MonitorsPublished on Nov 29, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, was a black day in the contemporary history of Indian media. It was on this day news about the owner-cum-Editor-in Chief of an investigative weekly - Tehelka - Tarun Tejpal's alleged sexual assault on one of his own colleagues in a lift of a five-star hotel in Goa,
India: Owner-Editor charged with rape, media comes under focus
< class="heading1">Analysis

Wednesday, November 20, was a black day in the contemporary history of Indian media. It was on this day news about the owner-cum-Editor-in Chief of an investigative weekly - Tehelka - Tarun Tejpal’s alleged sexual assault on one of his own colleagues in a lift of a five-star hotel in Goa, where a Thinkfest had been organised by Tehelka, broke into the media.

The incident, according to the young victim, had happened two times in succession on November 7 and 8 when the influential media owner, who had exposed many big political leaders for little over a decade, stood exposed for his alleged sexual misdeed.

The victim, after gathering the necessary courage, brought the shameful incident into the open by writing an email to the weekly’s managing editor demanding an inquiry and an apology from Tejpal on November 18. Only after her email became public did the tragic episode came into the public domain.

Though this is the first incident that has come into the public glare on account of a growing civil society discourse on issues concerning polity, society and governance, information about illegal amassing of wealth and other unethical deeds by not so straight forward means of high-profile media barons and power media personalities have been the topic of discussion in drawing rooms, government and corporate offices for some years now contributing to popular cynicism.

Incidentally, this trend has been in vogue in smaller towns where a nexus between the local politician, bureaucracy and small media had developed over the years. In mofussil towns, small newspaper owner-cum editors often became the practitioners of "blackmail" journalism. This trend slowly but surely was followed by the big media and ushering in of the era of economic liberalisation hastened the process.

While the country’s law and order machinery would hopefully take necessary steps to ensure that the powerful Editor-in-Chief does not go unpunished according to the law of the land, the incident has triggered an intense debate on the role of media.

A clear manifestation of malaise is clearly evident in charges and counter-charges that are being traded between the different political parties, particularly among the two national parties diverting the attention from the merit of the case.

Media has grown exponentially in the last couple of decades, particularly after the Congress government in 1992 began the process of economic reforms. Today, India has over 70,000 newspapers printing about 100 million copies. About 700 satellite channels, including roughly 80 news channels, operate disseminating their respective content. Indian media and entertainment industry is likely to double in size by 2017, says a FICCI-KPMG report. The industry, whose current size is estimated at INR 91,700 crores, is expected to go up to INR 1, 66,000 crores.

But, with the growth, the industry, particularly the current news related media, has also witnessed fall in standards of journalism as greed rather than healthy profit has increasingly been becoming one of the important drivers for the media owners. As competition between the traditional rival media groups as well as among new media entities grew as they came under pressure to break the news, often enough, unverified and unconfirmed news came to be carried in print as well as in the audio-visual media. In recent years, media institutions have even opened their news pages for carrying news by accepting payments from interested parties, including politicians and political parties. This came to be known as ’paid news’.

In this process, credibility and authenticity of information became the obvious victims. Freedom of expression defined as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution was rightfully interpreted and understood as the freedom of the press, but in the last couple of years the right of the freedom of the press turned into freedom of the owners of media rather than of media’s day-to-day practitioners (working journalists).

Having raised an accusing finger on media owners, even journalists have failed to rise to the occasion and have played the game willingly for promoting their careers and other benefits. Much needs to be done on the front of the training of updating their media skills. Precisely for this and other reasons, there is an urgent need to take a comprehensive and detailed view of the media industry.

In this background, several prominent voices have been asking for an informed debate on the issue. US philosopher, linguist and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky had observed couple of years ago during an interaction that India will have to develop media studies to understand the inner mechanism and tricks of the media. Still, it is a neglected field; he said and added that no serious study has been done in India.

Role of media in strengthening and maturing of democracy is widely accepted and is considered a vital institution for spreading democratic values. It is widely believed that weakening of media as an institution would prove detrimental to growth of a democratic way of life.

There have been suggestions for some years now that the media should evolve a self-regulatory code of conduct for itself, but an argumentative and deeply divided media has failed to produce one, thereby, disappointing a section of media supporters.

It is high time that a commission, as the Leveson inquiry set up in the United Kingdom in 2011 after the phone-hacking scandal, was constituted which should be asked to look into the entire gamut of issues related with the entire range of media including the social media.

In the absence of a deep surgical probe, media would continue to cause damage to polity and society and in the process causing serious erosion of people’s trust in democratic institutions.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives: President Yameen begins well, yet road-blocks remain

N Sathiya Moorthy

True to his public commitment on election to the nation’s highest office, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen has extended an arm of all-round reconciliation. The MDP Opposition, whose nominee and former President Mohammed Nasheed lost the polls by a narrow margin, too has risen to the occasion. It will yet require all their collective will and commitment to stay the course, with scheduled elections to local councils and Parliament possibly occasioning a return to political adversity, if not unacceptable hostility.

Symbolising the reconciliation was the prompt MDP withdrawal of the no-trust motion against Deputy Speaker in Parliament, Ahmed Nazim who belongs to President Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), in an Opposition-controlled House. As if by cue, the Government side rendered a similar move against Speaker Abdulla Shahid (MDP) ineffectual. President Yameen had to silence murmurs of protest from the PPM camp after two party MPs withdrew from the no-trust move against the Speaker. It sent out ’confusing signals’ but only for a while. The murmurs died down and the reconciliation has held, since.

A more significant concession to the Opposition was the resignation of Commissioner of Police Abulla Riyaz, the nation’s top cop. The MDP was critical of his role in the controversial power-transfer of 7 February 2012, when President Nasheed quit and his Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik took over as per existing constitutional provisions. The party was unhappy with the functioning of Riyaz even afterward.

Armed forces at bay

Addressing larger issues and concerns, the new Government has proposed to bring up a Bill before the People’s Majlis, or Parliament, proposing disciplinary action and procedure against errant personnel of the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF). Both during the pre-democratisation era and afterward, the MNDF too has been in the eye of political storms. Frequent transfers and summary dismissals, caused possibly by the over-politicisation and political misuse and abuse of the forces were not wholly uncommon. It should surprise any student of military history that Maldives does not have a disciplinary law for the armed forces. It is hoped that the new law would address not only individual acts of ’indiscipline’ but also ’institutional lapses’, protecting the MNDF hierarchy from political acts of avoidable transfers and demotions, and continually testing their ’loyalty’ to the State (read: ’loyalty’ to the person of the incumbent President).

Despite bifurcation of the National Security Service (NSS) into MNDF and the Maldives Police Service (MPS), Presidents, both during pre-democratisation era and afterward, had been known to have commanded the former to execute what patently were illegal acts of arrests and the like. Anyway, under the bifurcation formula, such arrests and the like fell within the mandated responsibilities of the MPS, which unlike the MNDF was directly answerable to the nation’s judiciary.

However, the current efforts come on the footsteps of the Yameen Government dismissing at least eight MNDF officials in two groups, on charges of ’spreading hatred’. It flowed from some of the dismissed officials, including two seniors in the rank of Brigadier-General, one of them demoted, being identified with what could be described as ’independent’ or ’anti-government’ campaign since the power-transfer of 2012.

MDP’s Nasheed has promptly criticised the dismissals. It remains to be seen how the party reacts on the issue and the promised new Bill, in Parliament and outside. While defending the dismissals, the Defence Ministry has said that it was in consultation with authorities on initiating legal action against those making such criticism. Both the MDP charges and the caution about possible action are remnants from the poll-time past, and has the potential to rock the ’reconciliation boat’ in more ways than one. One way could be to address issues futuristically as a nation, and see if and how the uniformed services could be ’de-politicised’ completely, as is prevalent in many matured democracies.

Responsive to internal compulsions

Responsive to internal compulsions of the PPM-led coalition from the second round, he named Umar Naseer, who had contested him for the PPM presidential nomination, and also went to court subsequently, as the all-important Home Minister. Naseer had sided with Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential hopeful Gasim Ibrahim, yet throughout the campaign seemed not to have resorted to political or personal attacks against the PPM and its leadership. He is a JP nominee in the Cabinet.

Unlike the observed approach of predecessors, President Yameen seems to be keen on sharing official responsibilities with Vice-President, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, a PhD holder in criminal law from the UK. That was an issue over which President Nasheed and Vice-President Waheed differed, for instance, contributing in no small measure to the subsequent controversies in no small measure.

At the time, supporters of President Nasheed had argued that under the ’US model’ adopted by Maldives, the Vice-President was a stand-in for the President should the office fall vacant, and did not have any constitutional responsibilities, otherwise. In the Yameen dispensation, Vice-President Jameel, for instance, discussed the ’visa issue’ with Indian High Commissioner, Rajeev Sahare, indicating that he had a portfolio to call his own, thus sharing and shouldering part-responsibilities of his President.

Consensual economic policy?

Based on the parliamentary poll results of 2009, President Nasheed declared that there were only two major political parties in the country - namely, his MDP and the one led President Maummon Abdul Gayoom, his predecessor for 30 long years. On issues and common concerns of the nation, it did not translate into a ’bi-partisan approach’ to policy-making or programme-identification. The reasons were for too many, including less-talked-about ideological differences within the Gayoom-led Dhivehi Rayyathunge Party (DRP) and the breakaway PPM.

By boldly talking about ’lean government’ and slashing Government expenditure even in his first news conference after election, President Yameen has adopted a policy otherwise close to the MDP’s heart. He straightaway offered to cut his presidential pay by half and ordered the recall of the 2014 Budget from Parliament, with the direction to the Finance Ministry to cut down projections by MVR 1 billion.

Following in the footsteps of President Nasheed, President Yameen has also caused a review of pays and/or perks at all levels of Government and ’Independent Institutions’ under the Constitution. In a nation with little job opportunities, the State provides employment to over 10 per cent of the population. The pay bill recorded a two-thirds hike in the last two years of the Gayoom presidency (2006-08).

It remains to be seen if President Yameen will be able to proceed on the same road. Before him President Nasheed found himself balancing the 20-percent cut in pays and staff-strength with ’freebies’ for select constituencies, and lifting the artificially pegging of the Maldivian ’ruffiya’ against the US dollar, all proving to be politically unpopular. The Nasheed dispensation could not also resist the political temptation of creating elected, full-time island councillors, with pay and perks, adding to the Treasury’s woes. President Yameen has called for a review of the scheme, as had been promised when he was in the Opposition in Parliament.

Visible road-blocks

For all the good intentions and better equations that President Yameen is striving to achieve with the MDP Opposition and allies alike, it is inevitable that the political road ahead is strewn with bumps and pot-holes. Even before the ink on the presidential polls dried, the Election Commission (EC) could not escape scheduling nation-wide local council polls for 18 March, followed by the all-important parliamentary polls on 22 March.

In the ordinary circumstances, the heat generated by the presidential polls does not inspire confidence in the current reconciliation process. For the street-smart MDP, the upcoming polls are a healthy way to re-energise their cadre, demoralised by the results of the presidential election. For President Yameen, he will have to extend the electability of his leadership beyond the immediate self, which ’coalition calculus’ alone made possible.

For now, President Yameen isnot unlikely to leave party and coalition politics to the care of President Gayoom, the PPM chief and half-brother. His Government and leadership cannot escape the burden of any reverses, particularly on the coalition front. It will be more so in the upcoming elections to Parliament, where already the MDP coalition has a majority.

Incidentally, President Nasheed did not have the parliamentary majority that his Government sourly needed when in office. They could manage it only after the 2013 presidential polls were well under way, the Supreme Court having annulled the first-round elections of 7 September. The DRP, which President Gayoom had founded only to leave to form the PPM, has since joined the MDP coalition with seven or eight MPs to call its own, but its electoral contribution, as witnessed during the presidential poll, was next-to-nothing.

The JP can be expected to demand its pound of flesh in seat-sharing talks within the Government, for the 23 per cent, first-round Gasim vote-share that it could actually ’transfer’ to Yameen in the second-round of the presidential polls. Even otherwise, the party has been reacting cautiously to post-poll initiatives of President Yameen. The JP seems to have arrogated to itself the role of a ’political watch-dog’, otherwise the role of the MDP, which has promised to show thehow a ’responsible Opposition should conduct itself’.

Another ’second-round partner’ of President Yameen, religion-centric Adhaalath Party (AP) has since indicated its intention to go it alone in the local council polls and the parliamentary elections. The party is now a partner in the Yameen Government. Its decision to go it alone in crucial polls is akin to its decision while supporting the MDP in the second round in 2008 presidential polls and partnering the Nasheed Government, until pulling out and taking to the streets on ’Islam-related issues’.

Though the AP may not win many parliamentary seats, it can make a dent on the local council front, more than it did in the earlier round. The party can also make a difference in ’marginal seats’ in the parliamentary elections. This should be a cause of concern for the leadership of the ruling coalition. Yet, some of the AP’s ideological positions too could be cause for political concern for the new Government and its leadership.

Early checks on hand

Ahead of the twin polls to the local councils and Parliament in the first quarter of the New Year, December promises to be a crucial and critical month for Yameen presidency. The Opposition-controlled Parliament should vote the revised Budget for 2014 before the year is out. Speaker Shahid has also scheduled parliamentary approval for Yameen’s Cabinet appointees for 29 December, which promises to be dramatic under ordinary circumstances.

In the Yameen Cabinet are members that the MDP had frowned upon for their alleged role in 2012 ’power-transfer’ and afterward, too. Adapting the US model to suit prevailing mood of the Gayoom era, the Maldivian Constitution provides not only for the Majlis to clear individual Cabinet Ministers. It also empowers the Majlis to recall individual Ministers at will and vote them out.

The democratisation era has already had its quota of controversies surrounding delayed Parliament clearance, denied clearance, recall and vote-outs. MDP’s Nasheed has declared that the party does not believe in a coalition arrangement and it will vote only President Yameen’s Government, as the 48 percent voters who cast their lot with him too believed. Translated, it could mean that the MDP may clear the five PPM members of the Cabinet, and hold back confirmation for the other 10, who represent the Yameen Government’s ’coalition interests’.

Through the next five years of rule, President Yameen mkay be faced with possibilities of ministers’ recall, not only during immediate ’confirmation proceedings’ but also otherwise. Unless the MDP leadership intervenes, it is not unlikely that the proceedings of the party-controlled ’Government Oversight Committee’ of Parliament, which would initiate the ’confirmation proceedings’ could witness certain fireworks. How it translates into floor-level operation/cooperation in the House as a whole will remain to be seen, that too during the long run-up to the parliamentary polls in March.

All this would it imperative for his Government and the ruling coalition to go all out to ensure a parliamentary majority in the President’s favour, post-poll. The MDP for now has promised parliamentary support for policies akin to its own, but how far would the promise hold remains to be seen in the context of ground-level political realities - again, with the local council polls and parliamentary elections due in the upcoming weeks. In all this, the MDP leadership would have to carry the ’politically sensitive’ cadres with it, if they were not to be demoralised further.

MP jailed for ’contempt’ - and freed

An early sign of post-poll reconciliation involved the Yameen leadership encouraging MDP parliamentarian Hamid Abdul Ghafoor to end his month-long ’refuge’ in Parliament and move homeward in capital Male, to escape six-month imprisonment for ’contempt of court’. Home Minister Umar Naser had said at the time that the Government will do what is possible in the case within the existing law. He even justified ’house-stay’ for Ghafoor, explaining that the Government did not have resources to produce him in Parliament, three or four times a day for him to participate in the proceedings, after putting him in an island-prison.

The Supreme Court has since ruled that parliamentary privileges amounting to violation of court orders wold not hold in law. The Government has since been left with little option but to send Ghafoor to prison for running the term for contempt. It is however unclear if and how the Government would proceed against Ghafoor and other MDP leaders, arrested and charged with consumption of alcohol and drugs, when President Waheed was in office.

The MDP promptly condemned the Hamid Ghafoor’s imprisonment. "This does not bode well for co-operation or compromise between the opposition and the ruling administration," the party said, referring to Yameen’s post-poll commitment to be ’President of all Maldivians’. The MDP claimed that the ’courts are in control of the Executive’, and Nasheed himself claimed that the government could now arrest Opposition MPs on the eve of crucial votes in Parliament.

It may be recalled that almost through the shortened presidency of Nasheed, the MDP had claimed that the Judiciary was opposed to the Executive. The Government was tied with Parliament and the Judiciary over the constitution of the Supreme Court Bench under the Constitution, leading and contributing to the MNDF lock-down of the SC premises for a day, under presidential orders. It may be pertinent that any wholesale revisit of the post-democratisation government processes, if undertaken, will have to address issues such as the one flagged by the ’Hamid case’, to see how other nations handle such issues.

For now, however, in a further turn of events that has the potential to cement post-poll reconciliation efforts, the High Court overturned the lower court sentencing of Hamid, MP, for contempt. In doing so, the High Court cited his written apology to the trial court for not honouring the summons for the first time. The HC also pointed out that the trial court order was not covered by the post facto subsequent Supreme Court judgment.

MP Hamid was promptly freed from prison after the High Court verdict was known. It now remains to be seen if the State wold go on in appeal against the High Court order. Technicalities and legal possibilities still not with-standing, on the next course, if any, of the ’Hamid contempt case’ will be a marker for President Yameen’s commitment to political reconciliation.

’Judge Abdulla case’

Sooner than later, the Yameen Government will also have to take a call on the criminal case pending against President Nasheed in the ’Judge Abdulla abduction case’. This was again a case initiated by the Waheed presidency but with the PPM, JP and others participating in the Government and supporting it in Parliament. If resurrected, the issue has the potential to become a ’live issue’ for the twin elections that are now ahead. It has a greater potential to derail the step-by-step process of national reconciliation, on which the Yameen presidency and the MDP are participating enthusiastically but are still taking one step after another careful step.

Faced with the theoretical possibility of disqualification from contesting the presidential polls, Nasheed had promised to stand trial after the elections and the international community was pleading for an ’inclusive poll’ of the kind that the results justified, post facto. It is both a critical and sensitive issue for the MDP in particular, but it also has the potential to blow up into a political controversy within the ruling coalition and the nation as a whole, particularly in the midst of high-spirited campaigns for the local council and parliamentary polls.

President Yameen will require all his political ingenuity and persuasive powers to carry the coalition and/or the nation, whichever decision he takes in the matter, whatever be the time or the time-limit. To do so without distracting from his current efforts at national reconciliation and reviving the fallen economy are tasks that he may be cut out for - yet, find it challenging, time and energy-consuming, all the same!

President Nasheed has promptly denied social media rumours that he would be contesting the parliamentary polls. Even as the MDP is busy preparing to face two new polls in as many months in the New Year, it should be working to re-position Nasheed in the internal scheme of things. The party and the leader are inseparable. After a point, the party now seems to need the leader more than the other way round. Or, so it seems. The party will need to keep Nasheed relevant to its internal and external political schemes for the foreseeable future.

The ’Judge Abdulla case’ and the like are thus as much political opportunities as they are personal inconvenience to President Nasheed! Needless to recall that it may have been the decision of the Nasheed presidency to summon predecessor Gayoom to a police station for questioning on issues purportedly pertaining to the latter’s days in office that changed the course of Maldivian history. President Yameen declared on his election that there would be ’no witch-hunting’ of the MDP regime. But did he mean to include personal cases against individuals then in office was/is unclear.

Nor is it clear how far and how much can the Government do in the matter of cases that are already pending before various courts. Yet, such a line will not convince anyone, politically nearer home and diplomatically, elsewhere. That can re-launch an avoidable cycle all over again. However, the MDP would also be under strain of having to win most seats in the two rounds of upcoming polls - and at the same time reassure Maldivians, including some of the peripheral voters for Nasheed in the presidential polls, that they are not there to try and torpedo the Yameen presidency at the first available opportunity. It’s also the kind of political challenge facing the Yameen presidency, viz the MDP Opposition in particular but the coalition partners, too, otherwise.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yameen visiting India

Keeping with the post-democratisation tradition, President Abdulla Yameen will be going to India on his first maiden overseas visit after assuming office. He will be visiting New Delhi on 22 December and meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two days later.

During the visit, the two leaders, as also their official delegations, are expected to discuss a whole range of bilateral issues and concerns, including political stability and economy in Maldives, restoration of pre-departure visa for Maldivians visiting India and protection for Indian migrants working in Maldives, maritime and security issues, etc.

The visit follows Prime Minister Singh inviting President Yameen, in his response to the latter’s ’Thank you’ note for Indian leader greeting him on assuming office. In their communication, both leaders had underscored the special relationship that existed between their two nations. President Yameen also invited Prime Minister Singh to visit Maldives.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Haveeru Online, 29 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China to provide $ 8.2-m aid

The Government of China has decided to provide aid worth $ 8.2 million to the Maldives, for the implementation of developmental projects and improvement of public services by the new administration in the country. Chinese Ambassador Yu Hongyao announced this while paying a courtesy call on the new Maldivian President, Abdulla Yameen.

At the meeting, President Yameen thanked the Chinese Government and people on behalf of the Maldivian Government and people for the generous aid. He mentioned that official bilateral relations were established between the two countries 41 years ago, and thanked the Chinese government for its efforts to strengthen those relations.

He said that his government will prioritise strengthening relations between Maldives and China, and highlighted the importance of easing visa procedures for Maldivians traveling to China. President Yameen noted that while the Maldives has received one million tourists this year, tourist arrivals was highest from China; and said that the government hopes that tourist arrivals from China continues to increase in the future.

President Yameen said that the Government plans to revise the nation’s foreign policy, which includes expanding transactions with countries such as China, Japan, India and the US. He said that special divisions will be created in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for these countries.

At the meeting which took place at the President’s Office, the Chinese Ambassador congratulated President Yameen on his assumption of office, and said that he is confident that the relations between Maldives and China will continue to grow with the current Government.

< class="text11verdana">Source:SunOnline, 28 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">I’m no saint or icon: Suu Kyi

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on 28 November insisted she was no saint and no icon, saying she disliked the titles and had always seen herself as an honest politician.

"I always thought that I was a politician, I look upon myself as a politician, not as an icon," she told an audience in Sydney during her first visit to Australia. "I always object to the word icon, because it’s very static, it stands there, sits there, hangs on the wall, and I happen to work very, very hard." The Nobel Peace Prize winner said she disliked being called a saint even more than an icon.

"Let me assure you I am no saint of any kind; this I find very troubling, because politicians are politicians, but I do believe there is such a thing as an honest politician and I aspire to that," she said. During her trip to Australia, Suu Kyi will also visit Melbourne and Canberra, meeting Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 28 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rice bowl plan, back to the future

Myanmar plans to more than double exports of rice shipments challenging Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia for sales amid a global glut.

Shipments may increase to 2.5 million tonnes in 2014-2015 from an estimated 1.8 million tons in the year that started April 1, according to Toe Aung Myint, Director General of the department of trade promotion at the Ministry of Commerce. Exports are targeted to increase to 4.8 million tonnes in 2019-20, Toe said in an interview in Hong Kong. Myanmar’s President Thein Sein said the country can supply food to the region, provided it attracts investment. While infrastructure bottlenecks and competition for sales are seen complicating the drive to increase shipments, the country’s exports are cheaper than output from rivals including Thailand.

"Myanmar has a capacity to produce more but its logistics do not allow them to export a large volume," said Mamadou Ciss, president of Alliance Commodities (Suisse) SA, which handles 400,000 tonnes a year. "Port facilities are very congested. It needs to work more on facilities and quality".

The price of Thai 5 percent broken white rice, an Asian benchmark, tumbled 24 percent to US$442 a ton this year. World reserves will expand 1.2 percent to 109.3 million tons in 2013-2014 as stockpiles in the five largest exporters including Thailand, India and Vietnam expand to records, according to forecasts from the London-based International Grains Council.

"Cheap rice from Myanmar makes the grain become attractive, compared with Thailand and Vietnam, which are about US$80 a ton more expensive," said Kiattisak Kanlayasirivat, a Bangkok-based director at Ascend Commodities SA, which trades about 500,000 tons a year. "Sales will continue to increase".

Milled rice supply is expected to total 12.9 million tons this crop year, topping local demand of 11 million tons, and output may increase to 13.3 million tons next season, Toe said. Export figures and forecasts include trade with China, which accounts for about half of total shipments, he said.

The rice industry contributed about 13 per cent of gross domestic product in 2011, and more than 70 percent of the population is connected with the trade, according to a presentation from Toe. Myanmar’s strengths are low production costs, vast land and abundant water and labour, according to a 2012 study from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 28 November, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President, military chief decline talks proposal

Myanmar’s President U Thein Sein and Military Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing have declined a request from opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for a meeting to discuss amendments to the constitution, presidential spokesman U Ye Htut said on November 27.

The opposition leader had proposed that she represent the National League for Democracy at the meeting and that it also be attended by President U Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw, Thura U Shwe Mann.

U Ye Htut said it would not be appropriate to hold such a meeting when the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw’s constitution review joint committee was seeking public submissions on proposals to amend the constitution.

The submissions will form the basis of a report which the committee will submit to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw by January 31 next year.

"Discrepancies could occur if a such a meeting were to be held before the constitution review joint committee makes its report," U Ye Htut, who is also Deputy Minister for Information, told Mizzima in a telephone interview on November 27.

The meeting could be held after the committee presented its report, he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Mizzima News, 29 November, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Vote count ends

Vote counting under the proportional representation (PR) electoral system of the Constituent Assembly (CA) election concluded on November 28. According to Bir Bahadur Rai, spokesperson of the Election Commission (EC), a total of 94,57,844 votes were valid. Altogether 30 out of 122 political parties have secured over 20,000 votes under the PR electoral system. Out of the 30, seven parties have received over 200,000 votes. An EC official said that at least 19,000 votes will be required to secure a PR seat.

Under this threshold basis, 30 parties will make it to the new CA. The EC spokesperson said that the commission on December 1 will come up with a threshold for the number of votes required for a PR seat. Nepali Congress (NC), which has emerged as the largest political party under the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system with 105 seats, has secured the highest number of votes, 24, 21,252, even under the PR electoral system.

The CPN-UML, which is in the second position under the FPTP electoral system with 91 seats, has received the second highest number of PR votes, 22, 43,477. UCPN (Maoist) is in the third position with 14, 38,666 votes, Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) in fourth position with 6, 24,299 votes, Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRF-D) in the fifth position with 2, 66,276 votes, RPP in the sixth position with 2, 59,238 votes and MPRF-Nepal in the seventh position with 2, 12,733 votes.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UML, NC discuss power sharing

While asking the Nepali Congress (NC) to take the leadership of a new government, the CPN-UML has asked NC to come up with a concrete proposal on power-sharing in the new government. During a meeting with NC President Sushil Koirala at the latter´s residence at Maharajgunj on November 28, CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal also asked Koirala to take the initiative to form the new government and to try bringing the other parties on board as well.

While the NC has come out as the largest party in the new CA, the UML is the second largest. This is the first meeting between the chiefs of the two big parties since the fresh CA poll on November 19. The two parties have decided to form a new government without further delay after holding talks with other parties, including UCPN (Maoist), according to sources close to NC President Koirala.

The meeting also dwelled on the UCPN (Maoist) proposal to bring in a constitutional amendment to make consensus mandatory on all issues, including promulgation of the new statute. Though both parties agreed to put in maximum effort to forge consensus with all parties, there was agreement between the chiefs of the first and second largest parties not to bring any such amendment.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 28 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC asks disgruntled parties to seek legal remedy

Turning down their demand to review the results of the Constituent Assembly (CA) poll, the Election Commission (EC) has suggested to disgruntled political parties, including the UCPN (Maoist), to seek legal remedy.

At a meeting on November 27 with senior leaders of the disgruntled parties over the election results, top EC officials made it clear that the EC does not possess legal authority to probe into any irregularity. Submitting a memorandum to the chief election commissioner, leaders of 13 disgruntled parties demanded that the EC review the poll results and take necessary action against anyone involved in any election-related wrongdoing.

The EC´s response came in the wake of refusal by the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML to form an independent commission to probe any incidents related to poll irregularity. The UCPN (Maoist) and FSP have already formed their own separate committees to probe election related wrongdoings. The disgruntled parties have termed the poll results unusual, incredible, pre-planned and smacking of rigging.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 28 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NAC to get six Chinese planes

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) will be buying new planes for the first time in 26 years. The Governments of Nepal and China signed a grant and concessional loan agreement worth INR 6.67 billion to procure six aircraft. Two of the planes will arrive within three months and join the carrier’s domestic fleet, which now consists of one vintage Twin Otter. As part of the accord, China will provide a 58-seater MA60 and a 19-seater Y12e worth INR 2.94 billion as a gift and a soft loan of INR 3.72 billion to buy one MA60 and three Y12e planes.

The Chinese deal consists of three separate agreements - framework agreement on provision of concessional loan assistance, economic and technical cooperation agreement for grant assistance, and government concessional loan agreement. The Cabinet on November 14 had given its go-ahead for the government to sign loan and grant agreements with China to procure six aircrafts for the national flag carrier. Finance Secretary Subedi said the agreement would help NAC consolidate its domestic market share. "We expect that air services will be enhanced in most remote destinations and also promote the country’s tourism," Subedi said.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New army chief

Lt- Raheel Sharif has been chosen by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in Pakistan. In choosing Sharif, the Prime Minister bypassed Chief of Logistics Staff, Lt. Gen. Haroon Aslam, the most senior military officer after Kayani.

Gen. Kayani’s favourite for the position, Lt. Gen. Rashad Mahmood has been appointed as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee which is technically the highest military office in the country, but is usually seen as less powerful than that of the COAS.

The new COAS is considered a moderate and has named Lt. Gen. Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad as the army’s new Chief of General Staff. This was one of the first decisions taken by him at the start of his three year tenure.

Lt. Gen. Haroon Aslam has tendered his resignation after being superseded for the post of COAS.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Reuters, 27-29 November 2013; Dawn, 30 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nawaz Sharif leaves for Kabul for talks

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left to visit Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to further the peace process in Afghanistan before the withdrawal of NATO troops next year.

Pakistan has been involved in efforts to promote the peace process such as Prime Minister Sharif’s meeting with a visiting delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council a week ago and the recent release of former Taliban number two Mullah Baradar. But militant sources have complained that Baradar is still imprisoned in Pakistan and there is no confirmation that the High Peace Council met with him during its visit.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 29 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fazlur Rehman seeks strategy for Taliban talks

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief, Fazlur Rehman has asked the government to delineate its strategy for talks with the Taliban so that the tribal jirga can initiate the peace process.

The TTP had earlier ruled out any possibility of talks with the government, however, Fazl has said that the Taliban never expressed a lack of trust in the jirga. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has assured Rehman that the government is still committed to engaging the Taliban in peace talks.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Express Tribune, 29-30 November 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Those shedding crocodile tears wanted Prabhakaran off: Basil

Some countries that shed crocodile tears today for the cause of Tamils wanted Sri Lanka to eliminate LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran during the last days of the North East Conflict, Economics Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa has told Parliament.

Minister Rajapaksa, delivering the reply speech, of the second reading stage of the budget 2014, said that there were some countries which acted as if they had forgotten what they did and their share in the final phase of the conflict and humanitarian operation. "They shed crocodile tears now, but they wanted us to finish the job and eliminate Prabhakaran," he said.

The Minister said that UK Prime Minister David Cameron could not visit Northern Ireland in his own country but had no such problems in visiting the North of Sri Lanka. "There could be some shortcomings, delays and more things to be done to make the lives of those living in the North better. But, one should appreciate what the President has done for these people. We brought peace and democracy to them. It is in our hands to sort out whatever problems and differences. We all should work for it."

Minister Rajapaksa said that the country had to obtain loans, like it or not. "Under the prevailing conditions there is only one way to reduce the per capita debt. That is to increase the country’s population at least by five times. If the population is low the Per Capita Debt value is high."

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Island, 29 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sampanthan at odds with Sritharan

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has distanced itself from the statement made by its MP S. Sritharan eulogising the LTTE and its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Party leader R. Sampanthan said that this was certainly not the position of the party.

Sritharan had told Parliament that Prabhakaran was a freedom fighter who died a heroic death on behalf of Tamil people. His speech was scorned by the members of both the Government and the main Opposition United National Party (UNP).

In a comment on these remarks, Mr. Sampanthan said his party’s position regarding the national question had clearly been outlined in the party’s manifesto presented to the people of the north prior to the September 21 provincial council election.

"Mr. Sritharan would have been moved by the fact that yesterday (November 26) was Prabhakaran’s birthday. He would have made an emotional statement. We did not campaign during the previous elections on such a line. Even, Mr. Sritharan did not campaign on that basis. We would not have allowed him to do so," the TNA leader said. "This clearly does not reflect the TNA’s position. We are clear about it," he added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 28 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India offers to train Sri Lanka Navy

India has offered to train Sri Lankan naval officers as part of ongoing defence cooperation between the two countries.

The offer was made by visiting Indian Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi when he called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Joshi is in Sri Lanka to attend the international naval maritime conference held in the southern port town of Galle.

The Indian Navy will offer training to Sri Lankan naval officers to follow the four-year Bachelor of Technology course that is currently restricted to Indian officials, a President’s Office Press release said. The Sri Lankan Navy would be afforded priority though there was a great demand for this course from many countries.

The talks between President Rajapaksa and Admiral Joshi centred on several maritime topics of particular significance in the Indian Ocean region, the release said.

Among the other topics discussed was the problem of combating piracy in the Indian Ocean towards which "the Sri Lanka Navy has made a big contribution", Admiral Joshi said. He said that although incidents of piracy have seen a decline in recent years, Sri Lanka and India must continue to be vigilant.

Admiral Joshi travelled to several major maritime locations around Sri Lanka including Trincomalee, Mannar, the Jaffna Peninsula, Galle and Hambantota.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 29 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jirga approves BSA, Karzai still stalling

The Loya Jirga, which came to an end on November 24, approved the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and called upon Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the pact before the end of the year. The BSA now has to be approved by the Afghan Parliament.

Karzai, however, is still stalling on signing the BSA. He laid out three preconditions to the US before he would sign the pact: transparent elections in April 2014, an end to raids into Afghan homes, a breakthrough in peace talks with the Taliban and the release of Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

On the opening day of the Jirga Karzai had announced that the BSA should be signed only after the new president had been elected in April. Karzai, however, during his meeting with Susan Rice, the US National Security Advisor did take back his demand of the US guaranteeing free and fair elections.

Karzai’s reluctance to sign the BSA has been highly criticised, both by the US and within Afghanistan as well. The US has said that it is neither "practical nor possible" to delay signing of the BSA. Rice explained that a delay in signing the pact carried the risk of the US pulling out all troops from Afghanistan. "Without a prompt signature, the US would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or Nato troop presence in Afghanistan," Rice reportedly told Karzai.

A number of Afghan officials, politicians and experts have also criticised Karzai accusing him of thinking emotionally rather than practically. They claim that Karzai has overstated the leverage of Afghanistan over the US believing that the BSA is far more important for Afghanistan than for the US. Afghan parliamentarians argued that the nation’s economic health and place in the international community were hinged on the accord. The Afghan National Army (ANA) also spoke out in favour of the BSA claiming that in order to repel the domestic and cross-border threats they needed a sustained and continued support from the international community.

Jirga’s chairman Sebghatullah Mujadadi also said that if Karzai did not follow the Jirga’s recommendation to sign the Kabul-Washington security pact, then he would flee Afghanistan. He eventually left Afghanistan for Turkey in order to voice his protest against the position taken up by Karzai.

In the meantime, the Taliban militants group in Afghanistan condemned Loya Jirga for endorsing the bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington. Taliban called the resolution as a step to protect American interests, and warned that the group will continue to its fight against the foreign forces. "The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns such Jirgas and resolutions of slavery and declares that such illegal worthless agreements and promises by slaves will not benefit the aggressing Americans or their criminal stooges," Taliban said in its statement.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 26 November 2013; Khaama Press, 24-25 November 2013; Khaama Press, 28 November 2013; Pajhwok, 24 November 2013; Tolo News, 24-28 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More Afghan prisoners freed

Pakistan released three more senior Afghan Taliban prisoners this week as a part of its efforts to facilitate the peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Afghan Taliban.

The freed Taliban were identified to be Mullah Abdul Ahad Jahangirwal, a former adviser of Mullah Omar, Mullah Abdul Manan, a former Taliban governor in Helmand and Mullah Younus, a former military commander.

The number of freed Afghan Taliban since November has now crossed fifty.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Qualifies for T-20 World Cup

The Afghanistan national cricket qualified to ICC World Twenty20 World cup 2014, after securing six consecutive wins in the ICC World T20 qualifier. Afghanistan defeated Kenya by 34 runs during its sixth match in ICC World T20 qualifier in Sharjah on November 24.

Kenya, who were chasing a target of 149 runs were all out for 114.

The tournament is scheduled to take place in March 2014.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 24 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliamentary polls on 5 January

Politics heated up after the Election Commission (EC) this week declared the schedule for the next parliamentary election. The election will be held on January 5, 2014. According to the schedule, the last day for filing of the nomination to returning officers and assistant returning officers is December 2, nomination forms will be scrutinised by the returning officers on December 5-6 and the last date for the withdrawal of candidature is December 13.

Soon after the announcement, country-wide violent protests broke out. The Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies took to the streets expressing their opposition against the decision. The opposition observed a 72 hours long shutdown across the country.

During the shutdown around 18 lives were lost and hundreds of people were injured in the clashes between the supports of the opposition and members of the law enforcement agencies. The opposition activists also uprooted rail tracks at several places, laid siege on major highways, and vandalised and set fire to scores of vehicles. The blockade programme almost crippled the daily life.

Opposition is demanding for formation of neutral caretaker government system for supervision of the election and declared to boycott the election unless its demand is fulfilled. The system of caretaker government has been abolished following the 15th amendment of the Constitution in 2011. The ruling Awami League government, however, formed a multiparty party poll time government for overseeing the election and also invited BNP to join the government. But BNP remained adamant on its stance. This has created a political crisis.

Members of the civil society in Bangladesh expressed concern about the holding of elections without resolving the political crisis. A team of civil society members this week met president Abdul Hamid and urged him to intervene within his constitutional authority to resolve the ongoing police impasse as they feel that the democracy ’may be endangered’ if the next general election is held without the participation of the BNP.

"The democracy in the country may be jeopardized if the general election is held without the participation of the main opposition party," said Akbar Ali Khan, one of the delegation members and a former caretaker government adviser.

Meanwhile, BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said that the crisis can be resolved if Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resigns from her office.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 26-28 November 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pact with US on TICFA

Bangladesh and United States of America signed this week the much talked-about Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA). Commerce Secretary of Bangladesh Mahbub Ahmed and Deputy US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler inked the deal in Washington this week on behalf of the respective governments.

The agreement will enable the countries to establish a ’forum’ with representatives from both parties to discuss opportunities and interests of bilateral trade and investment, identify and work to remove impediments in the trade and investment sectors. While aiming at fostering bilateral trade and investment for creating jobs, improving technology and enhancing development, the agreement recognises the importance of promoting the observance of other issues such as intellectual property right, environment, and workers’ rights in accordance with laws of each country and in line with the international agreements as applicable to the countries.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India wants a ’puppet State’: BNP

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party this week alleged that India is trying to transform Bangladesh into a ’puppet state’ by patronising the Awami League ahead of the upcoming general elections. Mirza Abbas, a senior member of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) standing committee, said, "The ghost of Indian Sindabad (an evil character of The Arabian Nights) has got the better of this government..". Abbas further added, "India wants to bring back the Awami League to power. For this reason, the government is going to hold a unilateral election so that Bangladesh can be transformed into India’s puppet state."

The BNP and the Awami League are at loggerheads over the conduct of the polls to be held by January 2014. The Awami League has formed a multi-party interim set-up led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to oversee the elections despite opposition from the BNP, which wants a neutral caretaker government. The BNP has also claimed that polls will not be credible if they are held under Hasina’s leadership.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 23 November 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade sector earns highest revenue

Contribution to the national revenue was highest from the trading sector at Nu 7.8B, or 36.4 per cent of the country’s total revenue of Nu 21B for fiscal year 2012-2013. Revenue for the sector came in the form of corporate and business tax from trading units, excise duty refund from India, and sales tax and customs duty.

Contributions from this sector increased mainly because the government received a total of INR 3 billion as excise duty refund from India for import years 2010 and 2011. Last fiscal, the trading sector contributed Nu 7.1 billion, during the last fiscal, the government received excise duty worth INR 2.3 billion.

Any commodity imported from India has excise duty included in the price and after about a year and a half, the Indian government refunds the duty to the Bhutanese government. Excise duty is an inland tax imposed only on commodities consumed within the country and if the commodity is exported, the duty is waived off. However, in a bid to ensure that goods were not deflected to India, duty refund procedure was introduced.

After trade sector, electricity sector contributed Nu 3.7 billion as tax revenue to the government. Contributions from electricity included those from Druk Green Power Corporation and Bhutan Power Corporation. The sector contributed Nu 2.7 billion to the national exchequer. In the last fiscal year, it contributed Nu 2.4 billion.

Manufacturing sector contributed Nu 602 million and primary sector comprising forestry, mining and other agricultural activities contributed Nu 327 million. Contributions from the primary sector had declined compared with the previous fiscal year on account of lower collection from forest royalty and livestock sale. It contributed Nu 375 million last year.

Revenue contributions from finance sector, which is a combination of the financial institutions and the central bank also decreased in the current fiscal year to Nu 372 million from Nu 846 million in the last fiscal.

In the current fiscal year, the government had lost Nu 2.4 billion in the form of fiscal incentives, tax holidays and exemptions for some select business houses.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 28 November, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Audit slams McKinsey’s achievements

The quality of services McKinsey and Co provided was not commensurate with the amount paid, according to Bhutan’s Royal Audit Authority (RAA) report on consultancy and procurement services.

McKinsey and Co. was awarded consultancy works worth Nu 443 million, which constituted nine percent of the government’s expenditure (Nu 4.6 billion), incurred in procuring consultancy services in the last five years.

The previous government that hired the international consultancy firm said they were "satisfied" with the services it provided for the ’accelerated Bhutan’s socio economic development (ABSD)’ program.

The RAA report stated some of the targets under the ABSD initiatives were either revised or deferred, while a few were not met. Inadequate administration and undefined objectives had led to breaching of the contract agreement, according to the report. "Moreover, the agreement did not even specify the liability of the consultant for breaching the terms and conditions."

One of the "under-achieved" targets, according to the authority, is the government to citizen (G2C) services, as the success of the G2C services was undermined by lack of adequate awareness programs. "Most rural people aren’t aware of all the services that can be availed from the G2C service centres," the report stated.

The G2C services were initially targeted for all 205 gewogs, a group of villages in Bhutan, and in 15 different agencies, including the ministries, by 2013 through establishment of community information centres (CIC). However, the revised target in the 11th Plan indicated establishment of only 185 CICs, of which 131 are online.

The authority found the CICs were established without pre-requisites, such as optical fibre services and manpower, because of which the facilities remain under used. To date, applications for G2C services have been availed from only 10 CICs.

As against the target of generating substantial portion of the 90,000 jobs required in the 10th Plan, as mentioned in the agreement signed between the government and McKinsey, the ABSD initiatives target reflected only 30,000 jobs, the audit authority pointed out.

It also stated that, initially, McKinsey also agreed to deliver in propelling the country to "top 50 nations in the ’ease of doing business’ index of the World Bank." Bhutan’s ranking, however, plummeted from 119th in 2008 to 148th in 2013 among 185 countries.

The authority pointed out the target was neither realistic, nor the mechanism to achieve the target were well defined.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 28 November, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks with Pakistan back on track?

The violence on the line of control (LoC) has perceptibly come down. And almost unnoticed, the conversations between India and Pakistan have increased.

Despite elections being round the corner, the buzz has returned to the government that the prime minister might take a final stab at visiting the only neighbouring country he has ever wanted to go to. What would it take for Manmohan Singh to be able to go to Pakistan?

High-level sources said the laundry list of actions included significant reduction of violence on the LoC, determined forward movement on the 26/11 case and a decision on most favoured nation (MFN) status by Pakistan.

Although DGMOs have not met, as the two prime ministers intended, since the decision in late September, the violence on the LoC has reduced somewhat. Some of it is explained by the coming of winter, which makes the passes difficult to negotiate. But sources said the violence was deliberate, and its absence is equally deliberate.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">N-capable ballistic missile test-fired

India successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable Dhanush ballistic missile from a naval ship off Odisha coast this week.

"Strategic Forces Command (SFC) successfully tested the Dhanush missile today from a naval ship," said MV K V Prasad, Director of the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur near here.

The surface-to-surface Dhanush, a naval variant of India’s indigenously developed ’Prithvi’ missile, was test fired at around 11.10 AM from a location at Bay of Bengal by the SFC of the defence force.

The single-stage, liquid propelled Dhanush has already been inducted into the armed services and is one of the five missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), defence sources said.

"The trial was conducted by the SFC of the Indian defence force in co-operation with DRDO," a defence official said.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India likely to buy 15 US-2i aircraft from Japan

India’s plan to acquire at least 15 US-2i amphibious aircraft for its Navy from Japan is expected to fructify when the defence minister of Japan arrives in India next month.

A senior officer said, "Soon after the Emperor of Japan’s visit is over, Itsunori Onodera, the defence minister of Japan, will visit India to explore the potential for cooperation between the defence and aviation industries between the two countries, as well as to figure out the mechanism and modalities for the acquisition of the aircraft by the Indian Navy." Also, Onodera will also be seeking confirmation from India on cooperation in dealing with the issue of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

India has reportedly clarified that it is reviewing the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET), thereby placing the Shinmaywa US-2i as a dual civilian-and-military item. India has accepted the high cost of the aircraft to build up the strategic partnership.

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

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 14 November 2013

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

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