MonitorsPublished on Jan 26, 2012
When the world finding itself in a deadlock on the issues of environment and sustainable development, Myanmar is poised to enter a new era that could pave the way for economic prosperity without any significant negative impact on the environment.
Myanmar: 'Environment' in the changing environment
< class="heading1">Analysis

When the world finding itself in a deadlock on the issues of environment and sustainable development, Myanmar is poised to enter a new era that could pave the way for economic prosperity without any significant negative impact on the environment. Over the last six months the born-again Government in the country has shown great sensitivity on issues of developmental projects that could degrade the rich biodiversity of the erstwhile ’Rice Bowl of Asia’. This is so as the government had unilaterally scrapped two major developmental and infrastructural projects undertaken by its neighbours.

The first project that was to be axed was the China-funded hydro-power project, Myitsone Dam while the second that was to follow suit was the Thailand-backed multi-billion, multi-purpose project in Dawei being promoted by the Italian-Thai Development Company. The Dawei project was to be a deep-sea harbour and an economic zone with a 4000 MW coal-fired power plant. On both these projects, the primary reason that was given by the Government for its drastic measure was the impact on the environment and the population displacement that would accompany these projects.

The Myitsone Dam, whose cost was pegged at $ 3.6 billion, was expected to generate close to 6000 MW of power, of which 80 per cent would have been exported to China. While the Dawei project of the Italian-Thai Development Company was a mega-project that was budgeted to be around $58 billion. Incidentally, these two projects were supported by two of Myanmar’s closest friends and neighbours who as coincidence would have it were among the handful of nations that had stood with the junta during its difficult times.

The two projects were scrapped by the junta without batting an eyelid without any forewarning. Incidentally the decision by the Government was largely at the behest of the local populace which has opposed them. The primary concerns of the local populace were the large level of displacement that these two projects would entail. This in fact could have nullified the benefits of development and economic growth that they would have come with them. The Myitsone Dam would have flooded an area about the size of Singapore, creating a 766 square-km reservoir. The project area that would have been inundated by the Dawei harbour and economic zone would have been similar in scale.

Incidentally the Dawei project was also mooted to be a part of a transport corridor between India and South-East Asia. Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawarta has proposed this during her recent visit to New Delhi. The Dawei port, given its strategic location, would have done justice to this proposed transport corridor.

Prospects of militarisation

At the same time the local populace that opposed these two projects were supported by the local ethnic groups. The Myitsone Dam was located in an area dominated by the Kachins while in the case of Dawei it was the Karens. Both the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and its armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) had voiced apprehensions over the projects. To this end, they had backed the local populace who invariably were of the same ethnicity.

The primary concerns of these ethnic militias with respect to these two projects were the prospects of militarisation of the Karen and the Kachin Provinces. This is so as the ethnic groups feared that the Government might use these projects as an excuse to deploy the army in the name of security. With the prospective presence of Government troops in their respective Provinces, the ethnic groups feared backlash that could endanger their people and weaken their movement for self-determination.

The KNLA and the KIO/KIA have indulged in acts cohesions on the project issue. This was evident with respect to the Karens who had resorted to violent methods that included kidnapping and threatening of workers who were part of the Dawei project. It was also under these circumstances that the KIA and the Government troops had engaged with each other near the Dawei.

On the other hand, the concerns of the Government were that the presence of these groups and their militias could pose a security-threat to the viability of the projects. Added to the concerns of the Government was the fact that these projects were foreign direct investment by friendly nations.

The Government’s decision has been welcomed, but with a tinge of disappointment by both China and Thailand. This came after speculation by international commentators about Myanmar revising its foreign relation policies after the Myitsone Dam decision.

Myanmar did not have a record on the environment front, similar to its record on other issues. The new-found green crusade by Naypyidaw resonates its reforms efforts that have been undertaken on democracy, civil liberties and human rights. In this light, Myanmar with its strategic location, rich natural resources and new-found zeal might go on to author the rule book for sustainable development. This incidentally comes in the backdrop of a recent IMF report that states that Myanmar might be the next economic frontier of Asia.

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

< class="heading1">Analysis

Nepal: Bhattarai is losing ground

Akanshya Shah

The bitterness between the Government and the Opposition parties in Nepal has once again paralysed the peace process and derailed Constitution-writing. Critical challenges remain in the making of a "New Nepal." While old disputes are not resolved completely, new issues have emerged, mostly on federal structure, power- sharing and induction of former Maoist rebels into the national army.

This week, the Opposition parties continued to obstruct Parliament proceedings against the Government’s controversial decision to legalise land transactions carried out under arbitration of the erstwhile Maoist’s ’people’s government’ during the decade-long insurgency. The Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have fiercely criticised the Government for not heeding the Opposition voice in the Legislature over the matter.

On the other hand, no consensus has emerged among the top political leaders on major issues of the peace process like ranks (for the Maoist army), leadership (in the Army after integration) and numbers (of the former Maoist combatants to be integrated). Despite the all-party agreement of November 1 last year, which fixed the number of combatants to be integrated in the Army at 6500, the UCPM (Maoist) leadership continues to crib over the numbers.

Much against the earlier agreement that not more than two combatants opting for integration in the Nepal Army would make it to the rank of major and above, the Maoists are now demanding 443 officer-level positions, including that of lieutenant-general, something which the technical task force that worked out the previous agreement says "cannot be done under any circumstances". The November 1 agreement was considered a "breakthrough" in the peace process and hailed by the international community then. The inter-party bickering over integration has now rendered the November 1 deal almost futile.

The Government of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, which is supported by a coalition of five Madhesi parties, is thus on a shaky ground. With failure to conclude the integration process, Bhattarai is already losing credibility amongst the masses. On the governance front too, he has not been able to deliver much. Most of the key programmes announced by his Government some six months ago to provide "immediate relief" to people have gone unimplemented. There are now doubts on the seriousness on the part of the executive in carrying out its own commitments. A Government report this week stated that of the 243 programmes announced by Bhattarai, ranging from managing the current transition, promoting good governance and ensuring smooth supply of daily consumer goods to improving law and order, only 14 were initiated by the ministries concerned.

Bhattarai is at present facing the public wrath also for a sudden price hike of petro-products. A strike called by student unions affiliated to various political parties on January 25, crippled normal life in the country, bringing all activities in the capital of Kathmandu to a complete halt. On January 19, the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) ramped up fuel prices to make up for its piling losses. Following the hike, diesel and kerosene prices reached Nepali Rs 85 per litre from Rs 76 earlier, while petrol now costs Rs 115 per litre, up from Rs 105. The price of cooking gas has been increased to Rs 1,500 per cylinder from Rs 1,325. The ailing NOC owes Nepali Rs 1.6 billion in outstanding dues to Indian Oil Corporation, the sole supplier of petroleum products to Nepal.

The bandh was enforced despite the Government’s plan to introduce Rs 3 billion subsidy package for students, workers, conflict-hit people and farmers. The underlying message from the street was clear -- people have no faith in the present Government. Nepal is also reeling under an acute power shortage with the capital facing a 14-hour load-shedding daily. This is expected to reach 19 hours as the dry season picks up.

The political parties need to take stock of the worsening socio-economic and political situation in the country. The peace process needs to move ahead on the basis of the November 1 deal, which specifies completion of both the integration and constitution writing. However, time is running out. The deadline of the third extension of the Constituent Assembly is May and it has already been ruled by the Supreme Court as the "last extension". Instead of wasting precious time on unwarranted issues like legalising land transactions, Prime Minister Bhattarai must work towards generating consensus on larger issues of integration and federalism. Formation of a national consensus Government, which Bhattarai promised within two months in office, is vital to take the peace process to a logical conclusion.

Unfortunately, the peace process remains largely stalled for the last two months. The Maoist party is busy reversing the agreements on Constitution-writing and has begun issuing threats that it would aim at "State-capture through street revolt" if the other parties did not agree to a directly-elected presidential system in the future Constitution. Such threats will derail the peace process further. Most importantly, the internal rift within the UCPN (Maoist), which has caused much of the problems of late, needs to be resolved at the earliest. The delicate balance between the hardliner position and the reformists within the Maoist party must be maintained at all cost. Chairman Prachanda is currently seen swinging between the two positions in a desperate bid to keep the party together. A shift in the balance either way will be fatal for the peace process.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ties with India Pakistan and the United Nations

Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin paid a four-day official visit to India from January 22-26. During the Minister’s visit,the two sides discussed a number of issues and stressed upon the strength of their bilateral ties that emanates from traditional, civilisational linkages and intertwined security concerns. New Delhi also raised concerns about anti-India insurgent and militant groups operating out of Myanmar. To this end, the two sides would cooperate with one another.

The other areas discussed related to trade, commerce, and the three-nation highway that would link India with Thailand via Myanmar. Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawarta, who was the Chief Guest at the Indian Republic Day celebrations (January, 26), had mooted the idea of direct transport corridor between India and South-East Asia via Myanmar’s Dawei deep seaport, which is been promoted by a Thai firm.

Minister Wunna told the Indian media that Myanmar would not turn back on its reforms agenda and that democracy was meant to stay. He extended an invitation to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who would be in Myanmar for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectorial Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit in May.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari paid a two-day visit to Myanmar and met a number of Government officials, including President Theins Sein. Zardari stressed the need for enhancing bilateral trade and establishing Preferential Tariff Arrangement that would pave the way for a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. Zardari also said the he wanted to infuse new dynamism into bilateral ties.

In a significant move, Zardari called on the Nobel laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi and conferred on her the ’Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Prize for Democracy’, named after his slain wife and former Prime Minister of Pakistan.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki -moon is expected to visit the nation in the near future while his Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar who is a diplomat of Indian origin has been named as the UN Special Envoy to Myanmar.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January, 26 2012;, January, 24 2012;, January, 24 2012;, January, 23 and 26 2012;, January, 23 2012;, January, 26 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU divided on sanctions

Member-States of the European Union (EU) are divided among themselves as to how and when they are to revise their sanctions against Myanmar. At present, the EU has not opposed the efforts of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to engage in developmental activities in Myanmar.

The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council also moved ahead with holding talks with the Myanmar Government and has extended assistance for poverty-reduction, capacity-building, reintegration of refugees and the peace process involving various ethnic groups.

At present the EU has eased a few of the restrictions imposed on Myanmar. To this end, the travel restrictions on senior Myanmar Government officials have been eased, including President Thein Sein.

On the other hand, Senator John McCain of the United States has said that the US Congress might revisit its sanctions policy after the Myanmar by-elections of April. He said that a free and fair by-election with international monitoring would go a long way in undoing the sanctions regime. US President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, has also applauded the reform efforts in Myanmar.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January, 23, 24 and 25 2012;, January, 23 2012.

Note: Earlier on April, 12 2012, the EU had eased travel restrictions for junior officials from Myanmar. This was done to facilitate bilateral contacts and also as a means to encourage the Myanmar Government to revisit its policies on human rights and democracy.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">KNU to open political offices

The Government has entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Karen National Union (KNU), the nation’s oldest ethnic armed resistance group. As part of the ceasefire agreement, the KNU will open political offices in various parts of the country while the two sides can conduct unarmed patrol.

Aung Thaung, Railway Minister and head of the Government’s peace delegation, has said that the peace process with the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) could take as long as three years before a lasting truce could be achieved. The Minister also said that the peace process includes a three-step plan, comprising a ceasefire and repositioning of troops, development of the Karen region, and an all-inclusive political process through talks. Incidentally, the 17-year-old ceasefire agreement with the KIO broke down and resulted in the resumption of military operation in June 2011.

The New Mon State Party (NMSP) of the Mon’s would not enter into another ceasefire agreement with the Government saying that the existing 15-year-old truce did not result in any meaningful political talks or processes. However, the NMSP will engage with the Government in another round of talks in February.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January, 23, 24 and 26 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Economic frontier of Asia’: IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a recently published report has stated that Myanmar is posed for economic growth and could be the next economic frontier of Asia.

The report said that the rich natural resources, young labour force and strategic location would be advantages if the government undertakes macroeconomic stability, a stable formal exchange rate system among others.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January, 24 and 26 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India presses for extradition treaty

New Delhi has urged Kathmandu to finalise the Bilateral Extradition Treaty and also the Agreement on the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters at the earliest possible time. India’s Home Minister P Chidambaram took up the issue with Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar during their meeting in New Delhi.

Though the Home Secretaries of the two countries have already signed the documents, they are awaiting finalisation at the political level. Although India has been pushing Nepal for an early finalisation of the treaty and the agreement, successive governments in Kathmandu have hesitated from signing the documents, fearing a possible political controversy. Gachahhdar is said to have told Indian authorities that Nepal would sign the documents by "creating a favourable political environment."

India has also expressed its willingness to help Nepal strengthen its security to combat cross-border crime. Nepal has requested for technical support from India to strengthen its security agencies. Gachchhadar concluded his four-day visit to Delhi on January 21. During his stay he held close meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and other political leaders.
< class="text11verdana">Source:,, January 20, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM under attack for legalising land deals

The Opposition parties have stepped up pressure on the Maoist-led Government to revoke its controversial decision to legalise land transactions sanctioned by the former rebels’ parallel administration during the decade-long insurgency.

The Supreme Court issued a stay order on January 12 over the Government’s decision to legalise land transactions by the Maoist’s Revolutionary Council, the parallel administration of the former rebels, during the civil war that ended in 2006. The Opposition parties, including the second largest Nepali Congress and the third largest CPN-UML, obstructed the functioning of Parliament, protesting the Government decision to provide legitimacy to the properties purchased, sold and distributed by the former rebels.

The Nepali Congress has alleged that the Government move is a breach of the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord and other agreements related to the peace process. A joint meeting of 17 Opposition parties has asked Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to revoke the decision at the earliest.
< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI,, January 22, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists’ income up by 58 pc

The financial statements of the UCPN (Maoist) show that the party’s income has increased by 58.4 per cent (the current party budget is Nepali Rs 132 million) and expenditure by 64.3 per cent over the last four years. The Maoist leaders have said that the major sources of income of the party are levies paid by party members, including lawmakers and ministers, and donations from outside.

The income and expenditure details of the past four years submitted by the UCPN (Maoist) to the Election Commission shows that the party had surplus income for three years, except for the period between 2009 and 2010, which saw a deficit of over Rs 2.7 million.

The details submitted by the party, however, do not include donations raised and the amount of money spent during the Constituent Assembly elections.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 22, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strike against petro price hike

Various students unions demanding withdrawal of government’s decision to increase the price of the petroleum products enforced a shutdown strike on January 25. The strike crippled normal life in the capital city and adjoining Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts as vehicles stayed off the road and shops and marketplaces including educational institutions remained closed due to the bandh.

Some 13 student unions have announced protest programmes to exert pressure on the government over the issue. Following the hike, diesel and kerosene price reached Nepali Rs 85 per litre from Rs 76 earlier, while petrol now costs Rs 115 per litre, up from Rs 105. The price of cooking gas has been increased to Rs 1,500 per cylinder from Rs 1,325 and aviation fuel price to Rs 105 per litre from Rs 100.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies has formed a five-member committee coordinated by Vice-chairman of National Planning Commission, Dipendra Bahadur Chhetri, for the price adjustment of the petro products.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 25, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gilani tones down criticism of military

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in a bid to defuse tensions between the country’s civilian and military apparatus toned down his criticism and said that he wanted to "dispel the impression that the military leadership acted unconstitutionally or violated rules". He brushed aside any threat to democracy saying that "both (the) masses and the army fully support democracy".

Gilani also expressed his respect for the judiciary, reminding that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had struggled for restoration its restoration and freed a number of judges from house arrest in recent years. He added that when the Supreme Court summoned him, he responded immediately as this was his constitutional duty. The Prime Minister made these remarks during a BBC interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and Army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, agreed to keep NATO supplies to Afghanistan blocked till Parliament takes a decision. During a meeting on January 20, the President and the Army chief expressed their satisfaction over the way the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) was engaged in preparing policy recommendations on this issue.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Times, January 27, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ijaz ’no’ to visit country

Mansoor Ijaz’s counsel Akram Shaikh said that the commission probing the memo-gate scandal would have to visit Ijaz either in London or Zurich, andruled out coming to Pakistan owing to lack of proper security arrangements. However, the investigators rejected the plan to travel abroad to get his testimony bringing the investigation to a halt for the time being as he was considered the key to solving the case.

The judicial commission adjourned the hearing of the case to February 9, thereby giving Ijaz another chance to present himself at the court.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 23, 24, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Target killings in Karachi

Three lawyers of the Shia community were shot dead by four unknown men at Karachi. The attackers were able to fleed in spite of the presence a police van in the area. As per records 15 lawyers were killed in Karachi last year. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief, Altaf Hussain stated that killing people from different schools of thought was part of a larger conspiracy and that ulemas of different strands needed to work for peace.

Thousands of lawyers of the Karachi Bar Association registered their protest against the target killings by taking out rallies and strikes. Most courts only took up urgent cases for hearing and were otherwise boycotted.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, Daily Times, January 25, 27 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Flood funds still untouched

Sindh Zakat and Ushr Minister Sajid Jokhio said that out of PRs 1.15 billion and PRs 2.5 billion from the Central Zakat Fund and the provincial government fund, respectively, nothing has been spent till now for reconstruction or rehabilitation of the victims of the 2010 floods. The plan to build even a single build for the victims did not materialise.

Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah asked the flood victims to be patient and stated "Rome was not built in one day".
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 24, 2012.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fishing MoU likely with India

The Governments of India and Sri Lanka are considering a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the joint management of water resources proposed by New Delhi. The initial proposal has not found favour in Colombo, who has shown a degree of reluctance to sign a formal legal document.

According to the proposed MoU, both countries will be able to fish within a limited pool of water. It also suggests a joint aqua culture in the shared waters, as well as the creation of an ecologically sustainable resource. New Delhi also sent a non-paper to its Sri Lankan counterparts on possible initiatives that can be taken to ensure the safety of fishermen.

The Joint Working Group on Fisheries met last week in Colombo and discussed these issues, and the need for greater cooperation between fishermen and authorities from both sides in order to avoid future confrontations.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, January 26, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LLRC report won’t go to UNHRC

The Government has announced that it will not present the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) report at the UN Human Rights Council session this year. External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris has said that the report was commissioned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa for an investigation into the ethnic conflict in order to address the internal issues. He also said that the Government is committed to implementing the recommendations of the LLRC and that the process will commence in earnest within the next two months.

The Minister has said that the Darusman report, commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was meant as an external investigation into the issue by the UN, whereas the LLRC was meant to further domestic comprehension.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, January 26, 2012; Daily News, January 26, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Violence at Magazine Prison

A tense situation ensued at the Magazine Prison in Welikada where inmates have been showing resistance to the presence of military and Special Forces. Prison inmates, some of whom have been accused of drug offences, had set fire to a building. Around four prison officers and 20 inmates were admitted to the Colombo National Hospital following the clash between the prisoners and guards.

LTTE operatives were moved to the main prison in order to ensure their safety. Authorities said that Sarath Fonseka, the former Army Commander, who is imprisoned at the main prison at Welikada, was safe.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, January 24, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">France upset over killings

A shooting incident in Kapsia Province involving an Afghan soldier and ISAF military left four French troops dead and 16 wounded. The incident sparked strongreaction fromFrench President Nicolas Sarkozy, who deemed it unacceptable. He hinted at the early withdrawal of French forces from Afghanistan.

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet was dispatched to Afghanistan to investigate the matter. This has come at a time when ISAF forces were coming under attack by their allies in the afghan security forces.

President Hamid Karzai has expressed condolences and Rahim Wardak, Afghan Defence Minister, has ordered an immediate investigation. The French Army has suspended all further training and joint operations with the Afghan forces.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Guardian, January 21, 2012; Al Jazeera, January 20, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Militants join reconciliation process

Provincial police chief of Baghlan, Gen. Asadullah Shirzad stated that 20 armed militants that belonged to Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar joined the reconciliation process by handing over their weapons. The militants have urged the Afghan government to arrange employment for their ranks while also providing them a safe environment to protect them from other militants who opposed their joining the reconciliation process.

Jan Kubis, representative of UN Secretary-General said that he felt heartened by peace talks in Afghanistan. His efforts are aimed at security and development, promote reconciliation and work on improving governance, human rights, election and legal reforms. He mentioned that the Afghan people including regional partners have shown interest to end the decade long conflict in Afghanistan through negotiations.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, January 24, 2012; Khaama, January 26, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US ’no’ to decentralisation

US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said that there were no plans to experiment with the Afghan political system or divide the country. This statement comes after calls by Afghan Opposition leaders for decentralisation of power.

Afghan Security Forces took over security responsibility from NATO forces in Northern Balki province. The transition was peaceful and Provincial Governor Ata Mohammad Noor stated that the security situation in Afghanistan has improved after the security transition began in 2011.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, January 25, 2012; Khaama, January 26, 2012; Ariana News, January 25, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban hold broken

President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address to the US Congress mentioned that the Taliban hold in Afghanistan has been broken and Al-Qaeda operatives are currently being pursued by out of the country by US forces. US special envoy Marc Grossman, visited Kabul and met with President Karzai, the discussions focused on talks with the Taliban.

Trilateral talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran would be held in Pakistan in February. The meetings would include topics on Afghanistan’s peace and stability. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai flew to Europe to sign a strategic partnership pact with the France, Britain and Italy. The partnership agreement with France would include economic, security and political cooperation with Afghanistan for a period of 20 years.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, January 26, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU grants 60 million euros

The European Union sanctioned 60 million euros for the reform of the Afghan Government institutions. Of this, 20 million euros would be used for the reform of the Judiciary, while the other 40 million Euros would be used for improving other government departments. The EU would also submit draft plans for a strategic partnership with Afghanistan for their review next month said the European Union Special Representative, Vygaudas U?ackas. He also stated that EU commitment to Afghanistan would continue till 2025.

Japan and the UNODC have signed an agreement for a grant of $9 million to improve criminal justice in Balkh, Bamyan and Herat Provinces.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, January, 24, 25, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Polity condemns coup bid

Major Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque, a suspect in the recently foiled coup allegedly used a UK SIM to plot the events with 11 other army officers. He was a former student of the Military Institute of Science and Technology, and had purportedly used hi-tech software to plan the coup. This is also making it hard for the authorities to trace him. All political parties have collectively condemned the attempted coup and said that power-transfer should be done only through democratic means.

The Army’s Court of Inquiry has been entrusted with the task of solving the case and the intelligence agencies have also strengthened their efforts to find out if there were any more irregular activities within the Army. Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen Md Mainul Islam also said that there was no space for religious fanatics in the army.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Star, January 21, 22, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Russia to fund nuclear plant

Russia has assured financial and technological support to build the country’s first nuclear power plant to solve the energy crisis. The total expenditure estimated at Tk 1,200-1,500 crore, of which a portion would be funded by Russia. Russia would also train officials who would later work in Russian plants for a period of two years. The country also made significant progress in meeting the set standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Star, January 22, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No room for militants: PM

The Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley has categorically ruled out all possibilities of militants and insurgents would find a safe haven in the Himalayan Kingdom. While responding to media persons the Prime Minister said that his Government will not allow Bhutan to be used as a base or for camps either by anti-India groups or Maoists.

The Prime Minister highlighted the efforts taken by the Government and the achievements of the Royal Bhutan Army when it launched ’Operation All Clear’ in December 2003 against militancy and insurgency.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 22, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Medical varsity: to be or not to be

Bhutan has found itself in a heart of a heated debate as to whether or not it needs a medical university. This comes only five months before the nation’s first such institution commences its first academic session. The debate revolves around as to whether the nation is ready or has the wherewithal to support such a university.

At present Bhutan has the poorest doctor to patient ratio in South Asia. The medical university is seen as a means to address theproblem. But the for a cash-strapped nation this university is seen as a burden on the economy. At present most Bhutanese are products of Indian universities.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 26, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bird flu creates panic

The fear of bird flu and anthrax has created panic and caused havoc in the country for the past few weeks. This was after bird flu was detected in Chuka and Thimphu. The virus was detected in the nation’s major trade routes after the government has lifted a ban on Indian poultry.

The Government’s efforts at arresting the epidemic has been criticised by Buddhist leaders, as it involves culling birdsin a cruel fashion. Even though initial tests have all shown a negative result, it has not ended the panic among the population.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 27, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ties with Australia

Both Bhutan and Australia have vowed to strengthen their bilateral ties and to increase interaction and cooperation in all spheres. The two nations have endorsed each other bid to be a Non-Permanent Member in the Security Council of the United Nations. The two nations are hopeful of this seat in the UN for the biennium of 2013-14.

On the other hand Australia relaxed the requirement for Bhutanese students to peruse higher education by removing the IELTS requirement. This comes after Bhutan had requested Australia to waver the IELTS requirement since English was one of the two official languages of the Himalayan Kingdom.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 24, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Oil flow from Iran to continue

India could be on a collision course with the US and European Union after officials in Delhi made it clear they intended to carry on importing oil from Iran despite imposition of Western sanctions against Teheran.

Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy said that the country was still considering how best to make payments for the $12bn of crude oil it annually imports from Iran, and which it pays for using a Turkish bank as an intermediary. Delhi is concerned that the US will seek to persuade Turkey to block this option as the West steps up pressure on Iran. The two countries have also agreed to settle some of the payments in rupees.

India, the world’s fourth-largest oil consumer, relies on Iran for about 12 percent of its imports, or 350,000-400,000 barrels per day (bpd), and is Teheran’s second-biggest oil client after China.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 26, 2012,, January 21, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Petro exports to Pakistan

Seeking to enhance the level of economic co-operation and extend a "friendly helping hand’’ to its neighbour, India offered to export petrol, diesel and other petroleum products to Pakistan. Should there be an agreement.

India could even build a pipeline to carry these products.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 25, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US briefs Delhi on Afghanistan

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (Af-Pak) Marc Grossman briefed top Indian foreign policy officials on Washington’s opening of dialogue with the Taliban and sought greater cooperation from New Delhi in effecting political reconciliation.

The briefing was meant to address complaints from major regional players that they were not being kept in the picture on the latest moves by Washington.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 21, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Russia delivers n-sub

India became the world’s sixth country after the US, Russia, France, the UK and China to operate nuclear-powered submarines when the Russian Akula-11 class submarine `K-152 Nerpa’ was commissioned into Indian Navy as INS Chakra on a 10-year lease under a secretive almost $1-billion contract inked in 2004.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Economic Times, January 24, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM tries to revive growth

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after taking a political shellacking in 2011, has embarked on initiatives that include greater investment by State-owned firms in an effort to shore up economic growth and reassure the industry.

Singh led a highly-publicised meeting of 20 power industry executives and several Government officials to try to find ways to relieve a chronic shortage of affordable coal as well as clear other hurdles?such as lengthy environmental clearances for plant construction?that are crippling the power sector.

"All of you are wealth-creators and are worthy of our respect," Singh reportedly said. He named his Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterji as head of a committee that will study how to remove roadblocks to power infrastructure and review progress in 90 days.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 20, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CRR-cut boost bank-lending

Reserve Bank of India unexpectedly cut the amount of deposits lender-banks need to set aside as reserves for the first time since 2009 and signalled future interest-rate cuts, joining BRIC nations in shielding growth. Stocks rose.

The central bank reduced the cash reserve ratio to 5.5 percent from 6 percent. The move adds around 320 billion rupees ($6.4 billion) into lenders, it said. The central bank left the benchmark repurchase rate at 8.5 percent for a second month.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 24, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rushdie video barred

Novelist Salman Rushdie was denied permission to address the Jaipur Literature Festival through a video-link, festival organisers said on January 24 just before the event, citing security concerns.Worries mounted throughout the day?the last of the five-day festival?that planned protests over the appearance of Rushdie would turn violent.

Rushdie, reacting on Twitter, said: "Threat of violence by Muslim groups stifled free speech today. In a true democracy all get to speak, not just the ones making threats."
< class="text11verdana">Source:, January 25, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-Govt protest intensifies

The continued detention and arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge, Abdulla Mohamed, has sparked violent protests across the capital Male. Anti-Government activists have been protesting in the capital Male against President Mohamed Nasheed and the Government as being anti-Islam.

Protesters in the capital have attacked police vehicles and vandalized the homes of some Ministers, while also attacking six journalists of the state-run Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation. Over 80 protesters have been arrested by the police forces so far.

The Government has expressed concern over the growing religious rhetoric employed by the Opposition parties that has seen a rise in extremism, and has called for a crackdown on all those spreading anti-government messages. Mohamed Jameel, the Vice-President of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), was also re-arrested during the week as the police have begun and investigation against him for allegedly spreading hate-speech by claiming the President and his Government are being influenced by members of other religions in order to weaken the Islamic state.

Meanwhile, Maj Gen Moosa Ali Jaleel, the chief of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh have been summoned to the National Safety Committee (241 Committee), to give statements following the arrest of Judge Abdulla and the ensuing unrest in Male.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, January 21-26, 2012; Miadhu, January 21-26, 2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Judge Abdulla case for ICC

The Judge Abdulla case has been submitted to the UNHRC and the International Criminal Court for review. The case was submitted to the ICC by a team of lawyers defending Judge Abdulla citing the continued detention of the judge as a violation of the International Convention on Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance.

Maumoon Hameed, Judge Abdulla’s lawyer, said that a complaint was filed with the UN Human Rights Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID) to bring international attention to the judge’s enforced detention against judicial and constitutional law and to ensure law enforcement authorities function within the Constitution.

Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) on January 16, and has not been released despite orders form the High Court and the Supreme Court to release him. The judge’s whereabouts were disclosed to the family only 48 hours after his arrest, while he was being detained in the MNDF training facility in Kaafu Atoll Girifush.

Mariam Azra, the President of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), had met with Judge Abdulla and assured that was being well treated by the MNDF.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has filed two cases with Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz regarding the High Court stay orders.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, January 21-26, 2012; Miadhu, January 21-26, 2012.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Haripal Brar;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Astik Sinha and Aarya Venugopal;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: Preeti John;

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