Author : Satish Mishra

MonitorsPublished on Jun 06, 2014
On 26 May, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi assumed office after he was sworn-in as the country's 15th Prime Minister by President Pranab Mukherjee.
India: PM Modi begins to govern
< class="heading1">Analysis

On 26 May, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi assumed office after he was sworn-in as the country’s 15th Prime Minister by President Pranab Mukherjee. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was voted to power by the people in the nine-phased general elections held in April-May this year with high hopes and huge expectations.

In his election campaign, Modi had promised to ensure ’maximum governance with minimum government’, revive economic growth, create employment, raise the standard of living and provide safety and security to people at large. In short, the new Prime Minister had promised to change the face of the country making it more confident and empowered.

The country’s electorate chose to repose trust in the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate primarily because of the model of development that Modi had followed in his home State of Gujarat where he remained the Chief Minister from 2002 till he resigned for being sworn in as the nation’s Prime Minister.

Because Modi had held the previous Congress-led Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh guilty of policy paralysis, slow decision making and for promotion of corruption in public life by its various acts of commission and omission, it has become all the more important to deliver on the promises made during the elections and the party manifesto.

Requirement-based selection

The selection of 23 Cabinet Ministers and 22 Ministers of State who took oath of office along with him gives some clue to the new prime minister’s style of governance and nature of his government.

A close look at the list of ministers clearly shows that Modi has used his prime ministerial discretion fully and has picked up his ministerial colleagues according to his requirement and plan of action.

By keeping the council of ministers small, the Prime Minister has not only ensured better coordination between him and his ministerial colleagues but has also cut public-spending. There were 77 ministers in the UPA government. It is estimated that expenditure on ministers alone would come down by Rs 26 million.

Modi’s style of governance is reflected in his decision to give charge of Ministries of Coal, Power, and New and Renewable Energy to Piyush Goyal. In the previous government, these ministries were held by three different ministers, making the task of coordination cumbersome and difficult. India is a energy-deficient nation and there is an urgent need for stepping up power generation in the country.

Since India has huge coal reserves and thermal power is one of the crucial components of the country’s energy basket, handing over the responsibility of three inter-related ministries to one person is a step which is likely to fasten the decision-making that in turn would help in power generation. Often enough in the past, inter-ministerial issues created serious roadblocks and precious time was lost which const the nation dear.

At the same time, Modi has also taken care of party and government’s image in the public eyes. By giving charge of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation to Uma Bharti, he has sought to reassure the electorate that he was serious about cleaning of the holy river. Bharti had undertaken a massive campaign for cleaning of the river in 2012-13.

Streamlining Govt machinery

Apart from his Council of Ministers, Modi has been focusing on streamlining the Government machinery which is a crucial tool of good governance. In an unprecedented step, the prime minister met 70 top bureaucrats of the country in a meeting on June 2. Modi categorically conveyed to the Secretaries of different Ministries and Departments that they need to take bold decisions without fear. His message to them is loud and clear that they enjoy his full support and protection for their decision.

The Prime Minister’s message to both his political colleagues as well as the bureaucracy is clear that they have to perform with alacrity and speed so that promises made to people can be fulfilled.

Budget allocations

The joint session of Parliament, which begins on June 9, would be addressed by the President. The presidential address is likely to present the priorities of the new government and a roadmap for action.

The new government’s first finance budget, which is expected to be presented to the Lok Sabha next month, would concretise the plan of action as budget allocations would clearly outline the NDA Government’s approach to different challenges faced by the country.

An appraisal of the working of the new government would be possible only after a few months as the beginning seems to be promising.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives: Need to build national consensus for addressing religious orthodoxy, extremism

N Sathiya Moorthy

The reported death of two Maldivians fighting alongside the rebel forces against the Government troops in distant Syria has surprised the Government and shocked the rest of the Maldivian society. While the six-month-old government of President Abdulla Yameen cannot be blamed for any ’permissiveness’ in the matter, it will need to do more to check such tendencies from increasing in the nation before it becomes too late.

Hassan Shifaz from capital Male and another Maldivian, Abu Turab al-Mujajir, were reportedly killed in gun battles, according to Minivan News. YouTube and other social media networks were abuzz with the news and pictures of at least one of the dead. The first reports of the two deaths in Syria were reported by Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM), believed to be a website-based driven terror group. It was picked up by the local media.

The news with photographs hit the social media network when President Yameen was away in India for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in. Anticipating political criticism, he said on return home that such acts did not have the Government’s ’consent’. He also said that the Government was ready to help Maldivians overseas to return home if they wanted, but the responsibility for any crime wilfully committed by an individual must be borne by the individual himself.

Later, Haveeru quoted police chief Hussain Waheed that they were ’worried’ and were investigating the same. He also said that the’ police are currently discussing what they can personally do to retrieve the rest of the Maldivians who are currently in Syria’. The police need to find their exact locations in order to do this, he said adding, "Our aim is to reduce the involvement of Maldivians in such incidents."

As Haveeru and other local media reports said, "The issue of Maldivians travelling to Syria to participate in the country’s civil war first came to light late last year when a group of Maldivians were stopped at Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) for allegedly trying to join the rebel forces". Haveeru said approximately 20 Maldivians are currently fighting in the Syrian civil war.

It is unclear if the police investigators looked into the fact that both dead men were in their forties, implying that they might have joined militant movements much earlier, when they were in their teens or the twenties. It is not unlikely again that they might have graduated from religious orthodoxy, to fundamentalism and to extremism before taking to arms. If so, they will also need to probe how they reached where they are reported to have been killed and when. They would also want to know why, when and how they left Maldives, and what kind of religious schooling and/or militant training they had acquired - and where.

What has added to the current mood is the BASM’s reaction to the police investigations into the background of the dead men. "When the Maldivian Police heard of the Maldivians being martyred in Syria, those half female creatures made sure they go enter upon their houses and question their women," BASM said in a strongly-worded posting. "If the Maldivian Police are investigating about us, then let them know that we too are investigating," it added.

Official websites hacked

The nation was in for more surprises when on the night of Friday, 30 May, self-styled Syrian Revolution Soldiers (SRS) of militants hacked close to 250 Maldivian Government websites. They included the presidential residence of ’Muleeage’, the Maldivian Monetary Authority (MMA) or the central bank, and the all-important ministries/departments of Defence and Police, immigration and Customs, Finance and Foreign Affairs. A host of government institutions, including the nation’s life-line in the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in the capital, were not spared.

Identifying himself as ’Dr.SHA6H’, the hacker claimed that it was being done to protest the "silence of the world to resolve the Syrian conflict, which has lasted nearly three years". According to Haveeru, "SRS which runs online had previously hacked into important websites of other countries". Yet, the choice of a relatively small and ’minor’ nation like Maldives for what otherwise seems to be ’innocent’ aspects of greater and faster ’Islamisation’ cannot be missed.

Maldives is not new to hacking and other ’campaigns’ (?) through use, misuse and abuse of the social media in particular. Coinciding with the advent and spread of the social media, the pro-democracy movement in the country had put it to good use, particularly for reaching out to fellow countrymen from across the distant seas. Independent of this, hacking and sting-operations put out on the social media has been a part of competing political campaigns in the country, challenging the very credibility of the processes in the democracy era. But this one has been different.

Orthodoxy and democracy

From time-to-time over the past few years, the local media have carried reports and analyses, highlighting the genesis, issues and problems pertaining to the religious orthodoxy, fundamentalism and extremism catching up with what for centuries now has been a ’modern Islamic nation’. But much of the purpose and credibility often used to get lost - like the original political criticism -- because of over-identification with their purported political slant.

Against this, Haveeru this time carried a comment with an Islamic scholar, declaring that "Maldivians are not obliged to fight the Syrian war". From time to time, suggestions have been made on the need for re-focussing religious teaching, both inside the country and outside, for young Maldivians serious in the study of theology. Successive administrations are believed to have encouraged traditional religious teaching in the nation’s prisons to help reform them, but results are reported to be mixed. The methodology too may need to be focussed and purposeful and supervision-driven.

Break-down of the value-based family-system, which has been an inevitable consequence of advancement of the individual and societies, is said to be another cause. Often, the high incidence of divorce and drug-abuse are also attributed to the same course, and are also said to be mutually feeding each other. Here again, religion can help, particularly in the absence of the modern tradition of professional counselling and access and availability. How this could be done - and desired results achieved -- without super-imposing ideas and methods that can produce different and differentiated results in individuals also need to be analysed.

For a frequent visitor to Maldives, the visible changes in religious attitudes of the population becomes striking at the changing dress mode/code of women on the streets, offices, etc, over the past few years. More and more women, young and old, often middle-aged, have their whole body and head covered in full-length traditional clothing, with most of them leaving their faces uncovered, as elsewhere.

The modern among them stop with a head-scarf, covering only the flowing part of a woman’s hair. This, coupled with the flowing gown-like traditional dress covering up to the feet, now remains the official dress of women Ministers and officials, of whom there are many, as always. The reasons for conversion to visible orthodoxy are many. It is a reflection on the global trend in this most-modern ’IT era’, where ordinary Maldivian men and women keeping travelling overseas, particularly other Islamic nations, for education, employment and healthcare.

Better education facilities even in the interior islands than was available two or three decades ago and ever-increasing pressures of living-costs and lifestyle costs in that order - visible in ’population centres’ but hidden in the distant islands -- and the purported disinterest of young men to fixed-time jobs, if it could be called so, are among the factors for more women taking to full-time employment.

If adapting a dress-form would encourage their family members and the society to encourage the trend, the present-day women would accept it. Yet, like in other fast-converting ’modern’ Muslim societies, the older generation looks seemingly uncomfortable to adapt to new and unaccustomed ways of attiring themselves. Likewise, there are among men, those with flowing beards without moustache, indicating an inclination towards orthodox Wahhabi form of Islam.

This does not in any way mean that either one or many of them are religious fundamentalists or extremists. Militancy too may never be in their minds. Both men and women, identifiable otherwise with purported growth in religious orthodoxy, were/are visible in the front rows of political rallies and street-protests, cutting across political ideology, if any, and party affiliations.

Women participated in large numbers in pro-democracy protests in the years before political reforms and in MDP rallies since, with an underlying and oftentimes unmentioned demand/expectation for greater role for them in public life and space. Independent of the issues involved, the religious orthodoxy and their NGOs were involved alongside the traditional and evolving polity in the ’democratic replacement’ of President Gayoom (2008), President Nasheed (2012) and President Waheed (2013).

Islam, Islamic State and Islamisation

Taking to wholesale conversion to Islam as far back as the twelfth century along with the then Buddhist ruler, Independence (from being a British Protectorate, and not a colony) in 1965 saw Maldives adopting Islam as the ’State religion’ under the new Constitution, three years later. Two successive statutes, including the multi-party democracy Constitution of 2008, would not seek to alter the position.

Clearly and consciously, the founding fathers of the three Constitutions did not deem it necessary to discuss the subject, either. Today, Maldives continues to be a Sunni Islamic State, and citizenship is conferred only on Sunni Muslims under the Constitution. Long before all this, when the first pro-Republican protests hit the streets in the early thirties of the twentieth century, political calls for changing over from the ’sultanate’ were made also in the name of religion.

Ironically, both former President Ibrahim Nasir and his successor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who otherwise modernised the Maldivian society to tourism-driven economic prosperity and consequent improvements in healthcare and education, are also credited with greater ’Islamisation’ of the Maldivian polity and society. That was possibly their way of balancing tradition with modernity, economic prosperity for the nation as a whole without ending up altering the social fabric.

This, for instance, meant expensive resorts for high-spending foreign (read: western) tourists could not be built in larger cities like Male, but in isolated uninhabited islands of which there are many. Yet, such seclusion did not stop the youth from taking to drugs, which is acknowledged by religious, social, political and government leaders as among the greater maladies of post-resorts economic boom in the country.

The fact that years of democracy activism, in which youth participated in increasingly large numbers, could not wean them away from habits such as this, has not gone unnoticed, either. Today, Maldives continue to be known for high per capita consumption of drugs that are smuggled from overseas. Owing to social and economic pressures that have been brought out by studies, for an Islamic nation Maldives also remains high on the list of high number of divorces.

Self-reassuring justification

Of the two post-Independence rulers of the nation, Gayoom is more contemporary and ruled the nation for 30 years until he lost the multi-party democratic elections of 2008. Against this, Ibrahim Nasir also had had a twin-stint as Prime Minister and then President adding up to 21 years in office (1957-78), averaging ten years in each post - a fact that is often not being highlighted in contemporary political, social and media discourse on the post-Independence Maldives.

Much of the political blame for greater and faster Islamisation of Maldives has been placed at the doorsteps of President Gayoom - and his purported encouragement for the orthodoxy, in the background of his religious education at Al Azhar University in Cairo. His assuming the status of the supreme religious authority in the country when President under the Constitution seemed to have cut both ways. This ended only when the democracy Constitution of 2008 separated religious leadership from the person and position of the elected political leadership of the nation.

On the one hand, the Gayoom regime put down local community practices in the name of religion, dubbing them as ’un-Islamic’ after they had survived eight centuries of Islam in the country. On the other, it put down overseas-educated ’religious radicals’ with as firm a hand, even as it addressed the budding democratic dissent. There was thus an orthodox/fundamentalist religious element to the emerging loud voice of democratic dissent in Maldives.

It has been so elsewhere in the Islamic world, since the advent of the ’Iranian Revolution’ - which incidentally occurred just a year after President Gayoom had assumed office in 1978. This may also have given a self-reassuring justification for the practitioners and preachers of jihadi that their perceptions of religion-sanctioned methods to purify the social system, including the political administration of the day, makes no difference between Islamic rulers and nations, and the rest.

The question is if the dilution of ideology by the religion-centric Adhaalath Party (AP), founded by religious scholars and orthodoxy to fend off ’anti-Islamic’ religious, social and political practices in Maldives under President Gayoom, was also among the reasons for individuals straying away to even more fundamentalist form of religion - including extremist militancy, after a time. In these five years of multi-party democracy, the AP has been in the national mainstream, contesting elections, forming poll alliances and sharing political/electoral power across the board.

’Sultan Park blast’ and after

At the height of the pro-democracy protests in 2007, there occurred the first, and hopefully the only bomb-blast episode in the country, in the relaxed and crowded environs of Sultan Park in the heart of Male city. Prior to that since the war with the Portuguese centuries earlier, the country had gun-shots in battle only when overseas mercenaries targeted the Gayoom leadership in 1988, and stayed put until Indian troops arrived on request and ended the short-lived coup under ’Operation Cactus’.

Dubbed as being similar to the ’London railway station bombings’ before it, the blasts left some foreign tourists and expatriate workers injured. The Gayoom Government of the day first declared that it was done by pro-democracy elements based overseas, to frighten away foreign tourists and thus cripple the nation’s economy.

A month later in October 2007, the police traced the perpetrators to Himandhoo, an island less than 100 km away from the capital city. The difficulties that the police faced from the locals in apprehending the suspects showed how at least one island in the country had been radicalised.

A year after the Sultan Park blasts, there were also reports that at least one Maldivian was among those who participated in the ’Mumbai terror attacks’ in 2008. Going beyond general perceptions nearer home and abroad, and based on irrefutable evidence on record, Indian courts have since confirmed that Pakistan’s ISI was behind the 2008 attack, like many others before and afterward. Five years later in 2013, reports that eight Maldivians had been called to join an attack of the kind on another Indian city put the nation’s security forces on high alert.

In 2009, nine Maldivians were detained, fighting the US forces in Waziristan neighbouring Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Another Maldivian was said to have been among the suicide-bombers who targeted the Pakistani ISI headquarters in Lahore the same year. During 2009, the Pakistani authorities also detained nine Maldivians planning to set up a terror group back home, the local media reported at the time.

Indian security agencies are continued to be concerned about the possibilities of terror-groups funded and trained by the ISI using nations in the southern neighbourhood, including Maldives and Sri Lanka, to target the nation. Events of 2009 would show that there are two parallel tracks - the second one, independent of the ISI and targeting India and Pakistan alike.

Social orthodoxy, societal tools

Purportedly the contemporary idea in the democracy era was/is for the AP to use the authority and tools of Government to push forward ’religious reforms’ (though in the reverse, going by the westernised sense of the term), in favour of a Sharia-driven social, legal and politico-administrative order, if only in stages. This however has alienated some of the AP ranks from the early days, who feel that the party should have stuck to social orthodoxy and societal tools - and, neither governmental power or extremist methodology (to which there is no inclination or proof).

The first multi-party democracy administration of President Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) accommodated the AP in the government and entrusted to its care, newly-formed religion-centric ministries created for the purpose, reportedly in the hope of ’mainstreaming’ the party. Neither the experiment nor the MDP-AP alliance did go too far.

Through the five years of ’democratic co-existence’, mainline political parties even while alternating in electoral partnership with the AP have been observing the party’s vote-share and victories in local council and other elections with curiosity on the one hand and concern that it was a vote for fundamentalism rather than religious orthodoxy.

After backing MDP’s Nasheed and PPM’s Yameen in the second round, run-off polls for the presidency, respectively in 2008 and 2013, the AP was left to fend for itself in the subsequent parliamentary elections. The party drew a blank in 2009 polls to the People’s Majlis but won a lone seat this time round. Yet, it continued in the Nasheed Government then but would not be accommodated by Yameen’s presidency.

While partially succeeding in implementing its religion-centric agenda while in power, the AP left the ruling alliance not long after, to become the political face of religious NGOs in the ’December 23 Movement’ , demanding President Nasheed’s exit. In this role, the AP also negotiated on behalf of the religious NGOs with the political Opposition of the time, led by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), founded and chaired by one-time bête noire in President Gayoom.

In the light of the recent developments, including BASM’s open threat for the Maldivian police to locate the group and ’bring us back’, the Minivan News has quoted a former police officer on the lack of comprehensive anti-terror laws in the country. The officer also reportedly questioned decision to have controversial Sheikh Adam Shameem speak at the police’s recent master parade: "For the police to invite these people validates the accusations made by some that the police and the security services are quite supportive of extremist elements and extremism in general."

According to Minivan News, Sheikh Shameem recently prayed for the ’acceptance of the martyrdom of Maldivians killed in Syria’. He first came to public attention following his mega-lecture ’Andalus’ last year, which was interrupted by authorities for violating the State broadcaster’s guideline. The MDP, which has been critical of the Yameen Government and most other political parties on this score, condemned Shameem’s ’Andalus’ lecture, accusing him of inciting hatred in order to sway the electorate.

Long before Sheikh Adam Shameem, the MDP Government of President Nasheed had invited AP leader Sheikh Imran to address the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel at their Male headquarters on the eve of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan, in 2010. In his sermon, reports said, Sheikh Imran asked the soldiers to take their lessons in contemporary military strategy and tactics from the jihadi fighters in the Holy Koran.

National discourse

After the isolated ’Sultan Park episode’ (2007), every incident of the kind and worse involving Maldivians have occurred outside the country. Maldives itself has been spared of incidents that threaten the safety and security of the local community, which is harmony-seeking and peace-loving. This includes the nation’s divided democratic polity that are daggers drawn otherwise, but only in political terms. Violence, political or otherwise, is often attributed to gangs and gang-wars, and their occasional usage by political parties. Religion and other ideologies have not played a part.

Today, a situation may have arisen for the Government of the day to build political consensus in addressing religious extremism on the one hand, and delineating it from the return of religious orthodoxy, which has become a world-wide trend, not only in Maldives and Islam, but also in relation to other regions and religions of the world. Maldives’ South Asian neighbourhood is a case in point.

However, given the complexities involved, particularly in terms of the future of democracy, society and tourism-driven economy, the nation needs to consciously address the question if Maldives could afford the current trend, however unconnected and irregular it may be. If nothing else, there has to be political truce and administrative restraint in commenting on sensitive and controversial issues of the kind, and charging one another with callous governmental approach while in power, if not complicity of whatever kind.

As of now, no national-level elections are ordinarily due for close to five years. Nor has political stability and post-polls status quo been challenged. The Government and the rest of the nation’s polity cannot delude themselves into deflecting the more serious and long-term problem(s) on hand for transitory political/electoral advantages that do not impact the individual and the society beyond a point. Nor can the divided and at times dis-spirited polity continue alternating between politics-driven blame-game and competitive indulgence of any kind.

Continued failure on this score, which unfortunately may have also been a hallmark of Maldivian democratisation as in any other nation, could push out more and more frustrated youth out of the mainstream. After the initial hiccups that have marked/marred the democratisation processes, the nation now has full five years to re-stabilise and move forward, as much politically as economically.

Learning from Pakistan

In all this, Maldives only need to learn from the experience of fellow-South Asian nation in Pakistan. By externalising internal problems, and internalising external political processes without preparing the people fully, Pakistan hit the cross-roads between democracy and military rule very long ago. If successive political and military leaderships thought that religion was one way of keeping aspiring youth away from ’trouble’, or focus their energies externally, it has now ended up working in the opposite - and extremist - ways.

In the absence of political ’isms of any kind that they may not have tasted and tested in the past - local conditions and traditions too may frown upon such ideologies - religion could have become the refuge of many Maldivian youth in recent years. From orthodoxy to extremism is only a fleeting and false step away. Over-heated by the democratisation protests and processes, the nation seemed to have overlooked the at least a section of the youth, who had a vision and a mission of their own.

This too seems to have been a strain behind extremist ideology and methodology finding ready-recruits in Maldives over the past years, particularly after democracy and democratisation processes failed to meet their expectations and aspirations in every which way. This does not mean any failure of democracy per se, but is at best a teething trouble attaching to the democratisation process - not that the pre-democracy society and polity were not similarly influenced. A debate is thus out of context.

Whether through parliamentary initiative, or political consultations, or social initiatives, or a combination of all, there is a need for Maldives and Maldivians to discuss and decide on a graded and calibrated approach to the unravelling issue. That this has to be done before it became too late, and Maldives itself became a base and target is a national imperative that it can choose to ignore now, and face the consequences in good time.

Otherwise, when and how the issue(s) has to be addressed over the short, medium and long-terms, and what kind of internal cooperation and external coordination would be required are among the points and pointers that the nation should be discussing without any/further loss of time. The initiative in all such matters might rest in the Government of the day, but decisions would have to be taken collectively, consciously and in a calibrated way.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Maldives

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police probe locals fighting in Syria

The police are investigating reports of two Maldivian men being killed whilst fighting alongside the rebel forces in Syria, police chief Hussain Waheed said on Tuesday. It was "worrying" to hear about Maldivian citizens dying in a war that is being fought in Syria. "We’re investigating what’s necessary," Waheed said.

According to earlier reports, two Maldivians,Hassan Shifaz from capital Male was reportedly killed amidst a gun battle that took place between the rebel forces and the Syrian army in north-west Syria, while another Maldivian Ali Adam, 44, was reported to have been killed in a suicide-attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The police chief also said that they currently discussing what they can personally do to retrieve the remaining Maldivians who are currently in Syria. He added that that the police need to find their exact locations in order to do this. "Our aim is to reduce the involvement of Maldivians in such incidents," Waheed said. Providing the self-proclaimed martyrs with proper religious education is also an important measure in reducing such incidents, the Commissioner added.

The issue of Maldivians travelling to Syria to participate in the country’s civil war first came to light late last year when a group of Maldivians were stopped at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) for allegedly trying to join Syrian rebel forces. Reportedly there are approximately 20 Maldivians currently fighting in the Syrian civil war.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 3 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed for MDP presidency

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has announced that he will stand for the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) president post. He is currently the party’s interim president and announced his decision on the twitter.

Nasheed is the only applicant for the party’s president post so far. Former Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy earlier announced that he will compete for MDP’s vice-president post.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 3 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JP shares PPM alliance pact with US

The Jumhooree Party (JP) has shared the PPM coalition agreement’s "unofficial translation" with US Ambassador Michele J. Sison, at her request, during a meeting with party leader Gasim Ibrahim.

During the meeting discussions were held regarding the political activities of the Jumhooree Party in the future and the role of the parliamentary group.

In addition to this, the decision of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) to annul the coalition contract made with the Jumhooree Party was also discussed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu 5 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Illegal immigrants deported from Addu

In a special operation conducted jointly by the Addu City Council, Immigration Department and the police, 33 illegal expatriate workers were arrested in Hithadhoo.

The Police Commander of the South Division, Chief Inspector Ahmed Shifan said that they would look through all the islands of Addu to seek out the illegal immigrants living there.

"This operation will be run in all the islands on a permanent basis and the illegal immigrants arrested will be sent off from Addu as soon as possible. Our objective is to solve the problem of illegal immigrants and to ensure that the agents involved in recruiting them abide by the laws," he said.

Shifan said that after the immigrants have been sent off from Addu, police active in the region will check on them at every stop the vessel makes until it reaches Male.

"Police will be on alert and continuously checking on them from all directions until they are safe and under the custody of Immigration authorities in Male, eliminating all and any chances of escape for them. We will also be checking all the boats that arrive at Addu to prevent fresh arrivals," he said.

In addition to locating the illegal immigrants in Addu, action is to be taken against those who employ them. Many illegal immigrants have been deported from Addu previously as well.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 4 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BML to sell dollars to overseas travellers

Bank of Maldives (BML) has decided to dedicate the third storey of its main building for the sale of US dollars for people preparing to travel abroad.

There will be a limit of $500 for each customer, the BML has said. Sale of US dollars for other purposes will continue as per normal.

Central bank Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has increased the amount of US dollars released to banks, to combat the problem of shortage in the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 3 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India helps 18 Maldivians in Ukraine

Maldivian students in the crisis-hit Lugansk of Ukraine have been transferred to the capital city of Kiev by the Indian government.

The High Commissioner of India to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare said that 18 Maldivians had been transported along with the Indians from Lugansk to Kiev by train, upon request by the Maldivian government. "India will always be ready and willing when Maldives calls for help," he said.

The Indian government, in collaboration with the Ukrainian government, has arranged the safe return of more than 1000 Indians who had been living in the city of Lugansk. They have all been safely transported to the capital city and are en route to India.

However, travel plans of the 18 Maldivians who had been taken to Kiev along with the Indians have not been made yet. Shahare said that the Indian embassy in Ukraine had arranged accommodation for the Maldivians in Kiev, where they can stay safely until their return to the Maldives. Kiev is a peaceful place, they can stay there. Should they need any other assistance, we will grant it them as well," he said.

There are 50 Maldivian medical students in Ukraine. The Maldivian foreign ministry had earlier said that all the Maldivians in Ukraine are safe and well.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 5 June 2014

Myanmar

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Thein Sein insists ceasefire must come first

Karen National Union chairman Saw Mu Too Sayphoe and a delegation met President Thein Sein and Commander in Chief of Defence Services Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing in Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday to discuss the peace process.

According to the State owned MRTV, the KNU leader discussed signing a nationwide ceasefire deal and preparations for political dialogue.

President Thein Sein said cooperation will follow a ceasefire, as will talks on differences of opinions. Reaching a ceasefire agreement is the most important step towards peace he said, adding that a solution would be found through patience and perseverance.

Thein Sein urged those present to believe that the peace process is gaining momentum. If it does not turn back it will go forward, he explained. Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing said that progress has been made on the nationwide ceasefire, according to a press release from the ministry of defence. The Army is determined to succeed, he added.

The Commander-in-Chief said three fundamental principles are necessary for democracy: stability, solidarity and development.

The KNU delegations said they will strive for peace and overcome differences through collaboration.

The KNU is a member of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, which is working towards a nationwide ceasefire agreement between the government and armed ethnic groups.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 5 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Survey on Kyaukphyu-Kunming rail line

Ground surveys are underway to prepare for the construction of a railway linking Kyaukphyu township in Rakhine State of Myanmar with Kunming town in China, through the border town of Muse in Shan State, a report released by the Ministry of Rail Transport on 2 June said.

The report notes that religious and historical buildings are located on the 950-km route, the report said. The ministry pledged that it would adhere to international standards in the project and that it would proceed with transparency.

The railway runs parallel to the controversial Shwe Gas Project, which exports natural gas from offshore Rakhine State to China. Although rich in natural gas, it is estimated that only 25 percent of all households in Rakhine State have access to electricity.

"We have not been informed of what they intend to do or how they will do it," Tun Kyi of the Shwe Gas Pipelines Watch Group said on Wednesday, referring to the rail line. "If continues resource-exploitation projects without informing the public, they will definitely face protests," he added.

The Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone Project, which will be connected to the Kyaukphyu-Kunming railway, is preparing to invite tenders from international bidders. Union Minister for Rail Transport Than Htay earlier said that construction of the Kyaukphyu-Kunming railroad would not ignore the desire of the people.

The MoU signed by the junta says that China will pay most of the cost to build the railroad. It will be constructed under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) system, with transfer to the government occurring after 50 years of operation.

The proposed railway extends 950 kilometres from Kyaukphyu Township in Rakhine State to Muse section within Township in Shan State. The plan called for this line to be extended to Kunming city in Yunnan province, creating a Kyaukphyu-Kunming corridor.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 5 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border chief to visit Bangladesh

Top officials from Bangladesh’s border security forces are expected to visit Burma (Myanmar) next week. On 1 June, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali informed the media that the Director General of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Aziz Ahmed, will visit Burma on June 9 with a high-level delegation to discuss various border-related issues with his Burmese counterparts.

BGB-DG Foreign Minister Ali was quoted as saying that "We will do whatever is needed (on border security)" during a press conference during which he provided details of BGB’s upcoming Burma trip to local Bangladeshi media outlets.

For some time, the border between Bangladesh and Burma has remained tense, with sporadic clashes between BGB personnel and Burma’s Border Guard Police (BGP) occasionally breaking out. Most recently, a BGB officer was killed in a clash between the two countries’ border security forces last on 28 May.

The deadly incident prompted both the countries to deploy more security forces along the border, and Bangladesh’s government even summoned Burmese Ambassador Myo Myint Than twice after the clash. The Burmese ambassador received an official letter from Bangladesh’s government protesting what Bangladesh believes was an unprovoked attack by Burma’s BGP.

On 31 May, Burma’s BGP was supposed to hand over the deceased BGB member’s body. However, while the body was being delivered another exchange of gunfire broke out, according to Kaladan Press.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Ali even went as far as saying that "The situation has improved a lot after the tension actually cooled down in the localities ."

Ali also claimed that the border forces of both countries have resumed their regular job responsibilities, implying that such activities normally don’t involve the exchange of gunfire along the border.

Foreign Minister Ali also informed local news media that a day-long "foreign office consultation" between Bangladesh and Burma will take place in Dhaka on June 18th for purposes of discussing all relevant border issues in a comprehensive manner.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Narinjara News, 4 June, 2014

Nepal

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM calls for Chinese investments

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has urged Chinese leaders to invest in Nepal´s hydropower and tourism sectors during his visit to Kunming of Yunnan, a south-west province of China. Koirala, who reached there to attend China South Asia expo as a special guest, urged the Chinese provincial leaders to help Nepal build infrastructures.

On the sidelines of the Expo, Qin Guangrong, Secretary of the Yunan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), met with Koirala and discussed ways for strengthening Nepal-China relationships. "Qin looked keen about Nepal-China partnership," said Mahesh Maskey, Nepal´s ambassador to China, who was also present in the meeting.

"Nepal´s present goal is economic development; we want to partner with China while learning lessons of Yunnan," Maskey quoted Koirala as replying to Qin.

< class="text11verdana">Source: myrepublica.com, 5 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Positive to China’s bank proposal

Nepal has hinted that it could join proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as one of the founding members. The Bank, initiated by China, is expected to rival other multilateral agencies such as World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

A Government team led by Shankar Adhikari, secretary at the Financial Comptroller General Office, is heading for China on Saturday to take part in a meeting to discuss the establishment of the bank. The meeting is scheduled for June 9-10.

Chinese Finance Secretary Shi Yaobin had requested Nepal to become the founding member of the proposed bank during his visit to Nepal last week. Though the government has not taken a final decision on the Chinese request, officials say that the government is positive towards the proposal.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Ekantipur, 6 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border road network to improve: Mamata

India’s West Bengal State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said the state will improve the road network with Nepal and Bhutan. "The roads to Bhutan and Nepal border points will be re-laid centering Siliguri," the commercial hub of North-East, Banerjee said at a meeting here.

This move, as part of the drive to bolster the tourism facilities in the North Bengal-Nepal/Bhutan circuit, will entail an expense of Rs 1400 crore, she added. Banerjee further said the state will overhaul the tourism infrastructure in Dooars-Terai belt of Jalpaiguri district where thousands of holidayers converge every year.

The CM, who announced the setting up a tribal development council in the region, called upon people to resist any attempt to disturb the integrity of North Bengal.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 2 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">16 killed in bus accident, Indians feared dead

At least 16 people were killed when a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims, including Indians, fell into a river in western Nepal today. Unconfirmed reports said that 11 Indians were among those killed when the bus rolled down a mountain road while returning from Pyuthan district, 250 km from Kathmandu.

The bus was returning to Kapilavastu from the Swargadwari temple. Police said it was carrying around 60 passengers, the Himalayan Times reported. Rescue teams recovered at least 10 unidentified bodies from the accident site. Seven of the deceased are women.

Around 20 persons were rescued alive from the accident site and were taken to different hospitals in the area. Police say that the death toll may rise. Presently, locals and police personnel are carrying out rescue operations.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 2 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mandatory military training

Most of the lawmakers except few from UCPN (Maoist) and fringe parties aired their views against provision of mandatory military training to all the citizens in the new constitution at the meeting of Constitutional Political Dialogue Committee (CPDC) on Friday.

Law-makers said that the country is not in need of compulsory military training to the citizens and country´s financial situation also cannot compensate to it. A total of 18 law-makers expressed their views at the meeting. According to Baburam Bhattarai head of the committee, the deliberations on the issue would continue. The next meeting has been schedule for 13 June.

< class="text11verdana">Source: myrepublica.com, 6 June 2014

Pakistan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two projects cleared on China corridor

The Pakistan federal government has cleared six development schemes costing Rs. 130 billion including two strategically important projects under the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor. This marks the beginning of a process that will turn Pakistan into a transit hub for the second largest economy in the world.

The six projects are related to transport and communications and the Higher Education Commission. One of the main projects is acquisition of land for the Gwadar free trade zone at a cost of Rs. 6.3 billion. This is part of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 6 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Split in TTP

The Mehsud faction of the Pakistan Taliban has announced that it is splitting from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan because they believe the group "has slipped into the hands of a bunch of conspirators who receive money from foreign elements for carrying out bomb attacks at public places".

Azam Tariq, a spokesperson for the breakaway group told a news conference at an undisclosed location in Waziristan that the faction has chosen Khalid Mehsud as its new leader for South Waziristan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 29 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rawalpindi attacks kill peace hopes

A suicide attack on a vehicle of the Pakistan Army at a railway crossing on Pindi Road in Feteh Jang killed five people including two lieutenant colonels. The army personnel were identified as Lt. Col. Zahir Shah and Lt. Col. Arshad Hussain. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.

A rickshaw was also destroyed in the attack and the driver, Muhammad Saleem, was killed. Authorities have not released the names of the other two deceased but media reports say that they were the driver and guard of the army officers.

Prospects for the reopening of peace negotiations between the government and the TTP have been affected by this attack. Rustam Shah Mohmand, a member of the government appointed negotiation committee has said that there are no chances of peace talks in the near future especially as both parties were already not on talking terms for the last few weeks.

The TTP, however, is still interested in the resumption of peace negotiations with the government according to Maulana Yousaf, one of the three members of the TTP committee.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 5 June 2014; The Express Tribune, 6 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">30 Baloch rebels killed

At least 30 Baloch militants were killed according to an official in a battle between Pakistani forces and insurgents fighting for the independence of Balochistan.

The region’s Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti told journalists that militants from the outlawed Baloch Republican Army had attacked and killed two soldiers during the battle. Balochistan borders Afghanistan and Iran and is a large resource-rich region

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 5 June 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt to implement 13-A sans police powers

The government has said that it did not have an issue with implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution with the exception of police powers.

Asked during the weekly Cabinet Press briefing in Colombo if land and other provisions of 13-A with the exception of police powers would be implemented, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwalle said that the contentious issue was the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) demand for a Police Commissioner to be appointed by the Northern Province Chief Minister. That could not be granted due to security reasons, he said.

Asked whether the granting of land powers needed to be discussed with the relevant stake-holders, he replied, "It is police powers as demanded by the TNA that cannot be granted. Traffic police and other powers necessary for administrative purposes could be devolved."

Pointing out that India had amended its Constitution 150 times, Minister Rambukwella noted that the 13-A had been relevant at the time it was introduced but not in the post-war era.

Sri Lanka, the minister said welcomed the new Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since it would give stability to both countries. "We did have certain differences with New Delhi, but it has always stood for an undivided Sri Lanka despite Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s repeated calls for the creation of a separate State."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island 5 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi was told devolution of police powers not possible: FM

External Affairs Minister Prof GL Peiris yesterday told Parliament that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had conveyed to new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Sri Lanka couldn’t devolve police powers under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. President Rajapaksa met PM Modi in New Delhi on May 27 after having attended the latter’s swearing in ceremony the previous day.

Responding to UNP National Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prof Peiris said: "We made it crystal clear that devolution of police powers is not acceptable." Prof. Peiris, who participated at the New Delhi talks insisted that a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) was the best way to address the issue. "We want to find a solution that will stand the test of time" he said.

Prof. Peiris said the talks between the two leaders had been centred on a wide range of matters, including PM Modi’s vision for the SAARC, economic relations between the two countries and the fishermen’s issue. Although there had been no in-depth discussion on constitutional matters, it was among the matters discussed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island 4 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rehabilitation of ex-LTTE cadres in final phase

The rehabilitation of former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres was in its final phase and would be completed by the first quarter of next year, the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Maj-Gen Jagath Wijetilleke has said.

He said there were only 129 former members of the LTTE including four females, currently undergoing rehabilitation; they were the last batch.

They were currently undergoing the one-year rehabilitation programme jointly conducted by the Sri Lanka Army and Bureau of the Commissioner- General of Rehabilitation (BCGR) at the Poonthottam Rehabilitation Centre in Vavuniya.

"Every three months, we reintegrate a batch to the society. We will be reintegrating a batch of 12 ex-combatants this month," he added. From those who had already been rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society, more than 230 had qualified to pursue higher education while 35 were currently studying in universities.

Nearly 12,000 former LTTE cadres had either surrendered or were taken into custody following the end of the war in 2009. They were rehabilitated separately.

Meanwhile, a group of parents as well as relatives of some LTTE child soldiers believed killed during the final phase of the army assault on the LTTE, confronted Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members of Parliament near the Mullaitivu Pradeshiya Sabha secretariat during a protest by the latter. The police prevented a clash between the two groups, though they exchanged words.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online 5 Jun3e 2014, The Island 4 June 2014

Afghanistan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">G’Bay inmates swapped for US soldier

Five senior Taliban members held captive at Guantanamo Bay and said to be close to Mullah Omar were released this week in exchange for the American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive by the insurgents since 2009.

The released Taliban leaders include Mullah Khairullah Khair Khawah, who served as Minister of Interior and Governor of Herat under the Taliban government; Mullah Fazel Mazloom, the Taliban Army Staff Chief of Staff; Mawlawi Abdul Haq Waseeq, the Deputy head of intelligence under the Taliban; Mawlawi Noorullah Noori, former Governor of Balkh and later Kandahar Army Chief for the Taliban; and Mawlawi Muhammad Nabi Omeri, a senior Taliban leader in southern Afghanistan.

Members of the Afghan High Peace Council remain hopeful about the impact that this move may have on the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. However, a number of political analysts and civil society members in Afghanistan have expressed concerns about this development. They feel that the release of such prisoners can have a detrimental impact on the security situation in Afghanistan and encourage the Taliban to take on more hostages in the future.

The prisoner exchange was facilitated by the Qatar government. According to a former senior member of the Taliban, Qatar’s role in this process could solidify its position as a facilitator in the peace talks. The released Taliban prisoners are to remain in Qatar under surveillance for a year as per the deal signed between the US and the Taliban.

This arrangement has been criticised by the Afghan government, which is advocating that the released prisoners should enjoy complete freedom.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 1-2 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More endorsements for Abdullah

Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the leading candidate in the Afghan Presidential Elections based on the results from the first round, continued to receive the endorsement of a number of public leaders and political organisations.

The most high profile individual to endorse Dr Abdullah was Wahidullah Shahrani, the running mate of Qayum Karzai. Apart from Mr Shahrani, a number of prominent political parties with influence across the country also endorsed Dr Abdullah. This included Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami Party, Shuray-e-Etefaq Wa Dawat, and Shuray-e-Ayenda Sazan Afghanistan and Shrayy-e-Sulh Warzesh. The support from Shuray-e-Etefaq Wa Dawat, in particular, is very significant as it is a highly influential group in southern Kandahar, the predominant Pashtun belt in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf’s electoral team also endorsed the candidature of Dr Abdullah. Mr Sayyaf had received 7.5 percent of the total votes in the first round of the elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 3 June 2014; Tolo News, 6 June 2014

Bangladesh

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget targets 7.3-pc growth

Finance Minister AMA Muhith unveiled annual budget proposal of 2.51 trillion taka (about $ 32.42 b) for 2014-15 fiscal year starting from July.

The total outlay of the proposed budget for the next fiscal year 2014-15 (July 2014-June 2015) is 2,505.06 billion taka (18.7 percent of GDP), up by about 13 percent over that of the original budget of the outgoing fiscal year 2013-14 (July 2013-June 2014).

According to the proposal, the overall budget deficit will be 675.52 billion taka, which is 5 percent of GDP. Of this amount, 242.75 billion taka (1.8 percent of GDP) will be financed from external sources and 432.77 billion taka (3.2 percent of GDP) from domestic sources. Muhith said the total estimated revenue will be 1.83 trillion taka.

On the expenditure side, he said the size of Annual Development Programme for the next fiscal year will be 803.15 billion taka with power and communications sectors getting the biggest chunk of money. "The target of growth for the next fiscal year would be 7.3 percent, and in 2021 it would be 10 percent," Minister informed.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League party welcomed the budget, terming it a pro-people one that will help boost development in the country. However, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) rejected the budget, saying it is anti- people, anti-development and anti-investment.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dhaka Tribune, 6 June 2014; Shanghaidaily.com, 5 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Huge arms haul

Elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) this week seized a large cache of sophisticated arms and ammunition from Satchhari forest in Chunarughat upazila of Habiganj district in North-eastern Bangladesh. This is considered to be the country’s largest arms haul since the Chittagong 10-truck arms smuggling incident in 2004.

RAB in a press statement informed that a total of 184 HEAT (High Explosive Anti-tank) 40 millimetre shells and 153 rocket charges were seized from Satchari.

RAB Additional Director (Operation) Col Ziaul Ahsan said that the arms and ammunition recovered from seven underground bunkers in two hillocks at Satchhari forest area. Initially, RAB suspected that all those arms and ammunition were sourced from China. But since there were no marks on the arms and ammunition so origin of these arms cannot be specified.

Interestingly, the area is only 2 km away from the country’s border with the Indian State of Tripura. The area in the past was used by All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), an Indian insurgency group active in Tripura, as a hideout. ATTF also had connection with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), which used to stock their arms and ammunition at local bases of the ATTF.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Home Ashaduzzaman Khan Kamal said that after the completion of the operation, an investigation committee would be constituted to find the group that smuggled in the arms and ammunition.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 4 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese firm to build Padma bridge

The government has awarded the work order for constructing the main Padma Multipurpose Bridge (PMB) to the China Major Bridge Engineering Company Ltd (CMBECL). "I have signed the file awarding construction of the PMB to the CMBECL as it is the lowest bidder. The Prime Minister, too, has approved it," informed Communications Minister Obaidul Quader.

Total costs of the bridge will Taka 12,133 crore. An agreement will be signed between the government and the CMBECL for constructing the bridge. The construction of the main Padma Bridge is expected to be completed by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 3 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tribals flee to Tripura

More than 250 tribals from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts have sought refuge in India’s Tripura state after clashes with settlers from the plains.

In a similar incident in August last year, over 1,500 tribals took shelter in the border village of Karbook after fleeing from five villages in Khagrachari district in South West Bangladesh after tensions following the reported abduction of a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Tripura shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh which is porous because it extends over mountains that are densely forested.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bdnews24.com, 4 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gas from Indian LNG terminal

India’s H-Energy East Coast Private Ltd (HEECPL) has sought clearance for a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in West Bengal’s Digha, which will also supply gas to Bangladesh.

This will help Bangladesh tide over its now-chronic gas shortages until such time it finds fresh deposits of natural gas and gets to use them mainly for generating power.

The 8 million tonne LNG terminal will come up in the Digha offshore on the West Bengal coast and will not only supply gas to north and east India but also to Bangladesh.

The pipeline will be laid by the state-owned Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) at the cost of 7,060 crore Indian rupees.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Bdnews24.com, 5 June 2014

Bhutan

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian PM’s first overseas destination

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi will travel to neighbouring Bhutan later this month in his first foreign visit after assuming power. Modi will be travelling to Bhutan and will hold talks on key bilateral and regional issues with the leadership of the Himalayan nation, top government sources said.

The visit reflects the importance India attaches to its ties with Bhutan whose Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay was among the leaders from the neighbouring countries to attend Modi’s swearing in on 26 May. After the swearing-in, Modi had held a short duration bilateral meeting with the Bhutanese leader.

Modi is also likely to travel to Brazil to participate in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in mid July.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 6 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Education-related MDGs met

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, ended his eight day mission to Bhutan, noting that "educating for ’Education for Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) is an important way to achieve the education objectives set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Mr. Singh said, highlighting that Bhutan has already met all the education-related Millennium Development Goals set by the UN.

"Rapid economic development and urbanization risk creating a generation who only focus on material well-being, the human rights expert added, commending Bhutan’s efforts to counter-balance such forces through GNH. "Paramount importance should be attached to the humanistic mission of education."

The Special Rapporteur noted that "the four pillars of GNH promote values of sustainable development, preservation of cultural values and the natural environment, and good governance, which are of critical importance in a globalizing world."

He also praised Bhutan’s significant strides in universalising access to education and improving its quality throughout the country, but warned that the preservation of national culture and language needed special consideration.

"If English remains the only medium of instruction, then great care must be taken to ensure that national languages and writing skills are not lost," Mr. Singh cautioned* at the end of his first official visit to the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bhutan Observer, 3 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Three-day visit by Czech MPs

A nine-member delegation, comprising of the committee of foreign affairs of chamber of deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, is in the country on a three-day visit to establish relations with parliamentarians of Bhutan, and strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

The chairman of the committee, Karel Schwarzenberg said there were a lot opportunities of cooperation between the two countries. "I see enormous chances which Bhutan has in small and middle hydro-power stations and business in general. There is also huge potential market for tourism in Czech for Bhutan," Schwarzenberg said.

"There is enormous interest in the culture, tradition and nature of the Himalayan countries, such as Bhutan and Nepal." Czech Republic is one of the donors supporting the protection of environment, education and disaster management in the 11th Plan.

Czech Ambassador to Bhutan, Miloslav Sta?ek, said, "The Czech Government funded disaster management projects last year and will train the disaster management team in Chukha dzongkhag. It will also train a group of disaster-management officials in Czech Republic next year."

< class="text11verdana">Source: www.kuenselonline.com, 6 June 2014

India

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Union Minister Munde killed in car-crash

Union Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde died of injuries in a road accident on 3 June when his car was rammed by another speeding car while he was on his way to the He was taken to AIIMS Trauma Centre where he succumbed to injuries to the cervical spine and liver.

Ministers, leaders, officials and partymen gathered at the hospital and waited for Munde’s family who flew in from Mumbai to receive the body. At 12.40 pm, an Army truck carrying the body moved out of the hospital and headed for the BJP headquarters on Ashoka Road where leaders had assembled to pay tribute. Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi were present. The funeral, attended by tens of thousands of mourners, took place in Parli in Beed, Munde’s Lok Sabha consitutency.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Indian Express, 4 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RBI to work with Govt to tame inflation

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has said that the central bank will work with the government to curb inflation. "The government and the central bank have both stressed the need to bring down inflation while respecting the fact that growth is very weak", said Rajan.

There had been some speculation that the pro-business Bharatiya Janata Party government would try and force the lowering of interest rates to revive investments. However, soon after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley took office both made statements that were in concord with each other on reviving economic growth and containing inflation, signalling that the relationship may be cordial.

In its bi-monthly monetary policy review earlier this week, the RBI left the key policy repo rate unchanged at eight per cent as inflation concerns were showing signs of abating and said a pro-growth stance could be adopted if prices rose at a slower rate than expected. The cash reserve ratio was also left unchanged at four per cent.

Mindful of the need for funds when investment picks up, the central bank reduced the statutory liquidity ratio by half a percentage point to 22.5 per cent and promised a further reduction with fiscal consolidation. The cut will free up about Rs 35,000 crore with banks which they can now lend. RBI also raised the annual overseas investment ceiling for individuals from $75,000 to $125,000. The Bank’s monetary policy statement is another indication that it will work with the government to restore growth and control inflation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Economic Times, 31 May 2014; Business Standard, 4 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Techie dies after attack by Hindutva group

A 24-year-old Muslim technology professional in Pune died of injuries after members of the radical right-wing outfit Hindu Rashtra Sena attacked him on 2 June. The Pune police said Mohsin Shaikh from Solapur was beaten to death when he was on his way home after evening prayers. The incident is fallout of communal tensions in the city after morphed derogatory photos of Maratha king Shivaji and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray were posted on Facebook.

Fourteen Hindu Rashtra Sena activists have been arrested and sent to police custody till June 9 in connection with the murder.

The city has been tense since the weekend after the morphed photos went viral on social media. Right-wing organisations vandalised more than 200 buses last week.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 4 June 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tribal woman killed after resisting rape

A 35-year-old tribal Garo woman’s head was blown to pieces when she resisted an alleged molestation and rape attempt in South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya by suspected GNLA militants who shot her at point blank range, sparking outrage in the State.

The woman was at home with her husband and five children when four to five armed militants of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) entered their house at around 6 pm yesterday.

They locked up her husband and five children inside the house and pulled out the woman, police said. She was first assaulted and molested. When she resisted, they shot her with automatic assault rifles from point blank range.

Just last week, two Dalit cousins were gang-raped, murdered and hanged from a tree in the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. Rising incidents of sexual crimes against women have caused an outrage.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council report, the growing cases of violence against women in India have adversely impacted the country’s image internationally. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon condemned the Badaun incident.

In response to an earlier statement made by Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Ban-ki Moon said: "We say no to the dismissive, destructive attitude of ’boys will be boys.’"

< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, 4 June 2014

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



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