MonitorsPublished on Jun 03, 2011
On May 25, four terrorists (initial reports suggested almost a dozen armed men) scaled the perimeter walls of PNS Mehran, Pakistan's only naval air base, located in Karachi. Guided by their commander through hi-tech wireless systems,
Mehran attack exposes Pakistan's counter terror
< class="heading1">Analysis

On May 25, four terrorists (initial reports suggested almost a dozen armed men) scaled the perimeter walls of PNS Mehran, Pakistan’s only naval air base, located in Karachi. Guided by their commander through hi-tech wireless systems, they stealthily sneaked close to their objective, a fleet of prized P-3C Orion naval reconnaissance aircraft and destroyed two of them by firing seven shoulder-propelled rockets. Thereafter, they split in two groups. One hid in the bushes near the tarmac and fired at the base’s structures, while the other headed towards the building of the 27 Squadron Fokker line, where they believed Chinese technicians were housed. Luckily for the guests, they were staying in the adjacent building. In the ensuing fire-fight with elite navy and army troops that lasted more than 17 hours, the terrorists expended 860 cases of Kalashnikov bullets, 165 numbers of those for .222 rifles, 29 of light machine guns, 12 hand grenades, and also exploded a suicide vest. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility and described the attack as revenge for Osama bin Laden’s death. It also emerged that the raid was masterminded by Ilyas Kashmiri, who before his recent death in a US Drone strike, had led al-Qaeda’s storm troops, Lashkar al Zil.

Following the embarrassing incident, with charred carcasses of the $34 million-a-piece aircraft flashed across news channels, the navy set up an inquiry committee headed by Rear Admiral Tehsinullah Khan. The precision with which the attackers had carried out their task suggested assistance from inside the base. Within a week, security officials detained Kamran Ahmed Malik, a former navy commando who was court-martialled 10 years ago for assaulting an officer. Malik had served at PNS Mehran and is suspected of having shared critical information with the terrorists.

In spite of the fact that militants have struck both civilian and military targets with impunity in the past four years, the recent raid is unprecedented in the manner in which the terrorists have penetrated the base’s security. Earlier in 2003, home-grown militants allied to al-Qaeda attempted to assassinate then President Pervez Musharraf, and on one occasion, came dangerously close to meeting that objective. That time too, an ’insider hand’ was suspected, and later acknowledged. In 2007, following the military assault on the radical Lal Masjid in Islamabad, a particular unit of Special Services Group, Pakistan’s elite commando outfit that had spearheaded the operation, was targeted and many soldiers killed. The most audacious attempt to target prestigious military locations occurred in 2009 when General Headquarters (GHQ), the army’s apex institution, was attacked by armed militants.

While the previous attacks graphically illustrated the growing militant threat, they also vindicated the military’s ability to shield its vital interests. After all, Musharraf was protected by his guards and the perpetrators soon arrested, and the terrorists who attempted to storm GHQ failed to even move past the first ring of security. In contrast, Mehran represents a major success for the terrorists to successfully infiltrate a prominent military base and carry out the planned objective of sabotaging state-of-the-art military aircraft. In doing so, they also expose disturbing developments in Pakistan’s counter-terrorism experience.

First, at the level of the security forces, the attack confirms a conflict within military ranks between conformity with State strategy and a profound disagreement with cooperation with the US, informed by extremist interpretations of religion and justice. Access to privileged information, such as the location of the Orion aircraft and foreign technicians, points at a growing schism within the military over its counter-terrorism role. Resistance against combating non-State militant actors in the face of years of insurgent violence ironically co-exists with greater military commitment and sacrifices, in disrupting militant networks. Orchestrated as ’revenge’ against the killing of bin Laden, the incident also reveals al-Qaeda’s successful exploitation of these ideological cleavages, to penetrate the ranks of the security forces.

Second, at the level of the militants, the attack on the naval base demonstrates once again the blurring of lines between regionally and ethnically diverse militant groups, and the conversion of dormant ’pro-Pakistan’ militants to active terrorists, under apparent inspiration of al-Qaeda. While the Pashtun TTP, based in the tribal areas have claimed responsibility, the attack is believed to have been planned by Ilyas Kashmiri, who before leading al-Qaeda’s Shadow Army, had led Brigade 313 of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI). In his previous avatar, Kashmiri was ISI’s favoured militant leader with a narrow anti-India, Kashmir-centric orientation. Pakistan’s decision to cease fire along the Line of Control (LoC) with India, and severely curtail support to militant groups alienated Kashmiri and his cohorts. Over the years, this brought them closer to the transnational groups like al-Qaeda, whose struggle against the US have brought them in conflict with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s strategic ’U-turn’ following 9/11 and its reluctant embrace of counter-terrorism cooperation with the US, no matter how disingenuous, has resulted in an intense contest between the military-ISI combine and al-Qaeda for the common pool of militant human resource. The Al-Qaeda has suffered severe loss of leadership at the hands of Pakistani security forces, and views it as an apostate enemy, and therefore, has made repeated calls for taking up arms, and has sought to convince militants groups to cease their relations with the ISI and join the ranks of ’global jihadists’. The Pakistan security apparatus, on the other hand, is pressured by the US and India to withdraw remaining support to groups like Lashkar-e-Tayeeba and is believed to have asked former proxies to ’wait and watch’ till the eventual US exit from Afghanistan, which it believes if the raison d’être for militancy inside Pakistan.

The outcome of al-Qaeda’s attempt to lure different militants group to form a mosaic of loosely-connected, and hence difficult to dismantle, militant conglomeration will determine the future contours of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism mandate. Will the colleagues of Ilyas Kashmiri and Omar Sheikh return to their more comfortable role as beneficiaries of the State’s terror patronage after the US exits the region? Or, will these local guerrillas, now transformed as global jihadists after years of combat and cohabitation with the bin Ladens and Zawahiris, refuse to make peace with the Pakistani State till al-Qaeda’s goal of converting Pakistan from being a modern nation-State into a Taliban like ’Islamic emirate’ in an ever-lasting strategic defiance of the US hegemony is met?

(Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti is a Junior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan Taliban adopts new tactic, attack forces from Afghanistan

Insurgents belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked security forces in the Dir region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after assembling in the adjoining Kunar province of Afghanistan. On June 1, around 400 rebels infiltrated 6 km into the Durand Line and attacked the Shaltalu security check-post. In the ensuing clash that lasted for more than 24 hours, were killed.

A day later, insurgents attacked security forces once again and torched a Government school. In pitched battles that lasted for more than two days, 28 policemen, 45 militants and six civilians were killed. Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud’s deputy, Faqir Mohammad, accepted responsibility for the raid and said that ’our new strategy of launching big attacks on military installations was aimed at causing demoralisation in the ranks of the security forces and tiring of the Government’.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, June 4, 2011; Associated Press, June 3, 2011;

Note: While it is too early to draw conclusions about the implications of the new tactic of large-scale raids, its occurrence in conjunction with terrorist attacks in Pakistan, ostensibly to ’avenge’ the killing on Osama bin Laden bears striking resemblance to the fallout of the attack on Islamabad’s Lal Masjid in 2007.

Immediately after the attack on the radical mosque, al-Qaeda leaders posted a message, declaring the Pakistan Government and security forces as ’servants’ of the US, and urged militants to dislodge them through violent means. Subsequently, the country was devastated by more than 50 suicide bombings in less than six months. At the same time, local commanders in regions such as Waziristan and Swat repudiated earlier peace deals and attacked army and paramilitary troops with impunity. One particularly embarrassing instance led to the surrender of 300 troops, including a colonel.

In this backdrop, the Dir raid might be a deliberate attempt by TTP to simultaneously attack the hinterland using terrorist tactics like those seen in the assault on the Mehran naval base, and employ guerrilla tactics against troops deployed on counterinsurgency tasks in the Pashtun regions.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Commission to probe Osama killing

The federal Government on May 31 formed a five-member commission to investigate various aspects of the US special operations raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2. The commission is headed by Justice Javed Iqbal and includes Justice (retd) Fakhruddin Ibrahim, Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmad, Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, former Ambassador to the US, and Abbas Khan, former Inspector-General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to the announcement made by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the commission is mandated with four tasks, namely, a) ascertain facts regarding bin Laden’s residence in Abbottabad, b) gather facts of the US assault, c) analyse intelligence failures involved in the episode, and d) offer recommendations.

The army, which is conducting its own probe, will make the findings of its inquiry available to the commission.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, June 1, 2011; Dawn, June 2, 2011

Note: In all probability, the purpose of forming the commission is to deflect growing domestic and international pressure on the Government to come clean on the fiasco. Western countries suspect the role of the army and the ISI in protecting bin Laden, and have issued veiled threats to stop financial aid if links to the al-Qaeda leader emerge. The political opposition, on the other hand, is critical of the army’s failure to detect, and counter, US’ infringement on the country’s sovereignty. In this backdrop, forming commissions is often a favoured stratagem of incumbents to absorb disgruntlement and deflect public outrage. Besides, given the army’s historic resistance against outside scrutiny, the commission’s ability to unearth the truth is bleak.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US official suspects credibility of LTTE surrender offer

In a surprise move, from which Washington has since distanced itself, the US Defence Attache in the Embassy in Colombo, Lt-Col Lawrence Smith, has challenged in public, known versions of LTTE’s surrender offer. Intervening when a question was thrown at Maj-Gen Shavendrra Silva of the Sri Lanka Army at three-day international symposium organised by SLA, Smith said that the surrender offer came from KumaranPathmanathan or KP, and LTTE’s police chief Nadesan, who were only spokesman for the organisation, and not from any leader of the fighting cadres.

Lt-Col Smith also questioned the veracity of the ’white flag’ episode in which the SLA men had purportedly shot dead wanting to surrender in the last stages of the war. In any war, claims of the kind were based on second, third and fourth hand information and it was no different here, too, he said.

Earlier, in his keynote address to the symposium on, "Fighting Terrorism, the Sri Lankan Experience", which was funded by China, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa reiterated that the political leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the key to triumph over LTTE terrorism. He said that the President went out of the way to keep New Delhi briefed about all the new developments taking place in Sri Lanka. "He understood that while other countries could mount pressure on us through diplomatic channels or economic means, only India could influence the military campaign," Secretary Rajapaksa added in this regard.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, May 01-02, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IGP quits after police violence on protesting labour

Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mahinda Balasuriya put in his retirement papers ahead of time, after the police had allegedly over-reacted and opened fire on labour protesting the new private sector pension scheme. The Government suspended the proposed measure following sustained Opposition from the political Opposition and trade unions, topped by the firing incident in the Katunayake Economic Free Zone (EPZ), near Colombo’s international airport.

At least one of the workers injured in the Katunayake incident died in the hospital. Over a dozen police personnel, including DIG Ravi Wijegoonewardene and many garment workers, were injured in clashes involving the police.

The police alleged that they had no option but to use force after hundreds of garment workers targeted the Katunayake police station. Speaking on behalf of the National Trade Union Centre, affiliated to the JVP, former party MP Lal Kantha alleged that three workers had been seriously wounded at the hands of the police.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, June 1-2, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Piercing attacks demonstrate Taliban’s potency

Several attacks carried out by the Taliban during the past week have demonstrated the efficacy of the ’spring offensive’ and the precarious State of security, a few months before the planned withdrawal of US troops from the country.

In the deadliest attack on foreign forces in a month, eight US troops were killed in a roadside bomb attack in the Kandahar province. The soldiers were patrolling an area that they had cleared of insurgents earlier.

In another major attack, a suicide bomber disguised as a policeman attacked the Governor’s compound in the Takhar province, and killed an important police official, besides severely injuring the commander of NATO forces in northern Afghanistan, Maj Gen Markus Kneip. The deceased, Gen Mohammad Daoud Daoud, headed police forces in nine of the northern provinces. Daoud was a famous rebel leader during the anti-Soviet resistance and was a close aide of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary Tajik leader of the former Northern Alliance.

In the third prominent assault of the week, two bomb blasts killed five and injured 30 in the eastern city of Herat. While the first bomb was planted by the Taliban in the city centre, the second attack involved a suicide bomber who targeted the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which is based in the vicinity of the hitherto peaceful city.

In the fourth attack of the week, rebels attacked a construction firm in Logar province, and killed four workers.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, May 26, 2011; Associated Press, Map 26, 2011; The Guardian, May 28, 2011; The New York Times, May 28, 2011; BBC News, May 30

Note: These raids point at some disturbing trends that do not generate optimism towards the US plan to ’transition’ security tasks to Afghan forces and begin the process of withdrawal in less than two months. First, the attack in Kandahar shows Taliban’s resilience in regaining ground that it had lost last year. The current strategy assumes that regions ’cleared’ of insurgents will remain peaceful enough to enable Government to emerge from the bottom. The insurgency’s renewed buoyancy challenges the fundamentals of the strategy by demonstrating that regions cleared in 2010 have once again become contested.

At the same time, Taliban’s success at repeatedly infiltrating Afghan security forces points towards general discontent among the population against foreign presence, and inadequacies in capacity building of local security forces. Lastly, greater attacks in previously peaceful regions - Takhar was a Northern Alliance base, and Herat was a stronghold of the anti-Taliban commander Ismail Khan - contradicts NATO claims that the Taliban is on the defensive. Instead, the Taliban have made a resounding impact on the country’s security in the first month of the spring offensive. Unfortunately, in such a precarious condition, prospects of successful transition and peace talks appear dismal.


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Questions over caretaker government

Politics has heated up over the future of the concept of caretaker government. Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina opined that there is no way to maintain the caretaker government system after the Supreme Court had declared it illegal. According to Sheikh Hasina, Parliament should scrap it.

The Opposition, on the other hand, has rejected the Government’s proposal of scrapping the caretaker system and termed it to be a major step towards establishing one-party rule by the ruling Awami League. To prevent dissolution of the caretaker system the opposition had listed a programme of agitation.

Lack of consensus has led the parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment to refer it to Parliament to decide the future of the caretaker government.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, June 1, 2011/, May 31, 2011

Note: The system of caretaker government was instituted in 1996 to ensure credible election. According the constitution, on completion of the tenure of the elected government, a non-partisan caretaker government will take over the rule of the country. It will remain in power for three months from the date of dissolution of Parliament. The main purpose of this government is to conduct parliamentary election. Three parliamentary elections were held under this system. On May 10, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in a verdict declared the caretaker government system unconstitutional and void.

The non-compromising attitude of the political parties might fuel clashes among their cadres and this might led to return of era of instability.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives to allow duty-free access

Economic ties with Maldives is all set to grow deep as the island nation agreed to provide duty-free access of Bangladeshi products from December this year. Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni revealed this after meeting with her visiting counterpart Ahmed Naseem this week. Dr. Dipu Moni was optimistic that such a step will help in expanding cooperation between the two countries side by side with increasing volume of trade.

Besides, Dr. Dipu Moni also informed that Maldives had expressed interest to recruit more qualified manpower like doctors and nurses and import medicines from Bangladesh. Also the two countries, signed an agreement on solving the problems of migrant Bangladeshi workers to the island nation. Maldivian Foreign Minister said that there are 70,000 Bangladeshi workers in the Maldives and of them 17,000 are registered.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has offered to impart training to the officials of foreign ministry and judges of Maldives.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 29, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Exports to India total $402.40 m

Earning touched $402.40 million till April of the current fiscal yearby exporting of products to India. Commerce Minister Muhammad Faruq Khan informed that the country had earned $ 303.63 million by exporting different goods to India in the last fiscal year.

The products exported to India included raw jute, fertilizers, cement, frozen fish, furnace oil, sacks and bags, betel nut, cut flowers, textile fabrics, leather, copper wire, woven garments, aquimulator battery and parts, sarees, home textiles, terri-towel, knitwear, engineering goods, toilet soaps, dried food, pharmaceuticals, plastic goods, bicycles, cotton wastes, fruit juice, PVC bags, cane sugar, Zinc waste, coriander seeds, computer service, furniture, particle boards, ceramic goods, stone, mosquito net clothes, aluminum goods, tiles, Hilsa fish, rubber, rubbers shoes.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 30, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Financial Services Bill adopted

A joint sitting of Parliament has adopted the Financial Services Bill of Bhutan 2010. The Bill was presented to the joint sitting with the recommendations of the joint committee. The recommendations included a new section pertaining to the divestment of at least 40 percent of the shares of the financial institutions to the public through initial public offering. The committee also recommended that the ownership restrictions should not apply to financial institutions where shares were held directly or indirectly by the government, and that these financial institutions shall not be required to list themselves on the stock exchange.

No clause in the Act mentions how much foreign direct investment (FDI) a company can own, while the Government policy requires it. The Economic Affairs Minister, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, said if FDIs were not given a major share, it would be difficult to attract foreign investors in financial institutions in the absence of competent Bhutanese investors.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Bhutan Observer, May 28, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No breakthrough in Siachen talks

The 12th round of talks between the Defence Secretaries of India and Pakistan have failed to yield any concrete results at the end of the two day parley. The Pakistan side presented a non-paper on Siachen. Both sides agreed to continue discussions to demilitarize Siachen glacier, where ceasefire has held for the last eight years.

Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar led the Indian delegation while his Pakistan counterpart Lt. Gen. (retd.) Syed Athar Ali headed the delegation from the other side.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 01, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">German Chancellor in India

German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended her day-long interaction with the Indian leadership with divergence of views evident on political issues, especially on the expansion of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the bombing of Libya.

Both Germany and India, part of the G-4 grouping along with Japan and Brazil, are pushing for their inclusion in an expanded UNSC, but their divergent views came to the fore. Germany is inclined to opt for an interim solution in which some of the countries are accommodated without veto rights. A final resolution could take place a decade later.

On the other hand, India, along with Brazil, wants to settle the issue once and for all. On Libya, while India wants an immediate ceasefire, Germany wants a regime change.

India assured Germany a transparent selection process for a multi-billion dollar tender for fighter aircraft in which German company Euro fighter has submitted its bid. Discussions were also held on Afghanistan, bilateral trade and the leadership change at the IMF.

Dr. Merkel was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for the year 2009 by President Pratibha Patil.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 01, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New panel on black money

The Government has constituted a high-level committee headed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman to examine ways of strengthening laws to curb generation of "illegal" wealth, prevent transfer of such funds abroad and devise a framework for recovery of unaccounted assets.

While examining the legal and administrative framework to deal with the generation of black money, the panel will also look into ways of declaring wealth generated illegally as "national asset;" enacting laws to confiscate and recover such assets and providing for punishment to its perpetrators. It is to submit its report within six months after consultations with stakeholders.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Race to top post at IMF

The BRICS group economies have yet to build consensus behind an emerging markets candidate to head the International Monetary Fund (IMF).The BRICS countries had sharply criticised European officials for suggesting the next IMF head should automatically be a European, and that efforts were being made for a common BRICS or emerging markets candidate.

The IMF has a June 30 deadline to pick a successor. India has been talking with other emerging countries to build support behind a common candidate from the developing world. The post fell vacant after former IMF head Dominic Strauss Kahn resigned.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde visited Brazil this week as part of a tour to build support for her candidacy that will also take her to India, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, June 03, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet briefed on national security framework

The Office of the National Security Advisor (NSA) at the President’s Office has held an in-progress review, with the Cabinet, of developing a national security framework for the Maldives.

In his introductory remarks, National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal noted that "formulating a comprehensive national security policy, which is deeply rooted in perceptions of the nation’s interests and of how best these may be protected, projected and promoted, have been a top priority and thus remains a key effort" of the government.

As part of the efforts to develop a national security framework, the Office of the NSA has brought together security practitioners from the Government stakeholders, experts and academics.

Office of the NSA has organised two workshops on developing a national security framework for the Maldives with the support of Defence Institution Reform Initiatives of the US.

The National Security Advisor said the efforts to develop a comprehensive national security policy have "stimulated strategic analysis at national policy level and understanding of major security trends and challenges in the country."

There are two primary components of the National Security Framework. The component that addresses national polices on various security issues and the segment that outlines the institutional structure of the national security endeavor.

Ameen Faisal revealed that as announced by the President in his presidential address to the People’s Majlis this year, the Office of NSA has completed a maritime security policy and proposed to the President."We have constructed the ground works for a potential National Crime Prevention Policy, Industrial Security Policy guided strategy as well as a National Counter-terrorism Strategy, he added.

Further, the National Security Advisor hailed the establishment of the first ever Office of the NSA along with various advisory committees as a milestone that "have further augmented the efforts to create and institutionalize the working structure for national security."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minvannews

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rebels plotting leadership coup in DRP?

A serving Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Rozaina Adam has hit out at supporters of the Z-DRP faction, saying they were plotting a coup against party Leader Thasmeen Ali. She also said that the Z-DRP, which has the blessings of former President Maumoon Gayoom was planning to field the latter’s half-brother and People’s Alliance party founder Abdullah Yameen as their nominee for the nation’s presidency, for which polls are due in 2013. Thasmeen Ali at present is the official DRP nominee for the job, the national convention of last year that elected him Leader having endorsed it at one go.

Meanwhile, the DRP branch office of Adam’s Thulusdhoo constituency has declared that the party’s would consider "shifting sides" in regards to their political allegiance if the leadership failed to resolve the reported split.

"We call on former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and DRP Zaeem (honorary leader) to solve the internal dispute within the party,’’ a statement from the branch at Thulusdhoo, where the DRP performed well in the March 2011 local council elections, said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, June 03, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Constituent Assembly term extended

Major political parties have joined hands to amend the interim Constitution and extend the term of the Constituent Assembly by three months. A five-point agreement among the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Nepali Congress (NC), and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) were the basis for the consensus.

However, the Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha (TKS), an organisation of Tharus, an ethnic community who were among the first inhabitants of the Terai plains in southern Nepal, called the general strike Sunday targeting the Tharu belt, an arc of 22 districts where the community has a sizable population.

The nation’s major western donors hailed the last-ditch agreement among the major parties to reprieve Prime Minister JhalaNathKhanal’sGovernment through the grant of extension while India reportedly remained way, indicating that the new pact would not resolve conflicts.

The European Union, Norway and Switzerland issued a joint statement, saying the three major parties’ decision to extend the term of parliament by three months from May 28 showed that "consensual politics" remained on course. "Political parties in Nepal now have a fresh opportunity to complete the drafting of a democratic, inclusive constitution within the next three months," the western donors said.

However, India preferred not to regard the developments through rose-tinted glasses, instead feeling that the five-point agreement signed between the ruling parties - the communists and the Maoists - and the Opposition Nepali Congress was ambiguous and contained nothing new. Indian diplomats said there was no time-frame for either Khanal’s resignation or the discharge of the PLA. As they pointed out, a similar situation had occurred last year as well with Khanal’s predecessor, the then Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, was forced by the Maoists to agree to resign in order to gain a year’s extension for Parliament.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, May 30, 2011,, May 29, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhattarifavoured for PM?

The faction led by Maoist Vice-Chairman Baidya is reported to be backing another party Vice-Chairman Baburam Bhattarai for the nation’s Prime Minister. While the former is considered close to China, Bhattarai is considered has expressed camaraderie with India.

The Rajdhani Dailyhas quoted a party leader Devendra Poudel as saying, "We have found Baidya panel quite positive in forwarding Baburam Ji as the prime ministerial candidate." "We do not think that anyone will dare stand against Bhattarai’s candidacy in the party", Poudel said and added "if there is any resistance we will get the issue settled by the parliamentary delegation".

"If Bhattarai is elevated as country’s prime minister we will also receive adequate international support", Poudel said. "Lately, the Ambassadors of China, India, US, UK and EU upon meeting Bhattarai have assured of their support,"Poudel claimed.

Going by the guarded comments of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal immediately after the conclusion of Parliament session, it was unclear if he would resign in the first place, as agreed upon. He also made it clear that as soon as the signatories to the five-point deal arrived at a national consensus to form a National Unity Government, the next minute he would
< class="text11verdana">Source: www.telegraphnepal, June 3, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India asked to drop additional lock on imports via Kolkata port

The Government will soon request India to drop its proposal for introducing additional lock on containers ferrying third country import consignments, bringing to an end, the long-running practice of one-time-lock system, via Kolkata port.

It is also proposing to the southern neighbour to sign a new Letter of Exchange (LoE) between the two countries so that India does not raise the issue in the future as well.

India had pushed for double-lock system, which allows Indian authorities to seal off containers ferrying third country imports via Kolkata port, during the Inter-Governmental Sub-Committee (IGSC) meeting held in New Delhi in February.

The proposal, if came into effect, will create new hassles and generate additional transportation cost for importers, apart from delaying the delivery of goods to Nepal. "The proposal in itself goes against the spirit of bilateral transit agreement in which India has committed for easy movement of third country cargoes for Nepal," said an official at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS).

"More than 70 percent of the imports are delivered to Nepal by container train where it is impossible to manipulate goods," said the source. Officials agree that a small chunk of imports transported via trucks might have been transshipped to India. "But it will not be reasonable to generalise the case in all means of transportation and impose additional lock," the source added.

Indian officials have been blaming Nepali traders for diverting goods meant for consumption in Nepal into the Indian market. They have also been complaining against lack of action by the Nepali government against traders involved in such illicit activities.

India had pushed for additional lock on containers ferrying goods from Kolkata port mainly after Nepal agreed for additional lock on movement of goods through the Vishakapatnam port.

"We accepted the Indian proposal of introducing additional lock on a trail basis in a bid to ensure early utilisation of Vishakapatnam port for third country trade. But India has chosen to extend such arrangement in Kolkata port as well. This is unfair," said the official. India does not impose additional lock system on its own imports from overseas whereas on exports it practices two to three lock system as that expedites clearance through the ports in transit.

Multiple lock cannot facilitate our imports as traders need to pass through at least 33 different steps to complete customs clearance at Kolkata port, said the source. "Add to it administrative hassles, over-congestion and low water level at the port that obstructs entry of mother vessels. Together these will raise our transit-transportation cost sharply," said the source.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 31, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nitish asks Centre to take Kosi water issue with Nepal

With monsoon not far behind and memories of Kosi flood disaster 2009 still fresh, Bihar government today asked the Centre to take up with Nepal the issue of excavation of the river’s pilot channel. In a letter to External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar requested him to "take up the issue with theGgovernment of Nepal in order to ensure the central flow of the river below the downstream of Kosi barrage". Kumar said the possibility of devastation during flood otherwise cannot be ruled out.

"Bihar suffers a lot every year on account of flood fury caused by incoming uncontrolled river discharge from Nepal and Tibet. In the recent past, KosiRiver has been one of the most problematic rivers. In the downstream of Kosi barrage, the river has shifted eastwards and is now flowing by hugging the eastern Kosi embankment. It is imperative that the river flow remains central to exert minimum pressure on either side of the embankments," Kumar said in the letter.

The Bihar Chief Minister said a scheme of excavation of pilot channel was formulated in the light of recommendation made by Kosi High Level Committee (KHLC) to make the river flow central. KHLC is the technical body to suggest undertaking of suitable remedial measures before onset of monsoon every year. "The excavation of pilot channel work was started but unfortunately immediately afterwards, the work was stopped in the 2nd week of April 2011 by Nepalese people and government of Nepal officials, saying the excavation of this pilot channel work will adversely affect the Nepal territory," Kumar said.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, May 31, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & India: Akhilesh Variar;
Nepal: Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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.