MonitorsPublished on Dec 20, 2013
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is desperately seeking external support in order to secure the nation's future. The impending December 2014 deadline for the drawdown of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the consequent reduction of western military and developmental
Afghanistan: Karzai's regional initiative
< class="heading1">Analysis

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is desperately seeking external support in order to secure the nation’s future. The impending December 2014 deadline for the drawdown of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the consequent reduction of western military and developmental aid that it is likely to bring about has necessitated the need for President Karzai to reach out to the regional countries.

In the past two weeks, Karzai has undertaken trips to Iran and India. Both Teheran and New Delhi have contributed significantly towards the reconstruction of Afghanistan since 2001 and it is natural that the Afghan Government is expecting both countries to continue and expand their engagement with the country, post-2014.

However, there are serious limitations and obstacles that are likely to derail the involvement of both India and Iran in Afghanistan in the future. Thus, it may be unrealistic to expect either country to be able to fill the vacuum that is likely to be created come 2015.

For starters, neither Iran, nor India, is likely to play a significant role in enhancing security within Afghanistan. President Karzai has visited India thrice this year and during each visit he presented the Indian Government with a wish-list of both lethal and non-lethal equipment for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). So far India has shown no willingness to fulfil this request beyond the provision of a few helicopters.

India’s defence ties with Afghanistan have been restricted to the provision of training to ANSF personnel. The number of troops and officers trained by India is now said to have increased to about 1000-1200 annually, an extremely low number given India’s own capacity to provide such training and the fact that the envisioned end strength of the ANSF is about 350,000. India’s reluctance to enhance its military engagement with Afghanistan, especially the provision of lethal equipment, is shaped by its concern about provoking Pakistan and fears about the cohesiveness of the ANSF itself.

In Iran’s case, the Afghan Government itself may not be keen for it to have a significant role in the country’s security sector. Till date, Iran has not provided any military aid to the ANSF. Nor has Kabul made any requests to this effect. Although the strategic pact signed between the two countries in August mentions greater cooperation in the security field, it does not specify or even mention if Iran is to train or equip the ANSF.

Balancing relations

Kabul, over the past 12 years, has been compelled to balance its relations between Iran and the US. The Iran-US hostility has not prevented Iran and Afghanistan from having strong economic and political ties. However, it is widely felt in Afghanistan that seeking military aid from Iran, especially weapons, may adversely affect relations with the US. A number of Afghan lawmakers warned President Karzai against signing the ’Friendship and Cooperation Agreement’ with Iran during his recent visit to Tehran as they feared that such closer ties with Iran could come at the expense of relations with the US.

A limited role for India and Iran in the security sector is likely to create problems for their involvement in other spheres as well. Much of the goodwill that India and Iran have garnered from the Afghan Government in particular, and from the masses in general, especially in the case of India, has been on account of their development assistance. But such high level of engagement has been possible as a result of the security provided by the foreign forces.

Post-2014, and in the absence of any alternative security provider, it is going to be difficult for India and Iran to sustain their reconstruction efforts in the country. India has already begun to scale-down the allocation of monetary and human resources to Afghanistan, and is finding it difficult to even complete some projects that it has undertaken. India’s flagship project - the Hajigak iron-ore mines in Bamiyan province - is also said to have been delayed on account of such future uncertainties.

Pakistan wary

Finally, it is also important to factor in how Iran and India are viewed by other actors, both in Afghanistan and in the region. Opposition to India playing a bigger role in Afghanistan is naturally going to come from Pakistan. Its military has been wary of India’s involvement in Afghanistan and has sought to curb India’s influence, either by denying transit rights to Indian goods bound for Afghanistan or by attacking Indian personnel and targets in the country. A larger role for India in Afghanistan post-2014, especially in the security sector, is likely to make Rawalpindi apprehensive and could provoke it into retaliating by extending greater support to anti-India groups in the region.

Similarly, the external opposition to a larger Iranian role in Afghanistan is naturally going to come from the US. However, at the same time, there is strong resistance within Afghanistan itself to the possibility of Tehran playing a larger role in the country post-2014. Iran’s reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan have been met with a great degree of suspicion.

Iran’s attempts to propagate its cause through monetary and logistical support to Afghan educational, religious and media institutions and even by co-opting parliamentarians and religious leaders has been seen as being tantamount to interference in the country’s internal affairs. Moreover, reports of Iran’s support for the Taliban and its alleged involvement in sabotaging efforts to build dams on Farah, Hari and Helmand rivers have led to Iranian activities being increasingly seen as a serious threat to Afghan security. In fact, there have growing calls to limit the spread of Iranian influence in the country.

President Karzai cannot be blamed for seeking support from regional countries at this crucial juncture. However, as critical as support from countries like India and Iran may be for Afghanistan, it cannot and should not be seen as an alternative to US assistance. The durability of the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and the sustainability of the ANSF are contingent to a large degree on prolonged US support for the cause. Iran and India are capable of complementing such efforts but are not in a position to lead them.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: Hanging Qader Mullah, a full cycle of liberation war

Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

This December, Bangladesh relived its liberation war experience following the execution of Abdul Quader Molla, a senior official of Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, for his crimes against humanity during the country’s liberation war in 1971. Abdul Quader Molla was hanged on 12 December hours after the country’s Supreme Court rejected his request for a judicial review of the death sentence against him.

The International War Crime Tribunal (ICT), a tribunal specially established to try the criminals of 71 War, earlier this year convicted Molla for committing crimes like murder and rape. Mollah was the first war crime convict to be executed. The execution marked wide scale jubilation across the country; for people of Bangladesh it was fulfilment of liberation war, which had have remained incomplete without punishment of the criminals of 1971 War.

But all were not happy in Bangladesh, especially, Jamaat supporters. They accused it to be politically motivated since Jamaat is an ally of the opposition BNP led alliance. Soon after the execution the party embarked into countrywide agitation. More than 30 people died in the incidences of violence during the Jamaat protest movement.

The situation in Bangladesh has also become intense as parliamentary elections are scheduled for 5 January 2014 and the Opposition, of which the Jamaat is an ally, boycotted the coming election. Elementary reason for non-agreement between the opposition and ruling Awami over the nature of government to supervise the coming election has been forwarded as reason for opposition’s boycott.

But many in Bangladesh feel that it was Jamaat’s influence that was behind the opposition’s decision. The main motive was to delay the war crime proceedings. However, it is difficult to verify such allegation but certainly the opposition which has been engaged in various agitation programme for a long time and which has become more frequent after the election date was declared in November not only disturbing daily lives but also trials.

Liberal future?

Considering the situation, many claim that the country is now faced with the question of whether it can march ahead with the liberal values for which it fought its independence, or if radical religious forces take control of the country. It was people of Bangladesh’s love for Bengali language and culture which was contested by the Pakistan State’s over-emphasis on religion and Urdu language that inspired Bangladesh’s independence. Most of the people of the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, was not ready to shed of their unique identity which imbibed language and culture other than religion. However, groups like Jamaat were against this idea of Bangladesh and supported the Pakistan during the country’s freedom movement.

One of the motives behind the formation of Bangladesh was creation of a progressive society where liberal values can thrive without resistance. At its independence Bangladesh adopted Nationalism, Democracy, Socialism and Secularism as the pillars of the country, when formed. Following the assassination of Shiekh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 progress of such values stumbled and there was rise in the religious identity. During the rule of military ruler Ziaur Rahman Jamaat-e-Islami was reintroduced in the political scene of Bangladesh and whose power only grew over the time. During BNP government of 2001-06 it was a partner in the government.

The people’s desire for the trial of the war criminal did not vanish. There had been some initiative by people to try out the war criminals. After democracy was reintroduced in 1991, Jahanara Imam, a noted freedom fighter and activist for trial for war criminals, hosted mock trials of the war criminals. The trials got the Government nod only after Awami League returned to power in 2009.

It was one of the major manifesto-points of the Awami League during the election which helped it to get a landslide victory in December 2008 election. The Awami League established the International War Crime Tribunal in 2010. People’s support for the trial of war criminal and their punishment when thousands of people assembled in capital Dhaka’s Shahbagh square earlier in the year demanding death penalty for the war criminals.

European reservations

The execution got a different reaction across the world, with many European counties expressing their reservations. For the people of Bangladesh, it is justice which was long denied to them. They have every reason to demand punishment for the war criminals as the country still remembers brutality of the war which killed more than 3 million people and honour of hundred thousands of women were violated. It is closing of a chapter.

Bangladesh as a country has made significant achievements when it comes to human development and economy. Its economy is one of the best performing in the South Asia region and has maintained a growth of over 6 percent for ten many years. The country desires to move ahead and wants to become middle income country. Along with economic development, it also wants to keep its liberal ideals intact for which democracy needs to be strengthened.

Unfortunately, the democratic process in the country faces turbulence every time the there is a change of government. To keep its upward move the political leaders have to understand the mood of the nation. The international also community should work together with the people of the country to help them in establishing a stable democracy. After all a peaceful progressive Bangladesh is not only in the interest of the South Asia region but also for the world as it can serve as an example for many countries who are still struggling.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hasina agrees for fresh poll but with condition

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said this week that she is ready for fresh parliamentary elections but it should be held after dissolving the 10th parliament. She further added that fresh elections will be declared only if an understanding is reached, but for that to happen the BNP must shun violence and sever ties with the Jamaat-e-Islami.

However, Prime Minister Hasina did not specify how long it will take before the next parliament is dissolved. She said that the process for the 10th general election on January 5 has already started and the BNP would not be able to participate in it.

Expressing scepticism on Prime Minister Hasina’s comment, the main opposition BNP said that it is hard to believe that the Awami League, "which wants to go to power through a farcical election", will step down shortly.

Bangladesh is facing a political crisis following difference between ruling Awami League and the main opposition BNP over the nature of government which will supervise the election. The Opposition BNP pressed for a neutral caretaker government system.

While the ruling Awami League advocated for election to be held under the present government and accordingly formulated a poll time government. As the two parties remained adamant on their stand to solution could be attained. Now BNP has boycotted the election which had put question to the credibility to 5th January election which has become without opposition.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dhaka slates Pak resolution

In the face of criticism by some countries for executing Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah for his crime against humanity during the country’s liberation war, the government this week made it clear that it does not like any interference in its domestic affairs.

And apparently to send a strong signal regarding its stance, Dhaka has lodged a strong protest to Islamabad against the resolutions adopted by Pakistan National Assembly and Punjab Provincial Assembly as well as remarks by Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on the execution of the Jamaat leader. The protest was lodged after summoning Pakistan High Commissioner in Dhaka Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi to the

The National Assembly of Pakistan adopted a resolution moved by its Jamaat-e-Islami party this week expressing concern over the hanging of Bangladesh’s war crimes convict Abdul Quader Molla. The resolution was moved by the Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami that earlier protested the hanging and said Mollah was hanged to death because "he was loyal to Pakistan and supported Pakistan army during the 1971 war". The resolution also expressed condolences for the family of Mollah.

Meanwhile, Pakistani reaction was criticised across Bangladesh. People from all walks of life staged angry protests around the country scathingly criticising Pakistan for passing a parliamentary resolution against the execution of war criminal Abdul Quader Mollah and demanding that the government suspend all diplomatic relations with the country until it offers an apology.

In several divisional and district headquarters, including the capital, demonstrators burnt the national flag and effigies of two political leaders of Pakistan, whose army committed one of the world’s worst genocides in Bangladesh in 1971, helped by the likes of Mollah.

In capital Dhaka several thousand people led by freedom-fighters and family members of the martyrs marched towards the Pakistan High Commission, protesting the parliamentary resolution of Pakistan stating that Mollah was hanged for supporting Pakistan in 1971. Law enforcement agencies had to bring in to stop the procession from approaching Pakistan High Commission.

Interestingly, riled at the execution of Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah, banned militant outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has threatened to attack Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 18 December 2013; The Daily Star, 19 & 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">154 elected unopposed

As many as 154 candidates have been elected unopposed to the 10th parliament after the last date of withdrawal of candidatures on 13 December for the elections scheduled for 5 January, 2014.

Of the 154 candidates elected uncontested, 127 are from the Awami League, 21 from H M Ershad’s Jatiya Party, three from Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Inu), two from Workers Party of Bangladesh and one from Anwar Hossain Manju’s Jatiya Party.

The Awami League now requires only 24 seats to have a majority in the 10th parliament without support from its allies as at least 127 of its candidates have been elected unopposed to the 300-seat parliament setting a record in Bangladesh’s electoral history. Besides, five candidates of AL’s allies have been elected unopposed with the symbol ’boat’ taking the number of winners with ’boat’ to 132.

Although the Ershad-led Jatiya Party asked its candidates to withdraw their candidatures and many of them did so, the returning officers did not accept many withdrawal letters, including that of H M Ershad for the Rangpur 2 constituency and finally the second largest number of candidates were elected unopposed from Jatiya Party. Jatiya Party’s Rowshan Ershad and Anisul Islam Mahmud were elected unopposed to their respective constituencies.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, 16 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Victory Day celebrated

The country celebrated the 43rd Victory Day on December 16. The government, different political parties and socio-cultural organisations celebrated the day through various programmes. This year’s celebration has special significance as it coincided with the execution of one of the war criminals convicted for committing crimes against humanity in 1971.

Thousands of people from all spheres of life, irrespective of religion, gender and age, thronged the National Memorial from dawn to pay rich tributes to the freedom fighters. Many of them chanted slogans demanding that all the war crimes convicts be immediately executed and vowed to make Bangladesh free of anti-liberation forces and militants. v On December 16 1971, Pakistani occupation forces had surrendered to the allied forces of the Indian army and freedom fighters after a nine-month war, resulting in the emergence of an independent Bangladesh.

The day was heralded with a 31-gun salute at dawn. However, no parade was held this year as law enforcement personnel are busy ahead of the forthcoming election, scheduled for January 5.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 17 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Businessmen protest at political violence

Frustrated with the uncertain political situation in Bangladesh, businessmen this week hoisted white flags and formed human chains across the country demanding business friendly environment. Threatening political leaders of both ruling and opposition parties, the business leaders said that if the parties fail to arrive at a consensus and fail to restore business friendly environment, they would stage demonstration in front of the offices of the two leaders. Thousands of business men on 15 December came out in the streets with white flags and chanted slogans demanding pace in the country.

"We have been forced to take to streets to protest the ongoing destructive political programmes as we want peace. We want a political solution of the political crisis which would ensure business friendly environment," the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) president Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed said at the demonstration in front of the federation office. Demanding uninterrupted security for the businessmen, he said that the business community want to see a Bangladersh free from strikes and blockades. v Former FBCCI president Salman F Rahman said that if the politicians fail to arrive at a consensus immediately they (politicians) should leave the country to the hands of the people. Not only business community, but also all the professionals are frustrated over the activities of politicians, he said. Former FBCCI president Annisul Huq said that those who are responsible to protect the economy today are destroying economy.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, 16 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Violence marks Oppostion’s blockade

Violent clashes marked the fourth spell of the blockade of road, railway and waterways enforced by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led 18 party alliance this week. However, this does not mark end of shutdown in the country. Contrarily, the opposition this week announced the fifth spell of the blockade after the fourth spell ended on December 20 morning. The fifth spell of the blockade will continue till 5 pm on December 24.

The opposition started enforcing the blockade after November 25 when the Election Commission announced the schedule for the 10th parliamentary elections, setting the polling date for January 5. The opposition is boycotting the polls. More than 60 people died in political violence since November 25. This week only more than 30 people have died in the political violence, especially during the protest movement observed by Jamaat-e-Islami, an ally of opposition BNP.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to work with constitutional govt

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid this week said that his government is ready to work with the constitutional government of Bangladesh.

"Indian government supports constitutional government in Bangladesh and will work with the government to be elected as per the constitution," he informed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Purchase of submarines from China

Bangladesh has finalised a deal to buy two submarines from China. The ships would strengthen the Bangladesh Navy protecting the country’s resources in the Bay. The state-to-state deal would cost Bangladesh Tk 1,600 crore or US$203.3 million to procure the two Ming class submarines, they said.

The type 035G diesel-electric run submarines are scheduled to be delivered in 2019. Around 17 Bangladesh Navy sailors are receiving training on how to operate submarines. Bangladesh Navy acquired land in Kutubdia Island in Cox’s Bazaar to set up a submarine base.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, 20 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian support helped overcome forex crisis

Extended hands of India have helped its neighbour Bhutan to get out of its rupee reserve crisis. The crucial situation forced the Himalayan country to impose many restrictions in utilization of India currency with which Bhutan’s currency Ngultrum is pegged at equal value.

According to the Royal Monitory Authority figures, as of end of the first week of December 2013, Bhutan’s total foreign currency reserve touched a level equivalent to Rs 57 Billion. "It is a great relief that we could come out of the severe crisis of shortage of foreign currency," said a senior RMA official.

"The border area trade between Bhutan and India had a major set-back due to restrictive measures taken up by Bhutan Government to check outflow of Indian rupee form the national reserve. But now the easier situation is expected to give the trade situation a better shape," said J, Bajoria, senior member of traders association in Jaigaon, the largest Indo-Bhutan trade hub.

Despite having apparently different floating value, Bhutan currency Ngultrum (Nu) is officially pegged at par with Indian Rupee. At the same time, India is the largest trade partner of Bhutan. Eventually, maintaining as high as possible reserve of Indian rupee is always a priority for Bhutan finance department.

But severe depletion of Indian rupee reserve in Bhutan in recent past, mainly due to excessive import of consumer goods from India forced the country to impose several restrictions in outflow of Indian rupee, including even restricted ATM disbursements. "Restriction on import of vehicles from India has contributed in a big way in streamlining the situation," said T Lachungpa, a veteran trader in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.

In addition to this, apart from borrowings of Rs 10 Billion against soft 5 per cent interest under the Government of India credit line facility, Bhutan finance department paid off the remaining costly borrowings from the Indian commercial bank’s overdraft facility taken at 10 per cent interest and borrowing of Rs 5 billion under the swap arrangement with the Reserve Bank of India.

However, against an all-time low of Rs 20 billion of borrowing, Bhutan’s Indian rupee reserve is expected to touch Rs 8.5 billion by the end of this month.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 18 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Storm damages 300 houses

Over 300 houses in Bhutan have been damaged after a strong windstorm hit 11 districts. In Haa district, over 170 houses were damaged due to Sunday’s storm. Dogar and Shaba under Paro district were the worst affected. Roofs of 92 houses, including a school and a temple, were blown off in Dogar.

Of the 11 divisions in Punakha district, Kabesa is the most affected where roofs of around 40 houses were blown off. Other affected districts include Bumthang, Dagana, Samtse, Trashigang and Chukha.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 16 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet clears communal violence bill

The Union Cabinet has cleared a reworked version of the prevention of Communal Violence Bill, which seeks to make the definition of a group hit by communal violence as community-neutral and leaves the prevention and control of communal violence essentially to the states, with the Centre playing a coordinating role.

The new bill makes bureaucrats and public servants accountable for any acts of commission and omission while handling communal violence. However, bureaucrats who refuse to obey unlawful orders of their superiors during communal situations cannot be held responsible for dereliction of duty.

The Cabinet on Monday cleared the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013, despite the serious reservations of the opposition parties and many chief ministers to its "anti-federal" provisions.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Historic Lokpal Bill passed

The historic Lokpal Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha a day after the anti-corruption measure sailed through the Rajya Sabha with the support of opposition parties.

At his Ralegan Sidhi village in Maharashtra, Gandhian activist Anna Hazare and his supporters celebrated the passing of the Bill that they had campaigned for so doggedly for years. The 76-year-old Lokpal crusader ended his nine-day fast accepting a glass of coconut water from two little schoolchildren.

He was on a hunger strike to demand that Parliament pass the Bill in the winter session of Parliament.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 18 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Diplomatic row with US escalates

The arrest of India’s Deputy Consul-General in New York Dr Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud sparked off tensions between India and the US. India reacted angrily claiming that the treatment meted out to Dr Khobragade was deplorable.

The Indian diplomat was arrested and handcuffed in full public view when she was on her way to drop her children to school. Moreover, she was strip searched in custody and made to stand with common criminals, drug addicts and sex workers by the New York Police.

In a strong retaliation, India initiated a slew of steps to strip US diplomats and their families of privileges including withdrawing all airport passes and stopping import clearances for the US embassy.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Economic Times, 17 December 17 2013, 17 December 17 2013,, 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arab League chief meets Khurshid

Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, met Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and held talks on a wide gamut of bilateral, regional and international issues, including Syria.

A new Memorandum of Cooperation between India and the League of Arab States and the new Executive Programme (EP) for the years 2014-15 were signed during the visit.

These documents are aimed at imparting fresh momentum to the institutional links by providing for a structured engagement between India and the 22-member Arab States at the senior official and ministerial levels. It also envisages cooperation in diverse areas like trade and investment, energy, small and medium enterprises, culture, capacity building, etc, said a statement.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily News and Analysis, December 17 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Peace-keepers to be evacuated from South Sudan

The United Nations will mount an operation to evacuate a besieged Indian Army peacekeeping contingent manning a remote base after two of them were killed and another seriously injured in trying to protect civilians from a rival tribe in a South Sudan oil-producing area.

The Indian Army contingent at the temporary operating base remains under threat and the UN will try to evacuate them by flying in additional troops even as the United Nations Security Council will take up the issue of deteriorating security situation in at least three of the country’s provinces on Friday.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, December 20 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President to visit India early next month

In his maiden official visit overseas after assuming office, President Yameen Abdul Gayoom will visit India early next month. Originally, the visit was scheduled for 22-24 December, and the change in schedule was necessitated as Indian President Pranab Mukherjee would not be available to receive President Yameen and host a State banquet in his honour.

Speaking at a press conference at the President’s Office, Spokesperson at the President’s Office Ibrahim Muaz Ali said that the Presiden t will also visit Sri Lanka later in January 2014.

He announced that following the visit to Sri Lanka, the President will visit some northern and southern atolls in the Maldives.

Muaz said that the President will also visit Japan earlier next year, which will be the official visit by a Maldivian President on the invitation of the Japanese Government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ready to run airport if invited: GMR

Indian infrastructure major GMR has said that it is it is ready to run Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) if invited by the Maldivian government.

Speaking on the side-lines of the Indian Entrepreneurial Summit 2013 in Hyderabad, Chairman of GMR Group, GM Rao said, "We are under arbitration. If they invite us, definitely we are ready to do that."

He added that no discussions in this regard have taken place between GMR and the Maldivian government.

Rao said that the company had made a $1.4-billion compensation claim for wrongful termination of its contract, but is nevertheless open to returning to Maldives to run the airport again.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 19 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Big companies show interest in bridge project

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb has said that big companies have shown interest in the Male’-Hulhule’ bridge project.

Addressing a news conference at the President’s Office, Adheeb said that several major Chinese engineering companies have shown interest in the project, which will be conducted on contractor-finance basis. He said that the government plans to carry out the project in a manner that it is not burdensome on the State Budget.

Referring to upcoming projects, Adheeb said that bidding has been re-opened for Herethere Resort in Addu City, and that bids can only be submitted for this project with a bank guarantee of $1 billion.

He said that projects to develop airports in Haa Dhaalu Kulhudhuffushi and Lhaviyani Atoll are now in design phase, and that details regarding these projects will be provided next week.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sunonline, 19 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army chief visits India

Chief of Myanmar Army and deputy commander-in-chief, defence services of Myanmar, Vice-Senior General Soe Win on Sunday concluded his six-day visit to India with a visit to the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte in Mizoram before leaving for his country. The general was accompanied by his wife Daw Than Than New.

He made a brief stopover at the Indian Army’s Leimakhong garrison near Imphal before travelling to Vairengte. During his visit to the Army’s warfare school, Win witnessed training activities, demonstrations and also held discussions on issues like training and enhancement of military ties between the armies of the two countries.

Sources said that army contingents and military officers from Myanmar have been regularly undergoing training at the CIJW School. The Myanmar Army chief’s visit assumes special significance in view of the enhanced defence cooperation and growing relationship between the two countries, it said.

On December 10, starting his six-day visit to India, the general had visited the Eastern Command headquarters at Fort William in Kolkata and met army officers there. The next day, Win had called on President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. The Myanmar general’s visit to India comes after Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh’s five-day visit to the neighbouring country last October.

Sources said bilateral relations between Myanmar and India have improved considerably since 1993, overcoming tensions related to drug trafficking, suppression of democracy and the rule of the military junta in the neighbouring country. The India-Myanmar border stretches over 1,600km and the NE states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh share the international border with Myanmar.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 16 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China urges leaders to draft statute

A high-level Chinese delegation to Nepal led by Vice-Minister of the Chinese Communist Party, Ai Ping, has enquired on a range of issues including the formation of new government, promulgating a new constitution and the future political course during meetings with the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML leaders on December 20.

The first-ever Chinese delegation to visit Nepal following the November 19 Constituent Assembly election has been holding a series of meetings with the major political parties and the disgruntled parties’ leaders as well. Ai, who is a top official of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department and a key player in China’s policy on Nepal, urged the top leaders of the major parties to move forward for promulgating a new constitution on time to end the protracted transition and ensure political stability.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Vice-Minister Ai said that the CA election was an important political event. He added that the two sides exchanged views on the recently-concluded 18th CCP´s Plenum and China´s latest policy on neighbouring countries.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC extends PR list deadline

The Election Commission (EC) has extended the deadline for submitting the final list of candidates under the Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system by a week, at the request of the High Level Political Committee (HLPC). The parties can now submit the final list of PR candidates by December 25, with the fresh extension of the EC deadline by a week starting December 18.

A delegation of the HLPC had reached the EC on December 16 shortly after holding a meeting at the residence of Nepali Congress (NC) President Sushil Koirala, to request yet another extension, arguing that negotiations were still underway to forge consensus among the parties. CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal, NC Vice-President Ram Chandra Poudel, UCPN (Maoist) leader Post Bahadur Bogati and Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRF-D) Chairman Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, among others, had reached the EC Office to make the request.

This is the second time the EC has decided to extend the deadline. The EC on December 10 extended the deadline for submission of final PR lists by eight days, as per the request of the NC. Sources said the EC will publish the final list of PR candidates after the parties submit the names of their respective candidates. After giving three days´ time for submitting complaints and making corrections, the EC will then publish the final list of winning candidates both under the First Past the Post (FPTP) and PR electoral systems, thus paving the way for convening the CA. Of the 30 political parties that have won seats under the PR electoral system, only 11 so far have submitted their final lists of candidates.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 17 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade ties with India to go up

Senior trade officials from India and Nepal will meet to discuss issues like increasing Indian investments in this country, improving transit facilities and controlling unauthorised trade. Indian Commerce Secretary S R Rao and Nepalese Commerce Secretary Madhav Prasad Regmi will lead their respective delegations to the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) meeting to be held from 21-22 December.

The two sides are expected to discuss issues relating to bilateral trade between the two countries, transit facilities provided by India to Nepal to facilitate trade with third countries, investment promotion, improvements of infrastructure at land customs offices, controlling unauthorised trade and matters relating to Indian investment in Nepal.

"It is important for Nepal to develop its hydro potential and it is equally important for Nepal and India to forge partnership in developing hydropower," said Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae, talking to reporters in Kathmandu ahead of the IGC meeting. Both the countries should benefit from such cooperation and it should create a win-win situation, he added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 18 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Journalists visit India to boost trade ties

A delegation of 15 editors and journalists from various news media of Nepal visited Amritsar on December 14 to gain an insight into the trade relations between India and Nepal. As a part of this mission, they visited leading business houses in Punjab. The delegation was led by Bala Krishnan, a senior official from ministry of external affairs, India. The journalists represent various newspapers including Kathmandu Post, Aarthik Abhiyan National Daily, Naya Prakashan, Rising Nepal, and various other prestigious and leading newspapers of Nepal.

In Amritsar, they visited Khanna Paper Mills that exports its products to Nepal. Suneet Kochhar, director Khanna Paper said that in the recent years, the two countries had successfully concluded very important treaties such as, Nepal-India Trade Treaty 1996 and its subsequent renewals in 2002 and 2009, Nepal-India Transit Treaty, Agreement to Control Unauthorized Trade between Nepal and India, Railway Service Agreement, Bilateral Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation & Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income, Mahakali Treaty, Power Trade Agreement to name a few.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’No’ to military action against Taliban

Pakistan has ruled out military action against the Taliban and has also said that it will pursue peace through talks. The militants, however, have rejected the government’s call for negotiations.

Pakistan Taliban leader, Mullah Fazlullah, has said that peace talks are meaningless and announced that attacks will be increased in a bid to topple the government and establish Islamist rule in Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 17 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Shia cleric shot dead

A prominent Pakistani Shia Muslim cleric was shot dead in what the Taliban claimed as a reprisal attack for the killing of Sunni Muslims earlier this year.

Allama Nasir Abbas was the leader of Tehreek Nifaz Fiqah-e-Jafaria, a banned Shia organisation. He was shot by gunmen on a motorbike while on his way home from addressing a religious gathering in Lahore. He died before reaching the hospital.

Funeral prayers were held and were attended by thousands of mourners. The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Tahafuz Azadari Council and Jafaria Alliance Pakistan have declared three days of mourning and have demanded the immediate arrest of the killers.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Proposed US law threatens aid

A proposed new US law threatens to squeeze aid to Pakistan if the NATO supply routes are blocked. The US National Defence Authorisation Bill of 2014 also requires a certification from US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel that assures that Pakistan is taking appropriate actions against terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The bill has already been approved by the House of Representatives and includes extending funding to Pakistan for supporting the war against terrorism but with certain changes.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Aizaz Chaudhry, Foreign Secretary

Pakistan has issued a notification for the appointment of Aizaz Chaudhry as foreign secretary. He has been chosen to succeed Mr. Jalil Abbas Jilani. Mr. Jilani is moving to Washington as the ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador Abdul Basit who is currently posted in Germany had previously been named as the next foreign secretary.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 5-20 December 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India participates in maritime security confab

Close on the heels of the Government of India blocking a debate on Indo-Lanka defence relations, in the Lok Sabha, citing its national interests, two Indian Coast Guard vessels, Vishwast and Rajkamal arrived in Trincomalee on Dec 18 on a three-day goodwill visit.

The ship-visit coincided with the commencement of a maritime security conference at the Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda auditorium with the participation of naval and Coast Guard officers from India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

A Sri Lankan security official said that the table-top exercise was held in accordance with an overall plan to handle maritime search and rescue, oil spill and piracy. Responding to a query, the official pointed out that Indo-Lanka relations remained strong in spite of various political issues caused by interested parties. An Indian naval contingent is visiting Trincomalee amidst the ongoing protests in Tamil Nadu over the recent arrest of nearly 150 Indian fishermen, while poaching in Sri Lankan waters. Sources pointed out that an attempt was also being made to cause an issue over Sri Lanka seeking to acquire two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) from India.

The Navy Headquarters said that visiting Indian ships would call on Colombo port on Dec 22. They are on a five-day visit to Colombo. A senior official said: "Indian vessels are expected to conduct training sessions for Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Coast Guard personnel. They are also scheduled to conduct passage exercises in Trncomalee and Colombo

Addressing those participating at the tabletop exercise in Trincomalee, Director-General Sri Lanka Coast Guard Rear Admiral Ravindra C. Wijegunaratne emphasised the pivotal importance in sharing their experience. Wijegunaratne said that discussions, exchange of ideas as well as sharing expertise would give the participants knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, 19 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’SLN protecting nation’s waters’

While claiming that the Sri Lanka Navy will continue arresting Indian fishermen, who are entering Sri Lankan waters for poaching, Navy Commander Jayanath Colombage has said that the SLN was only protecting themselves.

"The only deterrent for poaching we came across so far is arresting and we are doing it, of course Mr. Karunanidhi came up with the statement that Sri Lanka Navy is trying to make the Bay of Bengal into an open air prison! Sorry sir, we are not doing that, we are only protecting ourselves. We are not interfering in their business. They would argue that the fishing is a livelihood business in Tamil Nadu, and I would say it is a livelihood business for Sri Lankans fisher folks, but it is multimillion dollars fishing industry for Indians. It is the disparity or the context of the whole issue that need attention," the Navy Chief said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 20 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Systemic failure’, says UN deputy chief

The United Nations has said that it had a systemic failure of the UN system in Sri Lanka as a whole. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson briefing journalists in New York about the new "Rights Up-front" initiative said: "You may recall in the IRP Report on Sri Lanka, that we had a systemic failure of the UN system as a whole and that we need to show greater flexibilities and come up with speedier action." Mr. Eliasson stressed, echoing his remarks to an informal meeting of the General Assembly earlier this week.

There, he told delegations that the panel’s report, issued last year, also concluded that the UN Secretariat, its funds and programmes, were not given the support they needed to carry out the responsibilities which the Member States had set out for the Organization.

The goal of the new initiative, he said, is to ensure that past UN failures are not repeated, such as its inability to have prevented genocide in Rwanda, where at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during a of three months in 1994, and in Srebrenica, where at least 6,000 Muslim men and boys in a UN protection zone were massacred in 1995 during the wars in former Yugoslavia.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 20 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai visits India

Afghan President Hamid Karzai undertook a four day official visit to India this week. With the December 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan fast approaching, President Karzai is attempting to strengthen relations with neighbouring countries.

During his visit, President Karzai once again urged India to supply lethal and non-lethal weapons to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). His ’wish list’, which was first presented to India during his visit in May this year, is said to include 150 battle tanks, field guns, howitzers and one squadron of attack helicopters. He also requested India to send trainers to the military academy in Kabul.

India seems unwilling to supply lethal weapons to the ANSF. As of now, New Delhi is willing to supply only three military transport helicopters along with trucks and jeeps. It has, however, left it to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to take the final call on the matter.

Despite India’s reluctance, President Karzai claimed that he was satisfied with India’s response to his requests for stepping up military aid to the ANSF.

During his visit, President Karzai also visited Pune, where he met with business leaders in an attempt to secure assistance from India’s private sector.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bloomberg, December 16 2013; Business Standard, December 14 2013; The Economic Times, December 14 2013; The Times of India, December 14 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Do not trust the US’

President Karzai declared this week that he no longer trusts the US. He accused the US of saying one thing but doing something else.

"When Obama writes to me that he will respect homes, they should prove it... implement the letter, respect Afghan homes," President Karzai said. "Just instruct no more bombings and there will be no more bombings and of course launch the peace process publicly and officially."

Pressure on President Karzai to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US continues to grow. The Afghan Senate, this week, urged him to respect the advice of the Loya Jirga and sign the BSA without delay. A number of senators suggested that he was delaying signing the BSA in an attempt to please the Taliban and neighbouring countries.

"If President is delaying this agreement for pleasing Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other neighbouring countries, the members of the House of Representatives should not sit quiet anymore and should make the decision," Senator Hedayatullah Rehayee said.

In the meanwhile, the US showed some degree of flexibility regarding the signing of the BSA. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the BSA could be signed either by President Karzai or by his successor after the 2014 Presidential Elections. Up till now, the US had been insisting that the BSA be signed by the end of the year. However, the US continues to state that it will keep up the pressure on President Karzai to ensure that the pact can be signed as soon as possible.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, December 16 2013; Tolo News, December 15 2013; Tolo News, December 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Taliban not ready for peace talks’

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser, Sartaz Aziz claimed this week that the Afghan Taliban is yet to accept his country’s request for them to sit down with the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC).

He said that Pakistan has asked that the Taliban enter into dialogue with the Afghan government, as part of Islamabad’s recent efforts to advance the peace process in Afghanistan, but the insurgents insisted that they do not recognise the regime in Kabul.

"As the Afghan Taliban have refused to talk to Kabul, there is need for informal contacts with the Taliban and Afghan government can approach the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Qatar," Aziz said. "We have contacts with the Afghan Taliban but do not have control over them, so it will be unrealistic to expect that Pakistan delivers the Taliban for the peace process."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, December 15, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India:Ananya Pandey;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar;
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.