MonitorsPublished on Jan 14, 2011
Is former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reviewing his political options for the future in the light of the inevitable mid-term crises facing the MDP Government of his successor, Mohammed Nasheed?
Gayoom seeking a comeback in Maldives?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Is former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reviewing his political options for the future in the light of the inevitable mid-term crises facing the MDP Government of his successor, Mohammed Nasheed? The question has acquired significance in the light of Gayoom returning from a Malaysian holiday earlier than expected, to spearhead the campaign of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) for the local council polls due in February.

Proving critics wrong, Gayoom had made a honourable exit after 30-long years of controversial rule when Nasheed as leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) defeated him in the run-off presidential polls in 2008. The change-over came with an understanding that the new Government would allow him to retire in honour with protection against legal action for alleged wrong-doings while in power. The MDP campaign had centred on human rights violations under the Gayoom regime, and Nasheed himself was designated ’Prisoner of Conscience’ by Amnesty International.

Hiccups in the implementation of the agreement apart, there was nothing to suggest in the interim that Gayoom would consider throwing his hat into the ring. This was so, despite the fact that Gayoom had handed over the reins of the party to his vice-presidential running-mate, Thasmeen Ali. He however agreed to remain as the ’Supreme Leader’ of the party, in what was considered a sinecure position with no real responsibility or authority. Not any more, or so it now seems.

In choosing to enter the electoral fray, albeit as a campaigner for the DRP, Gayoom has obviously been encouraged by the Nasheed Government’s toddler stepseven in the mid-term. The Opposition has been critical of the Government on one too many fronts at the same time, and has been claiming that the Nasheed leadership has made a habit of jumping from one crisis to another. Included in the list are constitutional crises involving the presidency and the Opposition-controlled Parliament or People’s Majlis, wholesale salary-cut and staff-strength of Government employees, owing to the acknowledged conditions laid down by the IMF, and sensitive religion-centric issues such as Maldivian acceptance of a prisoner from Gauntanamo Bay, aborted decision to allow liquor-sales in luxury hotels in the capital city of Male that went against well laid-out tourism policy, and more recently the clearance granted for Israeli doctors to perform eye surgeries in the India-gifted Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, also in Male.

To its credit, the Government has introduced ferry services among various islands, which was a long-felt need, granting a monthly pension of Rf 2000 per month for all citizens above 65 years - thus bringing in an additional monthly income of Rf 4000 for a family with elderly parents -- and offering Rf 1,000 scholarship for out-station students studying in schools in important islands where alone the facility is available, and housing for the poor, with help from countries like India. Though the world over President Nasheed is acknowledged as possibly the only Head of State with ’environmental conscience’, there is nothing to suggest that it has percolated down the line in his own country, in terms of additional vote-share. However, the MDP can now hope to offset some of the inevitable anti-incumbency loss after Budget-2011, presented in December, restored the salaries of Government employees. No one is talking any more about reducing the staff strength, considering in particular that over 10 per cent of the 350,000-population holds a Government job and their family members would account for half the electorate.

Interestingly, before President Nasheedhad completed his second year in office, various segments in the Opposition already talking about nominees and aspirants for the elections that are due only in 2013. Even the MDP was seen as looking at options for the party’s agenda and a running-mate for the incumbent, though no one was even thinking about a replacement. It is another matter that President Nasheed was among those instrumental in introducing primaries for the MDP to choose its nominee for Elections-2008. As things stand, he is likely to carry the party with him as and when he seeks re-election.

That cannot be said about the DRP, where internal squabbling began soon enough about the advisability of introducing primaries for choosing the presidential nominee. The idea obviously was to deny party chiefThasmeen Ali, who was not a kin of Gayoom but yet considered a loyalist, automatic choice for party nomination. In the ensuing run-in, the Thasmeen camp got the party’s disciplinary committee to expel vice-president Umar Naseer from the DRP. After maintaining silence over Naseer’s sacking, Gayoom has lately been talking about the need for preserving the party’s unity, and later acknowledging the former’s continuance in office as the ’Supreme Leader’ of the party.

A new-comer to the DRP after he had contested the 2008 presidential polls against Gayoom, Naseer had left the ’Islamic fundamentalist party’ that he had founded, to join the DRP, after scoring only 1.5 per cent of the popular vote. Gayoom is now being seen increasingly in Naseer’s company, with his return from Malaysia announced by the latter. Gayoom and Naseer may have also embarrassed the Thasmeen leadership when the sacked leader was present at the DRP reception for the former President on his arrival in Maldives. Naseer has since accompanied Gayoom in his campaign rallies whereas Thasmeen is seen as going in ’another direction’.

The question remains: How far will the visibly-ageing septuagenarian Gayoom go in his purported but unconfirmed re-entry into active politics all over again? The DRP itself may be divided on this score, the party anyway having to look at a successor to Gayoom at one level, and at the same time have a ’winnable candidate’ on hand. Ahead of Gayoom’s current moves, there were reports of his half-brother and People’s Alliance founder Abdullah Yameen might rejoin the DRP to be projected as its presidential candidate. There were also rumours that the party may require a Gayoom family member, possibly his daughter DuniyaMaumoon, as the running-mate for Thasmeen Ali.

Gayoom is a big draw still in and for the DRP, so is the Maumoon family connection. At the same time, it could also help the MDP to take an easy way out by continuing to focus the presidential poll campaign on the anti-incumbency factors that had attended on Gayoom’s 30-year regime, which was the deciding factor in 2008. Whether President Nasheed and his campaign managers could count on flogging a ’decided issue’ and unbinding the super-structures of the time is a question that the voters would be asking themselves at the time - and also provide the answer. For now, however, the focus is on the local council polls in the islands, which will definitely signal the current mood of the public - but not necessarily repeat itself in presidential polls, where issues would be different, though not as vastly as it would now be, what with Gayoom’s presence in the ongoing campaign narrowing down the scope and depth.

The writer is a Senior Research Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ferry service to India, Sri Lanka

The Maldives Government will connect neighbouring countries, including India and Sri Lanka, to its growing ferry transport network, Minister for Transport and Communication Adhil Saleem has said. The Government is in discussions with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to add its member-countries to Maldives Transportation Network, under phase two of the rollout of the ferry network, he said, pointing out how now people do not have a travel option other than flying.

Domestically, all provinces have at least a skeletal ferry service in place after President Mohammed Nasheed took office in November 2008. The new ferry transportation network has completed over 311,000 trips since it began operation last year. A Government bus service has completed an additional 49,204 trips.

Inter-island ferry transportation in the Maldives has historically been limited to private operators working to sporadic timetables. More commonly, passengers to an island such as Maalhos in Alif Atoll would travel on an unscheduled vessel owned by someone on the island, such as a shop owner, for a variable price. Chartering a local vessel could cost up to Rf 1000 (US$770). Now, a Government ferry from Male to Maalhos costs a fixed Rf 50 ($3.90). Inter-atoll island-hopping is set at Rf 20 ( $1.50).

"This year the work of establishing ferry terminals will commence, and in some areas has already begun while in others has been completed," the Minister said adding, "Today we can see short-eats made on one island sold in another islands of that atoll, we can see mangoes produced in one island sold in other islands of the atoll, we can see horse mackerel caught in Thinadhoo’s reef sold and eaten in Fuvamulah," he said. "Many of the people are benefiting economically and socially through this ferry system."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, Male, January 1, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nursing students cheated in India

The North Province Office is trying to bring in ineligible Maldivian nursing students at Ambika College, near Bengaluru in India, and to provide a fair compensation to their families.

A press release issued by the office said 56 out of the 67 students undergoing the course conducted under an agreement with the college did not meet the requirements. Fourteen students have been allowed to complete their studies without any further expenses, but 56 "do not meet the requirements for any course," the office added. "This office is working on bringing the students back to the Maldives," the press release read.

The Province Office stressed that the Health Ministry’s Directorate selected the successful applicants and enrolled the students to the Nursing Council. "We are sure that the Health Directorate neglected in providing the information to this office, the college, and Health Ministry," the office said. "We have requested Health Ministry to take severe actions against the employees who carried out the process."

Parents had earlier complained that the Maldives Qualification Authority had not accredited the course which required the students to pay a monthly fee of US $ 300. There is also a need for the Governments of Maldives and India to take a pro-active interest in such matters as the public perception about India through issues such as this could influence bilateral policies viz Male, if only over the years. For the reason, there is need for the two Governments to work together to ensure the quality of the Indian doctors, nurses who serve in most, if not all the inhabited islands in the Maldivian archipelago.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru News Service, Male, January 13, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India for ’broad consensus’ on Constitution-making

Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna assured Maoist Vice-Chairman Baburam Bhattarai that New Delhi supported a ’broad consensus’ for expediting the political process for drafting a new Constitution for the Himalayan State. At their meeting in New Delhi on January 14, Krishna further said that "as a close and friendly neighbour, India remains committed to the successful completion of the peace process and establishment of multi-party democracy in Nepal".

The Maoist leader is understood to have also met Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao. On his part, Bhattarai conveyed his understanding of the political crisis engulfing Nepal and sought to clear misunderstandings with India.

This was Dr.Bhattarai’s second visit to India in two weeks for which he also faced criticism from his own party members.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Sify News, New Delhi, January 7, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Graft charge: Panel for recalling envoy to India

A top parliamentary panel has directed the Government to immediately recall Nepal’s Ambassador to India, Rukma Shamsher Rana, amid allegations of his links to Dabur Nepal, the Indian joint venture firm that has been under the scanner of the anti-graft body. Since Rana is also the Managing Director of a company under the scanner of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), it’s inappropriate for him to remain as the Ambassador," said Padam Lal Biswokarma, the committee chairman.

Rana, who has close links with India having been educated in Kolkata and at the Doon School in Dehradun, was appointed Nepal’s envoy to India in 2009. The CIAA recently carried out raids at the godown of Dabur Nepal and seized 74,000 cartons of fruit juice for allegedly manipulating manufacturing dates. The raid came after months of smear campaign by a section of Nepalese media against the Indian joint venture.

Dabur’s management has denied wrong-doing, saying it was just a minor error while printing the manufacturing date and no substandard products have either been produced or sold in the market. On January 7, the Supreme Court in Kathmandu turned down a plea to cancel the licence of Dabur Nepal as authorities have already given a clean chit after testing samples of the fruit juice. Dabur Nepal provides direct employment to more than 1,000 locals and is one of the highest tax payers, submitting NRs 55 crores last month.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, New Delhi, January 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NC to withdraw PM candidate

The Nepali Congress (NC) has agreed to withdraw the candidacy of Ram Chandra Paudel just before the 17th round of the prime ministerial elections. The decision was announced after receiving a letter from the caretaker Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, to pull out of the election to avert further embarrassment to the party and also to keep the left-democratic alliance intact.

The CPN-UML, a major ally of the left-democratic alliance, had already decided to vote against Paudel if the election were to be held. UML sources said party Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal "wanted Paudel to remain in the race so that he could be voted out". NC sources said that the "PM’s letter played a major role in quashing Khanal’s plan of defeating Paudel and break the left-democratic alliance."

Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kumar Dahal alias Prachanda said fresh attempts to form a new consensus government would begin on January 13. He said that the UCPN-M, as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly, would lay claim on leading the next government, which should be formed on a consensus basis. In the meantime, President Ram BaranYadav has directed the big three parties to form a government before January 21.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Himalayan Times, Kathmandu, January 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US issues travel advisory; brand Maoists as terrorists

Amid a political deadlock in Nepal, the US has said it still considers the CPN-Maoist party led by Prachanda a global terrorist organisation and warned its citizens of potential risks in travelling to the country in view of the security situation there. "The US Government’s designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a ’Specially Designated Global Terrorist’ organisation under Executive Order 13224, and its inclusion on the ’Terrorist Exclusion List’ pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act, remain in effect," the State Department said in a recent travel alert.

"These two designations make Maoists excludable from entry into the United States without a waiver and bar US citizens from contributing funds, goods, or services to, or for the benefit of, the Maoists," it said. Warning American nationals of the potential risks of travelling to Nepal, the State Department said it remains concerned about the security situation in Nepal.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Indian, Express, New Delhi, January 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Latif Khosa sworn in Punjab Governor

Sardar Muhammad Latif Khan Khosa took oath as the new Punjab Governor in a ceremony held at the Governor’s House on Thursday. Khosa will be the 33rd Governor of the State, succeeding Salman Taseer who was assassinated by his security guard on January 4.

Participants at the swearing-in ceremony included Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, Federal Ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira, Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo and Firdous Ashiq Awan, ruling Pakistan People’s Party Secretary-General Jehangir Badr and other high- profile PPP members. The oath was administered by Chief Justice Lahore High Court Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry.

Khosa has previously served as the Attorney-General of Pakistan and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Information Technology. He was also noted as one of the forefront figures of the lawyer’s movement that opposed the Musharraf regime in order to restore judiciary’s powers in March 2007.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Zardari and Obama discuss economic reforms

President Asif Ali Zardari and his US counterpart, Barack Obama met on Friday last week to discuss economic reforms in Pakistan. Earlier, US Vice-President Joe Biden had met President Zardari in Islamabad.

The reforms which have been proposed by the IMF and the World Bank, with active support from Washington, are aimed at helping Pakistan to effect an early economic recovery. The GDP growth rate is drastically slowing down with the IMF predicting it to decrease to 2.75-4 per cent in 2009-2010. The IMF has taken measures to push the Pakistani Government to implement drastic economic reforms to stabilise the macroeconomic imbalances, control inflation, and increase investments.

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly stated that cutting down on fuel prices by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was a ’mistake’ and a move that reverses the progress that was being made to provide a stronger economic base for the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karachi violence kills 19

At least 19 persons, including a 29-year-old journalist, Wali Khan Babar of Geo News, lost their lives in a series of violent incidents in the southern Sindh capital of Karachi. This has caused significant uproar among people, especially the Committee to Protect Journalists, who have condemned the incidents and called for the immediate identification and arrest of the killer(s). As the committee has pointed out eight of the 42 journalists killed worldwide in 2010 belonged to Pakistan.

Violence broke out with the gun-attack on a senior leader of the Awami National Party, Bashir Jan. Four other men were killed when a group of people came under an armed attack near Qasba Mor. Three others were killed in Liaquatabad and Orangi town. An official at the Sindh police surgeon’s office stated that five bodies with gunshot wounds were brought to the AbbassiShaheed Hospital and Qatar Hospital.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily News, Dawn, January 14, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Peace talks begin

Over one and half years after the conclusion of the ethnic war, the Government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with the highest 13 members for a Tamil party in the 225-seat Parliament, have commenced peace parleys at finding a political solution to the decades-old ’national problem’. The talks are expected to go on for several weeks, when both power-devolution, a politically-sensitive issue for both sides, and also questions pertaining to ongoing rehabilitation and reconstruction in the post-war scenario, are expected to be thrashed out.

Indications are that the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, based on the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, would form the basis for discussions. Though the negotiations were supposed to be secretive in an atmosphere of mutual trust, the local media got wind of the discussions - though has not taken much interest in the process, as of now. The two sides have since agreed to the issuance of a mutually-agreed media statement after every round of talks, if only to avoid speculation and wrong-reportage placing hurdles on the path of further talks.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, Colombo, January 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Wet Pongal’ after fresh floods

People in the war-battered North and the East had a ’wet Pongal’ festival this harvest season after fresh floods ravaged the already battered regions - along with adjoining Sinhala-majority areas, too. The Government says 10 million people have been affected and put the losses at SL R 50 million. Dubbed the ’granary of Sri Lanka’, the floods in the Eastern Province in particular would have serious consequences for the nation’s food stocks in the midst of sky-rocketing prices. The floods have also damaged vegetables and dry-belt crops that the North was famous for in the years before the ethnic war, and thus added to the woes and losses of the local farmers.

India has rushed relief material to the flood victims, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa pointing out that New Delhi’s offer came even without asking. Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, a brother of the President, accepting the Indian aid from High Commissioner Ashok Kantha, pointed out as to how India had always been the first to rush help to Sri Lanka, whenever required.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Concern over mid-sea killing of Indian fisherman

Sri Lanka has denied that its Navy was involved in the killing of an Indian fisherman from Tamil Nadu, a sensitive issue in the south Indian State where Assembly elections are due in May. "However I have ordered a thorough investigation," President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, adding that fresh negotiations needed to be undertaken to find a permanent solution to the problem. It should also involve the fishermen communities from the two countries, he said at a scheduled meeting with media Editors in Colombo.

India took up the issue with the Sri Lankan Government after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunaidhi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking the Centre’s intervention in the matter. However, President Rajapaksa found nothing amiss in India’s External Affairs Ministry summoning Sri Lankan High Commissioner, Prasad Kariyawasam, to express its concern. He said Sri Lanka too would have done so under similar circumstances.

Sri Lanka Navy claimed that none of its ships was in the said location, and it had systems in place to monitor their movements. Anyway, the shallow waters in that neighbourhood would not have permitted the entry of ships, the Navy said further.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, January 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Agreement on Teesta water

India and Bangladesh moved a step forward in resolving the issue of sharing the waters of the Teesta River as the two countries agreed on a framework of a 15-year treaty. The breakthrough was attained during the meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission attended by the Water Resources Secretaries of the two countries.

Presumably, the treaty will be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh, though no decision has been taken. Indian officials said that the two teams would have to work together to fine-tune the framework. The draft agreement will be finalised at a ministerial-level meeting.

The sharing of the Teesta waters is a long-pending issue and Bangladesh has been pressing India for an early agreement. The river water is crucial for the economic development of the Bangladesh as the flow of the river decreases drastically during the dry session hampering the agricultural production.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, January 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutanese PM’s visit

Bilateral relationship with Bhutan got a major boost following the four-day State visit of Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley to Bangladesh. The Bhutanese PM met many leaders, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Opposition Leader, BegumKhaleda Zia. During the visit, the two countries discussed the scope for increasing economic and energy cooperation.

Bangladesh requested Bhutan to consider it as a partner in future hydropower projects either as an investor or as a direct purchaser of power. It is worth recalling that Bhutan is energy- surplus and has attained prosperity by exporting hydropower to India. Bangladesh wants a pie of the Bhutan’s enormous hydropower potential since it is facing power shortage following the fast depletion of the reserves of natural gas, a major indigenous source of energy.

Speaking at a banquet hosted in honour of the visiting dignitary, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mentioned cooperation in trade, tourism, hydro-power, climate change, health, bio-diversity, agro-processing, agriculture, forestry, IT, education and water resources management.

Prime Minister Thinley hoped that bilateral trade could go up to US $ 100 m from the current $ 30 m in the next few years. Talking to media persons, he said that Bhutan can also take advantage of Bangladesh’s human resources-professionals, skilled and semi-skilled people to develop their infrastructure, industries and information technology. Asked how many doctors Bhutan was planning to recruit from Bangladesh, he said it would be nice if 25-30 doctors could be recruited on a yearly basis for the next three years. Some of these doctors will be highly-specialised and some general practitioners with five years’ experience.

The Bhutanese Premier said the geographic features that made his country landlocked would not obstruct Thimphu’s connectivity or cooperation particularly in energy sector with Bangladesh. Thinley, who earlier assured Prime Minister Hasina of extending cooperation in the hydropower sector, said his country expected to reach a deal "as soon as possible" on energy cooperation but right this moment it was "over capacitated" with its pledges to India in exporting electricity. He proposed a tri-nation discussion among India, Bangladesh and Bhutan to meet Bangladesh’s acute electricity shortage.

Bhutan and Bangladesh also agreed to intensify cooperation in areas of connectivity and transit. Bangladesh offered Bhutan the use of Chittagong port. The two countries also signed two agreements for cooperation in the areas of health and cultural exchanges. Bhutan also plans to recruit doctors and health workers from Bangladesh.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 11, 2011/The Daily Star, January 12 & 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Riots after share crash

Riots broke out in Dhaka and other major cities as stock prices collapsed on January 10. Thousands of agitated investors resorted to vandalism and attacked the police as the share trading was stopped after 50 minutes into the opening of the transaction as the prices fell sharply. In the 55 years of its existence, the Dhaka Stock Exchange faced the highest fall of 600 points in the General Index. The Selective Categories Index of Chittagong Stock Exchange went down by 914 points. The investors were cited mass-manipulation as the cause for the stock market crash.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had to step in to control the situation and instructed the Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to intervene and take measures to restore the confidence of the investors.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka, January 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-smoking drive intensifies

In 2005, Bhutan was the first country in the world to ban the sale of the tobacco products. But things didn’t go quite as planned. Smugglers began ’importing’ tobacco from India, nullifying the effect of the ban.

This year, Bhutan passed a tough legislation against the sale and use of tobacco, with punishment going up to five years’ imprisonment. The Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency has been authorised to raid homes if someone is seen smoking or if they have reason to believe there is illegal tobacco there. Aiding in those raids will be tobacco-sniffer dogs, which are currently trained by the Royal Bhutan Police.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, London, January 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India poised to be the third largest economy

India, which is currently at the 11th position, would become the third largest economy in the world by 2050, well ahead of Japan and not too far behind the US, says a Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) report.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, New Delhi, January 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget session in for trouble

The upcoming budget session of Parliament appears to be under trouble as the main Opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has made it clear at its national executive meeting in Guwahati, Assam, that it would not drop its demand of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe into the alleged 2-G scam.

Last year’s winter session did not go through even for a day after the Opposition did not allow business to be transacted until the Government yielded to their demand on the JPC.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Sunday Times, New Delhi,, January 9, 2011, The Hindu, New Delhi, January 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">OCI, PIO cards merged

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced the merging of the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and the People of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country.

"We have recently reviewed the functioning of these schemes and have decided to merge the OCI and PIO cards into a single facility. We hope to iron out some of the problems that have arisen in the implementation of these schemes", the Prime Minister observed while inaugurating the Ninth Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, January 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cotton exports ban to Pakistan to be reviewed

New Delhi is understood to have conveyed to Islamabad that it is ready to lift the ban on cotton exports if the latter resumes its onion exports through land and rail route. "The Indian side has conveyed to the Pakistani counterparts that it was ready to revisit the cotton export ban and ceiling issues, if the gesture is reciprocated by Pakistan through the removal of the ban on the movement of onion", a senior Indian official said.

Earlier, Pakistan had stopped export of onion to India through land and rail routes. In the wake of shortage of onions in the domestic market, Indian companies had contacted their counterparts in Pakistan for export of the much-needed vegetable to India.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu (Delhi), January 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cell to bring back bodies of Indians

Facing many requests to bring back bodies of Indians who die abroad, the MEA is setting up a special cell to be headed by a joint secretary to act on such requests "with a sense of urgency".
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, New Delhi, January 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Krishna visits Afghanistan

With India raising concerns over Pakistan’s increasing involvement in Afghanistan’s transition process, President Hamid Karzai on January 9, 2011, assured visiting External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, that his Government would not make any move which was detrimental to New Delhi’s interests.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, Delhi, January 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Boost to business with SA

South Africa, the largest economy of the African continent, is set to join the group of BRIC nations -- Brazil, Russia, India and China. This will help India in making inroads into the continent hitherto untapped by Indian companies.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Indian Express (New Delhi), January 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Eurofighter ahead in IAF deal

India, which is keen to add more muscle to its air might, is slated to buy fourth and fifth generation jet fighters for the Air Force. Reports suggest that the Ministry of Defence has short-listed six aircraft: American Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN "Super Viper", US Boeing’s "Super Hornet" F/A-18IN, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company NV (EADS)’ Eurofighter Typhoon- EADS is a consortium of British, German, Spanish and Italian firms- French D’assault’sRafale, Swedish Saab"sGripen, and Russian MIG-35.

The Eurofighter aircraft seems to have emerged the front-runner after a long "dogfight" among six above mentioned 4-5 generation jet planes. The Indian Air Force is to purchase 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). The second runner up is understood to be the French Fighter, Rafale.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, New Delhi, January 11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tejas gets initial operational clearance

The country’s first indigenously-designed and developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has received the ’Certificate of Release to Service’ by Defence Minister A K Antony.Just a step away from induction into the Indian Air Force, Tejas reached this stage of development after 27 years of its conception.

Describing the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) as a "historic occasion", the Defence Minister said the state-of-the-art combat aircraft would go a long way in enhancing national security and the pride of the country towards building "our own combat aircraft capability".
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, January 11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Naming superbug after Delhi an "error", admits Lancet

Lancet Editor Richard Horton has said naming a superbug after New Delhi was an "error", and has apologised. Some Europeans returning from South Asia had been found infected with a bacteria carrying a drug-resistant gene last year, which had been named New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1, as the first patient had flown from New Delhi to Sweden with the infection.

While acknowledging this was a mistake, Horton said, "the science behind the NDM-1 discovery was very strong and correct".
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, New Delhi, January 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Third research base at Antarctica

India has launched its third research base "Bharati" in Antarctica. The new station by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), on Larsmann Hill, 3,000 km away from Schirmacher Oasis where Maitri stands, will be operational by the end of2011, positioning India as a member of an elite group of nine nations that have multiple stations in the region.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, New Delhi, January 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IndiGo orders 180 Airbus A 320s worth $ 15.6 billion

Private lo- cost domestic carrier IndiaGo has placed an order for purchase of 180 single aisle Airbus A-320 passenger jetliners, making it the single largest order for such a large number of jets in commercial aviation history.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, January 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Leaders out on bail, ULFA vocal against Bangladeshi illegal migrants

With all the top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) finally released on bail, the outfit has said that the influx of Bangladeshis caused a serious threat to the identity of indigenous communities and ethnic groups in Assam.

This is the first time in the past 20 years that the ULFA has taken a position on foreigners’ issue, with its finance secretary ChitrbanHazarika, who was released on bail on Wednesday, saying that the outfit was opposed to the presence of Bangladeshis in Assam.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, New Delhi, January 13, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal & Bhutan: Anjali Sharma;
Pakistan: Anjana Verma;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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