MonitorsPublished on Jul 26, 2013
The principal Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be all ready for the big electoral battle of 2014 in India. It is sniffing power. It feels that its time of reckoning with the people of India has arrived and it only needs to put its act together to realise the dream.
India: BJP gambles for power?
< class="heading1">Analysis

The principal Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be all ready for the big electoral battle of 2014 in India. It is sniffing power. It feels that its time of reckoning with the people of India has arrived and it only needs to put its act together to realise the dream.

One of the popular leaders of the BJP, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was declared to lead the charge against the Congress at the party’s national executive committee meeting in the Goan capital Panjim last month and party president Rajnath Singh left no one in doubt when he declared in New York during his US visit this month that Modi was the prime ministerial candidate of the party.

Though for record, different spokespersons of the party continue to parrot the same old words that the prime ministerial candidate would be decided by BJP’s parliamentary board, but the country and the rest of the world knows that Modi and nobody else is the prime ministerial face of the party. Having settled the issue of prime minister, the party in close consultation with and assistance of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) is trying its level best to project a picture of unity.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat deftly handled the rebellion of party’s veteran leader L K Advani who had helped the BJP to reach new political heights with his organisational skills during the last two decades of the last century. Advani’s country wide campaigns through his Rath Yatras during the ’Ram temple movement’ and thereafter for better governance etc along with the popular appeal of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, which went beyond party’s traditional following to reach even "secularist" sections of the electorate, helped the BJP to win 183 Lok Sabha seats in 1999 general elections.

Even this number was not sufficient to come to power but then BJP’s allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had enough number of seats in the lower house of Indian parliament to remain in power for a full term of five years. This change had come about after intense discussions and debates within the RSS’s big family that included the BJP.

In late eighties after its rebirth in 1980 in a new avtar and the experience of the Janata Party government, the BJP had accepted that its dream of coming to power at the Centre was not possible on its own strength and it needed other anti-Congress parties to reach its destination.

Trying to build anti-Congress unity, it had accepted the idea of coalition. Its top leaders were on record to say that coalition politics had come to stay in the country as days of one party government were over. It took almost 18 years to find enough partners to cobble a viable NDA to come to power in 1998 after a short-lived 13 days government in 1996. The NDA remained in power till 2004 with Mr Vajpayee leading the coalition government. He deftly balanced diverse political interests by keeping the party’s core agenda on the backburner. It required a persona of Mr Vajpayee, whose respect and experience in active politics was unmatched at that point of time, to keep the coalition going.

Viable alternative

Out of power, the NDA remained a viable alternative to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The NDA challenged the UPA under the leadership of BJP’s veteran leader L K Advani but it failed to make an impression with the country’s electorate.

As the performance of UPA government in its second innings began to slip as it was hit by series of scandals and scams, it was expected that the NDA’s appeal and reach would grow as it was expected to defeat the UPA in 2014. But a battle for supremacy between the RSS and Advani started taking a toll on the morale and confidence of the party’s leadership as well as that of rank and file. The RSS finally won this battle reclaiming its supremacy on its political baby totally ignoring that the baby had acquired adulthood long back.

The RSS, which firmly believes that only a powerful BJP can lead a coalition government effectively, consciously opted for Modi and ensured that dissenting voices in the BJP were silenced as one saw in the formation and composition of a dozen committees for the conduct of the elections under overall control of Gujarat Chief Minister.

The source of the confidence and hope of the RSS is the popularity of Mr Modi among the youth of the country and all those who are aspiring for a change and effective governance. The RSS, through aggressive and abrasively uncouth style of Modi’s leadership, hopes to capture the large constituency of the section of country’s society which firmly believes that the Congress is responsible for all the ills and below-potential performance and standing of the country.

Precisely that is why, the RSS-backed BJP has chosen to underplay the significance of coalition politics and has opted to chalk out an independent path hoping to take the party’s strength in the next Lok Sabha polls to around 200 seats which then in their assessment would force smaller political parties to join the NDA for staking a claim to power.

’Hindutva plank’

Coming months are going to witness a high pitch campaign in which Modi would remain the central figure and all other leaders would play assisting roles. Dissent and opposing the party line would be dealt with a strong hand as the party can ill afford rebellions and mini mutinies at this juncture.

Notwithstanding all the talk of good governance, development and a positive agenda of the party for the elections, the BJP’s campaign would have strong Hinduatva character. Be it the building of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya or through anti-Muslim rhetoric, the BJP under Modi would try to mobilise the country’s electorate on a strong Hinduatva plank. Divisions and contradictions within the "secularist" parties and ambitions of regional leaders, the BJP hopes, would work to its electoral advantage as this time multi-cornered electoral contests would help it have an upper hand.

The BJP in close consultation with the RSS has decided to take a calculated risk. Whether this gamble would eventually pay off is a difficult question. An answer to this rests with the people who alone are the final arbiters of the national destiny.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives : Preparing for presidential polls, circa 2013

N Sathiya Moorthy

Come September, and Maldives will be having the second multi-party elections for the nation’s ’Executive’ Presidency, which however goes without the add-on adjective, unlike in the case of neighbouring Sri Lanka. Only recently, incumbent President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik said that the 2008 Constitution has provided for a presidential form of government under a parliamentary scheme, and the nation is facing the consequences. Waheed did not say if it included the controversial circumstances revolving around his own ascendancy to power when he was Vice-President to Mohammed Nasheed, the first President elected under the multi-party scheme.

President Waheed and his Government and coalition partners have had their way that the polls for the nation’s highest office would not be advanced as sought by Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Yet, issues attending on President Nasheed’s resignation of 7 February 2012 refuse to die down. The MDP itself may be paying a price for that in electoral terms exactly 19 months after ’power-transfer’, and to the day.

Candidate Nasheed is the issue thus in the upcoming elections. His three opponents readily concede as much. They also concede that his MDP is the single-largest vote-getter among them. The Election Commission has for months now acknowledged that MDP is the single largest political party in the country with the highest number of registered members. The second in the line, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), comes a distant second with less than half of the MDP figures. Third is the Dhivehi Raayathunge Party (DRP). Both parties were founded by President Nasheed’s predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and together, their membership comes closer to the MDP membership.

Of memberships and votes

Yet, questions remain if the DRP would be able to translate its membership into votes, or there will be a substantial migration towards the PPM camp. Should that happen, and should Waheed’s administration attract a substantial share from an anticipated high percentage of non-committed voters, as Candidate Nasheed had calculated in 2008, the team may be in some reckoning. DRP leader Thasmeen Ali gets to be the running-mate of President Waheed. Thasmeen may hold that record for a time, as he was similarly the running-mate of incumbent President Gayoom the last time round.

Apart from Nasheed and President Waheed, the poll involves PPM’s Abdulla Yameen, half-brother of President Gayoom. Also in the race is Jumhooree Party (JP) leader, Gasim Ibrahim, with his vice-presidential running-mate, Dr Hassan Saeed. It is pertinent to recall that in the first multi-party presidential polls of 2008, contesting alone, Gasim Ibrahim and Hassan Saeed had polled a total of 34-percentage vote-share, second only to incumbent President Gayoom’s 40 percent.

Yet, under a scheme in which the first two contest the second, run-off round if none had polled over 50 percent votes in the first round, Nasheed with stand-alone 25 percent first-round vote-share challenged Gayoom in the run-off. Gasim and Saeed joined hands with him. Nasheed won. The final poll figures stood testimony to the effective transfer of their first round votes (Saeed: 16-plus percent, Gasmim: 15-plus percent) to Nasheed. The question is if Saeed with his Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) has enough votes in the first place left with him, and also has enough ’transferrable votes’, which JP’s Gasim alone seems to be enjoying in the country at the moment.

That leaves one with Yameen with his running-mate Dr Mohammed Jameel Ahmed, who was Home Minister in the Waheed Government, under sacked after crossing over from Saeed-led DQP. Saeed himself would later leave the Government as Special Advisor to President Waheed, to join hands with Gasim, whose JP technically is still a partner in the non-MDP, anti-Nasheed administration, like the PPM, too. Having launched his campaign late, and amidst controversy attending on the PPM primary for selecting the party nominee for the presidential polls, Yameen relies on the better organisational structure of the party, the recognisable face and leadership of Gayoom. In doing so, he however will have to face charges of ’family rule’ within the party, which thankfully none of his political rivals are ready to flag it in any specific and substantive way.

Realignment for run-off?

The issue is Nasheed, and his post-resignation polarising call, seeking to revive the past political fight for ushering in multi-party democracy in the country. It remains to be seen if excessive reference to, and reliance on the same as a campaign platform and tool over the past months since his leaving power can still help focus the limelight on the futuristic issues and constituency-based campaign manifestos that the MDP and Candidate Nasheed have painstakingly prepared and pointedly present to the voter.

For Nasheed to win the first round, he will require those additional votes, from new constituencies, or constituencies that were impressed by his socio-economic measures during the short-lived first term, and would hence like to give him a second chance. Should the elections run into the second round, it could then become a wide-open race. If nothing else, the temptation is to constantly refer to the 2008 experience, in terms of form and content. There could be realignment, the contours of which remain to be explored and exploited in full.

The MDP has called upon the 240,000 voters of the country to hand down a decisive first-round victory in the first round to Nasheed, for the party and the leader to give a stable government and carry forward democratic and socio-economic reforms that they claim have been initiated during his ’aborted’ first term. It is also an acknowledgement of the ground reality, where the MDP could not find a coalition partners from among the rest to work with the Nasheed leadership. His running-mate in former Education Minister and first Chancellor of the National University, Dr Mustafa Lufty, along with the recent entry of Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid to the MDP fold after being elected MP under DRP ticket, is expected to bring some additional votes that Nasheed may need for a first-round win.

President Waheed has created history, otherwise, too. With the total membership of his Guamee Iththihad Party (GIP) under the scanner, and the present law on 10,000 members for party registration under judicial review, he chose to contest as an ’Independent’, though his DRP partner is a registered party with an allotted symbol. For an incumbent President, though only the second under the multi-party scheme, he went around acquiring the signatures of 1500 registered voters for endorsing his nomination, an alternative requirement under the law. Tension remained in the Waheed camp until Election Commission officials had cleared all signatories as genuine voters, sitting through the night on the verification work.

Waheed’s poll call would be ’stability in an unmanageable coalition set-up’, which it was. Today, every Government party is contesting the presidential polls separately and against one another - apart from contesting against the MDP, the only party that is not a coalition partner. They have voted for and against Government motions in Parliament, and run down one another, too. Only recently did they join hands to vote against ’secret ballot’ on non-trust votes against the President, Vice-President and Government Ministers in the House. Yet, some of them, particularly the PPM and DRP, have voted with the MDP Opposition, to deny ministerial jobs to some nominee’s of President Waheed’s choice.

Against this PPM’s, Yameen seems resting on the past laurels, many of which readily sit on the shoulders of President Gayoom. The PPM calls it the ’golden age’, and Yameen’s candidacy as a return to that era. Yameen, as may be recalled, is representing a party and leadership that had converted a poor, ignorant and ignored nation to one with the highest per capita GDP in South Asia, through 30 years of rule that also gave Maldivians modern education and limited yet medical care, non-existent earlier. ’Limited’ or ’non-existent’ democracy as known to the West was the bane of generations and centuries. Gayoom’s presidency was satisfied with incremental changes to the scheme, when the younger generations in particular may have already been craving for wholesale changes.

If he was a lone fighter the last time round, JP’s Gasim has put together a ’rainbow coalition’ this time. Apart from Hassan Saeed’s DQP, he has also successfully negotiated a partnership with the religion-centric Adhaalath Party (AP). As may be recalled, the vociferous and conservative leadership of the AP played a major role in mobilising the ’December 23 movement’ that ultimately brought about their intended change of power without ballot in February 2012.

Missing reciprocity

With its conservative religious approach in a moderate Islamic nation, the AP is even otherwise seen as a controversial political player. Their crossing over from the Waheed camp too close to the nominations date for the presidential polls had also caused eyebrows to rise. Yet, by bringing together disparate groups that are otherwise desperate, Gasim may have ensured a political combination that could see him through to the local government elections in December this year, and parliamentary polls that are due by May next year.

For now, PPM’s Yameen has publicly declared his intention to work with Gasim in the second round polls (hoping that it would go in for a run-off). This may have also owed to the over-worked rumour-mills that had put the PPM and MDP on the same side of the political divide should there be no clear verdict in the first round. Gasim himself has not reciprocated positively, not even responded to Yameen’s indicative support in anyway. Maybe he is keeping his options open, maybe, he has coalition compulsions that could flow on into the second round, too, if there is a second round.

The factors are varied, so are the projected strengths and perceived weaknesses of the four tickets. There is then the question of 30,000 first-time voters, who unlike their preceding generation in Elections-2008, seem unsure of themselves after the ’democratic developments’ of the past year and more in particular but through all five years of multi-party democracy, otherwise. Though they may not have begun focussing on it exclusively, at some point in the coming weeks, contesting camps may have to do more to attract additional voters to the booth than may otherwise turn out to be.

In Elections-2008, most, if not all first-time voters, and most of the total 40-plus per cent ’young electors’ were believed to have voted for change. There was also an urge and consequent surge for participating in the historic event of their generation, from all sides. Thus the presidential election in 2008 witnessed a high 85-plus percent turnout in the first round and a higher 86-plus percent polling in the second round. This time, too, voter turnout will have a say in the final outcome, starting with the fact if the polls would go into the second round - and more so, on who will get to rule Maldives for the next five years - and hopefully so!

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian officials meet presidential candidates

An inter-ministerial delegation from India, led by joint secretary at the Indian external affairs ministry Harsh Vardhan Shringla, has met with candidates contesting the upcoming presidential elections in Maldives.

The Indian High Commission in Male said Shringla held meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday with former President Mohamed Nasheed, Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party’s (JP) Gasim Ibrahim. He called on President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who is also seeking re-election in the September 7 elections.

The High Commission noted that discussions with the candidates focused on the importance of conducting free, fair, credible and inclusive elections in a peaceful environment followed by a smooth transfer of power.

Shringla also conveyed India’s commitment to supporting democracy consolidation in the Maldives and its desire to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Maldives, the High Commission added.

During his two-day visit to Male, Shringla met with foreign minister Dr Abdu Samad Abdulla and Attorney General Azima Shakoor. He also held talks with defence minister Mohamed Nazim and signed an agreement on cooperation between the two countries on various defence projects.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 26 July 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Statute designed for parliamentary democracy’

President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has said that although the Maldivian people had decided on a presidential democracy, the constitution was not designed to operate a presidential system.

Speaking at an election meeting, he said that ambiguity of the system poses certain difficulties and that the people have to decide on either a parliamentary or a presidential system.

"Parliament was not designed to conduct a presidential system. It was designed to run a parliamentary democracy. This is what’s causing so many difficulties. At some point, we have to decide whether we want our country to have a democratic republic or a parliamentary system," president Waheed said. He said that the current structure allows certain key powers to Parliament that forces the president to sometimes act as a "postman".

"The current system allows a number of key powers to the parliament as in a parliamentary system. But we don’t have a parliamentary system executive. Then there is the president, who is a separate institution. But the president’s powers have been divided, distributed here and there."

He said that the Constitution had been heavily influenced during its formation process, and accused both former governments of Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed of having tried to curb the powers of the Executive. "It was heavily politicised. If we look at our constitutional history, it is quite evident. They have tried to neutralize the powers of the president, to limit the powers of the president, even while the constitution was being drafted during Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government. They’re trying to do the same now. So, the current presidency does have the powers that the executive should have in a democratic republic, in an executive presidency."

He also said that the members of the Special Majlis who worked on the constitution did not have the proper legal and administrative experience to assemble Constitution. The President said that a study of the system is necessary to identify its shortcomings and consequently amend the constitution. He pledged to propose to amendments to the constitution in order to ensure that the next 5 years is better managed.

"The country has seen a democracy only for the last four and half years of its constitutional history. The constitution has not seen a single amendment within this period. But in another country that might have embarked on the same journey, or in countries that have made the same journey, the constitution sees a lot of changes during the first years of the its life. This is to try and perfect the system."

On a different note, the president said that the judiciary too needed reform and that the Judicial Service Commission in particular needs to be re-structured in order to shield the commission from political influence.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, 25 July 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Law violated for SAARC funding: Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed admitted on Wednesday that state funds might have been expended in violation of the Public Finance Act in his attempt to push officials into expediting development projects. Nasheed’s statement during a campaign rally came after an official audit had revealed that his government spent an additional MVR400 million to hold the SAARC summit in the southern atoll of Addu in 2011.

Nasheed, however, insisted that even if the act had not been followed down to the letter, none of the transactions had involved corruption. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate further said he would never ignore observations made by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Auditor-General and the Chief Justice, but would learn lessons from them for the future.

"By the will of God, I would never even touch a penny of the people," he said.

The special audit had found that the government spent MVR400 million in addition to the MVR200 million approved by the parliament for the summit. According to the auditor general, more than MVR853 million has been spent on the SAARC Summit. The additional funds were used against Article 96(c) of the Constitution, which clearly states that the Government cannot exceed the budget approved by Parliament, the report noted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, 25 July 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Political prisoners freed: Govt

Myanmar has agreed to release some 70 political prisoners, an official said Tuesday, after President Thein Sein vowed to free all dissidents by the end of the year.

The move, the latest gesture of reform by the former general who has ushered in a period of sweeping change in the country, was greeted with caution by activists concerned that authorities are continuing to prosecute dissidents.

"The president has signed an amnesty for about 70 political prisoners around the country," presidential adviser Hla Maung Shwe, a senior official at the Myanmar Peace Center said.

Last week, during his first visit to London as part of a European tour aimed at burnishing Myanmar’s international image, Thein Sein said there would be "no prisoners of conscience in Myanmar" by the end of the year.

Rights groups and officials estimate there were between around 100 and 150 political prisoners in Myanmar ahead of Tuesday’s announcement. Activists welcomed the release, but voiced concern over new arrests in the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, July 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Emergency lifted in riot-hit areas

Myanmar’s president has lifted a state of emergency put in place in the central part of the country after Buddhist-led mobs went on a rampage, killing dozens of Muslims and burning down their shops and homes.

President Thein Sein has sought during a European tour to assure that sectarian violence gripping Myanmar in the last year is under control.

The State-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the decision to lift the 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew in the battle-scarred townships of Meikhtila, Mahlaing, Wundwin and Thazi on Saturday indicates "peace and stability" have been restored.

The violence in Meikhtila was sparked by a quarrel at a Muslim-owned gold shop March 20. Violence escalated after a Buddhist monk was killed near a mosque. At least 44 people were killed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, July 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Blast injures five in Mandalay

Police say they are investigating an explosion that went off near a firebrand monk as he was giving a sermon in Myanmar’s second largest city, wounding five. The blast occurred Sunday night during a Buddhist ceremony in Mandalay.

The monk, Ashin Wirathu, is accused of inciting violence with speeches warning that country’s minority Muslim community poses a threat to Buddhist culture. He was unharmed. A police officer who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the media said Monday that the explosion went off under a parked car about 18 meters (60 feet) from the monk. A 35-year old Mandalay resident Ma Sandar who was at the speech, said it was a small blast and that Wirathu continued speaking afterward.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, July 27, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ties with China ’fraternal’

Myanmar President U Thein Sein has described his country’s relationship with China as "paukphaw" (fraternal) and called for "Myanmar-China comprehensive strategic cooperation" during a meeting with Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, in the Myanmar capital of Nay Pyi Taw.

Sein’s statements are significant because Myanmar is regarded by many as China’s springboard to the Indian Ocean. China is wooing Myanmar and Sri Lanka to obtain this crucial access for strategic reasons as well as for establishing an alternative shipping route.

The Myanmar President thanked the Chinese armed forces for their "support and assistance in the past years." Reporting from Nay Pyi Taw, the official Xinhua news agency quoted Sein as saying that the ties between the armed forces of the two countries have "maintained a good trend of development". He suggested the two countries work hard to "push further" their military relationship.

On his part, Changlong said that friendship between the two countries was so good that it deserved to be treasured by successive generations. Changlong also met U Shwe Mann, speaker of Myanmar’s House of Representatives and Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Defense Services.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, July 25, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Integrated security plan for polls

The Home Ministry has said that it has made all the necessary preparations for holding free and fair Constituent Assembly (CA) election scheduled for November 19.

Addressing a news conference, Home Ministry Spokesperson Shankar Koirala said the Ministry has already prepared a draft of the Integrated Election Security Plan and Election Security Plan Guidelines 2013 and has directed all the concerned agencies to prepare the security plan as per the guidelines.

Koirala also said that concrete measures have been taken to bring Internal Security Policy 2069 BS, formulating the Central Bureau of Investigation Regulation and criterion related to the security of vital installations that now awaits cabinet approval. He also informed that the home ministry had recently collected a total of 6,745 illegal weapons of various kinds in a special campaign launched to ensure effective law and order situation in the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, July 25-26, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MPRF-N leader shot at

An unidentified armed group opened fire at the Jaleshwar, Mahottari party office of Madhesi People´s Right Forum-Nepal (MPRF-N) injuring two leaders on July 25. Mahottari district member Pragash Sah, 38, received a bullet wound in his left arm.

The Chief of the Janakpur Zonal Police Office Shiva Lamichhane said, "The assailants fled to India after opening fire at our party office." Rajan Mukti-led Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha, an armed outfitting operating in Madhes, has claimed responsibility for the firing.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, July 26, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ex-PM visits India

Former Prime Minister and senior leader of CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal arrived in New Delhi on July 24 on a five-day official visit at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Nepal has held parleys with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and PM Singh. He also met with Foreign Secretary, Ranjan Mathai, Devi Prasad Tripathi, General Secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party and a member of Upper House, and Member of Parliament of Indian National Congress from Madhya Pradesh, Sajan Singh Verma.

After attending a meeting with senior leaders from various leftist political parties of India, Nepal delivered a lecture on the topic ’’Recent political developments and the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal" at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) in Delhi. He also met with Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid and senior BJP leaders L K Advani and Arun Jaitley.

His visit came after senior leader of Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba’s visit to India last month and Chairman of United CPN (Maoist) Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to India in April end.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, July 24-26, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Presidential election set for 30 July

The Supreme Court on July 23 passed a petition presented by the ruling PML-N calling for the presidential elections to be held before the last ten days of Ramadan, known as Ashra. The presidential election which was set to take place on 6 August, as decided by the Election Commission of Pakistan, was contested by the ruling party who argued that many lawmakers would be engaged with religious duties such as Umrah and Aitefak.

The presidential election is decided by lawmakers in predominantly the Senate and National Assembly and not voted on by the public, and so the party has argued that it is essential that lawmakers are able to exercise this right.

The PML-N earlier filed a request to the ECP to delay elections until after Ramadan. The rejection of this petition led to the recent decision, in which the PML-N turned to the Supreme Court for a date that was before Ashra.

The Supreme Court decision to move forward the date of the election was, nevertheless, met with great hostility by other parties. The PPP announced on 26 July that it would boycott the upcoming elections. This decision was supported by other political parties including the Awami Natioal Party (ANP), and the Balochistan National Party (BNP). These parties have argued that the decision to move the election does not provide much time to campaign, and is unjust.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn; 25-26 July, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bomb blast in security complex

Pakistan’s security services came under attack on Wednesday 23rd when two suicide bombers detonated explosives outside the Inter-services Intelligence building. Two bombs exploded that evening, after Iftar when Muslims break their fast during the month of Ramadan. One explosion took place outside a police building, while another was car bomb near the ISI building in Sukkur.

Although total casualties have not been confirmed, it has been suspected that nine have died including the two suicide bombers and four officials, and forty wounded. The two explosions near the security complex led a shoot-out between the security forces and terrorist gunmen. A member of the Tehreek-e-Taliban told the press that the organisation was responsible for the attacks.

It is clear that the ISI and Pakistani military intelligence were the primary targets of Wednesday’s attacks. This is one of series of attacks on the intelligence services that have taken place over the past few years, including such attacks in 2009 on the ISI local headquarters in Lahore and Peshwar, and the national army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al-Jazeera; July 25, 2013; Dawn; July 25, 2013; The Express tribune; July 25, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No-trust move in AJK

A no-confidence motion was moved against the current Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdel Majeed on 22 July. The petition was filed by five MLA’s, who were forced to resign after they moved against their own Prime Minister. Their signatures on the resignation forms were faked by the Speaker.

The AJK high court ordered the government to respond by 26 July before the court could proceed. The PML-N as directed by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, decided to take back its no-confidence motion against the AJK PM, and remain impartial on the issue of AJK leadership.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune; 26 July, 2013.

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Panel to probe ’disappearances’

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has directed Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga to appoint a commission to look into the incidents of disappearances that have taken place during the 30-year conflict.

The decision with regard to the terms of reference and members of the commission will be taken soon, the official Government website said quoting Presidential Spokesman Mohan Samaranayake.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by President Rajapaksa in May 2010 to investigate alleged human rights violations recommended to probe disappearances and alleged human rights violations during the conflict.

The Commission while stressing that Sri Lanka military has not deliberately targeted civilians recommended that the government should appoint a special commissioner to look into the alleged disappearances and provide material to the Attorney-General’s Department to initiate criminal proceedings as appropriate.

Ninety nine per cent of former LTTE cadres were rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. They were provided vocational training and the necessary tools along with monetary assistance to start their own projects. Over 9,000 persons whose family members were killed at the hands of the LTTE were provided compensation by the Government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 24 July 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No change on ethnic issue, Singh tells Jaya

Holding that there was no change in India’s stand on the issue of reconciliation and devolution of political powers to ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has informed Chief Minister Jayalalithaa that New Delhi will work towards ensuring that Tamils are "masters of their own destiny within framework of a united Sri Lanka"

"There is absolutely no change in Government of India’s stand on the question of reconciliation and devolution of political powers in Sri Lanka. "We have long advocated the creation of an environment in Sri Lanka in which all communities, particularly the Sri Lankan Tamils, are masters of their own destiny within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.

"We will continue to work towards this end," Singh told Jayalalitha in response to her letter dated July 14. The text of Singh’s letter was released by the State Government in Chennai.

Jayalalitha had written to the Prime Minister, strongly urging New Delhi to take pressure the Sri Lankan Government not to take any steps to repeal or dilute the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution in any manner.

In a related development, former Union Minister Ananth Kumar, a senior leader of the Opposition BJP, away in the US along with party president Rajnath Singh, declared that Tamils in Sri Lanka should be given special protection and their safety assured.

Kumar said the Sri Lankan Government should come out with a model where the Tamils will have a major say in the socio-political and economic development of the island-nation and contribute to the growth of the nation and are not discriminated against.

"Human rights have to be safeguarded and we want a united secular Sri Lanka where all the citizens have equal rights and are not discriminated against. We will take all steps to ensure this when we come back to power," Kumar said.

"The only way forward is how diplomacy is used and we should not shy away from strongly and effectively conveying our feelings and concerns to the Sri Lankan authorities," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 24-25 July 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Shun LTTE-backers, says Gota

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has urged the northern electorate to shun those who had been overtly and covertly supportive of the LTTE terror project for personal gain as well as due to fear, particularly since the launch of the Norwegian-led peace initiative in February 2002.

"Whatever the Opposition propagandists and a section of the international community say in the run-up to the first Northern Provincial Council polls scheduled for late September, those who had been trapped on the Vanni front in early 2009 couldn’t be deceived as they knew none of those shedding crocodile tears for war victims today opposed them being used a human shield," he said.

Asked whether the Government had hard evidence to accuse the LTTE of using human-shields, the Defence Secretary said that the first indication of the enemy strategy came to light in early 2007 when the terrorists detained some UN workers for allegedly helping civilians to flee some parts of the Vanni region.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 26 July 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Wimal threatens to quit PSC

Minister Wimal Weerawansa has threatened to resign from the Parliamentary Select Committee on the national question if it does not proceed quickly to find solutions for several key issues, including police and land powers of the provincial councils.

Weerawansa told a politburo meeting of the National Freedom Front last week that the PSC must give priority to discussing key issues such as preventing the re-merger of two or more Provincial Councils.

Answering a question raised by former Central Provincial Agriculture Minister Nimal Piyatissa at the meeting, Weerawansa said that the PSC must immediately discuss the Land and Police powers of the provincial councils. "There is no point in participating in the PSC if it does not discuss the matter on a priority basis and quickly."

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US sets deadline for BSA

In an effort to expedite the negotiations over the stalled Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the US, Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and other US officials this week.

> Karzai said that his administration was ready, in principle, to accept the presence of US troops in Afghanistan post-2014. However, he stated that they would be allowed to stay on in Afghanistan only if the US accepted the demands put forth by Afghanistan.

"The signing of the Agreement is dependent on whether the conditions are accepted by the U.S. If the conditions are accepted soon, the BSA will also be signed soon. We never stressed on the time required for signing the BSA. We stressed on assurance of meeting the conditions," said Fayeq Wahidi, Deputy Spokesman for President Karzai.

However, Dempsey, speaking at a press conference, announced October as the deadline for the signing of the BSA. "Militarily I would like to understand the future more clearly through the BSA. Sometime between now and October we would like to have the ’enduring framework’ in place. So that there would be approximately 90 days before the current mandate ends and the new mandate called ’resolute support’ would begin," said Gen Dempsey. He also said that if talks over the BSA fail then the US would pull out all troops from Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, July 22, 2013, Tolo News, July 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CIA shuts bases in Afghanistan

As the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan comes closer, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has begun to shut down its secret bases in Afghanistan. The CIA plans to cut its clandestine installations in Afghanistan from the current umber of a dozen to six over the next two years.

It is being reported that the CIA is now planning on focusing its resources on other troubled spots. However, the CIA is still expected to continue operating its fleet of armed drones to patrol Pakistan’s tribal region.

According to US officials, the reductions were overdue since US espionage efforts in the region were out of proportion to the threat posed by al-Qaeda’s diminished core leadership in Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Pajhwok, July 24, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Interior Minister dismissed

Afghan Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang was dismissed this week after a "no confidence" motion was passed against him. The motion was moved due to his failure to improve the security situation of the country. 136 Members of Parliament voted against him, 60 for him and 4 votes were considered invalid.

Karzai was urged to consider a successor to Patang as soon as possible given the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. However, Karzai claimed that even though impeaching a minister is the right of the MPs, a no confidence motion against any minister can be moved only if there is a solid reason. Karzai announced that the matter has been sent to the Supreme Court for further clarity, and until a decision is made Mr. Patang will serve as the acting Interior Minister.

The Afghan Ministry of Interior issued a statement saying that the impeachment of Patang was unjustified and against the law. The ministry added that some circles inside the government had grudge against him and moved the "no-confidence" motion. Patang, while addressing a news conference, alleged that 72 MPs were involved in narcotics smuggling, land grabbing and were spies of ISI in Afghanistan. In light of the raised allegations, the Attorney General urged Patang to submit evidence in support of the allegations made against the 72 MPs.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, July 22-24, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP yet for caretaker govt

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia this week said that she would accept the outcome of the next general elections, even if the Awami League wins, given the polls are held under a non-partisan caretaker government.

Considering Bangladesh’s political culture this is a significant development. Since the restoration of the democratic process in 1990, the defeated party in the elections has never accepted the polls’ results and has instead accused the winners to have rigged and manipulated election results. BNP has been waging a movement demanding that a non-partisan interim government holds the elections, after the current ruling party cancelled the caretaker government system through the 15th amendment of the constitution. Khaleda urged the government to resolve the political crisis through dialogue saying: "I want to ask the government to come and discuss to restore the non-party interim government. We will congratulate you if you win the polls."

Politics in Bangladesh is facing a deadlock about the prospect of the elections as both Awami League and BNP are in loggerheads about the nature of the government which would supervise the election. While BNP is pressing for restoration of the caretaker government, which has been abolished by a constitutional amendment earlier by the ruling Awami League government. Awami League is adamant that the election takes place under an elected government. This has raised doubts about the prospection of election.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dhaka Tribune, July 25, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rohingya terror training camps in CHT

India has alerted Bangladesh that terror training camps for Rohingya Muslims has emerged recently in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) bordering Myanmar. Sharing intelligence inputs "from the ground", the Union home ministry recently told Dhaka how Pakistani terror outfits like Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) were allegedly training Rohingya rebels in camps spread across the CHT for "launching revenge attacks" in Myanmar.

It may be recalled that during the recently held talks between home secretaries of India and Bangladesh, the two sides discussed the need to arrest attempts by Pakistan based militant organisations like lashkar-e-Taiba LeT/Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) to exploit the Rohingya Muslims issue to open a new front on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, close to India’s north-east region. India has drawn Bangladesh’s attention to terror camps that have sprung in CHT region over the past six to seven months.

These camps were witnessing terror training sessions by LeT and Jaish commanders, with help from local outfits like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) that are linked to NGOs like Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO).

Bangladesh has assured India it will verify these camps on the ground.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, July 25, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India restores subsidy on LPG

Two days after Bhutan’s future prime minister reiterated his support to India, New Delhi has decided to restore the subsidy on cooking gas and kerosene for the tiny Himalayan kingdom.

At a meeting chaired by foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai on Friday, petroleum ministry officials were instructed to reinstate the subsidy on both fuels from next month. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will pick up the annual tab of Rs 50 crore from its budget.

"An in-principle decision was taken today to continue the subsidy. The official announcement is likely to be made during the visit of Bhutan’s new PM later this month," a top official said.

Earlier this week, the MEA had intervened to stop Indian Oil from cutting subsidy on diesel sold to Bhutan after the state-run company informed its retail outlet operators to start charging market price on the fuel.

Officials said Tobgay made a formal request to External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid not to implement the subsidy cut as it would have raised diesel prices by a massive Rs 9.45 per litre in the country.

The MEA said that since Bhutan’s 10th Plan expired on June 30, fresh terms of financial assistance, including subsidies would have to be negotiated.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, July 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM-elect pledges to strengthen India ties

Seeking to put behind recent irritants that have crept into Bhutan’s special ties with India, the Himalayan Kingdom’s Prime Minister-elect Tshering Tobgay on Sunday pledged to further strengthen the bonds while refusing to label the close interaction as "interference" by India.

Asking India to urgently re-start supply of subsidised gas as it was impacting on the poor of his country, the 47-year-old Bhutanese leader also said he has accepted the invitation of the Indian Prime Minister and would like to visit India as soon as possible to "assure the people and government here that regardless of which government comes to power in Bhutan, our relationship will only grow from strength to strength."

Tobgay, whose political party PDP got the majority seats in recently-held second round of democratic elections, during an interview to PTI also termed as "waste of time and money" the efforts by his predecessor for Bhutan’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council, saying his party was opposed to the bid.

On the reinstatement of subsidised gas supply from India, he said, "Even though my party is yet to form a government, I have had very reassuring discussions with the Indian Ambassador in Thimphu on this subject."

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, July 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poll results positive for India: Moody’s

Global rating agency Moody’s today said Bhutan election results signal closer economic ties with India and it would be credit positive for India.

On 13 July, Bhutan held its second elections since the country transitioned to a democracy in 2008 from a Monarchy, handing the majority in Parliament to the former opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

"The PDP platform emphasises rebuilding Bhutan’s ties with India, which were strained by the previous administration’s political overtures to China," Moody’s said in a statement. Maintaining India’s robust provision of aid and its consumption of hydropower exports is credit positive for Bhutan, it said.

"The small Himalayan nation is geographically wedged between India and China, which have competing interests in the region", it said, adding "but Indian foreign policy seeks to keep Bhutan well within its sphere of interest".

Maintaining close ties with India will ensure that Bhutan’s neighbour to the southwest continues to import electricity and fund further hydropower development.

In 2012, India’s purchases comprised approximately 90 per cent of total electricity sales from Bhutan’s plants. Bhutan’s electricity exports generate revenue for the government, as well as Indian rupee inflows, allowing it to finance the large public debt. In addition to trade flows, it said, India provides significant budgetary support in the form of grants.

Bhutan’s $1.8 billion economy has been growing quickly, averaging 10 per cent growth in real terms over the past five years, driven by the development of hydropower.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Press Trust of India, July 22, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US Vice-President talks trade

US Vice-President Joe Biden arrived here on the evening of Monday (July 22) on a four-day visit aimed at consolidating bilateral ties in trade, energy and defence and laying the groundwork for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s September visit to the US.

Biden on Tuesday emphatically declared that enhanced economic engagement between India and the US was in the nations’ mutual interests as the two reaffirmed their commitment to implement the historic civil nuclear deal. He also shared with New Delhi his country’s perspective of the situation likely to unfold in Afghanistan after the drawdown by NATO troops in 2014, He appreciated the role being placed by India in the embattled nation.

"India-US relations are critical not just for two countries but for the entire region. The issue is no longer what the US can do for India but what two countries can do together in the world. NO other two countries have so much at stake or in common in the emerging scenario," the US leader said at a meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee.

Biden said on Wednesday in Mumbai that India should take fresh initiative to help remove trade barriers and inconsistencies in the tax regime and this could propel annual bilateral trade to $ 500 billion. He said target was achievable if both countries made the "right choices".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, July 23-25, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks with China on LAC intrusions

Days after reports of aggressive patrolling by Chinese troops in the Ladakh region, Indian and Chinese officials sat down together for the third meeting of the border mechanism set up to ensure peace and tranquility on the undefined boundary. The Indian team is being led by Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary (East Asia) in the MEA.

"The meeting deals with all issues of peace and tranquility on the border... However, this meeting does not deal with border issues as those issues are handled by Special Representatives on both sides. Also the meeting does not discuss Border Defence Cooperation Agreement since there is a separate mechanism for that," spokesperson in the MEA said here.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is looking at a November visit to China, with both governments keen to showcase it as a unique occasion where two premiers would be visiting each other within a calendar year. In the run-up to the visit, India is hoping to use the opportunity to work on some kind of a boundary agreement, which, if successful, would be a hurrah for Singh and his team.

Meanwhile media reported on Friday news of fresh incursion by Chinese troops in the Chunar area in north-east Leh on July 20. The ’assertive posturing’ by the Chinese troops, who had climbed a small mountain where they faced Indian troops, has been flashed to all units along the Sino-India border in the area to keep a strict vigil on their movement, official sources said on Thursday.

The Chinese military refuted on Thursday reports of incursions by its troops into the Indian territory, saying the claims do not accord with facts.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, July 24, 2013, The Tribune, July 26, 203

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Uncertainty over power-sale to Pak

The Government is yet to make up its mind on whether to sell power to Pakistan, given the heavy economic and political costs of the proposal.

The issue was being discussed in different ministries connected to the issue, based on the recommendations made by a delegation that visited the neighbouring country recently to study the project’s feasibility, sources said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Tribune, July 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dhaka confident on border-pact

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on Thursday expressed confidence that the Indian Parliament would ratify the land boundary agreement (LBA) during the upcoming monsoon session.

"I am very hopeful that things that are in the work will come soon to fruition. Both sides have worked very hard on the agreement. Regardless of their party affiliations, I think they (Indian lawmakers) would be able to see larger picture in the India-Bangladesh ties and act accordingly? it will happen", she said during a question-answer session after delivering the fourth R K Mishra Memorial Lecture, organised by the Observer Research Foundation.

Earlier in the week, issue of deportation of ULFA leader Anup Chetia came into focus. The deportation of top ULFA leader Anup Chetia, who has been lodged in jail for over a decade, may take some more time as Bangladesh said it was working on the issue of his deportation. "We are working on it. It is following its routine procedures. You will come to know (outcome) eventually," senior Secretary in Bangladesh’s Ministry of Home Affairs K Mushtaq Ahamad said after meeting his counterpart Home Secretary Anil Goswami.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Tribune, July 26, 2013, The Indian Express, July 23, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks with Israel on FTA

Israel is negotiating with India the contours of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), said Eli Belotsercovsky, Director of Economic Relations with India and China in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

However, Belotsercovsky refused to spell out a timeframe in which the negotiations, which have been on for more than a year, would conclude.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rajnath chants NaMo in US

Calling Gujarat party Chief Minister Narendra Modi a leader with "national appeal" and virtually anointing him the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, party president Rajnath Singh said he would raise the issue of denial of US visa to the Gujarat Chief Minister during his meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"I will appeal to the US government to clear US visa to the Gujarat CM," said Mr Singh late Saturday, kicking off his five-day US tour with a news conference in New York. The tour was arranged by by some of Mr Modi’s supporters in the Indian-American community.

Meanwhile, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said "diverse" India needs a leader who "enjoys confidence" of all sections of society. He has also said "Hinduatva is the unifying force". Bhagwat, who was speaking on the occasion of Guru Purnima, did not mention directly or indirectly Mr Narendra Modi or any other leader.

"We need a nayak (leader) to bring about a transformation in society. The leader should be one who is capable of winning confidence of the entire society," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, the Indian Express, July 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Akhilesh meets Chandrababu, talks third front

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who is on a two-day visit to Hyderabad, met Telgu Desam Party (TDP) N Chandrababu Naidu to discuss the possibility of forming a third front. He also met Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy and a few others on Sunday.

The UP CM was here to address the All India Yadav Mahasabha and was the chief guest at its national executive meeting.

Mr Yadav said that he discussed political issues with Mr Naidu and explored the possibility of forming a third front.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Indian Express, July 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poverty level drops to a record 22 pc

Poverty in India declined to a record 22% in 2011-12, the Planning Commission disclosed on Tuesday. Over the last decade, poverty has witnessed a consistent decline with the levels dropping from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 29.8% in 2009-10. The number of poor is now estimated at 269.3 million, of which 216.5 million reside in rural India While the trend is not surprising, the extent of the decline has opened up a debate on the factors that have led to it. The numbers themselves may be debatable but they are reflective of a broader trend.

One theory is that this is the outcome of the trickle-down impact of the record growth witnessed in the first decade of the new millennium. This growth, though, has not been accompanied by a commensurate rise in employment, implying that its benefits have not really trickled down. Still, the growth did result in higher tax revenue, enabling the government to fund a large social sector spending programme.

The Planning Commission’s disclosure has become a source of controversy as the opposition challenged the claim. BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi took the lead, charging the government with mocking the plight of the poor and misleading them in a bid to cover fewer people under the Food Security Act.

"It (the estimates) proves that that the government defines poverty as per its whims and fancies. It increases the number of poor or decreases it as and when it wants," Dr Joshi said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, July 24, 2013, The Hindu, July 26, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Forex reserves up by $ 21 m

India’s foreign exchange (forex) reserves increased by $21.1 million to $280.188 billion for the week ended July 12, according to data released by Reserve Bank of India. The reserves had declined by $4.47 billion to $280.167 billion for the week ended July 5.

The foreign currency assets (FCA) - the biggest component of the forex reserves - grew by $33.5 million at $252.13 billion, the weekly statistical supplement of the central bank shows. The FCA had plunged by $1.28 billion at $252.10 billion in the previous week.

Separately, RBI has decided to tighten gold imports in a fresh attempt to bring current account deficit (CAD) down and in turn boost the falling rupee.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, July 20, 2013, The Indian Express, July 23, 2013

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

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