MonitorsPublished on May 30, 2014
Media in Bangladesh recently reported that China is all set to win the contract of the coveted deep-sea port in Sonadia, a small town of 9 sqkm offshore of Cox's Bazaar in Chittagong division.
Bangladesh: Chinese port building picking up?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Media in Bangladesh recently reported that China is all set to win the contract of the coveted deep-sea port in Sonadia, a small town of 9 sqkm offshore of Cox’s Bazaar in Chittagong division. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China starting from 6 June. This should alert India, which would be closely monitoring the developments.

According to reports, the State-owned China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) will construct the port. A major portion of the project will be financed by the Chinese government. The project has three phases. Phase 1 will cater to the shipping demands till 2020, Phase 2 till 2030, and Phase 3 till 2055. Initially, the CHEC will construct the Phase 1. The major task of the company will be engineering (including detailed investigation and design), procurement, construction and operation.

The construction of Sonadia deep-sea port was conceived in 2006 to reduce the burden of Chittagong, the country’s major port, which has already exceeded its capacity. Given steady economic growth of the country, Chittagong is unable to handle the traffic, so the country needs an alternative seaport.

Another rationale has been the country’s desire to become a major economic hub. Bangladesh believes a sea-port could very well fulfil this objective since it is geographically located in a place which could give sea access to regions like China’s Yunnan Province, India’s land-locked seven north-eastern States, Nepal and Bhutan. Trade in these areas are greatly hampered owing to their distance to the sea. A new port would cater to these regions and would also benefit Bangladesh economically.

Why Chinese interest?

Countries including China, India, the Netherlands, the UAE and Denmark had expressed an interest in the construction of the new port. Considering the interest expressed by important countries, initially the Bangladesh government was apprehensive about giving contract to one single country. It thought of forming a multi-national consortium comprising all the interested countries for construction of the port and government would fund the project. It was the lucrative Chinese financial offer that the Bangladesh government could hardly overlook, and this encouraged it to change the decision. For a least develop country like Bangladesh, self-funding of the port would have added additional financial burden.

Another eligibility criterion for China might have been its recent initiative in port building in various countries. Of late, China has shown a keen interest in construction or maintenance of ports in various countries in South Asia. China has taken over the management of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, built the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and has also expressed an interest in Maldives. Chinese motivation for constructing ports at these strategic points is mainly to secure its energy supplies, passing mostly through these major points.

The Chinese interest for the construction of a deep-sea port in Bangladesh is opening sea access for its land-locked Yunan Province. Sonadia is located around 1000 km from Yunan. At present, the nearest sea port to Yunan is almost 1800 kmaway from the province. The port in Bangladesh will not only reduce the distance by 800 km, but it will also reduce its distance to Europe a major export-destination for Chinese products.

Concerns in India

The strategic community in India has expressed apprehensions. They feel that the Chinese interest in port-construction in Bangladesh is part of its policy of encirclement to establish its supremacy in the region. Also, fears are being expressed at Sonadia port being used by the Chinese Navy, it becoming a permanent headache for the Indian defence establishment as it is very closely located to many of the India’s strategic installations. Only time can tell about the extent of probability of such fears.

There is still some hope that Bangladesh will take note of the apprehensions expressed by India and show maturity in dealing with these issues. The port in Bangladesh should purely be an economic venture, which would add to the peace and prosperity of the region.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan: Ties with India rekindled

Mihir Bhonsale

Bhutan’s special place in India’s diplomacy was once again on show when the Bhutan’s Prime Minister attended his newly-elected Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony. On the occasion, New Delhi warmed up to Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who reciprocated India’s gesture by the Himalayan kingdom’s reassurance of standing besides its mighty neighbour.

Bhutan shares a historic friendship with India. Since, the signing of the Friendship Treaty in 1947, to taking baby steps to democracy in 2008, Bhutan has found an ally in India. With Prime Minister, Tobgay’s visit now, hydro-power cooperation between the two countries got a boost. The announcement about four new hydropower projects adding up to 2,130-MW capacity has taken energy cooperation ahead.

However, security matters topped the agenda at the prime ministerial-level talks on 28 May. Modi and Tobgay are said to have affirmed their nations’ commitment to mutual security interest and agreed to closely coordinate and cooperate on issues relating to their national interest.

Security cooperation

At a time when eyeballs rolled and murmurs heard about the visit of other SAARC member-delegations for Prime Minister Modi’s swearing-in, Bhutan’s importance from India’s point-of-view was no less significant. Bhutan’s remains India’s only, all-weather friend.

Modi’s BJP, known as a hard-liner on security matters, is certain to have discussed the progress of Bhutan-China border talks. New Delhi is concerned about China’s movement across Bhutan’s border, especially the Chumbi Valley, which is at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan.

India has recently appointed Gautam Bambawale, known as India’s China man as the envoy to Bhutan, showing clearly the concern India has towards the only existing buffer between the two powers - India and China.

India would also expect Bhutan to crackdown on militancy and smuggling of goods which are affecting India adversely. In early May this year, Bodo Militants are suspected to have killed about 30 minority Indian citizens in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts of Assam and are reported to have fled to Bhutan.

Not so hunky-dory

Modi seems to have found a foreign admirer in Bhutan’s Foreign Minister, Rinzin Dorji who said that Modi is a person who does what he says. So, the Bhutanese leader’s hope that the Modi government would address the concerns that Bhutan faces.

Bhutan would be closely following the developments in West Bengal, especially with the demand for carving out a state of Gorkhaland. With the BJP, who is supportive of the demand for Gorkhaland, assuming power in New Delhi, Bhutan’s leadership is concerned as the demand for Gorkhaland includes the hill districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and the Dooars, which currently run parallel to Bhutan’s borders with West Bengal. If the creation of Gorkhaland becomes reality, Bhutan would have to deal with yet another state apart from Assam and West Bengal.

Another anxiety which Bhutan is likely to face is the LPG subsidy that Bhutan enjoys from India. With revisions in LPG pricing a high possibility, there is going to be immense domestic pressure within India to rethink the subsidy. However, India being Bhutan’s long-standing development partner, things might work in Bhutan’s favour.

Looking Forward

The Modi-Tobgay meet has rekindled the relations between the two neighbours. Both countries can take forward the historical and cultural links Thimphu and New Delhi share. Prime Minister, Tobgay and his Indian counterpart, Modi being greenhorns at the helm of their respective countries, have a lot to prove by taking cooperation at a new level. Bhutan’s contribution towards India cannot be forgotten by the new leadership in New Delhi because, it in 2003 when India was under the BJP-led NDA tenure in New Delhi (1999-2004) that the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck got the Bhutanese forces to flush out militants from Assam and West Bengal.

The BJP-led government at the Centre is likely to take forward the ground built by its predecessor governments especially on security and economic cooperation. Bhutan is expected to reciprocate India’s friendly moves and continue to build on the goodwill that exists between people of the two countries.

While Bhutan would hope that India rides back on the growth figures it was in the 2000’s decade, India would hope to benefit from hydropower cooperation to reduce energy-deficit in the country and strengthen its strategic interests in the region.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkatta)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Power cooperation with India gets a boost

Bhutanese Prime minister, Tshering Tobgay and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to commence four new Joint ventures hydroelectric project with a capacity to generate 2120 MW.

"The two governments also affirmed their mutual security interest and agreed to closely coordinate and cooperate on issues relating to their national interests," the secretary said at a press conference after the newly appointed prime minister met heads of eight SAARC countries and the president of Mauritius.

Led by Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay, the Bhutanese delegation including foreign minister Rinzin Dorji, Bhutan’s Ambassador to India General, Vetsop Namgyel and Foreign Secretary Yeshey Dorji met their counterparts at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

Newly-appointed External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Misra, Foreign Secretary Sujhata Singh and other senior officials of the Government of India participated in the meeting.

Tobgay conveyed to Prime Minister Modi, the warm felicitations of His Majesty the King, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, the government and people of Bhutan on his appointment as the prime minister of India.

Secretary Sujhata Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his warm greetings and respects to His Majesty, the King of Bhutan and noted that Bhutan and India shared a unique and special relationship with long standing historical and cultural linkages.

After the meeting, Foreign Minister Rinzin Dorji said that as the new Prime Minister of India takes on, Bhutan could share the sense of hope the people of India were feeling. "He is a prime minister who delivers," he said. "From the interaction, we could sense he has concerns for Bhutan and the region."

Rinzin Dorji said the Indian Prime Minister also expressed concerns on why the implementation of Bhutan’s hydropower projects was delayed. "This shows his deep concerns and wants to move things quickly," he said.

Prime Minister, Tobgay also paid a courtesy call to the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuenselonline, 28 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal urged to expedite refugee resettlement

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay requested the Nepalese government to facilitate the smooth progress of resettling people in the camps to third countries. The Prime Ministers of the two countries met in the Indian capital of New Delhi on 27 May on the request of the Nepalese side. Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala informed his counterpart that most in the camps were resettled and that they wanted to discuss the remaining few.

Prime Minister Tobgay said he would discuss the issue with his Cabinet but said it was best, in the interest of the two countries, if the process was allowed to continue. "The resettlement programme is going on very well, the people in the camps wanted to be resettled and the host countries were extremely helpful in bringing a closure to this long-standing issue," he said.

Tobgay said they also discussed issues of mutual interest and shared experiences in fields of hydropower, agriculture, tourism and foreign direct investment. Lyonchhoen said the two countries enjoyed good relations, including relations at peoples’ level.

"We have been hosting many Nepalese delegations, while Bhutanese have been visiting Nepal for business and pilgrimage," he said, adding Nepalese business are investing in Bhutan in the hotel industry, while some were developing local area plans in Thimphu. "We need to further these cooperation’s," Tobgay added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuenselonline, 29 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi sworn in as PM, meets with SAARC leaders

Narendra Modi was sworn in as India’s 15th Prime Minister on 26 May in an elaborate ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan. His council of 45 ministers also took their oaths during the ceremony. The event was attended by heads of state of all SAARC countries and Mauritius. However, all eyes were on Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif as he met the Indian Prime Minister for talks the following day.

In the 50-minute-long meeting at Hyderabad House, the two leaders talked about cross-border terror and trade. Mr Modi reportedly stressed that Pakistan must abide by its commitment to control terrorism from its soil against India and also raised the slow pace of trial in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

"The attack on the Indian consulate at Herat in Afghanistan last week was also discussed. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh told reporters that India’s concerns over terror were "clearly articulated." It was decided that the foreign secretaries of the two countries will be in touch and discuss a way forward on talks that have been suspended since January, 2013.

The nations could look to sign deals expanding trade in electricity and hydrocarbon products and make it easier for banks to open branches. Trade between the nations totalled $2.6 billion last year, less than 0.5 percent of India’s combined commerce with other nations, according to government data. Modi told Sharif the two countries could immediately move towards normalisation of trade. Pakistan delay in granting India the most-favoured nation status, too, came up. Sharif talked about the clear mandate both the governments had while calling for breaking new grounds and ending mistrust between the two sides.

Modi also met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, in which he acknowledged Afghanistan’s efforts and assistance in repelling the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat. He added that India was committed to the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.

In his meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa the two leaders discussed issues of rehabilitation and reconstruction regarding the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and security cooperation between the nations. In a goodwill gesture, the Sri Lankan government had released all of the Indian fishermen in their custody before Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi. India has also agreed to release 85 Sri Lankan fishermen in their custody.

< class="text11verdana">Source: NDTV, 27 May 2014; Mint, 27 May 2014; Hindustan Times, 27 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ministers named, ministries restructured

Prime Minister Narendra Modi named his council of ministers on 27 May and ministers took charge of their portfolios. With 45 ministers, this is the leanest council yet with 23 ministers of Cabinet rank, 10 Ministers of State with Independent charge and 12 Ministers of State.

The top jobs went to senior members of the BJP. Party President Rajnath Singh was appointed Home Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj was appointed Foreign Minister and Arun Jaitley was handed the lofty ministries of Finance, Defence and Corporate Affairs. Modi will be in charge of all important policy matters as well as a few unallocated ministries.

Women make up 25 percent of the cabinet, with six women sworn in, more than any previous Indian government. Modi has given cabinet positions to one leader from each of his pre-poll alliance partners. The cabinet has been downsized with focus on convergence in the activities of various ministries where one Cabinet minister will be heading a cluster of ministries working in complementary sectors. This follows the message of ’Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’ that was promoted by Modi during his campaign. The average age of the 24-member Cabinet ? including the Prime Minister ? is 60 while elders like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi have been left out. There are no non-politicians in the list despite the BJP indicating on several occasions that it would rope in sector specialists, technocrats and people who have excelled in other fields into the governance mix.

The burden to accommodate, as is always the case in such an exercise, does come across. Uttar Pradesh, for instance, has a fair number along with Bihar and Karnataka as these were states where the BJP has performed beyond expectations.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Indian Express, 27 May 2014, NDTV, 27 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Row over Article 370

Jitendra Singh, the minister of state from the prime minister’s office (PMO), triggered a controversy this week when he said the process of abrogating Article 370 had already begun, and that the PMO had started discussing the issue with several stakeholders in the state. Singh said Article 370 was a psychological barrier rather than a physical one. He added further that the Modi government was open to discussing the pros and cons of retaining or withdrawing Article 370 with all stakeholders.

J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah responded in a series of tweets, saying: "Article 370 is the ONLY constitutional link between J&K & rest of India," and "Long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Art 370 will still exist."Abdullah also asked the newly-elected government to specify the "stake-holders" it was engaging on the contentious issue.

The debate escalated further when Ram Madhav, a spokesperson for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), accused Abdullah of "making a mountain out of a molehill." Madhav also asked whether Abdullah thought the state was his "parental estate."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 28 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SIT on black money formed

In its first meeting on 27 May, the Cabinet decided to constitute a special investigative team (SIT) to dig out black money. The SIT will be headed by retired Supreme Court judge, M B Shah. The decision on the SIT is in compliance with the Supreme Court directive on black money.

The vice-chairman of the SIT will be another former SC judge, Arijit Pasayat. It will be assisted by the revenue secretary, directors of CBI, IB, RAW and ED, the CBDT chairman and an RBI deputy governor. The government was given a week by the SC to set up an SIT.

According to a press release, other members of the SIT are director general of the Narcotics Control Bureau, director general of Revenue Intelligence, director of the Financial Intelligence Unit, director of the Research and Analysis Wing and a joint secretary in the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

The SIT will also work out a comprehensive action plan to create an institutional structure that would enable the country to fight the battle against unaccounted money. It would report on the status of its work to the court from time to time, the statement added.

The first high-level meeting of the SIT will be held on June 4. The meeting, the sources said, is expected to discuss the policy matters on combating the menace of black money and the status of ongoing probes and available inputs with all the departments in this regard.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, 28 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ruling coalition breaks after Speaker’s poll

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)-led coalition split, after the newly-inaugurated parliament on Wednesday voted to appoint Fuvahmulah-South MP Abdulla Maseeh (PPM) as Speaker and the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) MP for Hulhu-Henveiru Moosa ’Reeko’ Manik as the Deputy Speaker.

Maseeh was elected with 43 MPs voting in his favour, while Manik received 42 votes. Business tycoon and Jumhoory Party’s leader Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim had also contested for the post of Speaker. But he received 39 votes in his favour. PPM nominated Fonadhoo MP Abdu Raheem Abdulla to be the Deputy Speaker, but he got only 41 votes from the 43-strong ruling PPM coalition in the 85-member House.

Barring the pro tem Speaker, 84 members had voted to elect the new parliament’s speaker and deputy. But two out of the votes cast for speakership were considered invalid as the ballot paper was not marked with the standard pen. One ballot for the Deputy Speaker’s post was also invalidated.

The PPM promptly announced the break-up of its coalition deal with Gasim’s JP following his decision to contest the Speaker’s post. Post-election, President Abdulla Yameen sacked eight JP-nominated ministers from his team.

Though Vice-President Mohammed Jameel said that the JP’s exit will not affect the ruling coalition former President and PPM boss Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said that the Opposition winning the Deputy Speaker’s position will be a challenge. The JP alleged that the PPM and the MDP had colluded to ensure Gasim’s defeat.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 28 May 2014, SunOnline, 29 May 2014, Miadhu 29 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Over 100 government websites hacked

More than a hundred Maldivian government websites were defaced in a cyber attack on Friday night. An image posted by the hackers on the defaced Maldives Meteorological Service (Met Office) website claimed a group named "Syrian Revolutionary Soldiers" is responsible for the hacking and that it was done to bring focus on the civil war in Syria.

Some of the major institutions’ websites compromised include; Tourism Ministry, Attorney-General’s Office, Auditor General’s Office, Judicial Service Commission, Capital Market Development Authority, Civil Court, Maldives Foreign Ministry, Finance Ministry, Housing Ministry, Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), Environment Ministry, Economic Ministry and the central bank, Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).

However, websites of Maldives Police Service, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), Maldives Customs Service and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) were promptly resorted.

A group named Anonymous Maldives, claiming to prove the website’s inadequate security, hacked the UN Maldives website in March 2013. Websites of the Criminal Court and Indian High Commission in Maldives were also hacked in 2013.

The hacking comes at a time when a previously not-well-known website claimed that two Maldivians have been killed fighting on the rebel’s side in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen and other officials have claimed no knowledge of the same, and have called upon their countrymen not to get involved in issues of the kind overseas.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 28-30 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No change on GMR, Govt clarifies after Yameen’s India visit

The Maldives Government’s stand on the GMR compensation issue remains unchanged, President’s Office Spokesperson has said. The statement follows SMS messages and social media posts being circulated saying that the government has agreed to pay MVR 878 million, in addition to 37 uninhabited islands and Hanimaadhoo Airport to GMR, as compensation for the premature annulment of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) agreement in November 2012.

The SMS messages started doing the rounds after President Abdulla Yameen’s return from New Delhi, where he attended Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration, and followed it up with an official meeting the next day. News reports from both sides indicated that the two leaders discussed issues of mutual concern, and pledged to strengthen bilateral cooperation even more.

Following the SMS, spokesperson at the President’s Office Ibrahim Muaz Ali said that the Government would not pay compensation to GMR before the matter is settled by the arbitration court in Singapore. He said the Government of Maldives has not, at any point, discussed the matter with the government of India and that there is no pressure from the Indian Government regarding the compensation issue.

Indian infrastructure giant GMR said in April that it will not change its compensation claim of $1.4 billion from the Maldivian government. The assertion followed a statement by President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom that Maldives will try to reduce the compensation amount.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 26-30 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">26 ’sea-ambulances’ by year-end

The Government hopes to introduce 26 ’sea-ambulances’ by the end of the year to provide emergency transportation for patients from all inhabited islands in the country, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has said.

Speaking at a ceremony held at the official jetty in Malé to inaugurate the first-ever sea-ambulance service in the country, Dr Jameel noted that providing emergency medical evacuation services to citizens in the atolls was a campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen.

The Vice-President said he hoped ongoing collaborative efforts by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defence would see the completion of 26 refurbished speedboats by the end of the year.

Dr Jameel said that the Government would recruit more than 200 doctors in the near future for hospitals and health centres in the atolls. The Health Ministry recently announced vacancies for 225 doctors, including 91 medical officers, 25 gynaecologists, 19 children’s doctors, 17 physicians, 14 anaesthesiologists, 14 surgeons, 11 eye doctors, seven orthopaedic doctors, seven ENT doctors, and seven psychiatrists.

With Indian Government assistance, the Government has also begun work on upgrading the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male, at a cost of $ 7 million.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 28-29 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japanese Army team comes calling

The Japanese military’s top officer held meetings with his Myanmar counterpart on 27 May, officials said, the first visit of Japan’s highest-ranking army officer to the country since World War II.

Gen Shigeru Iwasaki, chief of staff of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces Joint Staff, met Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Naypyidaw as part of a four day trip to the former junta-run nation, according to an information ministry official.

He will on 28 May meet President Thein Sein, who has been credited for a wealth of political and economic reforms that have seen the former junta-run country shed its pariah image. Japan has had no military ties with Myanmar since 1945, when its three year occupation of the country came to an end with an Allied counter attack.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Myanmar in May 2013 ? the first visit by a Japanese premier since 1977. Tokyo has maintained trade ties and has ramped up investment as well as forgiving ¥300 billion ($3 billion) of the ¥500 billion owed by Myanmar.

< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Boosting FDI

Myanmar has reformed its investment commission as part of its efforts to draw more foreign investment into the country, local media reported on 28 May. A 13-member Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) was re- established with Minister of Energy U Zayar Aung as chairman.

Minister of Hotels and Tourism U Htay Aung was appointed as vice Chairman of the MIC, while other members include deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Maung Maung Thein and deputy Minister of National Planning and Economic Development Daw Lei Lei Thein.

The MIC is to stand as an independent organization only under the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. So far during this year, MIC has permitted nearly 30 projects for investment by local entrepreneurs, while 60 for investment by foreigners, the report said.

According to official statistics, Myanmar received 2.21 billion U.S. dollars in foreign investment in the first four months of 2014, with transport and communication sector leading in the line- up with 1.34 billion U.S. dollars, followed by manufacturing, real estate, hotel and tourism and mining.

The total foreign investment in Myanmar reached up to 46.48 billion U.S. dollars as of April 2014 since late 1988 when the country opened door to the world. Myanmar promulgated its new Foreign Investment Law in November 2012 and the MIC was formed in 1994.

< class="text11verdana">Source: www.english.sinacom, 29 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Earthquake along Chinese border

An earthquake of magnitude 5.9 hit Burma on 29 May near its North-eastern border with China but there were no immediate reports of damage, a meteorological official said. The earthquake, described as moderate, struck at 7:51 a.m. about 375 km northeast of the city of Mandalay and 60 km southeast of the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina, the official from the Meteorological Department told Reuters.

"The epicentre is on the Myanmar-Chinese border. We haven’t heard any information about damage or casualties," he added. The central and northern parts of Burma are often hit by earthquakes. In November last year, a moderate earthquake struck Shwebo District about 135 km (85 miles) northwest of Mandalay, killing at least a dozen people.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Irrawaddy, 30 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Everest Day despite government demur

Mountaineering entrepreneurs and Sherpas marked the 7th International Mount Everest Day 2014 amid various functions across the country despite the government decision to postpone the celebrations citing overlap with the Republic Day.

The International Everest Day commemorates the first ascent of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa on 29 May, 1953. The government is working to finalize an appropriate day for the celebration of Mount Everest Day and it will be done soon, according to government officials.

On the eve of the seventh International Mount Everest Day, a candle walk procession was organized in Kathmandu to commemorate the historic day and in memory of 16 Sherpa guides who died in the deadliest avalanche that struck on 18 April.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 30 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal positive on AIDB membership

Nepal has responded positively to the proposal of the Chinese government for establishing an Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIDB) to bridge huge infrastructure gap in Asian nations. In the meeting with Chinese Vice Minister for the Finance Ministry Shi Yaobin at the Ministry of Finance on 28 May, Minister for Finance Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said Nepal was eager to be the founder-member of the proposed bank.

China has proposed to the Asian countries to mobilise $ 50-100 billion for the proposed bank for investing in infrastructure development. As per the proposal, the member countries would get priority in loan. China was Nepal´s fifth largest bilateral donors as per the assistance that Nepal received in 2012-13.

The northern neighbour is assisting Nepal in a number of projects including expansion of Ring Road, dry port of Larcha, Inland Container Depot (ICD) of Rasuwagadhi, Upper Trishuli 3 A hydropower project and Pokhara regional airport, among others. In the meeting, Mahat requested the visiting dignitary for more support in hydropower, tourism and infrastructure sectors.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 28 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strengthening connectivity with India

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh on 27 May said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his meeting with Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, expressed his determination to further strengthen connectivity and economic inter-linkages between the two countries.

"In his meeting with Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, the Prime Minister noted that Nepal was an old and deeply valued friend with whom India shared history, geography and ancient civilisational ties. He said that it was his earnest desire to visit Nepal this year, said Singh.

She also said that the PM expressed his appreciation over the political progress of Nepal and conveyed his hope that the Constitution would adopted in the one year time-frame that Nepal had set for itself.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 27 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Higher support from World Bank

Nepal is set to witness growth in support extended by the World Bank (WB) by 30 percent based on improvement in rating carried out by the bank. Country Director of the WB, Johannes Jutt during a meeting with Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat on 22 May said that Nepal received higher rating, which could increase the assistance extended by the WB by 30 percent.

Currently, the government is receiving assistance worth INR 23 billion annually. WB has been conducting annual rating of countries that are utilising its loan at subsidised interest rate. According to the Ministry of Finance (MoF), Nepal has obtained 3.4 points out of six points under the WB rating, which is an improvement of 0.4 points.

With this, the country has also upgraded itself to the list of other countries receiving support of the WB that are in the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) rating. Financial management, position of the structural policies, social inclusion, management of public sectors and institutional development are some of the parameters of the WB rating.

During the meeting, Mahat said that the country would improve its performance and get more rating points in the coming years to get additional support.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 23 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Woman stoned to death outside Lahore High Court

A 25-year-old woman was stoned to death by her family outside the Lahore High Court in a case of ’honour-killing’ for marrying a man she loved against her family’s wishes. Farzana Iqbal was attacked by a dozen men with bricks, according to Umer Cheema, a senior police officer. The attackers included her father, two brothers and former fiancé. She suffered severe head injuries and was pronounced dead in hospital. All suspects escaped except the victim’s father who admitted to killing his daughter in the name of honour.

According to Cheema, Farzana had been engaged to her cousin but chose to marry another man. Her family registered a kidnapping case against him and Farzana had come to court to argue that she had married of her own free will.

Farzana’s husband reportedly murdered his first wife. He said that he was in love with Farzana and killed his first wife because of this love. He was spared a prison term because his son forgave him under Pakistan’s controversial blood-money laws.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered Punjab officials to take "immediate action" with regard to the brutal murder. Police officers guarding the court, apparently, did nothing to intervene to save the woman. British Foreign Secretary William Hague and US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki have condemned Farzana Iqbal’s killing.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 27-30 May 2014; The Nation, 30 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Three soldiers die in blast

At least three soldiers were killed and two others injured in two improvised explosive device (IED) blasts in the country’s Northwest according to sources in the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The devices were planted along a roadside and targeted a team of soldiers patrolling on foot near Nosher Fort bordering North Waziristan. Other reports claim that it was a landmine blast.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 29 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JSMM leader found dead in Sindh

Munir Choliani, the central leader of Jeay Singh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), a nationalist party, was found murdered near Sunn. The body has been shifted to Warah.

He had left for Hyderabad from Warah on the night of 29 May 2014.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The News International, 30 May 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President attends Modi’s swearing-in, holds talks

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was among the SAARC leaders who participated in the swearing-in of India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the forecourt of New Delhi’s Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday evening.

In bilateral talks the next day, the two leaders discussed issues of mutual interest and concern. Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh later said that Modi urged the visitor to ’go beyond the Thirteenth Amendment’ for ethnic reconciliation within a united Sri Lanka, and also the delays in the India-aided Sampur power plant in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. Both leaders agreed to continue with the fishers’ and officials’ level talks on the fishing issue.

President Rajapaksa invited PM Modi to visit Sri Lanka, which the latter accepted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 26-27 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA seeks meeting with Jaya

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has sought a meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jeyaram. Earlier, the TNA leadership sought a similar appointment with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While congratulating Ms. Jayalalithaa for her success at India’s election winning 37 out of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu to represent Lok Sabha, TNA leader R. Sampanthan said, "This indeed, is an astounding achievement and is indicative of the influence which you have the capacity to wield."

The TNA expressed interest in working closely with her party, and requested her to prevail upon the newly-elected Government of India to bring about what the party called ’honourable peace based on justice and equality.’

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 29 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt sticks to PSC despite Indian pressure

Close on the heels of a meeting between newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Mahinda Rajapaksa in New Delhi, where the former called for early and full implementation of the 13th Amendment and to go beyond, the government yesterday said that it was only the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that could decide on the matter.

Addressing a media conference at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party head office, Irrigation and Water Resources Development Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that the government would cooperate with India always but no one should interfere with the internal affairs of the country.

The Minister said that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution had been forced on the country during the J R Jayewardene administration, but the present administration had appointed a PSC to review it before its full implementation. The 113th Amendment had been implemented step by step but there were some sections which needed parliamentary review, he said.

"President Mahinda Rajapksa’s position is that a solution to the issue should be evolved only through the PSC," Minister de Silva said. Minister de Silva said, however, the Sri Lankan government did not intend to confront India and it wished to sort out all issues through negotiations.

Responding to a query regarding Tamil Nadu pressure on the Indian Central Government on the Sri Lanka issue, the Minister said that the BJP had an absolute majority and it would not have to dance to the tune of TN. "We also deal only with the Central Government and not with State administrations of India," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island 29 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt bank lends $ 70 m for Chinese ships

The Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC) has signed a $ 70-million (over SL Rs. 9.1 billion) loan agreement with the State-owned People’s Bank to purchase two 63,600 MT DWT bulk cargo-carrying ships from China, to revive the corporation. The two ships will be built by AVIC International Beijing Company Limited of China. The first ship will be delivered on October 31, 2015 and the second on January 31, 2016.

There are plans to use the ships for transporting thermal coal imported for the coal fired power plant in Norochcholai. These ships are also specially designed, to add an extra deck at an extra cost, to accommodate around 25 persons in addition to its standard crew complement, with the view of providing mandatory onboard sea-training for nautical and engineering cadets.

During the Seventies and Eighties, the Ceylon Shipping Corporation owned and operated over 20 ships including commercial ships but with the war, its operations and strength gradually declined. The Corporation earlier said the need to acquire ships for the CSC was in the interest of the country and the national economy as well.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 29 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More endorsements for candidates

As the second round of the Afghan Presidential Elections gains momentum, the two candidates, Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Dr Ashraf Ghani are seeing more and more endorsements for their candidature.

Dr Abdullah, who has already received the support of two former candidates Mr Zalmai Rassoul and Gul Agha Sherzai, was endorsed by Mr. Amrullah Saleh, the former Afghan intelligence chief, and Mr. Mahmood Karzai, the brother of the incumbent president.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Naseri tribe endorsed Dr Ghani during a gathering in Kabul. The tribal elders promised that their offices across the country will now serve as the campaign offices for Dr Ghani. Ahmed Zia Massoud, former presidential candidate Daoud Sultanzoy and Sayed Hussein Anwari, the Second Vice-President of presidential candidate Abdul Rahim Wardak, have all endorsed Dr Ghani as well this week.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 25-27 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US withdrawal by 2016

The US President Barack Obama announced this past week that the US troops in Afghanistan will decrease to 9800 by 2015 before a complete withdrawal takes place by 2016. The residual US force in Afghanistan will have the task of assisting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and conducting counter-terrorism operations against the remaining al Qaeda leadership.

The presence of the US residual force through 2015 will, however, be contingent on the new Afghan president signing the Bilateral Security Agreement.

This declaration was welcomed by the incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who claimed that one of the preconditions of the Taliban for agreeing to a peace deal had been met. He called upon the Taliban to seize this ’historic opportunity’ for making peace.

However, the Taliban rejected these appeals urging the US to withdraw completely from the country immediately and pledged to continue their armed struggle against the coalition and Afghan security forces.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 29 May 2014; Pajhwok, 28 May 2014; The Wall Street Journal, 28 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak envoy summoned over shelling

The Foreign Ministry of Afghanistan summoned Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Abrar Hussain on 28 May over the cross-border shelling in Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

Ershad Ahmadi, deputy foreign minister for political affairs, who met with Amb Hussain, also conveyed the Afghan Government’s concerns over the construction of military infrastructure along the border by Pakistan.

Ahmadi also warned that the continued cross-border shelling by Pakistani military will have negative repercussions as the people of Afghanistan have became frustrated with the cross-border incursions which have left dozens of people dead or injured besides incurring damages to the local residents.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 28 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban shadow governor killed in Kunduz

Following a military operation in Kunduz province, Taliban’s shadow governor for the province Asadullah Paikar was killed along with four other Taliban militants.

The operation was said to be conducted to clear the area from militant activities and ensure security for the election runoff.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 30 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Good relations with India to continue

Voicing her high hope of keeping up good relations with India, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week said any problem with neighbouring countries, including India, could be resolved through bilateral talks. "You may have differences over policy, it’s quite natural. If there’s any problem you can solve it through bilateral discussions," she said. The Prime Minister hoped, "I believe we’ll be able to keep up a good relationship .....he (Modi) has his own ideas, now he has become Indian Prime Minister and I hope as a Prime Minister of India he would play his due role so that all neighbouring countries have good relations."

Hasina made these remarks while interacting with Japanese media this week during her four-day official visit to Japan. "Our foreign policy is very clear, friendship to all and malice to none. Since we’ve formed the government, we’ve found good relationship with our neighbours," Hasina added.

Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, on the sideline of her visit to India to attend the latter’s swearing-in ceremony as an envoy of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. During the meeting Speaker informed about the Bangladesh premier’s call for speedy resolution of all pending issues between the two countries, Modi has assured that his government will actively consider Teesta water sharing and land boundary issues.

The Speaker also handed Indian Prime Minister Modi a letter from Hasina, who felicitated him on his swearing-in as Indian Prime Miniter, and renewed her invitation to him to visit Bangladesh. This was Hasina’s second letter to Modi within 10 days. She had also phoned him after the Indian election.

Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh informed newsmen that PM Modi requested the Bangladesh Speaker to convey his warm greetings and best wishes to Hasina, and said he looked forward to receiving her in India at an early date.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 28 May 2014; The Independent, 29 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Quit power, hold fresh election: BNP

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia this demanded resignation of the Awami League government and to arrange fresh national elections under a non-party administration. "Don’t waste any more time.

Stop any further killings and forced disappearances; restore democracy, rule of law and peace in the country by holding fresh elections," she said while addressing a public rally at Munshiganj, outside Dhaka. The rally was organised in protest at the recent spate of killings, abductions and forced disappearances across the country.

This was Khaleda’s second rally outside the capital after the one-sided parliamentary polls on January 5. Earlier, she addressed a rally in Rajbari on March 1. In the last one month, the government barred the BNP chief from joining rallies in the capital on at least five occasions.

Criticising the government for the recent killings and forced disappearances, Khaleda urged people to get united to oust the government. The BNP will wage a movement across the country to unseat the government, she added. "The Awami League had been out of power for 21 years. Now you take such measures so that it can’t return to power in next 42 years," she added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 29 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Myanmar border tense

Tension mounted at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border following an incident of firing by the Myanmar Border Guard Police at a petrol team of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). The BGB claimed that Myanmar Border Guard Police opened fire at a BGB patrol team and abducted BGB personnel. After the incident additional forces has been deployed along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

In Reaction the foreign ministry summoned the ambassador of Myanmar in Dhaka to protest the incident and demanded immediate release of captive BGB personnel.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 30 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan pledges $5.9b

Japan has pledged to provide economic assistance worth $5.9 billion to Bangladesh over the next four to five years. Japan will "extend economic cooperation amounting to about 600 billion yen ($5.9 billion) for roughly four to five years," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

Abe’s announcement came during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan.

The economic aid will be given through implementation of the concept of the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B), proposed by the Japanese premier.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 27 May 2014

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

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.


Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee (1975 2021) was Senior Fellow with ORF. She specialised in Indias neighbourhood policy the eastern arch: Bangladeshs domestic politics and foreign policy: border ...

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