MonitorsPublished on Oct 07, 2013
A fresh spate of violence targeting Muslims in the western coastal town of Thandwe in Myanmar on 29 September is an indication of communal violence engulfing the nation all over again.
Myanmar: Communal violence engulfs the nation again
< class="heading1">Analysis

A fresh spate of violence targeting Muslims in the western coastal town of Thandwe in Myanmar on 29 September is an indication of communal violence engulfing the nation all over again. The Thein Sein government, which is enjoying the world’s spotlight for undertaking democratic reforms, has, however, failed to contain the ensuing violence against the nation’s religious minorities. The continuing persecution of Muslims in the country with its possible political and security implications for the region certainly highlights the other side of the nation’s transition to democracy.

Since the inter-communal clashes in the Rakhine state in 2012 that resulted in the death of over 100 people and the displacement of over 1,50,000 Rohingya Muslims, the violence in Myanmar has continued unabated. In early 2013, communal violence left 44 persons dead in Meiktila in central Myanmar. On 29 September, at least five persons were reported to have been killed near the coastal town of Thandwe after a Buddhist mob allegedly armed with machetes stormed a string of villages, burning mosques and any home not marked with a Buddhist flag.

The 29 September incident coincided with President Thein Sein’s visit to the Rakhine state for the first time after violence engulfed the region in 2012. Sein, as he has done in the past as the head of the state, condemned the Thandwe incident, urging people to stop rioting. His statement that the Rakhine state must cooperate with its people to avoid further conflicts also suggested that he wants to treat the communal conflict as a regional issue.

The President’s words have been less than soothing to those who see Sein as not doing much other than providing lip-service, interpreted by some as abetment to violence. Though the government has been successful in trying people involved in the 2012 communal riot, commentators have often charged the government of treating Buddhist perpetrators leniently. Concerns have also been raised about the possible complicity of the police in overlooking violence.

Communalism revived

The communal strife in the country is often said to have been rooted in ’Burman-Buddhist nationalism’ and the growing influence of the monks-led "969 movement" that preaches intolerance and urges boycott of Muslim businesses. Some commentators see the current situation as an expression of the unexpressed frustration and anger from the days of the authoritarian regime and getting directed towards Muslims, assisted by a populist political force that cloaks itself in religious respectability and moral authority.

Ashin Wirathu, a self-styled monk, has often been alleged to have been fomenting Buddhist-Muslim tensions with his provocative rhetoric. Wirathu, who was released from prison following an amnesty after reforms, is said to have skillfully tapped into widespread Buddhist anxieties about Muslims who form only four percent of the country’s total population and who are generally well-off.

Ordinary Buddhists are said to have been influenced by the incendiary sermons of Wirathu that preach that one day Islam, not Buddhism. will dominate the country. Wirathu and other communalists preaching this version of Buddhism have ’mastered the nexus between non-violent extremist rhetoric and real-world violence.’

This prosecution of Myanmar’s minorities has also had repercussions with reports of Rohingya Muslims becoming potential recruits for radical Islamist outfits. The arrest of Indian Mujahideen operative Yasin Bhatkal has revealed the tendency of terrorist outfits recruiting Rohingya Muslims on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border for their operations. With Lashkar-e-Taiba and some Indonesia-based terrorist group, calling jihad against Myanmar, there is a great perceived security threat in Myanmar. This poses a problem for Myanmar, especially, a time when it is set to lead ASEAN.

Call for urgent measures

As violence targeting Muslims continues to increase, there are calls for a stronger political intervention. At a time when constitutional amendments are being debated in the parliament, the Myanmar government also needs to re-assess 1982 law which denies citizenship to the Rohingyas. There is as yet no indication from the government that the constitution ending the persecution of Rohingyas would be amended.

Neither President Thein Sein, nor the Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has discussed this law. Reforms of police personnel and army also need to be initiated to deal with communal conflicts. Although the army has been more effective in bringing the situation under control in situations where communal violence has broken out, the police are always the first to intervene when a communal clash takes place. The need for sensitisation of the police must, thus, be seen as a priority by the government. Myanmar is not alone to have seen the expulsion of minorities and, hence, policymakers must also involve the United Nations (UN) in dealing with ethnic and religious tensions. The country must also work out mechanisms, which could allow the government to include monitoring by UN agencies for maintaining peace and harmony in the communally sensitive regions.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan : A dialogue in void

Taruni Kumar

The meeting between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif, respectively of India and Pakistan, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last month failed to kickstart the stalled dialogue between the two countries.

Whatever little hope the talks offered was neutralised by the continuing firing on the Line of Control and a spurt in terrorist activities in Kashmir. The media controversy about some controversial remarks made by Nawaz Sharif and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s outburst against an ordinance in New Delhi did not help either, in creating an atmosphere for a fruitful interaction.

Although both sides had no high expectations from the meeting to begin with, remarks about Pakistan being the epicentre of terrorism made by Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif’s Kashmir reference during his speech underscored the ambivalent attitude on both sides.

The hour-long meeting skimmed over the more sensitive issues and stuck to a tone of ambiguity. The two leaders reached a consensus on re-establishing the ceasefire along the Line of Control. They also decided to task the Director Generals Military Operations of both states to meet and create a framework to effectively enforce the ceasefire, the only concrete outcome of the talks. But no timeline has been established for the DGMOs.

What did not happen during the meeting gave a clear reflection of how each side viewed the dialogue process at this juncture. No joint briefing was thought necessary and none of the confidence building measures already in place was restructured to increase their efficiency and level of intensity. The Most Favoured Nation status and opening up of the border for trade were mentioned during the interaction but lacked any seriousness. The issue of terrorism was discussed but in general terms. Important issues like Afghanistan, Sir Creek and Kashmir remained off the table.

The road ahead

The relationship between the two countries has significantly deteriorated during Singh’s tenure, not entirely due any failings on his part. In fact, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been spearheading a lone battle to establish a better relationship with Pakistan despite serious roadblocks. But all his efforts seem to have been in vain, principally because of the inflexible attitude of Pakistan Army. Even as expectations of a better relationship were rising on Nawaz Sharif’s return, violent skirmishes on the Line of Control, including continuous violations of ceasefire by Pakistan, quickly put a dampener on such possibilities.

There are now increasing worries in India about the possibility of Pakistan Army renewing the proxy war against India and the civilian leadership in Islamabad playing along. An additional fear is the state of Pakistan itself. Pakistan is today a state racked by terrorism and violent sectarian clashes, enabling extremist elements to establish firm control of sanctuaries. The impact of the extremist takeover of parts of Pakistan could be disastrous not only for the country but also for the entire region.

A comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan could have been a way out but the failure of the Manmohan Singh-Sharif meeting to break the impasse have foreclosed such an option, at least for some time.

(The writer is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sharif and Singh meet in New York

Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh held their first meeting on Sunday, 29 September, 2013, on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly summit.

The two leaders discussed ways of restoring the ceasefire on the Line of Control. For this purpose, it has been decided that the Director Generals Military Operations of both countries will meet and chalk out an effective framework.

The talks were held despite uncertainty due to militants raiding an army base and police station in Indian Kashmir on 26 September 2013. The fast tracking of action on the 2008 Mumbai attacks accused was also discussed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera, 29 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Militants cross into J&K

Indian forces have been fighting militants in the Indian State of Jammu&Kashmir in an ongoing battle that has already lasted 10 days. India alleges that these militants are Pakistan-backed but Pakistan has rubbished these claims calling them "blatant lies".

About 30-40 heavily-armed fighters crossed the Line of Control that divides Kashmir. There are reports that the Indian army has already killed 10-12 of the militants but no bodies have been recovered yet.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera, 3 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban attacks rival armed group

Clashes erupted when Pakistani Taliban fighters attacked a house belonging to the commander of a pro-government group in Pakistan’s Orakzai tribal district

A suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into the compound of Maulvi Nabi Hanfi, the commander. At least 17 people have been killed in the violence.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera, 3 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Quake Awaran district

A second earthquake hit the Awaran district of Balochistan. The death toll has been estimated at least 22 people and nearly 20,000 people have been affected.

The magnitude of the earthquake was 7.2 on the Richter scale. A similar earthquake had struck the region on 24 September, 2013.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The News, 29 September, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tamil CM to take office before President

Retired Supreme Court Justice C V Wigneswaran, the chief minister-elect of the Tamil-majority Northern Province, will take oath of office before President Mahinda Rajapaksa in ’Temple Trees’, the presidential office, on Monday, 7 October. Also present on the occasion would be India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. The latter will hold talks with Chief Minister Wigneswaran at the Jaffna headquarters of the Northern Province administration a day later.

Northern Province Governor, Maj-Gen C A Chandrasiri, will administer the oath of office to Wigneswaran at Monday’s ceremony. Later, at Jaffna on 11 October, Chief Minister Wigneswaran, as per the constitutional provision, will administer the oath to the four ministerial colleagues, who are yet to be selected.

The decision for the new chief minister to take oath before President Rajapaksa followed a meeting that R Sampanthan, leader of the victorious Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had with the former, at his instance. President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, who facilitated the meeting, was present at the talks.

Leaders of some constituents of the five-party TNA have since challenged the decision for the chief minister to take oaths before President Rajapaksa. Saying that it was a ’unilateral decision’ of Sampanthan without any consultation with TNA constituents, some of them have threatened to boycott the ceremony.

According to them, the Tamil voters of the North had overwhelmingly cast their lot against the Government and leadership of President Rajapaksa, and favoured the TNA only in that context. The chief minister taking oaths before the President was thus a betrayal of the Tamils’ mandate, they have reportedly argued within the internal circles of the TNA.

The TNA is also faced with further bickering over ministerial share and positions. The Constitution provides for only five ministers for a Province, including the chief minister. True to form, the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), to which Sampanthan belongs, has demanded two positions, leaving only two for the four other participants to divide among themselves.

None of the non-ITAK TNA constituents, particularly PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Sitharthan, with his past experience as Parliament member, has agreed to Sampanthan’s reported suggestion for the non-ITAK parties to take over the twin posts of chairman and deputy chairman of the 38-member Provincial Council. This has created a piquant situation, whose effects will be felt in the political administration of the Northern Province in the weeks and months to come.

There is also an undercurrent of issues pertaining to the caste composition of the Ministry. Chief Minister elect Wigneswaran, authorised by Sampanthan to select his new team, has insisted on educational qualification, integrity and efficiency in the choice. All TNA members of the Provincial Council have a certain education qualification. The integrity of many of them has not been tested. None of them, including Wigneswaran, has administrative experience at any level.

The ministry-making exercise has thrown up other issues, too. Selvam Adaikalanathan, MP, leader of the TELO constituent of the TNA, has put in his papers as party chief after his promise to the voters of the backward Wanni district, to have a ministerial representative from the district, did not find favour with others. Independent of the final decision on ministerial composition, TELO has chosen veteran party leader, M K Sivajilingam, who won from Jaffna district, for the job. Similar issues remain in other constituents, too.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 1-4 October 2013, Daily Mirror Online, 1-4 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Abdullah Abdullah, Sayyaf file papers

This past week saw Abdullah Abdullah and Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf file their nominations for the April 2014 Afghan presidential elections. Both are considered to be favourites for the upcoming elections.

Abdullah, who came second in the 2009 elections behind the incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has nominated Muhammad Khan, the deputy head of the Hezb-e-Islami Party (HIP), and Hajji Muhammad Muhaqeq, the Chairman of the Hezb-e-Wahdat-e-Milli Mardom Afghanistan (HWMMA), for the post of First Vice-President and Second Vice-President, respectively.

Sayyaf is said to have the support of General Rashid Dostum and has nominated the current Afghan water and energy minister, Mohammad Ismail as the first vice-president and Abdul Wahab Urfan, a member of Dostum’s party as his second vice-president.

Fazal Karim Najami also filed his nomination along with his two vice-presidents, Sabir Tamkin and Susand Hajati. According to reports, Najami has previously worked as advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Rehabilitation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 3 October 2013; Tolo News, 1 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Law to bar external funding

The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) warned the electoral candidates saying that the Commission will out rightly reject candidacy if it finds that any candidate is being supported by foreign entities. The warning from the IEC came in after it prepared a draft law tilted- "Financial Planning of Candidates".

According to the draft, no electoral candidate is allowed to receive money or seek any kind of support from non-Afghan sources for the electoral campaigns. The IEC, however, clarified that the candidates can receive funding or support only from an Afghan citizen. The law also states that a candidate is allowed to spend 10 million Afghanis on electoral campaigns and the source(s) of the money must be revealed to the Commission.

The UN has pledged financial and technical assistance to Afghanistan for the 2014 elections, including the provision of security during the elections and send its representatives to oversee the entire electoral process.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 30 September 2013, Tolo News, 3 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Increase in civilian casualties

According to a recent report released by UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), civilian casualties in Afghanistan have increased by 16 percent in the first eight months of 2013.

In particular, 54 percent increase in violence in volatile eastern provinces of Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar and Nuristan provinces. According to the report, anti-government militant groups have caused the vast majority of civilian deaths and injuries, and are deliberately targeting civiilians. It was also also added that the activities of anti-government armed groups are not limited to targeting the civilians, but militants have also been accused of intimidation, threat and abduction of civilians.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 3 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP leader convicted for war crime

A lawmaker of the main Opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been sentenced to death by a war crimes court for charges including murder and genocide during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.

Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, the first member of the BNP to be tried by the court, was found guilty of nine out of 23 charges. The BNP and his lawyers argue that the trial was politically motivated. After the sentencing, Chowdhury’s supporters attacked the governing party activists and smashed and burned vehicles in Chittagong and Dhaka. At least one person was injured in the port city of Chittagong.

Tribunal chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir ruled: "We are of the unanimous view that the accused deserves the highest punishment for committing such crimes that tremble the collective conscience of mankind." But human rights groups and the BNP have both claimed that the tribunal fell short of international standards. Meanwhile, in a statement after the sentencing, Amnesty International called for Bangladesh to overturn all the war crime death sentences imposed this year.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 1 October 2013, BBC News Asia, 1 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ershad for new poll scheme

Jatiya Party chairman H M Ershad has proposed introduction of proportional representation in the general elections, a concept meaning that the number of parliamentary seats won by a party is proportionate to the number of votes it received. Ershad placed the proposal at a press conference in Dhaka.

Ershad said that the system, now in practice in some 86 countries including Japan and Turkey, would ensure free and fair polls. If any party bags 50 percent of the total votes cast, it will get 150 out of the 300 parliamentary seats, the former President explained. "If a party obtains one percent of the vote, it will win three seats." The former military ruler said that he would not place the proposal in Parliament, as he wanted to raise public support for it first. He also said, "If the system is introduced, the caretaker government system will no longer be required."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 3 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maiden n-plant in the offing

Bangladesh moved a step forward in the path of producing nuclear energy as the foundation stone was laid this week for the country’s first nuclear power plant at Rooppur of Pabna district with Russian assistance. It took nearly 50 years after it had initiated this project to augment electricity generation by installing nuclear reactors. "It is a milestone in the use of technology (in Bangladesh)... I believe it fulfills the nation’s dream," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.

She said that the nuclear plant was expected to be completed in the next five years and would provide 10 percent of the country’s total power. According to an energy road map energy-starved Bangladesh aims to increase power production to 20,000 MW by 2021.

The opening ceremony came two years after Dhaka signed a crucial framework agreement with Moscow. The agreement entails Russian cooperation worth US$1.5 billion to US$ 2 billion for the nuclear plant. Bangladesh signed an initial deal with Russian state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom in November 2011 to build a nuclear plant with two 1,000-MW reactors at a cost of up to $2 billion each in view of its present reserves of natural gas. During Sheikh Hasina’s Moscow visit in January this year, the two countries signed an agreement, under which Russia is to provide a separate $500 million loan to Bangladesh to help build the plant.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 3 October 2013,, 3 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fulfilling commitment to India

Bhutan is not keen on any new FDI from any country in power sector before it fulfils its commitment of providing 10 kMW of hydropower to India by 2020. Bhutan has also finalised an INR 70,000-crore fund utilisation pattern in the targeted hydropower capacity augmentation project. The Lion’s share of this financial load is being shouldered by India.

"Now Bhutan’s priority is to fulfil its commitment to India," said Dasho Tsering Wangda, Consul-General of Bhutan in India. Bhutan Economic Affairs Ministry (EAM) officials said, "Scope of fresh FDI in power generation sector in Bhutan is not there for newer future", but Bhutan would open its doors to foreign investment after fulfilling the commitment to India.

According to DGCP Managing Director C Rinzin, Bhutan does not have enough inhouse human resources, infrastructure or financial strength to develop all these projects by themselves. So, it is proceeding with two finalised models in hand. These are Inter-Governmental (IG) and Joint Venture (JV) models.

Besides generation capacity building, the country is also chalking out power evacuation plans to build additional 1460 km of transmission lines to back up the existing 1007 kilometres of high tension transmission lines under consultation with India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 30 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Slump in economy

Bhutan’s economy grew by 4.6 percent last year, one of the slowest in recent years, because of a liquidity crunch in the market, and a consequent decrease in the level of investment within the economy, according to the National Statistical Bureau (NSB). In 2011, the economy grew by 8.51 percent and by 11.6 percent in 2010.

The Bureau measures gross domestic product using the expenditure and production method, therefore, less expenditure in the economy translates to lower rate of growth. The slump in growth last year was attributed mainly to a slowdown in the construction sector, after commercial banks stopped providing housing loans, following the central bank’s notification in March 2012.

Growth in the construction sector in 2012 was recorded at 4 percent. In previous years, the sector on an average grew by 14 percent annually. The slowdown in the construction sector had a significant impact in the overall calculation of GDP, because investment in this sector is relatively huge.

At current prices, which include inflation, the total GDP grew by Nu 13 billion from Nu 86 billion in 2011 to Nu 99 billion in 2012.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 2 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">East as a tourist site

To distribute the benefits of tourism, the Tourism Council of Bhutan Secretariat (TCBS) is working on developing eastern Bhutan, one of the least explored regions in the country as a tourist hotspot in the coming years.

TCBS officials said that special intervention strategies in the 11th Plan, such as incentives to tour operators taking more tourists to the east are being explored to increase arrivals. This is a part of the second survey, which will focus on developing community-based tourism and product diversifications for the eastern region.

The eastern circuit includes Mongar, Lhuentse, Trashiyangtse, Trashigang, and Samdrupjongkhar. TCBS officials agreed that domestic air service would be the key to seeing more tourists in the east. "Promotion of tourism in the east has to be a collective effort," said Chimmy Pem.

Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, while presenting his first State of the Nation report at the parliament recently said there is a huge potential in the growth of tourism sector. "But there are some serious challenges in terms of our road conditions, garbage management, seasonality, and regional imbalance," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 3 October, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Controversial Ordinance taken back

Five days after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi publicly censured the government, the Union Cabinet, at a brisk 20-minute meeting on 2 October, decided to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers, as well as the Bill that sought to amend the Representation of the People Act on which it was based.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tiwari described the cabinet decision as "unanimous", but it was taken only after Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, government sources said, read his colleagues a homily. Such a dramatic U-turn was embarrassing for the government, he said, because it showed the ordinance was rushed through without careful thought. He also underscored the fact that the PM and the Cabinet are the institutions that cannot afford to be undermined.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 3 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet clears Telangana

Amid the continuing political turmoil in coastal Andhra and Rayalseema that followed the Congress Working Committee (CWC) resolution of July 30 requesting the Centre to form a separate State of Telangana, the Union Cabinet on Thursday evening gave its seal of approval to a Home Ministry proposal to divide Andhra Pradesh.

A string of resignations from the Union Council of Ministers followed, with Human Resource Development Minister M. Pallam Raju, Textiles Minister Kavuri Samba Siva Rao, Minister of State for Tourism Chiranjeevi, and Minister of State for Railways Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy putting in their papers.

If the day here began with anti-Telangana supporters shouting slogans outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence, with members of the United Andhra Pradesh Students Association trying to break the barricade, forcing the police to use mild force to disperse the protesters, it ended with the Cabinet meeting at which two of the four ministers — who have since resigned — vociferously opposing the decision to create Telangana.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 4 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lalu Prasad convicted for fodder scam

A special CBI court in Ranchi pronounced all 45 accused, including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and Member of Parliament Lalu Prasad Yadav, guilty in the Chaibasa treasury case of the Rs 950-crore fodder scam.

The Chaibasa treasury case that relates to the withdrawal of Rs 37 crore is one of six fodder scam cases in which Mr Prasad is an accused and the first in which a verdict has been pronounced. Mr Prasad may now face an imprisonment of minimum three and maximum seven years when the sentence is announced on October 3.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 1 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Forex reserves jump by $ 2 b

India’s foreign exchange (Forex) reserves jumped by US$2.03 billion to US$277.38 billion for the week ended September 20, the biggest weekly gain in nearly two years, on the back of concessional swap facilities offered to banks by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The Forex reserve has increased sharply for the second consecutive week. It had jumped by US$544.7 million in the previous week.

According to RBI’s Weekly Statistical Supplement, the country’s foreign currency assets, the biggest component of the Forex reserves, increased by US$1.97 billion to US$249.22 billion for the week ended Sep 20.

The foreign currency assets, expressed in the US dollar term, include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-U.S. currencies held in reserve, such as the Pound, Euro and Yen.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 29 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">N-plat deal with US company

Five years after India and the US signed a landmark civil nuclear deal, the two countries have clinched the first commercial agreement on civilian nuclear power cooperation that was stalled over India’s nuclear liability law.

President Barack Obama announced the agreement yesterday after his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House Oval Office.

"We’ve made enormous progress on the issue of civilian nuclear power, and in fact, have been able to achieve just in the last few days an agreement on the first commercial agreement between a US company and India on civilian nuclear power," Obama said.

Later in a joint statement, the two leaders noted that with government-to-government procedures agreed, commercial negotiations between India’s nuclear operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and US firm Westinghouse are proceeding.

A fact sheet issued by the White House said this agreement should facilitate progress toward licensing the AP-1000 nuclear reactor technology in India.

"The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to concluding a high-standard Bilateral Investment Treaty that will foster openness to investment, transparency, and predictability, and thereby support economic growth and job creation in both countries," according to the joint statement.

In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), the US is the fifth-largest investor in India. As per official data, FDI from the US between April 2000 and July 2013 totalled $11.49 billion.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 28 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army battles to foil major Pak infiltration bid

In what is proving to be the biggest infiltration bid across the Line of Control (LoC) in recent years, the Army has been battling a determined and entrenched group of 35-40 militants and Pakistani "special troops" in Keran sector of Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir for the last nine days.

The Army, which has pressed additional forces, helicopters and spy drones into action, claims to have killed 15 of the intruders after cordoning off the Shala Bhata area in Kern sector once the "first contact was made" around 8 p.m. on 24 September. Five Indian soldiers have also been wounded.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 3 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parties rally to abide by SC verdict

Nearly two weeks after the Supreme Court reserved orders on two separate batches of petitions challenging the first round of presidential polls held on 7 September, political parties and constitutional institutions have come around to declaring that they would abide by the judicial verdict, when pronounced. This may have set the mood for national reconciliation, at least for as the presidential polls are concerned.

The Election Commission (EC) may have set the tone after it reconsidered its earlier position on conducting the second-round, run-off polls on 28 September, as originally scheduled, bowing to the Supreme Court’s countermanding of the first round, pending disposal of the poll petitions. The Jumhooree Party (PPM) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the petitioners before the Supreme Court, soon followed suit - followed later by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), whose candidate Mohammed Nasheed, had topped the first round with 45.45 percent vote-share, short of the mandated 50 percent for a straight win.

In between, President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik addressed the nation, promising to transfer power, as mandated, on 11 November, and expressing the hope that the Apex Court would come up with its verdict in time, to help in the process. He also had a surprise visitor in Nasheed, who had refused to meet with President Waheed, after the latter as his Vice-President had succeeded to the office after the former’s controversial resignation on 7 February 2012.

The MDP national council, meeting earlier in the week, had resolved that Nasheed should automatically succeed to the presidency on 11 November 2013, if the election process was not completed by then. The MDP claimed that Nasheed discussed the resolution with President Waheed, but neither side denied that the meeting took place at the instance of the former. The tone may thus have been set for the various stake-holders nearer home to receive the Supreme Court verdict with greater equanimity than many of them are often credited with.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 1-4 October 2013, Haveeru Online, 1-4 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fear among Muslims evident during President’s tour

Terrified Muslim families hid in forests in western Myanmar on 2 October, one day after fleeing a new round of deadly sectarian violence that erupted even as the president toured the divided region. The discovery of four bodies brought the death toll from the latest clashes up to at least five.

Tuesday’s unrest near the coastal town of Thandwe, which saw Buddhist mobs kill a 94-year-old woman and four other Muslims and burn dozens of homes, underscored the government’s persistent failure to stop the sectarian violence from spreading. Sein arrived in Thandwe on Wednesday, the second day of his visit to Rakhine State, and was to meet religious leaders from both communities. While Mr. Sein has condemned the violence in the Rakhine State before, critics say his security forces have not done enough to contain it.

In a message to religious leaders that ran in Myanmar’s state-run newspapers on 2 October, President Sein said the sectarian unrest threatens the government’s reform process "and tarnishes the national image internationally". As he pointed out, "The Constitution of Myanmar fully guarantees freedom of religion as the fundamental right of citizens?We all should never misuse this noble idea of freedom of religion, or use it as a springboard for any kind of extremism or for fuelling hatred."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 3 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minister warns against violence

Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin warned to those taking advantage of political reforms to fuel ethnic or religious violence. The Minister was addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on 30 September, where he said, "There are always people who wish to rock the boat. We will not let anyone to take advantage of political openness to instigate violence among different ethnic or religious communities".

"Our reform process is still at a nascent and sensitive stage where there is little room for error. With this in mind, the President has publicly emphasised the need for everyone to refrain from doing anything that could jeopardise Myanmar’s peaceful transition," he added.

He also highlighted the progress in government efforts towards reconciliation and said that they expect to sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement in Nay Pyi Taw in the near future. He called on the international community to provide assistance for economic development in Myanmar so that the country can stand on its own in the future.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 2 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Locals want suspension of Shwe pipeline

Local residents from four States and Divisions through which the Kyaukphyu-Kunming gas pipeline traverses have told Mizzima, a Myanmar news agency, they want the transport of gas suspended until an acceptable peace is worked out between ethnic armed groups and the government.

The sentiment was related to Mizzima during a press conference held at the Royal Rose Hall in Yangon on 30 September.

Win Aung, leader of Shwe Gas Movement and author of the report ’Shwe Gas Movement Report’, said, "The government has not done anything despite of our repeated requests. So, we demand use of the pipeline only after new amendments for power and resource sharing between regional and union levels of government under the constitution".

The report of the Shwe Gas Movement requests authorities to fulfill the needs of residents and solve problems being faced by ethnic nationalities who live in regions where the pipeline crosses. The report will be forwarded to President Thein Sein, as well as all the two Houses of parliament and companies which are involved in the implementation of the project.

The four States and divisions through which the Kyaukphyu-Kunming gas line traverses are Rakhine and Shan States, and Mandalay and Magwe Regions.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 2 October 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poll juggernaut rolls, Maoists see red

Despite threats by a 33-party coalition led by a breakaway Maoist faction, Nepal’s date with elections in November started rolling on 3 October with filing of nominations by candidates.

Candidates chosen by political parties and those contesting as independents started filing nominations in district election offices across the country for the 240 seats under the first-past-the post (FPTP) system.

Former prime minister and senior Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai filed his nomination from Rupandehi-4 seat. He is also contesting from his home district Gorkha.

But the enthusiasm of candidates and political parties has been clouded a bit by the poll boycott call given by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist-led 33-party alliance. Accusing the major parties of sidelining them, the alliance has threatened to step up its anti-poll campaign by preventing candidates from meeting voters and urging voters not to take part.

Mohan Baidya, chairman of CPN-M, which split from UCPN-M, stated anti-poll campaign could turn violent if the government uses force to stop their protests. The alliance has called a nationwide strike from November 9 to November 19.

Voting for Nepal’s second Constituent Assembly polls is scheduled on November 19.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindustan Times, 4 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UML candidate shot at in Bara

An unidentified gang of assailants shot at CPN-UML poll candidate Mohammad Alam in Bara district on 4 October. Leader Alam was shot at Chainpur Chowk of Bara district along the Pathlaiya-Birgunj road while he was talking on his phone, an official at Bara District Police Office was quoted by local media. Alam, who was seriously injured in the incident, is undergoing treatment at Birgunj-based National Medical College. His condition was said to be critical.

Alam has filed nomination from Constituency-4 of Bara district representing UML under the first-past-the-post system. He is a UML central committee member as well as Chairman of Muslim Ittehad Organisation. He is considered a probable candidate to win the elections to the Constituent Assembly from his constituency.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 4 October 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Law for 40 pc women in local bodies

In what could be the biggest-ever achievement in ensuring women’s representation, a reformed legislation proposes to double the presence of women in local bodies from the earlier 20 to 40 percent.

The proposed amendment, in effect, will bring in almost 100,000 women in leadership positions in local bodies — municipalities, District Development Committees (DDCs) and Village Development Committees (VDC). Each ward committee is composed of five members and the proposed reform makes it mandatory that at least two of them are women. There are nine wards in each VDC and there are 3,915 VDCs in the country. Additionally, there are 58 municipalities and 75 DDCs, where the reform proposes to ensure 40 per cent women’s representation.

A similar provision in the last Constituent Assembly Member Act formulated in 2007 made Nepal’s legislature one of the world’s top in ensuring inclusion of women and other marginalised groups. Women’s representation in the last CA (33 per cent), was higher than the 2013 world average of 20.9 per cent women parliamentarians, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs has finalised the crucial amendment to the Local Self-governance Act (1995) to that effect. The amendment bill has been handed over to the local development minister. The reformed law comes into effect immediately after the President endorses it on Cabinet recommendation.

Elections to local bodies have not been held for the last 16 years. In the absence of local representatives, government officials have been taking charge of VDCs, DDCs and municipalities. On November 7 last year, the Supreme Court issued a directive, asking the government to make arrangements to hold local polls. The court was responding to a writ filed by Madhav Poudel of the District Development Committee Federation, Bidur Mainali of the Municipalities Association of Nepal and Advocate Chandrakanta Gyawali on behalf of the VDCs’ Federation. The petitioners had sought elections to local bodies, saying that the absence of local representatives resulted in irregularities and corruption.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 2 October 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah

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.