MonitorsPublished on Oct 25, 2013
Bhutan, the tiny South Asian country, is a power-house literally. Power constitutes the country's single largest export item. The Himalayan kingdom is located in one of the fastest growing regions of the world.
Bhutan: Prospects of powering the sub-region
< class="heading1">Analysis

Bhutan, the tiny South Asian country, is a power-house literally. Power constitutes the country’s single largest export item. The Himalayan kingdom is located in one of the fastest growing regions of the world. And Bhutan being the only power surplus country in the region, it is important to have an integrated energy approach to meet the energy needs of South Asia.

The Asian Development Bank has recently shown interest in supporting a cross-border power grid running between Bhutan to Bangladesh. Bhutan, on its part, has remained non-committal on trading in electricity with any other country before it honours its commitment to India. Thimphu’s hydropower potential is undoubtedly the key for powering the sub region.

Hydropower potential

The estimated potential of Bhutan’s hydro-electricity is 30,000 MW out of which 16,000 MW is said to be economically feasible. Presently, Thimphu exports about 1,000 MW surplus power to India from its three hydel projects -- Chukha with a capacity of 336 MW, Kurichhu with a capacity of 60 MW and Tala with an estimated capacity of 1020 MW. The present total power transfer capacity between Bhutan and India through transmission interconnection is about 2,500 MW. With the commissioning of Tala hydropower project, electricity exports from Bhutan have increased significantly. There are 10 projects in the pipeline built under the agreement between New Delhi and Thimphu by

2020. Once installed, Bhutan is expected to transmit a total of 10,000 MW to India. Bhutan’s electricity trade with India will not only make the tiny Himalayan kingdom move closer to economic self-sufficiency but also provide electricity to its own people at subsidised rates. The Green Power Development Project built under the agreement of South Asia Sub Regional for Economic Cooperation (SASEC) has two major components -- power trade and renewable energy access for the poor. The SASEC project is one of the many projects Bhutan stands to benefit so as to pursue its goal of rural electrification by tapping the ’urbanising effect’ of hydropower development. Bhutan is eyeing on the figure of 100 billion a year, from electricity trade with India.

Towards sub-regional cooperation

Countries in the South Asian sub region stand to be benefitted from energy cooperation involving Bhutan. Excepting the 10,000 MW capacity which India has commissioned Bhutan to export to India, Bhutan would still be left with the capacity of over 12,000 MW of untapped energy potential after 2020. Bangladesh, India and Nepal, which are facing energy deficits would be eyeing on Thimphu’s potential. Bangladesh has already started importing electricity from India through cross-border transmission. The Asian Development Bank funded transmission line became operational early this month after Dhaka signed a 1,000 MW power import deal with New Delhi.

Bangladesh’s total electricity demand is expected to go up to 39,000 MW by 2030 while resources for electricity generation within the country remain limited. India’s peak power demand in March 2012 was 1,30,006 MW with a deficit of 15,773 MW. India’s power demand is estimated to increase to 2,38,470 MW in 2021,. This will warrant both India and Bangladesh enter bi-lateral or multilateral agreements on energy with Bhutan. The ADB is already working closely with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation on a South Asia Electricity Grid allowing regional transfer of power and optimal usage of regional energy resources. Such projects would benefit countries like Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan by allowing greater investment and more optimal utilization of regional energy resources.

Challenges in energy integration

Bhutan’s renewable energy potential provides the key for coordinated efforts for meeting the energy demands of South Asian countries. India has entered into bilateral agreements with Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan for power trade. Bangladesh has expressed interest to import power both from Nepal and Bhutan. However, to materialize power transfer across the nations, there is a need for grid interlinking between Bhutan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Energy policies in Thimphu must start catering to integrated energy models for energy cooperation between countries in the sub-region. Thimphu’s energy policies only allow Foreign Direct Investment in micro and small projects up to 25 MW and outsiders cannot have major stakes in such projects. Also, such projects are on a build-operate-transfer basis and the Bhutanese government would take control of the hydel-power plants within a few decades after completion of the project. This restricts private sector of Bhutan to partner with private or government agencies of other nations to build power projects in the near future.

Sharing of geographic features, convergence of challenges and immense trade potential are the motivating factors for countries within the South Asia Sub region Economic Cooperation. Energy surplus Bhutan has the potential of integrating the sub region.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India : The ’Muslim factor’ in upcoming polls

Dr. Satish Misra

In next seven months, India is going to face Assembly elections in five States and parliamentary polls at the national-level. While different sections of the polity and society are going to be wooed and solicited by every political party actively, Muslims particularly are the most sought after community in the electoral season.

Ever since Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s anointment as the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, discourse on politics of, by, and for Muslims has gained considerable traction, and intense public debate has been generated on the issue.

Questions are being asked whether the electoral behaviour of the community is going to be determined by issues of poverty, deprivation and lack of education or fear of the possibility of the BJP coming to power at the Centre in 2014.

The fear factor became all the more dominant following the communal riots in the western part of the country’s biggest province Uttar Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Bihar few months back. Communal tension is also lurking in other parts of the country.

In short, whether the country’s elections are again going to be determined by the issue of secularism versus communalism, or Muslims would make a departure from the past by favouring a political party, which promises to attend to their socio-economic well-being is a question which is being raised in political, academic and intellectual circles.

Issues and strategies

Every political party has taken a position on the issue and strategies are being evolved to impact the Muslim mind with the objective of optimising electoral gains. While the two national parties, namely the Congress and the BJP, are engaged in evolving suitable and appropriate ways to gain access to the much hyped Muslim vote bank, the rest of the non-Congress and non-BJP parties are equally working overtime to have their share of the minority community vote.

On 30 October, on the initiative of the Left parties, a convention against communalism is being organised in which some regional parties will also participate. Notwithstanding the strong denial that the convention is not meant for forming a political front, there is no doubt that the Left’s initiative is aimed at evolving a consensus for joining hands or, in other words, polling their respective resources for a share in the government, either in the states or later at the Centre.

Muslims constitute roughly 15 percent of the country’s population and is estimated to be around 177.3 million. The Muslim politics appear to be at crucial juncture. Apart from the Muslim dominated state of Jammu & Kashmir, the percentage of the Muslim population in the rest of the country varies from state to state. But Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have a relatively large Muslim population and these states elect 120 representatives to the Lower House of Parliament.

Poverty, backwardness

There are serious socio-economic and socio-political problems confronting the community. Poverty, social backwardness and lack of education are some of the major hurdles that the community is facing, and these and other factors were highlighted by the government appointed Sachar Commission, which presented its report to the UPA government in 2006. Non-implementation of the Sachar Commission recommendations is an issue which is agitating the Muslim mind.

On the other hand, incidents of communal violence in many states has been on the rise and the 2002 communal riots in the BJP-ruled state of Gujarat where the present BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was the chief minister have been in public discourse for over a decade.

The Congress had promised to enact a law to prevent and punish those responsible for communal violence. Accordingly, the UPA government had prepared the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill in 2006, but this has been gathering dust for all these years.

A demand has been growing in some quarters to get the above bill enacted in the remaining months of the present UPA government, particularly in the background of the recent communal riots that shook western parts of UP. The BJP is opposed to such an act and considers that this would be used against the majority Hindu community.

Paradigm shift

Muslims are generally perceived as a homogenous group whose voting behaviour is uniform, but reality on ground appears to be telling a different story. It is true that the Congress was the main beneficiary of Muslim votes, but the situation changed after the ’Ayodhya demolition’ on December 6, 1992. The Muslim politics saw a paradigm shift after 1992 when the Muslim electoral behaviour underwent a sea change. The community shifted their electoral loyalty from the Congress to other parties which claimed to have secular credentials.

Traditional leadership of the community began to face serious challenges from those sections of society which have been historically deprived and have suffered. A new leadership from the middle class started emerging on the scene.

Dalit or Arzals as they are referred to and other backward castes (OBCs) of the community started coming up. They are now asserting themselves much more than ever before. Hiatus between the upper caste elite Ashrafs and middle caste Ajlafs is growing and the traditional leadership which represented the community all these years after the partition of the country in 1947 is under serious threat.

While the Muslims of the country would be the target of active and hectic campaigning by the political parties in next few months, it is not yet clear as to which factor would play a crucial role in determining its political choices.

Therefore, the party manifestos are bound to devote considerable space to convince the community to vote for them. Electoral response may witness a departure from the past pattern of the electoral behavior, but it is too early to judge at this juncture as the community undergoes introspect and internal debate to decide which way to go.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Deals on rivers, roads, border and trade with China

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh identified peace and tranquillity on the border as the "strategic benchmark", and not letting relationships with other countries become a source of concern to each other as the "strategic reassurance" on which the progress of the India-China relationship would depend.

Dr Singh underlined this by first raising the issue of stapled visas to archers from Arunachal Pradesh, conveying to his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang that such actions eroded the public goodwill for constructive efforts like the liberalized visa agreement, which had to hold back at the last minute.

The other concern he raised was about China’s investments in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, and Beijing’s nuclear relationship with Islamabad — which is where the emphasis on strategic reassurance came up.

The two broad assertions, to which nine agreements Dr Singh said Mr Li had agreed, were put out as essential markers by the PM to realize the full potential of what his counterpart had called the "strategic window" in the partnership.

Mr Li’s observation was that the current period — as the West tries to emerge from a debilitating economic crisis — presented an opportunity to the two countries to shift gears on their relationship. Mr Li had made the same point during his visit to India, and he repeated it in his talks with Singh on Wednesday. 2013, he said, was the "year of harvest" in the relationship.

To that end, the two countries signed a new Border Defence Cooperation Agreement aimed at strengthening existing instruments to ensure "peace, stability and predictability" along the Line of Actual Control.

The agreement envisages more meetings between the two armies, improved procedures and protocols to avoid conflict, and establishing better communication links which could include a hotline between the two headquarters.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, 24 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM, Putin teams work on fine-print

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ended his last visit to Russia this term without sealing the deal on two more nuclear reactors for Kudankulam, but officials continued to maintain that they were tantalizingly close to it with the Indian ambassador to Russia even saying that negotiations were "now down to a word or two".

However, when asked whether that meant Russian concerns over India’s nuclear liability law had been adequately addressed, Ambassador Ajai Malhotra said: "I think we can

respond to that only when it’s concluded. At this moment, it would not be correct to say anything more than that." Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was more guarded, saying the negotiation was on and "let’s see how it turns out". She declined to speculate on Russia getting more reactors after Kudankulam 3 and 4.

The enactment of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act has clearly proved to be a major hurdle for these negotiations which in 2011 seemed well on the road to an early conclusion. In fact, the joint statement after the PM’s 2011 visit stated that "negotiations on the techno-commercial offer on the construction of Units 3 and 4 were in an advanced stage". At the next summit meet in December 2012, the joint statement took note of signing of a protocol that confirmed Russian state credit for the setting up of two additional reactors and again underlined the previous year’s commitment, stating "the sides agreed to conclude expeditiously the negotiations on the techno-commercial offer for the construction of Units 3 & 4".

In a clear signal to Pakistan and its support to Kashmir jihadi groups, India and Russia agreed for the first time that "terrorist attacks perpetrated under misleading slogans" amounted to "undermining the territorial integrity of our nations".

The joint statement went on the elaborate that in "multi-ethnic and democratic societies like India and Russia, such activities are in "reality attacks on freedom and democratic values", and they may have "international linkages extending across and beyond borders".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, 22 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Boycott CHOGM meet, says TN Assembly

Accusing the Union government of not showing even a modicum of respect to Tamil sentiments on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Thursday called for a "total boycott" of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka in November.

This resolution, moved by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, was unanimously adopted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 25 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Disappointment over Maldives’ impasse

India has said that it is deeply disappointed that the repeat first round of the Presidential elections in Maldives was not held as scheduled for October 19 and that the Election Commission was not allowed to proceed with holding elections in line with its Constitutional mandate.

In a statement the Ministry of External Affairs said that India and the international community have been closely watching developments in Maldives and are seriously concerned at attempts to stall the democratic process.

"It is for the people of Maldives to decide their future, and their strong desire to elect a new President is evident from the turnout of 88 per cent in the first round of elections held on September 7, this year which was considered free and fair by the large contingent of international and domestic observers present," the statement adds. The statement points out that keeping in mind the wishes and aspirations of the people of Maldives, who have so far shown admirable patience and restraint, it is important that the electoral process is put back on track immediately with a definite timeline so that a new President is elected and sworn in on November 11, 2013 as mandated by the constitution.

"India calls upon the Government of Maldives and all parties concerned to fulfil their responsibility towards the people of Maldives by playing a constructive role in the elections process and fully assisting the Election Commission in holding the Presidential elections without further delay. India also calls upon all parties to abjure violence and maintain calm," the statement adds.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 19 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Push to change WTO subsidy rules

India is pushing hard for a change to global trade rules that would allow governments in developing countries more leeway to pay poor farmers above-market prices for food for national stockpiles. Critics warn, however, that such a policy shift - which India is pursuing in the name of food security - could end up hurting poor producers in other parts of the world.

The proposed rule change was officially put forward by the G33 coalition of developing countries last November, but India is widely acknowledged to be the driving force behind the bid. Debate on the issue is heating up as negotiators prepare for the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) next high-level meeting, which is due to take place in Bali in December.

Officials in India, which is home to about one-quarter of the world’s hungry, insist that the rule change is essential to the country’s development.

"The farmers (need) some sort of a price guarantee," says Jayant Dasgupta, India’s Ambassador to the WTO. "If you can’t give this price guarantee, then many of the farmers who are on the margins may quit farming ? Food production will go down, lands will lie fallow, and the unemployment problem will increase."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Guardian, 21 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Threat to Nasheed’s life

The Ministry of Defence and National Security has been alerted by the Office of President Mohamed Nasheed to possible dangers to the life of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate.

"According to sources, two Al-Qaeda agents have been employed for an attack on President Nasheed and are currently in Male’. The Office has requested the Ministry of Defense and National Security’s Intelligence to launch an investigation into the matter and to share findings with this office," read a press statement from the former president’s office.

Following the request for an investigation, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) issued a press release yesterday (October 25) stating that it was making inquiries and working with the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to investigate the matter. "And President Mohamed Nasheed’s security has been strengthened better than before," the MNDF said.

The press release added that providing security for high-level officials of the state was the responsibility of the MNDF and was therefore treated as "a high priority." Article 128 of the Constitution entitles former presidents to "the highest honour, dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges entitled to a person who has served in the highest office of the land." Head of Security for the former President, Ameen Faisal, said that they had been made aware of the threat on Thursday (October 24).

"We have been hearing of this threat many times...Last night we heard about it and thought we can’t make it a joke, we have to take it seriously now," the former defence minister and national security advisor said.

Former Head of Police Intelligence Chief Superintendent ’M C’ Mohamed Hameed told the parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee in January this year that the police had received information about two separate assassination plots against former President Nasheed. Speaking in the same committee in January, former military intelligence head Brir-Gen Ahmed Nilam claimed to have received information about an assassination attempt planned to have been carried out during an MNDF live-fire event.

Former Minister of Human Rights under the current administration, Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed, last year also alleged assassination plans against Nasheed by local politicians. Nasheed reacted to Dhiyana’s claims by acknowledging them as credible, commenting that he had received information from government intelligence sources of plots to assassinate him.

"I did get information from the Ministry of Defence that the intelligence got reports of planned assassination attempts. I had knowledge of this before," said Nasheed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, 26 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Majlis’ panel summons all seven SC Judges

The committee for independent institutions of the Peoples’ Majlis has summoned the seven judges bench of the Supreme Court. Committee Chair Ahmed Sameer, the Dhidhdhoo constituency MP stated that the judges were summoned separately.

The committee which is comprised of a majority by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, MDP, stated that they decided to summon the judges of the Supreme Court to make a knowledge based research regarding a matter.

He also said that the committee wants to seek legal counsel from the Supreme Court judges regarding the possible legal and political problems that might arise if a new President is not elected on November 11.

MP Sameer said that the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz has earlier agreed to give full cooperation in providing legal counsel and to make knowledge based researches. MP Sameer did not give the details on which dates the judges were summoned. He said that the meetings with the judges will be held discretely.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, 25 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP MP disqualified, arrested

Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who was disqualified from the parliament by the Supreme Court was arrested for assaulting military personnel, disobeyed orders and tried to force his way into Parliament, police said.

The case against Azim was filed by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) which maintains security of Parliament, police said. The military on Saturday had blocked Azim from entering Parliament. Military personnel in combat uniform entered the parliament and escorted Azim outside. Confrontation between military personnel and some law-makers ensued before Azim was led away.

The Supreme Court on Thursday disqualified Azim and Alifushi MP Mohamed Nashiz from Parliament over a decreed debt. The verdict was issued in absentia by the four-Judge majority of the Supreme Court. Following the failure of Funaddoo Tuna Products to repay loans worth MVR117 million to Bank of Maldives (BML) as per a Civil Court ruling in 2012 which had also been upheld by the High Court, both MPs as guarantors of the loans have been held liable to the debt.

The parliamentary privileges committee with Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) majority had decided that the two MPs had been disqualified in violation of the highest court’s procedure. Article 73 of the Constitution states that an elected member of parliament would be disqualified if found to have a decreed debt which is not being paid as provided in the judgment.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 27 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Zaki charged in ’alcohol case’

Special Advisor to former MDP President Mohamed Nasheed, Ibrahim Hussain Zaki’s case has been sent to the Criminal Court charged with consuming alcohol.

Zaki along with two Opposition MPs and some top officials of the former government were arrested from Haa Dhaal Atoll Hondaidhoo for consuming alcohol.

Two parliamentarians, Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir and Henveiru-south MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, press secretary Mohamed Zuhair, his wife Mariyam Faiz, Zaki’s son Hamdhan Zaki and Jadulla Jameel from Addu Atoll Hulhudhoo are six charged in the case.

Police had earlier forwarded Zaki’s case for prosecution, but the case was sent back as it lacked his statement.Zaki, who had flown to India upon release after being arrested over the bust, had returned to Maldives in August. He was the only one not charged in the Hondaidhoo case.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 25 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC orders probe into TV report

The Supreme Court has asked Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives Broadcasting Commission (Broadcom) to investigate a report regarding the court broadcast on Opposition MDP-sympathetic Raajje TV. A police media official told Sun Online that such a matter is under investigation, but did not provide details.

Sun Online has received information to indicate that the court asked Broadcom to share its findings with the court within 10 days. The report claimed that the public has lost confidenc ein the Judges of the Supreme Court.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 27 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President will not seek second term

Myanmar President Thein Sein, who has steered a wave of reforms since the end of the military rule, will not be seeking a second term, the leader of his party said on Thursday. The next elections in Myanmar are scheduled to take place in 2015.

"President U Thein Sein has told me he will not run for the president," said Shwe Mann, the speaker of parliament and leader of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Shwe Mann, who out-ranked Thein Sein in the former junta that was disbanded in 2011, is also regarded as a moderate with reformist credentials, who enjoys good connections in the military and the respect of lawmakers. He has made no secret of his desire to run for president himself.

The hugely popular Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to run, but only if the constitution is changed to eliminate a clause that bars Burmese from the presidency if their children or spouse are foreign nationals. Her two sons are British, as was her late husband.

Speaking to reporters in the capital Naypyitaw, Shwe Mann also said that the former junta supremo Than Shwe was concerned things "might go wrong" in Myanmar. However, he did not elaborate. "He’s watching developments in the country with keen interest," Shwe Mann said.

Than Shwe was reviled by most Burmese during his nearly two decades of brutal control over Myanmar and his disappearance from the public eye has fuelled constant speculation ranging from from his death to an assumed behind-the-scenes political role, which Shwe Mann dismissed. "The Senior General doesn’t have any intention to be involved in politics," he said. "Even if he had, it would be quite impossible to do it in practice."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 24 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suu Kyi wants statute-change

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi urged Europe and the United States on Monday to press Myanmar to reform what she said was an undemocratic Constitution, partly because it effectively bars women from running for president. The Myanmar opposition leader, who was in Luxembourg to meet European Union Foreign Ministers, said the constitution stipulates that the president must have military experience, thus excluding women.

It also prevents Suu Kyi, 68, from running for the presidency in 2015 because it bans anyone who has children who are foreign citizens. Suu Kyi and her husband, the late British academic Michael Aris, have two children who are British.

The EU has already called for amendments to Myanmar’s constitution, but Suu Kyi said it must be more vocal "because unless this constitution is amended ... we will have to take it that the present administration is not interested in taking reform further forward".

"It’s gone as far as it is going to go without amendments to the constitution and we are still very, very far away from a genuine democratic form of government," she added. The United States, too, should call for constitutional change, she said in response to a question.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 21 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China gas pipeline fully operational

A pipeline pumping natural gas from Myanmar to energy-hungry China has become fully operational, state-run Chinese media said this week. The pipeline, stretching more than 2,500 kilometers from western Myanmar to southwest China, will help the world’s second-largest economy feed its growing energy needs.

It comes as close political ties between the two nations have weakened, after Myanmar’s quasi-civilian regime took office in 2011 and brought in sweeping reforms that have led to the lifting of most Western sanctions.

The pipeline, first launched in July 2013 after three years of construction, "has gone into full operation on Sunday", the Global Times reported. It runs from Kyaukpyu on the west coast of Myanmar and will deliver gas to Myanmar and China’s energy-deprived south-west, including Yunnan, Guizhou, Chongqing and Guangxi. The pipeline also passes through the Chinese border town of Ruili, where fighting erupted earlier this year between Myanmar government forces and the rebel Kachin Independence Army.

The added delivery of 12 billion cubic metres a year will cut gas prices and reduce coal use, the Global Times said, while limits on industrial gas consumption will be raised. The pipeline will help China diversify its energy imports, it quoted Lin Boqiang, a professor with the China Centre for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, as saying.

"Currently, China’s piped gas is mainly imported from areas around the Malacca Strait. Now, we have one more pipeline from the land instead of the seabed, which will decrease dangerous factors," Lin said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, 21 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists to tie with Madhesi parties

UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has said that his party has started negotiation with Madhesi parties to forge electoral alliance. Speaking to media persons at Biratnagar on 23 October, Dahal said, "The initiative to forge electoral alliance with Madhes-based parties is under way." He further added that this party has taken initiative to forge seat adjustment with Madhesi parties as they are pro-federalists.

On a different note, Dahal added that his party was also taking initiative to forge seat adjustment at the constituencies from where heavyweights of different parties are contesting the poll. "We held talks with Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala about forging alliance," added Dahal. Dahal further said that the new Constituent Assembly (CA) would draft constitution at any cost. "Constitution will be drafted by the second CA," he said. Dahal also said that Baidya-led CPN-Maoist would not foil the election as they don´t posses strength.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 23 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Heading toward economic recovery

The World Bank (WB) has said that Nepal is heading toward economic recovery with the growth between 4 percent and 4.5 percent this year, up from last year’s 3.6 percent. The WB, however, made it clear that the country still needed to remove some bottlenecks in the development of energy, transportation and financial sectors to move to a higher growth trajectory.

"Given the positive economic developments, the recovery of Nepal is likely. But Nepal has to focus on energy generation, transport development to support trade, and consolidate the financial sector," said Johannes Zutt, the country director of the WB for Nepal and Bangladesh. Presenting the report, Aureilien Kruse, the senior country economist at the WB’s Nepal office, said Nepal may achieve 4-4.5 percent economic growth this year, amid reports of good monsoon, steady remittance inflow and positive development in making progress in public spending. Stating that it is challenging to contain inflation in an election year, Kruse said inflation mostly depends on the price situation in India, Nepal’s main trading partner.

Amid concerns over the weakening of the Nepali rupees against the US dollar, Kruse urged Nepal to try and benefit from the increased export receipts and remittance. The report also said the recent depreciation of the Nepali rupees is not expected to hold back growth or to threaten macro-economic stability.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 25 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to deliver military aid

The Nepal Army (NA) will receive within three days the first consignment of military assistance, including non-lethal weapons, pledged by India. According to a press statement issued by the NA Directorate of Public Relations on Wednesday, the army is receiving that assistance as per the decision of the Nepal-India Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues in India, Bangalore in April 2013. The military assistance include 216 light vehicles, 154 heavy vehicles including 58 trucks of 7.5 tons capacity , 67 trucks of 2.5 tons capacity, 4 ambulance, 25 multi-purpose armored vehicles, and some non-lethal weapons, as per the agreement.

Other weapons that are in the pipeline will be dispatched before or after November polls, NA spokesperson Pokharel added. India was ready to resume military supplies, including arms and ammunition, to the Nepal Army after a hiatus of eight year. The Nepal Army was not allowed to procure lethal weapons after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on November 21, 2006.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 23 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China urged to help control gold-smuggling

Nepali customs officials have urged their Chinese counterparts to help control the rising gold smuggling taking place along the border. Speaking at the 26th annual meeting of Nepal-China customs officials which started in Dhulikhel on 22 October, Nepali officials requested that urgent action be taken to prevent gold smuggling, which they said had sullied the image of the two countries. Officials from both sides of the border have reached a consensus on working together to control cross-border smuggling and promote exports, according to Nepali officials participating in the meeting.

Currently, exporters have to unload their goods at Miteri Bridge at Tatopani and transfer them to China by porter. This practice is partly due to China’s doubts about the standard of Nepali goods and quarantine procedures. During the meeting, the two sides agreed to make efforts to allow delivery of Nepali good directly to Khasa without unloading them at Miteri Bridge and Chinese goods to be brought to Tatopani directly from Khasa. During the meeting, the Chinese delegation affirmed that they were ready to let more goods from Nepal enter China.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 24 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Residential embassy in Bahrain

Amid a function, Nepal´s Acting Ambassador to Bahrain, Durga Bahadur Subedi has formally inaugurated Nepal’s residential embassy in Bahrain. In a statement Nepal’s embassy in Bahrain, informed that it will be closely working for the sake of Nepalese migrant workers and their rights in Bahrain. Nepal opened its first embassy in Bahrain on 1 September this year. Both the countries established diplomatic ties on 14 January, 1977.

Bahrain has been a favoured destination for the Nepalis youths for foreign employment for the past few years. Officials said Nepalese started visiting Bahrain for employment since 1994. According to the figures provided by the Department of Foreign Employment (DOFE), altogether 33,076 Nepalese have reached Bahrain so far through official channels.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 23 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Drone attacks will end soon’

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during his recent visit to the US, was assured by President Barack Obama that the drone attacks will end soon. However, there was no mention of the drone issue in the joint statement released by the two. The President has not given a timeline for the end of the drone campaign.

A Pakistani official said that Obama told Sharif that the CIA has already eliminated most of the high-value targets (HVTs) from the region. Amnesty International has said that US drone strikes killed a Pakistani grandmother and 18 civilian labourers last year.

The US may temporarily halt the drone attacks to allow the Pakistan government to pursue peace talks with the Taliban. The United States has backed the government’s move to open dialogue with the militants.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Nation, 25 October 2013; The Express Tribune, 25 October 2013; Reuters, 22 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US re-starts security aid

The US has quietly restarted security assistance to Pakistan according to US officials. The Obama administration is poised to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan.

More than $300 million in aid, which was frozen due to strained relations in the aftermath of the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, has been resumed.

Much of this security aid is aimed at strengthening the military’s ability to counter militants in the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 21 October 2013; Al Jazeera, 21 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Train-bombing kills five

Five passengers were killed and 16 wounded when a train was bombed and derailed in southwest Pakistan. It was not immediately clear who was behind the bombing.

The train was travelling from Rawalpindi to the provincial capital, Quetta.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 21 October 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NPC ready to exercise powers: CM

Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran told the inaugural meeting of the recently elected Council that he was ready to exercise police and land powers granted to the PCs by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution

The Northern Provincial Council began its session in a building at Kaithady in Jaffna after a grand ceremony conducted in accordance with Hindu cultural rituals.

After the election of the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman, Wigneswaran, a retired Supreme Court Justice, said that he was prepared to discuss any problems that could arise with any party in order to find a solution.He said his objective was to deploy a majority of Tamil speaking police officers in the province and to either reduce or remove the unlimited presence of security forces there under powers entrusted to the Council step by step.

The Chief Minister said internal self-determination was possible within a united Sri Lanka. He said his administration would extend a hand of friendship to the Central Government with the expectation of reciprocity. Wigneswaran called for the replacement of the present Governor with a civil official who understands the needs and aspirations of the Tamil people.

Asserting that Muslims who were evicted from the North would be rehabilitated as a foremost task under his administration, he said people who were never residents of the North should not be resettled in the province under state-sponsored colonization schemes.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 25 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CM cannot order the police: Gota

Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran has no power to issue orders to the police, as such moves might hamper the country’s national security, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said.

During a meeting with Tamil language journalists at the Defence Ministry, the Defence Secretary said that the Chief Minister of the North should act and work like his other counterparts by cooperating with the police. He reiterated that the Northern Chief Minister has also no power to influence the police.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 25 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Preliminary voter list released

The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan released the preliminary list of the presidential candidates for the 2014 elections. The registration process that had come to an end on October 6 had seen a total of 27 candidates file their nominations.

However, after the vetting process a preliminary list of 10 candidates was released by the IEC this week. The 10 candidates include: Abdullah Abdullah, Zalmai Rassoul, Qayum Karzai, Ashraf Ghani, Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf, Gul Agha Sherzai, Abdul Rahim Wardak, Qutbuddin Hilal, Hedayat Amin Arsala, and Sardar Muhammad Nader Naeem.

The IEC claimed that the reason for the disqualification of the majority of candidates was their failure to properly meet the 100,000 supporting voter cards threshold that the commission put in place this year. An additional reason for the disqualification of some candidates was the fact that they held dual citizenship.

The disqualified candidates now have 20 days time to appeal their disqualification. The final list is expected to be announced on November 16 upon closure of all complaint cases against candidates received by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC).

There were some strong reactions within Afghanistan regarding the disqualification of candidates. The Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) expressed concerns regarding the assessment process of the candidates and urged IEC to announce the reasons behind the elimination of 16 presidential candidates from the initial list.

A number of the disqualified candidates have also questioned the decision of the IEC. The disqualified candidates accused the IEC of incompetence, corruption and political bias and even threatened to take legal action against the IEC.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, October 23, 2013; Pajhwok, October 22, 2013; Tolo News, October 22-23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rabbani killers identified

National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief, Rahmatullah Nabeel has said that the perpetrators involved behind the assassination of ex-Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani in 2011 have been identified.

Nabeel said that the intelligence department had prepared a list of perpetrators and the list would now be handed over to lawmakers. Nabeel also added that a delegation of the Afghan intelligence officials have visited Pakistan to hand over the information to their Pakistani counterpart.

Rahmatllah Wahidyar has already been arrested by the NDS on the grounds that he facilitated the suicide bomber to meet with Burhanuddin Rabbani.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, October 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Military Academy inaugurated

In a move to strengthen the capacity and enhance professionalism of the Afghan National Army (ANA) officers, a military academy, the first of its kind, was inaugurated in Kabul this week.

The academy is funded by Britain. The military institute is modelled on Britain’s Sandhurst Military Academy and 200 Afghan teachers and another 126 teachers from UK, Denmark, New Zealand and Australia have been assigned to train ANA officers.

The first round of training started in September 2013 and 10,000 ANA officers are to receive training. Duration of the training is one year, and after completion their training, the officers would be promoted to the rank of 2nd lieutenant.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 23 October, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM for all-party govt for polls

In a televised address to the nation, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week proposed forming an all-party election-time government and urged the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to nominate its MPs for inclusion in the interim cabinet. Prime Minister, however, did not specify the size of the cabinet and its scope of work or who would head the cabinet.

It is also not clear from her speech when the interim cabinet would be formed. During her speech she requested the opposition leader, BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia, to respond to her call and hoped that Begum Zia would honour her request. The Prime Minister’s offer comes at a time when further political unrest centring on the general election seems almost unavoidable.

Reacting to Prime Minister’s proposal the main opposition BNP said that there is nothing new in the proposal. "In the proposal, she did not mention who would be the head of the polls-time government," said BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. Leadership of the poll time government has been a major concern for BNP. BNP Standing Committee Member MK Anwar said, "BNP won’t participate in an election with Sheikh Hasina as the prime minister or head of the interim government."

The Jamaat-e-Islami, a key component of the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance, termed the PM’s proposal confusing. Rafiqul Islam Khan, the party’s acting secretary general said that Prime Minister’s speech is not acceptable to the nation.

However, Rashed Khan Menon, chief of the ruling alliance partner Workers’ Party, views the prime minister’s call as a positive sign."We welcome the prime minister’s address to the nation. She has given a specific guideline about the polls-time government which we all were demanding," he said.

Bangladesh is facing a political crisis following difference among the two major political parties, Awami League and BNP over the nature of the government, which would supervise the parliamentary election. BNP is pressing for restoration of caretaker form of government which was deleted from the constitution in 2011. Awami League is adamant on holding the election under the elections. Lack of consensus has made the future of election uncertain.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 19 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khaleda Zia moots interim govt

As a response to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s proposal for an all-party government to oversee upcoming election, Khaleda Zia, chief of main opposition BNP, floated a formula for creating a neutral poll-time regime.

Begum Zia suggested that the ruling Awami League and her party BNP could each choose five persons from among 20 former advisers, who were part of two non-party regimes that oversaw polls in 1996 and 2001, to create the proposed interim Government. The ’most acceptable person’ for the two parties could head the government instead of the incumbent Premier and the current Parliament would endorse the structure in the same way that the House elects the President and Speaker, she said.

According to her, Bangladesh witnessed two most credible elections under the non-party caretaker governments in 1996 and 2001 that brought the Awami League and BNP to power respectively. Zia suggested that advisers or ministers from those regimes could be picked to run the interim government in a credible manner during the upcoming poll. She urged Hasina to take steps for talks on her proposal.

The proposals from the Awami League and BNP came amidst growing uncertainty about the fate of the election due to be held by 24 January, 2014 and mounting tensions between the two parties.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 21 October 2013; PTI, 21 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China keen to fund infrastructure

China would like to provide financial support in the communication, health, power, telecom and physical infrastructure sectors for Bangladesh under its next five year plan. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has urged the Bangladesh government to send the name of the project to Beijing for inclusion in its five year plan beginning in 2015. However, the Bangladesh government is yet to finalise the list of the projects that will be submitted to the Embassy of China in Dhaka.

During the recent visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India from 19 May to 22 May this year, India and China proposed in their joint statement to establish a China-India-Myanmar-Bangladesh economic corridor, urging Bangladesh to serve as a bridge in the economic corridor.

The Chinese Government has sought support of Bangladesh in consolidating and promoting the gains of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM). Bangladesh has also assured full support for the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) initiatives of the Chinese government to promote trade and connectivity, sources added.

In South Asia, Bangladesh has become China’s third largest trading partner, whereas China is the largest origin of Bangladesh’s imports. According to statistics, the trade volume reached US$ 8.45 billion in 2012 whereas only three years ago the figure was less than US$ 3 billion. The volume was seven times higher than that of 2002.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 21 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Extradition treaty with India functional

India and Bangladesh exchanged document of extradition treaty this week, eight months after the two countries signed the landmark agreement for deportation of cross-border criminals.

This also clears the way of deportation of the General Secretary of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Anup Chetia, and other members of the organisation. Chetia and many of his associates are imprisoned in Bangladesh. The extradition treaty was signed on 28 January this year.

Senior Secretary of the Home Ministry CQM Mustaq Ahmed and the Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Pankaj Saran exchanged the document at a function, held at the ministry, to facilitate handover of criminals between the two countries.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 24 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian Army for closer ties

A week-long Indo-Bhutan Army Cycling Expedition was flagged into Sukna Cantonment in North Bengal this week. The expedition was flagged-off on 12 October in Bhutan and travelled through Chimakothi, Hasimara, Binnaguri, Bagrakot, Pedong and Sevoke.

"This was an important event. Ties between the Indian and Bhutan armies are crucial. There is Chinese activity in the Chumbi Valley region and the country has laid stake on the Doklam Platuea in Bhutan. The plateau practically overlooks the ’chicken-neck’ corridor that connects India’s northeast to the remaining part of the country. If China were to go ahead unhindered, the People’s Liberation Army could be patrolling the northern boundary of the Siliguri or ’chicken-neck’ corridor. This would jeopardize India’s military movement in that area," a senior officer of the Indian Army said.

The Indo-Bhutan Army Cycling Expedition was led by Lt A.K. Singh of the Indian Army. All throughout the route, the cyclists were accompanied by vehicles with banners highlighting Indo-Bhutan Friendship. The cyclists were met enroute by the GOC of the Kripan Division. At Sukna, the participants were welcomed and felicitated by Lt-Gen K.J. Singh, GOC, Trishakti Corps. Both the Trishakti Corps and the Kripan Division under it are entrusted with security along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

"Gen Singh highlighted the cordial relations between the Indian and Bhutan armies and said that such activities would further cement the ties between the two countries. Military ties between the two countries go back a long way. Nearly 10 years ago, the Royal Bhutanese Army conducted flushing-out operations against anti-India insurgents. Officers of the Bhutan army receive training in India," the official added.

The new government in Bhutan has expressed its desire to improve ties with India further. While experts believe that Delhi should take up this opportunity to reciprocate and reclaim any ground it may have lost, the Indian Army, concerned about the possibility of the PLA marching across Bhutan, is keeping the show going.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, 18 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rs 450-m received for 11th Plan

The Bhutan Government received 420 million INR this week as programme grants from the Government of India as the first tranche of funds to finance development activities in the 11th Plan, which kicked off on 1 July this year.

Bhutan had received 930 million INR from India earlier this month to complete the remaining 10th Plan projects. A balance of 2.9 billion INR is still to be received for the 10th Plan projects funded by India.

Bhutan’s Finance Minister Namgay Dorji said the government could use the programme grant fund, wherever there was a requirement or a shortage of funds.

"Unlike project-tied assistance, the government is free to prioritise areas and then allocate the money wherever needed," the minister said. The government of India does not specify where the programme grant fund is to be used.

He said the cabinet was yet to decide and prioritise areas and then accordingly distribute the funds. The minister had initially said the priorities would be to complete the remaining works of the tenth plan, work on improving liquidity through the economic stimulus plan, and then start the development activities under the current plan.

The government had asked for a total of 6.5 billion INR for the first year of the current plan, which is from July 2013 to June 2014.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 23 October, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

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


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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