MonitorsPublished on May 24, 2013
The little Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, owing to its strategic geographic location, is turning out to be the new hub for regional cooperation in South Asia. Bhutan's hydro-power prospects are no secret.
Bhutan: The new hub for regional cooperation
< class="heading1">Analysis

The little Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, owing to its strategic geographic location, is turning out to be the new hub for regional cooperation in South Asia. Bhutan’s hydro-power prospects are no secret. However, unlike in the past, the two regional ’frenemies’, namely, India and Bangladesh, are willing to tap its potential jointly. In the past, the two countries could not see eye-to-eye on the issue of a tri-nation gas pipeline for transit of energy from Myanmar into India via Bangladesh. But, they have come together for joint projects in Bhutan.

After a Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting in April in Dhaka, it was decided that the three countries will jointly construct cost-effective hydro-power projects in Bhutan which would meet the energy needs of the other two countries while economically uplifting Bhutan in addition to fulfilling the domestic need. In fact, this time around, Bangladesh came forward with this proposal and initiated talks on the same.

This could be because Bangladesh suffers from a severe shortage in generating electricity. Domestically, the country is only able to produce less than 6,000 MW of energy as opposed to the demand, which is over 7,500 MW. This electricity-crunch has resulted in slowing down the country’s industrial growth rate and the situation is expected to worsen given that the energy requirement in Bangladesh is rising at a staggering ten per cent per annum.

For India, this is an extension of its already existing efforts in Bhutan for meeting the energy demand in the north-eastern states. India is already funding ten mega hydro-power projects till 2020, on two of which, construction has already begun. Bhutan’s total hydropower potential is estimated to be around 30,000 MW while it is producing just less than 1,500 MW currently.

The idea for this tri-nation cooperation emerged in 2011 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held talks with her counterpart in Bhutan, Lyonchhen Jigme Y. Thinley about possible energy-sharing and means to transport that to Bangladesh. India being the country in the middle of the two was, therefore, included in the proposal and has thus far reacted positively to the bid. Bangladesh is also planning to start importing electricity from India starting July of this year, initially 250 MW and later increase it to 500 MW

After last month’s JWG meeting, it was decided that a broad framework for energy- sharing will be chalked out in such a way that all the three countries get the maximum benefit from this project. Bangladesh has also expressed interest in partly financing some of the projects that India is already involved with. Details are being worked out. The second round of the JWG meeting is scheduled to take place in New Delhi.

Now, even Nepal is planning to have a similar JWG with India and Bhutan to meet its domestic demand for energy. Nepal faces a severe energy shortage in the winter months and even the capital city of Kathmandu faces load-shedding for hours. Bhutan’s hydro-power potential has managed to bring together the region and work jointly towards mutual benefits.

A similar joint venture with Myanmar is needed and perhaps it’s time to revive the tri-nation gas pipeline proposal involving India and Bangladesh. Bilaterally, India and Bangladesh relations are still on tenterhooks. Given that, how sustainable are these efforts, only time will tell.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India: Nine years of ruling coalition

Dr Satish Misra

On May 22, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) completed nine years in power at the Centre, giving an opportunity for an honest assessment of its contribution and failure to the nation’s economy and polity. While it must be said at the outset that the first five years of its rule beginning in 2004 were noteworthy because of the high GDP growth combined with measures for ensuring inclusive growth, the four years of UPA-2 have been different and narrate a disappointing tale. They have been years of economic under-performance along with high inflation and number of scams which seriously impacted the overall governance resulting in policy paralysis.

On the eve of entering the last year in office of the ruling coalition, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi sought to defend the record of the UPA-2 in the last four years and held the Opposition particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) responsible for obstructing the passage of crucial peices of legislation. Both leaders also tried to correct the prevailing impression that the Congress party was adrift. Mrs Gandhi was particularly emphatic in her efforts to dispel rumours about differences between her and the Prime Minister saying that "We respect him and we all stand by him."

The BJP, the principal opposition party, lost no time in launching a broadside saying that the UPA’s ninth anniversary celebration was akin to a carnival of ’gloom, pessimism and negativism’. The BJP’s leaders of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley respectively, targeted Mrs Gandhi for creating dual power-centres, which in real term meant an ’extra-constitutional’ role for her. "It is the UPA’s chairperson who is the last word on policy and not the Prime Minister. For the future, the party cadres look at the heir apparent of the Congress party’s first family and not the Prime Minister", the BJP leaders said, referring to Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.

The real story lies between these two extremes as the ruling combine suffered from lack of coordination among the different allies. The Prime Minister focussed on macro issues as the global economy sunk into crisis. Dr Singh failed to institute an oversight mechanism as micro issues were left to different Ministers who owed their allegiance to their respective regional leaders and were neither bound by common rules of coalition governance, nor were they bothered about common good as they focussed on the limited interest of their party of self.

It is true that economic growth slowed down touching five percent in 2012-13 but it happened because of host of factors of which some could be regulated while others were beyond control. For accusation of policy paralysis which is one of the significant reasons for the economic slow- down, the ruling coalition would have to share the major blame but the combined opposition cannot also escape responsibility for creating a negative environment in which bureaucrats were afraid to take decisions.

Instead of debating issues and laws in parliament, the opposition parties, particularly the BJP stuck to its decades-old tactics of stalling the parliamentary business, thus making the task if not impossible but definitely difficult. Parliamentary sessions went waste as non-government parties stuck to the old but now redundant maxim that the Opposition’s role was to only oppose in democracy. While it was legitimate to play such a role when the Congress ruled uninterruptedly for decades but now that every political party, particularly the BJP, stands a fair chance to come to power, it is a tragic to waste resources and time through such obstructionist approach which is mutually destructive.

At the same time, the ruling coalition, led by the Congress, has failed to seek cooperation from the Opposition as it often stood on its false prestige. Arrogance of power often created situations which could have been easily avoided with a little circumspection and humility. Now that the battle ground is being readied for the general elections scheduled for early next year, it is going to be the fight for people’s attention as every single political party and their leaders would tell their side of story in which the role of media would be very important.

Partisan media

Media, both audio-visual as well print, would like to sway their viewers, listeners and readers according to the editorial policy laid down by the owners. The media is increasingly becoming more and more partisan. The absence of a balanced media and presence of multitude of informing platforms of social media as well as traditional modes of communication like the newspapers, magazines, radio and TV channels make the task of the electorate difficult. That is why the political situation in the country has not yet crystallised as it is continuing to evolve. What awaits the nation is not easy to foresee.

The UPA appears to be on a slippery wicket but others are equally not on a very strong pitch either. The BJP is suffering from the absence of well defined-goals and objectives and getting confused about its forward path. Other players like the Left and regional parties equally lack unity of purpose and understanding of the challenges facing the country.

Deteriorating political culture and competing ambitions is making the task of the voters complicated and therefore challenges before the nation more daunting. At play are the vaulting ambitions of at least half a dozen leaders who want to be the chief executive of India. Lack of competence and absence of an understanding of the complexity of governance processes of these ambitious political leaders is going to be a major obstacle on the growth path making future uncertain while present is already lost.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tough signal to China on Ladakh incursion

India on Monday (May 20) elevated peace on the border as a ’core issue’ with China, making it plain that it could not countenance any disturbance of the status quo, and that provocations like the recent Depsang incursion could push bilateral ties off track.

The new stance was spelt out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after he emerged from his meeting with visiting Chinese premier Li Keqiang. "The basis for continued growth and expansion of our ties is peace and tranquillity on our borders," Mr Singh asserted, marking a new red line in bilateral ties.

The Prime Minister said that after "candid and frank" discussion, diplomatic speak for plain-speaking, the two countries "took stock of lessons learnt from recent incidents in the western sector, although he stressed that "existing mechanisms proved their "worth" during the tensions. This focus on peace on the border is a significant shift in India’s China policy as it had so far looked keen not to let border disagreement in other spheres, and seems to be clear fallout of the incursion in Ladakh.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, May 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Three MoUs on expanding trade

India and China signed three separate agreements on Monday to give access to three of India’s exports to address the imbalanced trade between the two countries. The trade deficit between the two countries has increased from $19.2 billion in 2009-10 to $40.7 billion in 2012-13. The agreements will allow India to export buffalo meat, fisheries and pharmaceutical and also feed and feed ingredients.

"The signing of the MoUs between India and China is a good beginning to address the issues India is rising with China from time to time," said Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma after a meeting with his counterpart Gao Hucheng. All the sectors are of immense trade importance to India and India has clear price and quality competitiveness in these sectors to compete in the world market, Sharma added.

India also raised issues related to trade barriers in pharma, access in IT/ITeS and urged the largest economy in Asia to invest in India’s ambitious Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, May 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Accept stapled visas: Arunachal leader

On the eve of Chinese Premier Li K visit Keqiang’s visit to India, a former BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh has said that the Indian government should allow people from the State to visit China on ’stapled visas’ without compromising its position on sovereignty over the border region.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmhan Singh, Mr Kiren Rijju has argued that allowing the State’s residents to travel to China on stapled visas -- something New Delhi has been objecting to -- would not only "downgrade the status of Arunachal Pradesh to a less confrontational one" but also help the people of the State participate in important international events in China.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak soldiers ’assault’ porters

Soon after the killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani soldiers in Poonch and a 19-km incursion into Ladakh by the Chinese, nine suspected Pakistan Army Border Action Team (BAT) men roughed up a group of porters in the Sabjian belt along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district and let them off after snatching supplies meant for the BSF.

Incident happened on May 14, but came to light recently. Poonch SSP Shamsheer Hussain said the incident took place on Zero Line, 2 km ahead of the barbed wire fence, but no FIR has been registered.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Tribune, May 24, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Clarification sought on Kishanganga order

India has moved the Court of Arbitration at The Hague for "clarification" on "interpretation" of its order delivered in February on its dispute with Pakistan over the 330 MW Kishanganga project under construction in North Kashmir.

In the order, the Court does not permit New Delhi to use the modern "draw down" technique for removal of silt deposits in run-of-the-river dams on rivers allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty, 1960.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Import of uranium from Uzbekistan

India is poised to play a critical role in protecting and maintaining peace and stability in Central Asia in the backdrop of developments in Afghanistan and India’s strategic partnership with Afghanistan’s neighbours like Uzbekistan is of critical importance, Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari has said.

In an interaction with journalists on aboard Air India-1, Mr. Ansari, who is leading a parliamentary and official delegation to Uzbekistan, said India would explore the possibility of getting uranium supplies from Uzbekistan, which has rich reserves of the heavy metal.

Mr Ansari who was on a four-day visit to Uzbekistan, termed relations between New Delhi and Tashkent, excellent. He said both had established a strategic partnership that included a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. Uzbekistan was adopting more of a neutral stance on developments in Central Asia and the Indian delegation would discuss fighting terrorism, which every country was afflicted with, in some form or the other.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Embassy issuing exit papers in Saudi Arabia

India on Monday started verification and issuance of emergency certificates allowing its citizens to leave Saudi Arabia following concerns over a new labour policy in the Gulf Kingdom.

The schedule currently announced is for the delivery of the first batch of 12,000 emergency certificate applications received at Indian embassy in Riyadh and nearly 3,000 in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The schedule for verification and delivery of subsequent batches for all Indian nationals who have applied at other collection centres in Saudi Arabia will be announced soon, the Indian embassy in Riyadh said in a statement.

There has been a rush for the emergency travel documents with about 60,000 applicants looking for one, amid concerns about possible job losses after the new ’Nitaqat’ labour law comes into effect.

The ’Nitaqat’ law makes it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers. There has been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there. Over two million Indians are currently working in Saudi Arabia.

"The Embassy would like to reiterate that anyone who obtains ECs from the Embassy will have their current passports cancelled. They would not be able to travel out of India on such passports," the statement read. The Embassy said that a large number of Indians who obtained emergency certificates from the embassy during 2010 and 2011 could not return to India on their basis.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, May 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Investments in Sri Lanka top $1 b

Indian companies have invested nearly $ 1 billion in Sir Lanka since 2003 and this figure could rise above $ 2 billion in the next five years, outgoing Indian Higgh Commissioner in Colombo Ashok K Kantha said. With investment inflows of $160 million in 2012, nearly $ 2 billion worth of FDI had been committed by Indian companies for the next five years or so, he added.

Addressing a trade gathering at Colombo, Kantha highlighted that in 2011-12, India’s imports from Sri Lanka went up by almost 45 per cent to cross $ 720 m, making Sri Lanka the largest source of merchandise from the South Asian region for India. This was a big jump from the $ 45 million imports in 2000-01, when Sri Lanka occupied 4th rank as an import source for India in the region.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, May 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade-deficit taken up with Japan

India has raised concerns with Japan over the rising trade deficit with the country following implementation of the bilateral comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) about two years ago. It has sought more market access for Indian pharmaceuticals and agriculture and marine produce to help bridge the deficit.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Friday pointed out that while trade was growing satisfactorily after the implementation of the CEPA, the increasing trade deficit was an area of great concern. "The Minister specially urged for market access for Indian agricultural and marine produce and Indian pharmaceuticals," an official release said.

India’s trade deficit with Japan was at $3.6 billion in 2010-11 before the CEPA was implemented and it almost doubled in 2012-13 to $6.3 billion. Its export to Japan in 2012-13 was $6.26 billion compared with imports of $12.50 billion.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu Business Line, May 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Meeting EU trade negotiators

Chief negotiators from India and the EU will meet in Brussels on Wednesday to assess the progress in the proposed India-EU free trade agreement talks and try and narrow gaps in contentious areas such as professional visas, market access for cars, grant of data exclusivity status and commitments in retail and financial services. The negotiators will take a call on the next ministerial meet based on what they achieve in the meeting.

Both India and the EU have expressed hopes to wrap up the over six years old negotiations for a Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) this year, but a deadline for it has remained elusive. "While some movement has happened on some of the contentious issues since the chief negotiators last met in March, hard positions adopted by some EU members on certain matters have to be relaxed if overall progress is to be achieved," a Commerce Department official told Business Line.

Germany, for instance, is insisting on including an indefinite tariff rate quota on import of cars from Europe and an eventual zero duty on all cars despite generous offers of tariff cuts made by India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu Business Line, May 15, 2103

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BJP talks polls, silent on PM candidate

The BJP parliamentary board meeting on Tuesday sidestepped discussion on its prime ministerial candidate and strains within the NDA over the issue. Instead, the meeting discussed the party’s strategy to dislodge the UPA government, which enters election year on Wednesday.

"This issue was not the subject of discussion during the parliamentary board meeting today," BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar responded to queries whether prime minister candidate issue came up for discussion. Mr Kumar responded in a similar manner on whether BJP’s relations with NDA partners were discussed at the meeting.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Amit Shah given charge of BJP in UP

Gujarat Chief Minister Narnedra Modi’s close confidant and BJP general secretary Amit Shah has been given charge of Uttar Pradesh. Mr Shah is facing several criminal charges.

BJP president Rajnath Singh’s decision to put Mr Modi’s chosen person to manage the party affairs in his own native State which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha ahead of the 2014 general elections is yet another signal that Mr Modi would play a larger role at the national level in the coming months.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Punjab: SAD, BJP sweep local polls

The ruling SAD-BJP alliance on Tuesday swept the zila parishad and panchayat samiti elections in Punjab, registering a win in a majority of seats.

The alliance completely routed the Congress in Majha, though in Malwa and Doaba, the Congress managed to make its presence felt. The PPP and the Left parties won a handful of seats.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Navy test-fires Brahmos from new warship

The Navy on Wednesday test fired Brahmos cruise missile from its new frigate INS Tarkash off the coast of Goa.

The missile was fired as part of "acceptance test firing" of the Russian-built frigate, inducted into the Indian Navy in November last year, and hit its target 290 km away.

"The missile performed high-level-C-manoeuvre at pre-determined flight path and successfully hit the target," BrahMos Aerospace chief A Sivathanu Pillai was quoted by PI saying.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, May 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IPL in spot-fixing scandal

Son-in-law of BCCI (Board of Cricket Control of India) president N Srinivasan Gurunath Meiyappan is likely to be quizzed by the police in connection with the IPL spot-fixing scandal.

Late wrestler Dar Singh’s son Vindoo, who was arrested by Mumbai Crime Branch, told investigators that he was in regular touch with Mr Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of Mr Srivnivasan and CEO of the Chennai Super King IPL team.

The spot-fixing scandal broke out last week (May 17) when three cricket players including a Test cricketer were arrested for allegations of spot fixing.

Last week, the Indian Premier League faced its worst crisis since its inception in 2008. The Delhi police accused three cricketers, one of whom has played on the national team, of colluding with bookies. The cricketers and some bookies were arrested, which meant that they soon wore black hoods or towels over their faces and walked hand in hand with police officers toward the entrance of a court.

As investigations proceed, network of the scandal appears to be widespread as more bookies have been arrested.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, May 18-24, 2013,, May 22, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament must clear US ’base’: AG

Attorney-General Aishath Bisham has said that the decision to allow a region in the Maldives to be utilised by the U.S. for military purposes must be approved by Parliament. Bisham said that former Attorney-General Aishath Azima had, on 21 March, advised the Defence Ministry regarding the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), proposed by the US.

Bisham said that Azima had highlighted 12 issues related to this agreement.

"The advice provided by Azima is still the same, we haven’t made any changes to it. Several issues related to the Constitution have been highlighted, and there are some areas in which advice must be obtained from other State institutions," she said.

Bisham said that the Defence Ministry had been notified that the procedures mentioned in the advice must be completed prior to signing the agreement proposed by the US. "One thing I would like to note is, as per article 251 of the Constitution, no part of the territory of the Maldives can be used for military purposes without the approval of the majority of the total membership of Parliament.. There is no other way in which any region in Maldives can be used for foreign military purposes," she said.

Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim has said that the SOFA was proposed by the US., and that Maldivian government had not yet made a decision regarding this matter. "SOFA is an agreement with different countries by the US. to carry out their military training. It’s not about establishing a base. There’s been no proposal about establishing a base. The government has not yet made a decision regarding SOFA," Nazim said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, May 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sultan Park blast’, a realisation: AG

Attorney-General Aishath Bisham has said that the bomb blast in Sultan Park made us realise that the threat of terrorism also exists in Maldives. Bisham said this while speaking as the chief guest at the closing ceremony of the Police Leaders’ Role in Combatting Terrorism workshop.

Bisham said that terrorist activities are spreading fast in several countries around the world, and those activities had also reached the Maldives, and called for increased awareness among Maldivians in relation to these developments.

She referred to the speech by MNDF, Maj-Gen Ahmed Shiyam at the seminar, and said that Maldivians have to fight terrorism by holding such workshops and seminars.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, May 24, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MNDF officer arrested for MP murder

The police have arrested Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Officer Ahmed Azlif, who was previously arrested and released following a court order, in relation to the murder of religious scholar, former Ungoofaaru MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

The Department of Immigration has withheld the passports of three suspects, including son-in-law of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Moosa Manik, Abdullah Javid, who was also previously arrested and released following a court order.

Controller of Immigration Mohamed Ali said that passports had been withheld of Abdullah Javid and two other suspects following a court order, in relation to a case under investigation by the police.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN concerned over Nasheed trial

The trial of former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed raises serious concerns regarding the fairness of proceedings in the island nation, the UN official in charge of overseeing judicial independence said Tuesday. Gabriela Knaul said in her report, based on findings during her visit to the Maldives inFebruary, that it was difficult to understand why Nasheed was prosecuted "for an act he took outside of his prerogative", without investigating the alleged human rights abuses during Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year long rule.

"All allegations of unfair trial and lack of due process in Nasheed’s case need to be promptly investigated, including the claims that the trial is being sped up to prevent Nasheed’s participation in the 2013 elections," the report read. Knaul stressed that addressing past violations could help the Maldives move forward and develop the justice system intended in the Constitution. "?If the serious violations of human rights committed during the 30-year dictatorship are not addressed, more instability and unrest could be generated in the country," she said.

The Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers reiterated her recent criticism of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that the current composition of the judicial watchdog was inadequate and politicised.

Knaul also expressed concern over the perception that the Supreme Court was not following due process in many of its decisions and that some of its interventions were serving the judges’ personal interests. The report highlighted several challenges faced by the judiciary, including budget cuts, tensions between investigative bodies and prosecutors, threats to judicial officials and impunity for attacks against the judiciary such as burning down courthouses.

The UN envoy also noted many shortcomings in the Maldives judicial system, delay in drafting important legislations, tensions between the judiciary and other State bodies, precarious situation of women in the justice system and the lack of lawyers in the islands. "?Access to justice can become especially difficult for vulnerable members of the society, such as children, women, migrant workers, trafficked persons, or persons with disabilities, who have to face difficulties compounded with discrimination," she said. During her eight-day visit to the Maldives, Knaul held meetings with all government and non-governmental stakeholders, including parliamentarians, lawyers, judicial officials and NGOs. She will present her report at the UN Human Rights Council session Geneva on Monday.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, May 24, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Investors cautioned on Male airport

The Airports Council International (ACI), the global body representing the world’s airports, has advised its members to exercise caution before making any investment in the Maldives relating to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

In an email obtained by Minivan News dated May 8, ACI alerted its members that the Maldivian government is "in the process of transferring the Male’ airport to a wholly-owned subsidiary of MACL and may explore a sale of equity in this entity to another airport operator."

"ACI members are advised to conduct due diligence while considering any investment in the Maldives, considering the latest developments, uncertainty of outcome of elections, the legal and financial risks of the current arbitration and the nascent legal framework," the email states.

The cautionary note emphasises that ACI was "not taking sides with respect to the decisions made by the various parties", and matter-of-factly outlines the government’s sudden termination of the concession agreement with the GMR-Malaysia Airports (GMR-MAHB) consortium to manage and upgrade Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

The government declared the 25 year concession agreement ’void ab initio’ in November 2012 and gave the foreign investors seven days to hand over the unfinished airport to the government-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL).

While subsequent arbitration proceedings saw the Singapore Supreme Court endorse the government’s right to expropriate the airport, ACI noted that "this was subject to (the government) offering sufficient compensation pursuant to the concession agreement". "However on December 8 MACL/Government of Maldives took over the possession and control of the airport without payment of compensation", the email pointed out.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, May 25, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President visits the US

Former general Thein Sein on Monday becomes the first Myanmar president to be welcomed to the White House in almost 47 years, crowning a dramatic diplomatic rehabilitation for his nation after years of international isolation.

But activists are angry about President Barack Obama hosting Thein Sein, and lawmakers are wary. The Myanmar leader has led the shift from decades of direct military rule but has stalled on some reform commitments and failed to stop bloody outbursts of ethnic violence.

Thein Sein’s presence at the White House and on Capitol Hill would have been all-but-impossible before he took the helm of a nominally civilian government in 2011. Obama made history with an unprecedented US presidential visit in November to the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, May 24, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Historical visit by Japanese PM

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is travelling to Myanmar for a three-day trip, the first visit to the country by a Japanese leader in 36 years. PM Abe is expected to show Japanese support for democratic reforms in Myanmar after decades of military rule and to boost economic ties.

Travelling with a delegation of business leaders, Prime Minister Abe was to arrive in Yangon on Friday evening and meet with President Thein Sein on Sunday in Naypyitaw, officials from his office said.

About thirty-five Japanese investment projects are under way in Myanmar, including plans to develop a 2,400 hectare (5,900 acre) special economic zone near the capital that is being led by Mitsubishi Corp, Marubeni Corp and Sumitomo Corp.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Straits Times, May 24, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two-child limit for Rohingyas

Authorities in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state have introduced a local regulation setting a two-child limit on Rohingya families in a bid to restrict population growth among the Muslim minority group.

Officials announced the measure-part of a directive that also enforces a ban on polygamy-this month but have not said how it will be enforced.

The new rules have been imposed in northern Rakhine state’s Maungdaw district, which comprises Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, along the border with Bangladesh.

The two-child limit only applies to Rohingyas, a stateless group widely considered in Myanmar to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh even though they have lived in the country for generations.

Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said the measures were being implemented to curb Rohingyas’ high population growth and were in line with recommendations made by a central government panel probing communal violence that tore through the region last year.

The inquiry commission’s report, issued in April, recommended family planning education be provided to Rohingya families, saying their "rapid population growth" had "fuelled insecurity among some Rakhines" and been a factor leading to the violence between the two groups.

Authorities are making surprise inspections on Rohingya homes in the townships to check for compliance with the birth control regulation, Myanmar Eleven media quoted a district immigration official as saying last week.

Myanmar has no national laws limiting reproduction, but its ethnic state governments have the authority to introduce regulations in accordance with regional security demands.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Transparency in oil sector

Myanmar considers a global initiative to increase transparency in the oil, gas and mining sector to be an international best practice that will help the resource-rich country to engage with the international community, the country’s minister of finance and revenue told a conference in Sydney.

Since 2002, the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) has helped activists, investors and the media to hold companies and governments to account by voluntarily reporting how much is paid for extracting natural resources.

Having recently emerged from nearly half a century of military misrule - during which corrupt leaders and cronies tapped the resource-rich country in a way described by one watchdog as "extremely opaque" - Myanmar aims to join the EITI.

Myanmar is rich in precious gems, natural gas and timber, as well as hydroelectric power - resources that enriched the military elite while the majority of Burmese lived in dire poverty.

Revenues from oil and gas represent the largest source of the country’s foreign income, and the International Monetary Fund estimates that gas revenues will increase by eighty five per cent over the next three years.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation, May 24, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kyat falls seven per cent in a month

Myanmar’s currency has plunged more than seven per cent over the past month to the lowest since it was floated last year, raising concern about economic stability in Asia’s newest democracy.

The drop coincides with a construction boom in Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, which is fuelling demand for dollars as builders import equipment and materials, part of a scramble by investors to tap one of the world’s last frontier markets after an easing of sanctions by Western countries.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian doctors render free treatment

A twelve-member team of the Imphal-based Shija Hospital and Research Institute (SHRI) left for Myanmar on Wednesday to render free treatment to nearly 150 cleft lips and palate patients.

Under the ongoing ’Smile Train Shija Cleft Project’, a joint initiative of Smile Train Inc, USA, and SHRI, the team was flagged off by Manipur deputy Chief Minister G.

Gaikhangam and industries minister K Govindas on Wednesday morning. It will carry out the clinical operations at a government hospital at Monywa under Sagaing division.

Led by SHRI managing director Kh Palin, the team will reach Monywa on Friday, said Santosh Shekhar, assistant general manager - business development of SHRI, in a statement.

Mission Myanmar is a triangular effort of the Myanmar government, Smile Train and Shija Hospitals to eradicate the problem of cleft lip and palate from the neighbouring country, it said. It has been estimated that there are more than 1,00,000 patients suffering from this deformity in Myanmar, the statement said, adding that there are very few plastic surgeons in the country.

Palin said that Mission Myanmar will improve the India-Myanmar relation and greatly enhance the growth and development of the two nations.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, May 23, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Agitating Mahato’s health worsens

The government used force to disrupt the hunger strike of Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato who had been staging a hunger strike at Shanti Batika in Kathmandu for the past four days. His health condition was deteriorating with a sharp drop in blood salt level.

Police forcefully hauled Mahato into an ambulance and took him to Bir Hospital from Shanti Batika, news reports said. Security personnel also baton-charged hundreds party cadres, who assembled at Shanti Batika in the Capital.

Mahato resorted to a fast-unto-death protest to press his 10-point demands, including an immediate announcement of date for Constituent Assembly (CA) elections after the talks with the government failed.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ex-CA member Haque found murdered

A member of the now dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA), Sadrul Miya Haque, was found murdered in Kalyanpur VDC-2 on May 21. Family members found Haque with his throat slit in a room at the Bisanpur-based petrol pump he owned.

Haque, 55, had spent the night at his petrol station after he attended a wedding party in the village, around 30 km north-west of Rajbiraj, the district headquarters. Police said he may have been murdered in the night and that the assailants attacked him with sharp weapons. The motive behind the murder was, however, not immediately clear. The family members have demanded a probe by the government and arrest of the murderers.

Haque was elected CA member from Constituency No 5 in Saptari. Born the eldest son to a poor Muslim couple in Kalyanpur-2, he had gone to the Gulf twice for employment. After his return from there, he started his own business and set up a brick kiln. He was also involved in local politics and was an active member of the Nepali Congress (NC).

Haque, who was the village chairman of the NC-affiliated Nepal Tarun Dal, was elected ward chairman during the local elections. He later left the party and contested the CA elections as an independent candidate.

Expressing deep sorrow over Haque’s murder, the Ministry of Home Affairs formed a three-member committee to investigate the incident.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, May 211, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two Indians held for fake citizenship

Two Indian nationals were detained for trying to acquire Nepali citizenship certificate illegally from Banke. The detainees have been identified as Holiram Chai and and Lalji Chai.

Lalji of Betahani-6, Banke, has been accused of helping Holiram to illegally procure the citizenship certificate.

According to police, Indian national Holiram tried to acquire the certificate by showing documents of fake settlement at Betahani-6. Amid an increasing trend of non-Nepalese obtaining citizenship papers from the country illegally, concerned authorities have started work to annul such illegal certificates.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, May 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RPP-RJP elects Thapa as chairman

The unity convention of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) elected Surya Bahadur Thapa as the chairman of the unified party, which has been named RPP.

Earlier the proposal during the convention, which was held in Kathmandu, that the top four leaders -- Thapa, Lokendra Bahadur Chand, Pashupati Shamsher JB Rana and Prakash Chandra Lohani - will head the party on a rotational basis was withdrawn following protest by delegates.

While declaring Thapa as the chairman, it wasn´t mentioned whether other leaders would be allowed to head the party on a rotational basis. Though all the leaders were in the RPP a few years ago, Thapa-led faction had split from the party to form RJP around nine years ago.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, May 19-20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Remove duty, India urged

The government has requested India for removal of Countervailing Tax (CVD) that the southern neighbour is levying on Nepali readymade garments (RMGs) for the past few weeks going against the spirit of bilateral trade treaty.

Responding to the request of Garment Association of Nepal (GAN), the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) requested India to remove CVD through Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

India has been imposing 12 percent CVD on Nepali RMGs. This is making Nepali apparels dearer in India, hurting country´s export severely. RMG entrepreneurs say the imposition of CVD is making Nepali apparels dearer by around 20 percent in India compared to products from other competitor countries, mainly Bangladesh.

Data compiled by Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) shows Nepal´s apparel exports dropped by 64 percent during the first nine months of the current fiscal year compared to figures of the same period last year. During the review period, Nepal exported RMGs worth Nepali Rs 133.9 million to India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, May 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Soldier killed in Lebanon

A Nepali soldier working for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed on May 16. The body of Lance Corporal Deepak Thapamagar, who died while fulfilling his duty, was brought to Nepal earlier on May 19, the army’s Directorate of Public Relations said.

Established in 1978, UNIFIL is tasked with ensuring that the area between the so-called Blue Line - separating Israel and Lebanon - and the Litani River is free of unauthorised weapons, personnel and assets. It also cooperates with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) so they can fulfil their security responsibilities.

According to the army data, 59 Nepali soldiers have died serving in various UN missions across the world.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, May 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GMR seeks licence for Upper Karnali

GMR Upper Karnali Hydropower Company Limited, a subsidiary of Indian infrastructure developer GMR, has applied for power generation license for Upper Karnali (900 MW) hydropower project. GMR has applied for the generation license as the validity of its survey license is expiring soon. The company has submitted application for generation license at the Investment Board Nepal (IBN).

The government had first granted survey license to GMR for the Upper Karnali in May 2008. The Mohan Vaidya led CPN-Maoist has been repeatedly threatening to halt the development of the project that is based in the mid-western region of the country.

Himtal Hydropower Company, another subsidiary of GMR in Nepal, is involved in the development of Upper Marsyangdi (600 MW) hydropower project. GMR has also said that 46.85 hectares of private land has to be acquired for the Upper Karnali project.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, May 21, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese PM on strategic ties

On May 22, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang brought his South Asia junket to Pakistan for a two-day visit. Underscoring the strategic significance of the partnership, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry noted, "Pak-China traditional and friendly ties are based on shared principles and mutual interests entailing cooperation in diverse fields. Both countries hold identical views on important world issues and cooperate at international forums."

In a joint news conference with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Premiere Li said, "Our two sides should focus on carrying out priority projects in connectivity, energy development and power generation and promoting the building of a China-Pakistan economic corridor." In his talks with Li, PML-N Chief and future Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief apparently stressed energy cooperation over continued Chinese development aid. Commenting on the trip, President Zardari said, "China and Pakistan shall remain all-weather friends."

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, May 22, 2013; The Nation. May 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Imran back home

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan was released from the hospital on May 22, two weeks after an election rally fall led to a serious back injury. Fit with a special spinal brace to protect fractured vertebrae and ribs, Khan could stand upright and walk unaided. He has been ordered on bed rest for two weeks.

During the May 11 elections, PTI received a boost of sympathy due to Khan’s tumble. While PPP may lead the opposition block in the National Assembly, Khan’s PTI had its most successful cycle to date, coming in 2nd place in the lower house popular vote. At roughly 7.5 million votes, PTI received about 700,000 more than rival Pakistan People’s Party.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Dawn, May 22, 2013; The Express Tribune, May 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PTI’s Hussain killed

On May 18 just before re-elections were scheduled to take place in National Assembly-250 constituency, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf founding party member and central vice president Zahra Shahid Hussain was shot dead outside her house in Karachi. Initial, official reports describe the killing as a mugging gone wrong. Hussain was apparently killed when she resisted two men who attempted to steal her purse.

PTI party leader Imran Khan has blamed the killing on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party chief. Khan released a statement saying, "I hold Altaf Hussain directly responsible for the murder as he had openly threatened PTI workers and leaders through public broadcasts." Khan also blamed the British government for failing to act against Altaf Hussain’s ’threats to kill’ PTI workers. Hussain, for his part, condemned the murder and called on the provincial government to immediately arrest the culprits.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, May 18, 2013; The Express Tribune, May 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Quetta blast claims 13

On May 23 the post-election semi-lull in major militant attacks ended with a roadside blast in the Bhosa Mandi district of Quetta. The remote control bomb, according to authorities, was targeting a police Rapid Response Force (RRF) vehicle. According to a local bomb disposal official, over 100 kg of explosives were planted in a three-wheeled rickshaw, which was blown up as a police truck drove by.

The death toll has apparently reached 13, 11 of which were security personnel, and the d toll may rise. Almost 20 others were injured. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said afterwards, "We proudly claim responsibility for Thursday’s blast in Quetta and the target was local police. The Balochistan police recently arrested and killed some of our colleagues belonging to the Swat Taliban."

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Dawn; May 23, 2013; The Express Tribune, May 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistani scales Everest

On May 19 Samina Baig became the first Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. Baig and her brother were part of a group honouring the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary’s first successful Everest ascent in 1953.

Baig’s brother and climbing mentor, Mirza Ali, also scaled Everest, becoming the third Pakistani male (and youngest) to do so. The international grouping of climbers also included Indian twin sisters, Tashi and Nugshi, who looked to spread a message of India-Pakistan comity with Baig.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune; May 19, 2013; The Dawn; May 19, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gota opposes police powers for NPC

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday warned the government of dire consequences in case the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won the first northern provincial council election.

The Defence Secretary was responding to a statement attributed to Petroleum Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, at Wednesday’s post-cabinet media briefing, that the election would be held in accordance with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Minister Yapa ruled out the possibility of diluting the 13th Amendment before the election.

Asked whether he would publicly campaign against the decision, the Gajaba Regiment veteran said: "As the Secretary, Ministry of Defence, my responsibility is to warn the government of the grave repercussions of empowering a hostile provincial administration with land and police powers. Police powers in the hands of those still pursuing a separatist agenda can pose a severe threat to national security."

The Defence Secretary said that the government should carefully examine the 13th Amendment to the Constitution without succumbing to international and domestic pressure.

Declining to comment on the SLFP-led UPFA being divided on the issue with some constituents, the National Freedom Front and the Jathika Hela Urumaya voicing strong opposition to the proposed polls, the Defence Secretary said that the northern provincial administration could pursue the ’Eelam project’.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, May 24, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Concern over US MoU with Trinco council

The Sri Lanka government yesterday expressed concern over the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the US embassy in Colombo and the Trincomalee Urban Council to jointly establish a public information and activity centre known as the American Corner, without the knowledge or the authorisation of the Sri Lanka External Affairs Ministry.

Government sources said that foreign missions based in Colombo should obtain prior approval or inform to the External Affairs Ministry of Sri Lanka whenever they need to engage with local authorities - which is the international norm.

Currently there are two American Corners - in Kandy and Jaffna.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, May 24, 2015


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to step up support for ANSF

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was on a three-day visit to New Delhi this week to secure more aid from India. Military aid and assistance for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) was a top priority for Karzai. He is said to have had exclusive and specific discussions regarding the equipment for the Afghan security forces with the Indian officials, and left behind a "wish list" of equipments that the ANSF requires. According to reports, this list includes 105mm artillery, medium-lift aircraft, bridge-laying equipment and trucks.

According to a statement released by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s office, "India is prepared to increase bilateral contribution to institution-building, training and equipment to the extent India can". Karzai also accepted an honorary doctorate degree from the Indian Lovely Professional University.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Khaama Press, May 22-23, 2013; Pajhwok, May 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More NATO troops, post-2014

According to a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), ten more NATO nations are keen to retain troops in Afghanistan post-2014. This announcement follows the similar declarations made by Germany and Sweden in the past few weeks.

ISAF Spokesman Brigadier General Gunter Katz said that " the 28 nation plus ten partner-nations declared that they are willing to contribute. Germany and Sweden gave concrete numbers and we are quite confident that other nations will follow soon".

In the meantime, Australia declared that they would maintain a presence in Afghanistan as well, in tune with the NATO regulations and will keep a number of its special forces. However, the Australian Defence Minister announced that Australia would take a concrete decision on the nature of this presence only once America’s post-2014 policy is finalised.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, however, in a telephonic conversation with the US Secretary of State John Kerry, declared that Afghanistan would never sign a security agreement with the US till violence was still prevalent in the country. Karzai stressed that stability and end of war are the main conditions of Afghanistan to sign the agreement. Afghanistan Presidency said in a statement that signing the agreement in an unstable situation means that Afghan civilians will be sacrificed at the hands of foreigners daily.

Iran once again reiterated its opposition to the idea of permanent US military bases in Afghanistan. The issue was raised by Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi during a visit to Iran by UN special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, May 23, 2013; Pajhwok, May 22, 2013; Tolo News, May 19, 2013; Tolo News, May 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest against women’s rights

Hundreds of university students in Kabul demonstrated against the Elimination of Violation Against Women (EVAW) law, claiming that some of the articles of the law are against the Quran. The protestors are demanding the repeal of the presidential decree that had been issued three years ago.

Religious scholars in Jalalabad also undertook demonstrations against the law. The demonstrators warned that if the Parliament does not review the articles in the law, it will face serious protests put up by the religious scholars.

The decree bans child marriage and forced marriage, makes domestic violence a crime and says rape victims cannot be prosecuted for adultery. It also outlaws "ba’ad," a traditional practice of exchanging women or girls to settle disputes or debts. It had been hailed as a major landmark in the empowerment of women in Afghanistan.

As a response to such a reaction, a number of women activists in Herat also undertook demonstrations in support of EVAW. They accused certain religious fundamentalists for trying to sacrifice the women for their ulterior motives under the pretext of Islamic Sharia law violations.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Election law approved

The Lower House of the Afghan Parliament has approved the election law. According to the law, seven elections will be held in Afghanistan - the Presidential, Parliamentary, Provincial Council, District Council, Municipality, Municipality’s Administrative Member’s and Villages Council elections. The Law specifies the conditions and dates for all these elections.

The Election Law has allocated 10 chairs for nomads and non-resident citizens in those provinces where they live. Moreover, the Electoral Complaints Commission is responsible to investigate frauds and deal with complaints. The law also says that two women from each province can join the Parliament even if they get fewer votes.

However, some of the demands made by the civil society organisations were not included in the Law. One of the demands of these organisations was that 100 chairs should be given to the political parties but it was not accepted. Similarly, the demand for a minimum education requirement - a bachelor’s degree - for candidates was also rejected by the Election Commission.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Tolo News, May 23, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Water on key UN agenda: PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week called for making the universal coverage of water supply and sanitation as a key agenda in the post-2015 Development Goal of the UN. The Prime Minister made this observation while addressing the opening session of the Second Asia- Pacific Water Summit (2APWS) at Thailand.

She further said that Asia accounts for 60 percent of the seven billion world population. But as far as water demand and supply issues are concerned, the Asia- Pacific region will have a gap of up-to 40 percent by 2030, she said.

To meet the challenge, Hasina called for giving urgent attention to the following areas:

1) The national development planning must include the issue of improving agricultural water productivity, achieving energy objectives, and satisfying the growing industrial water requirements in an integrated manner.

2) Countries must move beyond the limits of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to build collaboration in development and transfer of technology for effective tackling of arsenic contamination of groundwater, successful harvesting of rainwater and recycling of waste water.

3) Governance challenges in water management must be addressed through improving homegrown initiatives including cooperatives.Communities should be encouraged for reusing, recycling and judicious use of the limited groundwater resources.

4) Steps should be taken for sustenance and navigability of the rivers, equitable sharing of water of other trans-boundary rivers, and securing river basins and ecosystems.

To conclude, she proposed a coordinated action to address the issues exposed to frequent floods, cyclones, salinity and sea- level rise, and working together for disaster-risk preparedness, communities resilient and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, May 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP reiterates call for dialogue

The national standing committee of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has reiterated its call on the government to sit in a dialogue with the opposition camp to arrive at a consensus on the election-time government. The call was made at a meeting of the standing committee on May 22 chaired by party chief Khaleda Zia.

However, the party earlier had said that it would resolve the caretaker government (CG) issue by taking their movement to the streets. "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put obstacles on the path of holding fresh talks over the CG issue. The preparation to hold such talks will not be successful. The issue would only be resolved through intense street movements," BNP spokesperson Shamsuzzaman Dudu said this week.

Bangladesh is facing a political logjam as the two major political parties are in loggerheads over the nature of the government under which the elections will take place. Ruling Awami League wants the election to be held under a democratic government while opposition BNP is pushing for caretaker government. In fact BNP has threatened that it will not participate in the election unless its demand fulfilled

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Independent May 24 & 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kerry talks cover Rohingyas

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and US Secretary of State John Kerry met at Washington DC this week and discussed bilateral issues. Among the issues those found prominence at the talks were related to Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry and migration of Rohingyas.

Dipu Moni informed that her country is looking forward to more cooperation with the US in all areas of common concern, both bilaterally and also at multilateral levels. She said Kerry has been invited to visit Bangladesh and the US Secretary of State has said he will try to come soon. This is the first meeting between the two after John Kerry took over as the Secretary of State in January.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US slates attacks on minorities

The US government in a recent report came down hard on Bangladesh for attacks on the religious minorities. The report, however, stated that the trend in government’s respect for religious freedom did not change significantly in 2012. It generally respected religious freedom in Bangladesh.

The US State Department, in its International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 released in Washington DC this week, said there were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

According to the report, there were scattered attacks on the members of religious and ethnic minorities, most notably against the Buddhists in Ramu in September and October 2012. The report further claimed that members of Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Ahmadiyya, a Muslim minority group, had experienced harassment and sometimes violence from the Sunni Muslim majority population.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Daily Star, May 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Akhaura-Agartala rail link

India and Bangladesh are aiming to start setting a rail link between Agartala, the capital of India’s northeastern state of Tripura, and Akhaura, a Bangladeshi town near the border, by the end of this year. This was disclosed by officials of both countries after the project steering committee discussed the issue at a meeting at Dhaka.

They informed that land acquisition, finalisation of alignment and detail design of the rail link would be completed by September to pave the way for laying tracks. In the meeting the sides discussed about ways to execute the project expeditiously.

In February this year, India and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the construction of the 15 kilometers rail tracks, of which 5 kilometers fall in the Indian side and the rest in Bangladesh. As per the agreement, an estimated $28.05 million will be required to set up the railway line. India will bear the entire cost.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, May 22, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two-stage polls notified

The Election Commission of Bhutan has officially announced the schedule of National Assembly Elections. As laid down in the Constitution, the election will be in two stages. In the first stage, two of the four parties who poll the maximum in the election to be held on June 13 will be chosen for the second stage to be held on July 13.

Besides the ruling party DPT and the opposition PDP, two other parties are also in the fray. They are the DCT (Druk Chiwang Tshogpa) and the DNT (Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa). One other party BKP (Bhutan Kuen-Nigam Party), though accepted as a political party failed in the preliminary stage of scrutiny as it could not put up representatives for all the forty seven constituencies.

Strangely but perhaps rightly for a small country like Bhutan, the Constitution and the electoral laws do not encourage political parties in forming a coalition government. In the absence of a coalition government, Bhutan could have the luxury of a small cabinet with the Prime minister fully in charge of governance in all its aspects.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Joint venture in hydro projects

Bangladesh, India and Bhutan will jointly construct cost-effective hydropower projects in Bhutan for mutual benefits. Three neighbouring countries in South Asia have, for the first time, agreed to move jointly to utilise the hydropower potential of Bhutan.

A joint working group (JWG) of the three countries held talks in Dhaka last month and expressed the view in favour of implementing the cost-effective hydropower projects for meeting the demand for electricity in all the three countries. Bangladesh is the initiator of the joint move, while India and Bhutan have responded positively to its call.

All the three countries emphasised the need for trilateral cooperation in water resources management and hydro-power development and agreed to prepare a framework for mutual cooperation and work out the broad principles in this regard. Of the three countries, electricity supply-shortage crisis is quite critical in Bangladesh and India.

Bhutan has a potential to generate around 30,000 megawatts (mw) of hydropower. Its overall electricity generation is currently hovering around 1,490 mw. Bangladesh will also be able to make investment in the hydropower projects that India is now implementing in Bhutan through mutual understanding. The second meeting of the JWG of Bangladesh, India and Bhutan will be held in India.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Financial Express, May 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FTII branch in Bhutan

Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), which has given India actors such as Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah to name a few, could have a branch in Bhutan.

It all started with a move by the Motion Picture Association of Bhutan (MPAB), which approached the FTII to help set up an institute to train aspiring actors, directors, editors and cinematographers in that country. A meeting between the MPAB office-bearers and the FTII representatives took place recently in the scenic Bhutanese town called Paro, in which it was proposed that the FTII run the centre for five years before handing over the operations to the local authorities.

The meeting was facilitated by a Kolkata-based firm called Ememgee, which provides consultancy to the government of Bhutan and the MPAB. Bhutan government has already have allocated 200 acres for the project at Paro.

The FTII is located where Prabhat Studios once stood. Prabhat Film Company, popularly known as Prabhat Films, was formed in Kolhapur in 1929. Its founders were noted film director V Shantaram, V G Damle, K R Dhaiber, S Fatelal and S B Kulkarni. It moved to Pune in 1933, where it established its own studio.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mumbai Mirror, May 21, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

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

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.