MonitorsPublished on Dec 27, 2013
King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck's address to the nation on the 106th National Day function held on 17 December 2013 came as a ready-reckoner for the new government at the helm of the Bhutan's affairs, when the king heavily criticised the poor implementation of policies.
Bhutan: Time to deliver
< class="heading1">Analysis

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s address to the nation on the 106th National Day function held on 17 December 2013 came as a ready-reckoner for the new government at the helm of the Bhutan’s affairs, when the king heavily criticised the poor implementation of policies.

Earlier, during the first session of the second Parliament of Bhutan, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay had highlighted some of the policies and schemes to be implemented in the next year while presenting the Annual Report on 30 September. The King’s message was clear -- the time has come to deliver to the people.

In the Annual Report, the newly-elected Prime Minister had expressed confidence in his youthful Cabinet ministers in capitalising on the country’s strengths and turn challenges into opportunities. The Lyonchen has also talked about the strengthening the fight against corruption, one of the fronts on which his predecessor was alleged to have failed.

Prime Minister Tobgay said in the annual report that the country is facing ’difficult times.’ Highlighting the need for exploring alternative sources of energy as a grave challenge, the prime minister pledged to reduce dependence on LPG, said to have been offsetting the foreign currency earned by the country from hydro-power exports. The Lyonchen’s show of urgency is understood as the country face a crisis in the year 2013 by the temporary suspension of LPG subsidy by India.

Comprehensive review of the civil services is another important initiative, the government would seek to address in the coming year. The King in his National Day address snubbed the failure of the country’s civil services for variations between a plan and its end result.

Pinning hopes on India

What is the most important challenge in the 2014 is that of installing mechanisms to improve fiscal prudence, strengthen and diversify economy, boost exports and devise policies to increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Prime Minister Tobgay pinned hopes on Indian companies to invest in Bhutan on basis of his impression on interacting with Indian companies on his official visit to India in August-September, 2013.

The government has also announced that it would formulate the Private Sector Development Plan to support micro and small-scale enterprises in the country. With a robust economy the government plans to generate more jobs and reduce the unemployment levels that currently stands at 2.1 percent.

Migration from rural to urban areas is another issue which the country faces, according to the Annual Report. Agriculture is the worst hit as this crucial sector stagnated at 1.5 percent in recent years at a time when the GDP growth rate has been hovering around 8 percent. This trend of migration has put undue stress on cities, where housing is becoming unaffordable, giving a hard-time to city-dwellers in the low-income group.

The government has decided to introduce innovative financing schemes, incentives and subsidies, promote agro-businesses and establish effective marketing and distribution networks and would also build on the existing programmes for making available high-yielding seeds, fertiliser, and also mechanisation and irrigation channels. Creating opportunities for employment in rural areas for agriculture and other cottage industries has been adopted as the strategy for halting migration from rural to urban areas. The 11th Five-Year Plan is formulated with the theme of promoting "Prosperity for all." This, ambitious plan with an expenditure outlay of Nu 214 billion is expected to address the priorities of poverty reduction, economic development, health and education and reducing corruption.

The government is expecting that the 11 FYP would see an increase in the grants by 13 percent at a time when aid from development partners would decline, owing to improvement of socio-economic indicators of the country. The realisation that the country cannot go on borrowing from development partners and friendly nations forever has also been duly noted in the Annual Report presented by the Prime Minister.

Very opportune time

While the new government has identified the major problems faced by the country, the King’s rider on implementation has come at a very opportune time. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s doubts about governance in his National Day address, many commentators think, is in continuation of his address at the National Day function in 2012, when the monarch had come down heavily on the economic crisis facing the country.

The King’s 2013 National Day address reinforces the opinion of his supreme position in Bhutan’s affairs, distinct from the elected government, which again and again has shown a myopic view of the state of affairs of the country. The recent trends in Bhutan’s politics have shown that while political parties have often presented a hunky-dory picture, the king critic of the country’s affairs.

Unless the People’s Democratic Party-led government addresses the gap between policies and their implementation, the challenges faced by the country would continue. The monarch’s role again becomes of vital importance in a country which swears by the phrase "our King, our country, our people" or "Tsa, Wa, Sum."

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India: National politics at cross-roads, Lokpal sets the tone

Satish Misra

The demand for setting up a Lokpal (ombudsman) was in the public domain for about five decades and after eight unsuccessful attempts on December 18 this year, the over-debated and much-wanted institution acquired the parliamentary approval as the two houses of parliament passed the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill.

The political class, which over the years had been dragging its feats on the popular demand, agreed to set in motion the process for enactment of an Act that empowers the executive to set up the institution of a Lokpal at the centre and Lokayuktas in states and union territories.

This became possible only after a civil society movement led by social activist Anna Hazare brought the unwilling political class under sustained and unrelenting pressure. A movement called ’India Against Corruption’ (IAC) held fasts, rallies and agitations across the country. In 2011, the government agreed to enact a law and the Lok Sabha (lower house) also passed it, but in the upper house (Rajya Sabha) it could not find approval because of vast differences between the government and the opposition.

Even some of the constituents of the ruling UPA alliance had their reservations on the version of the bill that had been cleared by the lower house. The opposition was keen to move scores of amendments but the government apparently was not ready for them and the upper house was abruptly adjourned at midnight hours.

It took almost two years and crushing defeat of the Congress in four Hindi-speaking States of Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan at the hands of BJP, the principal Opposition party, and a year old Aam Admi Party (AAP) that forced the UPA government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to evolve a consensus among the political parties to get a parliamentary nod for the pending bill.

AAP factor and Congress defeat

What may have weighed heavily on the minds of the ruling combine was the defeat of Congress government of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who had remained in power for 15 years and was seeking people’s mandate for a fourth term on the strength of her claim of positive work done in the national capital during her tenure.

The most crucial factor that prevailed upon was the emergence of the AAP in Delhi election in an otherwise bipolar politics of Delhi where the Congress and the BJP had been the main players over the years. The AAP won 28 Assembly seats in a house of 70 with the BJP managing to get 32 with its ally Shiromani Akali Dal getting one seat.

The stunning and surprising victory of the AAP in its first electoral engagement has not only given a decisive push to the passing of the Lokpal Bill but it has also impacted the national politics in a big way.

At the same time, it must also be said that the BJP too agreed to get the Bill parliamentary approval because of the AAP which threatened to take away from it urban votes in the coming general elections.

The AAP, depending upon its performance in Delhi, is likely to be the choice of many who were looking for a non-Congress and non-BJP option at state and national level. An AAP government with its leader Arvind Kejriwal took oath of office of chief minister on Saturday, 28 December.

If the AAP government is able to deliver on its promises substantially, then the country’s electorate is likely to opt for it in the coming general elections in the first four months of 2014. As a matter of fact, the AAP may turn out to be a game changer and is then bound to rewrite the rules of the game of politics.

Some established political parties in particular and the political class in general has taken serous note of the AAP and its conduct of politics as was evident in the reaction of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who said:"The people have sent us a clear message. We have heard it... not just in our minds but in our hearts." "The Aam Aadmi Party involved a lot of non-traditional people and we will learn from that...and will better it in a way you cannot imagine," Mr Gandhi had further said. Though his party leaders did not appreciate Mr Gandhi’s comments, his candid admission reflected his ability to accept mistakes of the 128-year-old Congress.

Not only the Congress but even the BJP has been quick to accept and that is why its mentor, Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RRS), has been stressing upon establishing contact with every voter. It needs to be said here that the RSS, which used to do back-seat driving till now, has decided to come into open shedding its earlier reservations.

It has started playing a much more aggressive role in deciding the BJP’s agenda and selection of leadership. The BJP, which has been aggressively campaigning for its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, has begun to redraw its electoral strategy after the success of the AAP.

’One vote, one note’

The BJP, which till the emergence of AAP at the electoral scene, was confident of emerging as the single largest party in the general elections with enough numbers of seats at its command to be able to stake a claim for forming the next government in New Delhi, is taking a relook at its electoral strategy and style of campaigning. It is also at the forefront of raising an accusing finger at the AAP.

Titled as "One vote and one note" for making its Gujarat Chief Minister Prime Minister, the BJP has announced a massive programme during which party workers would contact families and would seek their vote and a currency note for the party election fund. This would ensure personal touch with family of voters as well as a currency note would reflect commitment.

The AAP has already made its intent clear that it is going to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha polls (general elections) in a big way. According to media reports, the AAP is likely to field its candidates in big, medium and small cities. It may also field candidates in some key constituencies where important leaders of different political parties are likely to contest. One such constituency is Amethi in Uttar Pradesh which is represented by none other than Mr Gandhi-scion of Nehru-Gandhi family. The AAP has appealed to its well-wishers to donate to election fund. It requires Rs 100 crore for contesting parliamentary elections.

Notwithstanding the final picture of the Lok Sabha after the elections and irrespective of the colour and ideology of the next government, the impact of AAP is likely to be visible in choice of candidates that different parties make in the elections. Parties with varying degrees of emphasis are likely pick up relatively more cleaner and perceptibly more honest candidates for different constituencies and this trend is going to more apparent in urban centres than in rural parts of the country.

Thus 2013 would go down as a major watershed in country’s politics and 2014 may prove to be the beginning of the new phase of country’s polity and society.

(Dr Satish Misra is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese envoy puts trade ties over border row

Trade and personal ties with India are more important to China than resolving the border dispute, Chinese Ambassador to India Wei Wei said on Saturday.

Inaugurating the ’Haat of India,’ a conference of more than 150 producers, sellers and exporters from both countries here, Mr. Wei said that there were several historic issues that had to be resolved between the two countries. "While we pay attention to our border disputes, we must pay more attention to people-to-people contact and improving relations.

Land disputes are flagging problems. We must give more attention to economic and cultural relations, which are more important than political and strategic ties," he said. This would create a constructive environment for future development of bilateral ties, he said. "China has borders with 14 countries of which we attach great importance to our relationship with Russia and India," he said.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian peace-keepers praised

The bravery of 43 Indian peacekeepers stationed at a UN base in South Sudan, which was attacked by about 2,000 rebels this week, prevented more casualties, a top UN official said as she lauded the dedication shown by Indian troops in peacekeeping missions.

Two Indian soldiers Warrant Officers DharmeshSangwan and Kumar Pal Singh were killed in the December 19 attack on the UN base in the Jonglei state town of Akobo in South Sudan. A third soldier Indian Battalion Warrant Officer MondalShabul was wounded in the chest during the attack and was flown to Malakal where he was reported to be in stable condition.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) held a memorial ceremony in Juba on Saturday for the two Indian Battalion peacekeepers killed in the attack.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian-American new Texas State Secretary

Attorney Nandita Berry has been appointed the Secretary of State for Texas by Governor Rick Perry, making her the first Indian-American to occupy the post in the southern US State.

In this position, effective January 7 onwards, Nandita Berry will serve as the state’s chief elections officer, the governor’s liaison on border and Mexican affairs, and Texas’ chief protocol officer for state and international matters.

"Nandita Berry personifies what is possible through hard work and dedication in the State of Texas," Perry said in a statement.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tax-free bonds to overseas residents

Reserve Bank on Tuesday allowed Indian entities to issue tax-free bonds to overseas residents for investment in infrastructure sector.

"On a review, it has been decided to permit such resident entities/companies in India, authorised by the Government of India, to issue tax-free, secured, redeemable, non-convertible bonds in rupees to persons resident outside India...," RBI said in a notification.

However, it said, funds raised should be used for lending to the infrastructure sector.

Besides, the borrowed funds can be kept in fixed deposits with banks in India pending utilisation by them for permissible end-uses, it said.

As per the current regulation, the central bank imposes restrictions on persons resident in India who have borrowed in rupees from a person resident outside India to the effect that such borrowed funds cannot be used for any investment.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 24 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Agni-3 test-fired successfully

Having witnessed many successful missile fires, the year 2013 has finally ended with a bang as the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) successfully fired the long-range Agni-3 missile from Wheelers Island, off the Odisha coast on Monday at about 4.58 pm.

The Agni-3 missile has a range capability of over 3,000 km. In fact, if the sources are to be believed, 2014 will be kick started with another bang as plans are more or less finalised to fire the prestigious Agni-4 in the first week of January 2014.

Agni-3 missile is equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system and guided by an innovative guidance scheme. Project Director for Agni-3 is V V Rao while the Agni Programme Director is Dr V G Sekaran. The trajectory of Agni-3 trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations, electro-optic instruments and naval ships from its launch till the missile hit the target area with pin point accuracy.

During the course of flight, the missile reached a peak height of 350 km and re-entered into the atmosphere successfully tolerating the skin temperatures of nearly 3,000 degree Celsius.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Conditional bail for US ship crew

A local court has granted conditional bail to all the 35 crew members of a US ship, arrested on charges of illegally carrying weapons on board the vessel and straying into Indian waters. In their bail plea, the crew argued that the ’Q’ branch of Tamil Nadu police had failed to file the charge sheet even after 60 days of their arrest.

After hearing the petition, Judicial Magistrate-I Kathiravan granted them bail on Wednesday ordering that they report at the office of the anti-terrorist ’Q’ branch investigating the case, and sign every day. Earlier, their bail pleas had been rejected by a court here and the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. The 35 crew members of the ship MV Seeman Ohio were arrested on October 18 by Tamil Nadu police after it was intercepted by the Coast Guard. They were booked under the Arms Act and Essential Commodities Act.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 27 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-Naxal operations launched

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has launched anti-Naxal operations in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

According to a news report, about 40,000 security personnel will be involved in the operation against the Maoists over the next four days. Police forces in these eight states are said to be assisting the CRPF. All India Radio quoted CRPF director general Dilip Trivedi, as saying that the idea behind the security operation was to prevent Naxals from fleeing into neighbouring territories from their own original places of stay.

Once the operation is over, he said that an analysis would be done on its impact and outcome, and whether there is a need for conducting future offensives of this nature. The ITBP, BSF and SSB are also participating in the operation. BSF and IAF helicopters have been positioned for air droppings and evacuation.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 27 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Majlis panel rejects eight ministers

The Government Oversight Committee has decided not to approve eight out of 15 ministers appointed by President Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Parliament will now vote the committee’s findings on Monday, 30 December.

The appointments rejected by the committee are Mohammed Nazim as Minister of Defence and National Security, Abulla Jihad as Minister of Finance and Treasury, Umar Naseer as Minister of Home Affairs, Ahmed Adheeb as Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Ameen Ibrahim as Minister of Transport, Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as Minister of Islamic Affairs, Mohamed Muizzu as Minister of Housing and Infrastructure, and Dr Mariyam Shakeela as Minister of Health.

Four MPs representing the government coalition in the committee voted in favour, while six MPs representing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) voted against the eight appointments.

All ten members of the committee voted in favour of the remaining seven appointments, which are Dhunya Maumoon as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohamed Shainy as Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Mohamed Saeed as Minister of Economic Development, Thorig Ibrahim as Minister of Environment and Energy, Dr Aminath Shiham as Minister of Education, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal as Minister of Youth, and Mohamed Anil as Attorney-General.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 26 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget increased again, by MVR 153 m

A further MVR 153 million has been added to the State Budget for 2014 by the Budget Committee. The committee had earlier finalised its review of the MVR 17.7 billion budget and sent it to Parliament.

With this latest increase, which was proposed by parliamentarians of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the total budget is now MVR 17.92 billion.

Pro-government members in the Budget Committee have agreed with MDP’s proposition to increase the budget by MVR 153 million.Budget Committee Member, Kulhudhuffushi-Uthuru MP Abdul Gafoor Moosa, said that the MVR 153 million will be assigned to PSIP projects.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 26 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ex-President Waheed joins PPM

Former President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik joined the Progressive Party of Maldives of President Abdulla Yameen after dissolving his Quamee Iththihad Party (QIP). Dr Waheed joined the PPM in the presence of President Yameen, whom he had contested in the first-round of the presidential polls earlier this year and later extended support to him in the second round.

Waheed later told newsmen that his joining the PPM was unconditional, and was not linked to any promise of a party or government post. "Our decision to join PPM is not conditional on anything. As I said before, today, the best thing for the country would be that we all work together," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 25 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Buddhist monastery dismisses rumour

The abbot of a Buddhist monastery in Mandalay has denied distributing leaflets during religious sermons as a move to oppose the National League of Democracy (NLD), the major opposition party in Myanmar.

The presiding abbot of New Masoeyein Teaching Monastery on Sunday dismissed a report posted on a Facebook page, named "Myanmar News Update," which said that he and the senior monks from the monastery were handing out protest letters during their religious sermons to the public.

"The main duty of our monastery is to conduct religious teaching. We are not engaging in political affairs. Nor are we attacking the NLD. We have always done religious things. The news that the monastery is distributing protest letters is just a rumour. I have no idea who’s creating rumours," said Bhaddanta Kaysara Bhivamsa, the monastery’s presiding abbot.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minister, ethnic leaders to hold talks

Burmese government peace negotiator Aung Min said he will meet with ethnic rebel leaders in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, from Friday to Sunday to hold further talks on drafting a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

President Office’s Minister Aung Min said he would meet with the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), comprising 14 ethnic leaders, in order to discuss the draft nationwide ceasefire accord, adding that both sides would compare their proposals for such an agreement.

"Our drafts of the , both by the NCCT and government, are in about 80 percent agreement. But we still need to discuss the remaining issues," Aung Min told The Irrawaddy during an interview at the Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC), a government body which the minister oversees.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Irrawaddy, 26 December, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">One-day visits re-allowed for Chinese

The issuance of blue border passbooks and one-day entrance/exit cards for Chinese citizens by Yunnan Police has been re-allowed as of the second week of December, according to the Immigration and Population Department in Muse.The Chinese government had ended these permits on October 17, 2009.

The agreement between Myanmar and China on border area management and cooperation was signed on 25 Marrch 1997.In the first week after the Yunnan Provincial Police Force began issuing the BPs on December 16, more than 300 Chinese visited Muse.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 26 December, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NC to form Govt with most number of parties

With the four-point deal reached on Tuesday among the political parties represented in the High Level Political Committee (HLPC) paving the way for the formation of the new Constituent Assembly (CA) cum Parliament, the Nepali Congress (NC) has now started holding parleys with the various parties represented in the CA to form a new government.

NC President Sushil Koirala has started holding ´discussions´ with the top leaders of various parties representing in the CA to win their confidence for forming a new government under the party´s leadership, as per the decision taken by the NC Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting that concluded on Sunday.

Party leaders say Koirala´s overtures are aimed at garnering the broadest possible support from parties representing in the new CA. "NC is in favor of forming a new government with the broadest possible support from parties in the new CA," NC CWC member Dr Ram Sharan Mahat told Republica.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 27 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four-point deal opens way for CA

Ending the political uncertainty seen after the Constituent Assembly (CA) election held last month, the political parties represented on the High Level Political Committee (HLPC) clinched a four-point deal on Tuesday. The agreement reached at the HLPC meeting held at Babar Mahal paves the way for convening the CA and forming a new government within the next few weeks, as the dissenting parties including the UCPN (Maoist) have now agreed to submit the final lists of their candidates under the Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system.

In their four-point agreement, the eight parties have argued to form a parliamentary committee to investigate alleged vote fraud in the recent CA election and make necessary recommendations, and to initiate the process of forming a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Disappearance Commission at the earliest. The eight various parties represented on the HLPC have reiterated their commitment to prepare the first draft of the new statue in the spirit of the 12-point understanding, the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CA) and the Interim Constitution of 2007, within the next six months, and promulgate the new statute within a year.

The parties have also agreed to form a separate political committee that would represent top leaders of the major political parties to help accomplish the remaining tasks of the peace process and facilitate the constitution-drafting.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC extends deadline by five days

The Election Commission on Wednesday extended the deadline for the submission of name lists of PR candidates by five more days. A board meeting of the EC decided to extend the deadline following a request from the major political parties citing lack of homework to select their candidates as they were busy working out for the four-point agreement singed on Tuesday.

With the new extension for the third time, the parties are required to submit their name lists of the candidates winning PR seats by December 30. Of the 30 parties winning the PR seats, 12 parties have submitted name lists, while 18 parties, including Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesi parties, are yet to provide name lists to the election body.

An intra-party bargaining within the major parties has delayed the PR candidate selection process. The first meeting of the CA, according to the law, should be called within 21 days after the PR results. Soon afterwards the Cabinet constituted through the CA should nominate the remaining 26 seats to give full shape to the 601-member CA.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Ekantipur, 26 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepse up 8.48 points, on political development

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index, which went into correction mode over the first two trading days of the week, gained 8.48 points on Tuesday. The benchmark index, which shed 36.93 points in just two days, closed at 777.2 points on the day. Stock analysts attributed Nepse rally to a four-point deal signed by eight political parties on Tuesday which buoyed investors´ confidence.

Narendra Raj Sijapati, president of Nepal Stock Brokers´ Association, said the market was in correction mode until 12:25 pm. "But as the news of four-point agreement came, the index started moving in the green zone," said Sijapati, claiming that Nepse will continue gaining streak for the entire week. "Investors were wary of possible ceiling on margin lending for commercial banks amid Nepse´s bull-run," Sijapati said, "But Nepse rallied as the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) is yet to come with such regulation."

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China commits $6.5 b for n-power project

China has committed $6.5 billion to finance the construction of a major nuclear power project in Karachi as it seeks to strengthen ties with its strategic partner according to Pakistani officials. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the $9.59 billion project in November but there were few details of how the project was to be financed.

China has also waived a $250,000 insurance premium on the loan according to two sources in the Energy Ministry.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pledge to uphold ceasefire with India

Pakistan and India have pledged to uphold the 2003 Line of Control ceasefire accord which has seen repeated violations this year. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries.

The meeting was held on the Pakistani side of the Wagah Border.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 25 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army offensive in North Waziristan

Residents of Pakistan’s North Waziristan region accused government troops of killing dozens of civilians during a military operation against Taliban insurgents. The operation started after a December 18 suicide bomb attack on a checkpoint in North Waziristan, a stronghold for al Qaeda-linked Taliban militants on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Speculation that the army might launch a major offensive in the tribal areas of Pakistan has been building as the government’s attempts to enter into peace talks with the Pakistan Taliban have been floundering.

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Munawar Hassan has warned that the army would suffer a disastrous failure if it continues with the military operation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 23 December 2013; Dawn, 27 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Imran Khan firm on blocking NATO supply lines

A day after four suspected militants were killed in a US drone attack in North Waziristan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has announced his stand on keeping NATO supply routes suspended till the unmanned airstrikes are halted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 27 December 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fresh turmoil in TNA

The five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is in fresh turmoil in the wake of an abortive bid to defeat the budget, of the Valvettiturai Urban Council. The TNA comprises the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), PLOTE, TELO, EPRLF and TULF. The ITAK is the dominant partner.

Of the nine-member UC, the TNA secured seven seats while the UPFA obtained the remaining two seats, at the last Local Government polls held on July 23, 2011.

Political sources said that Chairman of the VVT, UC Ananda Raj, thwarted an attempt by some of his colleagues to defeat the budget. Sources said that those allegedly planning to vote against the budget were prevented from entering the UC at the behest of Ananda Raj.

Responding to a query, sources said that the budget was endorsed by four members of the VVT UC, whereas those suspected to be conspiring against the party were blocked by protesters. Both UPFA members voted for the budget. Sources said that the five members, deprived of an opportunity to vote, represented the dominant party in the alliance.

The Chairman had no option but to block those who had voted against the budget on an earlier occasion, sources said. Although they sought the intervention of the local police, the law enforcement authorities couldn’t facilitate their entry into the building, sources said.

Deputy Chairman of the Valvettithurai Urban Council Kandasamy Sadeesh told a gathering, outside the UC, that he along with a four other councillors were not allowed to enter the premises in spite of making a complaint to the VVT police.

Sources alleged that Ananda Raj was targeted as he was close to MP Suresh Premachandran, an EPRLF heavyweight. Premachandran is a member of the TNA grouping inPparliament.

Sources said that NPC member, M. K. Sivajilingham, a former TNA MP too, arrived at the scene with those prevented from entering the UC in a bid to settle the issue. But, protesters warned the rebel group they wouldn’t allow any attempt to cause trouble. Sources asserted that constituent members were fighting for control of various LG bodies at the expense of the alliance.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 27 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TN ’journo’ sneaks into Pooneryn

An Indian passport holder arrested at Pooneryn on Sunday afternoon for taking pictures of troops was brought to Colombo for questioning. A senior security official alleged that the South Indian identified as Thamil Prabhakaran was a close associate of Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) Jaffna district MP Sivagnanam Sritharan.

The official said that at the time the suspect was taken into custody he had an Indian passport bearing the number MK 6149374. Responding to a query, the official said that the suspect claimed he was a journalist in spite of being here on a tourist visa. The arrest was made shortly after Prabhakaran took pictures of a bi-cycle patrol.

The suspect had taken over 50 photographs of army deployment in the Northern Province and was believed to planning to propagate anti-Sri Lanka sentiments in Tamil Nadu.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 27 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban attacks US Embassy

Two Taliban rockets landed inside the American embassy compound in Kabul early on Christmas day, in a reminder that Afghanistan remains riddled with insecurity even as foreigners marked the festive season. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which included another strike in the city, but caused no casualties.

"At approximately 6:40 local time in Kabul, approximately two rounds of indirect fire impacted the US Embassy compound," a statement from the embassy said. "All Americans are accounted for and no injuries were sustained.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 25 December 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UK soldier killed

A soldier from the Royal Engineers was killed in action in Afghanistan today, the Ministry of Defence said. The serviceman was killed as a result of enemy fire while on operations east of Kabul. His next of kin have been informed and have requested the customary period of grace before further details are released, said a spokesman.

The death takes to 447 the number of UK service members who have lost their lives since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001 and is the ninth this year.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Blasts claim four in the South

At least four civilians were killed or injured following separate blasts in southern Afghanistan on Thursday. A kid was killed following a blast in Spin Boldak district of southern Kandahar province on Thursday afternoon. Zia Durani, spokesman for the provincial security department confirming the report said, another civilian was also injured in the blast. He said the blast took place around 12pm local time, however he did not disclose the nature of the incident.

In the meantime, two civilians were injured after a motorcycle packed with explosives went off in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan on Thursday. Provincial governor spokesman, Omar Zwak said the incident took place in a busy market place in Nad-e-Ali district.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 26 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nominated for German award

Afghan footballer and goal keeper of the national football team of Afghanistan, Mansur Faqiryar has been nominated to receive the best athlete of the year - North Athlete of the Year Award in Germany. The winner of the award will be selected based on a poll conducted by Germany’s NDR Television Network.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, December 25, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khaleda to be put on trial for terrorism

Accusing the opposition leader of unleashing terrorism and militancy and killing people in the name of a movement, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week said the trial of Khaleda Zia would be held one day on Bangladesh soil for the offences.

"We believe in justice. The opposition leader would be charged with giving orders for killing and burning people to death in the name of a movement. Inshallah, her trial would be held on Bangladesh soil to this end, and we’ll hold this trial," she said.

Hasina, also President of the ruling Awami League, made this comment during an election campaign. The national election is due for January 5, which BNP is boycotting. Urging the opposition leader not to play with the fate of the country’s people, the AL chief said her arch rival would have to shoulder the responsibility for the deaths of so many people across the country.

Incidences of political violence increased in Bangladesh after date of election as was declared in November. The country experienced string of shutdowns called by opposition ever since date of election was declared and hundreds of people died during these shutdowns.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Independent, 27 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Armed forces deployed to assist polls

In order to aid the civil power to maintain law and order ahead of the January 5 Parliamentary poll, members of the armed forces have been deployed in 57 districts of the country.

The members of the armed forces have started their duties in the districts, even in the upazilas, as per the requirements of the deputy commissioners (DCs) of the respective districts in order to ensure that the upcoming general poll is held in a peaceful manner, according to a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). The soldiers have been drawn from the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Air Force. They will remain on duty till 9th January 9, 2014.

Meanwhile, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) lambasted the government and the Election Commission for the move to deploy the army as strike force to ensure peaceful holding of the5th January election, and alleged that it is a plot to leave the army pitted against the people.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 27 December 2013; The Daily Star, 23 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Factory garment workers get compensation

Four global retailers, along with manufacturers and labour groups, have agreed to set up a $40 million compensation fund for victims of Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1,135 people.

Primark, El Corte Ingles, Loblaw and Bon Marche have pledged to contribute to the fund following the collapse of the garment factory complex in April, the world’s worst industrial tragedy.

The collapse of the nine-storey complex on the outskirts of Dhaka, where workers stitched clothes for top Western retailers, highlighted the often appalling conditions and lack of rights for workers at Bangladesh’s 4,500 garment factories.

The country is the world’s second largest garment exporter and the industry is a mainstay of its economy. More than 100 European and US retailers pledged to improve safety in the wake of the tragedy, but a deal on compensation for families of workers and those injured has remained elusive.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 27 December 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian militants handed over

After languishing in Bangladeshi jails for 12 years, two Indian militants were handed over to the Border Security Force (BSF) by the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB.

The BGB handed over two NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura) extremists to the BSF through Belonia check post," a Tripura police spokesman informed. The check post is 120 km south of Tripura capital Agartala. The two NLFT cadres were Bidya Debbarma and Budhulia Jamatia, both aged between 38 to 40 years.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 24 December 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ranked fifth fastest-growing economy

Bhutan is among the top five fastest growing economies in the world in 2013, according to The Economist, a London-based news magazine. Ahead of Bhutan are Mongolia, followed by Macau, Libya and China. According to the newsmagazine, Bhutan averaged an impressive growth rate of 8.5 percent, 0.1 percentage shy of China at fourth position.

Bhutan’s GDP growth rate is also expected to spike next year, when the Dungsam cement plant, which is expected to add around Nu 6B to the economy, is commissioned. It could surpass the growth rates of some of the economies, which are ahead of Bhutan today.

In the next decade, Bhutan could record perhaps the highest growth rate, when the huge hydropower projects are commissioned. In 2007, when the 1,020 megawatt (MW) Tala hydropower project was commissioned, the economy recorded an impressive growth rate of around 17 percent.

An economy registers growth, when there is an additional increase in the level of investment or income.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 26 December, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India lifts ban on charcoal exports

India lifted the restriction on exporting wood charcoal to Bhutan so as to help domestic industries of the land-locked nation.

"There will be no prohibition on export of wood charcoal to Bhutan," the Director General of Foreign Trade ( DGFT) which is under the Department of Commerce, Government of India, said in a notification. An official said that several industries in Bhutan are dependent on wood charcoal.

"Considering India’s bilateral relations with that country, the government has decided to lift the restriction," the official added.

In 2012-13, India’s exports to Bhutan stood at $233.22 million and imports were $164 million.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 19 December, 2013

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

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


Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale

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

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