MonitorsPublished on Aug 01, 2014
The settlement of the maritime dispute between India and Bangladesh has ended the energy politics in the Bay of Bengal region. The verdict from The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has removed obstacle for Bangladesh to exploit the rich hydro-carbon reserves in the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh: End of energy politics in the Bay of Bengal
< class="heading1">Analysis

The settlement of the maritime dispute between India and Bangladesh has ended the energy politics in the Bay of Bengal region. The verdict from The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has removed obstacle for Bangladesh to exploit the rich hydro-carbon reserves in the Bay of Bengal.

The PCA in its early July verdict allocated 19,467 sq km out of 25,602 sq km of the disputed waters to Bangladesh. The verdict also helped Bangladesh to gain ownership of the 10 hydro-carbon blocks that fall in these waters. The verdict was a major victory for Bangladesh.

However, India was not left empty-handed. India gained sovereignty over the areas where the disputed New Moore / South Talpatty Island exists. The island emerged after a cyclone in 1971 at the mouth of the Hariabhanga River that flows through the Sundarbans in India’s West Bengal State, bordering Bangladesh. The island disappeared due to rise in sea-level. India’s gain of sovereign right of New More/ South Talpatty island is significant because some estimates suggest that the area has around 100 trillion cubic feet of hydro-carbon deposit, double the reserve in the Krishna-Godavari basin, India’s biggest offshore gas exploration site.

Points of contention

Major points of contention between India and Bangladesh over the maritime boundary comprised three points. One, the sovereignty claim over New Moore/ South Talpatty Island. Two, territorial claim in the Bay and three, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In spite of efforts by India and Bangladesh for an amicable solution, discussions could not yield any desirable solution.

Things turned complex as India discovered huge reserves of hydro-carbon in 2000. Soon Myanmar followed suit and discovered 7 tcf of hydro-carbon deposits. These discoveries led the countries to offshore allocation for maritime blocks for further exploitation of the resources.

Bangladesh protested against India’s effort for exploitation of the blocks, overlapping Bangladesh claimed EEZ in 2006. To strengthen its claim, the country in 2008 put 28 blocks on the disputed waters for bidding to carry out exploration that India strongly protested. Although Bangladesh’s maritime boundary dispute with India did not boil down to a military confrontation, things became tense with Myanmar. The two countries faced a military stand-off twice in 2008 and 2009 over maritime dispute.

Arbitration under UNCLOS

The need for energy resources inspired Bangladesh to approach arbitration against India and Myanmar under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) in 2009 for delimitation of its maritime boundary because it wanted a speedy and peaceful solution.

Bangladesh’s decision to approach international arbitration has paid off well. Normally, resolution of maritime boundary dispute take years, but Bangladesh’s maritime boundary dispute with both Myanmar and India have been resolved within record time of five years. The verdict of the arbitration against Myanmar was delivered in 2012. The verdict also went in favour of Bangladesh, helping the country to get 70,000 sq km out of the 80,000 sq km of disputed area in the Bay.

Both the victories have helped Bangladesh to gain a maritime area of more than 118,813 sq km, comprising territorial sea and EEZ extending to 200 nautical miles. Now, the size of Bangladesh’s maritime territory is bigger than its land territory. Also, Bangladesh has the freedom to exploit all the natural resources in the EEZ.

Timely verdict

The verdict is timely, especially for Bangladesh as the country is facing energy shortage and the locally available reserves of natural gas, major energy source, has almost dried up. Reserves of natural gas are likely to sustain till next decade. Presently, Bangladesh produces around 2.28 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas against a demand of 2.7-30 bcf with annual estimated demand growth of 10%. The hydro-carbon reserves in the Bay came as a handy alternative for Bangladesh.

The verdict helped Bangladesh to gain ownership of most of the disputed 28 blocks boosting the potential of multiplying gas production that would make the country self-reliant in energy and over the long run may become a major supplier, too. According to the US Geological Survey Bangladesh has a deposit of 32.1 tcf other than undiscovered reserves.

International bidding

Bangladesh is now planning to call for international tenders for the exploration of the 28 blocks. The country’s previous call for international tender had received very little response from the international oil companies due to dispute over the maritime boundary. Now that dispute over the maritime boundary is resolved expectation is that international companies will take greater interest.

There are apprehensions that engagement of international companies might not help the country to reap the full benefit of the natural resources. The popular fear is that Bangladesh lacks the resources and technological knowhow, thus giving access to international companies, who would then dictate terms and conditions which might harm the country’s interests. To address such apprehensions the government should work on a policy that would not only encourage international companies to participate in the extraction of hydro-carbon resources but also takes into account interest of the country.

The verdict has brought a ray of hope for the Bangladesh. It will be interesting to witness how the country utilises the opportunity.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan: One year of PDP Government

Mihir Bhonsale

The People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) government completed one year in office in Bhutan on 26 July. Assuming office after a closely-contested election in the tiny Himalayan kingdom for the second time ever last year, the Tshering Tobgay government’s one year was rather subdued by the crisis the government had to mitigate.

Tobgay was sworn in when relations with India were going through rough times owing to the temporary withdrawal of LPG subsidies by India. Tobgay’s party had campaigned against its incumbent DPT by accusing the latter of antagonising New Delhi by its pro-China posturing, riding on which they emerged victorious.

Relations with India

The PDP government’s one year in power has been positive for the tiny land-locked country’s relations with India. It came as an icing on the cake, when new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bhutan in July, making Bhutan the first foreign destination after assuming office.

The PDP government was instrumental in convincing India to support Bhutan’s ambitious 11th Five Year Plan. India promised a package of Rs. 4,500 crore to Bhutan for its development plan, making India’s aid to Bhutan the highest that India has given to any other country.

Bhutan has also moved forward from the fear amongst strategists as trying to move closer to China. The former incumbent DPT government’s foreign policy had antagonized New Delhi making the latter act curtly against the not-so-friendly Bhutan’s government.

The tiny Himalayan kingdom has emerged out of this jinx. The country has been able to maintain relations with its closest ally and partner in development, India, but not at the cost of antagonizing its northern neighbour, China.


From the outset, the PDP government had to make a point on governance as their incumbents were accused of being involved in scams. The PDP government reluctantly revised the pay scales which its predecessor had endorsed. From this month onwards the ministers will be drawing salaries according to the revised pay scale.

The PDP government also continued the 20 percent housing allowance to civil servants proposed by their predecessor. The projects like the Education City project have been scrapped, where huge irregularities were found in allotment of land involving a minister in the predecessor government.

The government within the last year has also identified mining as one of the five jewels to be tapped for the country’s development. It also lifted ban on import of alcohol, furniture and vehicles from India.

As the king of Bhutan, Jigme Kesar had enumerated on a number of times including in his National Day address, providing good governance is a test for Bhutan. The PDP government has taken a few steps in that direction. It has facilitated the passing of the Right to Information Bill, which is expected to make the system more transparent.

Happiness sceptic?

Unlike his predecessor, Prime Minister Tobgay has indicated his reluctance to pursue the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNP) at the cost of socio-economic development. Tobgay has also shown signs of cautious spending on overseas permanent diplomatic missions.

This is a significant departure from DPT government, which had also bid for the membership of United Nations Security Council. Prime Minister, Tobgay instead has emphasised on the economic growth as a determining factor in Bhutan’s development and a premise for achieving Gross National Happiness.

Road ahead

The completion of one full year after taking over the reins of the country, there are challenges which Bhutan would have to tackle in the near future. The most important is expediting hydropower projects with India.

With the announcement of new projects made this year, the PDP government has to ensure the completion of projects and meet the target set in 2020 of generating a total of 10,000 MW of power. The hydropower resources of the tiny Himalayan country have a lion share in fuelling economic growth.

The government has to also to ensure that the credit crisis and rupee crunch do not raise their ugly heads again. Though, there are signs of improvement, thanks to the economic stimulus package of Rs. 500 crore given by India, the PDP government has to take cautious steps to ensure that the crisis do not recur.

China wants to establish its diplomatic mission in Thimphu, giving jitters to the government who had the 22nd round of border talks with Beijing in July this year. Whether, Thimphu uses economic power, China’s offer of increased engagement would ascertain Bhutan in the world order.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China for end to border dispute

Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi on 28 June called for a "comprehensive, fair and reasonable solution" to his country’s border dispute with Bhutan.

Yang said China is willing to work with Bhutan to reach a solution acceptable to both sides at an early date, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

He was speaking after a meeting with Bhutanese Foreign Minister Rinzin Dorje, who was here to attend the 22nd round of China-Bhutan boundary talks with Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin on 1 August. The visiting leader met Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on 28 June.

Dorje said Bhutan attaches great importance to relations with China and is committed to solving the boundary issue. He was quoted telling Chinese foreign minister that although the countries have not established diplomatic ties, "China has always adhered to a good-neighbour policy towards Bhutan’’.

China recently announced a plan to connect Tibetan capital Lhasa by rail with India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020. This offers a major opportunity to Bhutan to connect to the vast Chinese market.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, Kuensel Online, 29 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bid to make Kyoto and Thimphu sister cities

Given the strong beliefs in Buddhism the two cities share, Kyoto city’s mayor in Japan has officially proposed to the foreign ministry to make Thimphu and Kyoto sister cities. The proposal from the mayor was handed over to the foreign ministry on 30 July.

Kyoto city mayor’s concept to tie up the two cities goes back to the visit His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen made to Japan after the royal wedding in 2011. Japan had then been hit by an earthquake, which had caused three nuclear reactors to explode in the Fukushima prefecture, affecting thousands of people.

Jiko Sato said Arima Reitai’s visit to Bhutan last year was documented and broadcast in Japan, which was how the Kyoto city’s mayor came up with a concept to tie up Thimphu and Kyoto as sister cities.

"Kyoto is the holiest Buddhist city in Japan and several arts and crafts of Bhutan and Kyoto are very similar," he said. "Tying up Thimphu and Kyoto as sister cities would mean we could have exchange programme in arts and crafts and appeal for world peace together."

The mayor is planning to visit Bhutan at the end of this year.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 31 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rupee inflow, for a change, surpasses outflow

In first quarter of the year, the inflow of rupees has surpassed the outflow by Rs 6.9B, setting a record high in many years. This is mainly attributed to the increased grant portion received from the government of India.

The country recorded surplus inflow since June last year. Within the first three months, this year, total INR inflow stood at Rs 23.7B against the total outflow of Rs 16.8B. Of the total inflow, government of India grants constituted Rs 8.7 billion. Earnings from the export of hydropower was Rs 548 million in the three months.

The total rupee reserve in the country has increased by about INR 9.5 billion within a month. As of May 31 this year, the total INR reserve was 14.3 billion, and in April it was just INR 4.8 billion. The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) alone has maintained a reserve of INR 13.4 billion, and the remainder was with the four commercial banks.

However, as of March, this year, the rupee debt stood at 62 billion, covering 62.5 percent of the total debt. This is an increase of about INR one billion compared with the previous year.

"The net inflows in the capital and financial account were more than sufficient to finance the current account deficit," stated the central bank’s monetary policy statement published recently.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 31 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Three dead in communal clashes in Saharanpur

Saharanpur on 26 July, prompting the district administration to impose curfew and issue shoot-at-sight orders. The violence began after members of the Sikh community began construction on land that members of the Muslim community said belonged to them. Following a heated exchange, the two groups indulged in arson, threw stones and even exchanged fire.

At least 38 people were arrested in connection with the violence. The police used rubber bullets to disperse the rioters who damaged and set ablaze 22 shops and 15 vehicles. Paramilitary forces, including Rapid Action Force and Central Reserve Police Force, were also deployed in the troubled areas with additional forces of state police to maintain law and order. Curfew was relaxed two days later.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 26 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Landslide buries village near Pune

Heavy rains triggered a landslide at a village near Pune, killing at least 18 people and burying about 150 under the debris.

Heavy monsoon rains have lashed the hills in the area the past few days, causing rocks and mud to loosen and tumble down on houses at Malin village, 80km from Pune. Authorities fear that the death toll could mount as most of the 67 houses in the village were buried under a 25 feet pile of rocks and mud.

Rescue workers struggled to pull out bodies from under the debris because of the heavy rains. Pune collector Saurav Rao said rescue work could take up to three days, adding the chances of survival of those buried in the debris were "very slim".

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the state government would compensate all the families and if required, even rehabilitate the entire village. Last year, torrential rains caused heavy landslides in the northern state of Uttarakhand, killing 5,000 people and displacing thousands others.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 30 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Army chief takes over

Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, whose appointment as Army Chief had kicked up a row, took over as the head of the 1.3 million strong force succeeding Gen Bikram Singh. The new Chief takes over at a time when the force is facing challenges of modernisation in its artillery, infantry and air defence arms and is also preparing itself for facing a possible multi-front war.

Suhag, 59, a Gurkha officer who had participated in the 1987 Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) operations in Sri Lanka, was till now the Vice- Chief of Army Staff. He will have a tenure of 30 months as the 26th Army Chief. Suhag was made the Vice-Chief of Army Staff in December last year. Before that, he was the Eastern Army Commander from June 16, 2012.

He was at the centre of a controversy triggered by ’discipline and vigilance’ ban imposed on him by the then Army Chief Gen V K Singh in connection with an intelligence operation in Assam earlier. The ban on Suhag, the then 3 Corps Commander, was lifted soon after Gen Bikram Singh took over in May 2012.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 31 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sushma prepares ground for Modi visit

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met with her Nepalese counterpart last week to talk about a range of issues and resolved to push for more cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and security. Ms. Swaraj met President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and met UCPN-Maoist chief and Leader of the Opposition Prachanda.

Ms. Swaraj was in Nepal to co-chair the meeting of the Indo-Nepal Joint Commission which was held on Saturday after a gap of 23 years and to prepare the ground for the two-day official visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from August 3 - the first visit by an Indian Premier in over 17 years. The late Prime Minister I. K. Gujral had visited Nepal in 1997.

During the visit, India told Nepal that the new Indian government is very keen to impart "renewed momentum" to their multifaceted bilateral ties even as the two countries decided to step up cooperation in key areas of defence, security, trade and hydro power. The two countries also agreed to "review" and adjust" the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 to reflect the current realties.

The two sides issued a joint statement which said the meeting reviewed the entire gamut of Nepal-India relations and affirmed that the Joint Commission would make an important contribution to strengthen the traditionally warm and close ties between the two countries. The statement can be found here:

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 27 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India flags US snooping with Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley during a three-day visit to India to discuss ways the two countries can cooperate on trade, investment, and security. Kerry also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and toured the laboratories of the Indian Institute of Technology.

Kerry also co-chaired the fifth Indo-US Strategic Dialogue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and is expected to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss regional issues including India-Pakistan relations, China’s growing assertiveness, and Afghanistan.

Kerry’s agenda also includes pushing India to agree to the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade deal. In their meeting, Sushma Swaraj raised the issue of American intelligence agencies allegedly snooping on BJP and conveyed to him the ’public anger in India’ over the issue.

In response, a defensive Kerry told reporters: "We value our relationship with India, our bilateral relationship... We also value sharing of information between each other regarding counter-terrorism and other threats to both of our countries. Usually, we try to have our intelligence communities to work to resolve any questions or differences that may exist. We will continue to work actively with India wherever we see a threat to our shared interest and we fully respect and understand the feelings expressed by the minister."

Kerry was more focussed on commerce and investment. He welcomed raised foreign investment ceilings in several sectors of the Indian economy, including defence, railways, e-commerce and insurance, according to a joint statement issued at the end of the dialogue.

The two sides agreed to identify specific areas for investment in India’s manufacturing and infrastructure sectors including through establishing a new initiative in this regard. They also sought to empower the India-US CEO Forum to build a better business environment.

The two sides agreed to identify specific areas for investment in India’s manufacturing and infrastructure sectors including through establishing a new initiative in this regard. They also sought to empower the India-US CEO Forum to build a better business environment. The two sides planned to expand the Commercial Dialogue.

In an interview with a television news channel, Kerry said that Modi was denied a visa by a "different government," and said further: "We will welcome PM Modi and definitely give him a visa". Kerry’s trip is expected to set the stage for Modi’s visit to the US in September.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Economic Times, 1 August, 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President vows to foil attempts at unrest

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Friday vowed to not allow any form of unrest to arise in Maldives. In his address to the nation on the Independence Day, he said that after a lengthened period of political unrest, peace has finally come with the people slowly settling into a content life. He, however, cautioned that some opposition parties are continuously trying to ignite strife back in the society.

"At the delicate moment when the nation has sighed contentedly, the government shall not allow anyone to disrupt this peace. Opposition parties and individuals work deliberately to disrupt the peace and create disorder amongst the people so that they may gain from the chaos. There are incidents where such manufactured distress has even threatened the independence of the nation," he said, speaking at the flag hoisting ceremony at the Republic Square.

The President said that the attacks Maldives now faces - attempts to reduce tourist arrivals and fish exports - are aimed at jeopardising the economy. He said that weakening a country economically is an attack upon its independence.

"I blame those who have called for boycott of Maldivian tourism and have planted doubts amongst buyers about Maldivian fish products. This government will defeat all such attacks, and will build a strong, peaceful youth generation. Using this opportunity, I would like to call upon the people of Maldives, all political activists and opposition leaders to not risk the peace in the country for their own political gain," he said.

President Yameen commended the "hard work" of Ibrahim Nasir, the father of the independence movement and the first president of the second republic. He also praised his half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, for his "bravery and sacrifice" to thwart the armed coup on November 3, 1988.

The President also spoke against the Israeli aggression in Palestine. He said that all the powerful nations of the world along with the United Nations can bring a swift end to Israel’s incessant attacks on the people of Palestine. He reassured the support of the Maldives government and the people to the people of Palestine.

"In addition, all Israeli products have now been banned in Maldives until they stop their brutal attacks, change their inhuman means of dealing with Palestine and begin to make peace with the country. Also, the three agreements Maldives signed with Israel have now been dissolved," the president said.

President Yameen also vowed to preserve the independence of Maldives in his endeavour to bring major development projects to the country.

Former Presidents Gayoom and Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik attended the ceremony. Abdu Sattar Moosa Didi and Ibrahim Rasheed, two of the pioneers who stood besides President Nasir 49 years ago, also attended the ceremony.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 26 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Balance independence and economy’

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has said that it is important for Maldives to open its doors to foreign investments without compromising the country’s independence through over-dependence.

"This is a very thin and delicate rope that our leaders today have to handle when we deal with foreign partners for economic purposes. It is not easy to balance such a thin piece of rope," he said on the nation’s Independence Day.

"As it opens its economic doors to the international world through the economic zones, the principals to safeguard the country’s sovereignty will be defined by the necessary laws. The areas that would need to be fastened will be properly secured. In this, there will be no neglect or carelessness. There will not be even a minor deprivation to the people’s rights or identity," said Minister Naseer.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 26 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC sets rules for contempt proceedings

The Supreme Court has enacted new regulations that allow the court to initiate proceedings into cases of contempt of court and judges.

According to the regulation, the punishment for contempt outside the court would be decided after the prosecution files charges against the person or the court in question initiates the case. The regulation also grants the Supreme Court power to look in to all contempt of court cases, collectively.

The regulation states that contempt of court outside the court premises will be judged by a panel of judges in an odd amount and that a ruling issued in such a case cannot appealed.

According to the regulation, disobedience, acts against the systematic norms of court or leaving the court room without permission are all punishable immediately. The punishment varies between a fine by an amount lower than MVR 1,000 and a prison sentence of 15-30 days.

The regulation also grants the courts with authority to immediately punish any disrespect shown towards a judge, the court premises, a court staff or a property of the court. Obstruction or disturbances directed at an ongoing trial is also punishable, with the punishment magnified if physical touch or anything that can be deemed a weapon is used.

According to the regulation, refusing to cooperate with court staff to fulfil their responsibilities and refusing to attend court as witnesses will also be punished. Lawyers can be suspended from courts for three to six months, the regulation says.

In case of an independent institution that is involved in a contempt of court case, the regulation dictates that the top-most person in charge of the institution will be charged for it.

The new regulations replace the original regulations made in 2008 concerning contempt of court.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 26 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US to train military officials

The US plans to further its nascent engagement with the Myanmar military next month through a workshop for about 30 mid-level security officials at the National Defence College in Nay Pyi Taw.

The workshop will be led by US instructors, and is part of Washington’s efforts to help the Tatmadaw - and other security forces - professionalise and encourage it to come under civilian command. The five-day workshop is being funded by the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, a Department of Defence research centre in Hawaii.

"This workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to expand their understanding of the concepts and best practices of modern civil-military relations, including promoting civilian control of the military and improving trust and understanding between civilian and military leaders," said a spokesperson from the US embassy in Yangon.

Military-to-military cooperation between the US and Myanmar has so far been limited to workshops and training as the two countries work to rebuild ties after years of sanctions and isolation. Fledgling military engagement began with a similar course undertaken by the US Defence Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS) in August 2013.

Lieutenant General Anthony Crutchfield, deputy commander of the US Pacific Command, addressed the issue in a speech to Tatmadaw officials at the National Defence College in June.

"Simply put, militaries possess capabilities that are too powerful to be placed at the discretion of just a few people. Rather, they must be at the service of all people and used in accordance with the democratic will of the people," Lt Gen Crutchfield said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Myanmar Times, Thursday, 31 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China denies end of rail line

Chinese ambassador to Myanmar Yang Houlan denied the end of Kyaukphyu-Kunming Railway. He announced the project will be continued if the Myanmar people agree to do it. He revealed his willingness to continue the project hoping that residents support the project and there was no voice against it.

The only thing they noticed is that a small group takes political advantage by opposing the project. What is more, Myanmar and China can choose the good friend, not the neighbour, Houlan said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 1 August 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rakhine Bengalis won’t apply for citizenship

Newly-appointed Rakhine Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn said that some Bengali residents of the State are refusing to apply for citizenship, but the applications of those who do apply will be processed systematically.

Citizenship will only be granted to those who apply for it, he said after some Bengali residents of Myaypon Township declined to participate in the application process. Maung Maung Ohn said 1,095 Bengali residents had applied for citizenship so far, but that about 350 continue to refuse to participate in the process.

Those who have yet to participate in the process also declined to explain why they are, for now, declining to apply for citizenship. "We can check to see whether they qualify for citizenship or not only after they apply," he said. "The 1,095 Bengalis who have applied will be checked at the township, state and union level," Maung Maung Ohn told reporters on July 26.

Maung Maung Ohn has said that "illegal migrants" will be treated in accord with international laws. "The government on its part will be unbiased and deal with this matter in conformity with the laws," he said earlier. Maung Maung Ohn also said the communities had agreed to live separately after the Bengalis are granted citizenship.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 1 August 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Zealand Minister sees trade potential

Bilateral trade with New Zealand is set to grow after Burma’s 2015 election, the antipodean nation’s minister for economic development has predicted.

Steven Joyce told The Irrawaddy in the New Zealand capital of Wellington on 30 July that his country’s government was looking to improve trade relations with the fast-growing Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region, which would also see the prospects for business between Burma and New Zealand improve.

He said New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, was keen to connect the two countries’ economies as Burma emerges from dictatorship under the quasi-civilian government that took power in 2011.

"The foreign minister is a big fan of developing the trade relationship with Burma, he is putting significant effort in the space as part of a wider Asean agreement," Joyce said.

Kiwi business people are active in other Southeast Asian countries and are watching Burma closely, he said. "I think you will see trade growth quite quickly soon," Joyce added.

New Zealand is interested in Burma as a growing market for its dairy products, which make up more than a fifth of the country’s total exports, as well as for its potential for agribusiness, consultancy services and telecommunications, the minister said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Irrawaddy, 1 August 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PTA draft sent for India’s consent

A new Power Trade Agreement (PTA) drafted by a three-member cross-party panel has been forwarded to India for approval. The draft that incorporates inputs from the Ministry of Energy is focused on power trade between the two countries.

It says that the power tariff would be determined by the market while third parties would not be barred from a power deal in Nepal and India. After the panel comprising Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat from the Nepali Congress, Bhim Rawal from the CPN-UML and Narayan Kaji Shrestha from the UCPN (Maoist) agreed on the draft, it was forwarded to the heads of their parties for consent.

The draft was forwarded to the Indian side through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If India agrees to Nepal’s proposal, it should be approved by the Cabinet in Kathmandu. While the major parties are one on signing the PTA during Modi’s visit, they seem to be divided over the project development agreement (PDA) plan for Upper Karnali Project.

The Upper Karnali PDA negotiation is in final stage. The parties and the government are running out of time to finalise the PDA which needs clearance from the Investment Board Nepal, the political leadership and the Cabinet. Some leaders in the all-party meeting called by PM Sushil Koirala on 31 July sought parliamentary approval for both PTA and PDA.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Ekantipur, 1 August 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget discussion put off yet again

Deliberation over Appropriations Bill scheduled to start in the parliament on 31 July has been deferred yet again due to objections from the main opposition UCPN (Maoist). Though discussions over the bill were originally set to begin from 25 July, it had been delayed after the government failed to provide the budget books on time. The budget books (red books) include all the programs and ministry-wise budgets allocated for various development regions, districts and local areas for the current fiscal year.

Speaker Subash Nembang suspended the House activities already scheduled for Thursday after lawmakers from the main opposition party UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based parties warned of obstructing the parliamentary proceedings expressing their serious objections over exclusion of programs earlier introduced by the government headed by UCPN (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai.

Speaker Nembang informed the House that the discussions over budget have been postponed for 7 August. The previous estimation of concluding the discussions by 21 August may have to be extended by nearly two weeks, said a source at the parliament secretariat. The parliament secretariat source said that the discussion has been shelved for until after the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 1 August 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">All-party meeting ahead of Modi visit

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala on 31 July held a consultation meeting with parties represented in the Constituent Assembly on the eve of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s impending visit to Nepal.

In the all-party meeting held at the Prime Minister´s official residence at Baluwatar, Prime Minister Koirala, Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat and Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey informed about the preparations regarding the Indian PM´s visit and the memoranda of understanding reached in the meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission.

Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Narendra Modi, is arriving here on 3 August on a two-day visit to Nepal. The leaders of the parties participating in the meeting suggested taking the Indian PM´s visit as an opportunity to be utilized in the interest of both countries.

President of the Samajbadi Janata Party Prem Bahadur Singh, who attended the all-party meeting, said suggestions were provided on the occasion to take initiatives for having Indian cooperation in large infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Upper Karnali Hydroelectricity Project, the Midhill Highway and the Hulaki Highway, among others.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 31 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Report names 323 civilian casualties of drone-attacks

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s "Naming the Dead" project has recorded the names of over 700 people who were reportedly killed by CIA drones in Pakistan. 323 of these are reported to be civilian victims including 99 children according to a press release.

The project has published names of 568 people killed in more than 370 drone strikes since 2004. This is the largest publicly available list of drone victims. The list draws on media reports, court documents and other open sources.

According to the data gathered by the project, at least 2342 people have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan. However, only 700 have been identified so far. Only 295 reported militants killed in drone strikes have been identified despite claims made by the United States of America that only militants are killed in these attacks. An additional 95 people identified by the Bureau are classified as ’unknown’, i.e., it is unclear if they were civilians or militants.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 1 August 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army deployed in Islamabad

The federal government’s decision to deploy the army in Islamabad under Article 245 of the Constitution is in effect from 1 August 2014. The military has the mandate to aid civilian law-enforcement agencies in securing the capital city for the next three months.

Five companies of the army have been deployed in various parts of the city to secure the main offices of the judiciary, Parliament House, Presidency and Prime Minister Houses, foreign missions, foreign office and other important installations. One army company is deployed at Margalla Hills and on the road that connects the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Islamabad.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has decided that it will take up the matter in the National Assembly session due to start on August 4. The party has rejected the government’s decision to invoke the article and a statement issued by the party’s central information secretary has stated that resorting to Article 245 signals an admission of failure to govern.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 1 August 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Terrorists won’t be allowed to return’

Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif has said that he will never allow terrorists to return to North Waziristan, where the Zarb-e-Azb operation is currently underway. He addressed troops on the front lines of the operation on Eid day and stayed overnight at Miranshah Camp.

According to a statement released by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Gen Sharif said, "Now that their command and communication infrastructure has been disrupted, we will never allow them to return."

He expressed satisfaction with the achievements and progress of the ongoing military operation and also visited the Internally Displaced Persons camps. He assured the IDPs the wholehearted support of the Army and the nation in providing them relief and an ultimate resettlement plan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 1 August 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Boat people’ will never ever be resettled in Australia

Australia was working with India for the return of Tamil migrants among 157 asylum-seekers currently being held at a detention centre in the country, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said.

The group of Tamil asylum-seekers, including at least 37 children, are held in the Curtin Detention Centre after being on sea for several days.

The group was said to be from Puducherry. "People who are Tamils in India are not subject to persecution as a result of their Tamil ethnicity, and that is, I think, widely understood," said Morrison.

"People have left India and the suggestion was that people were being persecuted in India, and my simple statement was is that’s obviously a non-sense," Morrison told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). He was responding to a criticism by a Green Senator on the return of the detained group to India.

"And that’s why I have been working with the Indian Government to come to an arrangement where many of them who have been resident in India for a very long time could be considered for return," he said.

"Now, they may well have wished to return to India rather than the other options that are on the table here, which is obviously offshore processing," the minister said.

Morrison said negotiations were underway with Indian officials to deal with the issue and the first step was to allow the consular officials to meet the group.

"Now, if they choose not to do that, then that’s a matter for them, and it could be possible that all of them may choose not to speak to Indian consular officials, and in so doing, they will pass up an opportunity to -- potentially to be reunited with their families in India."

Morrison said three options were being currently worked out with India. "One was that they could be taken to India where that process which I have talked about, their identity and so on, could be assessed," he said adding that the option was not accepted by India.

"It could also be done on the ship and that was logistically difficult to get Australian Indian consular officials to that ship, and so in those circumstances, we chose to do it this way," he said.

But if no-one chooses to talk to Indian consular officials, then the government’s policy is very clear and they will go to offshore processing, said Morrison.

"They will never, ever be resettled in Australia and that will be the outcome and nor will they ever be able to probably ever go back to India again."

Morrison said there was no discussion with the Sri Lankan government about taking back the people on the boat.

"I will tell you why - that voyage did not come from Sri Lanka. It came from India," he said. "People were living in India or had transited through India," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 31 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt rules out constitutional changes

Amidst strong speculation that the government was planning to amend the constitution to dilute the joint oppositions call for the Executive Presidency to be abolished, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwalle yesterday denied that the there was any such move.

Asked, at the Cabinet Press Briefing in Colombo if the ruling UPFA was feeling the pressure at the ever increasing call for the Executive Presidency to be abolished or diluted in a manner that the Chief Executive was answerable to Parliament, he replied in the negative.

There was no truth in the stories circulating that a constitutional amendment would be introduced shortly, the Minister said adding that it was mere speculation.

The National Movement for Justice (NMSJ), led by Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera said last week that it was in the process of preparing its Presidential Election manifesto which would contain a draft constitutional amendment to abolish the Executive Presidency and also re-introduce the 17th Amendment to the Constitution which had established the Election, Public Service, Police, Human Rights, Bribery and Corruption, Finance and Delimitation Commissions. With UPFA constituents National Freedom Front (NFF) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) deciding to contest the forthcoming Uva Provincial Council Election on their own, the minister said that they were confident of securing the support both parties at national polls.

"There is no problem with the NFF and the JHU going it alone at local and provincial level and it has happened earlier. We are confident that when it comes to national issues both the NFF and JHU would back the UPFA Rambukwalle said.

Claiming that there were no serious problems in the UPFA, the Minister said that the freedom given to smaller parties to contest on their own at local and provincial level, proved that there was democracy within the ruling alliance.

Both the NFF and JHU have opposed the government’s decision to widen the scope of Sri Lanka’s Missing Persons Commission mandate to include allegations of war crimes which were being investigated separately by a UN panel.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island 1 August 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mullah Omar denounces elections, BSA

Mullah Omar, the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban, issued a statement on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr rejecting the ongoing presidential elections as a "fake process". He claimed that majority of Afghans had boycotted the electoral process as they considered it to be essentially a selection process, where decisions were made by the US.

He also called upon the US and European governments to let the Afghans decide upon an independent Islamic system based on their own religious and national aspirations.

He also warned that the Taliban will continue to wage war in Afghanistan until all foreign troops were withdrawn from the country. He said that the even presence of "limited number of troops under whatever title it may be will mean continuation of occupation and the war". He urged the Afghan government officials to not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US.

However, he also claimed that none of the regional countries had anything to fear from the Taliban as he stressed that they were not going to interfere in the internal affairs of any other country. He stressed that the Taliban’s sole objective was to form an independent Islamic state in Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Voice of Jihad, 25 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Disagreements over poll-audit persist

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan this week accepted the guidelines laid out by the UN regarding the recount and invalidation of ballots. The UN proposal includes a total of 13 points that outline the invalidation of ballots and ballot boxes.

According to the criteria suggested by the UN, the following are among the reasons that constitute for vote invalidation: absence of IEC stamp and signatures of observers on the ballot result sheets; similar marks on the ballots; presence of 600 or over ballots in favor of one candidate; difference in the result sheets and ballots; broken ballot boxes; other signs of fraud, such as the absence of ballot boxes along with the list of voters in each box.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) hailed the decision of the IEC to adopt these guidelines.

However, the two presidential candidates have not yet reached an agreement. Dr Abdullah Abdullah’s team stressed that the UN proposal for termination of votes does not ensure the discarding of fake votes from the genuine votes. Dr Ashraf Ghani, however, accepted the proposal.

His team claimed that all "issues related to the vote auditing process have been undertaken and there is no reason for further delay of the process. Viewpoints of the both teams have been referred to the UN and the UN has prepared a plan which comprises the perspective of both teams".

The auditing process has already been halted thrice since it started and is moving along at an extremely slow rate.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 30-31 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Concerns over Taliban’s summer offensive

A number of high profile attacks undertaken by the Taliban have raised concerns about the efficiency and leadership of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). In particular, President Hamid Karzai’s policy of releasing a number of suspected militants and his directive that the ANSF should stop using heavy weaponry against the Taliban has been severely criticised.

A number of prominent Afghans and civil society organisations have called upon President Karzai to end his "policies of appeasement" towards the Taliban. A number of recent attacks have also been traced back to militants that have been recently released from imprisonment.

This week the Taliban carried out to other high profile attacks, which led to the death of President Karzai’s cousin Hashmat Karzai and the District Mayor of Mohammad Agha in eastern Logar province, Saifullah. Mr Karzai was killed in a suicide attack with the bomb hidden in the turban of the attacker, who blew himself up while greeting Mr Karzai at his residence on the occasion of Eid.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 1 August 2014; Tolo News, 29-30 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP to launch movement

Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s Senior Vice Chairman and son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia Tarique Rahman this week said that a tough movement soon will be be launched in Bangladesh anew under the leadership of party Chairperson Khaleda Zia demanding the holding of a fresh election under a non-partisan and neutral administration.

Tarique also informed that he would rejoin active politics back home in time. He made this comments in an interview with a leading Bangladeshi English daily. Tarique is living in London on a self-exile since 2008.

However, ruling Awami League (AL) leaders scoffed at rival BNP’s threat to launch an anti-government movement. "Around 40 per cent votes were cast in the January 5 election and the people have also accepted the result. Therefore, it is not possible to oust the AL-led government before the completion of its tenure," health minister Mohammad Nasim said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rejected outright any dialogue with the BNP on the next general election. "Why do I have to sit with killers? Every initiative had been made to bring them to talks. The election was held somehow and people have accepted it. Forty percent people cast votes. Then what is the necessity of calling them to talks again?" she questioned.

International community is urging government for a dialogue. The United Nations (UN) has stressed the need to create conditions that would lead to a level-playing field through inclusive elections in Bangladesh. "We need to create conditions that would allow the two leading political parties to compete on a level-playing field and this would allow Bangladeshi voters the choice that they want to have," Neal Walker, UN resident coordinator in Dhaka.

BNP boycotted the 5 January election for the national Parliament as a result almost 50 percent of the candidates were elected uncontested.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rampal power plant to start by end-2018

The Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Generation Company Ltd (BIFPCL) is set to start electricity generation from Rampal thermal power plant by December 2018.

The tentative commissioning date and project-related issues were discussed in a board meeting of the BIPCL this week in New Delhi. The meeting was chaired by Bangladesh power secretary Monowar Islam and attended by NTPC chairman Arup Roy Choudhury. Bangladesh joint power secretary Anwar Hossain, senior officials of the Bangladesh Power Board, NTPC and BIFPCL were also present.

The BIFPCL, a 50-50 joint venture company of the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) and NTPC of India, has assessed that the project would require an investment of around USD 1.2-1.4 billion.

The joint venture company will set up a 1,320 MW project at Rampal in Bagerhat district in Khulna division in Bangladesh. The government has acquired 1,834 acres to implement the power project, which is named Maitree. India and Bangladesh government had signed a joint venture agreement (JVA) with India in January 2012.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The independent, 28 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tripura wants 100 border ’haats’ with Bangladesh

Tripura, the north eastern state of India bordering Bangladesh, is seeking at least 100 border ’haats’ or markets to boost local trade, even its export-import with Bangladesh picks up sharply. Another bordering State Meghalaya is also seeking at least 22 ’border haats’.

Tripura’s Member of Parliament Jiten Chaudhury has said in a recent seminar on India-Bangladesh relations held in Kolkata that there was a demand for more than 100 ’border haats’ in the state’s border with Bangladesh. "Our people are used to open border with Bangladesh and now with the barbed wire fencing, trade and exchanges are suffering. So people want border haats for local trade at all possible places," Jiten Chaudhury opined.

The Central government in India has cleared four border haats on Tripura-Bangladesh border and as many on the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border and only a few of them are complete.

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

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

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


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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