MonitorsPublished on Jun 03, 2013
Notwithstanding the recent media leaks on a 'US military base' in Maldives, a decision on whatever that facility be, may have to wait until after the parliamentary polls of May 2014, not stopping with the presidential elections due in September this year.
Maldives: Decision on 'US military base' may have to wait
< class="heading1">Analysis

Notwithstanding the recent media leaks on a ’US military base’ in Maldives, a decision on whatever that facility be, may have to wait until after the parliamentary polls of May 2014, not stopping with the presidential elections due in September this year. In effect, this could mean that a national debate, and more importantly a parliamentary vote, will be required before any Government in Male - this one or the next - could take a decision, though none is now in the air even a month after a section of the local web-media went to town on the ’leak’ and subsequent reports in the matter.

For starters, it may be too premature, if not outright improper, to dub the emerging relations as ending in a military base for the US in the Indian Ocean Archipelago. The two Governments have stuck to the position that the ’Status of Forces Agreement’ (SOFA), with the US claiming it to be a general agreement for extending training facilities by the American armed forces. According to the US, similar agreements already exist with over 100 countries. Maldives Defence Minister, Col Ahamed Nazim (retd), too has said that they were not contemplating any military facility for the US but only for the latter extending training to his nation’s personnel.

Bringing Parliament into picture

For now, the lid has been placed on the issue after Attorney-General Aishath Bisham clarified that handing over any region in Maldives for the setting up of a foreign military facility of whatever kind would require parliamentary clearance with a simple majority. In doing so, the Attorney-General cited the advice given to the incumbent Government of President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, by her predecessor Aishath Azima. According to her, Azima had advised the Defence Ministry as early as March 21 that parliamentary approval would be required for any agreement of the kind with the US. Basham said she stood by her predecessor’s position in the matter. The media leaks appeared a month later.

As may be recalled, the law providing for prior parliamentary clearance for agreements of the nature came into being when Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader Mohammed Nasheed was President in 2010. That was when the Nasheed Government was keen on signing a construction-cum-concession contract for the Male international airport with India-based infrastructure major, GMR Group. The deed was done, but not without high drama and controversy, attending on the same, both inside and outside Parliament.

Between the Executive and the Legislature in a democracy, both sides blamed each other for ’colourable exercise’ of respective powers in the ’GMR deal’ but none questions the subsequent application of the new law to new agreements of the kind. The US-SOFA deals cannot be exempted either, unless Parliament were to do so. However, given the present political calculus and electoral calculations, no political party or leader may have the will to move forward in the matter, inside Parliament or otherwise,.

As may also be recalled, after much drama and bilateral tensions, the successor Government of President Waheed cancelled the GMR contract. The decision has since been upheld by the mutually agreed-upon arbitration court in Singapore, which is also looking into the compensation claims of GMR. The Maldivian Government argues that the contract was ab initio void, and has cited the existence of the law requiring previous clearance for transferring possession of a ’national asset’ to foreign parties, as among the reasons.

The law came about at a critical juncture at the birth of the GMR contract. A day after the Nasheed Government announced the formal decision in the matter the Opposition-majority Parliament hurriedly passed the law, pending the unanticipated reconstitution of the board of the Male Airport Company Ltd (MACL), after the existing one was unwilling to sign on the dotted line. President Nasheed returned the Bill to Parliament promptly, under the existing provision. Left with no option but to assent the Bill after Parliament had passed it a second time, with equal hurry and vehemence.

As is the wont in many other countries, the Constitution provides for any Bill passed by Parliament a second time becoming law automatically if within a stipulated period the President did not give his assent. In Maldives’ it’s a 15-day window. However, the MDP Government got the GMR contract through before the lapse of the 15-day period, and President Nasheed too gave his assent to the said Bill within the stipulated time, if only to avoid arguments about the untenable nature of his continuance in office under controversial circumstances of the kind.

From ACSA to SOFA...

Apart from SOFA, the US has signed another 10-year agreement, titled the ’Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement’ (ACSA), which it claimed had been done similarly with over 100 countries. The ACSA, signed ’on a bilateral basis with allies or coalition partners that allow US forces to exchange most common types of support, including food, fuel, transportation, ammunition, and equipment. The agreement does not, in any way, commit a country to any military action’ (Wikipedia). Some would argue that SOFA is an extension of ACSA, but some others also point out that not all countries that have signed ACSA are targeted by the US for signing SOFA.

In the case of Maldives, in 2009, when MDP’s Nasheed was the Maldivian President, his Defence Minister of the day, Ameen Faisal was said to have discussed an ACSA with visiting US Ambassador Patricia A Butenis, based in Colombo, to present her credentials at Male. According to Wikileaks, sourced to US Embassy message of October 7, 2009, "He also reiterated the Maldives’ interest in establishing a USN (US Navy) facility in the southernmost atoll. He thanked the Ambassador for US security assistance..."

In the present case, Maldivian media reports, claiming access to unauthenticated draft of SOFA, said that the agreement outlined "conditions for the potential establishment of a US military base in the country". The draft, obtained by Maldivian current affairs blog DhivehiSitee, "incorporates the principal provisions and necessary authorisations for the temporary presence and activities of the US forces in the Republic of Maldives and, in the specific situations indicated herein, the presence and activities of the US contractors in the Republic of Maldives", the Minivan News web-journal said in the last week of April.

Under the proposed 10-year agreement outlined in the leaked draft, Maldives would "furnish, without charge" to the US unspecified "Agreed Facilities and Areas", and "such other facilities and areas in the territory and territorial seas? and authorize the US forces to exercise all rights ?that are necessary for their use, operation, defence or control, including the right to undertake new construction works and make alterations and improvements".

The draft also says that the US would be authorised to "control entry" to areas provided for its "exclusive use", and would be permitted to operate its own telecommunications system and use the radio spectrum "free of cost". Furthermore, the US would also be granted access to and use of "aerial ports, sea ports and agreed facilities for transit, support and related activities, bunkering of ships, refuelling of aircraft, maintenance of vessels, aircraft, vehicles and equipment, accommodation of personnel, communications, ship visits, training, exercises, humanitarian activities".

The contents of the leaked draft has remained uncontested - maybe because it is an American template that has been leaked -- and provides for US personnel to wear uniforms while performing official duties "and to carry arms while on duty if authorised to do so by their orders". US personnel (and civilian staff) would furthermore "be accorded the privileges, exemptions and immunities equivalent to those accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention", and be subject to the criminal jurisdiction of the US - and not the Maldivian laws, with a preponderance of the Islamic Shariah practices. The draft exempts US vessels from entry fee in ports and airports, and personnel from payment of duties even for their personnel effects brought into Maldives.

The draft also stipulates that neither party could approach "any national or international court, tribunal or similar body, or to a third party for settlement, unless otherwise mutually agreed" over matters of bilateral dispute flowing from the agreement. This would obviously cover "damage to, loss of, or destruction of its property or injury or death to personnel of either party’s armed forces or their civilian personnel arising out the performance of their official duties in connection with activities under this agreement".

Sri Lankan precedent on ACSA

In recent years, ACSA became news in neighbouring Sri Lanka at the height of ’Eelam War IV’, when the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaklsa signed one with the US in seeming hurry. President Rajapaksa was away in China when his brother and Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa signed the ACSA at Colombo in March 2007, with Robert Blake, who was the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives at the time. It is believed that the US intelligence-sharing, helping Sri Lanka to vanquish the dreaded LTTE terror-group, particularly the ’Sea Tigers’ wing, followed the ACSA.

At present, questions are being asked within Sri Lanka if the current US ’over-drive’ over ’war crimes and accountability issues’ relating to Colombo at UNHRC may have anything to do with Washington’s possible desire to sign up for SOFA or such other agreements. However, there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that such may have even be the case. It is however to be presumed that the US may not be exactly happy over Sri Lanka getting increasingly involved in China’s sphere of influence, what with President Rajapaksa visiting Beijing almost every other year, and signing bilateral agreements in a wide-range of sectors, as he has done less than a fortnight back.

A section of the Sri Lankan media in the immediate neighbourhood has since claimed that MDP’s Nasheed would take up the issue with Colombo and New Delhi. Otherwise, President Rajapaksa’s ruling front partner, Minister Wimal Weerawansa, head of the National Freedom Front (NFF), a shriller breakaway faction of the one-time Left militant, now ’Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ Janatha Vimukthi Peramana (JVP), is alone in his condemnation of the US move in Maldives. The Sri Lankan Government and polity otherwise have refrained from any reaction - so have their counterparts in India.

Politics of silence?

If partners in the Maldivian Government and also the Opposition MDP seem to be maintaining relative but calculated indifference to the leaked document, it may not be without reason. The Wikileaks’ indication of the predecessor Nasheed Government’s willingness to sign ACSA with the US and then Minister Faisal’s interest in the ’US setting up a military facility in the southernmost atoll’ may have silenced the party to some extent. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which in its earlier, undivided avtar as the Dhivehi Progressive Party (DRP), had put Maldivian sovereignty and national security as among the major causes for its opposition to the Male airport contract with the GMR. Post-leak, media reports have quoted second-line MDP leaders in the matter. The party’s international spokesperson, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, said that the MDP had heard of the proposal - supposedly concerning Laamu Atoll and the site of the former British airbase on Seenu Gan in the south of the country. "We are wondering what our other international partners - India, Australia, etc - think of this idea," Ghafoor said. Other party leaders too have reacted cautiously, linking their undeclared future decision in the matter to the views of the Indian neighbour and regional power, whose security interests too are involved.

It is not only the Opposition in the Maldives that has maintained silence over the proposed agreement with the US. Ruling front partners who prop up the Waheed Government inside the Cabinet and more so in Parliament have also avoided direct reference to the US proposal, at least in public. The President is not known to have commented on the subject, as yet. When the SOFA leak appeared in April, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad said that he had texted President Waheed, who had no knowledge of any agreement.

The Defence Ministry also had no information on the matter, he said. At the time, Imad would not comment on whether the Government would be open to such a proposal. Subsequently, Defence Minister Nazim clarified that no decision had been taken in the matter. There thus seems to be an attempt to show up the SOFA initiative, if there was any on the Maldivian side, as that of the Defence Ministry. It is not a new process in the Maldivian context, as in most nations specific initiatives of specific kinds are often moved only through the departments or ministries concerned, and the rest of the Government is involved, at times in stages. The Nasheed Government’s certain initiatives in similar matters too had followed this route, in relations to China, it is said.

However, as the SOFA leak says, "The proposed agreement would supersede an earlier agreement between the US and Maldives regarding "Military and Department of Defense Civilian Personnel", effected on December 31, 2004. PPM’s founder, who had also founded the DRP, was Maldivian President in 2004. Hence possibly the reluctance of the PPM to keep the ’US issue alive’, over which the Gayoom leadership had taken on the Nasheed Government, on the ’Guantanamo prisoner’ issue, for instance. The issue involved the transfer of a Chinese prisoner of the US from the infamous Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba, to Maldives, but domestic opposition, flowing from the nation’s Islamic identity (however moderate) stalled the process.

After Diego Garcia, what...

A SOFA agreement for the US with Maldives acquires greater significance in the current context of the nation having to possibly the vacate the better-known yet even more controversial Diego Garcia military base in the Chagos Archipelago, less than 750 km from southern Maldives’ Addu Atoll with the Gan air-base. The 50-year lease agreement for Diego Garcia, which the British partner of the US in the NATO purchased from Mauritius in 1965 for three-million pound-sterling a year earlier, ends in 2016.

The controversy over the forcible eviction of the local population to facilitate the lease has not died down in the UK, and there are strong doubts about the likelihood of its extension, owing to a British High Court verdict, which restored residency rights to the original Chagos inhabitants as far back as 2000. Though a subsequent, 2008 House of Lords ruling has over-turned the court verdict, the Chagos have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, where embarrassment might await both the UK and the US. Whether or not the Chagos can return to their home, a 2010 British decision to declare the Archipelago as the world’s largest marine reserve and protected area could well mean that no military activity could occur thereabouts. The controversies have not rested there, and continue to rage in court-room battles, and could become a cause for the civil society in the UK and rest of Europe. It is in this context, any SOFA agreement would trigger an interest and/or concerns in neighbouring Sri Lanka and India - not necessarily in that order - as also other international users of the abutting Indian Ocean sea-lines, which Diego Garcia and Maldives, not to leave out Sri Lanka’s southern Hambantota port, built in turn by China.

Neighbourhood concerns

Thus, US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake’s assertion after the SOFA draft leaked to the Maldivian media that Washington did "not have any plans to have a military presence in Maldives" has not convinced many. "We have exercise programs very frequently (with Maldives) and we anticipate that those would continue. But we do not anticipate any permanent military presence. Absolutely no bases of any kind," Blake said. However, considering the content of the leaked SOFA draft, and/or the motive behind the leak and its timing, there are apprehensions that before long the US might demand - and possibly obtain - Maldivian real estate for its military purposes, one way or the other, and will also have protection from local court interference.

In this, the interest and concerns of Sri Lanka and India are real. Ever since the US took a keener interest in the ’war crimes’ and ’accountability’ issues haunting the Sri Lankan State, political Establishment and the armed forces almost as a whole, Colombo has been askance about the ’real motives’ behind Washington’s drive at the UNHRC, Geneva, for two years in a row. The European allies of the US too are reported to have been perplexed by the American move, which they seem to feel should stop with the attainment of political rights for the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka, and not chase a mirage, which could have unwelcome and unpredictable consequences, all-round.

For India, after the Chinese ’commercial and developmental presence’ at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port and Mattale airport, any extra-territorial power’s military presence in the neighbourhood should make it uncomfortable. It would have to be so even it was the US, with which New Delhi signed a defence cooperation agreement in 2005. Before Washington now, Beijing was said to have eyed real estate in Maldives, and was believed to have submitted grandeur plans to develop a whole atoll into a large-scale resort facility for an anticipated tens of thousands of Chinese tourists.

Around the time, China reportedly submitted its plans, news reports had suggested that Chinese tourists, who had propped up the Maldivian economy at the height of the global economic meltdown of 2008, felt unwelcome in the existing resorts, where they would like to cook their own packed meal brought from home - cutting into the hoteliers’ profit-margin in a big way. While China now accounts for the highest number of tourists arriving in Maldives, it does not translate into the highest-spending by tourists from any country or region. This owes to the spending styles of the Chinese and other South Asians, including Indians, compared to their European and American counterparts.

India as ’net provider of security’

Media reports have also quoted US officials that they would take Indian into confidence before proceeding in the matter. If they have done so already, it does not seem to have been in ways and at levels requiring an Indian reaction in public. Alternatively, the US may not have as yet found the levels of negotiations/agreement with Maldives that may require it to take the Indian partner into such confidence. This could imply that the US is still on a ’fishing expedition’ on the Maldivian SOFA. It is another matter that at no stage in its recent engagements with India’s South Asian neighbours, Washington seemed to have taken New Delhi into confidence at the comforting levels that the latter had been used to with the erstwhile Soviet Union during the ’Cold War’ era.

Whatever the truth and level of such ’confidence’ on the American side, an existing bilateral agreement provides for Maldives tasking India into confidence over ay third-nation security and defence cooperation agreements that it may enter into. As may be recalled, India rushed its military forces to Maldives in double-quick time under ’Operation Cactus’ in 1988, after Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries targeted the country, and then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom sought New Delhi’s military intervention. Bilateral security relations have been strengthened since, with the Coast Guards of the two countries exercising every two years together, with Sri Lanka being included in ’Dhosti 11’ for the first time in March 2012.

However, considering the purported American vehemence on the Sri Lanka front, and Washington making successive forays into India’s immediate neighbouring nations, one after the other, questions are beginning to be asked in New Delhi’s strategic circles if they had seen it all, or was there more to follow. As is now beginning to be acknowledged, in countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal, where the Indian concerns had neutralised Chinese presence to some extent, the US is being seen as a new player on its own.

In the bygone ’Cold War’ era, the erstwhile Soviet Union was not known to have made forays - political or otherwise -- into South Asia without expressly discussing it with India, and deciding on it together. Afghanistan might have been an exception. The country at the time was not seen as a part of South Asia, yet the embarrassment for India was palpable. But Maldives and the rest in the present-day context of purported American military interest seeks to side-step, if not belittle India.

Otherwise, too, if the choice for India is between the US and China, for an extra-territorial power in the immediate neighbourhood, it would be a clear one. But if that choice were to lead to an ’arms race’ between extra-territorial powers that India and the rest of the region cannot match for a long time to come, it would be a different case altogether. It could also lead to greater estrangement of India and some of its neighbours, who would find relative comfort in China, compared to the US, whatever the reason. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent assertion that India was in a position to be a ’net provider of security’ in the South Asian region needs to be contextualised thus.

In this context, Maldivian Attorney-General Bisham’s assertion that any agreement of the SOFA kind with the US would have to clear Parliament assumes significance. However, considering the general American tactic that involves economic carrot and politico-diplomatic stick at the same time, it is not unlikely that the current phase on the SOFA front may have been only a testing of the Maldivian political waters, when the nation is otherwise caught in the run-up to the presidential polls, to be followed by parliamentary elections. By then, it is likely the issues would have also sunk in on the domestic front in Maldives, for the US to take up the issue with a future government in Male. All this will make sense in the interim if, and only if, the US is keen on proceeding with the Maldivian SOFA.

To the extent that Defence Minister Nazim has said that Maldives was only considering what possibly may be a unilateral US proposal, he may be saying the truth - and his Government may not have moved forward on this score. With most political parties in the country, then in the Opposition, too flagging ’sovereignty’ and ’national pride’ while challenging the GMR contract, inside Parliament and outside, it is likely that any precipitate initiative at the time of twin-elections now could trigger the kind of ’religion-centric reaction’ that had cost President Nasheed his office in February 2012.

For now, Islamic Minister Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed, representing the religion-centric Adhaalath Party, which spearheaded the anti-Nasheed protests leading to the latter’s exit, has served notice. The party would not allow the Government to sign SOFA with the US, he has said. Considering that President Waheed has bent heavily on the Adhaalath Party for support and campaign cadres in his election-bid of September this year, it is likely that SOFA discussions with the US may not proceed for now - just as it may not form part of the electoral discourse, either for the presidency this year, or for Parliament next year.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sixth Republic Day observed

Six years after Nepal became a republic, the country looked divided as it marked the Republic Day on Wednesday. While the government organised a special function at the Army Pavilion in Tundikhel to mark the day, a section of the civil society held a separate programme demanding ’correction’ of the decision to form the chief justice-led government.

None of the top leaders of major political parties were seen at the official function attended by President Ram Baran Yadav, Vice-President Paramananda Jha, Chairman of the Interim Election Government Khil Raj Regmi, high-ranking Army and police officials, civil servants and representatives from diplomatic missions.

Addressing the function, Chairman Regmi expressed commitment to hold new Constituent Assembly elections and lauded efforts made by the government in holding the polls, intensifying talks at the bilateral and multilateral levels and holding consultations with various stakeholders.

"The government is preparing to hold elections before November 22," Regmi said, adding, "Election is a political process and the government is trying to include all political parties in the poll process, while efforts to finalise electoral laws are in the final stages."

President Yadav’s high-tea reception was boycotted by a section of civil society members. Instead, they gathered outside the Constituent Assembly building in New Baneshwor and questioned the Regmi-led election government, the endorsement of the Truth and Reconciliation Ordinance and the appointment of controversial former royal secretary Lokman Singh Karki as the chief of the anti-graft body.

Also, Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala and senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba remained absent at the high-tea hosted by the President. Likewise, former Prime Minister and senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and party leader K P Sharma Oli remained absent in the function.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, May 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Man held with Indian currency

Armed Police Force arrested a man found in illegal possession of ’ 1.3 million. Officials believe that Shyam Shreshta (30) was trying to smuggle the amount into Tibet by crossing the border near Tatopani on Thursday morning.

The amount was in denomination of ’ 1,000 and ’ 500. Denominations more than ’ 100 are banned in Nepal.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four-party panel on poll ordinance

The high-level political mechanism of the four major parties has formed a taskforce to make suggestions on the proposed election ordinance.

A meeting of the HLPC chaired by UML chairman Jhala NathKhanal decided to form the eight-member taskforce comprised Krishna Bahadur Mahara and KhimLal Devkota of UCPN (Maoist), Ram Saran Mahat and Minendra Rijal from Nepali Congress (NC), Raghuji Pant and Agni Kharel from UML and Hridayesh Tripathi and Jitendra Dev of the Madhesi Front.

The committee’s mandate is to find common ground on the proposed Ordinance on Election to the Constituent Assembly Members. According to NC general secretary Krishna Prasad Situala, the election date will be announced only when the ordinance is finalised.

Earlier, three consecutive HLPC meetings had been postponed due to absence of NC president Sushil Koirala, who was reportedly unhappy with the allies’ objection to his demand for the resignation of interim election council chairman Khil Raj Regmi from the post of the Chief Justice.

The four major parties differ on a number of provisions in the proposed ordinance with the threshold for representation in the would-be CA and the size of the assembly being the major bone of contention.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Everest golden jubilee

The diamond jubilee of the first ascent to the Mount Everest (Sagarmatha), the highest peak in the world, was marked by a civic felicitation programme. During the programme noted mountaineers from home and abroad were honoured.

The government decided to observe the Sagarmatha Diamond Jubilee, commemorating the day (May 29) when New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa of Nepal who in 1953 first scaled the summit of Mount Everest.

This year, the government has doubled general insurance amount and medical expense for members of expedition and rescue teams. The government has also committed to better organise and systematise tourism sector in addition to promoting mountaineering and controlling irregularity seen during the Sagarmatha expeditions.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, May 29-30, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TTP deputy chief assassinated

Waliur Rehman, the second-in-command of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was killed this week in a US drone strike. As a response to his death, the TTP issued a statement declaring their decision to withdraw its dialogue offer to the new government. Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan said that the TTP consider the Pakistani government fully responsible for drone strikes in the region, because the government is passing information to the United States. "We had sincerely offered peace dialogue to the government but we strongly believe that the government has a role to play in the drone strikes," he said. He added, ""on one hand the Pakistani government is advocating the mantra of peace talks, and on the other it is colluding with the United States and killing the Taliban leadership."

Waliur Rehman was at odds with Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP chief. According to a senior Pakistani military official, it was possible that key intelligence about the whereabouts of Waliur Rehman had been provided by people loyal to Hakimullah.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Samiul Haq (JUI-S) chief Maulana Samiul Haq said on Thursday that the killing of TTP Deputy Chief Waliur Rehman had sabotaged the peace process between the militants and the Pakistani government. He further said that Pakistan must prove to the Taliban that it was not complicit in the killing of Rehman.

He condemned the Pakistani establishment for not giving the incident the importance that it deserves. Haq, consiered the Godfather of the movement, had earlier stressed the importance for the incoming civil administration to be on the same page as the military establishment for the peace process to make any headway.

Khan Said was appointed as Rehman’s successor.

In the meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister in-waiting, during a meeting with the US representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins declared that Pakistan’s support was critical for

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, May 30, 2013; The Express Tribune, May 27, 2013; The Express Tribune, May 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PML-N, JUI-F deal on govt-formation

The Pakistan Muslim league - Nawaz, or PML-N, is expected to garner a majority on its own in the National Assembly with a large number of newly-elected independent MNAs from the four provinces joining the party.

Despite this, the PML-N was keen to have the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) on board in order to facilitate talks with the TTP. The JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had asked the PML-N for the housing ministry, alongside the chairmanship of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for his party and leadership of the Kashmir committee for himself. The JUI-F also demanded two berths in the federal cabinet and appointment of its two men as ambassadors in Muslim countries.

A PML-N leader said, "Every coalition government has to satisfy its partners. It is not necessary to fulfil all of his demands and we are negotiating to bring him at a mutually acceptable decision".

According to reports, a settlement seems to have been reached regarding power sharing and the final decision would be taken during a subsequent meeting between Rehman and the PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.

Before the killing of Waliur Rehman, the JUI-F and PML-N claimed to have worked out a mechanism to talk to the Taliban. Both sides had decided that the talks with the Taliban would be held through a "grand peace jirga" as suggested by all the mainstream political parties in a "declaration" of the all-party conference (APC) organised by the JUI-F

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, May 27, 2013; The Express Tribune, May 27, 2013; The Nation, May 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sindh, K-P CMs sworn in

Members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly voted for the election of the chief minister on Friday and elected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Pervez Khattak. Khattak secured 84 votes and becomes the 26th chief minister of the province. JUI-F candidate Mualana Latifur Rehman secured 37 votes. The PML-N is likely to get the Leader of the Opposition slot in the assembly.

The Sindh Assembly, in the meanwhile, elected Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Qaim Ali Shah as the province’s Chief Minister for the second consecutive term. Shah has secured an unprecedented third term as CM. The posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker in the Sindh Assembly were also secured by candidates belonging to the PPP.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, May 31, 2013; The News, May 31, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP for unitary State, meaningful devolution

The Opposition United National Party (UNP), while calling for the enactment of a new Constitution, has said that it was committed to a unitary state, which would genuinely devolve power to the provinces without usurping its effectiveness.

UNP Opposition Leader in Parliament, Ranil Wickremesinghe, releasing his party’s manifesto, said that there was an urgent need to adopt a new Constitution since the dignity and sovereign rights of the people had been forcibly taken away by the Rajapaksa regime. He said that the proposed Constitution would be implemented by a future UNP government in association with its Opposition allies, while taking into consideration the agreements and pledges given by the ruling UPFA to the Sri Lankan Parliament and the UN.

They would include President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech to Parliament in May 2009, recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the Tissa Vitharana Report and connected documents, including papers exchanged at the talks between the SLFP and the TNA, joint communiqué between the UPFA government and the United Nations Secretary General in May 2009 and resolutions on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Pledging to abolish the Executive Presidency and substitute it with a Head of State elected by the people, Wickremesinghe said that the President’s powers would be divided among the Head of State, the Prime Minister and the Speaker’s Council.

The UNP leader noted that as a novel system the executive powers will be exercised on an apolitical basis subject to checks and balances. The Prime Minister would be elected by the people at an election and would govern with his Cabinet, which would be responsible to Parliament, while the Head of State will be the Head of the Council of State on whose advice he would act.

The decisions of the Council of State shall be by consensus. In the event there was no consensus the majority decision would prevail. That would pave the way to practice the Buddha’s preachings on governance, peaceful assembly, peaceful dialogue and peaceful dispersion, the UNP leader observed.

The Council of State would consist of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and Leaders of political parties represented in Parliament and Chief Ministers of the Provinces, Wickremesinghe said adding that with a view to adopting a system similar to that of the Westminster system, the Cabinet of Ministers would be restricted to 25, including the Prime Minister.

The UNP leader noted that during the last several years on President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s watch, the office of Executive President had been desecrated by destroying all checks and balances that had been built into the system. The dignity and integrity of that office had been reduced to a despicable state as a result of the blatant abuse of power and the creation of an authoritarian regime marked with extreme nepotism and corruption, with gross disregard for democratic values and fundamental human rights, Wickremesinghe alleged.

There was an urgent need to establish a just and equitable society, creating an environment for all people to live in peace and harmony while enjoying their fundamental rights, irrespective of any difference of creed, religion, language or political opinion, the UNP leader said.

The other priorities, he said, would include the establishment of a vibrant and prosperous economy, which had been completely destroyed in the recent past, including the creation of opportunities to generate income for the people.

Wickremesinghe also called for the independence of the judiciary and law and order, which, he said, had been critically and unprecedentedly debilitated during the recent past and the restoration of the pristine glory previously enjoyed by Sri Lankans in the international arena.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rajitha proposes Maithripala as next PM

Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has said that Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena was the most suitable person to be appointed the next Prime Minister of the country, if incumbent were to retire. Addressing a ceremony at the Beruwala District hospital, Dr. Senaratne said that a mature politician like minister Sirisena could not be created overnight.

"Anyone could become a minister or MP by distributing handouts but that does not make a mature politician," Dr. Senaratne said. "For example, a good doctor will not be able to serve the public properly if he or she is not people friendly," Dr. Senaratne said, adding that the same was true of politicians.

A few months ago, SLFP Kalutara District leader and Transport Minister Kumara Welgama proposed that senior SLFP leader and the current Speaker of Parliament, Chamal Rajapaksa be appointed the next prime minister. Minister Welgama said that Speaker Rajapaksa was the most suitable person for that post.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China to provide satellite

China’s Great Wall Industry Corp has signed a contract to provide Sri Lanka’s first communication satellite, the China Daily reported. The company, in which China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. has an equity interest, is China’s only authorised provider of commercial satellite launch services to the global market, the official media said. The contract would help further expand China’s growing presence in the strategically located Indian Ocean island nation.

The deal, whose financial and other details were not disclosed, was signed on Tuesday in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Voter registration on

The voter registration process for the Afghan Presidential Elections to be held in 2014 was started by the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC). The IEC has opened 41 registration centres in 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

The registration process will initially target Kabul and other major cities, and later it will move to smaller districts, officials of the Commission said. The voter’s registration will last for over three months and will register approximately four million people across the country. The centres will provide voter ID cards to those who don’t have, whose previous card is lost or has expired and to the refugees who have returned back to Afghanistan, officials said.

There was, however, some criticism in Kabul, where people complained that very few registration centres had been set up and that most of them were located in far flung areas. Moreover, the low turnout among women is also a source of concern.

Meanwhile, the lower house of the Afghan parliament rejected a law, which called for the ethnicity of the people to be specifically mentioned in the electronic IDs

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, May 26, 2013; Tolo News, May 29, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU police mission extended

The Council of European Union on Monday extended the EU police mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) until December 31, 2014, allocating a budget of ?108 million for the period. EUPOL Afghanistan helped the Afghan authorities to develop their civilian policing capacities.

The mission has approximately 350 international and 200 local staff, coming from 23 member states as well as from Croatia and Canada. This civilian mission, under the Common Security and Defence Policy, is part of the overall EU commitment to Afghanistan.

The EU will continue in the coming years its assistance to Afghanistan’s development, including in the area of the rule of law.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, May 27, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ANSF needs foreign air support

A number of Afghan senators claimed that the activities of the insurgents had increased because the Afghan forces lacked the required air support from the foreign forces. The senators asked President Karzai to let the foreign forces provide full air support to the Afghan security forces during operations.

The Senators believe that Afghan security forces need to seriously think about building a strong air force with the assistance of the foreign forces. This will stop the increase of terror activities in all parts of Afghanistan. The Senators criticized the decision of stopping air attacks by the foreign forces in the country.

"Taliban activities have increased in the Badghis and Faryab provinces. The Afghan security forces want to launch air operations but due to lack of proper infrastructure within the air force, they aren’t able to do it. According to the President’s order, Afghan security forces cannot seek help from the foreign forces," Senate House Secretary, Sayed Farokh Shah Jinab said.

The United States has committed that it will buy 20 fighter jets for the Afghan Air Force, according to the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) Spokesman, Brigadier General Gunter Katz. MoD expects that Afghan military forces will be equipped with fighter planes, transport planes and drones within few years.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, May 28, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Election in Dec-Jan

The general elections will be held at the end of this December, or early January next year, Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni informed US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who visited Dhaka this week.

During the meeting with the Foreign Minister, Sherman wanted to know about the timing of the next elections. In reply, the Minister said that polls would be held either at the end of December or beginning of January. Soon after the meeting, Sherman was optimistic that the next polls in Bangladesh would be free, fair, inclusive and credible.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, May 27, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No unelected person in power: PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reiterated that the next general elections will be held in such a manner that the democratic process will continue in the country.

Urging the Opposition to return to Parliament and to discuss there to find out a solution for holding the next general elections she categorically said that they will have to start a system where there will be no unelected person in state power. This is necessary for ensuring continuation of the democratic process in the country. The Premier expressed her views while talking to grassroots workers of her party.

Hasina further said that unlike the past, unelected persons will not be able to do anything good for the country and democracy. Since they had failed earlier, so no unelected person would be allowed in state power anymore, she added.

Describing the Opposition demand for restoration of the caretaker government system as illogical, the Prime Minister said the next general elections in the country will be held as in other countries of the world which have parliamentary democracy

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, May 31, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sherman cancels meeting with Khaleda

Dismayed at the Opposition BNP-led alliance’s hartal (street protest) during her visit to Dhaka this week, US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R Sherman criticised such shutdowns and cancelled her meeting with the BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia.

On the cancellation of the meeting with Khaleda Zia, US Press and Information Officer Kelly S McCarthy said that Sherman regretted that a hartal marked the first day of the US-Bangladesh partnership dialogue, and subsequent schedule changes precluded her meeting with the BNP chief.

US Embassy officials claimed that the US was always against programmes like hartal as a means of voicing demands. Former US secretary of state Colin Powell cancelled a meeting with the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina on June 19, 2003, as the Chhatra League, student wing of the Awami League, did not call off its hartal on the day of the meeting.

Sherman’s cancellation of her meeting with the BNP chief is clearly a diplomatic setback for the BNP, as the party had decided to call a hartal on the first day of the US-Bangladesh dialogue on Khaleda’s instructions. Some policymakers in the BNP termed the cancellation of the meeting an embarrassment for the party, and said it would have a negative impact on ties between the party and the US. However, another section of BNP leaders brushed aside such fears, and said it would not have any major repercussions.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her meeting with Sherman expressed hope that the opposition political parties would join the next general election as they are now participating in the city corporation polls. The premier also informed that the next general election of the country would be held as per Westminster system, which is being practised in parliamentary democracies across the world. The premier also said the present Election Commission was independent and performing its duties without any interference from the government.

Bangladesh is facing a political logjam as the Opposition has declared not to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections unless caretaker government is restored. But ruling Awami League is adamant on holding the election under a democratic government. The non compromising attitude of the political parties made the future of election uncertain.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, May 28, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Execution of ’war criminals’ in August?

Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu expects death penalty against war criminals to be implemented by August. "Verdicts on appeals would be end by June. So the punishment would be meted out by July or August," he said. "When it is happened, the country will get rid of a poison," the Minister opined.

The International Crimes Tribunal, a special court set up to try those accused of crimes against humanity during 1971 liberation War, has already awarded death penalty to three -- two of them top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, Delwar Hossain Sayedee and AHM Kamaruzzaman. The third is a former Jamaat activist Abul Kalam Azad alias Bacchhu Razakar who is absconding.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, May 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Delhi asked to explain its tender

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a letter to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs through the High Commission of India in Dhaka, asking New Delhi to explain how a tender notice for a feasibility study on a container port in Narayanganj showed up on the Indian ministry website without consultation with Bangladesh.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs on May 10 posted an advertisement on its website inviting bids for "Techno-Commercial Feasibility study for setting up an Inland Container port at Narayanganj, Bangladesh". Foreign Ministry officials claimed that Dhaka was not at all aware of the tender before it appeared on the Indian ministry’s website. They said it was not acceptable that the external affairs ministry would invite tenders without talking to Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, May 30, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists kill Congress leaders

Suspected Maoist rebels set off a land mine and opened fire Saturday on a convoy of cars carrying local leaders and supporters of India’s ruling Congress party in eastern India, killing at least 17 people and wounding 24 others, police said. Senior police officer M. Gupta said the attack occurred in the Sukma area, about 345 km south of Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh State.

Two State party leaders and five police officers were among those killed in the attack, said R. K. Vij, a top state police officer. Other victims were party supporters. "We are devastated," said Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, who denounced what she called "dastardly attack" on the country’s democratic values.

Police identified one of those killed as Mahendra Karma, a Congress leader in Chhattisgarh state who founded a local militia, the Salwa Judum, to combat the Maoist rebels.

The anti-rebel militia had to be reined in after it was accused of atrocities against tribals - indigenous people at the bottom of India’s rigid social ladder. The wounded Congress party members, among them 83-year-old Vidya Charan Shukla, a former federal minister, were taken to a local hospital, police said. Over 12 hours after Chhattisgarh PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel was reported missing with his son Dinesh in attack on border of Bastar-Sukma districts, their bodies were recovered around 8 am on Sunday from a wooded area a few metres off the spot.

The Chhattisgarh Police supported by CRPF battalions on Thursday (May 30) launched operations to engage 2,500 armed Maoist rebels and local militia in the jungles of Bastar even as perpetrators of the May 25 attack were believed to be moving towards Malkangiri in Odisha. The ambush had left 28 people, including several Congressmen dead.

About 5,000 State police personnel and five CRPF battalions (about 5,000 men) started combing the forests in Bastar-the notorious hideout of naxals with 5.56 mm INSAS rifles and communication gear, Beside hunting for 150 armed Maoists, they will try to get the main accused of the May 25 attack: Vinod Sema, secretary of the CPI-ML’s Darba committee, and Madkami Sema alias Surendra.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 26, 2013, The Indian Express, May 27, 2013, Hindustan Times, May 31, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CM acknowledges security-lapse

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has acknowledged that there was a "lapse" and that led to Saturday’s Maoist attack on a Congress motorcade.

"An incident of such a magnitude could not have happened; there must have been some lapse somewhere. That is why in order to get to the bottom of truth an impartial inquiry by a sitting judge has been ordered. The Government of India has also ordered an inquiry by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Mr Singh said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 28, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cong leaders quit over Telangana

The beleaguered ruling Congress in Andhra Pradesh suffered a big blow today with two MPs and a senior leader from Telangana announcing their decision to quit the party and joint the Telengana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to fight for the statehood cause.

The announcement came after the expiry of the deadline the leaders had set for the party leadership to take a decision on the raging demand for separate Telangana state. The MPs Vivek and M Jagannatham representing Peddapalli and Nagarkurnool constituencies respectively, and former Congress Working Committee member K Keshava Rao made the announcement after a meeting with TRS founder-president and MP K Chandrasekhara Rao who welcomed them into the party.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, May 31, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan summit aims at n-knowhow

India and Japan on Wednesday agreed to form a joint working group (JWG) to set up the sale of the first platform with defence uses out of Japan-the US2 amphibious aircraft.

The JWG will also examine the possibilities of co-production of these aircrafts in India, which would make it the symbol of Japan’s entry into the defence market after decades of a self-imposed ban on such exports.

In Tokyo, visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe also agreed to revive talks on a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which has been stuck for about two years, by directing their officials to expedite the process.

In an unambiguous signal to China, Prime Minister Singh also asserted India’s strategic preference as he described Japan as a "natural and indispensable partner" and framed the Indo-Pacific as a new axis for cooperation in the region. Dr Singh also laid out a three-pronged approach to take this strategic cooperation forward, and in doing so, endorsed his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s vision articulated in an address to the Indian Parliament in 2007.

Both speeches Dr Singh made in Tokyo Tuesday carried a common central message that the two countries have commonalities that are essential ingredients to take the relationship forward. While he did not mention China, the attributes he identified in the India-Japan relationship are one specifically missing in the India-China relationship.

It is understood that hundreds of Japanese companies may also shift factories from China to India, bringing with them big investments and thousands of jobs, and a remilitarising Japan is likely to emerge as an attractive source of technology for India. A deepening of joint military exercises between the two countries will offer India a chance to thumb its nose at China, which recently staged an audacious intrusion into our territory in Ladakh.

Japan also pledged financial assistance for big-ticket projects like the Chennai-Bangalore industrial corridor and the third line of Mumbai Metro. Covering a distance of 1400 km between Delhi and Mumbai in eight hours by train could well become a reality if India were to adopt Japan’s high speed rail technology or ’Shinkansen’, Tokyo has claimed.

Japan and India will work toward an agreement on nuclear energy cooperation during a visit this week by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as Tokyo tries to boost exports of atomic technology and other infrastructure to help revive the economy.

Dr Singh originally had planned his visit for late last year. He postponed it due to a parliamentary election in December that returned Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party to power. The Indian prime minister arrives in Tokyo on Monday and departs Thursday.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 27, 2013, The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, May 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Extradition pact with Thailand

In a "major boost" to bilateral security cooperation, India and Thailand on Thursday signed much-awaited extradition treaty after 20 years of intense negotiations, with New Delhi, eyeing to bring back a key aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

The two countries also firmed up a pact to effectively deal with money laundering, terror financing and ratified a treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, enabling both sides to swap prisoners after they have served a portion of their prison terms.

The two sides signed seen agreements, including cooperation in space technology and education after wide ranging talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and is Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, May 31, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Counter-terror coop with Saudi Arabia

India and Saudi Arabia have decided to further strengthen and deepen their counter-terrorism cooperation, nearly a year after Riyadh deported Abu Jundal, wanted in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack.

The counter-terrorism issue is emerging as a key area of cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is concerned about the rise of extremism in the region, including in Pakistan, notwithstanding their close ties.

"We discussed the menace of terrorism the world continues to face and agreed to further strengthen our counter-terrorism cooperation which is an essential element of the Riyadh Declaration we signed in 2010," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said yesterday after a marathon meeting with his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud Al-Faisal.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, May 27, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Face-off with China still

India and China may have restored "status quo ante" after a 21-day military stand-off at the Depsang Bulge area in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector of Ladakh but regular face-offs between the rival troops all along the undelineated Line of Actual Control (LAC) continue as before.

In the latest such incident that has come to light, People’s Liberation Army soldiers intercepted an Indian Army patrol and prevented it from going up to what India perceives to be its territory in the Finger-VIII or Sri Jap area, situated north of Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh, on May 17.

This was just about 12 days after the resolution of the military stand-off in Depsang area, where Chinese troops had intruded 19km deep inside Indian territory and pitched tents on April 15, and just a couple of days before Chinese premier Li Keqiang came visiting India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, May 27, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Navy ships to South China Sea

Even as a dispute rages on due to over-lapping claims in the hydro-carbon rich South China Sea, a flotilla of four Indian Naval warships will be visiting ports in Malaysia, Vietnam and Philippines. All the three countries along with Brunei are in dispute with China over the demarcation of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the sea.

Sources today confirmed that the four ship flotilla led by Stealth Frigate INS Satpura left the Indian shores on May 20. The other ships are Rajput class destroyer INS Ranvijay, a Kora class Corvette INS Krich and fleet tanker INS Shakti-last one carrying supplies. This is part of the operational overseas deployment.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, May 29, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM’s envoy meets Sharif

In a move that was seen as holding out hope for bilateral relations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Special Envoy Satinder K Lambah met Pakistan Premier-in-waiting Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on Monday.

This was a follow-up to the conversation between Dr Singh and Mr Sharif on May 12 hours after it became clear that the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) was poised to lead the next government. Dr Singh was, in fact, among the first foreign dignitaries to congratulate Mr Sharif and he did so even before the formal announcement came.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 28, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak frees 45 prisoners

Pakistan on Friday released 45 Indian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill though confusion surrounded the move as Indian authorities here were not informed about it.

"We have freed 45 Indian prisoners and they will be repatriated via Wagah tomorrow," Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told a news briefing at the Foreign Office.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Times of India, May 25, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US waiver again for Iran oil?

India may get yet another US waiver for oil imports from Iran, as Washington and New Delhi get ready for the annual strategic dialogue here next month. John Kerry will make his first visit to India since assuming office as the US Secretary of State to take up the dialogue at a time when the Indo-US relationship is on a low-energy trajectory.

Wendy Sherman, Under-Secretary for Political Affairs in the US State Department, told journalists after meeting External Affairs Minisrter Salman Khurshid, "They have stood side-by-side with all of us in the international community to say that Iran should not acquire a nuclear weapon. We greatly appreciate all of the leadership that India has provided, including their enforcement of sanctions. That decision will be made shortly. And all of the data is certainly pointing in a positive direction."

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai confirmed he had discussed the Kerry visit with Sherman. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also expected to visit the US later this year, possibly during September when he travels to the UN General Assembly.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Times of India, May 25, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cuba seeks Indian help to exploit natural resources

Reeling under severe financial sanctions, Cuba on Monday sought India’s help in exploiting its vast natural resource base and as well as enhanced economic cooperation with it and other BRICS countries.

"India is a world leader in the field of information and satellite technology which they can use to cooperate with us in exploration of resource rich regions in our country," Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla said delivering a lecture here.

Blaming embargoes and economic sanctions for Cuba’s current economic situation, he said that the country is in the process of adopting the "modern culture" into its society.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Israeli help on farm front

Israel will offer technology and know-how to India to diversify its fruit and vegetable crops and raise their yield, senior Israeli officials has said.

New Delhi will also get help to set up 28 centres of excellence in 10 states over the next three years.

"We are providing technologies and know-how. Our focus is on training the trainers," Daniel Carmon, head of Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, said.

Mr. Carmon said Israel will help set up 28 centres of excellence in 10 states, of which eight are likely to be functional by the end of 2013. Each centre will be focussed on specific fruit and vegetable crops.

Israel is a world leader in agriculture technologies. Despite limited water resources and a difficult environment, the yield per acre of most of the farm products in that country is among the highest in the world.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 28, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Public debt grows 13.5 pc

India’s public debt rose to 13.5% in 2012-13 to ’ 40.83 lakh crore by the end of March 2013. However, in relative terms it was largely stable. Public debt rose marginally to 40.7% of GDP at the end of March 2013 against 40% of the GDP at the same period last year. This does not include the borrowing of state governments and government institutions.

"The internal debt constituted 91.1% of the public debt, compared to 90.7% in October-December quarter," said the Quarterly Report on Debt Management released by the Finance Ministry on Tuesday.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Economic Times, May 29, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Re sinks to 10-month low

Continuing its downslide, the rupee today lost 21 paise to end at a new 10-month low of 56.38 on fag end spurt in dollar demand after RBI Governor D Subarao painted a dim macro-economic picture fuelling fears of local currency plunging to record low levels in the short term.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Tribune, May 31, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">HC Chief Justice suspended

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has indefinitely suspended Ahmed Shareef, the Chief Judge of High Court. It was based on a 3-1 recommendation of the members present at a JSC meeting, reportedly over complaints from other HC Judges, made a year ago. He will be entitled to pay, the JSC clarified later.

The original charge was that Chief Justice Shareef had met with officials of the Malayasian firm, Nexbis, when the latter had challenged the Maldivian Government’s cancellation of a multi-million-dollar border control system contract last year. More recently, other Judges complained to the JSC that CJ Shareef had stayed the Hulhumale court trial against former President Mohammed Nasheed, unilaterally without constituting a Bench to hear the case. The JSC decided against any action in the matter.

Alongside, the High Court cancelled the hearing on Nasheed’s petition, challenging the legality of the three-Judge Hulhumale’ criminal court trying him for the alleged illegal detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohammed when he was in power. The case has been posted for July.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Sun Online, May 29, 2013, Haveeru Online, May 29, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC publishes voters’ list

The Maldives Elections Commission (EC) has stated that they have not received the accurate information regarding the number of deceased individuals as they have today published the list of eligible voters for the upcoming presidential elections.

The list of eligible voters published in the government gazette by the Commission today has a total of 240,302 names, including the names of the deceased.

President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq told Sun today that it is possible that the list might include names of certain individuals who have passed away during the recent years and urged the public to inform the Elections Commission’s Registrations Section if they come across such names.

"We believe that we have not received the accurate information regarding the people who have passed away. We obtain the information from whichever relevant authority that holds the information at that time. We have noticed that we have not received the proper information regarding the matter," Fuad Thaufeeq said.

He said that the Commission has allowed the public a period of 10 days to notify the Commission’s Registration Section of any discrepancy in the voter’s registry such as; inclusion of names of the deceased, lack of names of eligible voters and issues where the voter’s name and the Identification Card number does not match.

The Election Commission said that those individuals who fail to inform the amendments within 10 days will be barred from their right to vote.

The publication of the list of eligible voter’s on the government gazette has been postponed on several occasions, including an instance where the people of Haa Dhaalu Hirimaradhoo had surrounded the island’s Council office in protest.

The number of eligible voters during the 2008 presidential elections stood at total of 209,294 voters.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan & Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

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.


N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.

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