MonitorsPublished on Aug 19, 2013
The Indian Consulate in Jalalabad was the target of a suicide attack on August 3. The attack, though did not harm the consulate or any Indian personnel, resulted in the death of 9 bystanders.
Afghanistan: India-Pakistan rivalry reignited
< class="heading1">Analysis

The Indian Consulate in Jalalabad was the target of a suicide attack on August 3. The attack, though did not harm the consulate or any Indian personnel, resulted in the death of 9 bystanders. The Taliban, who were immediately considered to be the perpetrators of the attack, denied any involvement in the incident. However, both Afghanistan and India lay the blame on groups based out of Pakistan. A statement issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs claimed that "the main threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability stems from terrorism and the terror machine that continues to operate from beyond its borders".

The Jalalabad Police Commissioner told the Indian Ambassador, during an official briefing, that the attacks were carried out by trained militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. According to a report published in The Tribune Indian officials were informed, following the Jalalabad attack, that the Indian Embassy in Kabul and the consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Kandahar were still on the target list of Pakistani groups. The report also said that New Delhi was cautioned that "the Taliban and transnational ’jihadi’ groups based in Pakistan will remain the principal instrumentality of Islamabad’s response to India’s increasing engagement in Afghanistan in the run-up to the drawdown by NATO troops". Just prior to the Jalalabad incident, reports warned that the ISI was plotting to have the Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Amar Sinha assassinated.

This is not the first time that the India-Pakistan rivalry has played out in Afghanistan. During the country’s civil wars, India and Pakistan have found themselves supporting opposing factions. For instance, between 1992 and 1995, Pakistan extended support to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, while India, along with Iran, extended support to Burhunuddin Rabbani. Similarly, during the Taliban era in Afghanistan (1995-2001), India was one of the main backers of the Northern Alliance, the main opposition force to the Pakistan-backed Taliban movement. This rivalry has continued into the latest phase of the conflict as well and there is a fear that once the foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 this rivalry and competition between the two countries would intensify.

Traditional backyard?

Pakistan views Afghanistan as its traditional backyard and has been wary of India’s increasing influence in Afghanistan as it feels that it would undermine its own influence in the country. Moreover, Pakistan has long feared the possibility of strategic encirclement by India. It has accused India of using its embassies and consulates in Afghanistan post-2001 as a base for fuelling the insurgency in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. Thus, the need to balance India’s influence in the region and gain ’strategic depth’ in Afghanistan against India have been the driving force behind Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy - besides the problems over the Durand Line and the need to thwart the Pashtunistan movement. It is for this reason that Pakistan continues to extend support to the Afghan Taliban, despite its public support to the Hamid Karzai-led administration, as it considers the movement as the best option to safeguard its interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan. It is the Haqqani Network, in particular, which is considered to be the most effective strategic asset due to its apparent anti-India stance.

In order to counter the Indian presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan has resorted to acts of sabotage like the Jalalabad attacks. It has also been held responsible for the attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009. Afghan officials have also accused Pakistan’s complicity in attacks on the Salma Dam being constructed by India in Herat province.

From India’s perspective, a larger role for Pakistan in Afghanistan, and prolonged instability in the country, could provide a spur to the radical forces in the region. India fears that such a situation would have a direct bearing on its own security. The alleged involvement of Afghan fighters in Kashmir in the 1990s and the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight in 1999, in which the Taliban were seen as colluding with the hijackers, form the basis of such apprehensions. There is also a fear in New Delhi that post-2014 Pakistan would not only increase the pressure on Indian targets in Afghanistan, but also divert the attention of the Afghan Taliban and other jihadi groups based in Pakistan towards India. An Indian analyst, quoted in India Today, said, "It is very difficult to delink the current increase in violence in Kashmir from the events in Afghanistan. The militant groups are becoming emboldened and they have started looking at India as the main target."

India’s objective

Balancing Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan has, thus, been one of India’s objectives of India in Afghanistan as well. For instance, it is hoped that India’s non-military, non-political participation in Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts will generate goodwill that could undercut Pakistan’s influence. It is for this reason that the bulk of India’s Small and Community-based Development Projects, which provides an opportunity for India to engage with the local communities, are based in the Pashtun-dominated south and east Afghanistan, which is also seen by Pakistan as its sphere of influence. Moreover, India also played a leading role in pushing for Afghanistan’s membership into SAARC and in the development of the Chabahar Port, which can provide an alternative access to sea to Afghanistan. Both these measures are aimed at reducing Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan.

However, as much as India’s efforts in Afghanistan may be aimed at undermining Pakistan, it has also been conscious of Pakistan’s concerns. This is evident from the limited role that it has played in Afghanistan’s security sector. The fact that India has been reluctant to send in troops into Afghanistan and has agreed to provide training to only about 1000 ANSF troops, whereas it poses a much greater capacity than that, has largely been the result of a conscious effort on India’s part to avoid antagonising Pakistan. There have been calls in recent times for India and Pakistan to cooperate in Afghanistan in order to ensure stability in the country, an outcome that would be desirable to both nations. However, while the military remains paramount in Pakistan’s foreign policy decision-making, and the trust deficit between the two becomes wider on account of incidents like the Jalalabad attacks and the recent skirmish along the LoC, Afghanistan is likely to remain an avenue for competition, rather than cooperation.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka : Prisoner-swap deserves better attention

N Sathiya Moorthy

Media reports about the transfer of nine Indian prisoners serving terms in Sri Lankan jails to those in native Tamil Nadu could not have come at a more appropriate time for bilateral relations, particularly in the context of the strained perceptions in the south Indian State. Many, if not all of them, have been sentenced to long years in prison, including life-term, for drug-offences. Under the India-Sri Lanka Bilateral Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons signed in June 2010, they will serve the remaining portion of their prison terms nearer home, where their dear and near could visit them.

This is not the first time such prisoner-transfer has taken place. Earlier, 14 others, all from Tamil Nadu, had been transferred from Sri Lankan prisons to those in their native State. More may be transferred likewise in the coming weeks, months and years. If there are procedural delays in the process, it also owes to the Indian system, where Law & Order is a State subject, and paper-work takes a lot more time, unintentionally though.

Almost around the same time as the nine prisoners were now transferred to Tamil Nadu jails, the Sri Lankan media reported the arrest of another native of the south Indian State in that country, for travelling on a tourist visa and indulging in informal trade of essentials. A Jaffna court has since remanded him to 14-day custody, pending possible trial. It is a recurring occurrence, like the arrest of Tamil Nadu fishers in the Sri Lankan waters, but little or no interest is evinced by the political parties in the State, whatever the reason or motivation.

There is also little or no appreciation of the Sri Lankan Government’s efforts and cooperation in the matter of prisoner-swap in Tamil Nadu when compared to the high-decibel political criticism and public protests on the fishers’ issue. It is another matter that ’tourists’ indulging in ’informal trade’ in Sri Lanka are detained by the local police at times and allowed to go off without much noise or protests.

Like the Tamil Nadu fishers, these traders too return to Sri Lanka without much loss of time, to indulge in what essentially can be described only as illegal trade, violating stringent visa rules. They face similar prospects and problems as the fishers. But unlike the fishers, these traders are fewer in numbers, are not organised, and are also not concentrated in huge numbers in specific localities and locations along the State’s long coastline. Their movement within Sri Lanka too is restricted to smaller packets, within the well-defined land borders. Against this, their fisher brethren have the vast seas at their command - creating a source of tension, both for the Sri Lankan (Tamil fishers) and security agencies.

The parallel

The ’informal traders’ from Tamil Nadu have been hitting at the livelihood of their Tamil trader-brethren, particularly in the Tamil-majority North, and also in the East, where too they have customers. There is a parallel here again. It is akin to the way the Sri Lankan Tamil fishers have been protesting the continued presence and exploitation of their marine resources and daily catch by the Indian fishers with better yet banned equipment. Again, owing to numbers, concentration and consequent visibility, the Sri Lankan Tamil fishers are heard by their political and administrative leadership in Colombo, Jaffna and Trincomallee. The local traders do not have that advantage, either. Yet, the Sri Lankan Tamil traders in the Northern Province, particularly Jaffna town, are known to be ’tipping off’ and/or pressuring the their law-enforcement agencies against the encroachment by the Tamil Nadu groups, arriving at times in droves are in singles and two’s, cutting into their sales, profit-margins and incomes. Having borrowed heavily, in cash and/or stocks, post-war, thanks to the munificence of banks and wholesalers in distant Colombo, they cannot but take care of their immediate livelihood interests - just as their fisher brethren have become asserting themselves in the seas.

The Tamil Nadu polity needs to acknowledge that when it came to protecting their turf and trades-interest, the Sri Lankan Tamil fishers and traders alike do not stand on the ubiquitous ’ethnic divide’ to argue their case with Sinhala-dominated local authorities. To them, in practice, the ’ethnic issue’, thus is an internal affair. Like their politicos, they would want their Tamil Nadu brethren to stand up for them - but, again on their terms, and without any reference to trades-intrusion from across the sea. The local traders, in the post-war era, have borrowed heavily at high interest rates - at times, mindlessly -- to re-launch their dwindling businesses. Intrusion by the Indian traders, who do not have to suffer spending on establishment expenses, like rent, electricity and salaries that are any way high, means that the latter could sell at a much cheaper price than one could sell goods, particularly textiles, in shops, for which often rents have to be paid - or, provided for.

It is another matter some of the Sri Lankans -- Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalas, alike - are dealing in ’informal trade’ of the kind, stocking their shops and homes with goodies brought by couriers by flight from India, for selling at high margins. If in the post-war era, the two Governments had revived the forgotten passenger shipping between the two shores, it was based on the belief that the traders - informal or otherwise - in the two countries would be able to carry more goods than they can do by flight and at lower cost. If the attempt failed, it owed mainly to the lack of ’staying capacity’ of the chosen liner until the passenger flow picked up enough.

Misusing the facility

With the prisoner-swap agreement now becoming a reality, the Tamil Nadu Government in particular, and the State’s polity otherwise may have to look at the possibilities, and ensure that the facility is not misused, either by design or otherwise. It applies as much to fishers as traders, and others - who have taken comfort in the near-sure release after detention, at the instance of the Indian Government, for which the political parties and the Government in Tamil Nadu take due or undue credit, from time to time. Among the numerous fishers from the State that are now in Sri Lankan prisons, at least five have been charged with drug offences. Others may be let off after a time, as broadly indicated by Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Karunatilaka Amunagama, but that does not necessarily mean that the Colombo dispensation and the Jaffna-based Northern Provincial administration would take it easy any more. With Northern Provincial Council polls due on 21 September, any elected administration there would be voicing its concerns about the livelihood issues of its people - just as their Tamil Nadu counterparts are doing - and, not otherwise.

The possibility of their transfer to prisons in Tamil Nadu, if such detainees were to be sentenced by Sri Lankan courts, should not be seen as an encouragement to wrong-doing. Instead, they should be educated to acknowledge that they cannot escape penalty, whatever the circumstances and whatever the understanding between the Governments. Better still, education and consequent facilitation should aim at their not resorting to illegal trade or other illegal activity of any kind - with a clear message that the Governments would not be there to back them. The reverse should be truer, still.

Two-way street

It is not as if Indians alone are offenders, and are detained in Sri Lankan prisons. Sri Lankan fishers, particularly from the Sinhala South, are also caught in Indian waters, often on the tuna-trail. Like the Nagapattinam fishers who are reportedly caught at times off the eastern Trincomallee coast in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan fishers are also detained by the Indian Coast Guard deep inside Indian territorial waters, off Andhra Pradesh and Orissa coasts, not to mention the Andaman Seas and the Tamil Nadu coast. The ’security concerns’ that Sri Lankan officials are at times talking about in the case of Tamil Nadu fishers is also a two-way street, given the strategic Indian installations en route of the Sri Lankan fishers.

For the record, the Sri Lankan Government in general and Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne in particular have been seen as publicly discouraging their fishers from crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). The Minister, more often than not, is on record that Sri Lankan (read: Sinhala) fishers violating the IMBL would be doing so at their risk, and could not expect their Government to bat for them. Political parties in the country have maintained a stoic silence on the issue, throughout, without interfering with what is essentially a governmental process. It contradicts the Tamil Nadu position, where the Government and the political parties in Tamil Nadu are heard loud and clear, every time their fishers cross over in to Sri Lankan waters, and are attacked/arrested there.

Maybe owing to the constant and continuing arrest of Tamil Nadu fishers in Sri Lankan waters, the Indian State has looked at reciprocity of early release without trial as a possible way to ease tensions. Tamil Nadu thus has a well-placed mechanism involving various security agencies from the Centre and the State well in place, to dispose of the case of ’innocent fishers’ from Sri Lanka, arrested by the Coast Guard in the nation’s territorial waters.

The same cannot be said about other Indian States, where again the detained Sri Lankan fishers are handed over to the local police by the Coast Guard. That includes Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and the Andamans. However, the situation seems to be improving, there, too, in early disposal of pending cases, release of Sri Lankan fishers and boats, where a fit case had been made out. Hiccups remain, however, and need to be addressed early on.

Needless to say, grey areas too will remain, on the prisoner-swap, that is. There used to be a tendency, particularly in Indian States like Tamil Nadu, for the State Government to announce term-relaxation for prisoners under certain categories, on occasions like the birth anniversary of one leader or the other. A royal hang-over from a very, very distant past in the Tamil Nadu context - where the last of the empowered royals date back to centuries - the practice has occasionally caught on in Sri Lanka, too, from time to time.

For now, pending Supreme Court case(s) in India may have come in the way of State Governments in the country taking bold to announce such concessions, at least until the law and procedure had been clearly laid down. Sure enough, the intention of the two Governments in signing the prisoner-transfer agreement too has not been to facilitate such relaxation, and convert a serious offence and consequent punishment into relative easy-going prison-term, if not a ’holiday’ of some kind.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt agrees to talks with Taliban

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Afghanistan announced this week that peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban were set to begin either in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. The ministry also announced that the government was open to the idea of a political office for the insurgents in one of these two countries.

Janan Mosazai, the spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, stated that the government still preferred holding peace talks within Afghanistan, but since that may not be acceptable to the Taliban, the government was willing for the talks to be held in Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

Mosazai, however, clearly stated that any office for the Taliban should conform to the rules set out by the Afghan government. He said, "The Afghanistan government is ready to have a contact with the Taliban through a political office and start negotiations, but not ready for any compromise on the constitution and the gains the people of Afghanistan have made so far over the past more than a decade". Moreover, he added that the government did not allow the reconciliation process to threaten the national unity or lead to anarchy and would not allow the "enemies" to reach their goals which they had not been able to achieve in the battlefield.

In another effort to give a boost to the peace talks, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to visit Pakistan at the end of the month. This would be Karzai’s first visit to Pakistan since Nawaz Sharif became Pakistan’s Prime Minister. The trip is expected to focus on getting Pakistan to be a better partner in combating insurgency and how the Islamabad government can help get the Taliban back to the negotiating table. Mosazai said, "Reinitiating peace talks is one of the major motives behind President Karzai’s trip to Pakistan. Pakistan has a major role to play in support of the peace process".

This visit comes amidst a fresh set of accusations from the Afghan Ministry of Interior, which stated that the activities of Al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network based out of Pakistan pose the greatest threat to Afghanistan’s security.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 11 August, 2013; Pajhwok, 11 August, 2013; Tolo News, 10 August, 2013; Tolo News, 13 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India reaffirms its commitment

India’s Defence Minister, A.K.Antony announced that India would fulfil its commitment to assist the Afghan National Security Forces as per the terms of the strategic partnership pact signed between the two countries. The partnership entails military support from India in the form of capacity building and equipment for the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan National Army (ANA). Antony told the Indian Parliament that India would provide military assistance to Afghanistan as per its needs.

Gen. Zahir Azimi, spokesman of the Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD), said that the Afghan-Indo military relationship is stronger than ever before. Referring to the recent statements of the Indian Defense Minister, Gen. Azimi said, "India’s military cooperation is part of the Afghan-Indian strategic partnership agreement. The cooperation is increasing everyday and I can frankly say that there is no obstacle standing in the way".

India also claimed that it was committed to complete the Salam Dam project. Amarjit Singh, India’s Consular-General in Herat said that the project would be completed within a year. Singh said, "Salma Dam will be completed within a year, the dam will start working within a year, and I want to reiterate that the Indian government is committed to this project".

Construction of the dam was supposed to be completed three years back, but due to growing security issues in the region as well as financing troubles the project was delayed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 13-14 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai backs Sayyaf for presidency

The National Coalition of Afghanistan revealed this week that a meeting had been held at the Presidential Palace last week during which Hamid Karzai put forth Abdurrab Rasoul Sayyaf as a potential presidential candidate for the elections in 2014.

The meeting was attended by Marshal Fahim, First Vice-President; Atta Muhammad Noor, Governor of Balkh province; Abdurrab Rasoul Sayyaf, head of Dawat-e-Islami Party; and Muhammad Ismail, Minister of Water and Energy. Reportedly, President Karzai took the opportunity to endorse Mr. Sayyaf and encourage those present at the meeting to extend their support for him as well. All except Mr. Noor are said to have agreed to extend support to Sayyaf for a presidential bid.

Although, the President’s office confirmed the meeting, it said that President Karzai has not announced his support for any specific candidate as of yet.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 14 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jamaat ’s shutdown

The week saw another round of shutdown declared by influential religious political party Jamaat-e-Islami, which was marred by violent incidents of clashes across the country between the supporters of the party and law enforcement agencies. The violence had caused life of a person and hundreds injured including members of law enforcement agencies.

Jamaat observed countrywide shutdown on August 13 and August 14 as a reaction to High Court order of last month (July) that declared the party’s registration with the election commission as illegal because its charter breached the secular constitution, leaving it unable to contest next year’s general elections.

Bangladesh is reeling from deadly violence, which has erupted since a tribunal hearing allegations of crimes dating back to the war began handing down sentences, including against senior Jamaat figures. Around 150 people have died in the political violence since the beginning of the year, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Meanwhile, the party is contemplating upon hosting a series of shutdowns, a non-cooperation campaign and other tough agitation programmes in its bid to prevent the Election Commission (EC) from disqualifying the party from running in the general elections.

The EC informed that it would cancel Jamaat’s registration when it receives the full text of the High Court verdict. This is a serious threat to its existence.

Jamaat, a key component in the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led 18-party alliance, had filed a petition with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the High Court order but that was rejected. Like the EC, the party is waiting for the full judgment of the High Court after which it hopes to file an appeal.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Independence, 14 August, 2013;, 13 August, 2013; The Daily Star, 16 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New group out to reorganise Huji

In sensational revelation a daily newspaper this week revealed that efforts are on to reorganise the banned terror outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (Huji) across the country under guise of conducting ’the Quran learning course’. This revelation juxtapose to the arrest of nine suspected militants by the police from a mosque in a remote village of Jhalakathi. During the raid police recovered an inactive grenade from the possession of the arrestees. They also found some "Jihadi publications" and a diary of Moshiur Rahman Milon, one of the nine. Moshiur is also leader of the arrested nine and was actively involved with Huji, had close tie with Huji leader Moulana Abdur Rouf, who is now behind bars.

Rouf along with some other Huji founders and top leaders, including Mufti Abdul Hannan, are accused in August 21 grenade attack cases. On August 21, 2004, the organisation as a mercenary force carried out grenade attacks on an Awami League rally at Dhaka to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, then opposition leader. The outfit, launched through a press conference in Jatiya Press Club in 1992, was banned in October 2005 for anti-state activities.

The newspaper claimed that to organise Huji countrywide, they have decided to work in the name of conducting Vaigyanik Poddhotite Quran Shikkha Course . This is an initiative to reinvigorate former responsible leaders and activists of Huji in the country. During interrogation, Moshiur informed that they were arranging an eight-to-ten day motivation programme to encourage young men to sacrifice their lives in Jihad.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 16 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to offer financial aid

As Bhutan struggles to chalk out its 11th Five Year Plan with the financial assistance from India, national security adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh visited Thimphu last week.

The two officials met PM Tshering Tobgay and offered to cooperate with Bhutan over all issues related to aid from India. Tobgay showed them the draft of the 11th Plan and also an Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) which Thimphu has formulated to deal with the economic situation.

"We’ll do everything we can to support and provide assistance to Bhutan. We really look forward to working together and achieving positive outcomes," Menon told Tobgay.

India’s decision last month to stop subsidy last month on LPG and kerosene it supplies to the neighbouring country had caused a political storm in Thimphu, coming as it did in the middle of Bhutan’s second parliamentary polls. The expiry of the 10th Plan on June 30 was said to be the reason for stopping the subsidy. After Tobgay’s victory though, PM Manmohan Singh wrote to him saying that he had asked his officials to expedite terms for fresh financial assistance. India this month renewed subsidy on cooking gas and kerosene.

According to a statement by the Bhutan PM office, the ESP is meant to increase liquidity schemes in banks which would allow loan provisions for private sectors and enhance youth employment. Tobgay told the Indian officials these issues required immediate attention and that his government was looking at India’s assistance and support to ensure that these issues are carefully and productively addressed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 13 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM meets India’s candidate for WHO post

India’s candidate for the post of Regional Director of World Health Organisation (WHO) Poonam Khetrapal Singh called on Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and discussed issues like healthcare and sanitation.

Natural calamities like receding glaciers and glacier floods, need for emergency preparedness, essential generic medicine, rise in non-communicable diseases, and proper nutrition for mothers and children were also discussed in the meeting yesterday.

They also talked about disease prevention nutrition, safe drinking water, and Bhutan’s progress in these fronts.

Singh commended the Prime Minister on the nation’s remarkable advancement toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), conceding to an increase in life expectancy and decrease in infant and maternal mortality rates.

"Looking at how Bhutan is moving ahead, the nation will fulfil the MDG objectives even before the target date," Singh said in an official press release.

In the release, Singh is quoted saying that non-communicable diseases were not common in Bhutan before.

But today, the nation is witnessing a rise in lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes, increasing cholesterol levels and hypertension.

The talks also highlighted the importance of nutritional diet patterns, regular exercise and improving advocacy in combating these diseases. Delivering primary healthcare, essential drugs and prevention of non-communicable diseases require a lot more attention and support from WHO, said the Prime Minister.

"Bhutan is striving toward achieving economic self-reliance but in the immediate future, we need aid from WHO in successfully addressing and advocating these pertinent health issues," the Prime Minister added.

Singh has been working with the WHO for the last 15 years and is currently a candidate for the post of WHO Regional Director of South-East Asia.

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, 14 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak violates ceasefire again, warns India of escalation

On Thursday while India was celebrating its 67th Independence Day, the Pakistani Army allegedly targeted Indian forward posts along the LoC in Poonch again, injuring three Army jawans and a civilian. Officials said this was the 11th violation of the 2003 ceasefire in the past five days.

Reports from Poonch said Indian troops had responded with "massive" mortar and heavy calibre weapons fire targeting Pakistani forward posts, and the exchange of fire continued till Thursday evening.

As tension mounted along the Line of Control, Pakistan troops violated the ceasefire twice on Monday, targeting Indian forward posts along the International Border in Poonch and Samba districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

This is the third consecutive day that Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire and the sixth ceasefire violation since Saturday.

Earlier, Pakistani forces on Sunday resorted to firing on forward Indian posts along the international border in Kanachak sector about 20 km from Jammu, seriously injuring BSF jawan Pawan Kumar.

"There was sniper firing from the Pakistani side at 0830 hours today (Sunday) along the international border on these posts," a senior BSF officer said. There was also firing on main posts along the Line of Control in Mendhar sector, Poonch. No loss of life or property was reported.

Pakistan, meanwhile, continued with its aggressive stance and denied any wrongdoing. Officials in Islamabad warned of a possible escalation in tensions with India if the latest initiative of PM Nawaz Sharif failed.

Meanwhile, Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bshir on Sunday said India’s reaction to the August 6 killing of six Indian soldiers may have been based on an "afterthought". Mr Bashir claimed the Indian Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO) did not raise the killings with his Pakistani counterpart in a hotline conversation held barely hours after the incident last Tuesday.

The Indian Army, however, clarified that the August 6 talks were meant to be at the staff level, and the DGMO himself did not speak to his Pakistani counterpart.

"By the time we had specifics of the attack, the DGMO sought, by the same evening, an unscheduled call for 10 am the next day. At that call, the DGMO strongly took up the matter; a senior Army officer said and added "There was no afterthought at all".

In a related development, the Pakistan National Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution charging Indian troops with "unprovoked aggression" along the Line of Control (LoC) in recent days. New Delhi, however, asserted that unprovoked ceasefire violations would impact bilateral ties.

On Wednesday, Indian parliament adopted a unanimous resolution holding Pakistan army responsible for escalating tensions along the LoC.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 13 August, 2013, Hindustan Times, The Times of India, 12 August, 2013, The Tribune, 14 August, 2013, The Asian Age, 16 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">First indigenous aircraft carrier launched

India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant entered the waters on Monday, marking a red letter day in the country’s maritime history and achieving an important milestone in the shipbuilding industry. Being built by the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), the ship-the largest to be built in the country so far-was formally launched by Elizabeth Antony, wife of Defence Minister A K Antony at the CSL dockyard in Cochin.

Though operationalisation of the warship is still about five years away, INS Vikrant, with its compliment of 1,600 personnel and 20 fighters comprising 12 MIG-29K and eight Tejas and 10 helicopters would form a critical component of the Indian Navy’s doctrine of sea dominance towards securing national interest.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Tribune, 13 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">N-sub reactor goes ’critical’

The miniature reactor on board India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant has gone "critical", which marks a big stride towards making the country’s long-awaited "nuclear weapons triad," an operational reality.

Sources, in the early hours of Saturday, said the 83 MW pressurized light-water reactor attained "criticality" after several months of "checking and re-checking" of all the systems and sub-systems of the 6000-tonne submarine at the secretive ship-building centre at Visakhapatnam.

< class="text11verdana">, 10 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nuclear-capable Prithvi II missile test fired

India today test-fired its nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Prithvi-II missile from a military base in Odisha, a senior defence official said.

The indigenously-developed ballistic missile with a range of 350 km was fired from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur-on-sea in Balasore district, about 230 km from Bhubaneswar.

The launch was carried out at 9.20 am by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Indian armed forces, as part of a regular training exercise.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 12 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India submarine explosion: All 18 sailors feared dead

India’s navy has said that all 18 sailors on board a submarine which exploded and sank on Wednesday are feared dead, after divers found no signs of life when they entered the stricken vessel.

Meanwhile, an inquiry has been ordered into what’s thought to be India’s worst naval disaster in more than 40 years in which the fully armed INS Sindhurakshak, which was recently refitted in Russia, caught on fire after an explosion and subsequently sank in a military shipyard.

It is also said that the submarine lacked some modern safety equipment

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindustan Times, The Hindu, August 14-17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Forex reserves down by $ 2.99 b

The country’s foreign exchange reserves dived by a hefty USD 2.995 billion to USD 277.167 billion, the Reserve Bank on Friday said.

The total reserves had increased USD 960.2 million to USD 280.162 billion last week.

Foreign currency assets, a major component of the forex reserves, dropped USD 2.155 billion to USD 249.895 billion for the week ended August 2, the Reserve Bank said.

Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of the non-US currencies, such as euro, pound and yen, held in the reserves.

During the week, the gold reserves dropped USD 808.5 million at USD 20.747 billion, the RBI said.

For the week under review, the special drawing rights (SDRs) were down by USD 21.4 million to USD 4.352 billion, while the country’s reserve position with the IMF also fell by USD 10.7 million to USD 2.171 billion, the RBI data showed.

< class="text11verdana">, 9 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Industrial production contracts 2.2 pc

There was mixed news for the economy on Monday as industrial output contracted for the second straight month for June while the trade deficit narrowed due to improvement in exports.

The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for the month of June shrunk by 2.2 per cent. This is the second straight contraction in industrial production. Manufacturing sector, which constitutes about 76 per cent of industrial production, shrank 2.2 per cent from a year earlier. Capital goods production, a barometer for investments in the economy, contracted an annual 6.6 per cent in June from a year earlier.

The silver lining on the economic data was the fall in trade deficit to $ 12.26 billion, down by 30 per cent compared to last year.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said the government will be able to limit in the current account deficit (CAD)-the difference between annual foreign exchange inflows and outflows-at 3.7% of the GDP in 2013-14, from the previous year’s record 4.8% of GDP amid signs that recovery in India’s economy may be slower than expected.

"If CAD is contained at $ 70 billion, it will amount to 3.7% of GDP," Mr Chidambaram said in a statement in the Lok Sabha.

Mr Chidambaram said import duties on gold and silver, oil and non-essential goods may go up as he laid out the broad contours of the government’s strategy to check rupee slide and contain the CAD and halt the slide of rupee that has fallen 15% since May.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Tribune, Hindustan Times, 13 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yameen meets Indian PM

A six-member Maldivian delegation led by Abdulla Yameen, Leader of the Parliamentary Group of the Progress Party of Maldives (PPM), and also the presidential candidate of Progress Party, met Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on 16 August.

Half-brother of former President and PPM founder Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Yameen was accompanied by the latter’s daughter Dunya Maumoon, her two brothers, Ahmed Faris Maumoon, PPM Council Member, and Mohamed Ghassaan Maumoon, Minister of State for Human Resource, Youth & Sports, and also other senior party functionaries.

The meeting was held in the context of ongoing Indian engagement with all Maldivian stake holders. Ousted President Mohamed Nasheed was here last week. He met Dr Singh and other leaders and officials.

The Prime Minister said India is engaged with various Maldivian political parties. He hoped for free and fair elections on 7 September, and expressed the desire that there will be a smooth transition. He also emphasized on the need to ensure understanding among all that outcome of the elections is recognized by all and there are no reprisals.

According to Indian official sources, Yameen agreed with this. He thanked India for its traditional support for Maldives and expressed the desire that these unique bonds should continue to grow and prosper.

He invited Indian investment to contribute to Maldives’ growth and said that he will contribute in creating a conducive atmosphere. India is always there when Maldives needed any help, he said and thanked the Prime Minister for this.

Later in the day in Male, PPM parliamentarian for Isdhoo, Ahmed Rasheed, joined the Jumhooree Party (JP) of rival presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim. Rasheed had originally belonged to the People’s Alliance (PA) founded by Yameen before the latter decided to join the PPM.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, 16 August 2013; Sun Online 16 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MSP signs MOU with Turkish counterparts

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Turkish National Police during his official visit to Turkey. Alongside Director-General of the Turkish National Police, Mehmet Kiliclar, Riyaz signed the Security Cooperation Agreement in order to strengthen the institutional relationship between the two countries.

"The Security Cooperation Agreement will provide important training opportunities for officers of the Maldives Police Service in diverse areas including the combating of transnational organised crime, human trafficking and narcotics abuse and trafficking," read a statement on the Maldives Police Service (MPS) website.

Writing from Ankara on his personal Twitter feed, Riyaz also mentioned a meeting with the Turkish International Academy against Drugs & Organised Crime, stating that the organisation has assured the MPS support and assistance.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, 15 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police detain 141 illegal migrant workers

The police have handed over 141 migrant workers who were working in Hulhumale’ without proper documentation, to the Immigration Department. The current raid follows the rape of a Maldivian girl in Hulhumale’, allegedly by a migrant worker.

The individuals were found in expatriate housing units and places of business in a special operation carried out by Hulhumale’ Police Station on the morning of 15 August.

This operation is similar to several other operations carried out in Male’ and in the islands to locate migrant workers working illegally.

Earlier this year, the police also handed over several migrant workers working at the local market in Male’ to the Immigration Department.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, 16 August 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’No copying of other govt models’

It is not impossible for Myanmar to copy federal systems from other countries because in the end, only a system that serves the interest of the all Myanmar nationals can be established, said Union Parliament Speaker, Thura Shwe Mann.

Mann made the comment during a meeting on the national races’ rights protection bill in Nay Pyi Taw on August 6.

"What type of federal system will our country establish? It must be beneficial to our citizens. American-style federal system is not possible and nor is the German style. Switzerland’s federal system is not possible either. We must establish a federal system that is most suitable for the Myanmar people and benefits the country," said Speaker Shwe Mann.

During his visit to the United States in June this year, Shwe Mann said federal system did not mean secession but living in coexistence with power sharing. In the visit, he also publicly revealed that he wanted to be the president.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 11 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Panel to review border-fencing

Taking serious note of public disappointment over the ongoing India-Myanmar border fencing work, the state cabinet has decided to set up a committee to review the exercise.

A large number of civil bodies and opposition parties contended that a large portion of land in Manipur’s Chandel district will fall into neighbouring Myanmar as a result of the 10-km border fencing exercise being taken up along the Moreh sector. Manipur shares a 398-km border with Myanmar.

Though the exact area likely to be carved out by the fence is yet to be ascertained, there is likelihood of 14 villages falling in Myanmar according to the reports of several civil society groups and political parties that inspected the affected area and the concerned villagers.

The civil bodies and opposition parties demanded immediate suspension of the border fencing exercise taken up by the department of border management of the Union home ministry with the primary objective of checking drug smuggling and cross-border movement of underground cadres.

Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh chaired the cabinet meeting held at his office complex here on Monday night. The meeting resolved that the committee would be headed by the state principal secretary (home).

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 14 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN calls for talks amidst fresh clashes

The UN has called for dialogue after another violent clash in a camp for dispossessed Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, as its human rights envoy toured the strife-torn area Tuesday.

At least one person was killed and around 10 injured last Friday in the latest violence in Rakhine state, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said.

"UNHCR is reiterating its call for peaceful dialogue and confidence-building between the (internally displaced persons) and government. We believe this is key to avoiding further violence," spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva.

The statement coincides with a visit by the UN’s outspoken human rights envoy for Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana, who has made Rakhine his first stop in a ten-day trip to the country.

Quintana has visited several areas in Rakhine, including a Rohingya-majority area and a camp for Muslims left homeless in the violence, according to Win Myaing, spokesman for the Rakhine state government.

UNHCR said the latest conflict broke out at a camp for displaced Muslims on Friday when a body was found in a waterway near Sittwe.

An argument between camp residents and local police over the cause of death and handling of the corpse is thought to have led to a violent confrontation in which four Muslims sustained gunshot wounds, with one later dying.

Edwards said in a statement that humanitarian workers were unable to access the area over the weekend, but had been able to re-enter the camp as tensions eased on Monday. A police source said two people had died of their injuries. Win Myaing put the number of wounded at 10 and told AFP that "the situation is calm now".

< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, 13 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Former PM Shreshta passes away

Former Prime Minister Marichman Singh Shrestha died of pneumonia and lung cancer on August 15. He was 72.

Shrestha served as the prime minister since June 1986 to April 1990 during the autocratic Panchayat regime. As the people´s movement against the autocratic Panchayat regime gathered momentum and thousands of protestors took to the streets in the capital and other parts of the country, late King Birendra had removed Shrestha from the post and appointed Lokendra Bahadur Chand as the prime minister.

But, the anti-regime protests continued forcing the king to bow to people´s power. Thirteen days after Shrestha was removed from the prime ministerial post, the king on April 8, 1990 announced the end of the Panchayat system and the beginning of multi-party system with constitutional monarchy.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 15 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rupee hits new low against dollar

The Nepali currency has hit a record low of Rs 99.02 against the US dollar along with the Indian currency’s alarming plunge.

On the last day of the week on Friday, the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has fixed the foreign currency exchange rate for Saturday and Sunday (August 17 and 18) with the reference selling rate for one US dollar at Rs 99.02 and buying rate at Rs 98.42.

Under the current system, the market exchange rates quoted by different commercial banks may differ, according to the NRB.

The decline of Nepali rupee against the US dollar is due to the depreciation of the Indian currency against the dollar. Nepali rupee has a fixed exchange rate, Rs 160 for IRs 100, with the Indian currency.

The Indian rupee fell to a record low of IRs 62.03 against the dollar 16 August.

The increase in dollar value also makes the imported goods more expensive.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 16 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SLMM agrees to participate in polls

After months of negotiations Upendra Yadav-led Sanghiya Loktantrik Madheshi Morcha (SLMM) has finally agreed to take part in the ongoing election process.

SLMM agreed to overtures made by major parties to participate in Constituent Assembly (CA) election scheduled for November 19 following a 6-point agreement between the High Level Political Committee (HLPC) and SLMM ON August 15.

As per the 6-point agreement, the key constituents of HLPC will be increased by including SLMM and other major parties that have agreed to participate in the upcoming election, Election Commission would be requested to provide window period of two more weeks for registration of voter registration, and 42 percent seats would be allotted for direct and 58 percent seats will be allotted for proportional electoral system respectively.

As per the agreement, the CA will have 585 seats with 240 seats under direct electoral system and 335 seats under proportional electoral system while 10 seats will be fulfilled through recommendations.

Furthermore, HLPC and SLMM also expressed commitment to hold the CA election on the stipulated date and ensure that it is carried out in a free and fair manner.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 16 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poll date could be postponed

Nepali Congress (NC) leader Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat has said that the date of the election to the Constituent Assembly (CA) could be postponed if the participation of the CPN-Maoist led by Mohan Baidya in the election was guaranteed.

At a news conference organised by the Nepal Press Union in Morang district, leader Mahat said that the CPN-Maoist should discard other 18-point demands if they want postponement of the date of CA election.

Stating that CA election would be held at any cost even in adverse situation, even if one or the other party does not participate in it, he said that there are such examples in other countries of the world as well.

Blaming the CPN-Maoist of raising unnecessary issues in the name of talks so as not to participate in the election, Mahat expressed the view that popularity of the party would only be known from the election.

he also pointed at the possibility of the country’s disintegration if federalism on the basis of ethnicity was adopted. He said that the country is not economically capable for it.

< class="text11verdana">, 15 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NA passes resolution against India

The National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously passed a resolution condemning repeated incidents of firing by Indian troops across the Line of Control (LoC) and working boundary and demanded that India be told to respect the ceasefire agreement of 2003.

The resolution condemned not only the "unprovoked Indian aggression on the LoC" but also the mob attack on Pakistan’s High Commission, demonstrations outside the PIA offices, prevention of the Dosti bus in Amritsar, and vilification of Pakistan in the Indian media.

The resolution said, "This house endorses the prime minister’s forceful statement urging effective steps to ensure the ceasefire on the LoC; not to allow the situation to drift and to take steps to improve atmosphere by engaging constructively with a view to building trust and confidence. This house accordingly calls upon the government to clearly convey to the government of India the necessity to respect and uphold the Ceasefire Agreement 2003 in letter and spirit".

India responded to this through the passing of a similar resolution in the Indian Parliament condemning the Pakistani attacks on India. The Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said Pakistan must not take India’s patience for granted. The resolution asserted that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir "including the territory under occupation of Pakistan is and shall always be an integral part of India".

The two resolutions come amidst cross-border firing and accusations of repeated ceasefire violations from both sides. The most immediate provocation for this new round of armed clashes between India and Pakistan was the killing of Indian soldiers last week in an attack for which the Pakistan Military Establishment has been blamed.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Express Tribune, 13 August, 2013; The Express Tribune, 15 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt ready for talks with TTP

The Pakistani government declared this week that it preferred talks with the Taliban, but was ready to declare an "all out war" against them if the political leadership could evolve a consensus on it.

The interior minister, making what was seen as the government’s first unambiguous statement about the growing security threat, said "we will leave it to the political parties to decide whether we should hold talks with militants, use force against them or adopt a mix of tact and might". He said a strategy against militants would be thrashed out at a multi-party conference (MPC) later this month.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had declared earlier that they were willing to consider an offer to negotiate with the Pakistan government if the government could give assurance through religious leaders and scholars.

The TTP spokesperson, Shahidullah Khan Shahid while talking about the negotiations hinted that Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hassan and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman "are good people" adding that now that Nawaz Sharif is in power "we will evaluate and see what his plans are."

Rehman welcomed the TTP offer to negotiate calling it a step in the right direction. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Jan Achakzai, JUI-F chief said the offer to hold dialogue was not positively taken by the previous government, adding that talks with the Taliban should form an important component of the country’s anti-terrorism strategy. He asked the Pakistan government to acknowledge the offer and reciprocate by explicitly declaring that it wanted to engage with the Taliban.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 13 August 2013; The Express Tribune, 11-12 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Islambad: Gunman demands Islamic law

A Pakistani gunman opened fire in Islamabad on Thursday demanding Islamic rule in the country. Muhammed Sikander passed through checkpoints in the city into the heavily guarded centre, near parliament and the presidency, with his wife and two children in the car. Despite tight security, due to threats received from the Afghan-Pakistan border the armed man made his way into the centre and fired random shots.

People gathered on Jinnah Avenue to watch while the police attempted to negotiate with Sikander. His actions were not representative of any particular group nor did he have any affiliation with militant activity.

The five-hour long stand-off between the gunman and police was halted for while when leader of the opposition party PPP, Zamarud Khan, negotiated and attempted to disarm the man. But Khan failed, and was fired at by Sikander although unharmed.

The police and the paramilitary eventually took down the gunman arresting him under the Anti-Terrorism Act. He had made demands for the current government to be removed and for Islamic Sharia law to be implemented. He also demanded the release of his son who was jailed in Saudi Arabia.

Live footage of the event was broadcasted on Geo TV, and showed that Sikander was shot twice and is in critical condition. The woman with him was also shot in the leg, and the children were unharmed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 16 August, 2013; Reuters, 16 August, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Panel named to probe ’missing persons’

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has named three members to the commission tasked with investigation of cases of persons who went missing from the Northern and Eastern Provinces during ’Eelam War-IV’.

Headed by Maxwell Parakrama Paranagama (Chairman), the Commission has been given the authority to conduct inquiries and investigations necessary, and submit a report to the President within six months.

President Rajapaksa has instructed the Commission to identify the person(s) responsible in cases where abductions or disappearances are found to have taken place and to take legal action against those person(s), it was announced.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 14 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Court orders release of 8 Indian fishermen

A court in Sri Lanka on Friday ordered the release of eight Indian fishermen, who were taken into custody by naval personnel of the island nation on 15 June for allegedly crossing the International Martime Boundary Line (IMBL).

The fishermen who were under judicial custody since June 16 were ordered to be released by magistrate Anandhi Kanakarathinam of the court in Mannar.

However, the remand of 41 other fishermen, arrested on different dates, was extended up to 22 August.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 17 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Norochcholai plant maintenance to cost CEB dear

With the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) deciding to shut down the country’s first coal-fired power plant at Norochcholai on Wednesday, August 21, for its long delayed annual maintenance, differing opinions have surfaced on the resulting additional cost to the loss incurring institution. One source maintained that the 40-day maintenance would cost the CEB SLRs 32 billion while another said that it will not be more than Rs 12 billion.

CEB Deputy General Manager (Business and Operations Strategy) Senajith Dhanayake said that the CEB would not have to pay Rs. 30 million per day to purchase costly oil-generated power to meet the shortfall. Dhanayake said that their main focus was on covering the peak load.

However, Consumer Movement Secretary Bandula Chandrasekara stressed that the CEB had to pay between Rs. 72 and Rs. 80 million per day. He said the CEB was already spending Rs. 40 million per day because the 300 MW plant was de-loaded for some time and it had only generated 140 MW to the national grid. The amount would vary as the prices at which Independent Power Producers supply oil generated power-- between Rs. 24 and Rs. 40 per unit.

Chandrasekera, an ex-CEB staffer, said that water levels in catchments would also recede with the ending of the southwest monsoon and there was a possibility that the CEB would have to depend on IPPs during off peak periods too. He blamed the timing of the shutdown, saying that the CEB lacked strategic planning as it should have gone for the maintenance while most reservoirs were overflowing.

Usually, in countries like India, the maintenance work would be done once in five years. "There is something seriously wrong here and there is a need to appoint an independent committee to look into such matters," he stressed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 14 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Estate superintendents resign in fear of arrest

Superintendents of state owned and managed estates have begun to resign from their jobs fearing arrest over non-payment of workers’ retirement benefits.

On 15 August, the Superintendent of Kumarawatte Estate in Moneragala was arrested by the police there on a Court order for non payment of EPF, ETF and gratuity following action filed by Labour Department officers to recover the outstanding dues.

Having spent a night in the police lockup, Superintendent Perera was eventually released yesterday morning through the intervention of the Ceylon Planters’ Society. Following the ordeal, Sudesh Perera has resigned from his job as the Superintendent of Kumarawatte Estate.

Perera said he had been instructed by his Chairman to give himself up to the police on the assurance he would not be arrested.

It is also learnt that the Superintendent of Le Vallon Estate, Popuressa, too, has suddenly resigned for fear of being arrested. The superintendents are resigning as they see no reason for them to be arrested becausethe required funds have not been provided by the JEDB.

Chairman of the Janatha Estate Development Board, which administers most state-run plantations, Udayasiri Kariyawasam, contacted in this regard, conceded that it alone had defaulted on retirement benefits of its employees to the tune of nearly Rs. 900 million.

He said those outstanding sums were in the estate account books, but there were no funds to settle the defaulted sums.

The JEDB manages 16 estates totaling 11,758 hectares. Similarly, Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation, which manages 11 government estates, totalling 9,691 acres, too, has defaulted on its employees’ dues to the tune of Rs. 664 million and the third state sector player, Elakaduwa Plantations, which manages nine estates, has defaulted to the tune of Rs 193 million.

Recently, Minister of State Resources and Enterprise Development Dayasritha Tissera announced a scheme to fell more than 67,000 trees on the affected estates to be sold to the State Timber Corporation to raise more than Rs. 12.7 billion to settle the total defaulted by the three companies over a period of about 16 years.

Some of the victim workers are already said to be dead, while many others are too feeble.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 16 August 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

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