give the diplomatic community authentic information regarding action taken by the government against groups and individuals involved in terrorist funding and other activity connected with plans to revive terrorism," the ministry statement said.

It also stated: Prof. Peiris told the diplomatic community that there is compelling evidence regarding the remittance of substantial sums of money from overseas for planned terrorist activity. As a result of extensive investigations in recent weeks, the government is aware of the sources of this funding in several instances and the bank accounts into which the money had been paid. 65 arrests have been made, and 19 persons have been released after questioning.

A wealth of information, including documentary evidence and primary evidence of communications between the parties concerned, is now at the disposal of the government, the Minister said. The emerging picture indicates activity by several networks, including links between activists operating from broad and recipients of funds within Sri Lanka. Weapons, documents and other material have been found in consequence of information elicited during questioning.

From the material available, it is clear that the funds sent are intended to be used for military, intelligence and propaganda purposes, with groups of persons and others operating under their direction assigned responsibility in respect of each of these areas. While the investigations are continuing, and further information is coming to light regarding the identity and role of other participants, the elaborate nature of the preparations revealed by the evidence already obtained, leaves no room for doubt that an intricate planning apparatus is sought to be established, Prof. Peiris added.

The government’s foremost duty, the Minister emphasized, is to exercise the greatest vigilance and to nip in the bud attempts at resurgence of any form of terrorist activity. A country that has suffered anguish and pain inflicted by terrorism for three decades, expects no less from its government, he added. The Minister observed that timely and decisive action has been effective in warding off any threat of growing activity, and the government will continue to watch the situation closely and not hesitate to adopt such further measures as may be required. An encouraging feature of the situation, he explained, is the considerable quantity of information emanating from people of the relevant areas, eager to prevent the disruption of their lives which they are now engaged in rebuilding.

Prof. Peiris drew attention to the attempt in some quarters to paint a picture of a threat to tourism and investment. The Minister characterized these attempts as entirely unwarranted and mischievous. The government is in total control of the situation, and has every confidence of eradicating at the very inception, any attempt to revive terrorism in any form in any part of the country, he commented.

The Minister pointed out that the benefits flowing from the eradication of terrorism in Sri Lanka are by no means confined to the country, but accrue to the entire South Asian region. He mentioned, in particular, Sri Lanka’s significant contribution to maintaining the safety of sea lanes in the area and the control of a wide range of illegal activity including people smuggling and the proliferation of small arms.

He underlined the importance of pre-emptive action to deal with the kinds of activity he had described, and requested all nations represented at the briefing to extend their fullest co-operation in preventing the inflow of funds for terrorist purposes and forestalling all forms of activity which these resources are intended to support.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Australia plans to expel bogus asylum-seekers

The Australian government is working closely with Sri Lanka to expel a group of bogus Sri Lanka refugees in accordance with an ongoing project meant to ensure what Australian Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison called a serious border protection regime.

Australia launched ’Operation Sovereign Borders’, an unprecedented military-led initiative to discourage those trying to secure refugee status through illegal means.

Minister Morrison emphasised Australia’s determination to extradite even those who had entered the country illegally during the previous administration, when he addressed the second Australia-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on people-smuggling and transnational crime at Canberra last Tuesday (April 22).

The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Minister Morrison insisted that those illegals who had transited through other countries to reach Australia wouldn’t be accepted under any circumstances. The minister declared: "Ensuring prompt removal of those who have no lawful basis to be here, is a critical component of any serious border protection regime."

The first Australia-Sri Lanka JWG met in Colombo in August 2012.

The government of Sri Lanka earned the appreciation of Minister Morrison on behalf of Australia for its successful efforts to curb human smuggling as well as facilitating the extradition of those deprived of refugee status.

Morrison was speaking two days before a Bay Class patrol vessel gifted by Australia was brought to the port of Colombo by an SLN crew. The vessel reached Colombo on the morning of April 24. The SLN will take delivery of a second Australian vessel in June.

Having returned from Australia, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that the ongoing operation meant to protect Australian borders had greatly strengthened bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that Australia had facilitated a workshop for 39 magistrates in May-June last year under its overall plan to strengthen Sri Lanka’s capacity to tackle the problem. Rajapaksa said that the ongoing operation had succeeded in crippling human smuggling operatives. He described the operation as one of the most successful actions undertaken against human smuggling.

Minister Morrison had pointed out that there hadn’t been a successful human smuggling operation during the past four months. During the previous year the situation had been so bad there were 100 smuggling operations resulting in the arrival of 6,000 illegals during January-April period.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island 25 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Norway studying Nediyavan re-notice

Norwegian Foreign Ministry said that it was still evaluating how to respond to the approach by the Sri Lankan government with regard to the red notice that make it necessary for Norway’s government to arrest Perinpanayagam Sivaparan or Nediyavan, an Oslo-based Tamil, who is claimed to be the new leader of the LTTE, a Norwegian news agency ’The Local’ reported.

Sri Lankan police earlier this month issued red notices, effectively an international arrest warrant, for 40 members of the LTTE, including Sivaparan.

Morten Høglund, the incoming State Secretary in Norway’s Foreign Ministry, told State broadcaster NRK that the foreign ministry was still evaluating how to respond to the approach. So far, Sivaparan’s name does not appear on the Interpol database.

Norway briefly arrested Sivaparan in Oslo in 2011, interviewing him over his role in financing operations for the LTTE among the Tamil Diaspora in The Netherlands and then releasing him on conditional bail.

But while the five Dutch Tamils were in October 2011 jailed for six months by a court in The Hague for raising money for an organisation on the European Union’s banned list, Sivaparan has not been called back by Norwegian police.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sarath Fonseka seeks UN assistance for regime-change

If the Government and its leadership continue to be corrupt and keep oppressing the people, the Opposiiton will have to seek the assistance of the UN, to change the leadership, Democratic Party leader and former Army commander Sarath Fonseka said. He said he had discussed this issue with UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya on Wednesday.

"There is no relief for the people of this country and there is no way out of the misery they are engulfed in. This is why we may have to seek the help of the UN and international community to change the people unfriendly situation here. I informed Mr. Jayasuriya on the issue and he agreed with me," he told a news conference.

He said there were laws and regulations set by the UN to protect people of a country from its corrupt rulers. "As Sri Lanka is also a member of the UN, we have to accept its rules," he said.

Mr. Fonseka said the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had already tabled and passed a resolution against Sri Lanka for alleged human rights violations because the Council had come to the conclusion that the leadership and the government was violating the human rights of the people.

"The UNHRC had taken the decision to pass a resolution against the country because of human right violations. When people are helpless and neglected by the government, the UN will know what step to take next," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 24 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Abdullah leads in third round

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan released the third round of partial results this week, which show that Dr Abdullah Abdullah continues to lead in the country’s presidential elections.

The partial results, as of now, consist of 82.59 percent of votes nationwide. Dr Abdullah has secured 43.8 percent of the votes and is trailed by Dr Ashraf Ghani with 32.9 percent of the votes and Mr. Zalmai Rassoul with 11.7 percent.

Dr. Ashraf Ghani held a press conference on 21 April and claimed that the IEC is confusing the public with announcements of partial results since invalid votes have been included. He said, "We demand the election commission avoid announcing partial results without differentiating the votes.

Because this only confuses the public’s perceptions and what we need to do now is move forward with trust because our duty is to stabilize the country. At this stage no one can say that the votes are clean because the results were partly clean and partly dirty."

The IEC announced on 24 April that 98 percent of the votes had already been counted. Preliminary results, taking into account all the votes, are expected to be announced on 26 April 2014.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 20 & 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai asked to serve in the next government

The incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been asked by the two front runners in the Afghan Presidential Elections, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, to officially serve in the next government.

Dr Ghani proposed the idea of creating an official office for Mr Karzai and allocating a special budget so that he could present his views on national, regional and international issues.

However, Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, claimed that the President had not accepted the offer and will only cooperate with the next government unofficially.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 24 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">5000 US troops, post-2014

According to a Reuters report, Washington is considering to leave behind a residual force of less than 5000 troops to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) post-2014. This decision is said to reflect a belief among the White House officials that the ANSF is a robust enough force to contain the Taliban insurgency.

However, the presence of US forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 will be subject to the signature of bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 22 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fresh tensions with Iran over executions

Afghan officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed this week that the government of Afghanistan has conveyed its objection and serious concerns regarding the execution of Afghan refugees to the Iranian government.

Foreign ministry spokesman, Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni said that the government of Iran continues to execute Afghan refugees despite an agreement between the two nations which would prevent the execution of Afghans in Iran.

Such fresh tensions over the treatment of Afghans living in Iran has come up as as local authorities in northeastern Takhar province of Afghanistan said at least six Afghan nationals including a number of Takhar residents were hanged in Iran.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 21 April 2014

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Bangladesh: Aakash Tolani;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India: Niharika Betkerur;
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan:Taruni Kumar;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.