MonitorsPublished on Aug 30, 2013
After complete washouts of several sessions of Parliament, including the previous budget session, the ongoing Monsoon session has surprised many.
India: From confrontation to limited cooperation in Parliament?
< class="heading1">Analysis

After complete washouts of several sessions of Parliament, including the previous budget session, the ongoing Monsoon session has surprised many. The Lok Sabha has not only passed two important legislations on food security and land acquisition but the two houses despite many adjournments and noisy scenes were able to conduct a lot of business.

The reason for the apparent change in the political behaviour witnessed in the current session between the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance-2 (UPA-2) and the principal opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), from total confrontation to a limited cooperation resulting in positive outcome in terms of legislative business appears to be a realisation by the political class that its image and credibility was eroding very fast. The sharp fall in the value of the national currency along with the declining economic growth, which came down 4.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2013-14, also seems to have contributed to the process.

A host of international factors has contributed to slowing down of the economic growth. Bitter confrontation and almost total breakdown of communications between the government and the opposition resulting in a policy paralysis was also responsible for the dismal economic performance.

A small demonstration of the confrontation was witnessed on Friday (August 30) in the upper house of parliament during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement on the state of economy. The Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley indulged in sharp exchange of words. The level of deterioration between the two can be gauged from choice of words of the two leaders some of which had to be expunged from records by the chair.

While the Prime Minister accused the opposition for delaying the much needed economic reforms by its repeated disruptions of parliament, resulting in stalling of crucial bills, Arun Jaitley said the government was responsible for the confrontation as it was not taking the opposition on board in the process of finalising key policies.

Notwithstanding the exchange of heated words between the two leaders in the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha saw lengthy debates on the historic food security bill and land acquisition bill. The land bill is seeking to replace an Act of 1894, enacted by the colonial British. The agreement reached between the political parties to extend the session by a week was a further demonstration of the change in the political behaviour of both the ruling coalition as well as the combined opposition.

Seen in the backdrop of the next general elections, scheduled to be held in early next year, the change seems to be the result of the political confusion that is currently prevailing in the country with no single party enjoying a decisive edge on the other.

While it is true that the BJP is eager to exploit the anti-incumbency of the Congress-led UPA which has been in power for over nine years now and is likely to complete two full terms, but poll surveys don’t suggest that it has a commanding lead over its arch political rival -- the Congress, which is undoubtedly on a losing wicket.

The appointment of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as BJP’s chief of election campaign committee in June at the BJP national executive committee meeting in Goa and the subsequent developments, including the party’s senior leader L K Advani’s resignation from all party posts, appears to impact the party. Though Mr Advani took back his resignation at the persuasion of Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, the claims that differences have been resolved and the party is standing united behind the party’s de-facto prime ministerial candidate appears to be highly doubtful.

Moreover, a large section of BJP leadership is not convinced that the party would be able to get enough number of seats to be able to stake the claim for forming the government at the Centre. While the RSS and a small section in the party is hopeful of getting 200 Lok Sabha seats, a substantial section does not share this optimism which thinks the party may not be able to cross 160 seats. Even if the party emerges as the single largest party, political experts and analysts say that it would be difficult for the BJP to attract enough allies to have a majority in the Lok Sabha. With Mr Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, the chances of the BJP attracting allies are not going to be very bright.

In such a situation, the prospect of a hung Lok Sabha is getting stronger. It is also quite possible that a non-Congress, non-BJP government may assume power, though only with the support, direct or indirect, of either of the two main national parties.

However, many months are still left before the general elections and it is possible that the government may succeed in getting some more crucial bills passed by the parliament, either in this session or in the next winter session which may help the next government to meet the challenges to country’s economy and polity.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border issues with Myanmar

Mihir Bhonsale

The Indian media recently reported that Myanmar’s Army took control of Holenphai village in the Chandel district of Manipur across the Indo-Myanmar border by constructing a military post 10 meters inside the Manipur part of the border on 22 August. The Manipur government and the Ministry of Home Affairs sprung into action after the incident and appealed to the union government to take up the matter with Myanmar. The Ministry of External Affairs responded by proposing to Myanmar that a Joint Border Working Group be created to resolve border issues between the countries.

India shares a 1,036 km border with Myanmar that passes through India’s Northeast states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram. Manipur itself has 300 kms international border with Myanmar. The two countries have defence cooperation since 1987, especially for combating narcotics trade and separatist militant groups across its borders. Keeping vigil across the border has been jointly undertaken through the Border Liaison Offices (BLO). The two countries in another border security cooperation effort began fencing the un-demarcated border in 2003, amidst protests from local ethnic groups in Myanmar.

Concerns over fencing

Fencing on the Indo-Myanmar border was never an easy task, especially when the border remains un-demarcated. Surveys taken by both the countries for the fencing have different results and there are vast tracts of land claimed by both India and Myanmar. Also, Myanmar was opposed to do the fencing at ground zero on the border. Hence on Indian initiation, both countries agreed to have fencing done, 10 km inside their respective territory. However, the Manipur government and civil society have constantly raised concerns over India losing vast portions of land to Myanmar due to the fencing.

Manipur locals have also complained that the fencing exercise has drastically affected their mobility to towns like Moreh and even to villages which at some points run within Myanmar’s territory. Some have also complained that they are Indian nationals living beyond Indian fence, but were branded as Myanmarese. Civil society groups, including locals, village representatives and media-persons, have also conducted several spot assessments and have submitted their reports to the state government.

Two separate delegations, one led by Manipur Governor Ashwini Kumar and other by senior officials of the Manipur government visited the international border in the Chandel district following the 22 August incident and appealed New Delhi to send a strong message to Myanmar. They have also demanded that the fencing work be stopped for the time being until a joint survey was carried out, demarcating the boundary.

The 22 August incident has also brought to the fore the Assam Rifle’s complacency in dealing with the situation. Following the incident when Indian police officials sought an explanation on the construction of the army post inside the Indian territory, an official of Myanmar’s Light Infantry was reported to have claimed that the construction was done on Myanmar’s territory and the commanding officer of local village, the 9th Assam Rifle’s, was informed about the construction 30 days in advance. The Indian Army is yet to clarify its position on Myanmar’s Army’s claims. This has raised concerns over the purported complacency of the Indian Army on the border front.

Myanmar’s silence

Yangon has not yet responded to New Delhi’s proposal for setting up the Joint Border Working Group to resolve border issues. The Myanmar’s Army has been in a denial mode. Myanmar’s Army has also refused to pay heed to Manipur’s request for discontinuing fencing work. However, sooner or later, Myanmar would have to commit to resolve the border issues.

India cannot afford to take tampering with its border lightly. New Delhi might not perceive Yangon as an enemy country, but certainly it cannot bear the neighbour intruding into its land.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India seeks joint border working group

India has asked Myanmar to set up a Joint Border Working Group to address the issue of demarcation of border between the two countries in the backdrop of attempt by Myanmarese Army to construct a defence post near an un-demarcated border pillar.

Though the proposal to set up JBWG has been there but after the recent incident, India has reiterated the need to set up the group to resolve the issue, official spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin has said. He said this was conveyed through India’s Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhyay.

"We hope to take it (the proposal) forward," the spokesperson added. According to officials, Myanmarese army, last week, had initiated the ground work for setting up a temporary platoon base camp at Holenphai village, located 3 km south of Moreh police station close to Border Pillar number 76.

As per the understanding, there cannot be any construction within 10 metres from the boundary, they said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, 28 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fresh religious unrest in Sagaing

Authorities restored order in Myanmar’s northern Sagaing region on Sunday after a Buddhist mob set fire to nearly two dozen Muslim-owned buildings and attacked rescue workers in the latest widening of sectarian violence in the former military-run state.

About 1,000 Buddhists, some carrying sticks and swords, attacked Muslim villagers in remote Htan Kone late on Saturday, destroying at least 20 homes and shops, according to witnesses and a Government statement. Police and soldiers arrived later and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, they said.

The violence in the rugged region about 665 km (410 miles) from the commercial capital, Yangon, shows how far anti-Muslim anger has spread in the Buddhist-dominated country following spasms of unrest in north-eastern Lashio in May, central Meikhtila in March and western Rakhine State last year.

The Ministry of Information said the unrest followed the attempted rape of a Buddhist woman by a Muslim man on Saturday. After the man was detained, about 150 villagers and three Buddhist monks gathered at the police station, demanding he be handed over to them, it said.

When the police refused, the mob rioted, destroying Muslim homes, throwing rocks at police and attacking firemen before authorities restored order by 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, the ministry said.

Police sergeant Win Nyi told Reuters 12 people from the mob had been arrested. A Reuters photographer in Htan Kone said the village was tense on Sunday evening but the violence had subsided.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 25 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Security beefed up for tourists

Myanmar has tightened security measures to prevent terrorists attacks on foreign tourists visiting the country, especially in popular sites, according to police.

Rumours of possible terrorist attacks and recent riots have required Myanmar’s police force to beef up security measures for foreign visitors.

"Our force still doesn’t cover the whole country, but effective security measures have been taken in areas where most tourists visit. The Tourist Police Department are now working together with local police forces in implementing these measures. As our force is still young, we have requirements to get better in our services. So we’re trying hard to improve," said Police Colonel Myo Min Oo of the Tourist Police Department.

Local police departments across the country are also leading activities such as engaging in public talks to ensure tourist security.

"Many tourists visit our area. So our police force patrols the area every day. We have also taken necessary preventive measures in the area. A day before, we had persuaded a foreign couple to get to a nearby hotel as they said they would stay by the roadside for the night. We give help as much as we can," said a senior police officer from Nyaung Shwe Township Police Department in Shan State.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 29 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CPN-M may join polls

Chairman of Unified CPN-Maoist Pushpa Kamal Dahal has said that there were still chances of agreement with the CPN-Maoist led alliance to join the election. "There is still chance of agreement with them," he said, addressing a function organised in Thankot. He said he would continue efforts to rope them into the election process. "They have backtracked from Saturday, but still the chance of agreement has not ended," he added.

However, Vice-Chairman of CPN-Maoist C P Gajurel has said that an environment will be created in which no patriotic Nepali citizen will file candidacy for the polls being organised by foreign powers. "We will launch the boycott movement to create an environment in which nobody will file candidacy for polls that are not in the interest of Nepali people," he said.

Gajurel has alleged that Dahal had played the role of villain by blocking the CPN-M led alliance from joining the election, fearing that his party would be defeated.

Meanwhile, less than a week after talks between the High Level Political Committee (HLPC) and the CPN-Maoist led 33-party alliance on holding a roundtable political conference failed to make any headway, influential CPN-Maoist leader Netra Bikram Chand suddenly left for China on August 29.

Though Chand is among a few Maoist leaders who visit China frequently, his visit to the northern neighbour this time has set off speculation in political circles in Kathmandu. The visit has courted comment as Chand´s party has kept the visit secret and nothing has been given out to the public whether this is a political visit or not.

Media reports have quoted Maoist insiders as stating that Chand has visited China more than half a dozen times over the past year.

< class="text11verdana">,,, 25-29 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No contingency plan for delayed polls: FM

Even as the country heads stridently towards elections in November with the political parties stepping up their campaigning, talks between the High-level Political Committee (HLPC) and the CPN-Maoist-led bloc of 33 parties broke down on August 24. The poll-opposed parties have threatened stern protests if talks do not continue.

On the other hand, the government and the Election Commission (EC) have stepped up preparations for elections, with the second round of voter registration coming to a close on August 30.

In this context, Home Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Madhav Prasad Ghimire said that there is no Plan B or a contingency plan if polls don’t take place on November 19 in an interview.

Stating that the elections will "definitely happen" in November, he said, The political parties are ready and there is a desire for elections. The government is also dedicated to elections and all necessary preparations are moving forward."

"The Election Commission has sped up its preparations. Voter registration came to a close a few days ago with around 12.5 million voters registered. Every day, a positive atmosphere for elections is being created," the minister said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, 26 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Commitment to end wildlife crimes

The Governments of Nepal and China agreed to step up collaborative efforts and enforce a crackdown on illegal wildlife trade at the border region of the two countries in a fresh series of measures to enhance trans-boundary cooperation in biodiversity conservation.

Government delegates from Nepal and China, led by Mr. Tika Ram Adhikary, Deputy Director General of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, and Mr. Wan Ziming, Director of CITES Management Authority, State Forestry Administration of China, met in Kathmandu for a three-day workshop on 28-30 August to identify the issues on illegal wildlife trade at the border region of both the countries and to set a road map to curb wildlife crimes.

At the workshop, Nepal and China agreed on designating focal points at the national and local levels, especially at the border check points in Jilong, Zhangmu and Pulan in TAR, China and Tatopani, Rasuwagadi and Darchula in Nepal, to share real-time information on significant seizures. It was agreed that mutual assistance would be provided to investigate trans-boundary wildlife crimes and prosecute perpetrators through official channels such as Interpol National Centre Bureaus. The two countries also decided to increase surveillance on illegal wildlife trade routes and trade hotspots through smart patrolling, wildlife monitoring and research and intelligence networks, while also establishing anti-poaching units and their networks at the local level.

Nepal and China had signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2010 to promote trans-boundary cooperation to address the issues related to biodiversity conservation and protection of wildlife. Over the years, the two countries have strengthened ties and have regularly hosted trans-boundary meetings at the central and field level and implemented CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) with a common understanding between the two countries.

< class="text11verdana">Source: WWF, press release, 30 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Indian envoy arriving on Monday

Newly appointed Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae, will be landing in Kathmandu on September 2 to take up his third assignment as Indian envoy after Vietnam and Hungary. He will present his Letter of Credence to President Ram Baran Yadav on September 4.

A well-known Nepali hand, Rae, who had previously served as Joint Secretary, North (Nepal- Bhutan) from 2002 to 2006, has served at various Indian diplomatic missions at various capacities.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 29 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bird flu: 1.2-m fowls culled

The bird flu outbreak since July 16 has forced the government to cull over 1.2 million fowls in around one and half months in four districts.

According to the Department of Livestock Services, 871,000 fowls have been culled alone in Bhaktapur district. The remaining fowls were destroyed in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Kavre district.

The Department has further destroyed 1.3 million eggs along with a large amount of feed and excreta. The Government has already distributed compensation worth NRs 58.5 million.

A few days back poultry farmers of Bhaktapur picketed the district livestock services office and attempted to lock the office. The police intervened and clashes took place between the protesters and the police. The protestors were demanding compensation in line with their investment costs.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Re-trial likely for Dr Afridi

A senior judicial official overturned a 33-year jail term for Dr Shakil Affridi who had collaborated with the CIA to find Osama bin Laden. Dr Afridi was arrested in May 2011 after bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottobad by US forces. He ran a vaccination campaign which collected DNA data, which was used by the CIA to track down militants like bin Laden. The US has condemned his imprisonment and called for his release. This was the cause of much tension between the two states, and only recently have relations improved.

Dr Afridi’s collaboration caused outrage from particular groups in the Pakistani community who saw his collaboration with the West as betrayal. Dr Afridi was charged with committing treason, but court documents show that he was charged for being a member of Lashkar-e-Islam. He has denied these charges, and the militant group has said that they had not worked with him.

The recent decision was made on August 29, and this may result in retrial. The decision was overturned because it was thought the judge had over-exercised his authority. The courts chose not reduce his sentence which is a positive sign for Dr. Afridi. However, this provokes militant groups who have previously threatened to kill him. If he were released he would undoubtedly need to seek residence outside the country.

Dr Afridi has maintained that he was unaware of the CIA’s target and was simply carrying out the task that he was set. He will remain in prison until the end of the retrial. As of yet, no date has been set for the retrial.

< class="text11verdana">Source: BBC, 29 August, 2013; Reuters, 29 August, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Toy-bomb kills child in Quetta

A bomb in the form of a toy exploded on 30 August in Akhtarabad, killing one child. Another child was injured from the bomb attack and immediately taken for treatment at the Bolan Medical Complex.

The province has witnessed dozens of bomb attacks in recent months, and has been at the centre of sectarian extremism and attacks against the minority Shia community. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for this attack.

According to other reports, many other individuals were harmed in this attack but exact numbers are unknown.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 30 August, 2013. The Express Tribune, 30 August, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China to increase investment in Balochistan

After a meeting on 29 August in the port city of Gwader, the Chinese delegation from China National Reforms and Development Commission announced extended plans of securing investment and assisting development programmes in Gwadar and the province as a whole.

China has offered to assist various projects in Balochistan which include the development of the Mirani dam and the solar energy project in Gwadar. Other projects were also discussed such as the Karachi-Pasni-Gwadar ferry service, low cost housing schemes and the establishment of small industries. China said that it would provide technical assistance for various projects.

In this meeting, China had also extended its services in the medical profession, and offered medical assistance in Gwadar. Education was an area of interest, and promised the development of schemes for young people.

The chief minister also said that the Kashgar-Gwadar train route would also boost economic links between the two countries, and such projects appear to be beneficial for Balochistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 30 August, 2013.

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA wants MR-Moon pacts implemented

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) told visiting United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay that the post-war agreement between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, should be implemented in full.

The TNA asserted that it was the responsibility on the part of the UN to ensure that the Sri Lankan Government adhered to the agreement. Having led the TNA delegation for talks with Pillay, party leader R Sampanthan later said that they focused on the agreement finalised in Colombo following the UNSG’s visit on May 23, 2009.

The TNA Leader said that President Rajapaksa and the UNSG agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development. The second agreement dealt with the resettlement and rehabilitation of those affected by the conflict.

At a meeting with President Rajapaksa towards the conclusion of her week-long visit across the country, the UNHRC chief reportedly acknowledged the post-war progress in Sri Lanka. "This is a visit long overdue, but I felt that it’s much better that I come so that I’ll be in a position to report on the very many achievements that have been made," the president’s media quoted Pillay as having said. "Firstly, it was very visible to me in the North how much you have invested in reconstruction."

Speaking of the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the High Commissioner said she was very pleased with the establishment of a commission to look into war-time disappearances. The President and the High Commissioner also discussed reports that depicted Sri Lanka as a country of religious intolerance with Pillay saying she was surprised since Sri Lanka was generally known to have a culture of tolerance.

President Rajapaksa described that there had been isolated incidents and that the majority of Sri Lankans continue to coexist peacefully in all parts of the island. Pillay also said there has been "good cooperation" between her office and the Sri Lankan government in facilitating her visit and that she had received comprehensive briefings at all her meetings.

The presidential media office quoted President Rajapaksa as having told Pillay that many Sri Lankans believed that the UN was biased in the way it dealt with countries, and said that he urged those who voiced these concerns to him, not to prejudge the report Pillay was due to issue at the end of her visit.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 30 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Weliweriya episode: Four army officers relieved

Army Commander Lt-Gen Daya Ratnayake has ordered that four senior army officers be relieved of their posts, with immediate effect, to facilitate further inquiries being conducted into the shooting of unarmed protesters at Weliweriya on August 1, the day Ratnayake took over the command of the army.

Military spokesman Brig Ruwan Wanigasooriya told The Island yesterday that a Brigadier, who was in charge of the area, and three Lieutenant Colonels, who were his subordinate sector commanders, would be relieved from their duties and sent to their respective Regimental Centres until further notice.

"The Commander declared that the army’s assistance to the police at Weliweriya had been extended only after a clear request was made by the police and it was well within the legal framework, as it was in line with provisions of the Public Security Ordinance," he said.

The spokesman said that the Army was determined to bring the wrongdoers to book. Director of the Legal division Brigadier Ranjith Rajapathirana, who is the Chief Prosecutor of the Army, would examines the report of the Court of Inquiry and would then order Summary Evidence against any person who had violated the Military Law as a preliminary step to prosecuting such person through a Court Martial, he said.

Going a step further, Commander Ratnayake had ordered all concerned to extend maximum possible cooperation to the Colombo Crime Division and the Magistrate’s Court, the Military Spokesman said, adding that the Army Commander had also appointed a board of senior officers to study the findings of the court of inquiry and other relevant reports or details to make recommendations on how similar situations could be averted with regards to future military involvement.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 31 August 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai, Sharif meet in Islamabad

Afghan President Hamid Karzai embarked on his 20th visit to Pakistan in the past decade, and his first since Nawaz Sharif returned as Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Initially intended to be a one-day trip, it was eventually extended to a two day trip, which was seen as a sign of the progress made between the two parties.

Karzai had undertaken this trip, his first in 18 months, with the objective of improving bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have deteriorated significantly in recent months, and to seek Pakistan’s help in bringing the Taliban back to the negotiating table.

Karzia’s office issued a statement saying that it expected Pakistan to put "specific and practical" steps forward to make the peace talks fruitful. Pakistan agreed to "do its best" to arrange talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. It also claimed that it would make an effort to persuade the Taliban to open their political office in either Saudi Arabia or Turkey as per the wishes of the Afghan government. During the meetings, Afghan officials also accepted for the first time Pakistan’s contention that it doesn’t control the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, Sartaj Aziz said, "We can’t force them, and we don’t control them. But we will do our best, make our efforts to persuade them to talk".

Although no formal resolution on peace talks was reached, the two Governments signed an agreement to enhance economic cooperation and signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build a hydroelectric dam on the Kunar River. Pakistan also agreed to an "early and full implementation" of the transit agreement with Aghanistan. Pakistan also pledged to construct the second lane of Torkham-Jalalabad road, and extend the Lahore-Peshawar motorway to Kabul.

This meeting was met with a mixed reaction. Analysts based in Afghanistan believed that the meeting would help in improving bilateral relations between the two countries, especially economic and trade relations, but did not expect it to have too much of an impact on the peace process with the Taliban. It was felt that Pakistan had simply renewed its old promises and pledges, and that Karzai had pinned unrealistic hopes on Sharif, especially since he had failed even to get some Taliban prisoners released. Moreover, some analysts also doubted Pakistan’s sincerity and capability to complete the mega development projects that it was committed to given the state of its own economy.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 28 August, 2013; The Economic Times, 26 August, 2013; The Indian Express, 28 August, 2013; The Wall Street Journal, 27 August, 2013; Tolo News, 27 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Italy to stay on, post-2014

The Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta in a joint press conference with Hamid Karzai announced that Italy would retain its troops in Afghanistan after the bulk of the foreign troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014. The Italian troops will stay in Afghanistan to provide training and advice to the Afghan National Security Forces.

He also claimed that Italy would continue to provide support to Afghanistan in other sectors including education, rural development and economic development.

No specific details were provided regarding the exact number of Italian troops that would remain behind in Afghanistan. However, some reports suggest that the number could be between 500 and 700 troops.

Italy has deployed around 2,825 troops under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, and they are mainly based in western Herat province of Afghanistan.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian consortium to invest INR 7,000 crore

The Steel Authority of India (SAIL)-led consortium has agreed to invest 7,000 crore INR in Afghanistan for setting up a steel plant. The consortium had won a bid in 2011 to mine three iron ore mines at Hajigak in central Afghanistan. In addition to the extraction rights, the consortium was also committed to invest $10.8 billion for setting up a 6.2 million tonne per annum steel plant in two equal phases along with a 800 MW power plant.

However, India has decided to scale down the project to be developed in the first phase. As opposed to putting up a 3.2 million tonnes per annum steel plant in the initial phase, India has decided to put up plant that has a capacity of about 1.2 to 1.5 million tonnes per annum. The investment of 7,000 crore INR would also include the construction of necessary infrastructure like a railway line.

Afghanistan’s Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani, who was in town earlier this week and met senior SAIL officials, said that negotiations on the deal had been concluded. The SAIL-led consortium had assured it would deliver its commitment, but the project would be developed in phases, he added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 25 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New electoral alliance formed

A number of political parties have announced the formation of a new electoral alliance, "the Electoral Alliance of Afghanistan" for the Afghan Presidential Elections to be held in 2014.

The alliance includes National Coalition of Afghanistan, National Movement of Afghanistan, Wahdat-e-Islami party, Afghanistan green trend, Islamic people’s party, Justice and development party, Iqtidar-e-millie and a number of other political parties. The members of the new electoral alliance said that a single candidate will be nominated by them in the near future, to stand for the upcoming presidential elections. Atta Muhammad Noor, the Governor of Balkh province and a member of the coalition said, "After the Electoral Alliance of Afghanistan announces itself, it will begin working on the selection of the next president and his vices. A suitable candidate with a good vision will be nominated to contest the elections".

The leaders of the core Electoral Alliance members have held two meetings in the past week with other prominent Afghan political leaders in hopes of roping them in to the coalition, which is already the largest on the scene. Reportedly, some of individuals they have tried to recruit are among the widely regarded favorites for the Presidential elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Khaama Press, 29 August, 2013; Tolo News, 28 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jamaat can’t participate in polls: CEC

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed has said that Jamaat-e-Islami, the influential religious political party, is ineligible to fight election as a political party under the recent High Court verdict. However, CEC informed that its members can contest in the election as independent candidates but they have to choose new election symbol. Following the courts verdict Jamaat has lost its eligibility to run for election with its designated election symbol - scale. CEC further clarified that this doesn’t mean end of Jamaat’s political activities. The party has the option to apply for registration again, CEC opined.

On August 1, the High Court in a landmark judgement declared the registration of Jamaat-e-Islami "illegal" as a political party of Bangladesh. The judgement followed after a writ petition was filed challenging the legality of Jamaat’s registration as a political party. Bangladesh Tariqat Federation’s Secretary-General Rezaul Haque Chandpuri and 24 others filed the writ petition on January 25, 2009. The petitioners argued that Jamaat was a religion-based political party and it did not believe in independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh. The EC listed Jamaat as a registered political party violating the Constitution and the spirit of the Representation of the People Order (RPO) Ordinance, 2008, they added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 26 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Law Minister fears presence of Taliban

Expressing concern about the rise of fundamentalism in the country Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed this week said that the Taliban have entered some religion-based organisations in Bangladesh. He feared that such groups are willing to launch armed attacks on ordinary people and destabilise the country as well as hinder the democratic process. Minister made this comments while attending a three-day conference on ’SAARC Regional Judicial Conference on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing’, organised by the US Department of Justice in Dhaka. Minister further informed that after receiving training, the ’Talibans’ have joined some organisations that are trying to pursue religion-based politics and are resorting to terrorist activities. He further added that the activities of such organisations will not be tolerated under any circumstances. However, he refrained from revealing names of such organisation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 27 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New terror group busted

Security forces this week discovered existence of a new terrorist organisation called Ansar Ullah Bangla after it arrested nine activists of this group from capital Dhaka. According to security forces the group had planned to gain control of a part of the country and conduct armed jihad (struggle) from there to make Bangladesh a Sharia-based Islamic state. The group is accused of killing Ahmed Rajib Haider, a leader of Shahbagh movement in February this year. Anser Ullah follows the ideals, policy and strategy of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Pakistan-based Tehrik-e-Taliban.

The group aims at attacking law enforcement agencies’ armouries and seizing weapons to carry out armed Jihad across the country. It has built a radical Islamist network over the last five years and kept close contact with other Islamist militant groups inside the country.

The group which started as an online group active with blogs and websites, Ansar Ullah emerged as an organisation with a four-stage mission called Imara. The first level is Dawah- Dawah invites to and inspires people in armed jihad; the second, Idad, is the planning and preparation phase of the jihad In the third stage, Ribat, the organisation will carry out guerrilla attacks on atheists, the persons it considers rivals and government institutions. It will take responsibility for the attacks. The final stage, Kital, refers to the killing of all opposing forces to establish Sharia-based rule in the country. The team is currently at the Idad stage.

The Ansarulla team is financed by collections from affluent members who include private university students and those working abroad. The security forces have also said that the group’s websites are mostly controlled from Pakistan.

The group has links likes radical Islamist groups such as Hefajat-e Islam and many members of the group worked as volunteers at Hefajat’s May 5 Dhaka siege programme. Some English newspapers also claimed that Ansarullah had links with such banned Islamist militant groups as Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al Islami (Huji) and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Although the security forces are yet to ascertain the exact strength of the organisation, it claimed that Ansar Ullah is active in Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Barguna, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 26 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Friendship with India can’t be one-sided: Minister

Communication Minister Obaidul Quader on Wednesday reviewed the Bangladesh-India relations and expressed his frustration saying that "friendship cannot be one-sided."

"The Indian government should remember that we are also accountable to our people for our role and each and every action," he told a function ahead of a march for "Janmaaustomi" in the city adding that India should move fast to improve "our bilateral ties." He made his remark in presence of India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Bangladesh Sandeep Chakravorty apparently for India’s failure to implement the Teesta River’s water-sharing deal and ratify the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh.

Mr Quader, also a presidium member of the ruling Awami League, said the government of Sheikh Hasina had extended its friendship and full cooperation to India but unfortunately the Indian side fell far short of fulfillment of their promise.

Referring to the Teesta water-sharing deal, the minister said: "We were shocked and surprised when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerji declined to ink the accord. We naturally expected a good neighbourly attitude from our Indian friends."

These unresolved issues are likely to be discussed widely and openly by the politicians leaving an impact on the forthcoming national election in Bangladesh expected to be held at the end of December this year or early next year.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 29 August, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Joint border survey with China

At the 21st round of boundary talks between the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China was held in Thimphu on August 22, the two sides agreed to conduct a joint technical field survey in the first week of September in Pasamlung area in Bumthang.

The Bhutanese delegation was led by foreign minister (MoFA) Rinzin Dorje comprised of international boundaries secretary Dasho Pema Wangchuk, foreign secretary Yeshey Dorji and officials from the MoFA and the international boundary secretariat.

The eight-member Chinese delegation led by vice foreign minister Mr Liu Zhenmin that arrived in the capital on August 21 also called on the Lyonchhen.

Mr Zhenmin said regardless of the absence of diplomatic ties, Bhutan and China have upheld political contacts, economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges over the decades.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay commended on these engagements and thanked the Chinese delegation for visiting Bhutan soon after the formation of the new government. Lyonchhen also said that the visit was a testimony of active communication and friendly relationship between the two countries.

A news release from MoFA stated the two delegations expressed satisfaction with the talks and reaffirmed their commitment to resolve the boundary at the earliest through mutual consultation understanding and accommodation of the basis of the four guiding principles agreed to in 1988 and 1998 agreement of the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the Bhutan-China border areas.

"The talks were held in a free and pleasant manner. It provided the opportunity for the two sides to better understand each other’s position on the issues related to boundary and in arriving at an early and amicable settlement of the boundary between the two countries," stated the press release.

The 20th round of boundary talks was held in Thimphu on August 2012. During the intervening period the fifth expert group meeting was held in Lhasa on 18 October 2012.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Bhutanese, 23 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM to meet Indian counterpart

In his first official visit after becoming Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay will arrive in New Delhi on Friday and meet the top Indian leadership during which key bilateral issues like financial assistance for the Himalayan nation will be discussed.

"During the visit, all areas of mutual interest including our political, security, developmental, economic and cultural cooperation, will be discussed," the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

During his six-day visit, he will hold comprehensive talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh and senior union cabinet ministers including External Affairs, Finance and Home will call on the visiting dignitary.

The visit comes at a time when India is considering Bhutan government’s proposal for financial assistance of Rs. 4,500 crore under 11th Plan apart from a demand of Rs 800 crore to meet their cash crunch for small developmental projects.

Bhutan had given the presentation on their proposal last week during the visit of the Indian Plan team led by Special Secretary of Development Partnership Administration PS Raghavan in the MEA. According to sources, the government is considering the Bhutanese proposal and also the accountability aspect of it.

Tobgay will be accompanied by his spouse Aum Tashi Doma, Foreign Minister Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje, and senior officials from the Royal Government of Bhutan.

He will have a joint meeting with business chambers Assocham, FICCI and CII and will also travel to Hyderabad on September 3, 2013 where he will visit the CII Green Business Centre and the IT Park at Madhapur.

< class="text11verdana">Source:PTI, August 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New formula for measuring growth rate

Acknowledging the current state of the economy as the biggest challenge for the Government, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said a study has been undertaken to gauge actual growth rate of the economy, by segregating the hydropower sector from the economy’s measurement of gross domestic product.

"If we go by the growth rate today, which is around eight percent, there is no need for injecting money in the economy in the form of a stimulus package," the prime minister said on August 30 during the new government’s first meet the press session with local reporters.

Including the hydropower sector, the prime minister said, did not provide a real picture of economic growth in the country, because most of the money that comes in for hydropower construction goes out of the country through foreign contractors.

"We need to separate the two: economic activities in the hydropower sector and activities outside the sector and, therefore, the national level task force is in the process of doing this," Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay said.

"If we go by the GDP growth, we wouldn’t be needing money to inject in the economy, but the reality is that the economy has run out of cash, Rupees, and our private sector needs money to do business, therefore the government felt the need for a stimulus fund," he added.

He also said that several areas were identified, which would be injected with money from the Rs 5B stimulus fund.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel, August 30, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MVR 1.6-b deficit with five months to go

With five more months to go for the end of the financial year, the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has said that at the end of July, Government expenditure exceeded government revenue by MVR 1.6 billion. In the Monthly Economic Review, MMA said that at the end of July, the total revenue and grants received by the Government was MVR 6.3 billion, while the total expenditure stood at MVR 7.9 billion.

MMA said that at the end of July 2013, total revenue had increased by MVR 872.3 million or 16 per cent when compared with the corresponding period in 2012. During this period in 2013, the highest collection was from tax, which was MVR 2 billion as Goods and Services Tax, MVR 1.1 billion as Business Profit Tax, and MVR 781.7 million as import duty.

Non-tax revenue went down by MVR 1.2 billion, a 17 percent decrease when compared with the corresponding period last year. The highest drop in non-tax revenue, with a decline of 86 percent, was from revenue from State-owned enterprises. MMA said that resort lease rent increased by 13 percent, while grants decreased by 32 percent during this period.

The major expenditure by the Government as at the end of July 2013 was current expenditure, which at MVR 6.6 billion, accounting for an increase of 25 percent when compared with the corresponding period of 2012. As part of the current expenditure, MVR 3.3 billion was spent on salaries and allowances, which is an increase of MVR 873.7 million or 35 percent.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, 30 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP files complaint against First Lady

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has filed a complaint against First Lady Ilham Hussain regarding her donation to Meemu Malaku School. Ilham, wife of presidential candidate of Forward with the Nation coalition Dr Mohamed Waheed, recently donated MVR 100,000 to Mulaku School.

MDP’s Complaints Committee, set up for the presidential election, said that the purpose of this donation by Ilham is to influence the election. The party requested the Election Commission to take action against Ilham under Article 11 (a) of the Presidential Elections Regulation.

Ilham made the donation to Mulaku School at a meeting of the school Board on 27 August. An official of the school said that the money was donated after the school made a request to the President about four months ago, regarding the improvement and development of the school’s computer lab.

Spokesperson of Forward with the Nation coalition Abdul Rasheed Nafiz has since clarified that Ilham made this donation to Mulaku School in her personal capacity.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, 30 August 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’JP does not use outside funds’

Jumhooree Party (JP) Political Secretary Kunooz Ajmal, has said that the coalition does not use outside funds so that they do not have to pay back the funds.Talking to newsmen in Male, that other political parties resorted to such methods, in return for the sale of State assets if their candidate became President. "It is called the return on investments," he said.

If elected, JP’s presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim would fight corruption, Ajmal said. "Corruption has been rampant in the country in the past two three years. The loss to the State has reached five-billion ruffiya," he said. Under a JP-led dispensation any person charged with corruption, independent of the high office he may hold, would be tried for the offence.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, 29 August 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LS passes Food Security Bill

The Lok Sabha on Monday approved the UPA’s showpiece legislation-the Food Security Bill-that entitles two-thirds of Indians to cheap food, with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the driving force behind the law, making an impassioned plea to "wipe out hunger and malnutrition" from the country.

The bill, which now goes to the Rajya Sabha, has been described as India’s most ambitious welfare initiative as it gives more than 800 million Indians a legal right to subsidised grains. The UPA is keen that the bill, a Congress poll promise, is passed at the earliest in an election year as another such welfare scheme-MNREGA-helped it return to power in 2009.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 27 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Terror mastermind Yasin Bhatkal held in Nepal

Yasin Bhatkal, one of the founders of the Indian Mujhadeen and one of India’s most wanted terrorists, responsible for several bombings that have claimed more than 200 lives, has been arrested.

The 30-year old, whose real name is Ahmed Siddibappa, was picked from Pokhra in Nepal where he was living in the guise of a Unani doctor. The successful operation of the Intelligence Bureau, which was facilitated by Nepal, also yielded a bonus in the person of Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, an absconding front-ranking member of IM’s Azamgarh module, who had played a crucial role in the 2011 serial blasts in Mumbai.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 30 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four-year low in growth

India’s economic growth crashed to a nearly four-year low o 4.4% in April-June this year from 4.8% in the previous quarter, proving fears of a widespread slowdown with factories producing less, companies offering fewer jobs and prices remaining high.

The estimate of India’s gross domestic product (GDP)-the broadest measure of value of all goods and services produced in the country-put out by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Friday demonstrated a deeply hurt economy hit by a toxic mix of a free-falling rupee, dipping investments, high borrowing cons and rising prices.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 31 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rupee’s slump continues

The rupee continued its free fall against the dollar touching a record low of 68.80 on Wednesday. While bond yields rose sharply, stock prices remained choppy. The rupee nosedived by 3.7 per cent to an all time low of 68.80/81 compared to its previous close 66.24/25.

The fear of a possible US led military attack on Syria is leading to considerable outflows from emerging markets. Though the rupee recovered some of its losses momentarily as the RBI intervened, it later shed all of its gains. The passage of food security bill by Lok Sabha has also put further pressure on rupee, as it has raised doubts about the government’s intentions to control fiscal deficit.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Hindu, 29 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China’s plans for LAC rejected

New Delhi has conveyed to Beijing that it will not be possible to ’freeze’ the infrastructure construction and forces at existing levels along the LAC. China and India are at present working to have a new Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA).

Both sides have exchanged drafts of what they opine should form part of the new agreement. It is expected to be inked when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits China sometime in October this year. The last meeting was conducted on August 20 between Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.

The existing levels of roads, railways and airfields, all critical for military supplies or in case of an attack, are lopsided in favour of China, a top functionary told The Tribune.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Tribune, 26 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Strategic’ energy ties with Iraq

India and Iraq Friday decided to take their energy trading cooperation to a higher level of a strategic partnership through joint ventures in oil exploration, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his visiting Iraqi counterpart Nouri-al-Maliki held talks and both sides inked four agreements.

In a statement after inking the agreements, Manmohan Singh said Maliki’s visit would impart a "new dynamism" to their bilateral ties.

"Prime Minister Maliki and I have agreed that our energy trading relationship should be turned into a strategic partnership, including through joint ventures in oil exploration, petrochemical complexes and fertilizer plants," he said, adding that the MoU signed Friday would help in that.

Iraq is India’s second-largest supplier of crude at more than 12 percent of total imports. Besides energy cooperation, both sides signed an agreement on water resource management, with India to help in management of the Tigris and Euphrates and other rivers in Iraq that have suffered in the long years of war.

An MoU was also inked between the respective foreign ministries on foreign office consultations and between the Foreign Service Institutes of India’s external affairs ministry and the Iraqi counterpart for training diplomats.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, 23 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">OVL to pick up stake in Mozambique

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Limited (OVL), on Monday, announced that it would buy a 10 per cent stake in a giant Mozambique gas field from Anadarko Petroleum Corp of US for a $ 2.64 billion.

In a statement issued in New Delhi, OVL said to buy 10 per cent stake from Anadarko in Mozambique’s offshore Rovuma Area 1, where up to 65 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves are to be converted into LNG for transportation to markets like India. With this, OVL has transacted almost $ 11 billion in energy deals since last September.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, 27 August, 2013

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

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