MonitorsPublished on Jun 27, 2010
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's vision of making borders with Pakistan irrelevant seems to have made a measured beginning on the ground.
Indo-Pak Ties: Terror, Water, Afghanistan
< class="heading1">Analysis

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's vision of making borders with Pakistan irrelevant seems to have made a measured beginning on the ground. With the recent meeting between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries being described as 'cordial' and 'constructive' and as an attempt to 'understand each other's position', the foundation has been laid for the upcoming meeting of the two Foreign Ministers in July. After their talks, the Foreign Secretaries refrained from outlining a definite roadmap for future cooperation, thus suggesting a need for 'creative solutions' and new contours. These talks are not novel but what is important is the realisation that the core interests of the two countries converge at some point and it was time to capitalize on the commonality.

Rapidly changing realities in both countries have contributed to the changing dynamics of the approach. Nowhere has this been better highlighted than on 'terrorism issue'. Most terrorist organisations in Pakistan continued to be beneficiaries of State patronage, as a tool of asymmetric warfare against India until the late 90's. However post-Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the global 'jihad' movement became increasingly America-centric. Pakistan being an ally in the American war in Afghanistan also became a target. This is evidenced by the present situation in Pakistan, which has been victim to a spate of terrorist attacks. Symbolic among these was the attack on the Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi. The Manawan Police Academy was targeted as a part of three synchronised attacks on October 2009 in Lahore, killing 38 persons and injuring many. Forty people were killed and many injured when a bomb went off in a shrine in Lahore towards the end of last week. These attacks suggest the changing dynamics of the State's relation with militant outfits.

Pakistan has made progress in its campaign against the Taliban in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), now Khyber Pashtunistan. Given the inexorable links between the ethnic Pashtun and Punjab Taliban, Pakistan will have to take the fight into its heartland in south and central Punjab. Pakistan has taken action in the north-western frontier, primarily against the groups which have colluded against the State machinery. However, there are still many 'India-centric' outfits. Lack of action against outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its front face Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), proven by inaction against LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, who continues to address public rallies and incite anti-India sentiments, has left India deeply concerned. Indian and Pakistani interests would converge if the latter decided to dismantle the terror network as a monolithic entity instead of targeting the groups which pose a threat to it alone.

The 'Indus Issue'

The region is already water-stressed, with a NASA report suggesting rapid groundwater depletion in north-west India. The Woodrow Wilson Center report has highlighted the criticality of water situation in Pakistan. Both countries depend on the Indus river system for a meeting a substantial portion of irrigation needs in the region, with a large percentage of the population in both the countries depending directly or indirectly on water for their livelihood.

Perceptions of water scarcity, and not necessarily the scarcity per se, can be a cause for considerable strife, be it in the Sindh region of Pakistan, or Rajasthan and Punjab in India. This in turn calls for bilateral programmes on water management, transfer of technology like drip irrigation and awareness education.

Some reports claim that India was pushed into holding talks with Pakistan as New Delhi wanted a stake in finding a future solution to the 'Afghan imbroglio'. This is far from the truth. India does not view Indo-Pakistan relations through the Afghanistan prism. The complexity and relevance of Indo-Pak relations by far outweigh any Indian concerns for strategic leverage in Afghanistan. India only wants a stable and independent Afghanistan, and if Pakistan were to look beyond theoretical concepts of strategic depth, it would see reason for a stable Afghanistan.

Perceptions on either side will play a critical role in shaping the course of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan.. The media which has been inclined to portray a nationalistic fervour in the coverage of the issue will have to be more responsible, emphasising the positive and being wary of becoming political pawns in the Indo-Pakistan quagmire. Terrorism, water and Afghanistan form facets of the wide range of issues which allow possible collaboration between the two South Asian neighbours. Others elements include trade and commerce, energy-sharing, increased transport, communication links and simplified visa procedures.

Akhilesh B Variar is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation

< class="heading1">News & Developments Report

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Top Jamaat leaders arrested

The police arrested three top brasses of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's major religious political party, on 29 June, for defying court summons. Ironically, the court case against the three leaders ? party chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, General Secretary Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, and Nayebe Amir Delwar Hossain Sayedee ? flowed from charges that they had hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims. Other reports claimed that the arrests were related to 'war crimes' in 1971, when Bangladesh became independent.

Describing these arrests to be politically-motivated, the Jamaat warned the Government of tough action. Party cadres took to the streets to voice their protest, leading to hundreds of arrests. The Bangladesh National Party (BNP), the influential Opposition party which is an ally of the Jamaat, too has criticised the arrests.
The Daily Star, June 30, 2010 (and other dailies)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP Protests

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has called for a day-long nation-wide strike on 27 June, to pressure the Government to end the current shortage of gas, power and water. Barring some sporadic incidents, the bandh was peaceful.

The BNP criticized the Government for arresting its cadres on the bandh-eve. With the party continuing to boycott Parliament as part of its protest, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the Opposition to return to the House. Strikes, she said, were harmful to the nation's democracy and economy.

Political parties in Bangladesh are known to calling for street protests, and this one was the first major bandh since the parliamentary polls of 2006. The polls had to be suspended then after political parties launched strikes and protests of other kinds.
The Daily Star, 28 June 2010 (and other dailies)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China operationalises 'zero-tariff' facility

Economic ties between Bangladesh and China have got a major boost with Beijing extending 'zero-tariff' facility for Bangladeshi products from 1 July. This will help to increase the country's exports to China.

The Chinese Government had declared earlier that 4,752 products will receive duty-free access to the major East Asian market. These products include medicinal materials, plastic appliances, leather, timber, textile, readymade garments and poultry products. Along with Bangladesh, 32 other least developed countries (LDCs) will enjoy the export facility to China.
The Daily Star, 2 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Constitutional deadlock

The 13-member Cabinet of Ministers submitted their resignation en masse to President Mohammed Nasheed, charging the Opposition-controlled People's Majlis, or Parliament with blocking all Government initiatives. Under the 2008 Constitution, the resignations take effect once they are submitted, with the result only President Nasheed and Vice-President Wahid Hassan are in charge.

President Nasheed addressed a news conference in the presence of the ministers who had put in their papers. He recalled how Parliament had passed a Bill earlier in the day, usurping the financial powers of the Executive, and how earlier it had either sacked a Cabinet member or made a series of attempts against others.

The Opposition, led by the Dhivehi Rayyathunge Party (DRP), founded by former President, Maumoon Gayoom, says that the mass resignation was a prelude to that of President Nasheed. They have dubbed the current arrangement of an Executive President without a Cabinet as 'autocratic', leading possibly to 'military rule'

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bribery charge against Opposition leaders

The Maldivian Government has followed up the mass resignation of Cabinet Ministers with the arrest of at least two important Opposition leaders, levelling corruption and bribery charges against them. The arrests came after President Mohammed Nasheed walked from his news conference, announcing ministerial resignations, to the Police Headquarters, ordering the arrests.

The Opposition described the arrests of People's Alliance leader, Abdullah Yameen, a half-brother of former President Maumoon Gayoom, and Jumbhoree Party founder, Gasim Ibrahim, as 'political vendetta'. However, leaked audio tapes of what sounded like telephone conversations, with recorded voice of the two leaders, indicate that they may have tried to bribe MPs, one of whom has put the conversation on his blog.

Without naming names, President Nasheed said that a single, senior political leader had defaulted on repayment to international banks, thus weakening the 'sovereign guarantee' position of the Maldivian State, shaky. The reference, it is said, was to Gasim Ibrahim, one-time Finance Minister and among the top investors and resort-owners in the country.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian firm bags Male airport contract

Indian infrastructure major, GMR, in association with a Malaysian firm, has bagged the contract for updating the standards and facilities at the Male International Airport. The GMR-led consortium won the BOT-mode lease deal till 2035 against international competition.

The Opposition lost no time in alleging corruption in the deal, and also charged the Government with 'selling off' State assets. The Jumbhoree Party of arrested Opposition leader Gasim Ibrahim was the first to protest, claiming that other bidders had offered better deals. The main Opposition DRP declared that it would cancel the deal if it returned to power.

In a surprising move, all major Opposition parties issued a common statement against the GMR deal, and also got the 'Tax Bill' passed in Parliament, restricting the fiscal powers of the Government. It is this that led to the constitutional deadlock after all Cabinet Ministers quit en masse, protesting what one of them called the 'scorched earth' policy of Parliament.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepali Premier resigns

Just over a year after being sworn in, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal tendered his resignation to President Ram Baran Yadav, as part of the all-party deal struck earlier to avoid a constitutional crisis. The deal became necessary after the Constituent Assembly ran out its term without producing an acceptable document, and the Maoists insisting on a prime ministerial change for future participation.

In a televised address to the nation ahead of putting in his papers, Prime Minister Nepal lambasted the Maoists for their non-cooperative attitude towards the Government, leading to its downfall despite enjoying a comfortable majority in Parliament. He however, asked the Unified Communists Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) to keep their word and fulfill the conditions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Taking a pot-shot at some leaders from within his party, the Prime Minister said that the Government had to encounter 'indecent attacks' not only from the Opposition but also from 'some unexpected quarters'. As he put it, "The Government always maintained its firm stance against all kinds of autocratic pressure and intimidation. It firmly stood in support of peace, democracy and the new constitution," Nepal added, using the opportunity to elaborate on his Government's performance over 13 months.
Himalayan Times, 1 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Search on for successor

With Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal quitting office, political parties in the country have begun their search for a suitable successor. However, it was not clears as to the criteria for a successor-government, given the political complexities it was set to inherit.

President Ram Baran Yadav has since fixed July 7 as the deadline for the formation of the next government but no party has come up with a name. Possibilities of a 'national consensus government' were very high but the Maoists were also mulling the formation of a 'majority government'.

At one stage, the Maoists agreed to power-sharing under a Common Minimum Programme. However, "it's too early to say who will be the next Prime Minister from our party," Baburam Bhattarai, Vice-Chairman of the UCPN-M, said. The chances of the Nepali Congress (NC) leading a consensus government are also bright.
Himalayan Times, 1 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists supporting Naxalites in India?

With uncertainty looming large in the erstwhile Himalayan kingdom after the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, India is concerned about the Maoists gaining an upper hand in the domestic affairs of the northern neighbour. The recent declaration of Maoist chairman Prachanda that they would back all 'communist revolutionaries' all over the world, particularly India, would mean that they may extend support to the Naxalite groups across the border.

Prachanda's statement followed a politbouro meeting of the Maoists on 26 June, and protested what they called the 'suppression'of people in India. It's the clearest signal of Nepal Maoists openly soliciting links with the Naxalites in India, a movement that is described as the gravest internal security threat. Indian officials noted with concern that Maoists have been increasing their links with China, even as India plumps for a multi-party system in Nepal. On June 29, a 10-member team of high-ranking Maoist leaders travelled to China for close consultations.

The nearly 1,800-km open border between India and Nepal remains a growing security concern for the Indian authorities. Various terrorism operations targetting Indian cities have been found to have a Nepali link, with the perpetrators or planners sneaking into India through Nepal. Since Nepalis do not need a visa to visit or reside in India, the Indian Government is alarmed by the mushrooming of fake Nepali passports.
The Times of India, New Delhi 1 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Groundwork for Foreign Ministers' Meeting in July

Terrorism was the focus at the twin counterpart meetings involving the Home Ministers and the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan. The latter came first, followed by talks between the Home Ministers of the two countries, on the sidelines of a SAARC ministerial meeting.

The Foreign Secretaries swapped proposals for addressing issues concerning bilateral ties. The two sides expressed their resolve to jointly deal with the menace of terrorism. Confidence-building measures including increased communication across the border, trade and transport were discussed.

In his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik, Indian Home Minster P Chidambaram expressed unhappiness over the way Islamabad handled the issue involving Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed. He outlined the need for Pakistan to pursue the issue wholeheartedly. The Ministers also discussed intelligence-sharing and inter-agency cooperation between the two countries.
Dawn, 27 June, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NAB cases to be withdrawn

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has decided to withdraw cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik. This follows the Public Prosecutor's assessment that the case against President Zardari lacked 'credible evidence'.

The 'Cotecna pre-shipment inspection case' involving money-laundering operations, allegedly involved kickback payments to Zardari when his slain wife Benazir Bhutto was the Opposition Leader. While the Swiss authorities, whose banks were said to have been used, would not procure the details for placing them before Pakistani courts, presidential immunity is another cause in Zardari's favour.

The prosecution has cited similar reasons for the withdrawal of two corruption cases against Rehman Malik. The plea in Zardari's case is yet to be filed in the accountability court, but if the court accepts NAB's plea of withdrawal, the Supreme Court's verdict, quashing the National Reconciliation Ordinance could become irrelevant.

There have been suggestions that the current developments are linked to the resignation of NAB chief, Nawid Hassan.
The Nation, 2 July 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Monitoring internet content

The Ministry of Information Technology directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to monitor the Google search engine and other major websites for offensive content. This comes three days after the Bahawalpur Bench of the Lahore High Court ordered the government to block YouTube and eight other sites.

Officials however said that it was difficult to maintain such a posture and also mentioned that this could affect business and discourage online commercial activities. It is thus being concluded that measures would have to be nuanced keeping in mind the court orders, while also considering what could be socially and practically possible.
Dawn, 26 June 2010

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">High Defence budget, still

One year and more after the conclusion of the decades-old ethnic war, the Sri Lankan Budget for the current fiscal has proposed a high $ 1.6-billion allocation for Defence, down marginally from the previous year's $ 1.65-b. Deputy Finance Minister Sanath Amunagama, presenting the budget to Parliament, did not offer any explanation as to how the money would be spent.

This is a part-budget, the Government having obtained a vote-on-account in November last, citing upcoming elections to the presidency and Parliament as the reason. Next year's full budget is due to be presented in November, when incidentally, President Mahinda Rajapaksa would also assume his second term, after re-election in January this year.

The budget however did not provide for the Rs 2500 monthly pay-rise for Government employees, as promised by President Rajapaksa ahead of the twin-polls. Instead, the Minister said that it would be implemented next year after detailed discussions with trade unions to try and remove anticipated anomalies.
Daily Mirror, 30 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA opposed to Govt deal with KP

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman and Suresh Premachandran has come down heavily about reports on the Government striking a deal with one-time LTTE arms procurer, Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP, now in Army custody. "The Government had declared him a terrorist and even asked the Interpol to find him out," he said, opposing the current moves to use him in post-war reconstruction work in the North.

> Premachandran also questioned Colombo's staunch opposition to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointing a three-member panel to advise him on Sri Lankan affairs. "If the Government has nothing to worry about allegations of human rights violations and war crimes, it should not oppose the UN panel," he said.
Daily Mirror, 27 June 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Closer Ties with Indian Navy

India's Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Nirmal Verma, undertook a five-day goodwill visit to Sri Lanka, the first senior military official from across the Palk Strait to visit the island-nation since the conclusion of the ethnic war in May last year. During his stay, Admiral Verma held high-level discussions with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan Navy Commander Thisara Samarasinghe. Admiral Verma also visited the Northern Province, where India is committed to renovating and upgrading the port facilities at Kankesanthurai.

Coinciding with the Admiral Verma's visit, an Indian Navy ship, INS Delhi, called at the Trincomallee Port, where a guard-of-honour was given to his Sri Lankan counterpart on board the vessel. Before Admiral Verma, a predecessor of his, Admiral Arun Prakash had visited Sri Lanka in 2004.
Daily Mirror, 29 June 2010

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