MonitorsPublished on Aug 12, 2011
The monsoon session of Parliament began on Monday August 1, 2011. The eigth session of the 15th Lok Sabha (Lower House) and the 223rd session of Rajya Sabha (Upper House) are expected to produce more legislative business compared to the performance of the two Houses in the recent past.
India: Parliament under pressure - to work
< class="heading1">Analysis

The monsoon session of Parliament began on Monday August 1, 2011. The eigth session of the 15th Lok Sabha (Lower House) and the 223rd session of Rajya Sabha (Upper House) are expected to produce more legislative business compared to the performance of the two Houses in the recent past. The session will end on September 8.

The winter session in 2010 was a total wash-out after the otherwise divided Opposition did not allow normal business to be transacted, protesting against one scam after another identified with the Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The credibility of Parliament and the political parties represented in the two Houses had touched the nadir in public perception, particularly in the light of the winter session record which was the worst in the history of past 25 years. The session was unique insofar that Parliament continued to be stalled throughout the duration of its sitting.

Both Houses saw protests over Government’s reluctance to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the issue of corruption in the allocation of 2-G spectrum. The Lok Sabha worked for just 7 hrs and 37 minutes, 5.5 per cent of the available time and the Rajya Sabha for 2 hrs and 44 minutes, 2.4 per cent of available time. Though, the Budget session of Parliament in 2011 succeeded in arresting the growing damage to some extent, yet there existed a serious threat to the political class as their standing with the people was eroding very fast.

Taking note of the threat, both the ruling UPA alliance and the main Opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), appeared to be flexible in making Parliament function to enable it to conduct debate, discussion and legislate. The first indication came when the ruling UPA conceded the Opposition demand to have a discussion on the issue of price rise under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha, which entails voting. The ruling combine also agreed to have a similar debate on price rise in the Rajya Sabha) under Rule 167, which also provides for voting.

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal made public statements that the Government was ready to discuss any issue, including corruption. Similarly, the BJP also emitted positive signals. Though other Left and non-BJP parties also appeared to be ready for parliamentary business, yet they expressed their resentment over the possible convergence of views between the two major national parties on the issue.

For some time now, non-Congress, non-BJP parties have from time to time accused the ’Big Two’ of collusion in Parliament despite public protestations to contrary - whichever of the two being in power at any given time. This time too, they were upset that the Government did not consult them. "The Government is talking to the BJP, as if it was a bi-polar system and other political parties had no role," CPI parliamentary group leader Gurudas Dasgupta told a news conference.

The first 10 days on the ongoing monsoon session have seen frequent disruptions and occasional business, as two significant pieces of legislation were taken up during the period. The controversial Lok Pal Bill and the even more significant Food Security Bill were introduced and debated during the period. The BJP however stalled the work of Parliament on Wednesday, August 10, on the issue of alleged police brutality against their youth workers who had staged a demonstration against corruption and were demanding the resignation of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit (Congress Party) for her reported involvement in Commonwealth Games scam. But on Thursday, August 11, there was again a consensus as the Government indicated that the Prime Minister would give a statement on the CWG issue.

But what took the observers of the parliamentary history by surprise was the candidness with which the BJP Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, spoke on the parliamentary behaviour of her party. She told The Hindu on August 10 that it was the BJP which would decide "on a daily basis" whether Parliament would be allowed to function that day. "Each morning (BJP) core parliamentary committee meets and takes a decision whether to allow Parliament to function that day," she said.

The next day, August 11, she came out with yet another revelation, saying that the BJP Parliamentary Party was "under pressure" from various State units to take up their issues in Parliament and get it adjourned to make an impact. Sushma Swaraj said in this regard: "Often, State leaders come to me saying they want Parliament adjourned for four days and I tell them we can do it for one day or two. But how can we stall for four days? They simply do not understand."

A question arises here as why this change? Is it because of a genuine change of heart or because of the existentialist threat to the political class? Is it because of growing popularity of the civil society movements like that of Anna Hazare, who has been leading a campaign for creating the institution of a Lok Pal (Ombudsman) to at least minimise, if not totally eliminate, corruption from public life?

This may possibly also be the result of the crisis of governance, not only domestic but international too. Political parties, be in Europe or in the US, are at a loss to find ways to re-connect with the people. Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, are on the brink of an economic crisis and none of the political parties, whether in the government or in Opposition, appears to have a clue to the present dilemmas of governance.

There is a looming threat of return of the global economic recession. The US debt crisis and its possible impact on India may also have played a role in forcing the political class to review its political strategy as the most powerful nation was suffering because of the inability of the two parties, namely the Democrats and the Republicans, to evolve a consensus on the national debt issue.

In the light of the prevailing political environment, both domestically as well as internationally, the Indian political class appears to be under tremendous pressure to revise its strategy and the present Opposition approach to the monsoon session of parliament may be the result of that. The Indian political system is in a state of turmoil and the churning may result in a dynamics, which may flush out the prevailing negativity from the polity and may usher in some positivity.

(Dr. Satish Misra is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No claim now to strategic autonomy

Observing that China’s rise is likely to be an issue in India’s ability to transform in future, National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshanker Menon on Thursday said the country cannot claim "true strategic autonomy" unless it improves its defence production capabilities. Delivering the Prem Bhatia Memorial lecture, he said. "Talk of strategic autonomy has little meaning unless our defence production and innovation capabilities undergo a quantum improvement," he said.

"A country that doesn’t develop and produce its own major weapon platforms has a major strategic weakness and cannot claim true strategic autonomy. This is a real challenge for us all," Menon said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, August 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Better credit-rating expected

Even as the US and countries in Europe stare at credit rating cuts, India could well turn out to be an outlier, with the government pressing rating agencies to secure an upgrade. India is ranked much below countries in the eye of the storm like Ireland, Italy and Spain, which have huge debt. Greece, which has been reduced to junk category by all three major raters, was until recently rated much above India.

Spain and Italy, the latest to benefit from the European Central Bank’s bond purchases, still enjoy high grade investment ratings of AA and A+, respectively, from S&P. India, however, is rated seven notches below at BBB- with a stable outlook by S&P. This reflects lowest investment grade ratings for India, only one notch above the junk category.

The Government and many bankers and rating analysts believe India being the second-fastest growing economy deserves much better. S&P and Fitch are expected to review their India ratings in November. An upgrade would lower the cost of overseas debt for Indian companies, and prompt global fund houses to allocate a larger portfolio towards the country.

Goldman Sachs upgraded India equities to market weight on Monday from underweight.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Financial Express, August 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four times higher FDI in June

Foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country rose over four times in June to reach $5.65 billion, compared to $1.38 billion a year ago. Though the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion did not provide any details, in recent months, there has been a sharp rise in inflows, partly due to several projects in the pipeline materialising as also due to the low base of last year when inflows declined significantly.

"The figures indicate that the trend of high FDI equity inflows since the beginning of the present financial year is being maintained," an official statement said. The government, which has been trying to dismiss suggestions of policy paralysis, would be emboldened by this. FDI inflows were also very high in May 2011, estimated at $4.66 billion, which was double the level witnessed in May 2010.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, August 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Oil from Iran after $ 1.4-b payment

Two oil tankers are sailing to India’s west coast from Iran after India paid 1 billion Euros ($1.4 billion) to partially clear debt on its purchases via the mediation of a Turkish lender, ship-tracking data show.

’Desh Bhak’t, owned by the Indian Government, and ’Jag Laxmi’, a Great Eastern Shipping vessel, are sailing to the western Indian port of Mangalore, carrying crude oil from Iran’s main crude-export terminal, according to transmissions captured by AIL Live, the global provider of real time shipping data, on Bloomberg.

Both ships began sailing from Kharg Island late last week, the data show. Desh Bhakt, a 124,522 cubic-meter tanker, is scheduled to reach Mangalore on Aug. 11 and Jag Laxmi, a 113,383 cubic-meter vessel, may reach the port a day later, according to ship data compiled by Bloomberg.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Hurriyet Daily News, August 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Improving trade ties with Africa

India said on Tuesday it expects to reach a preferential trading deal with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) by the end of the year as it seeks to expand its economic footprint on the African continent. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said New Delhi will be pursuing trade deals with other African nations as the country seeks to catch up with China which has outpaced it in trade and investment in the continent over the past decade.

"India is keen to partner with countries in Africa not only for buying minerals but also for providing technology for mining and exploration," Sharma said in a speech in the Indian capital.
< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, August 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Keep your word, we will keep ours, NSG told

India wants nuclear suppliers to honour their commitments on transfer of nuclear technology. In the clearest signal yet to the NSG, post its controversial June decision to tighten ENR Technology exports, India indicated it would strictly follow the reciprocity principle in implementing legal obligations by countries who have signed nuclear agreements with India.

Making a suo motu statement in Parliament, foreign minister S M Krishna said, "The agreements reached for permitting international civil nuclear cooperation with India contain commitments on both sides. We expect all NSG members to honour their commitments as reflected in the 2008 NSG Statement and our bilateral cooperation agreements." Without saying it in as many words, India has indicated it could rescind its obligations if the NSG failed to implement theirs.

Krishna said, "The ’Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India’ issued on September 6, 2008 after an Extraordinary Plenary Meeting of the NSG spells out the scope of our cooperation. That statement contains reciprocal commitments and actions by both sides relating to international civil nuclear cooperation." India is saying that since its waiver predated the ENR decision by NSG, the new decision would not apply to India.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, August 11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strategic ties with Japan despite nuclear stalemate

Despite stalemated talks on a civil nuclear agreement and political uncertainty surrounding the continuation of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in office, New Delhi and Tokyo have chalked up a series of high-level engagements to firm up their strategic ties, especially in the security and economic spheres.

In what could be a disappointment for South Block, India’s quest for a nuclear pact with Japan found no mention in a detailed Japanese Government response on Friday to a question by the Opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

In a statement, the Japanese Government requested the Diet to approve civil nuclear accords with Jordan, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam, according to diplomatic sources. Even though its name found no mention, India, whose civil nuclear talks with Japan have not resumed since November last year, could find some cheer in Tokyo’s affirmation to continue exporting nuclear power plants despite the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, August 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Deposed King Gyanendra watching unfolding events

Deposed King Gyanendra Shah has remarked that he has been keeping a close eye on the unfolding political events ahead of the Aug 31 deadline of the Constituent Assembly (CA). He added that the post-August situation could become more complicated.

He stressed on the need for bringing in the first integrated draft of the new Constitution through consensus. "The parties much bring out any democratic document acceptable to everyone," he said. "Let that be not torn apart."

In the five-point deal signed before extending the CA’s term on May 28, the major three political parties had agreed to bring out the first draft of the new constitution before Aug 31.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, August 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sood bids adieu, claims his tenure successful

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood returned home on Thursday, after completing his tenure. Talking to reporters at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, he said his tenure in Nepal was successful and assured that India will continue its support to the country.

The outgoing envoy also expressed the hope that Nepal can promulgate the new constitution by taking the peace process to a logical end, adding that India always attaches the highest importance to its relations with Nepal.

He was appointed India’s Ambassador to Nepal in April 2008. Sood is India’s next Ambassador to France, replacing Ranjan Mathai, who has since taken over as the new Foreign Secretary.

The newly-appointed Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad is arriving in Nepal on Aug 25. He is the son of Prof Bimal Prasad, who had served as the Indian Ambassador to Nepal from 1991-1995.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Envoy to India returns home

After serving two years as Nepali Ambassador to India, Rukma Shamsher Rana returned home on Wednesday. Though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) had directed him to report to the Ministry on June 19, Rana delayed his return by three weeks.

On June 19, the MoFA had written a letter to Rana asking him to return within a month. Saying that he had some unfinished business in New Delhi, Rana protracted his stay in Delhi by three weeks after the expiry of 30-day deadline.

Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav had publicly announced the recall of Rana as he did not accompany Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna during his Nepal visit in April. Yadav had also claimed that Rana carried out anti-government activities in India, lobbied against the ruling coalition and did not make necessary arrangements for Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal’s visit to India.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, August 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China shadow over Nepal

Continuing with its ’One China’ policy, the Nepali police arrested Thiley Lama, a Nepali citizen, Tibetan Buddhist leader and Dalai Lama’s new representative to Nepal minutes after he addressed a news conference in Kathmandu. The Lama had urged the Nepal Government to guarantee the rights of the Tibetan refugees under the country’s new Constitution.

Lama’s arrest comes three days ahead of Lobsang Sangay, the newly-elected Prime Minister of the ’Tibetan government-in-exile’, assuming office in Dharamsala in India, and ahead of a three-day official visit to Nepal by a high-level Chinese delegation led by senior CCP leader and presidential envoy Zhou Yongkang from August 16.

Under pressure from its northern neighbour Nepal stopped issuing identity cards to Tibetan refugees in 1998 and recently stopped the Dalai Lama’s birthday celebrations. The newly-appointed Chinese envoy to Nepal Yang Houlan met all top political leaders and ministers and impressed upon them to put a stop to activities by Tibetan refugees.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindustan Times, August 6, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Good progress in social sectors

Nepal has made significant progress in social sectors, mainly education and health, in the last seven years. Also, the income gap between the poor and the rich is shrinking, according to findings of the Nepal Living Standards Survey (NLSS) III whose preliminary report was unveiled by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on Monday.

The NLSS said common Nepalis’ access to basic facilities has improved in the years. As per the survey, 94.7 percent of the household has access to primary schools within 30 minutes, while 73.8 percent households can reach health centres within half an hour.

It says access to other services from banking, market centre, paved road to safe drinking water also improved considerably. The improvement in the social sector, as shown by the survey, is the outcome of huge investment made by the government over the period. The social sector also benefited from donors’ high priority in the post-conflict period, with their funding in the sector doubling to 68 percent in FY 2008-09 compared to FY 2001-02, according to the third progress report on Millennium Development Goals.

"The progress achieved in the social sector is due to the investment made by the Government in health and education," said Rameshwor Khanal, former finance secretary. "Remittance also has an important contribution, as a significant portion of the remittance is used in health and education."
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, August 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-smoking law comes into force

The much-awaited Tobacco Control and Regulation Act, 2008 came into force in Nepal on August 7. The Act prohibits smoking and sale and distribution of tobacco-related products at public places and slaps a fine from N-Rs. 100 to Rs. 100,000 on the offenders.

According to the Act, public places include the government bodies, offices, corporations, educational institutions, libraries, airports, public lavatories, cinema halls, cultural centers, hotels, restaurants and eateries, student hostels, stadiums, public transport vehicles and waiting stands. It also prohibits advertising tobacco and sale of tobacco products to those below 18 years of age and also pregnant women.

According to statistics, 44 people are losing lives daily in the country due to diseases related to smoking and tobacco consumption and the State has to spend Nepalese Rs. 16 billion annually for treatment of patients suffering from these diseases. Parliament passed this Act on April 11 and the President certified it on April 29.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Rastriya Samachar Samiti, August 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PML (N) wants Govt formula for new Provinces

A 15-member party committee of the Opposition Pakistan Muslim League (N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, has suggested that the party asked Government to devise a formula for the creation of new Provinces. The formula should be based on population, area, resources, sources of income and other important factors, and should be applicable to all parts of the country, the committee said in its report to the party leadership.

In Parliament last week, Sharief eased the party’s traditional Opposition to the creation of new Provinces, but said that the Government should take all political parties into confidence. The party feels that the ruling Pakistan People`s Party (PPP) was only exploiting the issue to gain political mileage. The PML (N) believes the Government cannot take any step for the division of Punjab without its support.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, August 08, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army backs Govt on quelling Karachi violence

The army command on Monday appeared worried about the continuing wave of violence in the country’s commercial and financial hub that has so far claimed over 800 lives. It decided to stay out of the Karachi imbroglio and instead backed the government’s efforts for bringing back peace.

The Corps Commanders Conference, which is the military’s principal decision-making forum, was presided over by Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. "The forum expressed concern over the law and order situation in Karachi and its ramifications/implications for the national economy and expected that the measures recently undertaken by the government would help redress the situation," a Press statement by the army’s public affairs wing, ISPR, said.

The rare army statement on the situation in Karachi came after about 350 people were killed in July and the Karachi Stock Exchange, which is billed as the barometer of the country’s financial health, dipped to a four-month low last week, losing 6.7 per cent of its value. The commanders were so worried about the economic implications of the situation in Karachi that a large part of their deliberations unusually focussed on the economic situation in the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Sawn, August 09, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suspects rounded up in Quetta operation

Around 159 suspects were rounded up during a search and capture operation conducted in different localities of Saryab in Quetta on Monday in connection with the killing of SHO Manzoor Tareen and two other police personal.

The Sayedna Khalid-bin-Waleed group has claimed responsibility for the killing of SHO Manzoor Tareen, for raiding houses and providing security to NATO oil tankers. The Frontier Corps (FC), police and personnel of the Anti-Terrorism Force (ATF) took part in the operation. Helicopters provided information to troops engaged in a house-to-house search.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, August 09, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt to appoint PSC, end emergency

The Government has handed over a motion to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, asking for the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to work out a political solution to the ethnic issue within six months. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the party with the largest number of MPs representing the Tamil community, which initially opposed the move, has since clarified that its response would depend on the PSC’s agenda and also the Government’s response to its three-point query on the ongoing negotiations.

In a related development, Prime Minister D M Jayaratne told Parliament that the Government, in consultation with the National Security Council (NSC), was now taking steps to scrap the state of emergency soon. Speaking on the monthly extension of emergency regulations, he said some foreign forces were trying to strengthen the hands of the LTTE internationally though the organisation had been decimated in the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, August 10-11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA awaits Govt response, Muslims want to be heard

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman and parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran said that they would participate in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) deliberations to present the TNA’s point of view if the Government responded positively to its ’discussion paper’.

He lamented the conflicting and confusing views expressed on the North-East situation and the Government-TNA talks by Government leaders like Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He clarified that the three conditions submitted by the TNA did not amount to an ultimatum.

In a meeting with British diplomats, meanwhile, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader and Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem said non-inclusion of the Muslim community in seeking solutions to the ethnic problem would result in failure. Another Muslim leader, Commerce and Industries Minister Rishad Baithudeen said in Parliament that no political solution to the national issue could be implemented without resettling the displaced Muslims in the North and allowing them to live in dignity.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, August 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US wants ’international mechanism’ to probe abuses

US State Department spokesman Victoria Nulund said in Washington that the country "still believes that an international mechanism to look at human rights abuses" in Sri Lanka even as Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, in Colombo, questioned the American intent went further in dismissing devolution of administrative and political power to the Tamil minorities

It was the first time that a US State Department official openly declared that Washington was in favour of an ’international mechanism’ to investigate incidents of alleged human rights violations and violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) allegedly committed by Sri Lanka military forces in the final months (Jan-May 2009) of the battle against the separatist LTTE.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs and former ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to have a ’credible’ internal probe acceptable to the international community but stopped short of declaring that the US was in favour of an ’international mechanism’

Almost at the same time Sri Lanka’s defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, always the single most outspoken official of Sri Lanka, in an interview to India’s Headlines Today television channel, dismissed the proposed international probe on his country’s handling of the battle against the LTTE.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Asian Tribune, August 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt denies charges on aerial intrusion by US

The Government said in Parliament that a fleet of US combat aircraft had only entered the Colombo Flight Information Region and not the sovereign airspace of the country. "It is in the international airspace. It cannot be considered a part of the sovereign airspace of the country. The Flight Information Region adjoining Sri Lanka’s airspace is called the Colombo Flight Information Region. Anyone can use this region in terms of international law without having any impact on aviation activities of the country concerned," Civil Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne said.

Jayaratne said that a country had, in addition to its sovereign airspace, a separate Flight Information Region, adjoining its airspace. The Minister said that unauthorised aircraft movement had not taken place within Sri Lanka’s airspace at all, and aircraft movement had taken place only in the Flight Information Region. "Therefore, it has not affected the sovereignty of the country," he said, after the US Embassy and the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) had joined issue in the matter.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, August 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai will not run for third term

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai will not run for a third term of office, his Press service said on Thursday. There had earlier been speculation that he might amend the Constitution, which does not provide for a third consecutive presidential term. In 2004, he became the first elected President and then won a second term in 2009, which was mired by rigging allegations.

Analysts said by the time Karzai’s second term expires in 2014, the Afghan army should take over responsibility for security in the country from the international contingent, which is expected to leave the country by that time.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, August 11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">1,618 US military deaths since 2001

At least 1,618 members of the US military have died in Afghanistan as a result of the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,349 military Services members have died in Afghanistan as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.

Outside of Afghanistan, the department reports at least 100 more members of the US military died in support of ’Operation Enduring Freedom’. Of those, 11 were the result of hostile action. The AP count is one less than the Defence Department’s tally, last updated 11 August 2011.

Since the start of US military operations in Afghanistan, 13,164 US Services members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the US Defence Department.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Washington Post, August 11, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC won’t again invite BNP, Jamaat for talks

The Election Commission of Bangladesh has said that it will not invite the BNP and its allies Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jatiya Party to discuss electoral reforms and solicit their opinion. In all seven out of the 38 registered political parties, including these three, did not attend the meeting.

The EC began the series of dialogues on June 7 to discuss its reform proposals including introduction of electronic voting machines, enactment of laws outlining the criteria for appointment of Election Commissioners and updating the electoral laws. The EC, with the support of the European Union, UNDP, DFID and USAID, will implement the five-year SEMB project involving $20,258,994. The Bangladesh Government will provide Tk 47,800,000 ($645,945).

The reform proposals are now hanging in the balance as neither of the two major political parties ? the ruling Awami League and Oposition BNP ? have either given the go-ahead or made any alternative proposals. Most of the political parties which attended the dialogue advised the EC to go slow in introducing the EVMs. The EC also wants State funding to create a level-playing field.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, August 09, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ethnic communities demand identity as indigenous people

Ethnic communities observed the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People with demand for their constitutional recognition as indigenous people and Government steps for ensuring their rights, especially on land. They criticised Foreign Minister Dipu Moni for saying that there are no indigenous people in the country and blamed the Government for failure to solve land dispute in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

A nine-point demand, including constitutional rights of indigenous people and formation of a separate Land Commission to protect land rights of the indigenous people living on plain lands was also put forth.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 10 August 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Gas Development Fund policy

The Energy Ministry is likely to annul the Gas Development Fund Policy, a guideline for release and utilisation of Gas Development Fund formulated by the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission, an official has said.

The BERC tabled the idea of creating the GDF and its utilisation to enhance the capacity of the State-run oil and gas exploration and production companies while announcing the last gas price hike. The commission, in consultation with Government agencies and other stake-holders in the sector, finalised the draft of the regulatory guideline, the GDF Policy, made by Petrobangla for release and utilisation of the fund and introduced it on January 16 this year.

The official said the ministry would formulate within 15 days yet another draft policy for release and utilisation of the GDF following the self-financing policy for autonomous agencies, as outlined by the Planning Ministry.

According to the BERC’s, the Ministry has mistakenly taken the guideline for the GDF as a kind of Government policy. But, it is absolutely a guideline in which Petrobangla has been given the authority for releasing and utilising the fund for implementing projects in specific fields. Petrobangla will submit half-yearly activity plans of its oil and gas exploration and production companies to the commission and, after the commission approves the projects, Petrobangla will be able to release the fund required for implementing the projects.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, August 08, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan’s new FDI incentive

The Government unveiled a new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy which opened Bhutan as possible destination of investment to business community across the globe. The foreign investment policy was drafted with the hope that world would see Bhutan as a land of opportunity for investment. To this end, India has accepted Bhutan’s invitation to invest in its hydro-power sector.

Bhutan’s FDI policy does not allow investment in gambling, tobacco and porn industries, rather focuses more on clean and green business areas that toe the Gross National Happiness line. These include the promotion of investment in services that promote Brand Bhutan, promotion of socially responsible, culturally and spiritually sensitive and ecologically sound industries and creation of a knowledge society.

Up to 74 percent FDI is allowed in agro-based industries like organic farming, dairy, food processing, water based products, forest based products, manufacturing of electronics, electrical, computer hardware, building materials, construction, four star hotels, vocational education, consultancy and transportation. Similarly, up to 100 per cent FDI is allowed in education, specialised health services, information technology, five-star hotels, tunnels, highways, industrial estates, SEZ, dry port, land reclamation, knowledge cities, wellness centres, sports facilities, waste management and urban water supply. However, financial sector has only 51 per cent FDI provision. FDI is restricted in media and broadcasting, wholesale, retail and trade, general health services, mining for sale of minerals in raw form, three star hotels etc.

Absence of visits by foreign diplomats to study the ground realities for investment vividly reflects Bhutan’s inability to convince other countries that this Himalayan kingdom is safe and viable for investment. Other major drawback of Bhutan is its failure to join WTO. Global investment market wobbles around the plans and policies set out by WTO. The WTO members have greater platform to sell their products and investment opportunities. Bhutan is weeping in a corner for FDI while failing to tap the opportunities available in world trade forum. It is finally the fundamentalists carrying ’westerners erode our culture’ campaigning to ban WTO access and greater FDI opportunities.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, August 06, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rufiyya payments and fiscal responsibility to ease economy

Learning from the experience of Seychelles, which he visited recently, President Mohammed Nasheed got the Maldivian Cabinet to clear a proposal for all fees and taxes to the Government being made in the local currency, rufiyaa. This, it is hoped, would ease the pressure on dollar-availability, as businesses and other fee-payers will want to exchange to local currency in the banks, as the latter offer official rates that are also lower.

Earlier, Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz had said that the dollar crisis could be solved only by accepting ruffiya as the legal tender. He pointed out that 51 per cent of the people still used foreign currency as their legal tender, and it was important that they used they changed.

In a related development aimed at shoring up the economy, the Government also presented a Fiscal Responsibility Bill to Parliament, fixing a limit to Government spending and setting a ratio between debt and GDP. Ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members blamed the erstwhile Gayoom Government was increasing debt and spending while the Opposition said that the Nasheed leadership was using the Bill provisions to upturn their parliamentary initiative the previous year, to hold it accountable. They also said that the Government was seeking to revert the provisions of the Decentralisation Act, to take back all fiscal powers granted to Local Councils.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, August 10-11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Confusion over fisheries deal with Sri Lanka

Confusion prevailed for a few days after visiting Sri Lankan Deputy Foreign Minister Neomal Perera declared that the two countries have entered into an agreement for fishers from his country could traverse Maldivian waters to fish in the high seas. With the Opposition claiming that such an agreement would legitimise poaching by Sri Lankan fishers in Maldivian seas, the Government clarified that no such agreement was signed, nor was on required, as Sri Lankan fishers had the right to ’innocent passage’ under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

The controversy ended with Minister Perera clarifying that he was only referring to the UNCLOS-based agreement, signed several years ago. He had held discussions with Maldivian officials on the existing provision for Sri Lankan fishers to inform the authorities of the two countries beforehand for enjoyment of ’innocent passage’. During his visit, the Minister also obtained the release of seven Sri Lankan multi-day fishing boats, detained by Maldives for violation of territorial waters without such notice.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News & Haveeru, August 9-10, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Avinash Paliwal;
Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan: Sripathi Narayanan;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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