MonitorsPublished on May 11, 2012
The race for the 'Rashtrapati Bhavan' (President's House) has begun in right earnest though no political party has yet played its cards formally. A new President is going to be elected in two months as the term of the present President Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil ends on July 25.
India: Debate hots up on next President
< class="heading1">Analysis

The race for the ’Rashtrapati Bhavan’ (President’s House) has begun in right earnest though no political party has yet played its cards formally. A new President is going to be elected in two months as the term of the present President Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil ends on July 25.

There is an all-round debate on what kind of President the Indian Republic requires or needs at the present juncture. There are differing views and opinions on the issue with some, particularly the political elements, saying that the 14th President should have a political background with an understanding of the dynamics of the present day polity. There are still others who are batting for an eminent person who could be seen by people at large as a role model.

In the backdrop of the prevailing political instability at the Centre and an uncertain outcome of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the race has acquired interesting dimensions. In case no single party or group gets an absolute majority in the General Elections, the role of the person occupying Rashtrapati Bhavan would become very crucial, and that is why every political party would like to see a person of its choice and liking.

No single party or an alliance like the ruling UPA or the Opposition NDA is in a position to get a person of its choice elected as President or Vice-President, which is also falling vacant in the coming months, when incumbent Mr Hamid Ansari completing his five-year term. The role of the non-Congress and non-BJP parties is going to be very crucial this time as per the dictates of the electoral arithmetic.

The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), with all allies on board, is not in a position to get a person of its choice installed in the Rashtrapati Bhavan as it has only 42 percent votes in the electoral college consisting of the all the MPs and all the MLAs of the State Assemblies. Even the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), with 28 per cent vote-share in the presidential poll, is not in a position to get a person of its choice elected. The non-UPA and non-NDA parties hold the key to success as they have 24 per cent of votes. Smaller parties have 6 percent votes.

In the prevailing electoral algebra, a person who is backed by the Congress and has the support of the some of the non-UPA and non-NDA parties is sure to win the race. The BJP is simply not in a position to get a person elected by is definitely in a position to create serious hurdles on the path of a candidate.

At the time of writing, consultations have begun. Defence Minister Mr A K Antony has already met DMK chief Mr M Karunandhi. The DMK patriarch has indicated that he would go with the UPA choice. Nationalist Congress Party supremo Agriculture Minister Mr Sharad Pawar had a meeting with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and has given enough indication that he would go with her choice. Yet, if any single party of the UPA or a single UPA leader enjoys a veto, it is Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is trying her best to leverage the presidential issue to her advantage.

According to media reports, she is asking for a three-year moratorium on payment of interests accumulated on West Bengal’s debts in return for her support for the UPA’s presidential candidate. But if Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is made the UPA’s candidate for the President then it is going to be very difficult for Ms Banerjee to oppose him as Bengali nationalism would force her to support him.

The other two parties, which are in a position to play a crucial role, are the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). For public consumption, SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav would continue to repeat that he would prefer a Muslim in Rashtrapati Bhavan but he does not have a candidate who could muster support from the entire political spectrum.

Former UP Chief Minister Ms Mayawati would equally be not averse to a Muslim candidate but would not back a Dalit candidate as he or she would not be one of her choice and political advantage may go to other party like the Congress for giving the country Dalit President.

Two names that are figuring prominently in the media as well as in the political circles are those of Vice-President Mr Hamid Ansari and Union Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee. Though the candidature of former President Mr A P J Abdul Kalam found mention in the media it had its logical end pretty soon. Though other names like those of Chief Election Commissioner Mr S Y Quereshi, former West Bengal Governor Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Infosys founder Mr N R Narayan Murthy also found mention but they remained only talking points.

At the time of writing of this piece, it seems that the political parties have settled for a political candidate and names of Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Ansari are figuring prominently though a dark horse in coming days cannot be entirely ruled out. Between the two, Mr. Mukherjee seems to have an edge as he is seen, both by a large section of the ruling combine as well as some sections of the Opposition, as a person eminently suited for the country’s highest position.

Mr Mukherjee’s long years in politics and his deep knowledge of the political and economic system with a vast exposure to national as well as international politics makes him standout among the contenders who have thrown their hats in the ring. He brings along a compassionate understanding of the issues which have been confronting the Indian nation at the present juncture. It is being said in media columns and political circles that Mr Mukherjee is a precious asset for the Congress Party to spare him for the presidential assignment. The question here is that every asset has to be used judiciously and its utility increases of diminishes with the passages of time.

The Congress’ top leadership, including UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has to take a decision as to how their most precious asset is to be used. The moment this is decided, Mr. Mukherjee’s way to the Rashtrapati Bhavan would be clear.

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

< class="heading1">Analysis

Bhutan: Facing severe rupee crunch

Sripathi Narayanan

Bhutan, for the past many months, has been facing a crisis of shortages on a number of fronts. The most visible and profound shortage that the nation is facing is the on-going ’rupee crunch’. The domino effect of the rupee crunch has touched the life of each and every Bhutanese, and has left its imprint in every strata of the Kingdom’s economy.

The series of efforts by the nation’s monitory authority to make the Indian rupee available ? or, restrict its availability and usage -- has paid little dividend in tackling this problem. At the same time, the nation’s economic stability has not been challenged, for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost reason for this sense of optimism is the fact that the economic concerns of the Kingdom are dominated by the rupee crunch. This is an issue that the Kingdom has come accept and address despite the concerns that it causes.

The reasons for the rupee crunch seems to be the tight monetary measures undertaken by the Government. These measures have been enforced with reasonable success, thereby ensuring optimum policy implementation. At the same time, the nation shares close and historic bond with India that has stood the test of time. The current crisis is perceived as a passing cloud.

On the brighter side, Bhutan has been growing at a reasonable rate while also checking inflation ? something that other Asian economies in general and South Asian economies in particular have not been able to achieve. However, one of the key reasons for inflation that Bhutan faces is because of the fixed exchange-rate and huge imports, which in turn replicates inflation in India. Despite this, the nation’s fundamentals are perceived to be sound and will also hold the nation in good health despite the troubling time that it may face.

The rupee crunch at the same time has been a blessing in disguise since a section of the domestic economy has now occupied the centre stage that’s been vacated owing to this crisis. The nation’s large agriculture population has not borne the blunt of the rupee crunch, since most of them are subsistence farming meant for personal consumption. The lack of exposure of this section to the crunch has also ensured that the larger section of the population has not been affected -- an aspect unique to Bhutan.

At the same time, India, the source for most of Bhutan’s imports and exports, subsidises a large part of Bhutan’s economy. For instance, all LPG imports are subsided to a tune of 59 per cent by India, thereby limiting the actual damage that the nation faces.

This, however, does not mean that the Kingdom does not have to take a re-look at its economy. One of the issues that Bhutan faces is that its economic base is very thin, with limited avenues for exports. It also imports a large part of its needs, primarily from India. At the same time, the nation’s foreign exchange system is largely dependent on a small basket of currencies, dominated by the Indian rupee.

The nation’s major and potent forex-earning asset is its hydro-power. The others are agro produces that have a limited scope for expansion and earning. The irony of hydro-power generation is that they are funded by outside players, mostly the Government of India. The financial aspect of this has resulted in a good section of the hydro-power earnings moving out of the Kingdom to India, in the form of dividend, interest on borrowings and principal.

There is one sector that the Kingdom has not exploited to the maximum. That is tourism. The tourism sector of the Kingdom is restricted, and the development of the same is limited. Yet, Bhutan is expecting to receive up to 100,000 tourists in 2012, according to a draft report prepared by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). This is naturally more than the numbers that the country received in the previous year.

It can be safely said that the pristine natural beauty of Bhutan, an under-utilised sector, can be a source of revenue and the path to greater economic prosperity. With a steady rise in tourism, the Himalayan Kingdom might find the means to tide over its lop-sided economy. According to some analysts, if the nation can limit its absolute economic dependency on India, Bhutan could become a beacon of prosperity and well as an ecological sanctuary in that part of the world.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GDP to grow at 9.8 per cent, says UN

According to the UN Economic and Social Commission) for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Bhutan’s projected GDP is expected to at a rate of 9.8 per cent for 2012, up for 2011’s 5.4 per cent. At the same time the inflation is expected to decrease to 7.5 per cent for 2012 from 8.3 per cent of 2011.

These figures were put out by the UN on the side lines of a seminar, ’Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific (ESSAP)’, held in Thimphu. Participants questioned the validity of these figures and referred to the on-going economic difficulties arising from the rupee crunch.

However UN Representative Claire Van der Vaeren said that their survey was based on the developments that are taking place in the hydro-power sector, while mentioning that the current rupee crisis was an opportunity for the Kingdom to strengthen the local system as well as to be self-sufficient.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 11, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Licensing policy to be relaxed

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) and the International Finance Corporation are working towards streamlining business registration and regulation aimed at saving $ 1 million in compliance costs for local businesses and boosting foreign investment in Bhutan.

Under the programme, the ministry will formulate a new policy for licensing reforms to reduce the burden of compliance on local businesses. These reforms are expected to remove overlapping approvals and streamline requirements for setting up and operating businesses.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 5, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Missile defence shield ready

India has developed missile defence shield which can be put in place at short notice to protect at least two cities, bringing the country on par with an elite group of few nations. The shield, developed by DRDO, has been tested successfully, and an incoming ballistic missile with the range of up to 2,000-km can be destroyed. The system is to be upgraded to the range of 5,000 km by 2016.

"The ballistic missile Defence shield is now mature...We are ready to put phase one in place and it can be put in very short time," DRDO chief V K Saraswat said in Delhi in an interview.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 6, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US praise for cut in Iran oil

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised India for beginning to reduce oil purchases from Iran and said there are adequate supplies in the international market for New Delhi to cut down those imports even further."We commend the steps they have taken and we hope they will do even more," Clinton said in Kolkata in an interview with NDTV.

India imports about three-quarters of its oil requirements and officials previously said Iran supplies 12 per cent of the total, making it one of India’s biggest suppliers. For months, New Delhi had been resisting Washington’s calls for it to cut back, citing an overwhelming need for oil in a nation where energy demand is surging and 1.5 million new vehicles hit the roads every month.

In Delhi, later, Clinton met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top Indian leaders to discuss bilateral relations, the war in Afghanistan and India’s trade with Iran, U.S. officials and local media said. Clinton also expressed US expectations for the opening up of India’s retail sector and additional reforms by the Singh Government. "The visit is about continuity and the new US initiative in Afghanistan," said HarinderSekhon, a fellow with the US studies programme of New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation, a think-tank. "She’s here to assure and reassure that things are moving on their trajectory and that the U.S. remains committed to the region."
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 7, 2012,, May 7, 2012,, May 9, 2012 .

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks with Iran to boost trade

Businesspersons from India and Iran, on Monday, held talks to boost trade between the two countries on a day U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived here, seeking Indian cooperation for sanctions intended to choke Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.

Teheran signalled its interest in purchasing an estimated Rs.25,000-30,000-crore worth of Indian goods every year by having a former Cabinet Minister to head the delegation. India and Iran have been forced to turn to this system because most financial institutions are wary of dealing with Tehran due to the threat of being locked out by western countries.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 8, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sovereign fund for coal assets

Realising that India needs to be more aggressive in acquiring coal assets overseas to boost energy security, the government is considering setting up a sovereign fund to secure supplies to meet the growing demand mostly from power and steel producers, Coal Minister SriprakashJaiswalhas said. Coal assets in Australia, South Africa, Mozambique, US and Indonesia are on the priority list for acquisitions by state-run Coal India Limited (CIL), he said.

India has emerged the third largest consumer of coal in the world. However, domestic production has failed to keep pace with the increase in demand. With the demand-supply deficit is estimated to grow 17.2 percent annually till 2017, acquisition of overseas coal mines has emerged as a key strategy to augment coal supplies and mitigate stagnating domestic production.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 4, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Subsidies to be cut 1.75 percent

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was Saturday (May 5, 2012) elected chairman of the board of governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for a year.Mukherjee will hold the chair till the conclusion of the next board of governors’ meeting, which is scheduled to be held in New Delhi May 2-5 next year.

"I deem it an honour to host the next annual meeting and chair the deliberations in our race to the shared vision for the future, a world where the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people are transformed and there is freedom from poverty, disease, illiteracy, and gender inequality," Mukherjee said in his acceptance speech.

The Indian Government is committed to bringing down subsidies to below two percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal and cut it further to 1.75 percent in the next three years, Mukherjee said adding that the government was taking measures to boost growth and curb fiscal deficit."On the fiscal front, we are committed to bring down the subsidy bill below two percent of GDP in 2012-13 and to 1.75 percent of GDP in next three years," he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 5, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RBI steps to boost sagging rupee

Reserve Bank of India has given local exporters 15 days to convert half their onshore foreign-exchange holdings into rupees, a move aimed at stopping a slide in the currency that is worsening trouble spots in the nation’s economy.

The measure helped the rupee gain 1.6 per cent against the US dollar at one point on Thursday in anticipation of the estimated billions of dollars that Indian exporters will have to convert into rupees later this month. The order doesn’t affect foreign companies based in India.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 10, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President Waheed in India

President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik made his first overseas visit after assuming office by visiting India on a five-day programme, calling on counterpart PratibhaPatil and holding talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, among others. Accompanied by the First Lady and a host of ministers and officials, President Waheed discussed bilateral issues, Maldivian economy and politics with the Indian leadership.

At the end of talks with Singh, the President said that his Government would honour all agreements with India, implying bilateral accords on continuing strategic ties, some of which were signed by predecessor regime of President Mohammed Nasheed. India reiterated its commitment to help Maldives tied over the current economic and fiscal crises facing Maldives, even as the latter committed itself to creating conducive atmosphere for Indian investments, including the Male airport renovation contract, now being executed by the GMR Group.

On the crucial question of advancing presidential elections ahead of the scheduled August- November window in 1913, as indicated in the Roadmap Talks proposals signed by him when India’s Foreign Secretary RanjanMathai visited Male at the height of the political crisis in February and March, Waheed outlined the pending issues and concerns, and referred to the National Inquiry Commission, which is probing President Nasheed’s charge of a coup.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed launches campaign

Fresh on the heels of his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ousting its elected chief Ibrahim Didi and his deputy AlhanFahmy, former President Mohammed Nasheed launched his campaign for the party primary to nominate candidate for the presidential poll, whenever held.

His informal leadership of the party faces uncertainty as the Election Commission is seized of the legal and constitutional issues flowing from Didi’s ouster. The Commission has promised its verdict within 10 days ending next week even as the All-Party Roadmap talks, it was announced, could be resumed only after the legitimate leadership of the MDP was thus identified.
< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, Minivan News, Haveeru, May 8-10, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suu Kyi granted passport

Myanmar has issued the leader of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, with a passport. This comes at a time when the former political prisoner prepares to travel abroad for the first time in 24 years.

Suu Kyi began applying for her Myanmar travel documents soon after she was elected to parliament in landmark April 1 by-elections seen as a key test of reforms under the new quasi-civilian government that came to power last year.

Apart from Norway, where she is expected to receive her 1991 Nobel Peace Price, she also intends to travel to Britain, where she lived for years with her late husband and their two sons before she returned to Myanmar in the late 1980s.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 8, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Has the VP resigned?

Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo, 61, submitted his resignation on May 3 for health reasons after returning from Singapore where he had gone for medical treatment. Tin Aung Myint Oo, a former four-star general, was one of two vice-presidents and was considered a leader among hardliners.

This report has, however not been confirmed by official sources. Visuals released on the President’s Office website showed President Thein Sein holding a meeting with his administration, but Tin Aung Myint Oo, who normally sits next to the Head of State, was conspicuously absent. By contrast, Sai Mauk Kham, Myanmar’s other vice-president, was shown in his usual place. The latest photo from the President’s Office may not prove that Tin Aung Myint Oo has quit, although observers have taken it as a strong indication.

However, there have been persistent reports since last year that the President and the Vice-President were on bad terms. The clash may have had as much to do with personality differences as any power struggle. Thein Sein is widely regarded as the least corrupt of former military leaders, and he and his family have no known connections with any of the country’s tycoons. Some suspect, however, that he does not enjoy broad support within the government. The President’s Office is known to be displeased with several ministers’ performances and corruption scandals, although Thein Sein himself has also been criticized for the sluggish pace of reforms by Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, another key member of the former regime.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 6, 2012;, May 11, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">KIA will be wiped out: Army

The commander of the Burmese Army’s Northern Regional Military Command, Brig-Gen Zeyar Aung, has be courted saying that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) will wipe them out by his troops. He made the statement at a meeting in Pangwa with the public, local militia troops and troops formerly of the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K) who were absorbed into the Burmese Army’s Border Guard Force in 2010.

At present talks between the Government and the KIO have stalled since there has been no agreement on KIO demands for the withdrawal of government troops from near KIO-controlled areas and having international observers witness the signing of any peace agreement.

To try and break the deadlock the Government has changed its peace negotiators and bought in Vice-President Sai Mauk. The KIA have said that just changing the personnel is not enough and that it must be accompanied by a change in policy.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 10, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New labour movement

Striking employees at an artificial hair factory in Rangoon’s Industrial Zone 4 were granted their demands for a wage hike as well as increased workers’ rights on Thursday. More than 1,800 staff at HI Mo High Art factory walked out over demands for increased pay. They then marched to the Labour Office in Mayangone Township and expressed their wishes to officials there.

An agreement was reached after seven workers’ representatives along with Managing Director, Nan Tao Yin and Director-General Win Shein of the factory held a meeting at the Labour Law Administrative office in Hlaing Thar Yar Township on Thursday.

The workers demanded a pay raise from 8,000 kyat (US $9.6) to 30,000 kyat ($36.3) per month. In addition, they wanted overtime pay, a clean working environment, sanitary meals and action to be taken against bad supervisors.

The workers had already demanded a salary raise last year but the protest was not serious enough at the time and their demands were unsuccessful. A worker said, "In April 2011, similar demands for a wage hike happened, but at that time we were put in a locked room inside the factory after they told us that they will solve the matter."

The factory is owned by a Korean businessman with products exported to South Korea, Japan, China and, occasionally, the Philippines.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 10, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhattarai forms national govt

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai inducted 11 ministers into his cabinet, two days after ministers quit as part of a negotiated effort to quell political turmoil in the country.

The move helped create a national government as proposed by a recent deal reached by four major political parties. The deal would enable the constitution writing process in the country to be completed by a May 28 deadline.

However, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist is still divided over whether or not to join the government. The hardliner faction of the United CPN (Maoist) has declined to join the new government.

As part of the agreement, the current leadership will continue in their posts till the last week of this month before the posts are handed over to the Nepali Congress. The new government will then make the new constitution public and also hold the first parliamentary elections this year.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Kathmandu Post, May 6-7, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strike cripples life across the country

The two-day nationwide strike called by six caste groups and various other organisations against ethnicity-based federalism crippled normal life across the country.

On May 10 and 11, the banda enforcers vandalised vehicles and obstructed movement of traffic. Even ambulances, media vehicles and tourist transportations were not allowed to ply in the roads. It is reported that basic supply of medicines, food and water has been hit by the strikes. The demonstrators also cut off the 132 kV transmission line.

The demonstrators are demanding that Brahmin, Chhetri, Dashnami, Thakuri, Dalit and backward classes be enlisted as indigenous groups.

Maoist Constituent Assembly members Sudhan Rai and Laxmi Gurung were thrashed by banda enforcers in Kathmandu while going to take part in the CA meeting scheduled on May 10 afternoon.
< class="text11verdana">Source:,, May 10-11, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Flash floods hit Kaski

On May 5 powerful flash floods hit the Kaski district. The death toll has climbed to 21 and as many as 55 people are still reported missing. The floods were triggered by an avalanche on the Annapurna mountain range that swept the region in and around Pokhara, a popular tourist destination, which is around 200 km west of Kathmandu.

The Government agencies’ search and rescue operations were hampered by the strong current in the Setiriver. Hundreds of people have been uprooted mainly from Khara and Tatopani areas. Initial reports from the Kaski district administration also suggested that the flood-fed Setiriver swept 40 houses in Kharapani. Rescue teams were searching for dozens of missing people, including three Russian tourists who were in the area.

The material loss from the floods is estimated to be Nepali Rs 50 million so far.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, The Indian Express,, May 5-11, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Thaw in India trade

The two-day economic conference between India and Pakistan has allowed an improvement in the bilateral trade. Indeed, Pakistan should grant India the status of Most Favoured Nation by the end of the year, which will allow the Indian exportations to be treated as those of the other partners. Moreover, other measures have been taken in this direction: the opening of a second trading gate, the end of the Indian ban on Pakistani investments and an agreement on the relaxing of the business visas regulations.

Great opportunities for businesses from both countries are considered as the bilateral trade is aimed to increase from $2.7 billion to $6 billion. Most of all, political motivations are implied in the agreement: a thriving economic partnership is seen as the first step towards a loosening of the tensions between the two States.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, May 07, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Provinces take time

The creation of two new Provinces in the State of Punjab is on-going as the Punjab Assembly passed the related resolution. The Bill has now to obtain two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and Senate to be enforced.

The outline of dividing Punjab comes from the feeling of political remoteness of the people of south Punjab. Their claim for a better repartition of the administrative centres has reached the national level as the Prime Minister Yusuf RazaGilani is now calling for the creation of the Seraiki and Bahawalpur Provinces. Agreeing with this project of decentralisation, the main opposition party Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz is defending the creation of four new Provinces: Bahawalpur, FATA, South Punjab and Hazara.

However, the passing of the resolutions was opposed by the Dera Seraiki Party (DSP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which refuse the creation of a Seraiki Province without the Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts which, according to them, belong to the Seraiki culture.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The News International; The Express Tribune, May 11, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Haft-III missile test-fired

Pakistan carried out a test firing of the Haft-III short-range ballistic missile on Thursday, May 10. This test, as well as the one on April 25, is considered as a response to India’s test fire of the Agni-V missile one month ago.

The arms race triggered between the two countries is thus still booming. This bilateral distrust, as well as the will to become major strategic players on the world scene, is however standing out against the worldwide diplomatic call for global disarmament. Indeed, India and Pakistan remain two of the four non-signatory countries of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, along with Israel and North-Korea, which withdrew itself from the treaty.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The News International, May 11, 2012.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt to release war detainees details

The Government has decided to release the information on war detainees, a step seen as a response to the country’s reconciliation commission report.The Ministry of Defence said that a decision has been made to release information on the detainees, saying the details will be revealed only to the close relatives.

"A round-the-clock mechanism has been established by the Terrorist Investigation Division to provide details of the detainees and those who are already released", an official statement said. Release of information of those detained by the forces since the end of the war with the LTTE was a major cause of concern for the Tamil minority parties. Tamil parties claimed that those who surrendered at the end of the military conflict had disappeared without any trace.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in its report made a number of important recommendation on the detainees. The report noted several instances of LTTE detainees remaining in detention without charges and in which next of kin were not notified. It also asserted that no person should be detained outside authorised places of detention. The LLRC also had recommended the appointment of an advisory panel to monitor and examine detention.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, May 11, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Diplomatic shake-up

Despite objections from Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN at Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam of being transferred from her post, the nation’sAmbassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU, Ravinatha Aryasinha, has been appointed the new Permanent Representative to the UN.

Kunanayakam will be sent as Ambassador to Cuba. She headed the mission during the seven-month long run-up to the UNHRC vote in Geneva last month, on a US-sponsored resolution, asking Colombo to honour the Government-appointed LLRC’s report on the run-up and the fall-out of the decades-old ethnic war that ended in May 2009.

Sri Lanka’s Deputy Head of Mission in Germany P.M. Amza will take up the post vacated by Aryasinha in Brussels.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, May 9, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Senate clears strategic deal with India

The Senate, after the referral from the Wolesi Jirga gave its nod to the strategic partnership agreement between India and Afghanistan.The deal was signed by the Premiers of both countries in New Delhi.

The deal delineates Indian role in reconstruction, counter terrorism, bilateral trade and training of security personnel.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, May 6, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Iran summons envoy over US pact

The Ministry of Foreign affairs at Iran has voiced its unhappiness over the negative broadcast against Iran by a number of local media in Afghanistan.

Iran’s State news agency reported that Mohsin Pak Ayen, the chief of staff of the Iran Foreign Ministry, in his meeting with Shah MardanQul also expressed his concerns regarding the long term strategic pact between the US and Afghanistan that extends the Western presence in Afghanistan till 2024 and the consequent security in the area.

Ayen also expressed concern on the deleterious impact that the anti-Iran broadcasts could have on Iran ?Afghanistan relations.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, May 10, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MPs oppose pact with US

The US-Afghan long term agreement recently drew flak at the hands of the members of Wolesi Jirga for its provision that disallows any kind of change in the Afghan system of Government. The strategic pact that was signed last week in the wake of US President Barrack Obama’s surprise visit to Kabul will continue to hold effect till 2024 was welcomed by both Afghanistan as well as the international community and was seen by many as a quantum leap for the future that awaits Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal of the NATO troops.

However, some Afghan officials feel that the government system may just become a pawn in the hands of the US if fetters are imposed on the changing the political situation until 2024. Afghan law-makers believe that people should have a say in determining any change that may be brought out in the Afghan system and any agreement that infringes upon the same will be a clear intervention.

Other MPs also raised concerns regarding the provision of the agreement that pronounces Al Qaeda an enemy of Afghanistan but makes no mention of either the Taliban or the Haqqani network in the same regard.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, May 6,2012, Outlook Afghanistan, May 6, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Brussels seeks long-term ties

The Belgian deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, DidlierReynders, on his recent visit to Kabul expressed his country’s intention to enter into a long term bilateral strategic agreement with Afghanistan and promised that the 550 NATO service members from his country would remain in Afghanistan .

Reynders also assured Afghanistan of his country’s resolve to fully support the peace process and transition from foreign troops to local forces.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, May 6, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NATO withdrawal impacting FDI

With the tenure of foreign troops in Afghanistan drawing to a close, the FDI in the country is plummeting, according to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA).

AISA director RohullahAhmadzai was quoted saying that a sharp decline in FDI has been recorded ever since the date for the withdrawal of the NATO troops got fixed.

This trend echoes the legitimate apprehensions of foreign investors about the security situation in Afghanistan and the pulling out of foreign investment may even prove to be a self-feeding cycle that perpetrates instability and violence in the region.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, May 5, 2012.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Pankhuri Mehndiratta;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Yann Cres;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;

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