MonitorsPublished on Jul 04, 2014
Bhutan has announced its support for Japan's bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. This was announced by Bhutan's Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, who completed his official visit to Japan on July 2.
Bhutan: From New Delhi to Tokyo
< class="heading1">Analysis

Bhutan has announced its support for Japan’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. This was announced by Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, who completed his official visit to Japan on July 2. The joint statement issued after the Bhutanese PM’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the relations between the two countries have advanced remarkably.

The visit, the first by any Prime Minister of Bhutan, followed the completion of 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The key areas of cooperation have been agriculture and infrastructure. Mainly an agrarian economy, Bhutan depends on Japanese mechanized farming equipments. Japan has also granted loans from time-to-time for Bhutan’s developmental projects.

However, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay carefully chose Japan for his visit, after India. Announcing Bhutan’s support for Japan’s UNSC bid shows Tobgay’s strategy towards the region, especially for dealing with China. The Prime Minister’s visit follows the strengthening of ties with India, showing an emerging India-Bhutan-Japan axis. Or, it is seen in this context by observers of Bhutan.

Japan’s UNSC bid

Bhutan’s backing for Japan on the UNSC comes at a time when the Prime Minister Abe is keen on getting Tokyo back on the security map by reviewing the pacifist constitution of his country.

China, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom’s northern neighbour, would not take this curtly. Bhutan’s support to Japan’s UNSC bid is also conjectural with escalating tensions over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Tobgay, by making such overtures, has announced a departure from his predecessor who was said to be keen on improving relations with China. Thimphu has a border talks with China, however, Beijing’s interest in establishing formal diplomatic relations with its Southern neighbour, have not been entertained by Bhutan.

Though the Japanese are yet to have an embassy in Thimphu, ties have advanced since 2008. Bhutan’s King and Queen visited Japan in 2011, showing the increasing importance that Thimphu attaches to Tokyo.

Development partner

Both the countries have since 1986 cooperated on issues of mutual interest, especially on infrastructure and agriculture. Notable has been Japan’s loan assistance to Bhutan. However, China has been kept waiting with its offers of aid and support.

Bhutan is fascinated by the Japanese technology of manufacturing electric cars, which the Bhutanese Prime Minister is keen on introducing in the country’s capital. Japan, which is reeling under the pressure of fast disintegrating society, looks up to Bhutan for the value of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Japan sees GNH as Bhutan’s contribution to the world, plagued by an ageing population and is bogged down by the ills of industrialisation. In their meeting in Tokyo, the Japanese government showed interest in hosting a conference. The conference, since its inception in 2005, is a major engagement between the two countries.

Earlier, Tokyo also offered financial help for conducting the Gross National Happiness survey. Japan has also promised that they would hold an International Happiness Conference in 2015. This only shows the soft-power capability of Bhutan. Tshering Tobgay is not keen to go as far as his predecessor in laying emphasis on the concept, but Japan might make them rethink about the potential of the tiny Himalayan Kingdom as a global actor.

Emerging axis?

Thimphu hosted the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who made Bhutan his first overseas destination after being voted to power in May. Bhutan and India are said to have discussed issues relating to security amongst many others. Bhutan has reassured India that it would not harm New Delhi’s security interests.

The Indian delegation visiting Bhutan had External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh. What transpired in the meeting is not known, but certainly China’s increased presence on Bhutan’s border would have been discussed.

Japan has already offered to invest in India’s North-East which shares a border with Bhutan. Japanese policy towards South Asia seems to have made the right moves with it certainly increasing its presence in the region.

With many apprehensive of China’s growing clout in the South Asian region, both India and Bhutan would be drawn to forge a tacit alliance with Japan. However, Thimphu would have to walk on a thin rope as it is situated between the two big powers India and China.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India: Can Modi Govt restore dignity of Parliament?

Dr Satish Mishra

The first real test of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins on July 7 when the monsoon session of the 16th Lok Sabha commences. During the session, the first budget of the Modi-led BJP-led NDA government would be presented.

The session would have 28 sittings and continue till August 14. The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) had decided on these dates for the session as the vote-on-account approved by the previous Parliament would have ended on July 31 and a new budget had to be approved before it. The budget would not go to the select committees this year and demands of grants of some ministries may be discussed in the Lok Sabha.

The CCPA, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, had also decided that the bills to replace ordinances, including the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities (Amendment) Ordinance, the one on Polavaram project, the TRAI Act (Amendment) Ordinance and the one on SEBI, will be brought up on priority basis. The ordinances have to be converted into bills before the third week of July.

The Rail budget would be presented in the Lok Sabha on July 8 by Railway Minister D V Sadanand Gowda and an Economic Survey would be presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley the next day.

While all eyes are fixed on the July 10 budget as it would reveal the priorities of the Modi government, the conduct and behaviour of the new government during the six-week long session of Parliament would also be watched and monitored closely, not only by the depleted Opposition parties but the nation at large.

The very fact that the BJP-led government has a comfortable majority on its own strength and does not have to constantly look over its shoulders towards its allies for the survival has created conditions for undertaking confident and bold steps to restore the dignity of Parliament in people’s eyes. People have high expectations from the government.

The big question is whether the overwhelmingly elected government would be able to rise above narrow partisan considerations, and would show that it has respect for constitutional positions and institutions.

A case in point here is the institution of the Leader of the Opposition. It is right that no single Opposition party today has the required 10 percent of the total 543 MPs to technically qualify for the status. It is also equally true that the Congress as the ruling party in the past did not extend the courtesy to opposition parties. In the 1984-89 period, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did not grant the status to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) despite the Congress party having massive numbers in the Lok Sabha. Should the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi be vindictive and petty or not is eminently debatable and arguments can be put for both rejecting the status to the Congress or granting the status to it but any decision would definitely reflect the government’s initial inclination.

Victim of political differences

Parliamentary business became a victim of differences between the ruling UPA government and the Opposition during the 15th Lok Sabha when adjournments became the order of the day, resulting in the reduced output. Sessions after sessions were adjourned.

The prestige of the two Houses of Parliament and parliamentarians has been constantly eroding in public esteem as the level of debate and discussions have disappointed vast sections of informed citizens. There has been a display of acrimony and rancour, which has obviously not gone down well with the people. People are looking eagerly looking for things to change and the proceedings of parliament from next Monday would be keenly watched by millions of people.

The nature of relationship between the treasury benches and the opposition is going to determine and shape the outcome of the 16th Lok Sabha. The role of the ruling party, rather parties, and the opposition party, rather parties, is equally important in the parliamentary form of democracy.

Onus of responsibility

While the onus of conducting the parliamentary business in an orderly manner lies with the government, as it is armed with a comfortable majority, but the part played by the opposition is equally important for producing optimum results.

The situation in the 16th Lok Sabha is very different. The numerical strength of the opposition stands considerably reduced. Unlike in the previous couple of Lok Sabhas, when the opposition on its numerical strength could play its role of an effective, it would have to take a diverse route to remain relevant and appealing to people. Now the quality of opposition is going to count.

While the government would love to keep the opposition divided by adopting all kinds of positive and negative methods, it remains to be seen whether the Opposition led by the country’s oldest party is able to perform the role of a vigilant and constructive opposition.

Comfortable parliamentary majorities often enough make governments arrogant, irresponsive and self-righteous and the past offers enough examples of these kinds of governments both internationally as well domestically.

At a crucial juncture

The 16th Lok Sabha has been constituted at a very critical juncture of the country’s life as many challenges are confronting the society, polity and economy. The role of parliament is going to be very crucial to meet these challenges.

"Forget the bitterness of the past. We have to work together for the development of the country. We can bring about change. I don’t want to move forward without you (Opposition). I don’t have to move forward on the basis of numbers but on the basis of collective decision- making. If necessary, we will move forward with your guidance", PM Modi had said while delivering his maiden speech in parliament during the motion of thanks on the President’s address to the joint session on June 11.

Whether these words are followed by matching spirit of give and take on the ground would determine the course that the new government is going to follow in months and years to come.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pipe-line blast in Andhra kills 16

A GAIL pipleline in Andhra Pradesh exploded on 27 June killing at least 16 people and injuring 18 others. The explosion happened apparently after a tea vendor lit a stove. The fire on the 18-inch pipeline, which feeds gas to Lanco’s Kondapalli power plant near Vijaywada, was extinguished by mid-morning.

The blaze occurred barely a few hundred metres from ONGC’s Tatipaka Refinery located at the village. A group of angry local residents reportedly entered an office belonging to GAIL near the accident site and pelted it with stones.

State finance minister Y Ramakrishnudu was quoted as saying that the local residents were angry because "they feel GAIL authorities did not bother though smell was coming from the rusting pipeline". Two weeks ago, six people were killed by a poisonous gas leak in Chhattisgarh’s Bhilai Steel Plant. But Friday’s incident was the deadliest to hit India’s energy sector since last August, when 28 people were killed in a fire at an oil refinery in nearby Vishakhapatnam.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 27 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">French Minister discusses Rafael deal

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius became the first minister from a Western country to visit India after the new government took over. The minister met his Indian counterpart, Ms. Sushma Swaraj, and Finance and Defence Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley.

Fabius discussed a $12-billion deal to sell Rafale combat aircraft to India in his meetings. Fabius expressed confidence of a "positive outcome" to the ongoing negotiations in the deal and hoped that the new BJPled government, which was keen on efficiency, will implement the decision swiftly.

The minister also offered to give India up to one-billion euros in credit to fund its sustainable infrastructure and urban development projects. The credit line will be distributed through the French development agency over a three year period. Extending a credit line to the Indians, could allow France to boost it ties with the South Asian nation, and gain an early link to the country’s future infrastructure schemes, if it it fails to conquer its aviation industry.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US diplomat summoned over snooping

India summoned a top US diplomat after reports that the US was snooping on BJP. India expressed its deep displeasure saying that it was "totally unacceptable" that an Indian organisation or Indian individual’s privacy was transgressed upon. It also sought an assurance from the U.S. that it will not happen again.

India had raised the issue with the U.S. administration in Washington and the embassy in India in July and November 2013 when reports emerged that the NSA had spied upon individuals and entities and said it was still "awaiting a response from American on this".

The BJP figures in the list of foreign political parties along with Lebanon’s Amal, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistan People’s Party on whom the NSA was given permission to carry out surveillance, says the document made public on Monday by The Washington Post.

The document lists the 193 foreign governments as well as foreign factions and other entities that were part of a 2010 certification approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The list includes India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 2 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US Senator calls on PM

US Senator John McCain met with Prime Minister Modi to convey the keen desire in the U.S. to work with him to revitalise the India-U.S. strategic partnership. He said that The U.S. has high expectations about a new momentum of India’s economic growth under the new government.

Mr. Modi said he hoped for forward looking visit to the U.S. in September this year to take the relationship to a new level. "Prime Minister conveyed his desire to further deepen and expand the strategic partnership, based on our shared values and interests, sensitivity to each other’s concerns and tangible progress across the full spectrum of bilateral relations," said a statement by the PMO.

Mr. Modi added that the success of democratic countries and their cooperation will advance peace, stability and prosperity in the world. Both the leaders have also discussed the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The Prime Minister expressed concern over the increased threat of terrorism across the world, and reiterated that the fight against terror should be a global priority for humanitarian forces," the statement added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 3 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Civil wars not jihad, says Minister

Maldivians must not partake in civil wars in other Islamic countries as such wars could not be considered jihad, the Islamic Ministry has declared. Islamic Minister Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed delivered a statement, saying that the Ministry had consulted Islamic scholars, who concurred with their decision, he added.

He said that jihad is holy war lead by a true Islamic leader and fought against insurgents, in the name of God. The responsibility of sending troops to fight in such a war is conferred on the Head of the State, the Minister said.

"It is permissible fight in order to protect yourself and your family from those who want to harm you. But Islam does not allow the innocent’s blood to be shed - or wars to be fought for an unjust cause," he said.

According to Shaheem, a lot of innocent Muslims die in the civil wars that are currently being fought in Islamic States. He said that the fighting takes place amongst Muslim groups and that there is much confusion surrounding these battles. Therefore, it would be unwise to take part in such battles, he added.

On the contrary, the Minister said that the Heads of States where there is unrest request for good wishes and their prayers, instead of troops to fight in their civil wars. "The Heads of States have advised against sending people from other countries to fight in their wars. They’ve said that they will settle their own disputes," the Minister pointed out.

Speaking to reporters after delivering his statement, Minister Shaheem said that he personally does not believe that punishing militants upon their return home from areas of strife. Rather rehabilitation would be a better approach, he said. However, a decision regarding the matter would be made by the relevant authorities, he added.

"The government will decide on what to do with them. I will not reveal the government’s stand on the matter. I hope that the relevant institutions will discuss the matter appropriately," the Minister said.

Shaheem insisted that no religious scholar in Maldives had ever openly called out to join any such wars that are happening abroad. However, he said that there are many who are under the assumption that they have to join these wars.

The Islamic Minister’s statement comes at a time when many Maldivians are flying abroad to Syria and Pakistan to fight alongside the rebel forces in those countries.

It was recently reported that two Maldivians had died fighting alongside the rebel forces in Syria. According to these reports, there are approximately 20 Maldivians currently fighting in the Syrian civil war.

In the context of the creation of an ’Islamic caliphate’ in Iraq, Minister Shaheem said that he does not believe that groups can conquer lands and make their own ’states’. He said that this is not something the scholars of Islam will ever accept. He said that this is done to further divide Iraq.

Shaheem pointed out many Sunni groups are against the established Islamic State. "The caliphate is illegitimate. Giving pledge of allegiance is invalid. They are calling for falsehood. Many have criticised it,calling upon them to return to the truth," he said.

"Bloodshed should be stopped. The people should be given what they want," the Minister said adding that such calls were creating divisions among the Muslims and are making the Muslims fall into lots of trials and tribulations.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 2 July 2014, Miadhu 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Call for small-island developing nations

Maldives Minister of State for Environment and Energy Abdulla Majeed, speaking at the First Session of UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), has called on the international community pay adequate attention to the issues of the of small island developing States.

The First Session of UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) was held from 23 to 27 June at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Referring to the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States to be held in Samoa next September, State Minister Abdulla Majeed said that the UNEA must take stock of how the assembly has progressed and where it has failed.

He queried whether the international community pays adequate attention to the issues of the group of over 40 small-island developing States, if there were sufficient exchanges of technology with these nations and if new resources were made available to them.

Speaking at the First Session of UN Environment Assembly, Abdulla Majeed reaffirming Maldives’ commitment towards sustainable development, and highlighted the difficulties faced in the Maldives in the aspect in terms of ecological fragility and structural vulnerability.

Majeed also assured the UNEA gathering of Maldives’ commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and noted its progress thus far, having achieved five of the eightMDGs, making Maldives a front-runner in the South Asian region.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President asks Parliament to review fund allocation

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has asked Parliament to review and amend the allocation of funds from the MVR 2.5 billion (982,500,000 yuan) loan withdrawn from China’s Exim Bank.

The loan was taken by former President Mohammed Nasheed’s Government in 2011, for the construction of 1,500 housing units in four southern atolls.

In a letter to Parliament, President Yameen said the government would like to re-allocate a sum to construct 704 housing units in Hulhumale’, near the capital-island of Male.

The previous Parliament, in December 2013, rejected a request by President Yameen to review the fund allocations for the Exim Bank loan.

President stressed in his letter today that the government should be free to re-allocate funds as required and that the current restrictions hinder the development process.

He also said that that government, through a needs assessment, has determined the housing needs in the southern most atolls and that it would like to allocate the some housing units to Hulhumale’.

The loan from China’s Exim Bank must be repaid within 20 years. From the time of full disbursement of the loan, the government will have to pay 17.74 million yuan ($2.3 million or MVR 35.5 million) yearly as interest during the grace period. The government should have paid $183.14 million (MVR2.8 billion) by 2033, the end of the loan period.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 4 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Last year’s overseas-spent put at $ 191 m

Maldivians spent approximately $191 million (MVR 2.9 billion) on their trips abroad, a survey by the central bank, Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has revealed. According to the ’Maldivians Travelling Abroad Survey’ conducted among 65 percent of the Maldivians who travelled abroad last year, one in every two Maldivians had travelled abroad. Most popular destinations among Maldivians are India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

The survey, which was conducted at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), revealed that the main reason Maldivians travel abroad is to seek better medical facilities. A large number of Maldivians also go abroad for vacations whilst a considerable amount of people travel abroad for further education.

MMA’s survey showed that Maldivian who travelled abroad spent $70 million on medical expenses, $64 million on holidays and $47 million on education altogether.

Out of the 6184 people who took part in the survey, 2597 people travelled to Sri Lanka. Most of the people who travelled to Sri Lanka went there for their holidays. The holidaymakers had spent $1.7 million whilst people who visited Sri Lanka for medical reasons spent $2.2 million.

According to the survey, 2473 Maldivians travelled to India last year. Most of the Maldivians who travelled to India went there for medical reasons and spent approximately $2.1 million. Maldivians who travelled to India on their holidays spent a little more than those who went there for medical purposes as they had spent $2.5 million.

The survey revealed that 618 people had travelled to Malaysia last year. Even though majority of the Maldivians had travelled to Malaysia for medical reasons, more money was spent by the Maldivians who went there on vacation. Maldivians who went to Malaysia had spent $496,872 whilst Maldivians who went there for holidays had spent $714,408.

Maldivians who travelled abroad had spent $48 million on airfare alone.

MMA said that the survey provided a lot of insight in to the spending patterns of the Maldivians who travel abroad. This is the third time the central bank conducted this survey.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 1 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Inland Revenue collects MVR 659 m in a single day

The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) has collected MVR 659 million on Monday, a record amount of tax payments collected in a single day, the authority has said.

MIRA said that the hike in payments was because Monday, 30 June 2014 was the deadline to file Business Profit Tax (BPT) Return for businesses with accounting periods between 1 January and 31 December 2013. The authority opened its counters at night on Monday and received payments from over 3000 customers on one night.

"BPT, GST and Tourism Land Rent received maximum revenue," said the nation’s principal tax collector.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 2 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">One more MDP MP joins PPM

Thulhaadhoo MP Nazim Rashaad has left the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and joined Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the ruling party announced on Tuesday. PPM’s parliamentary group leader, Villimale MP Ahmed Nihan Hussein Manik, said that the party has received his enrolment form and was working on carrying out the formalities required under Parliament’s rule of procedure.

Nazim was first elected as the MP for Thulhaadhoo constituency in the previous Parliament as an independent member, but joined then ruling MDP in 2010. With his changing of sides, the number of PPM MPs has increased to 42, whilst the number of MDP members in Parliament has fallen to 23.

Ali Mohamed, another MDP member had also joined PPM recently. In addition, Milandhoo MP Hassan Mufeedh Abdul Qadir and Nolhivaram MP Hassan Areef -- elected as members of the pro-government Jumhoory Party (JP) -- had also joined PPM recently.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 2 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stronger military ties with Philippines

The Philippines and Myanmar are hoping to sign a memorandum of understanding in defence cooperation, Xinhua news agency reported. Philippines Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday the agreement will pave the way for training exchanges and dialogues between both countries.

"We look forward to the possibility of having an MoU to strengthen military ties with Myanmar which can serve as a defence agreement," Gazmin said in a statement.

On July 2, Myanmar Defence Services commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing paid a courtesy call on Gazmin in Manila. It is not immediately clear when the MoU will be signed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bernama, 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four arrested for attack on Rakhine village

Four suspects have been arrested over a shooting incident on May 28 in a village in northern Rakhine State that left three people dead and nine others hospitalised, officials said.

The four suspects, described as "Bengalis" by authorities, have been charged over the incident in Maungdaw Township’s Southern Thinbawgway Village and another 12 suspects remain at large, township officials said.

The incident occurred amidst calls for increased security in the area near the border with Bangladesh, following reports of armed groups entering Myanmar from the country. Village residents said the armed group had not tried to rob them, but that they took weapons from the village after the shootout.

The village head, his wife and an Islamic scholar were shot dead in the attack. Nine other people sustained gun-shot wounds and were sent to Maungdaw General Hospital.

The shooting incident was the first of its kind this year, officials said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Airport security beefed up

Myanmar has increased security at its main international airports to prevent possible terrorist attacks, according to police sources. The cited Taliban attacks on Karachi’s international airport on June 8 as sufficient reason for increasing security measures.

"In order to protect against such an attack in Myanmar, airport terminals are to be guarded with high security. Foreign, as well as domestic mercenaries, might commit such a terrorist attack here," said an official from Myanmar’s aviation police force.

The Jinnah Airport in Karachi, Pakistan was attacked by Taliban militants on June 8 and 9. Pakistan military eventually regained control of the airport but 28 people including 10 militants, 11 security forces and 4 airport staffs were killed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Migrant labour rush to register in Thailand

Thousands of foreign migrant workers, mostly from Myanmar, flocked to the "one-stop service" labour centre in Samut Sakhon province to apply for registration to work legally in Thailand.

The centre officially opened its door on Monday to facilitate the registration of foreign migrant workers to protect them from being exploited by unscrupulous job agencies or brokers. The event was witnessed by General Sirichai Ditthakul, chief of staff of the armed forces and chairman of a sub-committee tasked with solving foreign migrant workers’ problem.

Only migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia will be accepted for registration from June 30 until July 30. The applicants will be required to go through medical examination and to fill up details about themselves such as their nationalities. Each applicant will pay 1,305 baht for the services.

Those who passed through medical checks will be issued with a temporary work permit which will be valid for two months after which they will be issued with a permanent permit which is effective for a year if their nationalities are confirmed.

After July 30, employers who still do not bring their employees to apply for registration will face legal actions.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Thai PBS, 30 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian FM arriving on 25 July

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is arriving in Kathmandu on 25 July to lay the ground for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s visit to Nepal.

Minister Swaraj, who is visiting Nepal at the invitation of her Nepali counterpart Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, will lead the Indian delegation for the Nepal-India Joint Commission (JC) meeting scheduled for 26-27 July, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Kathmandu.

Established at the foreign ministers´ level in 1987, JC is a bilateral mechanism for overseeing the entire gamut of Nepal-India relations and provide directives on measures to further strengthen these relations. The apex government-to-government body between Nepal and India has not met since its first meeting in New Delhi a decade ago.

Government officials said the agreements reached between the two countries at the JC-level will be formalized through agreement during bilateral talks between PM Koirala and his counterpart Modi. No Indian Prime Ministers has paid visit to Nepal since 1997.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minimum limit for foreign aid, loans

The Nepal government has for the first time set a minimum limit for the amount under foreign aid, government officials said on 2 July. Endorsing the new Development Cooperation Policy-2014 this week, the government also has introduced a minimum amount for foreign grants, soft and commercial loans from the country’s development partners.

The move was aimed at curbing rampant influx of foreign aid in meagre amount and in unproductive sector. As per the new policy, development or donor agencies must provide grants of at least $5 million while the minimum limit for soft loans has been set at $10 million for a programme or project.

Similarly, the government of the Himalayan country will not accept commercial loans less than $20 million for a programme or project. Nepal’s finance ministry, which prepared and unveiled the new policy, said the intention of setting limit in foreign aid was to discourage investment in unnecessary sectors and projects and to focus it on deserving and significant projects so as to achieve positive impact.

The new policy will help the government to be selective and focused in accepting foreign assistance and has also given a clear instruction as to which sector/project can receive foreign aid and which cannot.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament passes govt’s policies

The Nepalese Parliament on July 2 passed the government’s policies and programmes for the fiscal year 2014-15 by a majority vote, clearing the decks for bringing the fiscal budget.

The government is planning to table economic survey of the current fiscal year on 10 July and the budget most probably on 11 July, ruling Nepali Congress chief whip Chin Kaji Shrestha has said.

Speaker Subas Nembang has scheduled the next meeting of the House on 10 July. After the Speaker put the policies and programmes to vote, ruling parties voted for the document while almost all the opposition parties, including the Unified CPN-Maoist, voted against it. Earlier, the 12 amendment proposals registered by the opposition parties were rejected by a majority vote.

However, main opposition UCPN-M’s chief whip Girirajmani Pokharel said the government’s policies and programmes lacked theoretical clarity on issues related to setting up bases for federal structure and launching socialist programmes and refused to withdraw his amendment proposal. Highlighting the government’s priorities for the next fiscal, Acting Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam put promulgation of the new constitution by 22 January at the top.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 2 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">APC demands CM’s resignation

An All-Party Conference (APC), convened by Dr Tahirul Qadri on the Model Town tragedy, has demanded resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and a fresh probe by a Supreme Court-led judicial commission. Besides condemnation of the Model Town tragedy, the joint notice issued at the end of Sunday’s APC demanded dismissal of senior police and civil officials, withdrawal of cases against PAT workers and registration of a new FIR of the incident.

The outcome of the much trumpeted moot was actually nothing more than a meeting of Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) and its like-minded parties. Pakistan People’s Party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-S and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani group) had declined to accept the invitation to APC.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 30 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Troops on all-out ground offensive

The military launched a ground assault in North Waziristan on Monday, beginning a new phase in its offensive against Taliban militants. Troops moved on Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, after two weeks of airstrikes and artillery bombardment of insurgent targets.

Washington has long urged Islamabad to tackle militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan, a haven for Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked insurgents. Other security officials in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, confirmed the advance, saying forces had also moved on the town of Mir Ali.

A statement from the military’s communications wing said infantry troops were carrying out house-to-house searches.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 1 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Haqqani fighters won’t be spared

Top civil and military officials have sought to dispel media speculation that Operation Zarb-e-Azb will be selective, reiterating that "terrorists of various hue and colour", including the Haqqani Network, would be targeted.

In his first public statement since the army launched a ground offensive in North Waziristan Agency, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made it clear on Tuesday that the decision to initiate the military operation was taken after careful deliberations.

The Haqqani Network, which is considered as the deadliest of all Afghan insurgent groups, is said to have established safe havens in North Waziristan and because of ’strategic interests’, Pakistan’s security establishment in the past was reluctant to take action against them. However, the chief military spokesperson insisted on Tuesday that there would be no discrimination in the ongoing operation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune Express, 2 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protection bill gets through Parliament

The government finally got a softened Protection of Pakistan Bill through parliament on Wednesday as new legal armour to fight terrorism, but exposed an apparent cleft in its own ranks during a vote in the National Assembly.

The bill’s major concessions include more safeguards in the use of powers to law-enforcement officers to shoot a terrorism suspect at sight, reduction in remand period to 60 days from 90 days, judicial oversight of internment camps and right of appeal to high courts instead of only once to the Supreme Court.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 3 July 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP happy over Gnanasara’s visa cancellation

UNP parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera has said that Sri Lankans should be thankful to the US for cancelling the visa of Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary the Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera and banning him from entering the US.

Samaraweera said the recording of a police statement by Ven Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera in relation to the Aluthgama violence was a drama being enacted by the Government because of the pressure applied by Middle Eastern countries. He said that the Government, having used the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), to attack Muslims in Alutgama and Beruwela was now shedding crocodile tears to pacify the Arab nations.

The strategy of the government was quite clear. It wanted to create conflicts and tensions among different communities with a view to covering up its economic failure and corruption. The BBS and other Sinhala extremist organisations were being nurtured and protected by very powerful persons in the ruling UPFA, Samaraweera claimed.

Attending the re-dedication ceremony of the Methodist Church at Galle Fort, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, meanwhile, said that those who condemn other religions and speak against other faiths are only bringing disgrace to their own religion. Pointing out extremists bring no justice to any religion, he said adding, people who follow their religion properly should be fair and justifiable to others.

Renovation and rededication of the church is a fulfilment of a national duty, President said. This is a good opportunity to showcase the religious harmony that prevails in Sri Lanka, he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 4 July 2014, The Island 5 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four top LTTE cadres arrested in Malaysia

The Malaysian Police Counter-Terrorism Unit has arrested four men suspected to be top level members of the now-defunct LTTE, a localnews agency reported.

Malaysian police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said all the arrests were made simultaneously at several locations around Kuala Lumpur and Maharashtra.

He said the four detainees were suspected of involvement in terror attacks in Sri Lanka and of plans to make Malaysia as their base of operations.

"The first suspect is a card-holder of the High Commission of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR). He is said to be an expert in explosives. The second suspect was alleged to have been involved in the attempted murder of former Sri Lankan President Chandirka Kumartunga," Bakar said.

"The third suspect has been collaborating with a Sri Lankan citizen who was arrested by the same team on May 14 and the last suspect was the person responsible for the delivery of information to the LTTE for the attack."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 4 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NPC member stages sit-in

A comical political drama was enacted at the last Northern Provincial Council meeting where the member belonging to the ruling Tamil National Alliance staged a sit-in dharna challenging the chairman of the Assembly.

Wearing a black-coloured shirt in protest, M K Sivajilingam said that Council Chairman C V K Sivagnanam had not included three draft resolutions on the agenda of the House for three months.

Chairman Sivagnanam clarified that matters relating to the policies of the ruling Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the party to which both belonged, had to be examined by the party’s high-level committee before being included in the House agenda. He had also emailed the position to the agitated member through e-mail, Sivagnanam clarified.

Another Councilor Vinthan Kanagaratnam supported the contention of Sivajilingham. At that point, TNA Councilors D Siththarthan and and others intervened and carried Sivajilingham to his seat to end the matter peacefully.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Asian Tribune 4 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tamil youths in Army for vocational jobs

Initial interviews to recruit more Killinochchi youth to the Army as vocational tradesmen commenced in the past week at the Harmony Centre, Killinochchi, according to a news item published by the official website of the Data and Information Unit of the Presidential Secretariat (PRIU).

The PRIU story said: "Under this Phase 2, the Army expects to recruit as many as 500 young tradesmen, vocationally skilled in driving, clerical work, bakery, store-keeping, cookery, welding, agriculture, carpentry, masonry, fire extinguishing, cultural performances, electric work, general duties, etc. During the interviews, around 25 youths with required qualifications have been so far recruited and the Security Force Headquarters-Killinochchi (SFHQ-KLN) was to hold interviews in other peripheral areas in the next few days on the directions of Major General SudanthaRanasinghe, Commander, SFHQ-KLN who has already completed the recruitment of about 125 woman soldiers from Killinochchi areas under the Phase 1.

"The interviews for recruitment, just ended in the heart of Killinochchi town would be spread to other Grama Seva Divisions in the coming weeks as per instructions of the Commander of the Army who has directed the SFHQ-KLN to open those opportunities to the young men in Killinochchi.

"According to Maj-Gen Sudantha Ranasinghe, the SFHQ-KLN expects to provide all facilities to those youths who would undergo an introductory military training before they were deployed as tradesmen in different projects."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island 4 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Preliminary results delayed

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that the declaration of the preliminary results will be delayed on account of the investigations currently under way for electoral fraud. The results were initially due on 2 July, but the IEC still has to investigate 1930 polling sites in 30 provinces.

The IEC claimed that the delay was not because of any pressure, but to ensure transparency.

Presidential candidate, Dr Ashraf Ghani welcomed the decision of the IEC to delay the announcement of the preliminary result. However, he stressed that the inauguration ceremony for the new president should not be delayed and the IEC should seek to ensure that the election timeline is adhered to as much as possible.

In the meanwhile, in a press conference Dr Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign team announced plans to enter into direct negotiations with Dr Ghani’s team in order to resolve the ongoing dispute. Dr Abdullah has boycotted the electoral process claiming that as many 2 million fraudulent votes were cast in the election.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 2 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Child casualties increase

According to a UN report, child casualties on account of terrorist violence in Afghanistan, increased by 30 percent in 2013. The report claimed armed opposition groups, particularly the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami, were responsible for the majority of child causalities in Afghanistan over the past year.

"The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide attacks, including by boys in at least two instances, resulted in the killing of 229 children and injury to 396 others," claimed the report.

Moreover, in total, at least 545 children were killed and 1,149 injured in 790 documented incidents throughout Afghanistan in 2013. The report also stated that the Afghan security forces and their foreign allies caused some of the child causalities over the course of the year.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 2 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Liberal Indian-visa policy for Afghans

India announced a new liberal visa policy for Afghan nationals this past week. As per the new policy, Afghans will be allowed to stay in India up to two years. Moreover, people above the age of 65 or below 12 years of age will be exempted from police reporting.

An official with the Indian Home Ministry said that the new policy is being implemented for two years on humanitarian grounds.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: DNA, 30 June 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Delhi should not look at one party: Khaleda

Accusing the previous Congress-led UPA government of maintaining ties with a particular party in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia has said the relationship between New Delhi and Dhaka should address the interests of the people of the two countries and not "any particular party" or "any individual".

"The people of Bangladesh sincerely desire good relations with India. This relationship should address the interests of the people of the two countries, not any particular political party or individual," she said.

BNP chief, also a former prime minister, however, said the new BJP-led government is different from the Congress-led one as this government’ s focus on building relations with people in neighbouring countries and not just with any particular political party. "It’s a significant change."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 2 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Delay in return of GSP

Bangladesh has made some important progress, but must do more to address the worker rights and worker safety issues that led American President Barack Obama to suspend trade benefits, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said after an interagency review. At the time of the suspension, the US provided the Bangladesh government with an action plan that provides a basis for Obama to consider the reinstatement of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scrapped in June last year.

Obama’s June 2013 decision to suspend Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the GSP programme means that US imports of GSP-eligible products from Bangladesh are no longer eligible for duty-free treatment.

In 2012, the total value of Bangladesh’s exports to the US markets under GSP was $34.7 million. The top GSP imports from Bangladesh included tobacco, sports equipment, porcelain china and plastic products. Legal authorisation for duty-free treatment for all countries under GSP expired on 31 July, 2013.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese firm interested in coal terminal

A Chinese company has expressed its interest in building a central coal terminal in Maheshkhali at Cox’s Bazar Southern Bangladesh to facilitate import and distribution of coal for several large coal-fired power plants to be built there over the next decade.

The China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) will submit a detailed proposal for the $1-billion terminal early next month. It has primarily said it will arrange the finance from China. A central coal terminal will directly help the government produce cheaper coal-based power.

The government has planned to turn Maheshkhali into the country’s energy hub by building eight to 10 coal power plants there generating 10,000 megawatt, which is more than what the country produces now. Huge land has already been acquired to that end.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 3 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India agrees to extradite Nur Hossain

India has agreed to extradite Nur Hossain, the prime accused in the high- profile seven-murder in Narayanganj, Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali informed. Minister also said that the issue was raised during the recent visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Dhaka. Bangladesh will send a letter to India requesting extradition of Nur Hossain.

West Bengal police arrested Nur Hossain along with two of his accomplices from an apartment in Kolkata on June 14. Earlier, Narayanganj police had sought Interpol’s help to nab the accused. On 27 April, seven people, including Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarkar, were abducted in Narayanganj and later killed.

A councillor of Narayanganj City Corporation, Nur Hossain was a close aide to lawmaker Shamim Osman of the ruling Awami League.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 3 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Happiness conference next year

Bhutan, a Himalayan monarchy with a population of 750,000, is hosting an international conference on its gross national happiness initiative in 2015, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said.

The conference will take place to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the birth of the former king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who initiated the GNH policy, Tobgay said in a recent written interview with Kyodo News.

"It is a gratifying and humble experience for Bhutan to be at the center stage of the world for its development policy of GNH," said Tobgay who is visiting Japan through Thursday.

The policy, introduced in 1970s and set as a national goal in the constitution put into effect in 2008, aims to achieve sustainable development through a proper balance between material growth and spiritual development.

With assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Bhutan will conduct a third survey this September to evaluate the state of happiness of its people, the prime minister said.

The national census in 2005 showed 97 percent of Bhutanese people said they were living happily.

< class="text11verdana">Source: www.ABS-CBN, 2 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan to back electric vehicle initiative

Japan will explore ways to support Bhutan’s efforts to turn itself into an electric vehicle hotspot, while Bhutan will support Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, according to a Japanese foreign affairs ministry press release.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe on 30 June. Accompanied by the agriculture and foreign ministers, Tobgay is on an official four-day trip to the island state at the invitation of the Japanese government.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the Japanese government and private sector will examine how to support Bhutan’s electric vehicle efforts during a joint press conference following the meeting. Lyonchhoen also visited a Nissan showroom to look at the various electric vehicles on 1 July. The Nissan Leaf, manufactured by Nissan, was launched in the country earlier this year.

During Lyonchhoen’s meeting with Sinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister pointed out that relations between the two countries are advancing "remarkably" as a result of a state visit to Japan by Their Majesties the King and Queen in 2011, it was stated in the Japanese foreign affairs press release.

Prime Minister Abe said that he would like to further strengthen relations with the country. He proposed establishing director-general level consultations to broadly discuss Bhutan-Japan bilateral relations, including politics, economics and culture. He also assured that Japan would continue to support Bhutan particularly in the fields of agriculture and basic infrastructure.

In response, Lyonchhoen said that Japan’s support in the area of agriculture forms a corner stone for the advancement of agriculture in Bhutan. He added that it is hoped that Japan would provide further support in this area.

Bhutan is currently entirely reliant on Japan for its farm mechanisation efforts, and is hoping to attain more assistance to improve irrigation systems in the country.

In an effort to encourage and strengthen people-to-people and sports exchanges, Prime Minister Abe said that Japan intends to donate 100 judo uniforms to Bhutan as a start. Lyonchhoen added that he hopes more Japanese will visit Bhutan so that people-to-people exchanges are strengthened.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 2 July 2014

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

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.


Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale was a Junior Fellow in the Strategic Studies Programme and Indian Neighbourhood Initiative of ORF.

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