MonitorsPublished on Mar 22, 2013
The small Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, surrounded by two giant regional superpowers, India and China, is showing the world that simple resolve and strong political will can pave way for a huge change.
Bhutan: Sustainable development through organic farming
< class="heading1">Analysis

The small Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, surrounded by two giant regional superpowers, India and China, is showing the world that simple resolve and strong political will can pave way for a huge change. Bhutan is set to be the first country with 100 per cent organic farming as a part of its unique economic development model centred on protecting the environment and preserving the mental wellbeing of its citizens.

With a population of 720,680 and an area of 38,394 sqkm, it is one of the newest democracies in the world. Most of the country’s population depends on agriculture as the primary source of employment and income. The people of Bhutan are deeply connected to their culture and religion and all efforts by subsequent leadership have been to preserve these as such. These measures include banning television in the country, keeping a very strict tourism intake policy and a recently initiated "pedestrian day" which is on every Tuesday where no vehicles are allowed in town centres across the country. These are all measures adopted by the Bhutanese leadership to ensure that the cultural heritage and the environment of the country is not disturbed or diluted by external influences.

The development model that Bhutan has thus far followed is that of measuring Gross National Happiness (GNH) as opposed to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is a more citizen-centric approach than focussed wholly on economics. The Bhutanese government’s new economic policy is also driven by these factors and Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley’s announcement of a new policy to phase out artificial chemicals in the next 10 years to make Bhutan a wholly organic country in terms of producing its staple products, namely, wheat, potatoes and fruits have been lauded by the international community. The justification for this move is given by the government as keeping up with their Buddhist belief of living harmoniously with nature which is disturbed by excessive use of chemical fertilizers.

Only about three per cent of Bhutan’s total area is under farmlands wherein majority farmers are already reliant on natural compost for use as fertilisers. Therefore, for the entire country to go organic may not be very challenging. The Government has charted a viable roadmap towards this objective and it has already been implemented. The Government has identified crops which can go organic immediately, for others, the roadmap provides for practical timelines for phasing out the use of chemicals. The problem that the Government is facing in certain difficult pests and weeds in the farmlands is that of lack of labour, something that the government is working on.

The Bhutan Government has identified the novelty attached to wholly organic foods worldwide under the rising concerns of side-effects caused by rampant use of chemical-based fertilisers and pesticides. According to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the organic foods market attracts premium prices and is a lucrative option for small countries whose economy is agro-based. The global market for organic food produce was estimated to be worth $57 billion in 2010, according to the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and Bhutan would like to be a premier stakeholder in exporting such produce.

Moreover, since Bhutan doesn’t indigenously produce chemical-based fertilisers, stopping its use would favour its balance of trade as well. The Ministry of Agriculture in Bhutan has also stated that this policy is aimed at not only promoting environment protection, but also train farmers in newer methods of agriculture and encourages self-reliance. Training camps are now being organised along with special aid to farmers going organic.

The problems that are likely to arise in this process may include that of any fledgling democracy which has a conflict between traditionalism and modernism. Many of the young Bhutanese people are unsure of making agriculture their profession and are looking for more lucrative options in other countries like India. There is also a shift of youth from traditional values and ideas to consumerism which is making them question the basic tenets of Bhutan’s policies.

There is also the problem of clean water source for irrigation which has been intensified due to the last couple of years being unusually warm and dry. The Government of Bhutan has adopted methods to correct that, like sustainable root intensification, which carefully regulate the amount of water that crops need and the age at which seedlings are planted.

Despite these minor problems, all of which are easily manageable, Bhutan’s efforts at economic enhancement through sustainable environmental development is a big step towards a solution to increasing concerns on the world based on global warming. More than ninety fiver per cent of the country already has clean water and hydroelectricity, it is carbon neutral and food secure and it has the fourth fastest growing GDP in the world. In a world struggling with a multitude of problems, climate change being one of the major ones, Bhutan’s efforts are evident of a creative method to solving traditional problems.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India : Nitish’s Delhi foray: Political realignment or confusion?

Dr Satish Misra

Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar’s rally in the union capital on Sunday, March 17, and the announcement of withdrawal of support to the Congress-led UPA Government by DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi on the issue of Sri Lanka may well turn out to be the beginning of realignment of the political forces in the country. Which way and what form it takes is difficult to assess at present but undoubtedly politics of the country is in flux and coming months would determine the paths and goals of the country’s polity and economy.

At present, contours of domestic politics after general elections in 2014 or earlier are not clearly discernable but the old order seems to be under threat. Both the national alliances, the ruling UPA as well as the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are trying to hold together but there are serious challenges to them as regional forces are posing serious challenge to their credibility.

If a non-Congress, non-BJP government can be formed after the next General Elections is a question to which no easy answer is available. Every political party is flexing its muscles and is trying to catch the electorate’s attention. Political positioning has begun and every political party has begun to hedge its bet.

While the well-attended rally of the JD (U) seeking special status for Bihar was Nitish’s instrument of announcing that he is ready to play an important role in the national politics, Karunanidhi was trying to save his political territory by diverting people’s wrath to an external enemy that is New Delhi in full realisation that the Congress was on a losing wicket and DMK has no political advantage by maintaining its political alliance with the country’s oldest party.

The Bihar Chief Minister has signalled a warning to his old ally, the BJP, that if it projects Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections, then the JD (U) would not hesitate to go its own way. Nitish Kumar has many reasons to distance from the BJP but whether he would emerge victorious ultimately like Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik few years back when he snapped his party-Biju Janata Dal (BJD) with the saffron party is not easy to assess.

First, Nitish Kumar knows that Modi would not be acceptable to Muslims in Bihar, which has a substantial Muslim population. By forcing the UPA Government to agree to reframe the conditions for granting of special status, he has very intelligently tried to recapture the political space which he was beginning to lose to opponents in Bihar.

Immediately after the rally, Nitish Kumar met both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidmabaram, who promised him that not only was his demand justified but the Centre had started the exercise to grant concessions to backward States. The Finance Minister in his Budget speech had already mentioned that the Centre was willing to redraw the conditions for grant of special status.

Not only Bihar but many other States like West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh have been demanding special status. By championing the cause and making the UPA Government agree to the demand, Nitish Kumar has emerged as a leader in north India which would help the JD (U) to expand its area of influence outside Bihar.

On the other hand, the BJP is caught in a serious cleft, not knowing which way to go. The Gujarat Chief Minister has become a political necessity as the BJP does not have any other leader who enjoys a support from party cadres like Modi does. If the party chooses to go ahead with Modi as its prime ministerial candidate then not only JD (U) would part company but newer allies would be difficult to find as a majority of political parties depend on the votes of Muslim for their political survival.

The BJP is not sure about the political dividends that it will reap if it projected Modi as it choice. A section of leaders in the party favours going alone in the general election with the Gujarat Chief Minister as the prime ministerial candidate. It would be possible to bring parties into the NDA after the results are out, they argue.

If the BJP is able to win around 180 Lok Sabha seats, then the possibility of forming a government would be strong and many political parties would be willing to join the BJP-led alliance. The figure of 180, which would be a sort of record as the BJP’s highest tally in the Lok Sabha was 182 in 1999. The BJP was able to secure this figure with Atal Bihari Vajpayee being the prime ministerial candidate and elections taking place after country’s victory in Kargil war.

The big question that is being asked in the BJP is whether Modi can substitute former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in popular appeal and would be acceptable across the length and breadth of the country. Those, arguing in favour of the Gujarat strong men, say that Modi’s acceptability among the youth ensures that the BJP would gain substantial political gains across the country. But there is no political barometer to know exactly what would be the final results in the next Lok Sabha polls.

Undoubtedly, the youth aspiring for better employment, comfortable life and luxuries like 24 hours power supply is feeling attracted to Modi’s growth model but whether this section of the country’s electorate would have a uniform pan-country voting behaviour or would get divided on regional and caste lines is a question which is the crucial key to see the shape of the coming political alignment in the country. Youth vote is going to determine the political future of the country.

It is here Nitish Kumar’s model for Bihar’s economic growth, which according to him is inclusive in nature, would come into reckoning and if it comes to be accepted by young and old alike then Modi and the BJP would face an uphill task to revive their political fortunes.

The upcoming Assembly elections this year in five States would offer some clues to this question and set the tone for the Lok Sabha polls. The process of realignment has been set in motion by the Bihar Chief Minister and coming months would add to the momentum with other players queering the pitch.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pro-US vote against Sri Lanka

The UN Human Rights council (UNHRC) on Thursday (March 21) adopted a US-sponsored resolution on human rights violation in Sri Lanka with 25 countries, including India, voting in favour of the document in the 47-nation strong body.

While 13 countries, including Pakistan, voted against, eight states abstained from voting on the contentious resolution that saw political tremors in India with DMK pulling out of the UPA alliance and the Government. Gabon, a member country had voting rights issue.

The watered down resolution also saw India pushing for new elements through written amendments calling for an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violation and other accountability measures to be accepted by Sri Lanka according to sources.

During intervention in the UNHRC on the Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka, India’s Permanent Representative Dilip Sinha said, "We reiterate our call for an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violations and loss of civilian lives".

"We note with concern the inadequate progress by Sri Lanka in fulfilling its commitment to this Council in 2009. Further, we call on Sri Lanka to move forward on its public commitments, including devolution of political authority through full implementation of the 13th Amendment and building upon it", Mr Sinha said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">DMK walks out of UPA

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the UPA’s nine-year-old partner in power, quit the ruling coalition on Tuesday (March 19), accusing the Centre of disregarding its demand to the US-sponsored draft resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.

DMK leaders led by T R Balu met President Pranab Mukherjee late Tuesday night and submitted their letter withdrawing support to the government. Mr Baalu said DMK ministers would hand over their resignations to the Prime Minister on Wednesday. "Each and everything will be discussed threadbare. Out leader Karunanidhi will advise us and we will act accordingly. We will follow his directions," Mr Ballu said.

Earlier, the Congress-led United Progressive Allaicne (UPA) government had sought to but time from its ally DMK, which was threatening to leave the coalition, by promising to adopt a resolution in Parliament supporting two important amendments to the US-sponsored draft resolution against Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

This was the outcome of the reconciliation talks, lasting over two-and-half hours on Monday (March 18) between DMK leader M Karunanidhi and Congress emissaries, Union Ministers P Chidambaram, A K Antony and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Karunanidhi had been demanding an amendment that would declare that "genocide and war crimes had been committed on Eelam Tamils by the Sri Lankan Army and administrators.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 20, 2013, The Hindu, March 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No all-party support on Sri Lanka resolution

The prospect of sending out a collective message from Parliament on the ’Sri Lankan Tamil issue’ looked set to be a non-starter on Wednesday (March 20) after Opposition parties as well as allies refused to back a resolution proposed by the Government in the backdrop of the DMK pulling out of the UPA on the issue.

Barring the backing of Tamil Nadu parties such as the AIADMK and DMK, the Government failed to secure the support o the BJP, Left as well as the parties such as the SP for a strongly-worded resolution that virtually sought to pin Sri Lanka for alleged atrocities committed against its ethnic Tamils.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No party wants early polls

Despite one for the Congress’ most-trusted allies walking out of the UPA, the Manmohan Singh government’s survival is not in question for now, though reduced to a minority. "Outside" support from the Samajwadi Party (22) MPs), BSP (21), RJD (3) and nine Independents are sufficient to take the government over the Lok Sabha halfway mark, which are now 271 in a house of 541.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Asian Age, March 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament clears anti-rape law

Parliament on March 21 cleared the anti-rape Bill with Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde promising a revisit, if required, to the vital piece of legislation that keeps age for consensual sex at 18 years and makes voyeurism and stalking punishable offences.

The Government is open to amendments," Mr Shinde told the Rajya Sabha in response to observations by the Opposition members that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013, was being passed in hurry and without an in-depth debate.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Congress breathes easy as SP softens stand

The Congress’ political managers on March 21 breathed easy after the Samajwadi Party (SP) preferred not to precipitate matters on the continuation of Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma over his remarks against its chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Earlier, in more ally trouble for the UPA, even as the Government had sought to put up a brave front and claimed it had sorted out all its issues with Mr Yadav, the Samajwadi Party on Wednesday had sent the Congress into a tizzy by demanding the resignation of the Union Steel Minister.

Despite both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reaching out to Yadav during the day, and Verma offering an apology, the SP stuck to its demand for his dismissal. The Congress, meanwhile indicated that it would not yield to pressure tactics.

The stage for the standoff was set by Mr Yadav himself. He is learnt to have reached out to Leader of Opposition Suhsma Swaraj and asked her to castigate Mr Verma for his disparaging remarks against hm.

Addressing a public function in Gonda over the weekend, the Steel Minister was reported to have accused Yadav of taking a "commission" for supporting the UPA government. He also alleged that the SP chief had "terrorist links".

In a parallel development, the Trinamol Congress sprang an apparent surprise, announcing that it would "stand by the Central Government" on matters of foreign policy. "The Trinamool is deeply concerned about the sentiments expressed by our Tamil brothers and sisters. We share their sentiments and are fully with them," the party said on Twitter message.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, March 22, 2013, The Indian Express, March 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sonia for independent and credible probe

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on March 19 demanded for an independent and credible inquiry into the violation of human rights in Sri Lanka. She said this before the DMK announced its decision to pull out of the UPA.

Addressing a general body meeting of the Congress Party in Parliament (CPP), Mrs Gandhi said the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka is very close to our hearts. "Our support for their equal rights and equal protection of the laws to them has been unwavering since the days of Indiraji and Rajivji. We are most pained at the manner in which their legitimate political rights continue to be denied to them."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Asian Age, March 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC upholds death for Yakub, 5-year jail for Sanjay Dutt

Confirming Pakistan’s role in the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai, the Supreme Court on March 21 upheld the death sentence awarded to the mastermind Yakub Memon, brother of Tiger Memon, but commuted the death penalty of 10 others citing several reasons, including the fact that they have been in jail for 20 years.

A Bench comprising of Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan also upheld the conviction of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt for possession of illegal arms and ammunition at the time of the serial blasts, but reduced his sentence from six years to five years, the minimum punishment for the offence under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA).

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament tells Pak to stay away

The scope for revival of the peace process with Pakistan shrank significantly on March 15, with parliament rebuking Pakistan’s national Assembly for passing a resolution condemning the execution of Afzal Guru and asking it refrain from supporting terrorists and warning of the consequences of dabbling in India’s internal affairs.

The tit-for-tat resolution, unanimously adopted by both houses, also linked the resumption of dialogue to efforts by Pakistan to stop terror attacks on India from territory under its control, reducing the head room for proactive tension-easing manoeuvres with Islamabad.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, March 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hockey series scrapped

The India-Pakistan hockey series next month has been cancelled after he Indian government refused to give it permission.

India was scheduled to host the Pakistan’s hockey team from April 5-15 for a five match Test series across Ranchi, Lucknow, New Delhi, Mohali and Jalanadhar, followed by a return tour to Pakistan in May.

< class="text11verdana">Source: the Hindu, March 16, 20113

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan detains 55 fishermen

The Pakistan Marine Security Agency (PMSA) has seized nine Indian fishing boats and apprehended 55 fishermen off Jakhau coast near the international border, a fishermen’s body claimed on Sunday. "The PMSA intercepted nine fishing boats yesterday in the international waters off Jakhau coast near Jamnagar.

Fifty-five fishermen apprehended by the agency were sent to Karachi," National Fish Workers’ Forum General Secretary Manish Lodhari told PTI. The boats were from Porbandar and the fishermen hailed from Gujarat, he said. This is the second such incident within a week when Indian fishermen were taken away by PMSA.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SEBI seeks court nod for arresting Subrata Roy

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on March 15 moved the Supreme Court for the arrest and detention in a civil prison of Sahara Group promoter Subrata Roy Sahaara and directors Ashok Roy Choudhary ad Ravi Shankar Dubey, after hearing them.

Counsel for SEBI made a mention about the filing of the application before a bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan, who directed that the matter be listed for the first week of April.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Egypt’s Morsy pitches for ’E-BRICS’

Confident of navigating his country’s post-revolution transition, Egypt’s first elected President Mohamed Morsy arrived in India on March 18 to anchor a special relationship and flag his country’s ambition of joining the ranks of the world’s "emerging countries".

In an exclusive interview to the Hindu ahead of his first visit to India, Morsy visualised a "true partnership" with New Delhi that would boost the revival of Egypt’s economy, reinforce its security and institutionalise its fledgling democracy. "I am looking forward to an unique, strong, institutional and mutually beneficial relationship with India. For Indians, we can be a hub for North Africa and Africa as well," the President said.

Morsy expressed Egypt’s deep interest in joining the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) combine, and turning the grouping into E-BRICS. "I am hoping BRICS would one day become E-BRICS where E stands for Egypt," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, March 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Italy will send back marines

Reversing its earlier decision, the Italian government said late on Thursday (March 21) that it would return to India the two marines facing murder charges in the shooting of two fishermen.

The Italian foreign ministry had earlier said the marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Lattore, would not return to face trials in India. The Supreme Court had granted them bail till March 22.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No trust, no immunity: SC

Saying that Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini "has lost our trust", the Supreme Court on March 18 restrained him from leaving India, and added that a person who "comes to court as a petitioner" does not enjoy diplomatic immunity.

"We don’t go anymore by what you (Mancini) say. We are not so naive....He has done it once and he (Mancini) will again violate our orders if he has to," said the bench led by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir when senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Mancini and Italy, said he would not leave the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fencing rules not followed, says Bangladesh

The Chief of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), Major General Aziz Ahamad, who is here for bi-annual talks, alleged on March 19 that India was not following certain rules when it came to fencing its border areas.

Some patches of land, especially the riverine ones, which have not been fenced yet are a bone of contention both for security and administrative reasons between the two countries. India shares 4096.7 km long boundary with Bangladesh out of which 2520.610 km has been fenced and 2576 km is yet to be completed. India has decided to go for single row fencing in such patches.

"There were instances when certain rules were not followed when it came to the BSF fencing border areas. We cannot fence the border, it is the job of the BSF but our teams are present there to assist them. We raised the issue with our counterpart present at the border outposts; we try to sort out the issues at our level," the BGB chief said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China offers five-point plan to better ties

China’s new President Xi Jinping on March 19 unveiled a five-point formula to improve ties with India, seeking accommodation of each other’s core concerns and proper handling of differences while seeking peace on the border as a resolution of the dispute "won’t be easy".

Mr Xi, 59, who took over as President, Communist Party head and military chief, sent clear signals he wanted better bilateral ties with India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Asian Age, March 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Loans won’t get cheaper yet

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governnor Duvvuri Subbarao met marker expectations by lowering the key interest rate, but bankers poured cold water on hopes of lower home and auto loan rates even before the ink was dry.

The mid-quarter monetary policy was notably hawkish in tone, with the government explaining that it would be imprudent to lower rates quickly in the coming months as inflation remain stubborn and current account deficit-the excess of spending overseas over earnings-is unsustainable.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, March 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karnataka to go to polls on May 5

Elections to the 234-member Karnataka Assembly will be held on May 5 and counting of votes will be held on May 8. The poll notification will be issued on April 10.

Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath told journalists that the model code of conduct had come in effect immediately and would apply to all candidates, political parties and State/Central Governments.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt urged to fix internet laws

Google Inc.’s Chairman Eric Schmidt Wednesday publicly asked the Indian government to change its laws governing the Internet and to create a favourable ecosystem for entrepreneurs and start-ups in the country. "There are a set of things to be fixed by the Indian Government," Schmidt said at an event in New Delhi. He said one of the laws India needs to change currently holds Internet companies liable for content posted by users. Some Internet companies, including Google, face lawsuits in India for not censoring content posted by web users.

In 2011, angered at the spread of inflammatory material online, Indian legislators passed a law that allows Internet companies to be held liable for "offensive" material posted by users. Parts of the law are being challenged in India’s Supreme Court, which has yet to rule.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Egg on Govt face after CBI raids Stalin

Two days after the DMK walked out of the UPA and sparked a new political crisis at the Centre, A CBI team raided the home of a top DMK leader M K Stalin in Chennai early on Thursday (March 21) morning, kicking up a political storm.

The action sparked indignation in the entire political class, particularly the opposition, which charged the government with carrying out vendetta against the DMK.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top ministers, including Finance Minister P Chidamabaram, were caught on the wrong foot and, in an unprecedented move, publically distanced themselves from the development even as TV channels showed visuals of the ongoing search at Stalin’s house.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP to push Parliament for revamping SC

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has decided to ask the Parliament to change the Supreme Court bench alleging that the court was trying to prevent the party’s presidential candidate from contesting in the upcoming presidential election.

A motion submitted during the emergency session of MDP national congress on Sunday evening said the Supreme Court had over-ruled several decisions made by the majority of Parliament and labelled such actions as an attempt to undermine the authority of Parliament.

Hence, the motion which passed unanimously proposed to ask the Parliament to compose a new Bench as soon as possible and to protest against the Supreme Court until the change is made.

MDP’s motion to recompose the seven -Judge bench came after the Supreme Court ruled that Civil Service Commission (CSC) president Mohamed Fahmy Hassan was removed from his post by Parliament was unconstitutional.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, March 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JSC does not allow for independence: AG

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member and Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor has said that the current composition of the JSC does not allow to maintain the independence of the judiciary.

Speaking at the Parliament Committee on Independent Institutions regarding the manner in which the bench of judges for the Hulhumale’ Court was established, Azima said that even though the JSC has been composed according to the Constitution, she does not believe that the current composition of the commission is the most effective. She however said that the current composition will not enable the members to obstruct or prioritise a certain issue.

Referring to the purpose she was summoned to the committee, Azima said that the Parliament Committee’s probe into the manner in which JSC appointed the Hulhumale’ Bench of judges is bound to have its effects on the trail of former President Nasheed.

Azima’s words were directed towards the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs who had initiated the review, as former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial is currently being contested in Hulhumale’ Court. Azima said that she would not support the review of the case or get involved in its meetings if she was to sit in the Parliament Committee.

Regarding the vote by Parliament’s member to the JSC Gasim Ibrahim, in favour of the establishment of the Hulhumale’ Court Bench, Azima said that Gasim sits in the JSC representing Parliament and that it is his right, also granted by the Constitution, to vote as he pleases. She however said that if she was in Gasim’s place when the vote for the establishment of the JSC was taken, she would not have participated in the vote.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, March 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">HC moved on power-transfer

Former Human Rights Minister Fathmath Dhiyana Saeed has submitted a case at the High Court to declare that the power was transferred illegally on February 7 of last year. The case was submitted to the High Court by Dhiyana Saeed, lawyer Ishrar Thaufeeg and Aminath Nazlee.

Dhiyana submitted the case asking the Court to declare two matters. According to information, Dhiyana asked the court to declare the power was transferred illegally and Nasheed resigned under duress. The second matter she asked the court to declare is that the legitimate government of Maldives was over thrown illegally.

Dhiyana said that 35 witnesses were provided to the case. She said that the court was requested to give the opportunity to further increase the witnesses. She said that there were video footages as evidence regarding the matter.

Ishraar said that it has been noted that there occurred many illegal actions during the transfer of power. He said that their studies showed that many actions that opposes the best practice utilized by developed countries.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Judge Abdulla’s arrest on Defence Minister’s ’orders’

The then Brig-Gen Ibrahim Didi and Col Mohamed Ziyad had acted on the orders of Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu in the arrest of Chief Criminal Judge Abdulla Mohamed, Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) First Lieutenant Ali Ihsaan testified on Wednesday night.

At the criminal court hearing in case against Ibrahim Didi for his involvement in the illegal arrest and subsequent detention of Chief criminal Judge Abdulla Mohamed, Ihsaan said the Defense Minister had held a meeting with some high ranking MNDF officials. He said that the meeting was attended by Ibrahim Didi, Ziyad and ex-Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel.

He said that it was discussed to summon Judge Abdulla Mohamed to the military Head Quarters . Nasrullah said that Ibrahim Didi had requested to produce Judge Abdulla Mohamed to the Defense HQ. He said that Judge Abdulla had been arrested upon orders from Ziyad. He said that Ziyad had requested to arrest him and to transfer him to Number three Jetty. He said that his task was completed from that point. Judge Abdulla was taken to a military training facility in Kaafu Atoll Girifushi where he was kept for 22 days.

He said that the commander in the operation to arrest the Judge was Ibrahim Didi.

The court also held the hearing in the charges against Ziyad. The hearing was based on deciding on how to continue with the procedural points raised by the defence. In the court hearing on Wednesday, the state presented evidence against Ziyad including witnesses, documents and video footage.

The hearing was concluded granting a 20 day period to prepare the defence.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, March 23, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Emergency imposed in Meikhtila

Myanmar President Thein Sein has declared a state of emergency in a central town where at least 20 people have been killed in violence between Buddhists and Muslims. The President made the announcement in a statement broadcast on state television on March 22, 2013.

The Government’s struggle to contain the unrest in the town of Meikhtila in Mandalay division is proving another major challenge for TheinSein’s reformist administration as it attempts to chart a path to democracy after nearly half a century of military rule that once crushed all dissent.

< class="text11verdana">Source: NDTV, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Riots claim 20 lives

The Government’s struggle to contain the unrest in Meikhtila is proving another major challenge President TheinSein’s reformist administration as it attempts to chart a path to democracy after nearly half a century of military rule that once crushed all dissent.

The scenes in Meikhtila, where homes and at least five mosques have been torched by angry mobs, were ominously reminiscent of the sectarian violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya that shook western Rakhine state last year, killing hundreds of people and driving more than 100,000 from their homes.

The clashes in Meikhtila which was tense but calm March 22 are the first reported in central Myanmar since then.Troubles began on March 19 after an argument broke out between a Muslim gold shop owner and his Buddhist customers. A Buddhist monk was among the first killed, inflaming tensions that led a Buddhist mob to rampage through a Muslim neighbourhood.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser to Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, issued a statement expressing "deep sorrow at the tragic loss of lives and destruction". The US Ambassador to Myanmar, Derek Mitchell, also said he was "deeply concerned about reports of violence and widespread property damage in Meikhtila".

There was no apparent direct connection between the Meikhtila violence and that last year in Rakhine state. Rakhine Buddhists allege that Rohingya are mostly illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. The Muslim population of Meikhtila is believed to be mostly of Indian origin, and although religious tensions are longstanding, the incident sparking the violence seemed to be a small and isolated dispute.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Addiction driving ethnic conflict

Myitkyina is known for having one of the highest concentrations of drug addicts in the world. The Kachin Baptist Convention, an evangelical group with more than 300 churches in the state, says nearly 80 percent of ethnic Kachin youth are addicts. Their drug of choice is heroin.Opium is grown here, and heroin is cheap and easy to find. Help in overcoming addiction, however, is rare.

The men who come to the Kachin Baptist Convention’s rehabilitation camp, one of the few places addicts can seek help, hope to find healing in God. The government also runs a drug rehabilitation hospital in Kachin state, but some here say officials have done far too little, and even accuse them of turning a blind eye to drug abuse to decimate young people who might otherwise become rebels.

Fighting broke out in 2011 between the Kachin Independence Army, which has long been struggling for greater self-rule, and government forces. It has continued despite the announcement of a ceasefire in January.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Associated Press, March 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Laos to restore air links

Re-establishing an air link between the two capitals would open doors for investors and tourists, SaleumTayarathm, director of Lao Airlines’ Commercial Department told reporters.The new air link is part of plans by Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam to build better connections between the Mekong region neighbours.

Lao Airlines stopped flying to Yangon in the 1980s as the route was unprofitable.

Lao Airlines plans to open a Vientiane-Phnom Penh route later this year, the official said.Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore are the only destinations in Southeast Asia currently served by Lao Airlines.

The Lao national flag carrier carried about 500,000 passengers in 2010 and jumped to about 900,000 customers last year. It expects to serve 1 million people this year.Meanwhile, Myanmar Airways International is reportedly interested in an air link between Yangon and the former Laos capital of LuangPrabang.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Bangkok Post, March 21, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parties gear up for polls

After finalising on a 11-member interim election Cabinet and recommending appointments to the top vacant posts of the Election Commission and other constitutional bodies, the major political parties seem to have geared up for elections although the date is yet to be announced.

Key leaders from four major political parties -- UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and United Madhesi Democratic Front -- that until a few months ago remained divided over whether to go for fresh elections or to reinstate the dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA) now unanimously stand in favour of fresh polls.

A meeting of the Constitutional Council on Thursday decided to recommend five names to President Ram Baran Yadav for their appointment as commissioners of the Election Commission. In an indication that the party is aggressively moving ahead for polls, the UCPN (Maoist) on Wednesday formed two separate committees mainly for election purpose.

A central committee meeting of UCPN (Maoist) formed a nine-member taskforce headed by party Vice-chairman and former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and entrusted the team with drafting the party´s election manifesto. The same meeting formed another nine-member committee headed by party General Secretary Posta BahadurBogati with the mandate to recommend party candidates for the Constituent Assembly polls from each of the 240 constituencies across the country.

Immediately after the formation of the election-Government, leaders of the constituent parties of the Federal Democratic Republican Alliance (FDRA), an alliance led by UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, reached an understanding to give continuity to their working alliance until fresh polls are held. They also agreed to go for election with a common manifesto, common candidate and common agenda.

Other major political parties seemed to be equally enthusiastic. A three-day regional gathering of Nepali Congress (NC) delegates held earlier this week in Nuwakot concluded that the latest political deal was a victory for the party as that created an environment for fresh elections.

The NC and CPN-UML leaders have claimed that they would capitalise the new elections as an opportunity to correct the setbacks in previous CA elections in 2008 when the UCPN (Maoist) emerged as the largest party. Addressing a function in Kathmandu on Thursday, NC President Sushil Koirala instructed party members to focus all activities on elections. Koirala claimed that the party would emerge as the largest party in the coming elections. "What we need is to stand united while going for elections," said Koirala. A key leader of CPN-UML, KP Sharma Oli, argued at the same function that the dissolved CA couldn´t deliver a new constitution "because UCPN (Maoist) emerged as the largest party" in the CA election in 2008.

Civil society members and independent analysts believed that the latest development indicate that the political parties have geared up for the polls. On the other hand, the Baidya-led CPN-Maoist and some other regional groups have announced not only to boycott the polls but also to disrupt it if the elections are held without forming a national consensus government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, March 17-22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC stays Karki’s appointment

The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday stayed the process to appoint controversial former Chief Secretary Lok Man Singh Karki as the chief of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

A single-Judge Bench of Justice Sushila Karki stayed the appointment process until April 7. Advocate Om Prakash Aryal had filed the case, challenging the selection of Karki by the high-level four-party political committee to head the anti-corruption agency. In the writ petition, Aryal argued that since the CIAA had earlier disqualified him to hold Government office, his appointment to lead the same agency would be illegal.

Karki is known for pushing his way through the bureaucracy within a short period during the erstwhile royal regime and is accused of misusing state resources to suppress the Janandolan-2. Of late, he is allegedly close to UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian soldiers arrested

Police arrested six Indian soldiers from eastern Ilam bordering area, Pashupatinagar on Friday for entering Nepal with weapons. Police arrested them in army uniform and with weapons.

According to the police, they were heading for Pashupatinagar from the alternative road at Simaana that lies in between Pashupati Fatak and Sukhiya. "The reason behind their movement is yet to be ascertained," Police said.

The police have suspected that they might have forgotten their way to Fatak for the regular border checking. Meanwhile, police have been trying to make contacts with Army Headquarters in Darjeeling following the arrest.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Six minors rescued from India

Nepal Janasamparka Samiti and Maiti India have rescued six children from New Delhi. The identities of the children who were rescued from the clutches of traffickers are Sandeep Pandey of Palpa, Raj Sharma of Kathmandu, Amrit Kafle of Chitwan, Bikash Thapa of Sindhuli, Manna Ansari of Bara and Deepak of Dhanusa. They are being sent to their families in Nepal.

Due to free border, pervasive poverty, family disputes and many other reasons, thousands of Nepalese children are forced to come to India where they are trafficked for labour and forced into various kinds of hazardous works.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, March 22


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM proposes three for caretaker

Speaking to newsmen, officials from the eight-member parliamentary committee expressed optimism that a consensus would be reached before the Friday, 22 March deadline.

The committee comprises four members of the governing PPP coalition (including representatives from the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid e Azam (PML-Q)), as well as four opposition members, all of whom are from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Should an agreement prove elusive, the decision for naming a caretaker prime minister would fall to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) -a development sources from the governing coalition said they wished to avoid.

Representatives from the opposition were reportedly more inclined to allow the ECP to decide between the four nominees currently proposed (two by the PPP coalition, and two by the PML-N), and have thus far steadfastly rejected both Dr. Ishrat Husain and (rtd) Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, whom they argue are too close to prominent PPP officials, including President Zardari. Governing coalition members reportedly made similar arguments regarding the PML-N’s nominees -(rtd) Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid and Rasool Bux Palijo.

The caretaker prime minister, when finalised, will hold formal authority until the general elections, to be held on 11 May.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Nation, March 22, 2013; The Express Tribune, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Social worker murdered

Parveen Rehman, a widely respected Karachi social worker and Director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), was gunned down by assassins on 13 March while returning home from work.

The OPP has received global attention for its efforts to improve the lives of individuals and families living in formally unrecognised settlements in Karachi, including sanitation and water supply projects, community organising, education, and skills training.

Several reports have blamed TTP elements for her murder, although they have denied responsibility. Rehman’s work, which involved documenting land-grabbing by criminal elements, has resulted in multiple threats on her life.

News of her death, which received wide media coverage in domestic and international media sources, led to demonstrations in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, and Peshawar by civil society groups and human rights organizations. As news of her murder spread, dozens of residents of Orangi gathered outside of the hospital where she had been taken, as well as in front of her residence.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Dawn Pakistan, March 14, 2013; The Express Tribune, March 16, 2013; The News, March 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TTP pulls out of peace talks

Less than one month after an all parties’ conference agreed to begin peace talks with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan announced that the terrorist group would be suspending their participation in the peace process, on the grounds that the Government was "not serious" about making progress on the initiative.

The TTP, which has periodically entered into cease-fires with the Pakistani government, had most recently offered to enter into discussions early in February, 2013, but had expressed scepticism as to the willingness of the military to support the talks -which it deems crucial. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F, has been the principle political backer of the negotiations.

In the video-taped announcement, Ehsan continued by warning Pakistanis to avoid participating in the "un-Islamic democratic system which only serves the interests of infidels and enemies of Islam." PPP, ANP, and MQM functions were specifically named. The TTP, which has continued to attack government targets in the run-up to the proposed negotiations, claimed credit for the suicide bombing on a court complex in Peshawar that resulted in the deaths of four individuals the day the announcement was released.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn Pakistan, March 18, 2013; The Express Tribune, March 18, 2013; The News, March 19, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gotab disappointed with India

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday expressed his deep disappointment with the Indian government’s position articulated by its envoy to the UNHRC, Dilip Sinha.

Responding to a statement attributed to Sinha that Sri Lanka should address accountability issues to the satisfaction of the international community, the Defence Secretary told The Island that those wanting Sri Lanka to satisfy the global community should realise that they were adopting double-standards. In fact, they would never have tolerated external intervention in domestic issues, though Sri Lanka was being asked to give into an investigation on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.

Would India address its accountability issues to the satisfaction of Western powers or the UN, the Defence Secretary asked, while pointing out that no one was talking about the accountability of those godfathers of terrorism here.

He thanked those Governments which voted against the US-led resolution as well as those that abstained in spite of heavy pressure. The Defence Secretary said that the Government always felt it should go for a vote to expose those who had been undermining the post-war reconciliation process at the behest of the LTTE rump.

"Had we agreed to a joint resolution, those hypocrites would never have been exposed," the Defence Secretary said, adding: "We are glad as many as 22 countries didn’t go with the US move, in spite of heavy and intense pressure from the most powerful country on earth backed by other ex-colonial powers. With all that they managed only 25 votes."

Making a strongly worded statement, Indian envoy Sinha declared: "We call for effective and timely implementation of all the constructive recommendations contained in the LLRC report, including those pertaining to missing persons, detainees, disappearances and abductions, reduction of ’high security zones’, return of private lands by the military and withdrawal of security forces from the civilian domain in the Northern Province. We reiterate our call for an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violations and loss of civilian lives. We urge Sri Lanka to take forward measures to ensure accountability. We expect these measures to be to the satisfaction of the international community."

The Defence Secretary said that some countries were obsessed with post-war Sri Lanka. Responding to a query, he said that those demanding action against Sri Lanka on the basis of various reports issued by NGOs were silent on reports which dealt with what was going on in other parts of the world.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s successful war against the LTTE, he said that India was constantly informed of the ground situation throughout the campaign.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, March 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GL Peiris explains ’evil side’ of US resolution

The US sponsored anti-Sri Lanka resolution, at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, could not achieve anything positive except for spreading hatred, distrust and violence among South Asian nations, External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris told Parliament.

Participating in the debate on Resettlement Authority (Amendment) Bill Prof. Peiris said that of the 32 nations co-sponsoring the resolutions, 29 were European, and two were American with one African nation. He added that it showed the geographical dimension of the issue. "The origin of this resolution was not in the Asian continent. They brought in this resolution against a single country. To bring in such a resolution the proponents should have evidence to prove it," he said.

"When I met American officials recently, they informed me that the US would bring in a resolution which would be procedural and assured me it would be a balanced one. They promised to include the positive achievements that Sri Lanka made in the aftermath of the conflict and in the handling of resettlement and rehabilitation. Yet the final draft did not highlight the positive elements.

"I would like to ask the sponsors of this resolution if they are happy now. You do not have to look far to see the consequences of this resolution against Sri Lanka. Look what has happened in India. The country is politically divided in unprecedented proportions. The resolution and India’s decision to vote for it had become a motivation for violence," the External Affairs Minister said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, March 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kerry wants commitments fulfilled

The US has asked Sri Lanka to take meaningful action and to fulfill its public commitments on longstanding issues of reconciliation and accountability hours after the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a Washington-sponsored resolution against the island-nation.

"This resolution, which builds on a similar 2012 resolution, re-affirmed that Sri Lanka must take meaningful action on reconciliation and accountability in order to move forward," US Secretary of State John Kerry said after the passage of the resolution in Geneva, which among others was supported by India.

"The US¸ together with international partners, calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments to its own people on these longstanding issues," he said. While some important progress has been made, there is much work still to be done, he added.

"We look to the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and to reverse recent negative developments on rule of law and human rights. The United States stands ready to assist with this vital work," Kerry said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LIOC told to return unused oil tanks

The Government is to request the Lanka India Oil Company (LIOC) to return the unused oil tanks, in the Trincomalee Port, which were allocated to it some time back. "The LIOC was reported to be using only a few of the tanks in its possession. We will negotiate in terms of the contract, for the return of those that were lying idle", Media Minister, Keheliya Rambukwella told the weekly Cabinet press briefing in Colombo.

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation has launched a new development programme which would require more storage space. The unused oil tanks in Trincomalee would come in very useful, he noted. Rambukwella said that the Cabinet had also decided to limit the import of ethanol since there was an excess supply.

The Pelwatte Sugar Industries Company was producing a large quantity of sugar and by products. So it has become necessary to reduce the quantity of ethanol entering the country, he observed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, March 21, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US to withdraw from Wardak

The International Security Assistance Force announced having reached a deal with the Afghan government on the transfer of security responsibility to Afghan authorities in the central province of Maidan Wardak.

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had demanded the withdrawal of foreign troops from the province. This order was issued following public complaints and allegations that the US forces and the Afghans working with them in the province were torturing and killing innocent civilians.

Hundreds of Afghan protesters had marched to the Afghan parliament building and demanded the release of nine local citizens they believe were detained by the US forces. In the meantime the Ulema Council of Afghanistan also issued threatening statements demanding the withdrawal from Wardak.

Under the agreement, beginning with Nirkh district, which is currently secured by Afghan Local Police aided by coalition troops, the government will soon move its forces into the area to provide security. The arrival of Afghan forces would preclude the need for ALP and coalition forces in the area and the remainder of the province would transition over time. However, a specific timeframe has not been formulated for this transition.

This agreement is a departure from Karzai’s original demand of the US withdrawing completely from the province. This order had raised concerns in both the US and Afghanistan that the withdrawal from the province would increase the possibility of it being recaptured by the insurgents.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Khaama Press, March 16, 2013; Pajhwok, March 20, 2013; Tolo News, March 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghan opposition, Taliban in talks

According to reports, the main opposition parties in Afghanistan have entered into talks with the Taliban hoping to broker an agreement before the drawdown of US forces and the Afghan Presidential Elections scheduled for 2014. Senior Taliban officials said the new channel of discussion has been opened by the opposition for the first time in a bid to find a political resolution to the war.

The latest approach by the political opposition will give a better chance to the opposition at cobbling together a post-Karzai government.

In the meanwhile, the main spokesperson for Karzai, Aimal Faizi accused external vested interests of sabotaging the peace process. He alleged that around 18 Taliban members who have shown a desire to negotiate with the Afghan government or join the peace process have been killed recently.

A former Taliban leader, however, accused both Kabul and Islamabad of not being honest in its peace process efforts saying there are people in both governments seeking personal interest and are not being honest towards the peace process.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, March 18, 2013; Tolo News, March 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Daudzai may run for President

Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Umer Daudzai has said that he may run as a candidate in the Afghan Presidential Elections in 2014. Daudzai becomes the first major political figure to declare his intention to contest the elections in 2014.

Daudzai told the Times of London that he would campaign on a manifesto of maintaining good relations with the West, anti-corruption reforms, eradication of poppy-growing and a shift of power away from the group of ageing former warlords who have run the country since 2001.

However, later in an interview with the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune, Daudzai, Karzai’s former chief of staff and close aide, clarified that he had not made a final decision and is happy to be considered an option till then.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, March 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Denmark to withdraw troops

The Danish Government officials on Tuesday announced that the last Danish infantry soldier will leave Afghanistan by late summer this year and not by the end of 2014 as was planned. Denmark will leave a small group of its troops in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of its troops in a bid to train Afghan security forces.

Denmark deployed its troops under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan and around 720 Danish troops were stationed in Afghanistan by 2011 which dropped to 650 in 2012. At least 43 Danish troops have been killed in Afghanistan since it started its mission in Afghanistan in 2002.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, March 19, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President passes away

Nation bade tearful farewell to President Zillur Rahman who died on March 20 at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore where he was undergoing treatment.

The country’s top leaders including acting Presdient Abdul Hamid Advocate, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia, Chief Justice Mozammel Hossain and other dignitaries paid homage to the departed president whose body was flown back to Bangladesh on March 21. Many top leaders of the world attended the last rites of the President.

President Zillur Rahman was highly respected in Bangladesh’s politics. He was an eminent leader of ruling Awami League and became President in 2009. Recalling role of Rahman in the country’s politics Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that he was a accepted to all and added that it was due to this reason her party chose him for the highest position of the country after Awami League won the 2008 general election.

As a mark of respect opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) suspended all protest activities on March 21. BNP had called shutdown on that day demanding release on its leaders arrested on March 11 from its party office in Dhaka.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, March 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese offer $1.95 b for bridge

In a major development a Chinese consortium, backed by a government-owned bank, has officially proposed to channel $1.95 billion to bridge the Padma without interest and a payback period of 20 years. The offer has estimated the cost of Bangladesh’s largest ever infrastructure project at $2.79 billion.

According to the latest proposal by the Chinese, Bangladesh will have to source the rest of the money -roughly 30 percent of the total spending -and appoint a firm to supervise the construction work. The fees for that firm will have to be paid by the government. Bangladesh would require repaying $8.15 million a month for 20 years after an agreement is signed for the 6.15-kilometer multipurpose road-rail bridge.

Under a consortium arrangement, the China Development Bank (CDB) would give the money with Sphere Energy Creations Beijing Ltd (SECA) being the lead agency, the proposal says. If China grants the loan than the dream of connecting the capital Dhaka with the southern and the south-western Bangladesh will be realised. According to the proposal it will complete the project in just three years.

The proposal says that the lead agency SECA’s affiliates Sphere Energy Technology Beijing Limited and Sphere Energy Creations Australia Private Limited would be part of the consortium. State-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCC), CREC 14th Bureau and CDGD are the other partners of the planned consortium.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition observes shut-down

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its 18 party allies observed 36-hour nationwide shutdown that ended on March 19 evening. The shutdown was marked with stray incidents of explosions of crude bombs, vandalism, train derailment and clashes leaving at least one person dead and over 100 injured across the country. During the shutdown two persons were killed including a ruling party activist who was hacked to death by pro-hartal activists in violent clashes at Gopalpur in Tangail.

The opposition , which has launched a ’one-point’ oust government movement, enforced the shutdown, to push for release of 154 opposition leaders and activists arrested from BNP central office at Naya Paltan in the Dhaka on March 11.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, March 20, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">King wants Rinpoche stalled

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs is contemplating a travel request from Buddhist monk Tai Situ Rinpoche, who has expressed his desire to visit Bhutan.

Despite being a routine travel request, the Bhutanese King has requested the North Block to keep Rinpoche from visiting the country. Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has requested the Indian government to restrain the mentor of Karmapa Dorje, from travelling to Bhutan, top government sources said.

"Bhutan’s King is understood to have conveyed to the Manmohan Singh-led government that Tai Situ Rinpoche disturbs the peace of the country during his visits by inciting clergy," sources added.

Tai Situ Rinpoche, main Guru of 17th Karmapa Orgyen Trinlay Dorje, was banned for anti-India activities in 1994, sources said. Although, the ban was revoked in 1998, his activities remained under the security and intelligence scanner.

Rinpoche has procured a Bhutanese diplomatic passport, which was issued to him by the Bhutan government under alleged Chinese pressure.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The New Indian Express, March 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GRP foils illegal immigration

The district administration and Government Railway Police stopped 62 people from being taken illegally to Bhutan in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. The 62 persons had gathered at Ghatsila station to board a train for Howrah when GRP detained them for interrogation.

Ghatsila sub-divisional officer Amit Kumar told reporters that the local agent, who had already boarded a train for Howrah in the morning before GRP’s arrival, had lured the innocent villagers.

On questioning it was found that the majority of the men did not have work permits, while for those who did the validity of the permits had expired.They were allowed to after recording their statement, he said adding that the district administration would arrange for their rehabilitation and accord priority in providing them employment under various government-sponsored schemes.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Zee News, March 18, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Medha Chaturvedi;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Daniel Rubin and Louis Ritzinger

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.