MonitorsPublished on Apr 24, 2015
The draft National Ceasefire Agreement was signed between the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) on March 31. The draft was agreed upon by the two entities in President Thein Sein's presence.
Myanmar: Hope of a ceasefire agreement?
< class="heading1">Analysis The draft National Ceasefire Agreement was signed between the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) on March 31. The draft was agreed upon by the two entities in President Thein Sein’s presence. The draft stands to be tested now and the future of peace in Myanmar. The ceasefire agreement comes following the Union government’s engagement with individual armed ethnic groups. The agreement has been a prerequisite for political dialogue. Thein Sein had proposed that the agreement be reached on February 12, National Union Day, but that was not to happen. Devil is in the detail The first official nationwide ceasefire talks, started in mid-2013 and there have been 7 official ceasefire meetings and 22 unofficial meetings between the NCCT and UPWC. The draft was signed after a week of negotiations at the seventh official ceasefire talks that ended with the agreement reached on 31 March. The attempt at ironing out differences has been the major agenda of such talks. The draft has to be endorsed by all members of the ethnic armed organisations and the Union Peace Central Committee (UPCC), the latter an easy target, former equally difficult. Thein Sein has shown eagerness in reaching the agreement. However, getting all armed organizations to endorse is a tricky thing. A meeting to decide the future of the draft has been called from May 1 by the Ethnic Armed Forces (EAC) in the Wa stronghold of Pangshang. The summit, though not expected to build consensus on the draft agreement would attempt to engage rebel groups outside the NCCT into the peace process. Such groups like the United Wa State Army, the Mongla group and Shan State Army-South and groups that the government refuses to acknowledge as participants in the nationwide ceasefire process namely, Arakan Army and the Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. Both, among the latter group have been engaged an armed tussle with the government. Not enough ground The signing of the peace accord, even though it does not seem obvious now would not automatically result in fostering peace in the civil war torn country. Many such cease-fire agreements in the past have been violated viz. Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in 1989 and the Kachin Independence Army signed a ceasefire in 1994 that lasted 17 years until fighting resumed in 2011. The armed ethnic groups have univocally demanded that they retain their armies post signing of accord, which the Junta-led Thein Sein government is not ready to cede to. Their other demands regarding more sovereignty to decide on natural resources have had a sympathetic ear from the government. Demarcation of territory has been one contentious issue that has not been addressed by the draft National Ceasefire Agreement. In the last few months, the government has launched offensives and seized territory previously held by ethnic armed organisations. If the territory is not returned the ethnic armed organisations will believe that the government intentionally launched offensives and captured territory just before this week’s agreement so that it could justify offering the EAOs less territory as part of the NCA. The road ahead This year being an election year, the government is pushing for amendment before the elections. A six-party meeting was held at Thein Sein’s residence recently, agreed on amending the constitution. Such, developments are also likely to have an impact on the peace process and vice-versa. The future of the signing of the agreement rests on whether the clashes, aggression and conflict to be stopped, as rightly said a member of the NCCT after the draft was endorsed. For this to happen, all stakeholders have to own up responsibility and see the peace accord through. (The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata) < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal: Working with India to restrain human trafficking Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury Nepal has requested India to stop the construction of a road parallel to the 1700-km long shared border as it may cause floods in the country during rainy seasons. The officials have conveyed their concern to their Indian counterparts during the 11th meeting of Nepal-India Joint Border Management concluded in Pokhara on 11 February 2015. Since many rivers flow from Nepal to India, the Indian road project may obstruct the natural flow of these rivers, causing flood on this side, the Nepali officials have argued. Besides, the officials have expressed their anxiety that this new road in the border may increase the incidents of human trafficking in this region. Trans-border problem According to a newspaper report, a human-trafficking racket has been identified by police that supplied young Nepali women to dance bars based in the Middle- East and African countries. In this process India is being used as a transit country. A report released by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), titled "Trafficking in persons", especially on women and children in Nepal 2012-13, reveals that the rate of human trafficking has increased by 60.34 percent in the past one-and-a-half years, which is really alarming. Although accurate figures on trafficking are difficult to find for its clandestine nature, UNICEF estimates that as many as 7,000 women and girls are trafficked out of Nepal to India every year. According to UNICEFs report around 200,000 Nepali women are currently working in Indian brothels. India has traditionally been the major destination for women who are trafficked from Nepal. Mostly, victims are first taken to India and then transferred to its different parts and even trafficked to the Middle-East, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, among a host of other nations. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of India has argued that 6,000 to 8,000 Nepali women between the ages of 20 to 30 years had been trafficked to Dubai via the international Airport of New Delhi until December 2014 for the purpose of prostitution. The CBI has pointed to the presence of a highly-organised trans-national syndicate which traffics the young girls. The modus operandi of this syndicate includes providing these girls with tourist visas to the Middle Eastern countries. Even migrant women workers from Nepal and Bangladesh end up being trafficked. The report (2002) published by a Kathmandu based NGO called National Network against Girl Trafficking (NNAGT) reveals that there are cases where the journey starts as a migrant worker but ends up in brothel primarily because there are no authorized or safe channels for women migrant workers where their employment and payment for their work are guaranteed. In most cases the migration occurs without any legal or authorized documents. Unskilled female workers, between the ages of 9 and 25 years are the most vulnerable group and are often trafficked. Entwined with migration Domestically, there have been significant efforts to prevent trafficking, even if they have not been adequate. In the 2012-13, the women’s cell of the Nepali Police conducted 144 raids on sex and labour-trafficking. In the same period, the Office of the Attorney-General prosecuted 375 persons, of whom 119 traffickers have been convicted. Since trafficking has become closely entwined with migration, increased vigilance on manpower companies and points of egress could help. However, since a vast majority of convictions concern transnational sex trafficking, it needs cross-border negotiation. Since India is a major destination and transit point, Nepal Police must work together with Indian counterpart to restrain trafficking. The country has passed Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act in 2007, which slaps a 20-year sentence for buying or selling a human. The problem, however, is that the Act does not criminalize hiring, transporting, sheltering, or receiving of persons by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labour. This must be changed as it provides plenty of leeway to culprits and does not do enough to deter criminals from committing crimes time and again. Moreover, there are many NGOs and INGOs in and beyond Nepal working on anti-trafficking by raising awareness, lobbying in policy formation, and supporting the rehabilitation of victims. The Nepal government has also appointed officials to different transit areas, particularly along the border with India to carry out raids and inquiries. Nevertheless, the problem persists. Joint border management Against this backdrop, the recently included joint border management meeting has become an event. It has been decided in the meeting that the bordering districts coordination committees will meet more frequently. The chief district officers from Nepal and district magistrates from India have been meeting once every three years to discuss the issues related to border security. The representatives from Nepal has raised the issue of repeated instances of harassment of its citizens by Indian border security personnel and customs officials, to which India has said that it has already directed the concerned agencies against such actions and has requested Nepal to report such incidents to the Indian embassy in the future. Nepal and India also held discussion on possible bilateral security assistance to control criminal activities like human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling, and terrorism from the bordering areas. The two sides identified trafficking of women and children, illegal activities of armed criminal groups, trade of fake currency, management of border pillars, and religious extremism as major areas of concern. The two neighbours also have agreed to make the distribution of SIM cards in both countries more systematic to curb cross-border crimes. India has also agreed to strictly monitor the Nepali nationals boarding flights through its international airports to visit third countries, particularly to the Gulf and African nations. It has also been decided that anyone who acquires visa in India and wants to travel to third countries must secure no-objection letter from the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi. According to Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, joint secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, it is an effort to curb human trafficking and applies to those who attempt to dupe innocent Nepalese by promising them jobs in third countries. Nepali side has also adopted similar policy for the Indian citizens boarding international flights from Kathmandu. After it has become mandatory for Nepali citizens to possess no-objection letter to travel to Gulf countries from India, human traffickers have shifted their transit location to Bangladesh, it has been revealed. The Nepali Embassy in Bangladesh is in contact with hundreds of Nepali women in similar plight.Maiti Nepal, a leading organization working for human trafficking urged the government and stakeholders to take prompt action to prevent the scenario from getting uglier. "If steps are not taken in time, Bangladesh will develop into a transit point just like India," Maiti Nepal President AnuradhaKoirala said. (Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury is a Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkatta Chapter) < class="heading1">Country Reports < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Afghanistan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban’s ’spring offensive’ The Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive - "Azm" or "Revolution". The statement released by the group claimed that the offensive would start on 24 April and would attack military and foreign targets and government officials. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: Taliban announced start of spring offensive" Khaama Press 22 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">New ministers sworn-in An additional 16 Cabinet Ministers were sworn in this week after receiving the vote of confidence from the lower house of the Afghan Parliament. Some of the ministries for which the ministers were sworn in included communication and information technology, education, agriculture and livestock, borders and tribal affairs, energy and water and women affairs. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "16 Cabinet Ministers Sworn In", Tolo News, 21 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU extends mission The European Union Mission in Afghanistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Afghan Ministry of Interior this week extending its police mission in the country by two years. As per the MoU, the EU will continue to provide assistance and training to the Afghan National Police. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "EU Extends Police Mission in Afghanistan", Tolo News, 23 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Illiteracy in police high UNESCO has claimed that up to 70 percent of the Afghan National Police is illiterate. The total number of illiterate officers and personnel amounts to about 60,000. The Afghan Interior Ministry, though confirming the number, has stated that measures are being taken to address this problem. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "60,000 Afghan Police Are Illiterate", Tolo News, 22 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">ISIS, Taliban fight each other In a radio interview, the police chief of southern Helmand province claimed that he received documents from both ISIS and the Afghan Taliban declaring jihad against each other. The police chief also said that whenever there are reports about peace talks between the Taliban and the government, certain intelligence agencies create new groups in an attempt to thwart such efforts. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "ISIS, Taliban announced Jihad against each other" Khaama Press, 20 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Bangladesh < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Attack on Opposition chief The motor case of Khaleda Zia, chief of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was attached during her campaigning for the Dhaka city corporation election. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina termed the incident as a political stunt of Khaleda Zia. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Khaleda motorcade attacked", The Independent, 21 April 2015; "It’s Khaleda’s drama: PM", The Independent, 21 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Water transport pact with India To popularise the waterways between India and Bangladesh the two countries have agreed to share a draft agreement for the regular movement of passenger and cruise vessels. The agreement will be shared soon by the two sides through the diplomatic channel. This decision was taken at a secretary-level talks between the two countries held in the week. Another important outcome was agreement on the extension of Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) with the provision of automatic renewal in line with the proposed amendment to Bangladesh-India trade agreement. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India, Bangladesh draft pact for regular movement of passenger, cruise vessels", The Times of India, 22 April 2015. < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Bhutan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Panel review of budget The nine-member finance committee of the National Assembly (NA) comprising National Assembly MPs would review the budget. A joint parliamentary session in 2014 amended the National Assembly Act, much to the shock of the government. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Nine Member NA Finance Committee Proposed For Reviewing Annual Budget", The Bhutanese, 20 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">US Ambassador visits US Ambassador to India, Richard R Verma, co-accredited to Bhutan visited the country and met Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on 22 April. Verma is said to have discussed US cooperation with Bhutan. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "US Ambassador to India visits Bhutan", Kuensel, 23 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fee for environment Beginning July, the National Environment Commission will start changing an application fee of Nu 500, along with processing fee that would depend on the nature of work for environmental clearances. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "NEC to start levying application and processing fees" Kuensel, 22 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">India < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget session resumes The Lok Sabha resumed on April 20 followed by the Rajya Sabha on April 23. The passing of the Finance Bill, 2015 is of priority as it will conclude the budget-making exercise. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill will be introduced during the session along with the much debated Land Acquisition Bill which will be taken up by the Rajya Sabha. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "As Budget session resumes today, Govt lines up land, GST Bills", The Hindu Business Line, 19 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rahul targets Modi in comeback speech Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for favouring the corporate sector at the expense of the farmer community in Parliament on April 20. Previously, he addressed 70,000 farmers at a rally in New Delhi to mobilise support against the government. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Rahul Gandhi Addresses Mega Farmers’ Rally at Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds", NDTV, 19 April 2015; Rahul Gandhi dishes out blockbuster performance in first Lok Sabha appearance post hiatus", The Economic Times, 21 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Farmer-suicide at AAP rally Gajendra Singh, a farmer from Rajasthan committed suicide at a rally organised by the AamAadmiParty against the Land Acquisition Bill. The Bill has been termed as ’anti-farmer’ by the AAP and opposition parties at the centre. Further, farmers have been distressed due to unseasonal rains resulting in extensive crop damage. The maximum crop damage has been reported in Rajasthan with 45.52 lakh hectares. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Indian farmer kills himself during New Delhi land reform protest", The Guardian, 22 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Youth killed in police firing Police action against unarmed protestors led to the death of a 16 year old boy in Kashmir on 18 April. The protestors had assembled to complain against the arrest of separatist leader Masrat Alam. The police’s preliminary investigation points towards violation of standard procedures of crowd control. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Jammu & Kashmir Police accept lapses in Narbal firing that killed a teenager", The Times of India, 18 April 2015; "Teen Dies During Protests in Kashmir’s Budgam, Magisterial Probe Ordered", NDTV, 18 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak ’heroin boat’ detained The Navy and Coast Guard seized a boat alleged carrying heroin worth Rs 600 crore off the coast of Porbandar on 20 April. It was believed to be manned by eight Pakistani nationals. This is the second such interdiction; an earlier pursuit had led to the boat’s sinking in controversial circumstances. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Two suspicious ’Pak’ boats with heroin seized near Gujarat, 8 held", The Indian Express 20 April 2015; "Coast Guard intercepts Pak boat, seizes Rs 600 crore worth of heroin", Hindustan Times, 21 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Priority sector lending norms revised Reserve Bank of India has expanded priority sector lending by banks in the country, by including medium enterprises, social infrastructure and renewable energy to the existing categories. The lending targets were also revised, and are to be achieved in a phased manner. For small and marginal farmers and micro enterprises the target has been fixed at seven, eight and 7.7 percent respectively, to be achieved by March 2017. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "RBI revamps priority sector lending norms Business Standard 24 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stricter law for juveniles The Union Cabinet approved the introduction of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill which proposes special provisions for tackling heinous crimes committed by a person in the age group of 16-18 years. The Act has received public attention due to the increase in the number of serious offences such as rape and murder being committed by persons between 16-18 and was spurred on by the Nirbhaya rape case in which one of the accused was 17. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Juvenile Justice Act: Government gives nod for proposal to try 16-18 year olds under adult laws", Daily News and Analysis, 22 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Storm kills 55 in Bihar At least 55 persons were killed in Bihar due to severe storms on 21 April. The state suffered extensive crop damage as well; the season’s maize crop was lost completely. This exacerbates the condition of farmers who have already suffered losses due to unexpected rains. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "55 Dead, Over 80 Injured in Storm-Hit Bihar", NDTV, 24 April 2015; "Storm in Bihar kills 44 people, causes widespread damage to crops", The Times of India, 23 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Maldives < class="heading12boldGeorgia">’No-return’ rally on May Day In what seems to be a possible repeat of the ’December 23 movement’ rally against then President Mohammed Nasheed in 2011-12, the combined Opposition headed by his MDP and demanding his release from prison, has called for a peaceful protest rally on May Day. Reflective of the ’December 23 movement’, religion-centred Adhaalath Party (AP) chief Sheikh Imran has called upon the civil society to join the rally and also declared that the protestors would not go home until the Government invited them for peace negotiations. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Opposition invites civil society to join anti-government May Day rally", Minivan News, 23 April 2015; "Coalition calls all NGOs to stand against the govt tyranny", Miadhu, 24 April 2015; "Sheikh Ilyas calls not to obey oppressors", Miadhu, 24 April 2015; "Rights of Allah are violated in the penal code- Sheikh Ilyas", Miadhu, 24 April 2015; "Nothing unconstitutional will happen on Mayday special rally- Sheikh Imran", Miadhu, 22 April 2015; "Only solution is for the people to come out against govt tyranny- Ibu", Miadhu, 22 April 2015; "MPs of MDP stops parliament without megaphones", SunOnline, 21 April 2015; "Police: Activities that encourage terrorism will not be tolerated", SunOnline, 21 April 2015; "Adheeb: Date after date would pass, nothing would happen on May-Day", SunOnline, 23 April 2015; "Tourism minister challenges opposition to a confrontation on May Day", Minivan News, 19 April 2015; "Maldives human rights situation ’rapidly deteriorating’", Minivan News, 23 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Yameen unrelenting President Abdulla Yameen continued to maintain a tough posture on the Opposition front, refusing to yield to calls for clemency and freedom for jailed predecessor Mohammed Nasheed. He has also indicated unwillingness on the part of the Government to negotiate with the Jumhooree Party founder Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group, on the claims of $ 90-million revenue dues, which the latter continues to say it does not owe. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "President Yameen remains defiant as calls grow for Nasheed’s release", Minivan News, 18 April 2015; "President Yamin unwilling to negotiate on Villa case", Haveeru Online, 19 April 2015; "Gasim’s Villa refuses to pay ’unlawful’ US$90m fine",Minivan News, 19 April 2015; "Gasim appeals Majlis to protect the rights of investors", Miadhu, 19 April 2015; "Qasim: I’m against collecting rent in one payment even if islands are given for a long term", SunOnline, 19 April 2015; "Action will be taken against Villa if 90 million dollars is not paid- Mira",Miadhu, 20 April 2015; "Freezing accounts of Villa will be the worst decision of govt- Sheikh Imran", Miadhu, 20 April 2015; "We will freeze the govt if they freeze the accounts of Gasim- Ali Waheed", Minivan News, 20 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kill-bid on Nasheed denied Even while transferring imprisoned former President Mohammed Nasheed from police custody to a prison cell before housing him in a ’specially-built’ apartment-jail, the Government has denied his MDP’s ’slanderous’ charge of a plot to assassinate him while in custody. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Government dismisses ’slanderous’ allegation of plot to assassinate Nasheed", Minivan News, 23 April 2015; "’Powerful anesthetics to be used against Nasheed’", Haveeru Online, 23 April 2015; "Nasheed, Nazim, and Tholhath kept in ’large apartment’", Haveeru Online, 23 April 2015; "Ex-president transferred to jail", Minivan News, 21 April 2015; "New regulations require inmates to shower twice a day", Minivan News, 21 April 2015; "MDP’s Ibrahim Shareef calls on party to appeal Nasheed’s case", SunOnline, 22 April 2015; "Committee passes bill that would keep Nasheed as a member but lose the party’s presidency", SunOnline, 22 April 2015; "Chief judge praises criminal court over Nasheed’s trial",Minivan News, 18 April 2015; "’Criminal Court judges require heftier security’", Haveeru Online, 18 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Military pact with China In a bid to strengthen the nation’s military, President Abdulla Yameen’s Government has signed an agreement with China, for $-64-million aid and assistance. The details of the usage of the Chinese funding would be finalised by the Defence Ministers of the two countries, it was announced. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "China and Maldives enter MVR 64 mn military agreement", Haveeru Online, 21 April 2015; "Maldives considered GMR buyout, but lacked funds", Minivan News, 22 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Myanmar < class="heading12boldGeorgia">ASEAN must protect Rohingya An Inter-governmental body, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights in their report released called for heads of ASEAN nations to protect the Rohingya in Myanmar. The body’s report said that the Rohingyas are at risk of atrocity crimes. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "ASEAN must protect Rohingya, says panel" Democratic Voice of Burma, 23 April 2015; "Parliamentarians call on ASEAN to Address Rohingya crisis", Mizzima, 22 April, 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt. hires US lobbyists to change image The Myanmar government hired Washington-based Podesta Group signing a contract worth US$ 8,00,000. The contract comes ahead of the Presidential elections to be held in October or November this year. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Myanmar hires US lobbyists ahead of elections", Mizzima, 18 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Armed ethnic groups to meet Twelve armed ethnic groups would attend summit in Panghshang, nerve-centre of ethnic group United Wa State Army will attend the Ethnic Armed Forces Summit on 1 May. There are 16 armed ethnic groups in the National Ceasefire Coordination Team that is negotiating peace with the United Nationalities Federation Council, a government body. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "12 ethnic armed organisations to attend summit in Pangshang", Eleven Myanmar 20 April 2015 "Rebel Summit in Wa Area to Discuss Ceasefire, Decision on Accord to Follow", The Irrawaddy, 20 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Nepal < class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Constitution by mid-July Based on an agreement among major three parties, the CA meeting slated for Thursday afternoon will unveil a new timetable for enforcing the much-awaited new statute. According to the CA calendar prepared by second-rung leaders of three parties in presence of CA Chairman Subas Nembang, the CA will commence voting on April 30 and promulgate constitution on July 16. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "New CA calendar plans statute on July 16", Republica, 23 April 2015; "’New constitution by mid-July’", Republica, 23 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade with Bangladesh Nepal has agreed to provide preferential treatment to 50 Bangladeshi items at the two-day bilateral talks which began on Wednesday. Officials at the Ministry of Commerce and Supply said Nepal agreed to reduce the customs duty on the selected products. Bangladesh had been seeking duty free access to 64 of its products, including fish, medicines, jute and juice, in the Nepali market. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal to cut customs on 50 B’deshi items", eKantipur, 23 April 2015; "Nepal-Bangladesh trade talks slated to start on Wednesday", eKantipur, 20 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Accident claims 17 Indians An Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft on Thursday airlifted the bodies and also the survivors of Wednesday’s bus accident from Kathmandu to Ahemdabad. An Indian bus carrying Indian pilgrims had crashed into a gorge along the Prithivi Highway in Dhading district, killing 17 people and injuring 28 others. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "IAF plane airlifts victims to India", eKantipur, 24 April 2015; "Bodies of Nepal accident victims brought to Ahmedabad", Business Standard, 24 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arts MoU with India A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and the Lalit Kala Akademi, India, during the Nepal-India Art Exchange Programme held at the NAFA premises in Naxal on Thursday. Through the memorandum, the two institutions hope to promote and strengthen the field of art and culture in both countries. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Nepal-India arts MoU signed", eKantipur, 24 April 2014; "India, Nepal to work together in arts, culture", The Times of India, 23 April 2014 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Pakistan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">MQM sweeps Karachi by-polls The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) swept the by-polls in Karachi, retaining the National Assembly seat NA-246. The party beat its main contenders by a huge margin. The polls showed a shift in the political demography of the constituency as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) replaced the Jamat-e-Islami (JI) as the second strongest party. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "MQM retains NA-246", The Nation, 24 April 2015; "Official results announced, landslide victory for MQM in NA-246", The News International, 24 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Solidarity with KSA Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh and discussed the situation in Yemen as well as matters of mutual interest. During the meeting at the King’s Palace, he reiterated Pakistan’s solidarity with the kingdom. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "PM reiterates solidarity with KSA" The Nation, 24 April 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Completing Chinese projects During the weekly press briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said that Pakistan and China are both determined to complete each and every project that has been signed. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Pakistan, China to complete every project signed: FO", The Nation, 24 April 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Sri Lanka < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Basil held on graft charge Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother and erstwhile ministerial colleague, Basil Rajapaksa, has been arrested on allegations of graft while in power and remanded to custody. Their brother and former Defence and Urban Development Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, was questioned in another case, while President Rajapaksa has been summoned for interrogation in a corruption case on ministerial appointment, leading to his cancelling a one-on-one rapprochement talks with President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday evening. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Basil Rajapaksa and Dr. Jayatilake arrested over alleged fraud", The Island, 22 April 2015; "Basil in hospital", Ceylon Today, 23 April 2015; "Basil transferred to National Hospital", The Island, 23 April 2015; "NFF says Basil committed irregularities", The Island, 23 April 2015; "Basil claimed parliamentary immunity - Govt. Divineguma Fraud", The Island, 24 April 2015; "Basil returns from US to face police financial crimes probe", The Island, 21 April 2015; "Mahinda cancels one-on-one with Maithripala to protest harassment of Rajapaksas", The Island, 24 April 2015; "It’s all part of political witch-hunt: Mahinda", Colombo Mirror, 22 April 2015; "MR challenges govt. to reveal ’secret bank accounts’, ... frowns on US, Indian agencies", The Island, 19 April 2015; "If I can’t appoint a Minister, I don’t need such a post-MR", Daily Mirror Online, 21 April 2015; "Magisterial order banning pro-Gota demo defied Police vow to take action against protest leaders", The Island, 23 April 2015; "Gota sees some elements in govt out to tarnish his image", The Island, 21 April 2015; "GL accuses Bribery DG of targeting Gota at the behest of govt", The Island, 22 April 2015; "Over 100 opp MPs ask for removal of Bribery DG for abuse of power", The Island, 21 April 2015; "Bribery DG won’t be replaced - Justice Minister ’Former President and UNP Gen Secy violated Presidential Election Act’’", The Island, 24 April 2015; "Opp to move no faith motion against FM", The Island, 21 April 2015; < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poll declaration soon Egged on by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP-led government, President Maithripala Sirisena from the bête noire SLFP, is said to be veering round to dissolving Parliament early on, to order fresh polls, which alone is hoped to help end the engulfing political deadlock and impasse. With expectations still of a linkage between the dissolution decision and the parliamentary passage for pending 19th Amendment and planned/promised 20th Amendment, the latter on electoral reforms, the SLFP ’Opposition’ has planned to submit amendment to the former when Parliament takes it up for discussion and vote, possibly in the coming week. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Parliament to be dissolved on April 28 ?. if Opposition blocks passage of 19 A", The Island, 22 April 2015; "Next election only after electoral reforms: UPFA", Daily Mirror Online, 22 April 2015; "President calls for unanimous passage of 19A", The Island, 23 April 2015; "Both 19A and 20A to be voted together", The Island, 21 April 2015; "PM refuses to combine 19A, 20A", Colombo Gazette, 23 April 2015; "Kerry amazed after seeing 100-day programme-Rajitha", Daily Mirror Online, 24 April 2015; "JVP to take to the streets to force passage of 19A Holds President Sirisena responsible for failure to pass it", The Island, 23 April 2015; "Catholic Bishops call for passing of 19A", The Island, 23 April 2015; "We will submit changes to 19A: GL", Daily Mirror Online,25 April 2015; "Right to Information Bill referred to SC", The Island, 24 April 2015 < style="font-size: large;">Primary Documentation < style="font-size: medium;">Bhutan First Better Business Council Meeting, Bhutan Ministry of Economic Affairs, 24 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">India Lok Sabha begins second part of Budget session on April 20; Rajya Sabha three days later, Press Information Bureau, Government of India, 19 April 2015 P Chidambaram (former Home and Finance Minister), "Across the Aisle: The bugle has been sounded", The Indian Express, 19 April 2015 Speech by Minister of State for External Affairs at Ministerial Meeting of 60th Asian African Conference Commemoration and 10th anniversary of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership in Jakarta, Indonesia, Ministry of External Affairs, 20 April 2015 PM condoles the death of farmer Gajendra, Press Information Bureau, Government of India, 22 April 2015 Amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, The Prime Minister’s official website, 22 April 2015 Speech by External Affairs Minister at the Asian African Summit 2015, Ministry of External Affairs, 22 April 2015 Speech by External Affairs Minister at inauguration of Indian Mission to ASEAN, Ministry of External Affairs, 23 April 2015 Priority Sector Lending- Targets and Classification, Reserve Bank of India, 23 April 2015 Brinda Karat (Member, CPM), "The Vizag line", The Indian Express, 23 April 2015 Feroze Varun Gandhi (Member of Parliament, BJP), "What makes cities really smart", The Hindu, 24 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Myanmar Asian African Summit concludes upholding Bandung principles, Myanmar President’s Office, 24 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Nepal Press Release on conclusion of Asian-African Conference Commemoration 2015 in Jakarta, Indonesia, Ministry of External Affairs, Nepal, 23 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Pakistan Prime Minister visits Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 24 April 2015 Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 23rd April 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 23 April 2015 Pakistan Welcomes End of Air Campaign in Yemen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 22 April 2015 Visit of the President of Pakistan to Turkey 23-24 April, 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 22 April 2015 Joint Statement between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China on Establishing the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 20 April 2015 Situation in IOK, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 19 April 2015 Pakistan condemns Terrorist attack in Jalalabad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 18 April 2015 Curtain Raiser - President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, 17 April 2015 < style="font-size: large;">Bibliography < style="font-size: medium;">Afghanistan Reports Rod Nordland and Jawad Sukhanyar, "Taliban are Said to Target Hazaras to Try to Match ISIS’ Brutality", The New York Times, 22 April 2015 Kate Clark and Borhan Osman "First wave of IS attacks? Claim and denial over the Jalalabad bombs", Afghanistan Analysts Network 22 April 2015 Opinion Pieces Suhasini Haidar, "In step with Ghani’s Afghanistan", The Hindu, 24 April 2015 Farhad Peikar, "Afghanistan tries to strike balance in escalating Iran-Saudi rivalry", The Guardian, 22 April 2015 "Islamic State in Afghanistan: Raising the black flag?", The Economist, 21 April 2015 Nancy A Youssef, "ISIS Now Says It Didn’t Bomb Afghanistan", The Daily Beast, 21 April 2015 Aryaman Bhatnagar, "Ashraf Ghani’s Taliban Predicament", The Diplomat, 20 April 2015 Carlos Munoz and John Harper, "Intelligence gaps may help Islamic State gain foothold in Afghanistan", Stars and Stripes, 20 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bangladesh Opinion Pieces Rainer Ebert, "Rana Plaza and senseless deaths from poverty" Dhaka Tribune, 24 April 2015 Book Reviews Ghulam Muhammed Quader, "Political Parties in Bangladesh: Challenges of Democratisation" (Author: Dr Raunaq Jahan), The Daily Star, 20 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bhutan Opinion Pieces Kuensel, "Employment dilemma?" Kuensel, 23 April 2015 The Bhutanese, "Private Sector Blues", The Bhutanese, 20 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">India Opinion Pieces V. S. Subrahmanian et al, "No more carrots, only sticks", The Hindu, 18 April 2015 Suhas Palshikar, "Can it hit the road?" The Indian Express, 21 April 2015 Shiv Visvanathan, "Three speeches, three futures", The Hindu, 23 April 2015 Mohan K. Tikku, "Kashmir’s real sangbaz", The Asian Age, 24 April 2015 "RBI changes priority sector lending norms", The Times of India, 24 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Maldives Opinion Pieces N Sathiya Moorthy, "Maldives: Development supplementing or substituting democracy?",, 20 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Myanmar Opinion Pieces Aung Zaw, Rehabilitating Burma’s Cronies" The Irrawaddy, 24 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Nepal Opinion Pieces Kanak Mani Dixit, "Nepal and the Nordics", eKantipur, 24 April 2015 Navin Singh Khadka, "For What People?", eKantipur, 24 April 2015 Hari Bansha Jha, "Missing the Plot", Republica, 21 April 2015 Vikash Raj Satyal, "Water Politics", Republica, 21 April 2015 Krishna Pathak, "Challenges Galore", Republica, 21 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Pakistan Opinion Pieces The Editorial Board, "China’s Big Plunge in Pakistan", The New York Times, 23 April 2015 "A friend comes calling", The Hindu, 23 April 2015 Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, "China Loves Pakistan... but Most Chinese Don’t", Foreign Policy, 22 April 2015 Pervez Hoodbhoy, "Pakistan, the Saudis’ Indispensable Nuclear Partner", The New York Times, 21 April 2015 Bina Shah, "Sufism won’t solve Pakistan’s problems", Al Jazeera, 20 April 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Sri Lanka N Sathiya Moorthy, "TNA joins Colombo to pour cold water on Tamil Nadu fishers’ proposals",, 24 April 2015 Gomin Dayasiri, "An election is on without a party...Is MR geared for one?", Daily Mirror Online, 22 April 2015 Lynn Ockersz, "Indo-Lanka relations and regional fence-mending", The Island, 22 April 2015 Jehan Perera, "Requirement for Tamil contribution to sustainable national change", The Island, 20 April 2015 N Sathiya Moorthy, "Taking the national government forward", The Sunday Leader, 19 April 2015 < class="brown12verdana">Contributors: Afghanistan : Aryaman Bhatnagar; Bangladesh : Joyeeta Bhattacharjee; Bhutan & Myanmar : Mihir Bhonsale; India: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti and Shruti Gupta; Maldives & Sri Lanka : N Sathiya Moorthy; Nepal : Pratnashree Basu ; Pakistan : Taruni Kumar
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