MonitorsPublished on Mar 15, 2013
Afghan refugees in Iran are experiencing increasing hostility as State policies become explicitly discriminatory. The recent persecution of these displaced persons has brought this fact to light.
Afghanistan: Tensions over Iran's refugee policy
< class="heading1">Analysis

Afghan refugees in Iran are experiencing increasing hostility as State policies become explicitly discriminatory. The recent persecution of these displaced persons has brought this fact to light. According to news reports, on February 24, several Afghan refugees were allegedly executed in Iran for offences relating to drug-trafficking and their bodies were sent to northern Takhar Province in Afghanistan, where they were buried.

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Afghanistan researcher, Heather Barr, expressed concern that the Afghans sentenced to death did not receive a fair trial and were not given the opportunity to seek assistance from their Government. While the Iranian Government did not confirm these reports, they have ’tentatively’ promised to suspend further executions until there is a meeting between the judicial authorities of the two countries to discuss the matter.

There are approximately 3000 Afghan prisoners facing capital punishment in Iran. Iranian officials claim that these measures are being taken in an effort to crack-down on drug-trafficking and other criminal activities that Afghan refugees are allegedly perpetuating in border Provinces. However, it has been alleged that mistreatment of Afghan refugees is part of Teheran’s strategy to put pressure on Afghanistan whenever its policies ’displease’ Iran.

Changing polices

Iran currently hosts around two-million Afghan refugees, of which only 860,000 are registered. Iran has been home to Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of 1979 but policies towards them have changed drastically under the Government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that began in 2005. At first, Iran followed a policy of integration even though the prospect of better living opportunities for the refugees remained limited. The refugees were classified as ’involuntary religious migrants’ (mohajerin) as a part of Iran’s Islamic and humanitarian duty. However, the 1990’s witnessed the beginning of a tougher stance on policies relating to employment and education, with efforts being made to forcibly repatriate registered and unregistered refugees.

It is in recent years that Teheran has stepped up the process of forced expulsion of Afghan migrants and hundreds of deportations are being carried out every day. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 200,000 unregistered migrants were forced out of Iran between January and September last year, reflecting a 29 per cent increase in expulsions from the 2011 figure. The Ahmadinejad Government has also imposed various other restrictions, including an increasing number of ’no-go areas’ for Afghans, which now comprises 12 of Iran’s 31 Provinces. Even within these Provinces, there are further restrictions on their movement and employment opportunities.

Socio-economic considerations

Iran is facing worsening economic conditions, caused largely by international sanctions imposed in response to its nuclear programme. As a result, Iran is introducing policies that will encourage illegal and legal refugees to return to Afghanistan. The Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs has stepped up efforts to prevent the employment of undocumented refugees in building firms by threatening to shut down the enterprises. As unemployment is on the rise among the Iranian youth, Iran hopes to reduce the number of refugees integrated within the workforce and prioritise Iranians.

However, according to the UNHCR office in Teheran, there has been no significant increase in the number of refugees seeking voluntary repatriation despite high inflation and stringent economic conditions. The reason for this is the uncertainty of Afghanistan’s political and security situation as well as that over the availability of jobs. Moreover, Afghan refugees continue to be favoured for employment in construction and agriculture sectors in Iran, as they prove to be more cost-effective for the employers.

Refugees as political tools

It is evident that Iran’s capacity to leverage the refugee issue with Kabul is a dominant factor in the treatment meted out to Afghan refugees. Teheran recognises that the Afghan Government is incapable of accommodating a large number of repatriates without lasting repercussions for its economic and security conditions. For instance, in 2007, Iran initiated mass deportation of refugees into the lawless areas of western Afghanistan, which triggered a humanitarian crisis and led to the impeachment of Afghanistan’s Ministers for Refugees and Foreign Affairs.

Similarly, in May 2012, Iran issued fresh threats to expel Afghan refugees and workers in order to obstruct the ratification of a 10-year strategic partnership between Kabul and Washington that would provide the legal status for US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. This indicates that with the impending withdrawal of most NATO forces in the offing, Iran hopes to fill the vacuum by establishing itself as a significant regional player.

Undermining soft-power

Historically, Iran’s influence in Afghanistan has derived predominantly from soft power through its cultural, religious and linguistic ties to the Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazara population. Iran, as the centre of Shia Islam, is therefore in a position to leverage its religious influence among the Hazara ethnic group, which makes up Afghanistan’s third largest minority -- and only substantial Shia population, outside of Iran. According to a UNHCR report, it is estimated that almost half the Afghan refugees in Iran are Hazara.

Given the ethnic dynamics of Afghanistan and the mass persecution of Shia Muslims by the Taliban, the possibility of a post-2014 political process that accommodates the Taliban, may compel Hazaras to seek Iranian patronage. However, the forced evacuation of refugees, most of whom have spent more than half their lives in Iran, has severely undermined the capacity of Tehran to wield influence on these ethnic groups. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that Iran is arming, financing and training the Taliban. This has made Hazaras aware that Iranian patronage may not always be in their interest and they might consider it advantageous to support the presence of US troops.

External dimension

It is evident that a substantive part of Iran’s polices towards the Afghan refugees is driven by an external dimension. While Iran holds the capacity to leverage the refugee population by threatening to destabilise Afghanistan, its influence is limited. The ratification of the strategic partnership with United States, despite Iran’s threats, signifies that Afghanistan seeks to prevent interference and intimidation from Iran, using the threat of American military presence beyond 2014.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: Mixed results from Indian President’s visit

Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bilateral relations got a major boost following Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Bangladesh early this month. It was President Mukherjee’s first overseas visit after assuming office, and it highlighted the importance that India accords to Bangladesh.

The visit assumed new significance as it came at a time when Bangladesh was facing political turmoil over the on-going trial of war criminals of 1971, which has left the country divided. The group supporting the belated trial seems to be in a majority and argues that the trials are necessary for the fulfilment of the liberation pledges. The group opposing the trial is in a minority but has taken to violent protests across the country, leading to 80 deaths. The present violence in has become more of a struggle for ideology -- to re-establish secularism in the country. The fear is if the country fails in its strive for secularism, fundamentalist forces will become stronger, which will be against the principle and the values for which the country was created.

Despite many analysts suggesting the cancellation of the presidential visit, New Delhi stuck to the plans. So did Dhaka. The visit thus became a major morale-booster to the Awami League Government which had initiated the trials in the first place. India did not allow the internal politics of Bangladesh to overshadow bilateral relations. This was despite the fact that the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, having a successful visit to India last year, and her party backing the bandh against the war-crimes trial and convictions. The visit hence strengthened the India-Bangladesh relations, which has been on an upswing for past few years.

Bangladesh also reciprocated by rolling out the red-carpet for the Indian President. President of Bangladesh Zillur Rahman conferred on Pranab Mukherjee the nation’s Mukti Juddha Sammanona (Liberation War Award), one of the highest civilian honour of the country in remembrance for his contribution during Bangladesh’s independence movement in 1971. President anab Mukherjee was also conferred with honorary doctorate by Dhaka University, one of the biggest and prestigious universities in the country.

Pranab Mukherjee held meetings with top leaders of the country including President Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Finance Minister A M A Muhith and Jatiya Party Chairperson and former military ruler H M Ershad. The Indian President was greatly touched by the display of warmth.

A special glory could have added to the visit if President Mukherjee had gone with some of goodies like the news of ratification of land boundary and/or the Teesta River Water Accord. However, the President made it clear that India was committed to taking the relationship onto the next level. President Mukherjee said that a constitutional amendment bill will be introduced in the Budget session of the Indian Parliament which will help in ratifying the land boundary agreement signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in 2011.

With the expected ratification of the boundary Bangladesh will be the first country with which India would have resolved all disputes concerning land boundary. President Mukherjee was also hopeful that India and Bangladesh will also resolve water issues. He stressed that the countries had a history of resolving water issues and he was optimistic that two countries will be able to sign the Teesta agreement. During his visit the President also stressed on improving connectivity which could pave for greater integration with South and Southeast Asia.

The only unfortunate aspect of the visit was Opposition BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia’s refusal to meet the Indian President citing on-going political unrest in the country as the reason. On the day the meeting was scheduled, her BNP had joined the joint Opposition protest against the war-crimes trial. Even without this episode, the BNP’s equation with India has not been very smooth. Earlier New Delhi had taken the initiative for Begum Zia’s visit to India in October 2012. Begum Zia’s present gesture suggests that the efforts taken by India could not yield much result.

With less than a year left for parliamentary elections, New Delhi is left with few options. India’s equation with BNP seems to be far from being attaining the trajectory as expected during Begum Zia’s visit. The BNP’s support for the Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders have been brought to trial for alleged war crimes has also made the situation complex. The Jamaat is known for its reservations towards India. However, India still wants to build bridges with all the political parties in Bangladesh as President Mukherjeee categorically said that New Delhi wanted the participation of all the political parties and the next parliamentary election would be acceptable only if all political parties participated in it.

The visit has generated goodwill among the people. President Mukherjee’s visit to Narail at the ancestral house of his wife gave an opportunity to connect to the people of that country, which showcased the bond that the two countries possessed. His visit to Kumidini complex in Mirzapur, where he laid foundation for an India-assisted sophisticated sewerage collection, treatment and disposal system for highlighted New Delhi’s sincere intention of participating in the development schemes of Bangladesh.

The visit has brought the two countries closer and will have a lasting impression in the history of bilateral relations which will help the countries to work together for the development of South Asia region.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition shutdown

Around 50 people, including a policeman, were injured in sporadic incidents of clashes between members of law enforcement agencies and supporters of the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led 18-party alliance during the countrywide hartal (shutdown) on March 12. The daylong hartal was called by the Opposition in protest against an "attack" by the police. Police arrested at least 15 persons from capital Dhaka and recovered 10 crude bombs. The day long hartal was marked with stray incidents of vandalism, explosion of crude bombs across the country. In Dhaka city only picketers torched four vehicles.

The BNP’s acting secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, had announced the shutdown at rally after several bombs exploded in front of the party’s central office in Dhaka on March 11.

Bangladesh has been experiencing political violence for past few days over the issue of trial of war criminal. Situation deteriorated after the International War Crime Tribunal, the body responsible for carrying out the trials, handed over death sentence to Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee. Since then opposition has been protesting against the verdict and has involved in violent clashes with the law enforcement agencies. Earlier in the week, in one of such clashes a policeman was killed in a remote southern village.

These incidents of violence created political instability in the country and also hampering economic growth.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, March 13, 2012;, March 13, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Help sought for Rohingyas’ repatriation

Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni has called for support from the international community in helping Bangladesh to resolve the issue of repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

The Foreign Minister made the request during her meeting with visiting US Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Myanmar W Patric Murphy in Dhaka. Besides, she also sought support from the international community in preventing transnational crimes including human trafficking, illicit drugs and arms trafficking and religious extremism along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, March 13, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan signs $1.04-b loan package

Japan and Bangladesh have signed a deal under which Japan will provide $1.04 billion loan to implement four projects, including the construction of three four-lane bridges on Dhaka-Chittagong highway.

Abul Kalam Azad, secretary of Economic Relations Division (ERD), and Takao Toda, chief representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), signed the deal representing their respective countries.

This loan would be the largest loan package to be provided by Japan. With an interest rate of 0.01 percent, the loan is payable in 40 years including 10 years of grace period.

Japan is Bangladesh’s biggest bilateral development partner. Since the country’s Independence in 1971, Japan committed $11 billion to Bangladesh of which $7 billion has already been disbursed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, Monday, March 11, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$100-m currency-swap with India

India and Bhutan signed a currency swap agreement for $100 million to further economic cooperation between the two countries. The currency swap arrangement was signed between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan (RMAB). It enables RMAB to make withdrawals of US dollar, Euro or Indian rupee in multiple tranches up to a maximum of $ 100 million or its equivalent.

The swap agreement is intended to provide a backstop line of funding for the SAARC member countries to meet any balance of payments and liquidity crisis till longer term arrangements are made or if there is need for short term liquidity due to market turbulence, RBI said in a statement.

The arrangement would be for a three-year period and would help bring financial stability in the region. In May 2012, RBI had announced it would offer swap facilities aggregating $2 billion, both in foreign currency and Indian rupee, to SAARC member-countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal.

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, March 8, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FIFA rankings

Among South Asian countries Nepal holds better position only over Bhutan in the FIFA rankings published for March on Thursday. Nepal dropped one spot below in the rankings and lies in 175th position, two behind Sri Lanka which leapfrogged 20 spots up. Bhutan, the only other nation behind Nepal lies in 207th position.

Afghanistan made a giant stride in the table to lead rankings among South Asian country. Afghanistan elevated 48 spots up to occupy 141st position, two ahead of second placed India that moved 24 spots up. Bangladesh climbed 12 spots up to 157th position while Maldives is in 161st position and Pakistan 171st position.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, March 14, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Organics to contribute to GNH

About 80 per cent of Bhutan’s 800,000 residents depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The country plans to use the organic status, which it hopes to achieve by 2020, as an export marketing strategy. However, the coordinator of the National Organic Program, Kesang Tshomo, says the main impetus was to further promote the government’s goal of gross national happiness, or GNH. "For the country which adopts and lives GNH, organic farming is the only way to farm," she said. Organic farming also considers health conservation and biodiversity and all of this is a part of GNH as well.

"GNH looks at not only the economic value, but diversity, the environment, governance and health: all of these are identical." Tshomo said because pesticide use is already very low in Bhutan, she doesn’t think the transition will be too difficult to achieve. She also said the shift to organic systems will be slower in certain cash crops like potatoes, citrus and apples. "In our strategy we have identified that there may be some core food crops which will be the last on the list to be converted," she said. "The government wants to focus more on research and development to find alternatives." While Tshomo says that in more developed countries the shift to organic production may result in lower yields, that haven’t been Bhutan’s experience.

< class="text11verdana">Source: ABC News, March 12, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC asks Italian envoy not to leave

The Supreme Court on March 14 restrained Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country while also issuing notices (through its ambassador) and the two marines accused of the murder of two Indian fishermen.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir said Mancini-who had assured the court that the marines-Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, would return if they were allowed to go home for the elections-could not leave India till the next hearing on March 18.

Under attack from the Opposition, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told Parliament on March 13 that if Italy does not send back its two marines to face trial in India for killing two fishermen, there will be "consequences".

"Our government has already made it clear that these actions of the government of Italy are not acceptable. This cannot, by any standards, be in the interests of any bilateral relationship that has to function on the basis of trust. If they do not keep their word, there will be consequences for our relations with Italy," Said Singh.

Government sources told the Indian Express that New Delhi will wait until March 22, which is the deadline for the two marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatare Girone, to return, before responding.

Meanwhile, the Italian Ambassador, was summoned by Foreign Secretary Rajan Mathai on March 12 and was read the riot act, said his country has not gone back on its assurance to the Supreme Court. With his expulsion being one of the options before India, Mancini said "I will not leave this country till a competent authority makes me persona non grata."

Earlier, in a development that could lead to a diplomatic showdown, Italy had refused to send back two marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast to India.

This is a clear violation of a solemn assurance by Rome to New Delhi that the two would be sent back to face the legal trials. The Italians were allowed a short leave to vote in the recently-concluded elections in their native country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 13-14, 2013, Hindustan Times, March 12-15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’India first’ my definition of secularism: Modi

Denied a visa to visit US and smarting under a Wharton snub, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi said his idea of secularism is "India First" and people will forgive "mistakes" of a government if it serves them well.

"My definition of secularism is simple: ’India First’. Whatever you do, wherever you work, India should be the top priority for all its citizens," Modi said as he took to video conferencing to address the Indian-American community on Sunday. "The country is above all religions and ideologies," he argued and asked people to follow the same.

"I agree friends that as an Indian, as a citizen who loves India, you will also agree with my definition...We might do any work or take any decision, India should be supreme," he said in his nearly an hour-long speech in Hindi.

"Nothing less than India’s well-being should be our goal. And if this happens, secularism will automatically run in our blood," the Gujarat chief minister said. He said if a government serve the people selflessly, then they would forgive its mistakes as well.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, March 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BJP routed in Karnataka civic polls

The Opposition Congress handily trounced the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in elections to the urban local bodies in Karnataka, in a possible precursor to the BJP losing its grip on its sole southern stronghold in the impending assembly poll.

Although a defeat for BJP was expected, the extend of drubbing-it even lost Udupi, where the erstwhile Jan Sangh registered its first municipal election victory in 1968-menas that it will be difficult to lift the morale of the party that is already in disarray.

Moreover, with general elections just over a year away, the setback means that the BJP has a steep mountain to climb defending the 19 Lok Sabha seats it won in 2009. The state sends 28 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, March 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Difficult to put up with slights, Sinha tells BJP

Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha raised the banner of revolt against the leadership on March 11 over the appointment of Ravindra Rai as the new Jharkhand unit chief. Sinha, who represents Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh in the Lok Sabha, told the party leadership that ’unilateral actions have become the norm and that party leaders were "never taken into confidence" on crucial decisions".

Rai, a close associate of former Chief Minister Arjun Munda, was selected by Rajnath Singh to lead the state unit on March 10.

Sinha gave vent to his anger at a meeting of senior leaders convened by leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Monday. When asked to initiate the debate on Agusta scandal in the house, he said "the task should be handled by someone more important in the party".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, March 12, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks with Pak not a one-day affair: Khurshid

Refusing to set a timeline on the possible resumption of bilateral talks with Pakistan, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today said success in issues involving the two neighbours cannot be achieved in a day, suggesting a long haul.

A day after he hosted lunch in Jaipur for Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf during a private visit to offer prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, the minister reiterated that it was "not an official" trip for which the government extended courtesy.

However, he did stress that success on issues involving India and Pakistan cannot be achieved in a day, suggesting that a firm foundation will have to be laid by both sides to move forward.

The Minister made the statement at Ghaziabad on the sidelines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Raising Day parade at Indirapuram today. Responding to questions on possible timelines for bilateral talks, Khurshid said he would not be able to give a timeframe.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, March 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak hand in Srinagar terror-attack

Under fire from the Opposition over the terror attack in Srinagar, the government on March 14 hinted the militants were from Pakistan. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told Parliament that diaries containing names and numbers were found on the two men killed in the gun fight.

"Two diaries and betnovate manufactured in Karachi were recovered", he said, adding the terrorists were suspected to be of foreign origin. Betnovate is an anti-inflammatory ointment.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, March 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rice export to Iran up, halt to oil import

Iran’s oil export revenues are helping Indian rice exporters to claw back some of the lucrative business lost to cross-border truckers in Pakistan as a result of Western sanctions.

Indian rice exports direct to Iran have bounced back, thanks to shippers being paid up front in rupees from a huge pool of oil money owed to Iran by Indian refiners. "Now business is being done directly because Iran is allowed to open letters of credit in Indian rupees because the government has to pay money to Iran for the oil," said Suresh Manchanda, marketing director of a Delhi-based company which exports rice, wheat and sugar globally.

"For the importers back in Iran, the Indian rupee is easily available to them via the government, so they can do business in a much easier way than doing business in any other currency," Manchanda told Reuters at the Gulf Food trade show in Dubai.

However, India is set to halt all crude imports from Iran because insurance companies in the country have said refineries processing the oil will no longer be covered due to Western sanctions, the head of refiner MRPL said on Friday.

India is Iran’s second-largest buyer, taking around a quarter of its oil exports worth around $1 billion a month.

"If cover is not available then all Indian refiners will have to halt imports from Iran or else they will have to take a huge risk," P.P. Upadhya, managing director of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL.NS), told Reuters in a telephone interview.

< class="text11verdana">, March 8-9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More wheat export approved

An Indian ministerial panel Thursday cleared a food ministry proposal to allow private companies to export five million metric tons of wheat in the next three months by sourcing the grain from government stocks, Food Minister K.V. Thomas said. This is the first time that India is allowing private companies to export wheat from Government stocks.

The panel has fixed the minimum price for exports at $320 a ton, government officials and trade executives said. India has emerged as a big supplier of wheat in the international market over the past few months as it has sought to whittle down overflowing government stocks.

But it will likely struggle to export 5.0 million tons within three months because the minimum price set by the government is too high, said a senior Mumbai-based executive at an international commodities trading firm.

Most international bidders for Indian wheat sold through tenders have been quoting a shade below $300 per ton.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Saudis offer $ 625-b investment

Saudi Arabia is offering investment opportunities worth $625 billion to Indian businessmen in vital sectors such as infrastructure, petrochemicals, electricity, IT, tourism, natural gas production, agriculture and education.

"We had successful meetings with Indian business leaders and executives in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Lucknow," said Abdul Rahman Al-Rabiah, chairman of Saudi-India Joint Business Council (JBC) who is currently leading a high-level Saudi trade delegation to India.

"It was excellent," Al-Rabiah told Arab News when asked about the result of the March 5-8 business visit organized by the Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). The Saudi delegation will return to the Kingdom today (Friday).

"The Governments of the two countries have done their job of facilitating two-way business engagements. Our relations with India go back hundreds of years. Yet, the results in terms of business exchanges are not to the level we would like to see," Al-Rabiah told a JBC meeting in New Delhi.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 9, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">32455 mu n-power in 2011-12

India’s atomic power generation has more than doubled since 2008-09 to 32,000 million units last year after it was permitted into the club of nations allowed to participate in international nuclear commerce.

India’s nuclear power sector had produced 14,927 million units of electricity in 2008-09, the year when it signed an additional safeguards protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA approval came on August 1, 2008 and the next month, the Nuclear Suppliers Group granted India a waiver from its rules to participate in global nuclear trade.

As a result, nuclear power production increased steadily to 18,831 million units in 2009-10, 26,47 million units in 2010-11 and a record 32,455 million units in 2011-12, officials said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Financial Express, March 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rs 3,639 crore from CDMA auction

In a setback to the government’s plan of raising heft funds from sale of spectrum, it managed to raise just Rs 3,639 crore-less than one tenth of the original projection- on March 11 when 800 MHz airwaves used for CDMA operations were auctioned.

However, no money will come till March 2016 after which the sole-and hence successful bidder Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) will pay Rs 2013 crore (deducing the Rs 1,626 croer paid earlier) in 10 annual instalments.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, March 12, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Shinde clears air on NCTC

The Centre will soon send a detailed note to states on the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), clarifying that the central anti-terror body will be kept out of the ambit of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and it would conduct any search operation or arrest anyone in a state only after informing the concerned police chief.

The note, written by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, will be sent ahead of the chief ministers’ conference on internal security which is proposed to be held early next month.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, March 12, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cruise missile aborted

The maiden test of country’s first long-range subsonic cruise missile, Nirbhay, ended in failure on March 12. A senior DRDO official said such a step was taken to ensure coastal safety. The plan was to test the missile for its full range of 1,000 km.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 13, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">After food, UPA proposes homes for rural poor

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due next year, the UPA government is ready with another flagship, entitlement -based programme, this time promising homes to the rural homeless.

The draft National Right to Homestead Bill 2013, which hopes to enable this welfare measure is ready for inter-ministerial consultation and will be circulated among ministries and states on March 18.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 14, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC stays new law on minimum membership

The Supreme Court has issued a temporary order to halt all action towards dissolving any political party until the court makes a decision on the case filed by the State in relation to the Political Party Act. This order by the Supreme Court was issued on State institutions and all relevant authorities.

The Supreme Court said that the temporary order had to be issued following the State’s claim that the some sections of the Political Party Act contradicted the Constitution.Following the President’s ratification of the Political Party Bill, the Elections Commission announced that all parties with less than 10,000 members had been removed from its Political Party Registry.

The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) was removed from the Political Party Registry despite having submitted over 10,000 membership forms to the Elections prior to the ratification of the bill. This has been confirmed to the media also by the Elections Commission.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Itthihad Party (GIP), which has also been removed from the commission’s registry, has also claimed that it had submitted 10,000 forms to the Elections Commission before the bill was ratified. But this has not been confirmed by the Elections Commission.

Both parties have refused to accept the commission’s decision to remove them from its registry.

President of Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeg said that MDA had submitted 10,000 membership forms, while GIP had submitted only 9,800 forms when the Bill was ratified. The GIP has filed a case to Supreme Court regarding the Elections Commission’s decision, and MDA has also announced that work is ongoing to take the matter to court. The Vice-President of the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) has also filed a case to Supreme Court requesting it to declare several sections of the Political Party Act void.

An official of the Attorney-General’s Office said that the dissolution of political parties with less than 10,000 members from the day the law comes into effect would result in serious legal problems, due to the failure to include transitional policies in the Act regarding the legal transactions made by the parties with various groups.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, March 14, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC ’No’ to secret-ballot for no-trust vote in Parliament

The Supreme Court has declared that the amendments made to the Parliament Regulations such that members may vote in secret on votes of no-confidence for the President and the cabinet, are invalid, reasoning that they contradict the Constitution.

Six out of the seven Judges at the Supreme Court bench voted in favour of invalidating the amendments. The Supreme Court ruling states that as the Constitution clearly stipulates the instances when the Parliament may conduct secret voting, the amendments contradict the Constitution.

The case was submitted to the Supreme Court by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) council member Ahmed Siddeeq and Jumhooree Party member Ibrahim Hussain. They argued that such secret voting is against the principles of accountability and transparency and that it is goes against the concepts of the Constitution.

They also argued that the voting at the parliament to pass the motion to establish secret voting was joined by two MPs who could be disqualified from holding Parliament seats, and some MPs who had been suspected of participating in activities against Islamic Sharia. However the Supreme Court ruling said that as the court had not ruled that these members had lost their Parliament seats, these arguments were not taken into account when it made its decision on the issue of secret voting.

The case was voted against by Supreme Court Judge Ahmed Moothasim Adnan, who said that Parliament has the authority to amend its procedures and establish secret voting. He said that no institution has the authority to change this decision by the parliament which did not violate any Islamic principles.

Parliament passed to amend its procedures to establish secret voting with 41 votes in favour on 3 December 2012. The motion was voted in favour by MPs representing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

The MDP has submitted no-confidence motions to Parliament against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim. These votes have been postponed following a temporary order in this regard by the Supreme Court.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, March 14, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CSC president’s removal held unconstitutional

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the removal of former Civil Service Commission (CSC) president Mohamed Fahmy Hassan his post by the parliament was unconstitutional. A six-Judge majority of the seven-Judge Bench declared that the parliamentary independent bodies committee did not have the mandate to investigate criminal offences.

The Independent Bodies Committee earlier concluded their probe in to the case declaring Fahmy guilty of sexual of harassment. Fahmy had filed the case at the Supreme Court alleging that he had been dismissed as President of CSC in violation of the constitution. Parliament in November had passed a motion to remove Fahmy from his post over allegations of sexually harassing a female employee.

The unprecedented dismissal of a head of an institution in Maldives over sexual harassment was passed by 38 MPs in favour while 32 voted against. While the Parliament had earlier given 14 days for Fahmy to tender his resignation, Haveeru has found that Fahmy had sent a letter to the Parliament refusing to resign from his post. Fahmy had vehemently denied the accusations and labelled it as a "blatant lie."

Parliament’s decision to remove Fahmy came after Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) had said there is not enough evidence to determine whether or not Fahmy had sexually harassed a female employee.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, March 14, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two locals freed in rape case of Indian

Two Maldivian suspects arrested in connection with rape, assault and robbery of a young Indian teacher on Dhangethi in Alif Dhaal Atoll in February have been released, while a Bangladeshi national remains in custody.

The Bangladeshi suspect was taken into police custody after the incident as he was about to board a boat departing for Male’.

A community member from Dhangethi claimed that a large number of people came to the harbour prior to the police’s departure with the suspect and called for the Bangladeshi man to "face due justice". "Some people tried to attack the Bangladeshi man at the time of his arrest, and the conflict was encouraged by the island council," alleged the source.

The Dhangethi Island Council denied allegations of encouraging a violent confrontation, but confirmed some people at the harbour did attempt to harm the suspect before police brought the situation under control. Head of the Police Serious and Organised Crime Department, Mohamed Dawood, told local media that it was believed the Bangladeshi man had committed the rape.

"We monitored all vessels leaving the island during the investigation. In that regard, we first took the two Maldivians into custody. But later we arrested the Bangladesh man who was living on the island as his behaviour was suspicious," Dawood explained.

The three men were accused not only of raping the 25-year-old computer teacher, but also of stealing her mobile phone, an Acer laptop, and MVR 9000 ($ 583) in cash, a source with knowledge of the investigation said. Police recovered the victim’s belongings, and a knife believed to have been used to threaten the woman, inside the home of the Bangladeshi national.

The three suspects were taken by police to the island of Mahibadhoo in Alifu Dhaalu Atoll. None of the men arrested were over the age of 23, the source said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, March 14, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Google chairman to visit Myanmar

Google chairman Eric Schmidt will visit Myanmar next week, highlighting increasing Internet freedom in the former pariah state just weeks after a controversial trip to communist North Korea. Schmidt will speak in Yangon on March 22 as part of an Asian tour, the Internet giant said, aiming to boost web access in the country. Under the military regime the Internet was strictly controlled, with access to anti-government sites and sites such as YouTube blocked.

As major economic and political reforms roll back decades of repressive rule, increasing numbers of people are going online to air their views. But Internet penetration remains poor in Myanmar, long cut-off from the rest of the world by sanctions, and those with web access have to put up with painfully slow connections.

Schmidt’s visit aims to connect with local partners and Googlers who are working to improve the lives of many millions of people across the region by helping them get online and access the world’s information for the first time, the company said in a statement. He will give an hour-long speech at the Myanmar Information and Communication Technology Park, according to Thaung Su Nyein, secretary of the Myanmar Computer Professionals Association, with hundreds expected to attend.

< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, March 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament to review Constitution

Myanmar’s Parliament has agreed to review the country’s 2008 Constitution, state media said Saturday, in a tentative step towards amending a document that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. The report did not detail the elements set for review in the document, which was adopted following a controversial referendum held in the days after a cyclone killed tens of thousands of people and left swathes of the country in chaos.

Crafted by the military junta, the Constitution blocks anyone whose spouses or children are overseas citizens from running for leadership of the country. Suu Kyi’s two sons with her late husband Michael Aris are British and the clause is widely believed to be targeted at the Nobel laureate.

The document also reserves 25 per cent of parliamentary seats for the military, guaranteeing their political influence despite the democratic reforms overseen by President Thein Sein since his Government took power in 2011. Myanmar’s lower house approved a motion made Friday to set up a committee of "law experts and intellectuals" to conduct the review, State-mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar reported, adding the document needs to conform with the current situation of the country due to (the) reform process. The report did not say if the foreign citizen clause or the military’s allocation of seats would be up for review by the panel.

Myanmar’s 60 million people will vote in much-anticipated general elections in 2015 with Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) widely expected to win. The bill was tabled by a lawmaker from Thein Sein’s ruling USDP party, prompting a cautious welcome from some parliamentarians who have called for the constitution to be re-written. Suu Kyi, NLD chairman and herself a lawmaker, has said any amendments to the constitution should not be based on whether she decides to run for the presidency.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Global Post, March 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">10 pc population overseas

Approximately 10 per cent of the population in Myanmar form migrant workers overseas. Most of these are ethnic nationals and women from the country, said Alistair Macdonald, EU Ambassador to Myanmar, at a workshop held on March 14 in Yangon. The workshop mainly discussed effective management and policy development for migrant workers.

The official figures released by International Management Group show that only 130,000 Myanmar migrant workers have been officially sent overseas to work since 1999 through overseas employment agencies in the country, and most of them are now working in foreign countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, UAE and South Korea.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimated that around five million migrant workers from Myanmar are now working overseas in some of the sectors officially not allowed to work such as entertainment sector and as housewives, and some of them even went to the countries not allowed officially. Millions of them are now working as manual workers not as skilled workers in those countries.

Although, Myanmar has officially signed memorandums of understanding for sending workers overseas with only two countries such as Thailand and South Korea, local authorised overseas employment agencies are also officially allowed to send workers to 15 countries including Malaysia, Singapore and UAE, according to Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.

In June 2003, a Memorandum of Understanding between Thai and Myanmar governments on Cooperation in the Employment of Workers was signed to promote formal procedures for employment and protection of Myanmar workers in Thailand and to undermine irregular migration and the negative consequences. Over 101,000 undocumented workers in Malaysia have been granted passports and arrangements are being made to issue the passports to the remaining one million workers in the country, EMG reported last December.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven News, March 15, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chief Justice sworn in as PM, polls by June 21

Supreme Court Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi was on Thursday sworn in as Nepal’s new prime minister, replacing Baburam Bhattarai, as the consensus candidate of four major political parties. The Government has been entrusted with the responsibility to hold elections to the Constituent Aassembly by June 21, but it may be deferred up to mid-November if case of "situations out of control".

Regmi will be heading an 11-member electoral government. He was administered the oath of office by President Ram Baran Yadav in the morning after top leaders of four parties - Nepali Congress, United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and the United Democratic Madhesi Front - reached an 11-point understanding following a 13-hour marathon meeting that continued till Wednesday midnight. Regmi administered the oath of office to other two ministers, Madhav Kumar

Ghimire and Hari Prasad Neupane, in the first round. The rest of the eight ministers will be nominated by the four political parties. According to the agreement, all the ministers will have to be retired civil servants belonging to the special class (joint secretary and above) and no active politician will be included in the cabinet.

Chief Justice Regmi’s swearing-in came barely two hours before the Supreme Court was to take up two cases challenging the appointment of an incumbent chief justice concurrently as the prime minister, in "contravention" of the principle of separation of powers. A three-member Bench of the Supreme Court however, deferred the hearing by a week.

Along with Regmi’s appointment, the four parties also cleared the deck for forming the long-pending Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate cases of human rights violation by the state as well as Maoists during the decade-long insurgency with the provision that there will be general amnesty granted to gross human rights violation.

Followers of 18 political parties, including the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), meanwhile held a protest demonstration outside the President’s office, claiming that entrusting executive responsibility to the head of the judiciary will amount doing away with the multi-party system. The group that has vowed to "dislodge" Regmi from power said they would chart out their future course of action.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 15, 2013;,,, March 14-15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Integration to deepen national unity: CoAS

Chief of Army Staff Gen Gaurav S J B Rana has said that the integration of former Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army (NA) has strengthened national unity and given momentum to the process of le on the occasion of Army Day on March 10, Gen Rana said the integration process has been completed in a manner that will not jeopardise the professionalism and apolitical character of the NA. He further said the process has eliminated the armed conflict and given the much-needed impetus to the country’s political process.

The Army chief’s statement follows preparations to set up a General Directorate with a strength of 4,171 personnel to integrate over 1,400 former Maoist fighters into the Army. In cross-party talks, the leaders have agreed to allow one colonel and two lieutenant colonels to the former Maoist combatants. The General Directorate will include three directorates, each of which will be responsible for infrastructure development, forest and environment security and disaster response.

The NA recruited 1,460 ex-combatants last year, bringing an end to the two army set-up in existence since the beginning of the peace process in 2006.

In his address, Gen Rana also announced the new policies and programmes that the NA plans to execute under him. He committed to work towards ensuring a definite percent of the annual budget for defence from the government, revising and formulating the defence doctrine, increasing participation and capacity in UN peacekeeping operations and adopting long-term restructuring policies with a 10-year vision plan.

Three former Indian Army chiefs were present on the occasion of Nepal Army Day on March 10.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, March 11, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tibetans protest

Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu protest against Chinese rule in Tibet to mark the 51st anniversary of their failed uprising on March 10, 1959. As a direct result of the failed rebellion against Chinese occupation, the 14th Dalai Lama was forced to escape to India, and some 80,000 Tibetans fled their homeland for fear of persecution.

More than 140,000 Tibetans now live as refugees across the world, with little hope of returning home. Kathmandu, Nepal. 10/03/2010.

In Kathmandu, hundreds of Tibetan refugees circled Boudha stupa shouting anti-Chinese slogans and clashing briefly with Nepali security forces. In the afternoon, a group of Tibetans tried to demonstrate in front of the Chinese Embassy but were waylaid and arrested by Nepali police. Tibetan unrest in Kathmandu has met with violent crackdowns in the recent years, as Nepal woos China on the diplomatic front.

< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China invites Bhattarai for visit

At a time when the country is passing through change of government, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has received an invitation from China.

China has invited Bhattarai, who did not have opportunity to visit the northern neighbour even after 19 months in power, to attend China-South Asia Expo. The prime minister has been invited along with Nepalese delegation to attend the Expo scheduled to be held in Kunming of South-Western Yunan Province from June 6 to 9.

It is learnt that the visit of Prime Minister, however, won´t be official political visit. Sources close to Chinese Foreign Ministry said Chinese President and Prime Minister will hold meetings with the leaders of South Asian countries on the occasion.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 10, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Groups for closure of Indian e field office

The Nepal Federal People´s Republican Front (NFPRF) and Federal Republican National Front-Nepal (FNRF-N) have demanded that the Government should immediately close the ’illegally’ opened field office of the Indian Embassy in Biratnagar.

In a joint Press statement signed by CPN-Maoist Secretary Dev Gurung on behalf of NFPRF and Kishor Kumar Biswas on behalf of the FRNF-N, they have also warned of protest march in the capital to put pressure on the Government on this.

They said their attention was drawn over media reports that an ´illegal´ and ´unauthorised´ office of the Indian Government was operating in Biratnagar. "We, therefore, strongly demand with the Government to immediately close the unauthorized and illegal foreign office," said the statement.

The demand by the two political alliances comes amid dilly-dallying of the Indian embassy in closing the ´field office´ even after the government wrote twice to the Indian embassy to this effect. The office was opened in the aftermath of the massive Koshi flooding in 2008 to facilitate vehicular movement through Indian territories when a section of road on the Nepal side was disrupted by the flood.

Similarly, the Indigenous Nationalists Madhesi Muslims Dalit Republican Front, Khambuwan National Front, Indigenous Nationalist Party Nepal, Federal Democratic National Forum (Tharuhat) and Mangol Mulbasi Party are under FNRFN.

Earlier, FPRFN had imposed nation-wide shutdown last Wednesday. The two alliances have announced to unveil fresh protest programmes soon.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Republica, March 9, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mob burn down over 100 houses

Following accusations that a Christian man had made "blasphemous remarks" regarding the Prophet Muhammad, a mob made its way through Joseph Colony, a primarily Christian neighbourhood of Lahore, burning and looting over 200 houses. The day before the incident, which took place on 9 March, police had warned members of the community to vacate their houses because of the danger of violence following the allegations.

The man accused of making the remarks is said to have been involved in a dispute with an acquaintance while the two of them were drinking. There were no deaths, as most residents had left their homes before the looting took place, however ten individuals were treated for injuries.

The Punjab Government has arrested approximately 150 individuals for allegedly taking part in the burning and looting, which has been widely condemned across the country. Minority groups have held counter-protests throughout the week.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has issued a suo moto judgment criticising the Punjab government’s failure to prevent the violence from taking place, and rejecting its report of the incident, citing the fact that it did not include underlying reasons for the violence, as well as the government’s response.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has also issued a report arguing that the government did not take proper action to prevent the violence and protect the homes of citizens, despite the fact that it has been aware of rising tensions.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Dawn Pakistan, 14 March, 2013, The News, 9 March, 2013, The News, 10 March, 2013, The News, 11 March, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM proposes three for caretaker

In last-minute negotiations before the deadline for the dissolution of the current Government on 16 March, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has put forward a list of three potential caretaker prime ministers on 14 March. The list is said to include former Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, former director of State Bank Dr. Ishrat Hussain, and former Chief Justice of the Baluchistan High Court, Mir Hazar Khan Khoso.

Opposition Leader, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, had previously submitted three nominations of his own. The ruling PPP coalition and the opposition now have two days to select a mutually acceptable caretaker. If the two are unable to agree, the decision will be made by the Electoral Commission of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court issued a strong statement on 12 March in favour of the Election Commission of Pakistan, which had been facing opposition from the government regarding changes in nomination forms that would require all potential candidates to divulge their financial and criminal details to the public.

The Court ruled that the changes proposed were constitutional and in line with the Commission’s mandate to ensure "free and fair elections." It remains to be seen, however, if the government will follow through with the changes. The Court also stated that it "would not allow" any delay in the general elections, which, according to the Constitution, must be held 60 days after the dissolution of the government.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Dawn Pakistan, 14 March, 2013, The News, 14 March, 2013, The Nation, 13 March, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Governor’s rule in Baluchistan to end

The governor’s rule instituted in Baluchistan following the mass bombing of Hazara communities in the provincial capital of Quetta has officially ended on 14 March, following the expiration of its 60 day constitutional limit. According to PPP sources, the decision was made not to seek an extension of Governor’s rule, which would have required approval by a joint seating of Parliament.

Instead, following an agreement amongst the PPP leadership in Baluchistan, former Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, who has been sharply critiqued for his management of violence within the province, will be reinstated. Raisani’s term is set to end on 5 April, leading up to the general election, however as chief minister he will have a key role in the setting up of a caretaker government.

Political developments in the restive Province, which has faced an insurgency for several decades, are being closely watched. As negotiations between the Baluchistan PPP and the Provincial Assembly opposition group, led by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F Parliamentary Leader Abdul Wasay, commence, some in the PPP suspect that Raisani’s close ties to opposition members may pose a challenge for the party.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 14 March, 2013, The Nation, 14 March, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TN depriving SL fishers livelihood: Gota

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said that a section of the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet had been propagating lies against the navy at the behest of interested parties, while poaching and causing immense damage to fishery resources in the country’s northern waters.

The Defence Secretary said that much publicised claims of recent attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen were lies timed for the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva. "They are working overtime to show us in bad light. Ongoing protests in Tamil Nadu are part of their overall strategy," the outspoken official said.

"The Tamil Nadu fishing fleet is causing a major nuisance in support of the LTTE rump," Defence Secretary Rajapaksa alleged, while recalling the use of Tamil Nadu trawlers for smuggling of weapons by the LTTE.

The chance detection and destruction of Tamil Nadu fishing trawler ’Sri Krishna’ by the Maldivian Coast Guard in May 2007 exposed what was going on. Those making false allegations against the navy had been silent when the LTTE massacred a group of Indian fishermen off Kanyakumari within Indian territorial waters in early 2007, the Defence Secretary said. Rajapaksa said that the LTTE couldn’t be resurrected by spreading lies.

Asked whether the Government would take up the issue with India, the Defence Secretary said that he recently wrote to Indian High Commissioner Ashok K. Kantha explaining the situation. The Central Government couldn’t allow Tamil Nadu to play politics with Sri Lanka, the official said.

The Defence Secretary emphasised that India had the wherewithal to easily prevent the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet from poaching in Sri Lankan waters. The Indian navy and its Coast Guard could effectively block the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet from crossing the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary, he said.

An irate Rajapaksa said: "They engage in bottom-trawling in our waters causing immense damage. They purposely destroy fishing nets and equipment belonging to Sri Lankan fishermen. There appears to be a systematic attempt to cause damage to fishing gear belonging to our people. Our fishermen aren’t in a position to compete with large Tamil Nadu fishing fleet. India needs to take tangible action to address our concerns."

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) should appeal to the Indian Government as well as the administration in Tamil Nadu not to deprive Tamil speaking Sri Lankan fishermen of their livelihood. The TNA could no longer turn a blind eye to what was happening in northern and eastern waters, the Defence Secretary said, adding that it could be one of major issues at the forthcoming first Northern Provincial Council election.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has repeatedly declared that the PC election would be held in September, 2013.

The Defence Secretary emphasised that Tamil Nadu fishermen couldn’t be allowed to poach in Sri Lankan waters on humanitarian grounds. Those wanting us to allow Tamil Nadu fishing fleet to poach in our waters on humanitarian grounds should realize that would be inimical to our fishermen, he said. It would be interesting to conduct a survey in the northern, eastern provinces and even north western coastal areas to find out the response of the fishing community to ongoing efforts to persuade us to share our waters with Tamil Nadu fishing fleet.

The Defence Secretary said that India couldn’t be unaware of the growing resentment among northern fishermen due to ongoing large scale poaching operation. Since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, the Indian government established a Consulate in Jaffna in accordance with its post-war project here.

For almost three decades those living in the Northern and Eastern Provinces had been deprived of an opportunity to exploit fisheries resources due to the conflict, the Defence Secretary said. Successive governments had no option but to impose a range of restrictions on the fishing community regardless of the consequences, he said.

Restrictions on the local fishing community had been fully exploited by the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet. Now that the conflict was over local fishermen shouldn’t be deprived of their rights, the Defence Secretary said.

Asked whether additional measures would be taken to protect the local fishermen, the Defence Secretary said that those poaching in Sri Lankan waters would be legally dealt with. The navy this week detained nine Indian trawlers north of Talaimannar and south of Delft and took 53 persons into custody. The Defence Secretary said that such action was necessary to discourage poaching. Responding to a query, the Defence Secretary alleged that Tamil Nadu had benefited immensely by engaged in massive scale poaching in Sri Lankan waters. "Our crabs and lobsters are sold by poachers to various overseas suppliers, whereas Sri Lankan fishermen experience economic difficulties," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, March 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China, Russia commend Lanka; UK, US urge probe

While several countries including China and Russia commended Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, for the progress it had made but the United Kingdom and the United States called for an immediate independent investigation into alleged war crimes probes and human rights violations.

During the review, Oman, Pakistan, Venezuela, Sudan, UAE, Russia, China and Vietnam commended Sri Lanka for the progress it had made in many aspects of Human Rights and urged the International Community to provide the country with more time and space.

Minister Samarasinghe said of the 204 recommendations, Sri Lanka had accepted 110 and left 3 for further examination while 91 were rejected. Russia and China, speaking during the review, commended Sri Lanka for its progressive steps towards development and Human rights.

China urged the international community to respect the sovereignty of a state and to look at issues objectively. It also urged nations to desist from interfering with internal affairs of a country. Pakistan said the international community had to recognize that the progress Sri Lanka has made has far outweighed challenges.

"We have to recognize the difficulty faced by Sri Lank to protect Human Rights, the progress far outweighs challenges, and the international community should appreciate this," the Pakistan delegate said. The United Kingdom and the United States however called for an immediate and independent investigation into alleged war crimes probes and human rights violations. The United Kingdom said the impeachment of the Chief Justice was in contravention of the rule of law.

"No justification has been given to the continuous attack on the independence of the judiciary, the impeachment of the Chief Justice went against the ruling made by the Supreme Court of the country and contravened respect for the rule of law" the delegate said. The Deputy Solicitor General in response said, the Supreme Court ruling was given by a "division of the Supreme Court and the matter had now been brought for Judicial review before a full bench of the Supreme Court, which was in fact is tasked to review the impeachment process in a holistic and contemporary view" he said.

The United States said the non-adaptation of LLRC recommendations was of grave concern. At the conclusion of the representations made by states, the floor was then opened to ’stakeholders’ who included Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. All groups raised issues regarding the ’freedom of expression, extra judicial killings, and supersession of journalists and media freedom".

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, March 15, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai alleges US-Taliban collusion

Afghan President Hamid Karzai reignited tensions with the US by claiming that the top leadership of the Taliban and the US were holding talks on a daily basis without involving the Afghan government. He further claimed that the US and the Taliban were colluding with each other to create an atmosphere of fear in Afghanistan that could enable the US to stay on in the country beyond 2014. Karzai also accused the US of eyeing the Afghan mines and the country’s natural resources. Such statements came during the US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hegel’s first visit to Afghanistan.

Karzai’s statements were denounced in Afghanistan by political leaders, who accused him of not speaking for the country, but for himself. They fear that such statements could have adverse repercussions for Afghanistan’s relations with the US, which has invested heavily in Afghanistan since 2001. Anif Atmar, head of the political committee of the Right and Justice party, called on the government to ensure the international community knows it is not a statement supported by the country’s leaders.

The accusations were also completely rejected by the US and NATO. NATO-led International Security Assistance Force commander Gen. Joseph Dunford said that the accusations were completely incorrect. He also warned foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan that they face an increased threat of attacks following the inflammatory remarks made by Karzai. In response to Karzai’s remarks, US embassy in Kabul issued a statement and said that the Taliban group halted peace talks with the US Government last March. Chuck Hegel also attempted to reassure Karzai that the US supported an Afghan-led reconciliation process and was making no attempts to reach out to the insurgents unilaterally.

Hamid Karzai’s office later released a statement claiming that the President’s remarks were meant to reform the relationship and not destroy it.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Dawn, March 14, 2013, Khaama Press, March 10, 2013, Pahjwok, March 11, 2013, Tolo News, March 11-12, 2013, Tolo News, March 14, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Warning over Bagram prison

President Hamid Karzai demanded that the US to complete the handover of the Bagram prison to Afghan authorities within a week. He warned that the American failure to do so would compel the Afghans to mull over a strategy themselves to take control of the prison.

Although, the US stated that it continues to work with Afghanistan on the transfer of the Bagram jail to the Afghans, the process has been repeatedly delayed.

He also asked the Americans to complete the rehabilitation of the Kajaki hydropower plant at the earliest, otherwise hand over the project to the Afghans.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, March 12, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">World Bank aid, post-2014

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, during his first visit to Afghanistan as World Bank President, claimed that the World Bank was strongly committed to helping the people of Afghanistan by promoting growth and reducing poverty during and beyond the withdrawal of Western security forces in 2014.

Kim’s discussions with Afghan leaders focused on the need to engender strong, inclusive economic growth, reduce poverty, create jobs and fight corruption. Kim also emphasised that prudent fiscal policy and budget planning will help the government sustainably finance its development operations.

He also stressed that the World Bank will support programs in areas that the Afghan government has identified as crucial to meeting its development goals, including education, health, irrigation, energy, infrastructure and rural development. The World Bank will also focus on improving the government’s capacity to deliver services to its citizens, and on fostering a business climate that unleashes the job-creating potential of the private sector.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, March 14, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Drug-trafficking to India on the rise

According to the Annual Report of the US State Department on the global trends in the illegal narcotics trade continues to remain the largest producer of opium in the world.

The report also said that the drugs smuggled in 2012 through India from Afghanistan are increasing via Pakistan. Afghan Counter-Narcotics Deputy Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Azhar said the smugglers were finding new ways of transferring the drugs out of Afghanistan.

According to him, as countries like Turkey and Iran had adopted strict measures to curb the trafficking of drugs through their borders, the smugglers changed their tactics and increased the trafficking via Pakistan to other countries.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Tolo News, March 13, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Medha Chaturvedi;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Daniel Rubin and Louis Ritzinger;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar and Kanchi Gupta

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.