MonitorsPublished on Jun 08, 2012
Bangladesh, once described as 'basket case' by veteran US strategist Henry Kissinger, has gathered new prominence in US' South Asia policy. The visit of US Secretary of State by Hillary Clinton in May this year that resulted in signing of a joint statement
Bangladesh: Warming up to the US on all fronts
< class="heading1">Analysis

Bangladesh, once described as ’basket case’ by veteran US strategist Henry Kissinger, has gathered new prominence in US’ South Asia policy. The visit of US Secretary of State by Hillary Clinton in May this year that resulted in signing of a joint statement that talks of regular consultation at the level of the Foreign Secretary in Bangladesh and the Under Secretary of State in the US, alternately in Washington and Dhaka, marks the new focus in US policy.

Hillary Clinton’s visit broke the period of chill that had persisted in the US-Bangladesh relationship for sometime now. Hillary visited Bangladesh as part of her three-nation trip, which included China and India. Apart from firming up strategic ties, Hillary also had personal intention in visiting Bangladesh. Bangladesh is home of two of her close friends, Noble laureate and founder of leading micro-credit organization Grameen Bank,Dr. Muhammad Yunus and Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC, claimed to be the world largest NGO. Besides meeting political leaders like Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the BNP Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia, she also met Yunus and Abed.

Hillary’s friendship with Yunus is well known. US-Bangladesh relationship had faced some jinks over Bangladesh Government’s removal of Yunus from Grameen. The US had been open about its criticism of Dhaka?s handling of the issue. Yunus has run out of the favour of the present Government because he tried to launch a political party during the rule of military-backed caretaker Government in 2007. His move to launch a party was perceived as wanting to create an alternative to the dominant political parties, like the ruling Awami League and the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). This move by Yunus did not go well with the Awami League leadership, and it was widely believed that political vendetta had motivated his removal.

The US? key interest in Bangladesh began after it launched the global war on against terror. Washington was thrilled to see democracy in whatever functional form as it existed in Bangladesh, a Muslim majority country with people having reasonably moderate view towards religion. This feature of Bangladesh went well with the American definition of a ’liberal Muslim democracy’ to showcase to other Islamic nations, where religious views are not so liberal and the US has been struggling to establish democratic values there.

Counter-terrorism has been one of the key objectives of the US in Bangladesh. The US is heavily engaged in Bangladesh, imparting counter-terrorism measures to the armed forces, law enforcement agencies and other authorities. To charm Bangladesh further, it has been investing in poverty-alleviation programmes and initiatives to counter climate-change impact. Bangladesh being an impoverish country, and such initiatives means a lot since the country is heavily dependent on foreign aid to run various socio-economic development programmes. The US is one of the largest donors in Bangladesh.

However, the new American interest in Bangladesh has also been seen in line to counter China, which is increasing its influence in South Asia. China occupies a position of influence in Bangladesh. It is not only the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh but is also the largest supplier of weapons to the armed forces, a major point of leverage for China. However, the US is trying to make up on this front also by beefing up its engagement with the Bangladesh army. It is planning to increase arms sale to Bangladesh. Dhaka will be buying four military aircraft from the US.

People in Bangladesh are sceptical about American engagement, largely due to historical reasons. The US supported Pakistan during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971. Nonetheless, they recognise the influence that the US commands in world affairs and support some moderate engagement with the US. In contrast to China, the most important trigger that the US has in Bangladesh is economic cooperation. Bangladesh’s trade with China heavily favours the latter, as imports into the former are more. In the case of the US, trade favours Bangladesh. The US is the biggest export-destination of Bangladeshi products, mostly readymade garments (RMG) which comprises a lion’s share of Bangladesh?s exports. Thousands of people are involved in the RMG sector, a constituency which is difficult to overlook.

The US’ cozing up to Bangladesh is being watched closely by India, the major power in the region. Soon after the Clinton visit, the media in India claimed that the US has proposed to Bangladesh, to develop a naval base in Chittagong to dock its Seventh Fleet. However, authorities in both Bangladesh and the US have denied such claims. Whatever is the truth, it is evident that Bangladesh is acquiring prominence to the great powers in their power-play in the South Asian region.

Bhutan: Social media, Election Commission and 2013 polls

Among the youngest of the world’s democracies, Bhutan is in the process of embracing the technology in the strides of its democratisation process. The nation?s Election Commission is formulating a policy on the use of social media by political parties and candidates as tools of election-campaign. To this end, it is proposed that the political parties and candidates are to submit the links of the social media networks that they will be using for campaign to the returning officer during the time of filing nomination papers or letter of intent.

This policy directive by the EC also aims at regulating the use of the social media in the political and electoral processes by fixing responsibility and accountability. This also aims at effective use of this medium of mass communication by election officials, political parties, candidates and their supporters, and media groups during election periods.

As a means of checking unethical campaign practices, the EC’s directive states that this tool of mass communication cannot be a platform for communication hate messages or any other form of negative campaigning. The EC?s definition of social media comprises those communication applications that include the mobile phone and internet. Their use shall be governed by the existing rules and regulations of that are covered by the Election Act, Media Coverage of Elections Rules, Election Advertising Rules and Fundamental Principles.

However, the effectiveness of the social media as a tool in the hands of political parties and politicians is yet to be judged since the nascent democracy is yet to undertake an electoral process in a socially networked society. The nation, during its first polls in 2008, had limited communication networks that included mobile phone and internet/email facility. The number of such users has increased dramatically in the last few years. By the going trend, one can expect Bhutan to be fairly well net-worked by 2013, when the nation is expected to head for fresh elections.

According to the statistics of the Ministry of Information and Communication, the number of internet-subscribers has seen an increase of over 400 per cent, from 12,542 users in 2009 to 94,285 in 2010. A similar rise but at a much lower levels is also witnessed in mobile phone subscription. As of 2009, the number of mobile phone users stood at 327,052. At a growth-rate of 20 per cent, the figure now stands at under four lakhs. Thus, Bhutan, with a population of just over seven lakhs, has an impressive mobile phone penetration of 57 per cent.

This efforts of the EC is in line with the overall efforts of the Kingdom in introducing democracy and sustaining it in a manner that does not degenerate into ways witnessed in other parts of the world, especially in the rest of the South Asian neighbourhood. These measures are also in line with the political climate that already exists in the nation, wherein internal political restructuring is happening fast, taking the form new political parties and reorganisation of existing ones.

Despite the fact that the nation has more than a year left for its second tryst with democratic elections, Bhutan seems to be all geared up for the same. However, to ensure a level-playing field for all political aspirants, the directive by the State that all forms of electronic communication via social media shall not bear the name of civil servants, religious leaders, armed forces and members of the royal family. Such a move gains added fuel in the Bhutanese context, since the royal family and religious figures are held in high esteem by the people.

Bhutan, in conclusion is paving the way of embracing technology driven democracy/ elations despite being the latest addition into the comity of nations that has embrace this form of governance.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget presented

Finance Minister AMA Muhith, on June 7, presented $23.4-billion budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. He projected a 7.2 per cent growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and aimed at capping the deficit at five per cent of the GDP.

The Finance Minister suggested a 22 per cent rise in tax revenue, to 1.4 trillion taka largely on account of improvements in tax-collection and crackdown on evasion, to help the rise in spending. The Minister said that the Government aimed at limiting its deficit to five per cent of the GDP in the fiscal year 2012-13 starting in July, down from a revised 5.1 percent in the previous year.

He also was optimistic that the inflation to ease to 7.5 percent in the next fiscal year, given the declining trend in food prices in the international market and satisfactory domestic farm output.He hoped exports, mainly garments, will remain a key growth driver for the economy, along with remittances from expatriate Bangladeshis. Several economists described the budget as an effort to come out from the existing economic crisis. Others, however, termed it "ambitious" as the 7.2 percent growth target would be the highest for the impoverished South Asian country since 1973-74, when the economy grew 9.59 percent.

The Opposition was absent from Parliament when budget was presented
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, June 8, 2012/, June 7, 2012

30 BNP leaders granted bail

The High Court has granted bail to 30 detained Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders, including the party’s acting Secretary-General MirzaFakhrul Islam Alamgir, in an arson case.

The leaders of the opposition BNP were arrested in early May on charges of their involvement in arson during a day-long protest movement staged by the BNP in April. The bail will bring some solace to the Opposition party as it was demanding their release. The Opposition accuses that the arrest of its leaders was politically-motivated.

The Indian minister was talking to a group of Bangladeshi journalists visiting New Delhi. More time for Teesta

The Indian Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has informed Bangladesh that the signing of the Teesta water-sharing treaty will take a little more time. Bansal further added that the Government of India was engaged in discussions with the West Bengal State Government and was optimistic in the matter.

The Indian minister was talking to a group of Bangladeshi journalists visiting New Delhi.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, June 8, 2012/, June 7, 2012
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Envoys present papers

Abelardo Cueto Sosa, the new Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Bhutan, and Larbi Reffouh, the first Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Bhutan presented their credentials to King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck.

Bhutan established diplomatic relations with Cuba and Morocco in September 2011. Morocco is the first African nation to establish formal diplomatic ties with Bhutan.

The Ambassador designates also called on the Prime Minister, Jigmi Y Thinley, at Gyalyong Tshogkhang. They offered support and assistance in the areas of university education, human resource development, and support in tourism and medical sector

The Cuban envoy also committed two additional MBBS scholarships for Bhutanese students, when he met the Health Minister Zangley Dukpa. Ambassador Sosan also said that the Cuban Government was mindful of the request made for 20 specialist doctors to work in Bhutan and committed that he would push the request with authorities back home.

< class="text11verdana">, June 6, 2012;, June 8, 2012
India gives Rs 3.61 b

The Government of India has handed over 11 cheques totalling to Rs 3.61billion to the Government of Bhutan. Of the total amount, Rs 2.5 b was for the on-going Tenth Plan and the remaining Rs 1.11 b, excise duty refund for 2009.

Out of the Rs 2.5 b, Rs 1.33B b was for small development projects, which included the construction of basic infrastructure like schools, hospitals, and water supply, andRs 0.82 for projects-tied assistance such as the construction of sub-district court, the Supreme Court and the Gelephu-Trongsa highway. The remaining Rs 0.35B was a programme grant, used wherever the host Government had a deficit.

Handing the cheque over to Finance Minister Wangdi Norbu at Tashichhodzong, Indian Ambassador, Pavan K Varma said that despite the current fiscal and financial difficulties in India, the fund was in line with GoI?s commitment for expeditious release of funds for various schemes and projects of Indo-Bhutan bilateral cooperation.

With the country having received Rs 2.5 b for the Tenth Plan, the Bhutanese Government so far has received 75 per cent or Rs 25.4 b of the committed Rs 34 b from GoI. The total fund of Rs 34 b is released in three categories, of Rs 7 b for small development projects, Rs 7 b in programme assistance and Rs 20 b for project-tied assistance.

< class="text11verdana">, June 7, 2012
New political party

A new political party, ’Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party? has entered the fray ahead of the 2013 elections. Party spokesperson, Sonam Tobgay, said the party will champion balanced regional economic development. He said the party intends to initiate economic reforms that will improve the living conditions of all Bhutanese and not any particular groups or individual.

The party symbol has five coloured circles. The yellow circle signifies the country’s unique culture that values loyalty to the Tsawa-sum. The green circle symbolises sustainable management and growth of natural resources. The brown circle signifies broad-based regionally balanced economic growth. The red signifies the united conviction towards equitable social development. The blue represents good governance.

< class="text11verdana">, June 6, 2012
Site for first hydro-power repair centre

Bhutan is expected to have its first hydro-power repair centre in Jigmeling, Gelephu that will fix turbines and other parts of hydro-power plants by the year 2014.

The Druk Green Power Corporation has inked an agreement to this effect with Alstom for the construction of the centre. The partnership will be implemented as a joint venture, with DGPC holding 51 percent and French major Alstom 49 percent.Once established, the centre is expected to create 160 jobs for Bhutanese and, in the first year of its operation, it is expected to employ around 62 people.

In an earlier interview, hydro-power officials said the centre will reduce rupee outflow to some extent, as parts of hydro-power plants need not be sent to India for repair and maintenance. It is also expected to earn rupees, as the centre will not only cater to Bhutanese hydro-power projects but also extend its services to hydro-power plants in north-east India. This is expected to bring added advantage, as India is already focusing on tapping the huge hydro-power resources in its north-eastern States of India.

< class="text11verdana">, June 8, 2012
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM unveils infrastructure plan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday laid out ambitious infrastructure development plans for the current fiscal year, in an effort to counter criticism over a perceived policy paralysis that has led India into its worst slowdown in nearly a decade.

The steps are aimed at giving a push to big-ticket investments that will help revive growth and restore investor confidence, which has been battered by stalled reforms and the worsening global and domestic economies.

Under the plan, the Government will award contracts for building two ports and three airports, and will add 18,000 megawatts of power-generation capacity in the year that began on April 1, Singh said in a meeting with cabinet ministers and top government officials.

< class="text11verdana">, June 6, 2012
US wants greater Indian role in Afghanistan

Visiting US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta encouraged Indian leaders on Tuesday to take a more active role in Afghanistan as international forces leave, saying Washington viewed Pakistan’s long-time rival as a source of regional security.

Panetta, in the first of two days of talks with Indian officials, "underscored the link India plays between East and West Asia, and how the US views India as a net provider of security from the Indian Ocean to Afghanistan and beyond", Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

India signed a security agreement with Afghanistan last year and has long-standing ties with Kabul, but the relationship is viewed with suspicion by Pakistan. The Afghan conflict is considered by some to be a proxy war between the two nuclear neighbours.

< class="text11verdana">, June 5, 2012
Ties with China to expand

Citing the development of relations that were moving "smoothly" and had turned the corner after years of "hiccups," Indian and Chinese officials on Thursday discussed expanding the ties in new areas, from taking forward talks on Central Asia and trans-boundary rivers to looking into opening new consulates to boost engagement.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna met his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi here for 40 minutes of talks on bilateral relations, meeting on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.

The two countries confirmed that they would discuss the issue of trans-border rivers next month, when a working group would meet to carry forward the earlier discussions, in which they had agreed to share hydrological data.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, June 8, 2012
Anti-graft crusaders back

The anti-corruption crusaders tried to breathe new life into their sagging movement Sunday when two of the harshest critics of the Government came together for the first time to fast and protest new graft allegations.

But old rifts reopened when the demonstration was marred by disagreement onstage, raising doubts about the movement?s ability to mount a formidable challenge to India?s corruption-tainted Government.

< class="text11verdana">, June 4, 2012
Air India loses $ 63 m to strike

A strike by pilots at Air India entered its 26th day Saturday, with the airline’s revenue loss reaching 3.5 billion rupees ($63 mi) due to flight cancellations. The airline’s survival may be at stake if the pilots do not come back to work, IANS news agency quoted Air India Chairman Rohit Nandan as saying.

The pilots began their unofficial and unauthorized strike on May 8. More than 200 have stayed away from work since then by reporting sick. Air India’s management has so far in response sacked 101 pilots.

< class="text11verdana">, June 2, 2012
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CNI releases February 7 timeline

Ahead of expansion as desired by the Commonwealth and demanded by the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) formed to investigate the events related to the change of Government, has published a timeline of events from 14 January to 7 February. The timeline was based on the CNI’s investigations so far, and published for the purpose of obtaining public opinion.

The published account claims that then President Mohammed Nasheed had ordered the removal of the police from the Artificial Beach on the night of February 7, when the protesting cadres of the then ruling MDP and the political Opposition were in a combative mood, reportedly leading to frustrated cops joining the anti-President protests the next day. The CNI account also claims that the MNDF was brought in only on the insistence of the policemen about to be withdrawn but was itself withdrawn after President Nasheed gave a personal promise to army commander Ibrahim Didi that the MDP cadres would not resort to violence ? which they instead did.

The timeline also refers to how President Nasheed asked the then Male Police Commissioner to resign at midnight, February 6-7, when he argued against withdrawing the police without replacement, and how his Defence Minister changed the MNDF ground commander the next morning when he declined to arrest the protesting policemen, citing practical reasons. The published accounts claim that President Nasheed refused to order the use of ammunition for the MNDF to arrest the protesting police men in the Republic Square on the morning of February 7. Nor would he want the MNDF to arrest their men who would not carry out the orders ? versions as claimed by him, post-resignation.

The MDP has since contested the publication of the timeline, saying it was a ?blatant attempt at concealing the truth by pre-empting an impartial inquiry’’.

< class="text11verdana">Source:SunOnline, Minivan News, June 7, 2012
US Senator for early polls

Robert Casey, Chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs Sub-committee, has called for fresh elections in the Maldives at the earliest date possible, to ensure democracy is not at risk of being "derailed" in the tiny island nation.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted Senator Robert Casey as requesting the US "continue calls for elections to be held in the Maldives as soon as possible to ensure that the seeds of the democratic process planted in 2008 are able to flourish". The comments were reportedly made during the confirmation hearing in Washington DC of the US Ambassador-designate to Colombo Michele Sison.

Senator Casey claimed the Maldives remained an "important" ally to US interests. He raised concerns that the country’s ?democratic beginning’’ was in danger of being "derailed" due to the political unrest leading up to and following the controversial transfer of power in February.

SSison responded that the US continues to push Maldives to work within "existing democratic institutions" to ensure a resolution to its current political deadlock. "The US Government now has a window of opportunity to step up its engagement in Maldives, and USAID recently committed funding to assist Maldives in ensuring that the next round of presidential elections is free and fair," Sison was reported to have told Senators during the hearing.

Responding to the reported comments in the US Senate about early elections, Maldivian President Waheed?s Official Spokesperson Abbas AdilRiza referred to the recent comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commending agreements between President Waheed and the opposition MDP in seeking a political resolution in the country.In his statement, Ki-moon urged all political parties "to resume immediately their political dialogue, both within and outside of Parliament, in order to find a mutually agreeable way forward on the basis of the Constitution and without jeopardising the democratic gains achieved thus far in the Maldives"

< class="text11verdana">Source:Source: Minivan News, June 7, 2012
15 pc budget-cut for Govt offices

The Ministry of Finance has notified all Government offices to revise and reduce their budgets by 15 percent before the end of the month.A circular sent by Minister of Finance Abdullah Jihad last Sunday requests all Government offices and councils to reduce their budgets by 15 percent and submit the new budget to the Ministry of Finance before 15 June.

All State institutions of which the budgets are decided by the Parliament, as well as all other institutions, are notified to do the same before 20 June. "The budgets of those institutions which fail to meet the deadline to submit the revised budgets, will be reduced by 15 percent by this Ministry," reads the circular.

The Cabinet made the decision on 22 May to reduce the budgets of every Government institution by 15 percent. The Ministry has estimated that the budget of Rf14b proposed for this year will become Rf18b. This is a deficit of about Rf3.4b. The IMF has expressed concern over the rising state expenditure in the country. It is estimated that the deficit will increase to 27 percent.

< class="text11verdana">Source:SunOnline, Jun 7, 2012
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US open to defence ties

The US would be open to forging ties with Myanmar’s military if the country continues on a path of democratic reform, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said. "Obviously we encourage the reforms that they are hoping to put in place," Panetta said.

The Burmese service of Voice of America (VOA) has agreed to open an office in the country in the near future and share programs with state-run broadcasters.

< class="text11verdana">, June 2 2012;, June 7, 2012
Naval chief in Pakistan

Myanmar Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nyan Tun is on an official visit to Pakistan. Upon arrival at Naval Headquarters, the Admiral inspected a guard of honour. The visiting Admiral will also call on Defence Minister, CJCSC, Chief of Air Staff and naval administration authorities at Lahore and Karachi during his visit.

< class="text11verdana">, June 8, 2012
Ministers Resign

The State-run media, New Light of Myanmar, has said that Soe Aung, the Deputy Minister of Energy, had resigned alongside Tint Lwin, the Deputy Minister of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs, and Elections Commission member Thar Oo.

Both Soe Aung and Tint Lwin were civilian appointees to the respective ministries following the formation of Parliament in March 2011. Thar Oo was an EC commissioner as far back as the 1990 election.

The report did not offer any reasons for the resignations, only that President TheinSein had approved the moves. However, observers quickly noted that the ministers had relinquished their posts in the wake of protests in several cities against power shortages

Meanwhile, Thein Sein has refused to accept the resignation of one of his Vice-Presidents, Tin Aung Myint Oo, Government officials. He has apparently offered him two months medical leave instead.

Hardliner Tin Aung Myint Oo is reported to be suffering from throat cancer, and last month joined a Buddhist monastery, fuelling speculation of his resignation.

< class="text11verdana">, June 6, 2012
10 killed in communal clash

Police in a western Arakan State opened fire in an attempt to quell religious tensions in a town dominated by the Rohingya Muslim minority group, a Government official said. Police were said to have been deployed at more than a dozen villages in Rakhine State, along the Bay of Bengal, after houses were set on fire following a surge in sectarian unrest.

Tensions have flared in Rakhine since 10 Muslims were killed by an angry Buddhist mob. The cause for the clash is believed to have been a reaction to the alleged rape of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men on the May 28.

The violence threatens to overshadow reconciliation efforts since a series of dramatic political reforms last year ended almost half a century of military rule. This incident has been in continuation of the periodical religious clashed that takes place in the nations and in the Arakan and Rakhine State.

In February 2001, the then-ruling junta declared a curfew in the State capital Sittwe after clashes between Muslims and Buddhists. In a rare public response to civil unrest this time, the Government said it had established a committee to investigate the sectarian strife and expected to hear its findings by the end of June.

< class="text11verdana">, June 6, 2012
Tata to sell trucks

Indian corporate group’s Tata Motors has confirmed that it will soon begin selling heavy trucks to Myanmar as part of a purchase and sale agreement with Burma’s Apex Greatest Industrial Co. the company will sell commercial and passenger vehicles in t he nations based on the local market.

Tata Motors already signed a contract in March 2010 with Myanma Automobile and Diesel Industries Ltd, a firm operating under Ministry of Industry 2, whereby it would construct a heavy truck assembly plant at Magwe in central Myanmar a plant that is now operational.The domestically produced vehicles?constructed in industrial zones under joint-Chinese investment plans?are considerably cheaper than imported cars.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President calls for consensus

President Ram Baran Yadav has stressed on political consensus among the parties. He has told Nepali Congress (NC) and other smaller parties that consensus is a "must" and without which he can do "nothing."

He has also made it clear that he is bound by the Interim Constitution on the parties’ request to sack Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai immediately and revive the Constituent Assembly (CA) to end the current political impasse.

INC lawmakers have been demanding revival of the dissolved CA. On June 3, some 61 former lawmakers of the NC had issued a statement demanding revival of the CA to promulgate a new constitution.

The Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and other opposition parties have launched an agitation vowing to unseat the present coalition government and form a national unity government.

Another delegation of the Broader Madhesi Front (BMF) also urged the President to sack Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and make way for consensus. The BMF leader Upendra Yadav and other leaders met the President and requested the latter to resolve the political deadlock by holding a roundtable conference. The BMF also submitted a memorandum to the President asking him to remove the PM. It also termed the PM?s decision to hold fresh CA elections as unconstitutional.

< class="text11verdana">, June 6, 2012
Fuel shortage

Deepening petroleum crisis amidst frequent bandas and strikes in the month of May has badly affected civil construction of development projects, including national priority projects.

Diesel and kerosene are basic fuel for carrying out construction works and transportation of materials, but the Nepal Oil Corporation has failed to ensure smooth supply of fuel to the development projects across the country.

Officials and contractors have complained that the shortage has brought construction works of majority of development projects to a grinding halt. Even the projects of national pride such as the Mid-Hills Highway, Babai Irrigation, Sikta Irrigation, Kulekhani Hydropower Project and Melamchi Drinking Water Project have been badly hit by the scarcity.

< class="text11verdana">, June 8, 2012.
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Debt-servicing high in budget

The Federal Government has proposed a budget of Rs2.96 trillion for 2013. This is 18.2 per cent higher than the original 2012 budget, but only 0.6 per cent higher than what the Government actually ended up spending during the Fiscal year.

The largest portions of the budget will go towards debt-servicing (38.5 per cent) and defense (21.7 per cent). Rs191 billion will be spent on bailouts for state-owned enterprises, Rs70 billion on public safety, Rs48 billion on education and Rs7.8 billion on health respectively. The Government has also proposed for various major tax reforms, including raising the income tax exemption limit from Rs350,000 to Rs400,000.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Express Tribune, June 2, 2012
Iran ready to finance pipeline

Quoting an "informed source", the Fars news agency reports that Iran is prepared to finance the $7.5 billion gas pipeline project that aims to connect Pakistan to Iran?s vast natural gas reserves. Fars says, that"financial difficulties and obstruction by some Western countries have slowed down the construction of the pipeline on Pakistani soil". It adds, that " to speed up the progress, Iranian Oil Ministry officials have proposed that Iran is ready to invest in the construction of the pipeline inside Pakistan", in addition to the one in Iran.

The US has opposed the project strongly and has advised Islamabad to abandon it because of sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme. The construction of the pipeline is almost finished on Iran’s side of the border, but in Pakistan the plans have run into a standstill, as potential investors are afraid of the sanctions they might face by getting involved with the project.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The News International, June 7, 2012
Al-Qaeda second killed in Waziristan

White House spokesman Jay Carney stated on June 5, that the US Government has been able to confirm the death of al-Qaeda number two, Abu Yahya al-Libi. The officials have refused to confirm the circumstances surrounding Libi’s death, but it is most likely, that he was killed in a CIA drone-strike in Waziristan. According to earlier reports, the strike resulted in the death of 15 people.

Libi appeared in numerous al-Qaeda videos and was considered to be the chief propagandist of the group. His death could be a serious blow to al-Qaeda, while simultaneously it is likely boost Obama’s reputation under the upcoming US presidential elections. The strike resulting in Libi’s death might affect negatively the already strained relationship between Pakistan and the US.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Dawn, June 6, 2012
Bombing leaves 15 dead in Quetta

A bomb blast killed at least 15 persons and injured more than 48 outside a madrassa in Quetta. Five of the people killed were children between the ages of six and eight. The explosion took place during a certificate awarding ceremony in the madrassa and most of the victims were students of the seminary.

The bomb was attached to a bicycle parked outside the seminary and it was detonated using a remote control. According to the bomb disposal squad, five to six kilograms of explosive was used. Three cars and a shop were also damaged in the attack.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Daily Times, June 8, 2012
Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President misses C?wealth address, meets Pope

In London for British monarch, Queen Elizabeth?s diamond jubilee celebrations, President Mahinda Rajapaksa missed delivering the keynote address at the Commonwealth Economic Forum, organised as part of the fete, after the hosts cancelled the programme, following anti-Sri Lanka protests by Tamil Diaspora groups

This is the second time since December 2010 that President Rajapaksa’s programme has been cancelled in the UK under Diaspora pressure, the earlier occasion being his scheduled address at the Oxford Union. The President however participated in other functions connected with the celebrations, along with First Lady, including lunch appointments and meetings with the Queen, the British Prime Minister and other leaders.

President Rajapaksa also visited Vatican, where he had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. According to a Holy See Press office statement, the two expressed the hope that a joint solution corresponding to the legitimate expectations of all the parties involved would be found.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Daily Mirror Online, 6 & 8, 2012
China pledges closer military ties

The Chinese Minister of National Defence, Gen Lisng Guanglie, pledged that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was prepared to provide Sri Lanka with whatever assistance that may be needed in case of any emergency, catastrophe or otherwise during a meeting with Army Commander Lt-Gen Jagath Jayasuriya in Beijing.

At the meeting, Gen Guanglie elaborated the roles and tasks assigned to him in the PLA as well as in the sphere of Chinese defence and its related strategic planning in his capacity as Minister of National Defence. Gen Jayasuriya discussed opportunities that could be made available to the People?s Liberation Army (PLA) trainees in Sri Lanka’s various post-war training exercises and module during the meeting with PLA Chief of General Staff, General Ma Xiaotian.

In Colombo, the two nations signed an agreement for China’s Sinohydro Corporation to build the Moragahakanda Project, the second largest tank ever built in Sri Lanka. "We are grateful for the assistance given by China. In a few years we hope to become a country that will not depend on foreign loans and fund our own development," Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said at the signing ceremony. "This is yet another step in that direction," he said.

The total cost of the venture is estimated to be $382 million. In the first stage, the project is expected to provide water to 82,000 hectares of farming land.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Daily Mirror Online, June 7 & 8, 2012
40 pc more sugar planned

The Productivity Promotion Ministry expects to increase Sri Lanka?s sugar production to 40% by 2020 by enhancing the production capacities of the Sevanagala and Pelwatte sugar factories, Productivity Promotion Minister Lakshman Seveniratne said.

Since it was taken over by the Government under the Under-Performing Enterprises and Under-utilised Assets Act in November, 2011, the Sevanagala Sugar Factory had harvested 130,000 metric tons of sugar cane after cultivating 2,211 hectares and from this had produced 11,000 metric tonnes of sugar, Minister Seneviratne said.

?By the year 2014 we expect to cultivate around 37,000 hectares and be in a position to harvest 240,000 metric tonnes of sugar cane, giving employment to 200 youth in the area. By the year 2014 we expect to cultivate around 37,000 hectares and be in a position to harvest 240,000 metric tonnes of sugar cane," Seneviratne said. The Government had decided to amalgamate the Sevanagala and Pelwatte sugar factories to establish a single entity in order to improve the productivity levels and expand sugar cane cultivation in the country, he stressed.

< class="text11verdana">Source:: Daily Mirror, June 8, 2012
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Observer status at SCO

Afghanistan has been accepted as an observer in the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) on Thursday. This move comes in order to solidify ties with Afghanistan before the scheduled withdrawal of the NATO combat troops by the end of 2014.This declaration was made by Chinese President Hu Jintao, who also serves as the President of the SCO at the Beijing summit of the six-nation group.

The granting of the observer status can prove to be highly fruitful for Afghanistan as it can benefit from the economic development projects of the SCO and can forge its way into a prosperous future. From the Sino-Russian perspective, this move will help them strengthen their contacts and will help dilute the influence of the US in the economic reconstruction of the war torn country.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Khaama Press, June 7 2012
China discuss Turkmenistan pipeline

According to the reports of the Afghan Presidential Palace Press, Hamid Karzai discussed the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline shortly after his meeting with China’s National Petroleum Chief in Beijing.

China plans to construct a pipeline between Turkmenistan and China through Tajikistan and Afghanistan and has been in constant dialogue with the responsible authorities in the various countries involved.

According to reports, a delegation of the Chinese officials is due to visit Afghanistan to further discuss the prospects of the deal.

< class="text11verdana">Source:KKhaama Press, June 6,2012
Coal pact with India

A high-level Indian delegation is due to visit Kabul to ink a deal with the Afghan Mines Ministry in a bid to expand India?s economic partnership with Afghanistan.

This comes in the wake of the Afghan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani urging India to employ their expertise to help his country develop untapped coal basins. A strategic agreement has been signed between India and Afghanistan further cooperation in areas of minerals and hydrocarbons.

With this pact, India has been offered a new opportunity to play a strategic role in the Afghan economy.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Khaama Press, June 4 2012
< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Pankhuri Mehndiratta;
Bangladesh: Dr.JoyeetaBhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Jussi Albert Jännes
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;

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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