MonitorsPublished on Nov 18, 2013
India's most significant investment project in Afghanistan has been the Hajigak mines in Bamiyan province. A Steel Authority of India Ltd-led consortium of six companies had won the rights to extract iron ore from the mines in 2011.
Afghanistan: Security derailing work in the mining sector
< class="heading1">Analysis

India’s most significant investment project in Afghanistan has been the Hajigak mines in Bamiyan province. A Steel Authority of India Ltd-led consortium of six companies had won the rights to extract iron ore from the mines in 2011. The investment said to be worth $ 11 billion, which includes the construction of a rail link from Hajigak to the Chabahar Port in Iran, a power transmission line and a power plant is the largest investment in a single project in Afghanistan till date. However, reports surfaced this week suggesting that given the uncertainties about the future security situation in Afghanistan, the consortium is considering cutting its investment by an eighth to$ 1.5 billion.

Although a decision to this effect has not been taken as of now, such media reports do tend to highlight the possible impact that the 2014 drawdown of foreign troops from Afghanistan could have on foreign investments in the country. All the developmental work in Afghanistan since 2001 has been possible due to the semblance of security provided by the foreign troops. Post-December 2014 a security vacuum is likely to be created. There seems to be a lack of clarity on how such development projects are going to be protected in the future. Such a scenario is not conducive to any large-scale, long-term project requiring a substantial amount of investment.

It has already been noted that India has not started any large-scale project in Afghanistan for the past couple of years with the focus shifting to small-scale community-based projects that require minimal Indian physical presence and a much smaller level of investment. India at present is even struggling to wrap up the projects that had been started years ago. For instance, the Salma Dam project in western Afghanistan has been derailed for a few years now, both due to increase in the budget of the project and the deteriorating security situation, including attacks on the dam itself.

China stalled, too

India is not the only country that has been facing this dilemma. China is said to have stalled on its flagship project in Afghanistan as well. China, which had won mining rights to the copper ore mines in Logar province, may be deliberating delaying the $ 3 billion project until they can properly assess the security situation post-2014 when American and NATO forces are due to leave the country.

In fact, overall aid distribution to Afghanistan is anyway expected to take a hit once the foreign troops withdraw. Although the international community has made various commitments to sustain its monetary support to Afghanistan for another decade, the financial recession in the west, the growing war fatigue and disillusionment with corruption in Afghanistan makes it difficult for these aid commitments to be actually fulfilled.

The economic meltdown in China, which hit most of the companies involved with the copper mines project in Logar province is said to be an additional reason for China halting its involvement in the project. Moreover, there are already reports suggesting that organisations like USAID, apart from governments, are looking to slash their budget for Afghanistan.

The substantial reduction of foreign aid is even more problematic given the lack of indigenous capital in Afghanistan. The failure to develop financial and entrepreneurial capacity and skills of the people has been one of the biggest shortcomings of the international reconstruction effort in the country. This has created a significant roadblock for Afghanistan’s efforts at achieving economic self-reliance and reducing the need to be dependent on foreign aid.

Security concerns and corruption

The development of the mining sector in particular, thus, is considered crucial for pushing Afghanistan on the path of economic self-sufficiency. The natural resources available in Afghanistan are said to be worth $ 1 trillion and have the potential to become the backbone of the Afghan economy. However, it is estimated that it would be at least a decade before the country can reap the benefits of its mining sector, and even to meet this target substantial foreign aid is required for developing the requisite infrastructure. Thus, problems or delays at the initial stage itself are likely to push this development back even further.

The rising security concerns, and the rampant corruption in Afghanistan, also tends to discourage the private sector from increasing its involvement in Afghanistan, and especially in something as the mining sector which requires a large-scale investment. In India’s case, which is essentially a non-traditional donor-nation, the involvement of the private sector in the future is critical if it is to maintain its present level of engagement.

The Hajigak project, in fact, is the only substantial involvement of India’s private sector in Afghanistan. Four private firms ? JSW Steel, JSW Ispat, Jindal Steel and Power and Monnet Ispat ? are part of the SAIL-led consortium and have a 44 percent stake in the project. Apart from this, the Indian private sector has only been involved in small-scale projects like construction of roads, export of commodities from Afghanistan and capacity-building. India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan recently stated in an interview to The New York Times that investment from the private sector would depend on how the security situation evolves in the future and how it is perceived by the private sector back home.

A sustained economic development is critical for Afghanistan to ensure a smooth political and security transition as well. As the 2014 deadline for drawdown of foreign troops fast approaches, it is huge task before the Afghan government how it negotiates with Chinese and Indian companies, along with the broader international community, to maintain its long-term commitments in the sectors crucial to this sustained economic development.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka: It’s externalising, not internationalising the ethnic issue

N Sathiya Moorthy

If the tacticians behind the successful effort at stalling Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from participating in CHOGM-2013 at Colombo thought that they have taught the Sri Lankan Government and President Mahinda Rajapaksa a lesson that none can forget, they should be mistaken. The past holds a mirror to the future, and they need to remember that through the three long decades of ethnic war and violence, they, along with the LTTE fighting for them with guns and blood, could not achieve their shared goal of a ’separate State’ crafted out of a ’united Sri Lanka’.

The post-war strategy, for which ground was cleared even as the LTTE was forcibly exiting the scene, seemed to shift the modus from war and violence, to politics and diplomacy. It is thus pertinent for the ’Tamil nationalists’ within Sri Lanka and among the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora, to convince themselves and the rest of the world that the Northern Provincial Council polls were a result of international pressure, and was not a voluntary act of the Sri Lankan State and/or President Rajapaksa.

Where there was a difference, it became evident that neighbouring India from among the comity of nations was at it, urging and pressuring the Sri Lankan Government to complete the promised poll process. Both Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan and the newly-elected Northern Province Chief Minister and former Supreme Court Judge C V Wigneswaran have recorded that India alone was responsible for the conduct of the NPC polls ? and that India alone could pressure Colombo, if at all, to give the Tamils of the island-nation their political due, now or ever.

Losing the leverage

It is here that Prime Minister Singh’s absence from CHOGM may have made the difference. Despite constitutional provisions and political commitment, the timely conduct of the Northern PC polls might have been Sri Lanka’s way to clear the deck for PM Singh participating in CHOGM, to avoid a political embarrassment within India and a diplomatic issue when he came calling. To the extent that the Indian Prime Minister had to stay away from the Summit, bowing in turn to political pressures from within the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka may have felt cheated within ? though it is otherwise pertinently wrong to link the polls to the prime ministerial visit.

In context, this feeling of being let down by India at Sri Lanka’s hour of national glory would linger for long. It would not stop with the Sri Lankan political leadership of the time. They understand politics and appreciate political compulsions as much as Singh faced them nearer home. The institutional memory of the Sri Lankan State is bound to take forward the ’hurt’ onto a future generation. It would have been the case between any two similarly-placed nations. It could not be different in the case.

Independent of the politics and personalities involved, the Indian Prime Minister’s non-participation at CHOGM may have set a precedent for his successors not having ? or, being able -- to visit Sri Lanka even on multilateral engagements. Thus far, Singh and his predecessors had done it with SAARC, a multilateral, and taken time off for side-line(d) discussions. Already, there has not been any bilateral visit by an Indian leader to Sri Lanka in 26 years after Rajiv Gandhi was in Colombo to sign the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord with late President J R Jayewardene in 1987. Closing the door now on multilateral visits thus means much more than meeting the eye.

Morale-booster, no more

A prime ministerial visit from India to the Northern Province, and meetings with Chief Minister Wigneswaran, his Cabinet and party colleagues would have been a morale-booster for the TNA leadership and the larger Tamil community, as no other Head of State/Government from any other part of the world would have been ? now, or possibly ever. It’s not about power-play. Instead, it about the continuing Indian concerns regarding the fate and future of the Sri Lankan Tamils that would have made the difference to Colombo’s attitude and approach to resolving the ethnic issue.

The TNA is yet to decide on joining the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) for resolving the ethnic issue. It has demanded ? not all of them unjustified, or wholly justified ? some guarantees and commitments from the Government for doing so. In return, the Sri Lankan State, the Government of the day and the political coalition thereof would have to be convinced that the Tamils in the country would stand by the TNA’s present commitment of seeking a ’political solution’ within a united and undivided Sri Lanka’.

The contours of the political solution would still have to be negotiated by the stake-holders. In this case, it includes the Tamil-speaking Muslims in the North, and possibly the Upcountry Tamils of recent Indian origin, whose presence and future stake in the North and the rest of Sri Lanka cannot be pushed under the carpet as in the past. From the Sinhala side, it is neither this Government, nor the ’Sinhala nationalists’ who alone matter. The larger issues involving larger national constituencies too need to be considered and addressed with an open mind.

Throughout this process and long thereof, all stake-holders, now and long afterward would require guarantees that cannot come from within. As the closest neighour and regional power that does not feel comfortable about ’extra-regional powers’ seeking forays into the backwaters, India is best suited to talk the Sri Lankan Government into addressing some of the Tamils’ reservations on joining the PSC. Likewise, it can still guarantee the Sri Lankan State that no harm would be allowed to befall the unity and territorial integrity of the country, now or ever.

Prime Minister Singh’s non-participation in CHOGM may not directly impact on such possibilities and necessities. They would however impact on the way Sri Lankans as a whole would look at ’la affaire CHOGM’ once the Summit is behind them. For the Sri Lankan State as an entity and the Government as an institution, it may not be as much a slight months and years down the line as it may seem now. That cannot be said of the Sinhala public mood and political mind-set.

’Feel good’ at best

Be it as it may, the Tamils are not going to thank India, or praise India without reservations. They would at best feel good that PM Singh stayed away from CHOGM. They have been conditioned to believe that in EAM Khurshid’s visit, India has shown them that its priorities did not always coincide with those of the SLT polity and society. To them, India has done what it did on CHOGM now, or UNHRC earlier, not out of love and compassion for the Tamils of Sri Lanka, or on its own free will but only because of electoral compulsions of the party in power at the Centre.

Not having got used to settling for anything less than what they had wanted almost from the beginning, they are not the ones to miss out on seizing any opportunity that came its way ? but only on the way to get where they want to get, and nothing less. For the future, commencing with UNHRC meet at Geneva in March 2014, they will have more propaganda ammunition, fired at New Delhi possibly still from Tamil Nadu’s shoulders, which uses them as much as they use the other. With parliamentary polls in India due in May 2014, the Tamils, particularly the Diaspora, will give no quarter at UNHRC or on India. They will give no quarter in Sri Lanka, or on the PSC process.

In the Sri Lankan mind-set ? Sinhala, Tamil or the Sri Lankan State ? India is an extension of their own self. For ’peripheral groups’ on either side of the ’ethnic divide’, India is an ’outsider’, or ’usurper’ or ’big bully down the lane’. But for most of Sri Lanka, India is a part of their being, and would not be upset by Indian concerns on Sri Lanka’s stability and peace, going beyond the shared geo-strategic concerns ? and extends to the self, namely the language, culture, beliefs, etc.

By seeking to internationalise the ethnic issue, the Tamils, whether in Sri Lanka or their Diaspora brethren, are seeking to externalise, not internationalise their problems, real and imaginary. Both terminologies have different connotations. Their perceptions of efforts at internationalising the ethnic issue is different from the ground reality, and the way the world understands the terms and their contours.

The last time India got involved in 1987, the Tamils thought that they had successfully internationalised the ethnic issue ? but when it came to what India had to offer, they ended up feeling that they had ’externalised’ the issue, and did not have the same levers of control over India, which is what they had wanted in the first place. It cannot be anything better this time round, unless the Tamils understand and want to understand the difference and distinctions in perception and performance.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Details of Jirga finalised

The date for commencing the Loya Jirga, a gathering of tribal elders, has been set for November 21. The Loya Jirga, which is essentially meant to be an advisory body, is expected to have de facto authority over whether or not the Afghan government would sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US. The event’s organising commission stated that as many as 3,000 leaders are expected to attend the Jirga, including representatives of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami party.

After the first day’s introduction, the Jirga will breakdown into 50 committees made up of 17 different types of participants. The committees will be the forum for debate over the BSA, a process that is expected to last for two days. The most contentious item on the agenda is likely to be the issue of criminal jurisdiction over U.S. troops that would stay in Afghanistan post-2014.After debating, the committees will likely vote on their own before reconvening in the full group on the last day for the concluding resolution.

President Hamid Karzai’s decision to convene the Jirga for deciding upon the BSA has been met with a mixed reaction within Afghanistan. Some have approved of this measure, while others, especially the Afghan Parliamentarians, have criticised the move as undemocratic as it bypasses the Afghan Parliament. Moreover, it is feared that the Jirga could be used to further other ulterior motives separate from the BSA debates, such as delaying or manipulating the 2014 presidential elections.

A gathering earlier this week consisting of political groups, religious clerics, tribal elders and university students, insisted, not only criticised the decision to hold the Jirga, but also questioned the need to have US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. An official stated that the security pact with the US will jeopardise Afghanistan’s relations with its neighbours and warned that those who vote for the pact could be termed as traitors to the nation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 10 November 2013; Tolo News, 12-13 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt denies Pentagon report

The new Pentagon report released this week has painted a mixed picture of Afghan security. According to the report, the casualty rate of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) has increased by 76 percent this year between the April and September period. During the same period the casualty rate of the international coalition has fallen by 59 percent.

It warns that the Afghan police and armed forces could be overwhelmed by Islamist insurgents unless Washington and its allies provide financial support and training after their troops leave.

Afghan forces "will be at high risk" without foreign aid and military assistance, including advisers, the report concludes. With such assistance, it adds, they "will remain on a path toward an enduring ability to overmatch the Taliban."

The report also raised concerns about the lack of adequate air support for the ANSF. As per the report, had insufficient capabilities when it came to providing the air support needed for Afghan ground forces’ operations. This is just one example of deficiencies in the Afghan forces that the coalition has pointed out. Others have included logistical management and night-time operational capacity.

The report has also said that the Afghan army and police have negotiated local non-aggression pacts with insurgent commanders not to attack one another.

The Afghan Defence Ministry, however, rejected Pentagon’s report, claiming that while the ANSF casualties have increased due to the ongoing security transition, they have not increased to such a large extent. In a statement, the ministry said the increase in casualty rate has been 14 percent. The rise in deaths amongst their forces was seen as primarily a result of roadside bomb incidents and aggressive clearance operations around the country aimed at eradicating insurgent presence from local communities. The ministry acknowledged that lack of proper training and experience was likely behind some of the high casualty numbers.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Khaama Press, 9-10 November 2013; Los Angeles Times, 9 November 2013; Tolo News, 10 November 2013; Tolo News, 12 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Senior Haqqani leader killed

Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior militant and son of Jaluluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Haqqani Network was shot dead by two unidentified men on the outskirts of Islamabad. Nasiruddin was the chief financier for the Haqqani Network and had been designated as a terrorist by the US in 2010. His body was taken for burial to North Waziristan and was said to have been put to rest in Miranshah.

The death was condemned by the Afghan Taliban. "We condemn the cowardly act of the defeated enemy and tell them that these kinds of terrorist actions will not have any negative impact on the current jihadi activities," the Taliban said in a statement. "His death is a big loss for Islamic Emirate and all Afghanistan," it said.

No group has taken responsibility for the incident yet. However, media reports are speculating that the recent killing of Hakimullah Mehsud had created a rift between the TTP and the Haqqani Network.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 12 November 2013; Tolo News, 12-13 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opium-production up

According to a report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the opium production in Afghanistan witnessed an increase in 2013 as compared to 2012. Over 200,000 hectares planted with the poppy for the first time in Afghanistan, which shows an increase of 36 percent as compared to last year. The total area planted with poppies rose from 154,000 to 209,000 hectares, while potential production rose by 49 percent to 5,500 tonnes, more than the current global demand.

Most of the opium production took place in southern Afghanistan province of Helmand. Southern Afghanistan alone accounted for 72 percent of the opium grown in Afghanistan. The report also indicated that the otherwise poppy-free provinces of Balkh and Faryab also witnessed opium cultivation.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of UNODC in Kabul also warned that opium production was likely to rise again next year, citing uncertainty regarding the withdrawal of NATO forces and presidential elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 13 November 2013; Tolo News, 9 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">British link aid to security pact

During his recent visit to Afghanistan this week, the British Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond warned that Britain will end its long-term military commitment to Afghanistan, if the Afghan government fails to finalise a security deal with the international coalition security forces. Britain will keep military trainers in Afghanistan once the agreement signed with the international forces that will give immunity for the foreign forces from prosecution under the Afghan law.

"Without those agreements we can’t do anything because we won’t be able to protect our own people and clearly if we can’t protect our own people we won’t be able to have them here," Hammond said.

The NATO countries, including UK will sign bilateral security agreements with the government of Afghanistan once the security deal between Kabul and Washington is finalised, which will pave the way for the presence of US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Hammond also assured the Afghan government that the UK troops would help the Afghan security forces during the electoral process.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 12 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ministers offer to quit

To pave way for an all-party poll time-government all the ministers this week offered their resignation. All the 52 ministers of the Awami League-led grand alliance government handed over their resignation letters to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. On receiving the resignation letters, Sheikh Hasina announced that she would form an all-party government by November 20 to facilitate a free, fair and credible parliamentary election. However, she would continue to remain in her office.

The ministers will continue to delegate their official responsibilities as their resignations are waiting to get President Abdul Hamid’s nod. Cabinet Secretary Muhammad Mosarraf Hossain Bhuiyan announced that he will send the resignation letters to President Abdul Hamid only after he receives clearance from the Prime Minister. Bhuyian clarified that the cabinet will not be dissolved. Rather it will be reconstituted with some new faces. The size of the reconstituted cabinet will be smaller than the present one. He also claimed that the Prime Minister has not specified about the size of the cabinet.

On November 4, Prime Minister in a cabinet meeting informed that the poll-time government will have 21 members with elected representatives and senior political leaders, and she would head it.On October 28, Sheikh Hasina made clear of her intention on the formation of an all-party poll-time government with small political parties, if the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) did not respond to her proposal. Earlier, she had invited BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia to resolve differences over the poll time government. BNP, however, rejected the invitation.

BNP is pressing for restoration of the impartial caretaker government system which was dissolved following an amendment of the constitution. Ruling Awami wants the elected government to supervise the election.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, 12 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition shutdown turns violent

The week witnessed country-wide violent political violence as the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) observed an 84 hours long shutdown to press its demand for holding the next general election under the care-taker government. During the shutdown, one person was killed, around 350 people including law enforcers were injured while over 300 opposition activists were arrested across the country. During the shutdown hours, more than 200 vehicles were damaged, 300 cocktails were blasted in different areas of the country. The shutdown also disturbed the daily lives; people were scared to get out fearing violence.

It can be recalled that the opposition observed two spells of 60-hour countrywide shutdown from October 27-29 and from November 4-6, which left 20 people dead and over 8,000 people injured across the country.

The international community has expressed concern over the deterioration of law and order situation. Neighbouring India stressed the importance of resolving the ongoing political crisis in Bangladesh through dialogue and holding a free and fair election peacefully. "It is for the people of Bangladesh to decide their own future. India supports holding of free and fair elections in Bangladesh," it said in a statement.

"In a multi-party democracy such as Bangladesh, differences are best resolved through dialogue and peaceful means. This will strengthen democratic institutions and contribute to the realisation of the goals of peace, stability and development in Bangladesh," stated the spokesperson of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka.

Canada, another important development partner of Bangladesh, said "neither hartals nor arrests are conducive to dialogue. Canada remains committed to working with Bangladesh to overcome the challenges it faces." "Constructive dialogue between the government and the opposition is essential to free, fair and credible elections," said Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Heather Cruden in a press statement.

Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka Li Jun in a press statement said, "The same as Bangladesh people, I am deeply worried about the recent development of the political situation. I hope that the two prominent political parties would take concrete efforts to signal each other goodwill, and to re-establish people’s confidence in resolving the differences through dialogue".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 12 November 2013; The Daily Star, 14 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JP to form new political alliance

Adding a twist to the chaotic political situation Jatiya Party (JP) chairman HM Ershad this week declared that he would form a new political platform and will also explain his stand whether he would stay with the Awami League-led 14-party Grand Alliance or not, shortly. Jatiya Party is a major ally of the ruling Awami League-led alliance.

Explaining his new political alliance Ershad said that it will comprise of small parties, and will be announced shortly. He said he has already discussed this issue with several smaller political parties. Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, of former president AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury, Krishak Sramik Janata League of Kader Siddiqui, Bir Uttam, Jatiy Samagtantrik Dal (JSD) of ASM Abdur Rob, and others, will be part of the new political alliance, Ershad added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 15 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minimum wage for RMG workers

After long negotiations with the garment factory owners the government this week fixed Tk 5,300 as the minimum monthly wage for workers. Representatives of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) agreed to accept the new wages for workers in a meeting this week with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The new wage structure is likely to be implemented from December this year.

On November 4, a Wage Board was formed to fix the minimum monthly wages for garment factory workers. The Board recommended Tk 5,300 as the minimum wage, including food subsidy, amid objections from factory owners. The factory owners rejected the proposal, terming it exaggerated and beyond the ability of the owners to pay. The owners also proposed Tk 4,250 while the workers demanded a monthly minimum wage of Tk 8,114.

Low wage of the workers at the readymade garment (RMG) sector has been a major cause for workers protest in Bangladesh. This week also at least 100 people, including 10 policemen, were injured as RMG workers staged demonstrations and locked in sporadic clashes with law enforcers at different parts of the country demanding implementation of recommended new minimum wage.

RMG is a major export product of Bangladesh and many international brands source their product from the country. The RMG factory owners resisted wage hike citing rise in the cost of production. Low wages have been major attraction for international brands to source their products from Bangladesh.

The international brands often expressed their concerns over the repeated unrest in RMG sector. The low wages and condition of the factory worker also attracted limelight globally after the incident of building collapse in April this year that housed many RMG factories. More than thousand RMG workers died in the incident.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 14 November 2013; New Age, 12 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade unions in EPZs from January

The government has decided in principle to allow factory workers in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) to conduct trade union activities from January 1, 2014, as part of its measures to fulfil the conditions set by the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

It has been decided that workers can observe strikes and they would not be blacklisted for trade union activities.

Investors in the EPZs have serious reservations about the issue as they argued that providing such rights might cause labour unrest in the EPZs which will jeopardise their investment.

"Updates on Bangladesh Action Plan, 2013", which has been prepared to submit to the USTR, mentioned that the government will allow trade union activities to improve workers’ rights and safety situation. Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed hinted that the government had in principle agreed to allow strikes in the EPZs, as the legal bar on holding strikes in EPZs expires on December 31, 2012.

According to EPZ EWAIR Act 2010, no strikes or lock-outs are permitted in any industrial unit in the EPZ till December 31, 2013. "As the time bar expires in December this year, the government may allow strikes in EPZs," said a senior official of the BEPZA.

The EPZ authorities took the decision as part of the government action plan to fulfil the USTR conditions for revival of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facilities in the US market. The USTR will review the Bangladesh action plan in December next.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Independent, 14 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition retains ex-PM’s seat

Bhutan’s main opposition party DPT has won a by-election for a parliamentary seat vacated by its leader and former Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley, whose party was routed in the general election in July. The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) declared that Dechen Zangmo of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party has been elected as the representative from Nanong-Shumar National Assembly Demkhong constituency in Saturday’s polls.

In a press release, the ECB stated that the overall voter turnout was 35.2 percent with 2,913 voters casting the ballot out of the total 8,278 registered voters.

Of the total votes, 2,632 votes were cast on the electronic voting machines in 17 polling stations and 281 votes through postal ballots. Zangmo was elected with 1,751 votes while Pema Wangchuk of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) secured 1,162 votes.

Thinley, resigned in July, becoming the first person in Bhutan to quit the legislative body.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 10 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to provide INR 1.5 billion

India will provide funds worth INR 1.5 billion to Bhutan for various development works. Bhutan’s economic body Gross National Happiness Commission, yesterday signed 10 cheques amounting to INR 1.5 billion with Indian government officials.

The amount comprised funds due for works completed under Bhutan’s 10th five-year plan. This leaves another Rs 1.5 billion to be received from India under the 10th plan covering around 95 per cent of the total commitment made under the plan, according to a release of the commission.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 14 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Illegal currency conversion continues

Currency conversion continues unabated as a major illegal business in the Indo-Bhutan border areas while authorities are in dark about the implementation of decade old planning to open up official conversion facilities.

In addition to the 5 lakh Indian citizens leaving the border adjoining areas, nearly 50,000 Indian citizens working in Bhutan are victims of the system as they cannot utilise Bhutanese currency earned as salary or business revenue in India. Interestingly, though handling Bhutanese currency is illegal in India. Indian Currency is an official tender inside Bhutan.

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

"The situation has aggravated manifold after severe depletion of INR reserve in Bhutan in recent past that forced the country to impose several restriction in outflow of INR including even ATM disbursements," said a veteran trader from Indian town Jaigaon, the largest Indo-Bhutan border trade point.

As usual, neither Indian, nor Bhutan border district administration could show of any properly set plan to resolve the crisis. To bring Bhutan out of the medieval barter system of trading (Direct exchange of commodities) during 1961, India helped it out by providing currency notes those started circulating in Bhutan economy.

But even after development of Nu in 1974, circulation of Rupee continued there. In October 2004, after Indo-Bhutan border districts coordination meet, the then Divisional Commissioner of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, Mr B Ram and Mr Tshering Wangda, the then Joint Secretary of Ministry of Home of the Royal Government of Bhutan, proposed Indian Finance Ministry and RBI to set up official exchange facilities. But, the proposal is yet to find any reality.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 11 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM not to attend CHOGM

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa his inability to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) beginning November 15. A short letter by Dr Singh was handed over to Mr. Rajapaksa by Indian diplomats in Colombo on November 9.

The November 9 letter, however, does not talk about the reasons for Dr Singh skipping the CHOGM. It says that External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will be representing Dr Singh. The letter is in response to Mr Rajapaksa’s invitation to Dr Singh, which was hand-delivered on August 19.

Meanwhile, Mr Rajpaksa said he was satisfied with the level of India’s representation at the CHOGM. Earlier, Sri Lanka had played down Dr Singh’s decision to stay away, saying it was not a setback and adding that it understood the domestic political compulsions behind the move. "It will not affect the success of CHOGM," Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris said. "Sri Lankans would have been happier if he came."

Parties in Tamil Nadu as well as a section in the Congress, including at least three Cabinet ministers, had opposed India’s participation at any level in CHOGM on grounds of the charges against the Sri Lankan government of gross violation of human rights and its failure to devolve powers to ethnic Tamils.

Down south in Chennai, the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution at its emergent session demanding "complete boycott" of the summit, as Congress and two other parties kept away from voting.

The resolution moved by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was passed by voice vote even as Congress, Puthiya Tamizhagam and CPI-M members were not present while the PMK chose to boycott the session.

In an another development, India on November 14 assured Sri Lankan Tamils that it will stand by them and do its best to ensure that they are able to live a life of respect and dignity. This assurance was given by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to a delegation of the ruling Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that recently came to power in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province of Jaffna.

The delegation, led by TNA leader and veteran Tamil politician R Sambanthan, included two party MPs M A Sumanthiran and Suresh Premachandran.

Mr Sambanthan told reporters after the meeting with Singh that the delegation discussed the entire gamut of issues related to the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Indian role in improving their plight.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Indian Express, 11-13 November 2013,, 14 November 2013; The Hindu, 14 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Pakistan should respect sentiments’

Amid continued tension, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz this week and firmly told him that Islamabad must respect India’s sentiments, points of view and sensitivities if it was serious about a meaningful dialogue between the two countries.

Recent events, particularly Mr Aziz’s meeting with Kashmiri separatists in New Delhi earlier in the week, would obviously be counter-productive for normalisation of ties, he told the Pakistani leader at the meeting here on the margins of the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) ministerial conclave.

"This is not a dialogue that happens in isolation...this is a dialogue that is contextual and needs public support and, we think, we have done a great deal to help the Pakistan Government get the public support that it needs to be able to have a fair and transparent dialogue. Conducive conditions have to be created by both sides and not by one side alone," Mr Khurshid said during the half-an-hour meeting. Aziz later also met National Security Adviser Shiv Shanker Menon.

However, he has not been given an audience by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Khurshid made it unambiguously clear to Aziz that peace and tranquillity along the LoC was a precondition for movement forward in India-Pakistan relations.

MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said both agreed that the DGMOs of the two countries must meet at an early date to take forward the process of ensuring peace along the LoC. The spokesman pointed out that the two DGMOs were in touch to work out the modalities for an early face-to-face meeting. "Our understanding is that the 2003 ceasefire should hold. Peace and tranquillity on the LoC is one of the most important CBMs both for India and Pakistan and if that holds and the DGMOs concur with that we will proceed further on that,’’ the spokesman said.

In a clear snub to Mr Aziz, Prime Minister Manmhan Singh did not meet him despite the request for an appointment.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China talks cooperation on terrorism

Days after a terrorist attack at the historic Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, China for the first time expressed strong support for "counter-terrorism" cooperation with India and Russia at a meeting in New Delhi this week.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi "red-flagged" the issue on his own as he held talks with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the 12th Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral meeting.

Wang reportedly said that the attack at Tiananmen Square involved Jihadist elements. The RIC joint statement, released after the meeting, made a mention of the incident and condemned it "in the strongest terms", at China’s insistence.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, 11 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mars orbiter raised

A day after suffering a glitch during the fourth orbit raising operation on its Mars Orbiter Mission, the ISRO on November 12 successfully completed the supplementary manoeuvre, raising the spacecraft’s apogee (farthest distance from Earth) to over 1,18,000 kilometre.

"The fourth supplementary orbit raising manoeuvre of Mars Orbiter spacecraft started at 5.03 am (IST) with a Burn Time of 303.8 seconds and it has been successfully completed. The observed change in apogee is from 78,276 km to 1, 18,642 km," ISRO said. The supplementary manoeuvre, which was completed by 5.10 am, added a velocity of 124.9 m/s to the spacecraft, it said.

After suffering a glitch during the fourth orbit raising operation on November 11, the ISRO planned for a supplementary manoeuvre at 5 am to achieve the targeted apogee of one lakh km.

The fifth of the five orbit raising operation to raise the spacecraft’s apogee of over 1, 92,000 km is scheduled for November 16.

During the fourth orbit raising operations on Monday, the 440 Newton liquid engine stopped, while both primary and redundant coils were energised together, however the thrust level augmentation logic, as expected, came in and the operation continued using the attitude control thrusters and the spacecraft was "normal" and "100 per cent safe," according to ISRO.

Following the glitch, the apogee was raised only to 78,276 kilometre against the target of about one lakh kilometre.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, 12 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Port infrastructure to be augmented

India assured Japan to augment its port infrastructure, particularly at Ennore and Chennai to facilitate import of automobile components and cars from Japan and at the same time, evinced interest in seeking assistance for its port projects.

The development comes in the wake of Shipping Minister G K Vasan leading a delegation to Japan, which met Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan, Akihiro Ohta.

"Vasan discussed several issues relating to logistics, infrastructure and development of port sector in India. He explained the developments that were taking place in India in the ports sector and assured Ohta that concerns regarding infrastructure and connectivity of ports are being addressed expeditiously," an official statement said here.

Various Japanese companies have been evincing a lot of interest in enhancing their use of the Ennore Port and Chennai ports.

Assuring to further develop these ports, Vasan said, "Ports in Ennore and Chennai are catering to Japanese car exporters like Toyota and Nissan who have exported about 42,000 and 3 lakh cars, respectively."

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 11 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Broadened ties with Ukraine

Seeking to broaden bilateral ties, India and Ukraine on November 13 explored ways to expand cooperation in diverse sectors such as trade, nuclear energy, coal mining, pharmaceutical, healthcare and science and technology. Both sides held wide-ranging discussion to enhance cooperation in these sectors of the fifth session of the India-Ukraine Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological, Industrial and Cultural Cooperation in New Delhi.

The session was chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmad while the Ukrainian delegation was led by Ihor Mykolayovych, Minister of Economic Development and Trade. He was accompanied by 15 member official and 12 member business delegation from Ukraine.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 14 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Patience and compromises paved the way’

Outgoing Maldivian President Dr Mohamed Waheed has said that it was not fair that a country’s leader, when he loses control of the situation, resigns from his post and blames the police and the military of having committed crimes.

The President said in his farewell address to the nation on Friday, on the eve of the second-round poll for the presidency that his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed’s actions on the day he resigned resulted in several challenges for the security forces.

The President said that the past 21 months as President were not easy in any way. He said that having to work under a legal framework that had constrained the powers of the President, it was only patience and compromises that paved the way for an election where three candidates were competing. He added that while the people might feel the government was weak because of that, had the government failed to work with patience and compromise, the country would not have arrived at the current stage.

The President said one of the priorities during his tenure was to enhance the area of foreign relations, adding that the long-standing non-aligned, independent foreign policy with an Islamic character was changed by the then government.

President Waheed also detailed several important achievements during his presidency."The government reformed Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) and over the past ten months, the company made a profit of MVR 3.4 billion. 42,000 tons of fish and fish products were exported last year. MVR 2 billion was repaid for loans taken by the previous government. Six new resorts were opened, resulting in 871 additional beds. A total of 2,034 students were given the chance for higher education through the Student Loan Scheme in 2012-13," he said.

President Waheed said that he did not wish to extend the government’s term through a court order, however, he decided to remain in office after 10 November to uphold the rule of law in the country, and to confirm protection for the military and the police.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 15 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gayoom calls for quitting C’wealth

President of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has called withdraw the membership of Maldives from the Commonwealth if the organisation continued to make undue influence on internal affairs of Maldives.

Addressing a PPM poll rally, Gayoom said that Maldives joined the Commonwealth during when he was President, as at the time, it added small nation-States "especially in the areas of security, environment, etc. The policies of the Commonwealth in these areas are very good," he said.

However, Gayoom said that the the Commonwealth has changed over the years. He said that there is not much benefit now gained from the Commonwealth.

"They are trying to have their say regarding our internal issues. They are trying to impose their own policies as our policies. They are creating unrest here by these irresponsible actions. Therefore, we today want to quit our membership from the Commonwealth," he said.

Gayoom emphasized that there is no benefit to remain as members of these foreign organisations if they do not respect Maldives, and if they fail to acknowledge that Maldives is an independent and sovereign country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, 15 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives is under colonisation: Nazim

Miinister of Defence, Mohamed Nazim has said that Maldives is under colonisation. He made this remark at a campaign rally held by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and their supporters in Male on Thursday night. He said that ideological war is the most dangerous war waged today and Maldives unfortunately has become prey to such ideological wars.

He said that the people of Maldives should never compromise the sovereignty and independence of Maldives for the sake of wealth and materialistic pleasures.Nazim said that some foreign diplomats wearing the guise of sincerity for the well-being of the Maldivian nation proposed a seven-article document to President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik on 10 November, when his term should have ended. The paper contained the threats and warnings, if the President does not resign and handover the executive powers to the Speaker of the Peoples’ Majlis Abdullah Shahid.

"The President established a committee to study the paper. I was included in that committee. I told them that they have no right to make such threats," he said. Nazim said had the government accepted that paper then Maldives would have been under slavery today."It is time for us to rise above this," he said.

Nazim has said that he decided to vote for PPM’s presidential nominee Yameen because he did not want to see the day when the military and the police were made to suffer. "This is something we have to do, to ensure protection for the military and the police officers and their families.

He said the people should vote to protect their religion, nation, independence, and sovereignty. "If you make the wrong decision on Saturday, there is no doubt that the country will end up in darkness," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, 15 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JP splits as Gasim backs Yameen

Jumhoore Party (JP) founder and presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim, reversed earlier decision "not to support either of the two" candidates in the second-round of polls on Saturday, 16 November, leading to a split in the party.

Dr Ibrahim Didid, former JP president, now deputy president after Gasim took back the post ahead of the presidential polls, returned to the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) when the JP national council revisited the earlier decision, and backed PPM’s Abdulla Yameen for the presidency.

Gasim had come third in the first-round poll on 9 November with a marginally reduced 23.30 percent vote-share as against 24.07 percent in the court-annulled polls of 7 September. MDP’s Mohammed Nasheed improved upon his annulled poll figure of 45.45 percent, to 46.87 percent. PPM’s Yameen retained his runner-up position, but with a substantially higher vote-share of 29.82 percent, as against 25.35 percent earlier.

The JP decided on backing Yameen followed coalition partner, namely, the religion-centric Adhaalath Party (AP) decided to back Yameen without second thoughts. Some senior JP leaders also appeared in Yameen’s poll rallies against party decision to stay neutral.

Gasim also came under intense pressure after MDP leaders, PPM’s Yameen, and later party founder and former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, kept calling on him, seeking his support in the second-round, run-off polls for the presidency.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 10-14 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Freedom for 69 political prisoners

Myanmar released dozens of jailed dissidents this week, as the fast-changing former pariah state hosts top-level international visitors, including the European Union. The country pardoned 69 inmates, the latest in a series of releases that have been seen internationally as a key marker of its emergence from military rule.

A statement from the president’s office said the latest release was to "respect humanitarian grounds and allow (those freed) to be able to assist in nation building by understanding the benevolence and loving kindness of the state".It reiterated a pledge that the government would free all remaining detained dissidents by the end of the year.

Myanmar freed 56 political prisoners in October - many linked to armed ethnic minority groups in the northern state of Kachin and the eastern state of Shan - as the government strives to reach an elusive nationwide peace deal with rebels. Some 70 were freed in July, many of whom were also from Kachin groups.

< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, 15 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police clash with locals at mining site

Security forces at the Chinese-backed Letpadaungtaung copper-mine project area clashed with local residents on the road connecting Moegyo Pyin Village and Setel Village in Sarlingyi Township, Sagaing Region on 14 November.

The conflict began at about 9 am as the security forces put barricades across the road just outside Moegyo Pyin Village, which is located beside the Pathein-Monywa Highway. Shortly afterward, nearly 150 locals gathered and demanded that the security forces stop what they were doing and remove the barricades.

"Since 8 pm on Tuesday night, the police have been coming to that road. They built the barricades during the night and closed the road. In the morning, they did not allow us to pass it," said Kyaw Myint Lay, from central Moegyo Pyin Village.

"The road they blocked has always been used by the villagers. It is also not on the compensated land, and it is far from the project site. When I went there to get some grass for the cows, my cart wasn’t allowed to pass. They said I have to sign to go in," said a woman from southern Moegyo Pyin Village.

Following arguments between the villagers and the police, a large number of additional police officers were sent there to contain the clash. Sarlingyi Township’s chief official Kyaw Thaung also attended the scene.

"The barricades are there because the area falls under the project land. It is also because there is a protest camp on Ingyin Mountain. These farmlands are actually state-owned. These villages are also not legal ones, so they can be confiscated at any time."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 14 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">OIC met with protest in Yangon

Around 300 Buddhist monks marched through Yangon on 12 November in protest at a looming visit by delegates from the world’s top Islamic body to Myanmar, which has been rattled by several bouts of anti-Muslim violence.

A delegation from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will meet with Muslims and Buddhists during their stay later this week, according to a senior official.

Attacks against Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have overshadowed widely praised political reforms overseen by the former general since military rule ended in 2011.

A total of around 500 protesters, some wielding banners reading "No OIC" and "OIC get out", marched through the commercial capital, accusing the Islamic bloc of wanting to internationalise the issue of religious violence.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 13 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rift in Baidya alliance

Serious differences have surfaced among remaining allies of the CPN-Maoist-led anti-poll alliance as the ongoing 10-day strike witnessed serious cases of violence and arson.

Leaders of some parties in the alliance, except the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist, voiced concerns over the growing incidents of violence and arson as a part of enforcing transport strikes. The alliance is not only divided over the nature of protest but also over whether to continue with the ongoing strike.

Some of the remaining half-a-dozen parties in the alliance are also mulling severing ties with the original 33-party alliance should similar violent activities continue during the course of the strike. They have maintained that though some incidents of vandalism and stone-pelting were normal during strikes, hurling of petrol bombs at passenger buses and planting of bombs and torching of vehicles were not justifiable. Of the total 33 parties in the alliance, more than 24 have already parted ways to participate in the polls.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Distribution of voter ID cards starts

The Election Commission (EC) started distributing the voter identity cards for use in the Constituent Assembly election throughout the country from 15 November. The commission stated that the voter identity cards would be distributed by the designated officials on November 15, 16 and 17 at the polling centres in all the Village Development Committees (VDCs) and the Municipalities across the country.

EC spokesperson Bir Bahadur Rai said the voter identity cards should be collected by voters themselves and in case they cannot be there to collect it in person, any other member of the family can also collect their voter identity cards by presenting authentic identification documents in the presence of the representatives of the political parties.

The commission stated that any voter whose name has been registered in the voters’ list but has not been able to take the voter identity card for some reason can also vote on the basis of the citizenship certificate or driving license or passport or any other identification document with photo issued by the Government of Nepal and organisations under the government ownership.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 15 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stealth attacks prompt govt to deploy more cops

The government has concluded that the violent activities that have been unleashed by the anti-poll alliance are ´criminal´ in nature. A high-level security meeting held under Chairman of the Interim Election Council of Ministers Khil Raj Regmi at Singha Durbar on November 14 reached the conclusion that the violent activities being carried out by the CPN-Maoist led alliance were not within the realm of politics.

According to the statement, the government initiated legal action against those involved in violent activities, following a micro-analysis of all the anti-poll violence. The government also clarified that those who have directed, incited or implemented such activities are all legally responsible for the criminal activities.

The meeting also took stock of the overall security situation in the country and decided to adopt a new security strategy to contain the violent activities of anti-poll forces. Evaluating the latest incidents of stealth attack, the government decided to deploy the ´utmost´ number of plain-clothes police. Meanwhile, cadres of the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist, dubbed by police as the ´unidentified group´, have attacked moving vehicles with petrol bombs in different parts of the country as well.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 14 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strike affects poll preparations

Normal life across Nepal came to a standstill due to the strike called by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M)-led 33-party alliance protesting the November 19 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections. The transport system was completely disrupted and markets, shops, schools, colleges and universities were closed. Police have arrested dozens of strike enforcers from different parts of the country.

The alliance called a general strike on November 11 and a transport strike for another nine days till the election. The CPN-M believes the strike will force the government and political parties to postpone the elections that are taking place without its participation. Security in Kathmandu valley and other parts of the country was tightened with heavy deployment of security personnel on the streets. Security agencies were asked to pick up CPN-M cadres from the streets with the strike affecting preparations for the elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 11 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khalid Haqqani to oversee TTP operations

Sheikh Khalid Haqqani has been appointed the functional chief responsible for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s day to day operations. The new chief of the TTP, Mullah Fazlullah, is currently in Afghanistan and in his absence Haqqani is to be the functional head.

Tribal circles have rejected rumours of Fazlullah’s return to FATA after his appointment as the TTP Chief.

The killing of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, in a US drone strike has exposed long existing rivalries in the group. This is likely to make the insurgency more volatile and less predictable.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 14-15 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">KP Ministers not to join PTI’s sit-in

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) cabinet ministers will not participate in a sit-in on November 20 organised by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) aimed at blocking NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

PTI Chief Imran Khan had vowed to block the supplies in response to a US drone strike that killed Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud due to which talks between the militants and the government came to a halt.

The sit-in will not be attended by the Chief Minister of KP, Pervez Khattak, provincial ministers and other government officials.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 15 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Willing to work with Modi: Aziz

Pakistan’s foreign policy advisor, Sartaz Aziz stated in an interview that Pakistan would be ready to work with BJP candidate Narendra Modi should he become the next Prime Minister of India. He also said that Pakistan would work with anybody who came to power in India.

He said that the delayed meeting between the Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries was expected to be scheduled soon.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 15 November 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MR warns against turning C’wealth ’judgmental’

Amidst a celebration replete with dance and music, the 23rd edition of the 53-member grouping’s Heads of Government Meeting was unveiled in Colombo on Friday. Britain’s Prince Charles, declaring open the bi-annual summit on behalf of the Head of Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II. said, "Each of us is here because of the hope and trust we place in the Commonwealth to bring that ’touch of healing’ to our troubles and deliver the very best future for our people."

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who spoke prior to the Prince, cautioned that if the organisation was to remain relevant, it must respond sensitively to the needs of its citizens and not let it turn into a punitive or judgmental body.

"We must also collectively guard against bilateral agendas being introduced, thereby distorting Commonwealth traditions and consensus," he stressed, pointing out that the strength of the grouping lay in keeping its members united and helping one another in a spirit of partnership and uniqueness.The President urged member countries to avoid being prescriptive and divisive. He wished the Colombo deliberations would lead to the greatest practical benefits for the people of a renewed Commonwealth.

Observing that it would not be quite prudent to talk about "Common Wealth", before addressing more vigorously the issue of "Common Poverty", Rajapaksa called for a collective effort towards the realisation of development goals aimed at reaping the economic benefits.

Asking if political concerns were of greater importance than the need for basic facilities, healthcare, education, productive employment, access to food, safe drinking water, eradication of poverty and hunger, he said that there was a compelling need for those who guided the destiny of the Commonwealth to give serious thought to practical modalities focusing on social and economic issues, that would greatly enhance the relevance and value of the grouping.

The President noted that CHOGM had at long last returned to Asia, which was home to three quarters of the Commonwealth People, after last being held in Kuala Lampur in 1989. Sri Lanka, as one of the eight founding members of the organisation, he said considered it a historic occasion.

The Commonwealth Charter, adopted in December last year, continued to be relevant to Sri Lanka as it entered a new era guided by all the great religions that preached the need to uphold the highest human values, President Rajapaksa observed.

The President concluded by quoting the Buddha: "Let’s not take note of the faults of others, nor what we have done or not done, but only be concerned about what has to be done but left undone."

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Should discuss 30 years’ war, not part: MR

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Thursday that he would not only discuss 2009, but also the entire 30-year Sri Lankan war with Britain’s Prince Charles, who is in Colombo for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Asked by a British journalist, during a press conference at the BMICH, if he would, when shaking hands with Prince Charles, "at least now admit that his Security forces had committed war crimes" during the last stages of the battle with the LTTE in 2009, the President replied, "I would not shake his hands, I will say Ayubowan whether it’s a King, Queen or beggar. That is the way I would greet the Prince. Since he is coming to see me, we will not only talk about what happened in 2009, but the entire 30-year conflict. I also have some questions to ask."

President Rajapaksa said, "For you journalists it’s news, but for us it was a matter of life and death. We had to face LTTE terror for thirty years. They killed innocent civilians, children and even pregnant women. No one gets killed in Sri Lanka today. There is peace and harmony."

"You should respect our culture and legal system," the President pointed out when asked if an independent international investigation would be permitted into alleged war crimes. He assured that anyone found guilty of violating humanitarian laws, regardless of who it was, would be dealt with under Sri Lanka’s judicial system.

"We have nothing to hide. You know what’s happening in the Middle East in the name of democracy, don’t you? he queried, while inviting the journalist for a meeting.Rajapaksa said that he was willing to talk to anyone including terrorists but under no circumstances would the division of the country be permitted.

The government, he said, had rehabilitated and released the LTTE’s child soldiers about a month after the conflict had concluded, while 14,000 of its cadres had been reunited with their families within three years.

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

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

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.