MonitorsPublished on Jan 31, 2014
In next four months, there is going to be a new government in New Delhi. The upcoming general elections are likely to be one of the most bitter and hard-fought battles in country's over six decades of Independence.
India: Republic is 65 years young - or, old?
< class="heading1">Analysis

In next four months, there is going to be a new government in New Delhi. The upcoming general elections are likely to be one of the most bitter and hard-fought battles in country’s over six decades of Independence.

The final results of the elections and respective tallies of over two dozen of political parties would decide the nature of the next Government and its capacity to deliver the desired results.

The main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi leading the electoral battle from the front is making one of its most determined efforts to win the election if possible with a comfortable majority on its own strength and is leaving no stones unturned to find allies for the likely eventuality of falling short of half-way number of 272 seats in the Lok Sabha (Lower House). Others, including the Congress leader of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), are also trying to win over the confidence of the electorate, to remain politically relevant for the formation of the next government.

A firm indication of the difficulties, complexities and problems of the elections on the one hand and the impact of the next government on the future of country’s polity and economy was visible in the address to the nation by President Pranab Mukherjee on the eve of the country’s 65th Republic Day on 26 January. The President’s customary address has come under sharp scrutiny and criticism from different quarters as it was political in nature and a departure from the past.

Therefore a closer look and a deep analysis of the address is indeed necessary before a judgment can be pronounced. Because it undoubtedly focused on the current state of the country’s polity and the state in which it finds itself, the presidential address is being intensely debated by experts, observers and commentators.

The address was essentially political as the Head of State chose to draw the attention of his fellow citizens towards dangers which are likely to threaten the Indian Republic if the "sense of national purpose and patriotism" was not re-discovered.

Declaring that 2014 was "a precipice moment" in country’s history, the President said a chance to lift the nation above and across the abyss and to put it back on to the road of prosperity awaits, and this "chance will not come if India does not get a stable government". As he said, "A fractured government, hostage to whimsical opportunists, is always an unhappy eventuality? In 2014, it could be catastrophic."

In an apt comment on some of the current trends in country’s politics, the President pointed out to the danger of" rise of hypocrisy in public life" saying that "Elections do not give any person the licence to flirt with illusions" and advised that those "who seek the trust of voters must promise only what is possible".

The President said, "The Government is not a charity shop. Populist anarchy cannot be a substitute for governance." He warned that "false promises lead to disillusionment which give birth to rage, and that rage has one legitimate target: those in power".

"This rage will abate only when governments deliver what they were elected to deliver: social and economic progress, not at a snail’s pace, but with the speed of a racehorse", the President said issuing a warning that "aspirational young Indian will not forgive a betrayal of her future".

Pointing out to the fast eroding credibility of the political class, the President said "those in politics should understand that every election comes with a warning signal: perform, or perish" and asked those on the ruling benches to "eliminate the trust deficit between them and people".

Elder statesman

In short, the President, being the Head of State, played the role of an elder of the country and guardian of the people. Having been in politics for over five decades as an active player, Mukherjee knows well that the upcoming General Elections are going to be bitterly fought and he is cautioning the electorate that "healthy differences of opinion" must not be allowed to turn into an "unhealthy strife within our polity". Asking people, particularly the political parties, to "work together", the President said and warned that unless done, "nothing ever will work".

While opinions differ whether the President should have or should not have devoted time to talk on the current state of politics and country’s polity, Mukherjee has only stated what exists on the ground. One may agree or disagree with his solutions but nobody would be able to dispute his facts.

Bouquets and brickbats

The two national parties welcomed the President’s speech but smaller and regional parties, whose very raison d’être is centred around on being small, have taken a critical view of the address to the nation. Communist Party of India (CPI) leader A B Bardhan termed it a "very political speech" and took exception to the President’s indirect support to the idea of a two-party system in the name of favouring a stable government.

"In the name of avoiding a fractured verdict and favouring a so-called stable government, the President has more or less supported the idea of a two-party system. To him everything else is fractured. Apart from the Congress and the BJP, everything else is fractured and also cannot give stability. It is a very political speech, which one does not expect from a President of that calibre", Mr Bardhan said.

The Samajwadi Party, while endorsing the President’s caution against the populist anarchy expressed disagreement with his message on fractured polity. "In democracy, people are free to vote according to their own choices. In situations where national parties have failed to meet the aspirations of various sections and regions of the country, people have voted regional parties that they think champion their interests and aspirations. There is nothing wrong. So, if that results into a fractured mandate, so be it. I think, the President should not bind the people about their political choices", SP general secretary Naresh Agarawal said.

Trinamool Congress leaders Sudip Bandoupadhyay and Saugata Roy also echoed the same argument saying that many regional parties have emerged strong and many more are coming up and that is why they cannot be ignored.

But the Janta Dal (U) leader K C Tyagi had a very different take saying that the President spoke like an elder statesman. "His views reflect the wisdom piled over 50 years of experience in public life. His advice against populist anarchy is meant for Congress, BJP, SP and AAP who are all engaged in competitive populism", he said.

Not rigid and inflexible

Notwithstanding the comments of different political parties and their respective leaders, a close look at the Constitution clearly shows that the institution of the presidency by no definition or interpretation is rigid and inflexible.

If he continues to play a copy-book Head of State, then he would have failed in his duty as the guardian of the people and State. Indian Constitution is a living document that has left enough room for extraordinary situations confronting the nation and in his enlightened view Mukherjee has chosen to give a response which may or may not be according to the statue but is definitely conforms to the demand of time.

It is a continuously evolving institution and the President has precisely done that by rising to the need of the hour by devoting considerable space to the issue of politics in his address to the nation.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives : Balancing political myth and poll reality

N Sathiya Moorthy

Barring the symbolic pay-cuts for junior ministers at inception, a 90-plus team for a 77-member Parliament (up by eight MPs after the upcoming 22 March polls) prima facie fly on the face of President Abdulla Yameen’s promise of a lean and efficient government. It even adds fuel to the off-again-on-again debate on the existing presidential form of government, as under the Westminster parliamentary scheme, there cannot be more ministers than MPs, which it is now. The situation is not going to change even with the addition of eight more MPs at the end of the 22 March parliamentary polls.

Yet, the numbers also speak for the reality of ’coalition politics’ that Maldivian psyche has come to acknowledge - and accept in a way. Whether or not it would have continued acceptance will be influenced also by the conduct of the coalescing partners. Independent of the players involved, for the concept to succeed, the present-day players have the arduous task of ensuring that theirs is ’collective governance’ and not ’collective non-governance’, under mutual threat and political blackmail.

The concept of ’coalition politics’ was overlooked at the inception of multi-party democracy in 2008. Whatever the defence, former President Mohammed ’Anni’ Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) paid a heavy price for wantonly overlooking this ground reality. Five years later, ’coalition politics’ is getting institutionalised, going beyond the half-hearted ministry-making of 2008, now on to seat-sharing for the local council polls (17 January), followed by the upcoming parliamentary elections.

It’s also how coalitions begin. But it is not how they should work. It is inevitable under the circumstances, however. Considering that the monolith MDP Opposition, with a near-equal vote-share as the desperate coalition in last year’s presidential polls, is threatening to ’impeach’ President Yameen if they got closer to a two-thirds majority in the post-election Parliament, the price that the incumbent may have to pay has the potential to make a mockery of the ’coalition’ concept as a whole. Yet, such threats that are untenable for starters -- like the circumstances under which President Nasheed had to bow out in February 2012 -- could irritate the voters enough.

It is here that Maldives and Maldivians would have to search for answers to some of the questions on ’coalition compulsions’ of Third World democracy. At the other end of the spectrum was the possibility of ’anarchy’ as one such answer. Maldives has already had a taste of it while in the making under the scheme of multi-party democracy.

Thankfully, the nation rejected it even as it was cooking. Circumstances leading up to religious NGOs hijacking of what essentially was a political process at the height of the post-SAARC social turmoil was for starters - but more and new could follow at intermittent intervals if the polity and society are not vigilant.

In a democracy, it should be conceded, it is not the job of the Opposition to keep the Government together and/or efficient. The shoe, for all concerned, is on the other foot. Either they all can learn the lessons that the nation’s short stint with democracy has taught them. Or, they can continue with their waywardness and the accompanying blame game. They will end up blaming the nation in the end, for what they would then say was the ’wrong choice’. Given the consolidation of democracy in the country over the past five years, it would not be among the casualties. Or, that is (also) the hope!

Either way, Maldives and Maldivian polity have enough to learn from Third World democracies like India, not because it is the largest neighbour but more because it is also the world’s largest democracy, and a ’coalition democracy’ at that. Going beyond national politics, which too is in its infancy India has enough lessons for itself and the rest, also on how governmental coalitions should be run, as in States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu - just as how it should not be, elsewhere, starting with the Centre at times. So are there examples of either in other South Asian nations like Sri Lanka and Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Maldives and Maldivians need not insist on re-inventing the wheel.

’Two-party system’ that was not

After having shown the door to coalition partners from the presidential polls of 2008, the ruling MDP said at the end of the parliamentary polls only months later that Maldivians had settled for a two-party system of sorts. It flowed from the relatively high number of seats that the pre-split Opposition Dhivehi Raayathunge Party (DRP) of predecessor President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had won, followed by the MDP.

Subsequent events and developments, including the controversial power-transfer of 7 February 2012 proved otherwise. In a way, Elections-2013 consolidated political ’gains’ (?) in favour of ’coalition politics’, what with distinctive political and non-political ’social’ (!) groups with differentiated goals came together on a single-point, anti-Nasheed agenda, which did not exactly extend to mean ’anti-MDP’, either.

Prior to the evolution of the ’December 23 Movement’ in 2012, the Gayoom leadership had taken pride in having promoted Maldives as a ’moderate Islamic State’, and opened up island-resorts to improve the nation’s economy that way during his decades-long presidency. Under the new banner of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), with inherent political and electoral compulsions that refused to go away despite smooth power-transfer in 2008, they found strange bedfellows in religion-centric parties and NGOs that campaigned on the ’Islam’ platform to have President Nasheed ousted.

What is interesting in the reverse just now is that the 2013 presidential polls were not fought exactly on religious lines. The MDP cannot complain about the presence of the Islam-centric Adhhalath Party (AP) in the fold of the opposing coalition. The party had sought and obtained the AP’s support in the second-round of presidential polls in 2008. It had accommodated the AP in the Nasheed Government at all levels even when the party did not win a single seat in the subsequent parliamentary polls of 2009.

Truth be acknowledged, the PPM in particular seems to have kept its word after President Nasheed’s exit. Though too early to say, the Yameen administration has successfully marginalised religious NGOs from any active-say in the day-to-day affairs of the Government. They did not have any big role in Elections-2013. Whatever the end-game, the Jumhooree Party partner in the PPM coalition has thus far displayed calculated reluctance in accommodating the AP in seat-sharing for the parliamentary polls.

’Male dynasties’ and beyond

Whatever the results of the parliamentary polls in March, and whatever the political consequences, the nation’s polity should be prepared for the day when emerging social changes gets reflected in electoral politics, now or later. Independent of political and economic differences (purportedly based on ideology but personality-driven, mostly), Maldivian politics is driven by the ’Male dynasties’. The tendency for the nation to move away from Male-centric, urban middle class politics is was visible even in Elections-2013, and in more ways than one.

On the one hand, former President Nasheed’s MDP vote-share in the 2013 polls was no more urban-centric as in 2008. He did establish considerable leads in the islands as well. At the same time, Nasheed also lost some percentage points against expectation in the urban centres in the two-phases of what turned out to be a three-phase poll, under Supreme Court directions.

What cannot be similarly overlooked was JP’s Gasim Ibrahim improving upon his 2008 first-round tally of 15-plus percent vote-share to 23 percent five years hence. In the final analysis, it was seen that Gasim, an ’outsider’ to the ’Male dynasty’ politics in ways, could transfer his vote-share in favour of PPM’s Yameen in the decisive second-round, almost in its entirety. It is doubtful if President Nasheed, who is acknowledged as the most charismatic leader in the country and the MDP, the single most popular party, could transfer his votes to any other candidate of his choice, likewise.

Yet, Yameen and the JP have other things to prove to themselves and the rest. In the 2009 parliamentary polls, for instance, Gasim could not ’transfer’ his vote-share to party candidates. He was the lone JP candidate to bag a seat in the People’s Majlis. His ’transferability’ is again under test in the March polls now, where the JP has nine seats to contest in the PPM coalition. The results would be watched with interest for this reason, as well.

It is acknowledged that the Nasheed votes this time owed also to the ’Gayoom factor’ that the MDP could successfully propagate, as the divided Opposition of the time could do in 2008. Then, as now, the election in a way was won in the second round, on a ’coalition plank’ against a single candidate - former President Gayoom then, and former President Nasheed now. Crudely argued, it could mean that both faced the same predicament of not being acceptable to the majority of Maldivian voters, however contrived it be, through coalition means.

Urban voters in the country comprise a substantial number of islanders. Shorn of their current identification with the ’urban elite’, the ’islanders’ are the deciding factor in national elections. The ’Gasim factor’, of a rags-to-riches ’outsider’ making it big in business and politics, has the potential to provide the trigger for the medium-term change-over. For historic reasons, it is then bound to find further electoral expression between the ’South’ and the ’North’, with urban Male holding the middle and decisive ground in its time.

Between now and five years hence, when another round of elections become due under the existing Constitution, the new-generation voter would have moved further away from the ’Gayoom era’, which alone continues to be the mainstay of monolith MDP’s political agenda and election propaganda. It was visible already in the presidential polls last year, when fewer of the first-time urban voters than expected were believed to have voted the MDP, upset as they were by the street-violence and months-long demonstration that followed the 7 February power-transfer, however controversial the latter be.

With parliamentary elections now due in March, political parties and their leadership would (have to) wait until then for stock-taking about their past behavior and plan for the future. They would face different and differentiated issues and problems - from the PPM’s problem of changing with continuance, to MDP’s need for continuance with change, and the JP’s compulsion of not changing yet continuing?The answer for each one of them, and others outside of the list, lies as much with the rest as with their own selves. Coalitions come in all forms, it is for the polity to decipher the intent and content of the society and act accordingly. At the advent of multi-party democracy in Maldives, it took the natural, political course of coalition politics. It has been thus across the world, in post-colonial democracies. But over the past decades of post-colonial survival as democracies, most if not all those nations have adapted western democracy to their ways and waywardness, with resultant quiet and disquiet at the same time - ’quiet’ in the society’s way of perceiving a performing democracy, and ’disquiet’ in the context of the changes that the western template model had to adapt itself to, if only to remain relevant and effective at the same time.

Maldives is still in the process of discovering/re-discovering the local idiom for democratic change. It will take time, but it is inevitable under the circumstances. Modern education, moderate Islam, et al, are only one phase of the process, it is not the complete face, either. It is the preparedness of the nation and its evolving polity - there could be more parties or less, over time - to identify those changes and acknowledge them in their framework that will make the difference, both to their own political future and to the future of democracy in the country!

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">AP unhappy over seats from JP

Leader of Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim has said that friction has arisen with the religion-centric Adhaalath Party after the latter expressed discontent over being given only three seats from those offered to the former in the ruling coalition for the 22 March parliamentary polls.

Talking to the media, Gasim ’thanked’ Adhaalath Party President Imran Abdulla when he rejected the three slots. "I told him it’s not possible to give four constituencies. We confirmed three constituencies and informed him, and he replied that he didn’t want those constituencies. He said that he can’t let go of two constituencies. I said, thank you, unfortunately I can’t do that."

Gasim said that JP has not signed any agreement with or made any commitment to Adhaalath Party. "We haven’t made any commitments to Adhaalath Party. Nonetheless, we will give them at least three constituencies. When the coalition completed assigning slots, I called Sheikh Imran and said that we’ve got it. He came and ticked five constituencies and said that they wanted those. We gave them three of the ones they wanted. Then they demanded a fourth slot also," he said. Gasim promised that the offer of three slots to Adhaalath Party still stands.

In the internal allocation of constituencies, the JP has fielded former Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz for the Kinbidhoo seat after he joined the party. "I could have joined any party within the ruling coalition. I joined JP because Kinbidhoo ticket was given to JP. My priority was the constituency," Riaz said. He said that he decided to run for Kinbidhoo seat because his native island Thimarafushi is already quite developed,and he wanted to focus on less developed islands near Thimarafushi.

Contesting claims that seat-allocation for Riaz was done flouting party norms Gasim Ibrahim said that the leadership, as per JP regulation, has the authority to grant tickets to capable candidates without holding primaries.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police probe use of fading ink in council poll

The Elections Commission has said that police have started investigations into the alleged use of fading ink in Noonu Manadhoo during the Local Council Election.

Talking to newsmen, Elections Commission member Ali Mohamed Manik said, "It has been suspected that pens (with fading ink) were used. Our officials took note and reported this to the police. Voters also complained of ink fading once they ticked the ballot," Manik said.

The Elections Commission annulled the results for Noonu Manadhoo council. Re-poll will be held on 15 February.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Qatar assures budget support

Prime Minister, and the Minister of Interior of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani has assured Vice-President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, of budget support to the Maldivian Government.

At a meeting held this afternoon, as part of the Vice President’s visit to Qatar, Prime Minister Khalifa Al Thani also gave assurance of Qatar’s assistance in establishing an Islamic University in Maldives

At the meeting, the two leaders explored areas where further assistance could be provided to the Maldives. In this regard, Prime Minister Khalifa Al Thani affirmed that his Government would facilitate scholarship opportunities at Qatari universities and also assist in attracting entrepreneurs to invest in the Maldives.

As part of his current visit to Qatar, the Vice-President also met with the Minister of Public Health of Qatar, Abdullah bin Khalid Al Qahtani, and the Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs of Qatar, Dr. Ghaith bin Mubarak Al Kuwari.

Meeting the Qatari Minister of Public Health, the Vice President briefed on the Maldivian Government’s plans for the development of the health sector. In this regard, the Vice President shared plans to establish an additional tertiary hospital in the Maldives, and to develop the atoll hospitals and health centre in the country. The Qatari Minister assured the Vice President of Qatari Government’s support and assistance in this endeavor.

At the meeting with the Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs of Qatar, discussions were held on facilitating short term courses for Maldivians in the field of Islamic studies. Minister Al Kuwari further assured of assistance in the establishment of an Islamic University in the Maldives.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldivian in talks for Male-Delhi flight

Maldivian, the national airline of Maldives, is in talks with an Indian aviation company to begin direct flights between Male and Indian capital, New Delhi.

Abdul Haris, managing director of Island Aviation that operates the Maldivian brand of flights, has said that the company is carrying out necessary studies in order to determine the profitability of the sector.

"If these studies prove successful, we’ll be launching direct flights between Male and Delhi," he said.

Deputy Tourism Minister Hussain Lirar said that Maldivian would soon launch chartered flights between the capital cities, to attract more tourists India’s Business Standard newspaper.

Currently direct flights from India to Maldives are operational only from Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru and via Chennai (up to Dhaka and back), and there is no direct flight from Delhi and Mumbai.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 30 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">500 Rohingyas held after raid on Thai camp

Thailand has detained more than 500 Muslim Rohingya refugees, including women and children, who were discovered in a raid on a suspected people-trafficking camp, police said on 27 January.

About 530 Rohingyas, including a five-year-old, were found on Sunday at a rubber farm in southern Thailand near the border with Malaysia, Police Colonel Kan Tammakasem told AFP from Songkhla Province.

"They were hungry and some of them are sick," he said, adding that the Rohingyas had hoped to travel to Malaysia. Three Thai men guarding the camp were arrested for sheltering illegal immigrants.

The Rohingya men have been taken to detention centres and the women and children to local shelters, according to Chatchawal Suksomjit, deputy commissioner-general of the Royal Thai Police.

The UN last week called on Myanmar to investigate reports that dozens of men, women and children were killed in attacks on Rohingyas with the alleged involvement of police in strife-torn Rakhine State.

Myanmar, whose sweeping political reforms have been overshadowed by religious bloodshed, has strongly denied civilians were killed in that incident.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Myanmar Times, 28 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’False reporting exacerbates Rakhine conflict’

False reporting by UN agencies and international media and organisations could complicate the situation in Rakhine State, said Myanmar’s government officials in a press briefing.

The briefing on a recent incident that happened in Ducheertan Village, Maungtaw Township, Rakhine State was held at the ministry of foreign affairs in Yangon on 29 January. Foreign diplomats and officials from UN and international organisations attended the briefing.

Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant General Ko Ko, Rakhine Conflict Investigation Commission Secretary Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing and Deputy Border Affairs Minister Major General Maung Maung gave their accounts of the incident.

The Indonesian and Bangladeshi ambassadors also gave their accounts while the U.S. ambassador raised some questions, which the foreign affairs minister answered. Minister Wunna Maung Lwin denied the deaths of many people in the incident that occurred on January 13 as reported by some media. He assured that U.N. organisations and media could report to the government if they have any evidence of the incident.

In his briefing, the home affairs minister said police sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein went missing after the incident in Ducheertan Village. A group of policemen, including Aung Kyaw Thein, while on a regular patrol in the area, dispersed after they were attacked by a mob of Bengalis, he said.

Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar, Gen Anup Kumar Chakma, also said that concerning that problems, no one can trust the rumours and unconfirmed news. The issuance of this false news only worsens the situation but Bangladesh will join hands with Myanmar in combating violence. Recently, Bangladesh arrested three terrorists trying to enter Myanmar from Bthe country, he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border police seek weapons upgrade

Myanmar’s police on duty in conflict-prone border areas across the country have asked to be equipped with modern weaponry, citing a number of attacks on police in Maungdaw, Rakhine State. Since 2001, police say, they have been attacked at least seven times by Muslims in Maungdaw.

On 13 January this year, a police sergeant along with his gun went missing during the night patrol in Du Chee Ratan as local villagers attacked.

"When they were surrounded by Bengali villagers in Du Chee Ratan village, the gun they used to shoot as a warning was not working. So the sergeant went missing along with his gun. The weapons used by police in the border areas were out of date," said a village elder from Karay Myaing village in Maungdaw.

Lieutenant Police Colonel Shwe Than in charge of Maungdaw District said that the police are not equipped with automatic firearms even though their duty is to maintain the rule of law.

"Some requests have been made to superior officials to equip such firearms, in order to maintain control during some difficult situations. In a life-threatening case, it’s very dangerous for a policeman encountering it if he is not equipped with a reliable weapon for self-defense," said Col Shwe Than.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Constitutional review panel to meet deadline

The joint parliamentary constitution review committee expects to meet the 31 January deadline for submitting its long-awaited report to the Pyiduangsu Hluttaw, Mizzima was told on 29 January.

Parliamentary sources told Mizzima that a disagreement among committee members which had threatened to delay the submission of the report had been resolved. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources said it had been decided to include in the report a petition opposing amendments to the constitution.

After the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw appointed the 109-member joint committee in July it called for proposals to amend the constitution to be submitted by the end of December. It has received more than 300,000 submissions.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima, 30 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UCPN (Maoist) mulls leftist identity

As the UCPN (Maoist) struggles to keep itself ´distinct´ from other communist parties in the country, it is now mulling over ´clarifying´ the party´s political line. Party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal on January 29 floated a proposal to clarify the party´s political line to project the UCPN (Maoist) as distinct party from the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist and the CPN-UML.

During the Central Committee (CC) meeting held at the party´s office at Perisdanda, Chairman Dahal proposed to reform the party and give it a distinct political line through the upcoming National Convention scheduled for April. The central committee meeting had earlier entrusted Chairman Dahal with the responsibility of revising his political paper as per the spirit of deliberations by the party´s CC members.

During the CC meeting, Chairman Dahal also proposed dissolving all the ´state committees´ and transforming the CC into a National Convention Organizing Committee. State committee members would now remain in the party´s District Committees within the hierarchy assigned by the Regional Bureau concerned. Chairman Dahal has proposed holding conventions of District Committees just before the National Convention.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Big-3 to reaffirm ’federal republic’

The three major political parties -- Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) -- at a joint meeting on January 28 decided to reiterate from the newly-elected Constituent Assembly (CA)their commitment to institutionalizing the federal democratic republican system proclaimed by the first meeting of the dissolved CA in 2008.

Leaders from the major three parties took the decision in order to allay concern that they might backtrack from the political course they charted in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and in the present Interim Constitution because of changes in the strengths of the political parties in the new CA. They likewise formed a taskforce to study the agreements reached in the last CA and prepare a report clearly elucidating what can be owned from the previous CA and what the new CA cannot accept from its predecessor.

While most of the major political parties agree on the proposal, the fourth-largest Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal has strongly opposed the idea. RPP-N is the only party that advocates reinstating constitutional monarchy and a Hindu state in the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 29 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NC proposes consensus government

The Nepali Congress (NC) has formally proposed the political parties represented in the Constituent Assembly (CA) to form a consensus government under its leadership. The largest party in the CA, NC, held an all-party meeting on January 28, two days after President Dr Ram Baran Yadav called political parties to form a government within a week.

During the all-party meeting held at Constituent Assembly building, New Baneswor, the top NC leaders urged others parties to join next government under the NC leadership. CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal said that the next government would likely be a coalition government, adding the chances of a ´consensus government´ were slim. Similarly, UCPN (Maoist) leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara said that his party would not join the government but it wants to see the NC-led government.

The Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (Democratic) Chairman Bijay Kumar Gachhadar said that the meeting was positive on choosing NC President Sushil Koirala as the next Prime Minister. He also added that chances a ´consensus government´ headed by Koirala were slim.

< class="text11verdana">Source: 28 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China hopes to be larger market

China’s Ambassador to Nepal Wu Chuntai has expressed hope that Nepal can find a larger market in China, no matter the country’s young entrepreneurs, scholars or promising students at a celebration of the Chinese spring festival in Nepal on January 26. The ambassador placed emphasis on the importance of strengthening bilateral relations between China and Nepal.

Summarising China’s foreign policy on Nepal for the year 2014, Wu said China’s policy was aimed at ensuring political stability and economic prosperity as well as creating employment and exploring market opportunities. With several factors emerging as bottlenecks to Nepal’s economic growth, the impoverished Himalayan nation is not capable of creating productive employment for all those entering the labour market.

"The most serious issue facing the country right now is the problem of unemployment and large-scale brain drain. To stop this phenomenon, we need to bring rapid economic development to the country so that we can keep our educated manpower," Baburam Bhattarai, Nepal’s former prime minister and current member of the new Constituent Assembly told Xinhua.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 27 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four militants killed in Swabi raid

At least four suspected militants were killed in an encounter between security forces and militants in the Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A large quantity of explosive material was also recovered.

According to the Station House Officer of Parmoli police station, Haji Khan, police and security personnel raided the Shakoli primary school in Khanpur village of Swabi upon receiving a tip off that militants had occupied the premises.

The SHO said that nearly 50 suspects had been arrested and the operation was still in progress.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 1 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Villagers flee, fearing air-strikes

Thousands of villagers have fled from North Waziristan fearing a major military operation by armed forces. They said dozens of people had been killed in air strikes targeting Islamist militants earlier in January.

The government says that all those killed in the January 21 operation were militants but local residents of the region say that the death toll included many civilians.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 28 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM asks panel to talk to Taliban

A four-member committee has been tasked to hold peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. It has been given an open mandate and complete authority to initiate the dialogue process.

At the first meeting of the committee, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave guidelines for holding negotiations. He also discussed the framework in detail and the strategy for the talks and instructed the team to immediately initiate the process.

The committee formed by the Prime Minister comprises of his Special Assistant on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui, veteran journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, former ambassador and expert on Afghanistan affairs Rustam Shah Mohmand and former ISI official Major (retd) Amir Shah.

The meeting touched upon topics in the committee’s mandate and rules of negotiations with militants. Irfan Siddiqui was appointed as coordinator of the group. Speaking at a press conference, Siddiqui said that the team has conveyed its message to the militants and that the Taliban should communicate and explain their stance on the peace talks as soon as possible so the dialogue process can be initiated.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 31 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hopes still for Afghan peace talks

According to a Pakistani official, Pakistan sees a chance to resume stalled peace talks aimed at ending the Afghan conflict if Taliban militants are willing to engage with the Afghan government once President Hamid Karzai steps down.

Sartaj Aziz, senior adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on national security and foreign affairs said in Washington that he believes that the Taliban will probably talk to the new government more than the present government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 29 January 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NPC has overstepped its powers: UNP

The Opposition United National Party (UNP) has charged that the Northern Provincial Council has overstepped its constitutional mandate by passing a resolution that called for an international investigation on Sri Lanka.

The resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council calling for an international probe on the war in Sri Lanka is illegal as a provincial council has no power over international affairs, UNP MP and President’s Counsel Wijedasa Rajapaksa said.

He told journalists that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution does not provide provisions to pass resolutions calling for an international probe. He said the Central Government had the power to dissolve the Council, but if such a decision is taken the call for a self- rule in the North could intensify.

Taking the Government to task over the northern issue, Mr. Rajapakse said the present regime had invited the UN for a probe on alleged war crimes by agreeing to it in accordance with a MoU signed between the government and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He recalled that the Darusaman committee was appointed by the UN following this agreement.

However, he said the UNP is prepared to support the government in overcoming whatever challenges it may have to face in Geneva in March if it acts genuinely without trying to take political advantage from it.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks in London after US official’s Jaffna visit

Senior British officials dealing with the LTTE based in the UK will meet US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal early next week in London as they step up pressure on member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to back a third US resolution targeting Sri Lanka since 2012.

Biswal, an American of Indian origin is expected to be in London on Monday, 3 February. She will fly to London from Colombo after having completed a three-day assignment in Sri Lanka, where she would meet senior Government as well as Tamil National Alliance (TNA) representatives and visit Jaffna before leaving for meetings in the UK as well as Geneva.

The US State Department announced that Assistant Secretary of State Biswal would focus on a range of bilateral issues, including post-conflict resolution, justice and accountability during her first visit to Sri Lanka. Discussions in London and Geneva would centre on the proposed third resolution which was to be built on previous resolutions in 2012 and 2013.

The 47-member body is divided into five groups namely Africa (13 seats), Asia-Pacific (13), Latin America and Caribbean (8), Western European and other States (7) and Eastern Europe (6). Members of the council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Island, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Amnesty International urges India to back war-crimes probe

India must support demands by civil society actors, UN officials and survivors of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka for an international investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the civil war, Amnesty International (India) has said. The Amnesty noted that the elected government of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province also reinforced such calls on Monday by seeking an impartial global probe.

Last year, while supporting a UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) resolution asking Sri Lanka to conduct an "independent and credible investigation", India had noted that such an investigation must be to the "satisfaction of the international community". Given the lack of progress from the Sri Lankan Government’s side, it is now time for facilitating an international investigation, Amnesty said.

On 27 January 2014, Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council passed a resolution calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the country’s armed conflict. The government came to power in a landmark election in September 2013.

"An elected body of representatives calling for an international probe shows how little faith some people in Sri Lanka have in any domestic mechanism," said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India.

In April 2013, a military court of inquiry exonerated the Sri Lankan military for civilian casualties in the last stage of military operations, concluding that any casualties that occurred were the fault of the LTTE. The inquiry’s full report remains unpublished.

A second military inquiry into alleged extra-judicial executions of individuals who surrendered to or were captured by the Sri Lankan military in the final days of conflict was initiated in March 2013, but by the end of 2013 investigators had not even interviewed witnesses other than army field commanders.

"The chances of justice or truth emerging out of an army inquiry into its own alleged crimes are very slim indeed," said Ananthapadmanabhan.

"Sri Lanka has not kept several promises to conduct a credible investigation into past and present abuses and prosecute alleged perpetrators. India must keep the pressure up on Sri Lanka to do the right thing, accept an international investigation and cooperate with it" said Ananthapadmanabhan.

The US has said it will sponsor a third resolution on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in Geneva in March 2014.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Outgoing minister asks people for poll fund

Outgoing Western Province Minister and JHU legal adviser Udaya Gammanpila has appealed to the public to give him Rs 100 each for his election campaign as he is unable to afford the campaign this time.

"I do not have a vehicle of my own and I have never been corrupt. Anybody can check any personal details or bank accounts of mine. Politicians become corrupt when they start earning for their next election campaign or when they let their supporters to earn on behalf of them" said the JHU strongman, adding that he stands for good governance and if anyone has faith in him could offer Rs. 100 for his campaign as he does not have any means to run for office this time.

Addressing a media briefing today he said, "I have faith in me that I can do justice to people if I am re-elected as I do not mortgage principles for money but I do not have big money to enter a competition with the money spinners as I have never earned money through unfair means’.

’If I take money from big businessman I will be under obligation to help them after the polls so I kindly request the public to help me in this campaign" he earnestly requested.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 30 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Foreign intelligence behind attacks’

As the impasse over the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement continues, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi claimed that foreign intelligence agencies had been behind a number of high profile attacks in Afghanistan.

An official with the Presidential Palace also told The Washington Post this week that President Karzai reportedly has a list of such attacks, which includes the recent attack on a popular Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, which led to the death of 13 foreign workers. Karzai believes the US may be trying to destabilize the Afghan government or attempting to shift attention away from civilian casualties caused by NATO airstrikes, which the Afghan President has denounced on multiple occasions.

In a press conference this week, President Karzai denounced the US ultimatum of completely withdrawing from the country if the BSA is not signed soon as an act of an enemy, than a friend. He said he is in favour of a US presence in Afghanistan after 2014, but it should on his terms. If not on his terms, he said the US may go. He also claimed he did not want the BSA to become like another Durand Line Agreement, where the agreement signed by an Afghan ruler with a foreign power would jeopardise the future of Afghanistan.

However, President Karzai’s attempt to link the BSA to the Durand Line Agreement was denounced by Afghan parliamentarians and activists, who argued that the two agreements are completely different from each other. The BSA is critical for the future of Afghanistan as it cannot deal with the situation in the country post-2014.

In the meanwhile, General Momand Katawazai, the Administrative and Logistics Deputy of the Afghan National Army (ANA), has said that in order to protect the military gains of past years the Kabul-Washington Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) must be signed. "As everyone wants the agreement to be signed, we also call for its signing," General Katawazai said. "No country can operate without the help of another country, so this agreement must be signed."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 28 January 2014, Tolo News, 25-28 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bagram prisoners released

The Afghan Review Board, overseeing the release of prisoners detained at Bagram, ordered the first 37 of 88 prisoners to be released this past week. The decision to release the 88 prisoners at Bagram was taken a few weeks ago.

The decision has been highly criticised by the US, who claims that 40 percent of the released prisoners were involved in direct attacks against the US and Afghan forces. US officials have said 17 of the 37 released prisoners are linked to the production of IEDs and the killing of 11 Afghan soldiers.

The release of prisoners has been criticised within Afghanistan as well. A number of Afghan parliamentarians and civil society activists have called for the releases to be stopped and said that the cases of individuals in Bagram that lack evidence for prosecution should be forwarded on to the Afghan Police or the courts. Many Afghan officials have also raised concern about the Review Board’s mandate, which they say is illegal given the fact it is not a part of the judiciary or law enforcement offices, but rather a political body appointed by President Hamid Karzai.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 27 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak concerned over India’s role

Pakistani Defence Secretary Lt Gen Asif Yasin told American officials this past week that they were concerned about the prospects of more robust role for India in Afghanistan post-2014. These comments were made during a meeting with the US Standing Committee of the Senate on Defense in Islamabad.

A number of Afghan analysts condemned these comments arguing that they clearly reflected Pakistan’s malicious intentions vis-a-vis Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 25 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ULFA leader, 13 others sentenced to death

In a historical judgment a court in the port city of Chittagong this week awarded the death penalty to 14 people, including former Industries Minister, Matiur Rahman Nizami and former State Minister for Home, Lutfozzaman Babar and United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) Paresh Barua, in India, in the sensational 10-truck arms haul case.

The verdict was announced for the case filed for smuggling of arms. Of those sentenced to death, retired Major-General Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, Hazi Mohammad Abdus Sobhan, Hafizur Rahman Hazfiz, Deen Mohammad, Indian separatist organisation ULFA leader Paresh Baruah and former Industries Secretary, Nurul Amin were awarded capital punishment. Of convicts Barua and Amin are absconding.

On 1 April, 2004, law-enforcers and Coast Guard personnel seized 10 trucks carrying 4,930 types of sophisticated firearms, 27, 202 grenades, 840 rocket launchers, 300 rockets, 2,000 rocket launching tubes, 6,392 magazines and 1,140,520 rounds of bullets while they were being off-loaded from two trawlers at the Chittagong Urea Fertilizer Limited (CUFL) jetty on the bank of the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong. These arms were destined for India separatist group ULFA.

Leaders of the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have since termed the verdict as politically-motivated, saying it is an outcome of the Awmi League government’s plan to suppress the opponents. The Jamaat-e-Islami described the judgement as part of the "government’s conspiracy to eliminate patriotic political leaders from the country."

Rejecting the verdict, Jamaat acting ameer Maqbul Ahmed in a statement said party Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami was handed death penalty in "staged managed and false cases as part of the government’s plan to kill him." The Jamaat, a key ally of the BNP, vowed to counter the government’s conspiracy legally and politically. Jamaat activists brought out processions in Rajshahi and Netrakona yesterday to protest the verdict.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 31 January 2014; The Daily Star, 31 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Playing Treasury and Opposition

The first session of 10th parliament began this week with MPs of the Jatiya Party playing both the Treasury and the Opposition. Parliament was elected through the 5 January election. Unlike previous parliaments, this has no representation of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), a major political party. The BNP and its main ally Jamaat-e-Islami had boycotted the election and tried to disrupt it violently.

Besides, 31 Jatiya Party MPs, 15 independent members also sat on the opposition benches. The treasury bench consisted of MPs belonging to the Awami League, Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Jatiya Party-Manju and three lawmakers of the Jatiya Party.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 29 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bishwa Ijtima after Hajj

Bishwa Ijtema (World Muslim Congregation) the largest Muslim gathering after Hajj took place this week on the banks of the river Turag at Tongi on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka. Millions of devotees from Bangladesh and abroad have thronged to attend Bishwa Ijtima. Changing the decades old tradition, this year’s Bishwa Ijtema was performed in two phases, 24-26 January and 31 January-2 February, mainly to ensure better management and security.

Bishwa Ijtima is organised annually by Tablig-e-Jamaat, non-political Islamic group. Around 8,000 devotees from 116 countries including Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Bahrain and the USA have attended the congregation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dhaka Tribune, 26 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Security deal with Myanmar

In a bid to strengthen cooperation with Myanmar a draft memorandum of understanding on security dialogue was prepared by the Foreign Ministry and it would be conveyed to Myanmar side. Bangladesh and Myanmar are planning to sign a deal to hold dialogue on regular basis on non-traditional security threat.

"Bangladesh wants to engage with Myanmar extensively and it floated the security dialogue idea during the foreign-secretary level meeting between the two countries held last June and it was agreed by Myanmar," a diplomat informed. Myanmar’s Ambassador to Dhaka Myo Myint Than also informed that his country was waiting for the draft MoU. Bangladesh and Myanmar have regular meetings under foreign office consultation and joint trade commission and they also have defence cooperation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dhaka Tribune, 29 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Million-dollar lizard trade flourishing

A multi-million dollar underground trade is flourishing fast along bio-diversity rich Indo-Bhutan border region with the locality as source of the traded item. And the item is living Tokay Gecko, a specific variety of lizard, available at the region in good number that carries a million dollar level price tag in underground world.

As the indicator of this translucent trade, Bhutan foresters apprehended about 20 people for trying to trade the lizards in the last one year. Almost all of these animals were known to have been captured from south Bhutan foothills region. Recently two Indians were also apprehended by Bhutan authority from south Bhutan on same charge.

"Takshak, a kind of Geko, is available in good numbers in Bhutan adjoining Indian areas too. Our department also comes across illegal trading cases of it, though infrequently," said M N Biswas, Conservator of forest, West Bengal, India.

Gecko is a lizard of about 11-20 inches length weightng 150-400 grams. Distinctive in appearance, with a bluish or grayish body, and known more for its loud mating call, this animal’s natural distribution is almost entire South Asia.

According to security agencies, a piece of this lizard, weighing around 300 gm, could fetch a price ranging from $ 2-20 million. "Many times, low weight Geckos, caught to be smuggled, are injected with mercury to increase weight though that eventually kills the animal after some days," said foresters.

But they could not clarify any confirm usage. "Though not clear, but there has to be an end-market that keeps the trade running," they said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 29 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New transit routes with India soon

In order to facilitate growth in cross border trade, Indian and its North eastern neighbor Himalayan country Bhutan are going to have many new transit routes soon.

Apart from the trade with its largest trade partner India, Bhutan is dependent on Indian passage for its third country trade too because of its land locked location in the lap of Himalaya.

Naturally, though rupee value wise the indo-Bhutan trade figure is not too high against India’s total exim value, but Bhutan’s external trade as a whole is too important for over lakhs of Indian citizens in Bhutan border areas stretching from Northern West Bengal to eastern Assam involved directly or indirectly into it.

According to economic affairs secretary of Bhutan, Dasho Sonam Tshering, by-pass to Passakha and Samdrupjongkhar industrial estates in Bhutan was one of the top agendas of the Indo-Bhutan bilateral talks on trade and transit held recently in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan.

The bypass route can give faster access to deep Bhutan including Thimphu. In addition, Matanga industrial estate in Samdrupjongkhar district in Bhutan is being planned to be directly connected to Bokajuli in Assam by passing Samdrupjongkhar town.

Transportation of minerals like dolomite from Samdrupjongkhar to Nepal faces a bottlenecking because of congestion of Raxaul in UP, that acts as the exit gate for the goods from India to Nepal. Bhutan’s request for couple of other railway points are under very positive consideration- informed a senior Indian revenue Department official.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 24 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Drukair to fly to Mumbai

Drukair, the only airline operating from Bhutan, has announced plans to launch a bi-weekly flight connecting Bhutan’s Paro International Airport with Mumbai, starting May 1. The airline at present flies to five destinations in India. "By offering this connection, we are confident that this new route will become popular with our travellers," Tandin Jamtso, Chief Executive Officer, Drukair said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 30 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Target Thai tourists during lean season: PM

Turning the observation of 25 years of diplomatic relations into a business opportunity, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, on Tuesday, told tour operators to develop packages to attract Thai tourists, starting this year’s lean months of June, July and August.

This, according to Tobgay, is to commemorate Bhutan’s 25 years of diplomatic relations with Thailand. Lyonchhoen said such an initiative would help promote the lean season, thereby promoting the country as an all year round tourist destination.

"For the lean months of June, July and August, we’ll offer attractive packages for Thai tourists to begin with," Lyonchhoen said, addressing over 70 tour operators gathered at the Tarayana hall.

Tour operators, lyonchhoen said, should be able to attract Thai tourists, given His Majesty’s popularity in Thailand, and the diplomatic relations the two countries enjoy. For this to work, Tobgay said, he would also request tourism stakeholders, such as hoteliers and the national airlines, to consider huge discounts during the specified months.

"Tourist season in Bhutan is just for a of about five months, and the rest of the year is underutilised," he said, adding the eastern and southern belts of the country are yet to be explored.

"Let us all work together to have tourists visiting the country throughout the year," lyonchhoen said, assuring government support.

It’s been more than 40 years since the country opened to tourism, therefore the need to develop more products, lyonchhoen said. "We could try out with Thailand, and make them feel special."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 21 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fishermen, resettlement issues taken up with Sri Lanka

Foreign Ministers of India and Sri Lanka discussed proposals to eliminate maltreatment of fishermen, operationalise a trilateral maritime security pact in which the Maldives is a third partner, and review the pace of Indian-assisted resettlement work in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province, said official sources here on January 29.

Officials from both sides were tight-lipped on whether External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris dwelt on the U.S. threat to call for international investigation into Sri Lanka’s human rights record at the upcoming meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March.

But there were indications from official sources that the issue was deliberated upon. "Issues of common interest that are likely to figure in forthcoming international meetings, of which India and Sri Lanka are both members, were also discussed," said sources in the Ministry of External Affairs.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 29 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak asked to break trade deadlock

India has once again called on Pakistan not to hold up the trans-Line of Control (LoC) trade and movement of people for the sake of a truck driver.

India has also suggested several initiatives that could help break the fortnight-long deadlock after a Pakistani truck driver was arrested following the alleged recovery of drugs from his truck. The incident took place on a day the countries were discussing steps towards normalisation of bilateral trade.

India has suggested an immediate meeting of mid-level officials at Kaman Post on the LoC to exchange information about recent narcotic seizures. New Delhi has also sought information about Pakistani investigations to uncover the identity of the persons who had sent the drugs in a consignment of almonds.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 29 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC ’no’ to homosexuality

In a major setback to gay rights activists, the Supreme Court on January 28 declined to review its December 11 judgment, holding that homosexuality or unnatural sex between two consenting adults was illegal.

A Bench of Justices H. L. Dattu and S.J. Mukhopadhaya held that this provision (Section 377 of the IPC) did not suffer from any constitutional infirmity and said there were no grounds to interfere with the order.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 29 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Three-year multiple-entry visas from Japan

Indians can now get a "three-year" visa with "multiple" entries to visit Japan, a senior official in the Shinzo Abe administration said here Sunday.

As Abe participated in the Republic Day parade as its chief guest, Japan foreign ministry’s Press secretary Kuni Sato said, "There will be multiple-entry visas, which will last up to three years, for Indian ordinary passport holders."

Presently, Indian tourists can get only single-entry visas to Japan for short duration. However, Indian visitors to the US, UK get up to 10-year visas. This visa relaxation was made by Tokyo since Japanese tourists get visas-on-arrival to India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, 27 January 2014

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

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.