MonitorsPublished on Feb 07, 2014
The military-led government in Myanmar, emerging from over a half century of absolutist rule, stands blemished following reports about the killing of over 49 Rohingya Muslims in the north-western part of the country.
Myanmar: Past haunts over-cautious junta
< class="heading1">Analysis

The military-led government in Myanmar, emerging from over a half century of absolutist rule, stands blemished following reports about the killing of over 49 Rohingya Muslims in the north-western part of the country. In four separate incidents in the second week of January, it was alleged that some of these killings were carried out by the police. According to reports, the government instead of acting against the perpetrators of the gory crime went on a denial-mode and accused UN and non-governmental organisations of false-reporting. The over-cautious approach of the government from time-to-time in damage-control has ended up as a faux pas. It also goes against the Government’s claims to progress in brokering peace in the country.

The government’s complacency in not halting the assaults on Rohingya Muslims is more than obvious from the fresh incidents of violence in Rakine state, which has seen hundreds of Rohingya deaths and thousands being displaced since 2012. What is even more startling is the government’s continued denial of violence, and accusing UN and human rights watchdogs of mis-representing facts.

No country can claim ascendency to the altar of democracy that obscures and even suppresses monitoring by inter-governmental bodies like the UN and human rights watch-dogs. The Myanmarese government’sl handling of human rights violations has been far from satisfactory and conflict-resolution strategies have been ineffective.

Allegations of the complicity of the police in the killings have again exposed the administration to the need for reforms in the police force. It has often been found that the police have been inefficient and at times even inactive in halting violence against the Rohingya Muslims. The army has been found more effective in clamping down violence.

However, the government now proposes to provide better weapons to the Rakhine state police. Precedents involving poor equipment leading to ineffective policing at the outbreak of anti-minority violence have at times contributed to complicity and/or charges of such complicity.

It has been reported that Du Chee Yar Tan village from where a policeman is said to have gone missing in the January incident has been sealed off and many villagers arrested as a collective punishment for being responsible for the reported death of a policeman. This is denial of natural justice and shows the high-handedness of the government against ethnic minorities.

International problem

The continued persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar has given it an international dimension. The UN has already appealed Myanmar to consider granting citizenship to the Rohingya community. Many other countries, including international actors like the US and the UK, have repeatedly appealed to Myanmar for halting the violence against Rohingyas.

As a chair of the Association of South East Asian Countries (ASEAN), Myanmar cannot hide the continued targeting of Rohingyas as countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have received a mass exodus of them in recent years. Myanmar owes an answer to ASEAN nations on its failure to settle the Rohingya problem.

The government’s success in bringing other armed ethnic groups on the negotiations table would be over-shadowed if the Rohingya’s are continued to be prosecuted in Myanmar. Unity in re-building the nation has become almost a catch-line for the leaders in the country riding on the confidence on the progress made so far in negotiations with armed ethnic groups. At a time when Myanmar is discussing amendments to the 2008 Constitution and even selectively accommodating the demands of ethnic groups, un-democratic and black laws like the 1982 Citizenship Act prohibiting a hard-working minority like Rohingyas from citizenship, cannot be left without revision.

No nation can wield the national sovereignty argument when xenophobia has become the order of the day in this time and age when persecution of a community might have serious ramifications anywhere, anytime. Myanmar needs to respect the safety and security concerns of other nations and act swiftly in resolving the Rohingya problem which is also highly its national interest.

Burying the ghost

The government must realise that the Rohingyas’ claim for citizenship is as justified as the country’s diverse ethnic groups’ demand for autonomy. The Junta has to confront the history which evidences enough ground for granting citizenship to the Rohingyas.

The Junta would have to get over the repressive ways of handling dissent which it has only perfected in over the 50 years of ruling the country with an iron fist. The junta regime has not just persecuted the ethnic minorities but many Burmese nationals who had having their origins countries like India.

As the country accords importance for development in the country by attracting foreign investment and raise its head as a global actor, Myanmar cannot afford to let the people of the country relive their ugly past. The government in order to stop persecution of Rohingyas must work in tandem with nations and world community to help emerge out from the crisis.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata).

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal : Need for maintaining India-China equilibrium

Pratnashree Basu

As Nepal inches closer towards a functional government and the prospect of a new Constitution to direct the country’s domestic and foreign policies, neighbouring countries are revisiting their ties with Nepal. And the most prominent country to take significant steps to strengthening relations with Nepal is China.

Nepal has been strongly in support of the ’one China’ principle and has continued to restrain any anti-China sentiment from taking root within its territory. The country has also taken steps in curbing anti-China protests by Tibetans living in and trying to further their activism from Nepal. China in turn has been systematically offering financial aid and assistance to Nepal in various sectors.

During the major part of 2013 when Nepal was going through a tumultuous period of negotiating for political common ground, high-level visits to the country by Chinese delegations supported and urged the leaders of different political parties to come to an agreement regarding the need for elections to the constituent assembly and the consequent drafting of a new constitution. As is the nature of foreign relations maintained by China with other countries, economic association with Nepal has been cultivated with care. In the first six months of the current fiscal year between July and December, Chinese investment in its southern neighbor reached $174 million rise with Chinese FDI in Nepal surpassing that of India, which has for long remained the primary source of FDI for Nepal.

While the strategic significance of Nepal was never lost on China, the anticipation of a long awaited political stability being in place soon is holding great promise for China and China is acting on it swiftly. Dhruba Lal Rajbanshi, an official at the Nepali Department of Industry, said to Xinhua that, "As the political course took positive shape following the Constituent Assembly election, the Chinese investors have introduced huge amount of FDI." In a regional setup where Chinese presence is largely been interpreted as more domineering than demure, there is a need to take a step back and observe the scenario that is unfolding.

For a country like Nepal which is striving to secure its foothold following a protracted period of political disturbances, economic as well as political backing from a major power in the region like China is no doubt welcome. However, it is on the other hand a not so promising scenario for a country like India which has a difficult relationship at best with China. The issue of Chinese contribution to FDI in Nepal exceeding that of India comes at a time when India is enhancing its ties with Japan.

India has recently invited Japanese investment in the northeastern region of the country, an area where China has repeatedly tried to extend its influence to. The northeastern states, especially Arunachal Pradesh have a disputed border as well as competing territorial claims between India and China and the latter has and is trying in various ways including via diplomatic endeavours to gain entry into the region. In this backdrop, the increased presence of China in Nepal is cause for consideration.

What is more striking about these recent developments is that unlike previously, China is now being forthright about its objectives. At a programme organised by the Nepal World Relations Council in January, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Wu Chuntai said that China hopes for peace and development in Nepal, adding that China has established Nepal as a strategic partner.

But while financial aid may be a necessity, it should not be allowed to become an obligatory system requiring one to toe the line of the aid giver. While China may be a promising neighbour, Nepal cannot afford to give the former too much leeway and thus take its relations with India down a slippery slope. Hence along with solidifying the domestic setup of the country, there is also a need for Nepal to perform a balancing act.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ICP construction speedened

The process of establishing Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) in four major customs points along the Nepal-India border has gained momentum. India agreed in 2009 to support the establishment of ICPs in Biratnagar, Birgunj, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj customs points on the Nepali side with designs similar to those in the Indian side of the respective customs points.

Both neighbors had agreed to develop ICPs to facilitate bi-lateral trade through the Biratnagar-Jogbani, Birgunj-Raxaul, Bhairahawa-Sunauli and Nepalgunj- Rupaidiha entry points. "The construction of ICPs has already begun in Birgunj and land acquisition for the other proposed ICPs has been completed," Nabaraj Dhakal, the under-secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS), said on 6 February.

The planned ICPs would house all regulatory agencies like immigration, customs and border security along with support facilities like parking, warehousing, banking and hotels under a single complex equipped with all modern facilities. The ICPs are envisaged to provide all facilities required to enable smooth cross-border movement of individuals, vehicles and goods under an integrated complex. India has already constructed ICPs in Jogbani, Raxaul, Sunauli and Rupaidiha on its side.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 7 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poll may delay govt formation

As the vote in parliament for choosing the new prime minister scheduled for February 10 nears, the negotiations for power-sharing between the two largest parties -- Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML -- are likely to get tougher in the next couple of days. Talks on forming a new government have become more challenging as the UML has been consistently insisting on holding fresh elections for president and vice-president.

However, the Nepali Congress (NC) has firmly stood against a new election for president. But if the public statements of key UML leaders are any indication, they are not going to easily give up the party´s stance on fresh election of the president.

Party insiders privy to the latest developments believe that with the UML leaders insisting on a new presidency and a section of NC leaders opting for a coalition partner other than UML, government-formation may get delayed. Though UCPN (Maoist) leaders have been saying in public that the party was for staying in Opposition, the party has kept open the option of joining the government.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 6 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Date fixed for PM poll

The Parliament Secretariat on February 5 made public the detailed schedule for the election to pick the new prime minister. According to a statement issued by the Parliament Secretariat, nominations for the prime ministerial race will be filed on February 8 and 9 and the final list of the contenders will be made public at 5 pm on February 9.

The election has been slated for 11 am on February 10, the statement read. The Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of the Constituent Assembly on Tuesday recommended February 10 as the date to elect a new prime minister. The Parliament Secretariat will unveil details for the holding of the election after an official announcement on Wednesday.

The BAC made the recommendation a day after President Ram Baran Yadav wrote a letter to the Secretariat directing to initiate the process of electing a prime minister as per Article 38 (2) of the Interim Constitution 2007.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kantipur, 5 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Incentives for farm labour

The Nepal government has introduced an incentive package for agriculture enterprises and animal husbandry in a bid to restrict the soaring number of youths leaving the country for foreign jobs. Nepal’s ministry of agriculture development introduced a guideline, according to which youths willing to start commercial farming or cattle rearing would be offered a subsidy of Nepali Rs.40,000-400,000, according to the officials.

The government had announced this subsidy programme in its annual budget for the current fiscal year. Currently 1,500 youths leave the country every day in search of foreign jobs. Though agriculture is the greatest contributor to Nepal’s gross domestic product, the sector has been neglected by the youths who are rather willing to work under adverse environment abroad.

The ministry would provide up to 50 percent of the fund to the youths during the initiation of their businesses while the rest would be offered on instalment basis upon review of the success of the project. According to the ministry, 25 districts recording higher vegetable production and other 47 districts having greater contribution in fish farming have been prioritised for the package.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 5 February 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sectarian leader in US terror list

The US has added the founder of a banned Pakistani militant group to its list of global terrorists. The US blamed Malik Ishaq, who is the founding member and leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, for the deaths of hundreds of Pakistanis.

The LeJ is banned Sunni Muslim organisation that is dedicated to killing or driving out Pakistan’s minority Shia Muslims.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 7 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt begins talks with Taliban

The first round of peace talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government began in Islamabad on 6 February 2014 after persistent delays. The talks got off to a bad start with the government negotiators failing to turn up at the agreed time on 4 February 2014. In a statement after the meeting, the two sides stressed their commitment to dialogue.

According to Imran Khan, the chairperson of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the peace negotiations will probably fail and result in a military operation which would lead to more violence. There is a lot of scepticism about the success of the talks. The TTP has given its negotiators the authority to agree to a ceasefire if the government agrees to halt troop deployment.

Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid has said that the government committee was taking into consideration the demand by the Taliban committee to meet the Prime Minister, army chief and director general Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 6 February 2014; The Express Tribune, 7 February 2014;, 7 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US curtails drone-strikes

The US has cut back sharply on drone strikes in Pakistan after the Islamabad government asked for restraint while it sought peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. The Obama administration has indicated that it would continue to carry out strikes on senior al Qaeda officials if they were to become available or if they posed any immediate threat to Americans.

Pakistan has said that it wants a complete halt of US drone strikes and not just a reduction in the frequency. According to the Foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, Pakistan’s believes that drone strikes are unacceptable as they kill innocent people and are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 5 February 2014; The Express Tribune, 6 February 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President warns against ’foreign forces’

"If we had not eradicated terrorism in 2009, children in the North would not have been able to attend school or enter universities as freely as they do today," Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said at the 66th Independence Day celebrations in Kegalle.

In the same vein, he condemned the "sinister designs of foreign forces, who were again attempting to use people of the North as human-shields", and said, "The invaders always came to our country shedding oceans of crocodile tears. They interfered in these countries putting forward claims to protect human rights, establish democracy and the Rule of Law."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 4 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gotabhya says Biswal ignorant

Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said that visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Biswal wouldn’t have declared that Sri Lanka’s human rights record had deteriorated five years after the conclusion of the conflict if she had been properly briefed by the US embassy in Colombo. Biswal had been totally ignorant about the situation in the country as she was misinformed, he said in an interview.

An American of Indian origin, Biswal succeeded Robert Blake recently. She met the Defence Secretary before visiting Jaffna, where she held talks with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) representatives, including Ananthi Sashitharan, wife of LTTE ’missing’ terrorist Elilan.

The US official was critical of attacks on religious minorities as well as intimidation of local residents who complained that they were intimidated after they spoke with visiting foreign dignitaries to discuss Sri Lanka’s rights issues.

"Respect for human rights and a promotion of transparent and democratic governance are essential. Unfortunately, continued deterioration in these areas is already beginning to take its toll on democracy in Sri Lanka," she said.

Secretary Gota Rajapaksa said that Biswal hadn’t been able to comprehend that the Northern Provincial Council elections couldn’t be held until the defeat of the LTTE, though the elections were held on November 19, 1988 to the then temporarily merged North-Eastern provincial Council under the supervision of the Indian army.

Rajapaksa said that Biswal hadn’t been aware of the nexus between the LTTE and the TNA and the circumstances under which the latter had to call a media conference in Colombo to recognise the terrorist group as the ’sole representative ’of the Tamil-speaking people. The TNA’s relationship with the LTTE had been highlighted by the EU, following the parliamentary polls in December 2001, the Defence Secretary said.

In fact, the EU election monitoring mission alleged that the TNA benefited from pre-parliamentary poll violence perpetrated by the LTTE, he said adding, Biswal could obtain a copy from the EU, he said.

In spite of being the main beneficiary of the LTTE’s battlefield defeat, the TNA continued to attack the Government on the human rights front, the Defence Secretary said, adding that he regretted the US was giving credence to baseless allegations and lies propagated by the political grouping.

Recalling the circumstances under which the TNA on behalf of the LTTE ordered Tamil-speaking people not to exercise their franchise in the 17 November 2005 presidential polls, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that had the US Embassy bothered to examine the gradual increase in the number of voters in the Northern Province since the defeat of the LTTE, it would have been able to advise Biswal.

The Defence Secretary said that he had informed Biswal of the increase in Northern votes since the eradication of terrorism. He noted that the Northern Provincial Council polls had been held in peaceful environment. He asked whether it would have been possible if the Government had allowed Tamil parties to carry weapons.

Responding to allegations that religious minorities were being targeted, the Defence Secretary asked whether a Government in its right mind would sponsor attacks on minorities knowing the impact on its voter-base. No sane political leader would allow attacks on minorities, the Defence Secretary said, insisting that an attempt was being made to portray isolated incidents as a project undertaken by the Government.

The likes of Biswal would never realise how the LTTE influenced violence abroad. The Norwegian who had massacred over 80 people in Oslo in June 2011 had declared that he was following the LTTE attacks directed at Muslims in Northern and Eastern districts of Sri Lanka, the Defence Secretary said.

Referring to the recent strip-searching of an Indian diplomat in the US arrested on charge of fraud, the Defence Secretary said that Sri Lanka had never resorted to such measures even at the height of the war in spite of the LTTE using female suicide cadres to target high-profile political targets. Today, one of those who had encouraged women cadres, Adele Balasingham lived in the UK, without being held accountable for her crimes, he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 4 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US in touch with India on UNHRC

Amidst speculation that India would not back a third US resolution on accountability issues including alleged war crimes against the Sri Lankan government at next month’s UNHRC sessions, the US says that it is very much in touch with New Delhi.

Nisha Biswal, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, talking to newsmen in Colombo at the conclusion of her two-day official visit when she met Government, Opposition, religious and civil society leaders said that she was in constant touch with Indian diplomats, both in Washington and New Delhi.

"We talk with India on a regular basis. I am going from here directly to Geneva, where further consultations would be held with the Indian envoy there," she replied when asked if the US had sought New Delhi’s support in the run up to presenting its third ’accountability’ resolution against the Rajapaksa government.

Asked if the US would present a specific ’war crimes’ resolution against the Sri Lanka security forces, Biswal noted that it was too soon to say what the text might include, but it would be carried out in a spirit of friendship.

She said that her concerns about the insufficient progress in resolving issues emanating from the ethnic conflict which ended in May 2009 had been conveyed to senior Government representatives.

"Patience is wearing thin with the pace of progress including implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)," Biswal observed. She said that justice, reconciliation and accountability were key elements for achieving an inclusive, peaceful and unified Sri Lanka.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 4 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Northern Muslims seek Indian housing

More than 1,200 Muslims took part in an agitation in Vavuniya, demanding a share in the houses being donated by India for war-victims in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

They demanded that more Indian housing assistance be extended to them as well as they had been robbed of their properties and driven away by the LTTE. The protests which began at Vavuniya Gamini Sinhala School, soon spilled over into the streets.

Protesters also signed a public petition addressed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister of India Salman Khurshid to help the displaced Muslims as well.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 6 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anura Kumara, new JVP leader

JVP parliamentary group leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake has been unanimously elected as the new party leader at its seventh convention held in Colombo. He succeeds Somawansa Amarasinghe, who served as the Leader of the JVP from 1994 after demise of the founder leader Rohana Wijeweera in 1989.

Dissanayake was the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Lands and Irrigation in the UPFA government under then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga from 2004 to 2005.

General Secretary Tilvin Silva was re-elected at the convention and a new post called National Organiser was awarded to Bimal Ratnayake.

The JVP media team said that former leader Somawansa Amarasinghe was elected the International Affairs Secretary, Vijitha Herath the Propaganda Secretary, K. D. Lalkantha the Administrative Secretary and Sunil Handunnetti the Finance Secretary.

The post of Finance Secretary was earlier held by Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

Two new members were elected to the party Politburo. Two new members are Bimal Ratnayake and Sunil Handunnetti. Other members of the Politburo are Somawansa Amarasinghe, Tilvin Silva, Anura Dissanayake, Vijitha Herath and K D Lalkantha.

The Central Committee’s strength was also increased by five. The new Central Committee of 30 Members was also elected unanimously. The policy framework of the JVP under the theme ’Our Vision’ was adopted unanimously at the convention.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 5 February 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Campaign on for presidential poll

The Afghan Presidential campaign officially started on 2 February. According to the election law, the campaign is meant to last till 2 April. The campaign for candidates of the provincial elections is to start in the first week of March.

As part of the campaign, five presidential candidates - Abdullah Abdullah, Qayum Karzai, Zalmai Rassoul, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdul Rahim Wardak - participated in the first live televised debate on February 4, where each of them answered questions on security, women’s rights, corruption and the future of US-Afghan relations.

All five candidates supported the peace process, but only with factions, who were interested in genuine peace talks and could sever ties with al Qaeda. As far as the issue of security was concerned, the emphasis was laid on enhancing the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces and reducing the havens for terrorists across the border.

The prevailing insecurity is considered to be one of the biggest impediments for holding a credible election in the country. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced that it has taken all measures to prevent insurgent attacks during the campaign period. The MoI officials urged the eleven candidates to cooperate with the police provided for them as much as possible so as to ensure maximum effectiveness.

However, despite these measures, two aides of Abdullah Abdullah were shot dead in Herat on 1 February.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 2-3 February, 2014; Tolo News, 5 February, 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai holds talks with Taliban

The New York Times this week reported that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s inner circle was holding secret talks with the Afghan Taliban. According to the report, Aimal Faizi, the presidential spokesman, claimed the talks were positive and the most serious step in contacts with the Taliban since the group was overthrown in 2001.

However, such reports have been refuted by the Taliban. The Taliban group spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said, "The New York Times newspaper published a false report recently suggesting that talks took place and are ongoing between the Islamic Emirate and the Kabul regime in an undisclosed location". He also added, "The Islamic Emirate does not believe in holding secret talks at undisclosed locations".

In the meanwhile, the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) claimed that it had no knowledge about such secret talks taking place between the two parties.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 6 February, 2014; Tolo News, 5 February, 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Three Haqqani leaders on US list

Three new Haqqani Network leaders - Muhammad Omar Zadran, Saidullah Jan and Yahya Haqqani - have been placed on the Global Terrorist list by the US. All three were key members in facilitating financial and operational support for the Haqqani Network.

The assets of the three leaders have been frozen, which means that US citizens would also be barred from doing business with the three suspected militants. This decision was condemned by the Taliban. The Taliban group spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, following a statement, said the blacklisting of the Haqqani Network leaders signifies the failure of US military in Afghanistan.

"We condemn this ineffective and theatrical blacklisting by America on top of which we also believe it to be an illustration of the abject failure and defeat of America as it is absolutely obvious that no Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate either have trade relationships with America nor any accounts in their interest plagued banks which could be effected by these superficial seizures. The reality is that America has lost militarily in Afghanistan and now wants to atone this military defeat with petty propaganda war", he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 6 February, 2014; Tolo News, 6 February, 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">242 activists killed in one month:?Khaleda

In a sensational claim, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia claimed that about 300 BNP supporters were either killed or forced to disappear within a period of one month-- from December 26 last year to January 27-- at the hands of joint forces and ruling party cadres.

Of the victims, Khaleda Zia alleged that 242 were killed by the law enforcers and the ruling party cadres while 60 were forced into disappearance from December 26 to January 27. Zia further claimed that the government has launched a reign of terror in the country with the aid of an indiscriminate killing spree. She described the country to be a valley of death.

However, observers of Bangladesh politics have expressed doubts about the authenticity of her claim. Leading English newspaper The Daily Star commented- since Zia could not provide details of the entire victim except five victims, her claim lost credibility before the public eye. Political violence increased significantly during the parliamentary election in 5 January 2014.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 5 February 2014; The Daily Star, 7 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fresh probe against Khaleda

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week informed Parliament that a fresh investigation would be launched to find out whether Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief and former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia was involved in the smuggling of 10 truckloads of arms.

On January 30, a court in the port city of Chittagong awarded capital punishment to 14 persons including Jamaat-e-Islami chief Nizami, Lutfurzaman Badur a minister in the BNP government (2001-06) and some high ranking intelligence officers for their involvement in the case of smuggling of ten truckloads of arms.

Hasina said that name of Khaleda Zia appeared as references during the prosecution in the 10-truck arms smuggling case. She further informed that the trials into the 10-truck arms smuggling case has already been completed; But an investigation may be run to look into the conspiracy behind the arms smuggling.

Ten truck-loads of arms and ammunition were seized in Chittagong in 2004, and were smuggled into the country to be delivered to the insurgent groups of north-eastern of India. This was the biggest catch of arms in the country’s history.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 5 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New cantonment

In a move to boost strength of the Bangladesh army the government is planning to set up a full-fledged cantonment in the southern part of the country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina disclosed this at a weekly cabinet meeting this week. However, the location of the cantonment is yet to be decided but it is likely to be built at a suitable place between Khulna and Barguna, subjected to the availability of land.

Supporting the decision of the government, the Prime Minister said since that there is no cantonment in the far South, so there is need to build a cantonment in the far South. She also argued that the southern part has become very important for many reasons, especially after Bangladesh secured an area of 111,000 sq km in the Bay of Bengal, after victory over Myanmar in a maritime boundary case at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in March 2012.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Daily Star, 4 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ADB pledges support

Asian Development Bank (ADB) president, Takehiko Nakao said on 3 February that ADB is committed to working closely with Bhutan’s government and its people and ongoing efforts to broaden the economy should be strengthened.

Nakao was in Bhutan for the first time as ADB president and opened ADBs office in the country. During his one-day trip Mr. Nakao met with Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Fianance Minister and ADB governor Namgay Dorji and discussed economic and development prospects and ADBs support for the country.

He noted that Bhutan has enjoyed high economic growth and has made a ’remarkable progress’ in reducing poverty and achieving the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). However, he also pointed out the need for more work to help Bhutan diversify its economy, develop its private sector and tackle youth employment.

Nakao also travelled to view urban roads and water facilities as part of ADBs urban infrastructure development project. The $ 30 million project aims to help ensure sustainable development of the two of Bhutan’s largest municipalities -- Phuentsholing and Thimphu and one regional centre -- Dagana. The project is working to expand water supply, drainage and sanitation, improve urban roads and strengthen urban management.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bhutan Observer, 3 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Plans for three major hydro-power projects

Concerned over its own progress towards targeted goal in hydropower sector, Himalayan country Bhutan is putting serious effort to start 3 new hydro-projects by next one year. All these projects are under Bhutan’s plan to achieve its goal of providing 10,000 MW additional power to India by 2020.

The Economic Affairs Ministry of Bhutan considered it as difficult to fulfil commitment to India to provide the additional power by 2020. But, according to Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk, Minister for Economic Affairs, maximum efforts are being put to start three new projects within this year and to keep all the other under construction projects in good pace.

Showing importance of Bhutan’s commitment to India, Dasho Tsering Wangda, Consul General of Bhutan in India, said earlier, "Now Bhutan’s priority is to fulfil its commitment to India by establishing the planned projects."

And thus, "Scope of fresh FDI in power generation sector in Bhutan is not there for newer future". As planned, development of this installed capacity to produce targeted 10,000 MW with an estimated expenditure of around INR 80,000 crore is to remain mainly under the monitoring of Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC), the highest Hydropower authority of Bhutan. According to DGCP MD Mr. C Rinzin, at present, Bhutan does not have enough in-house human resource, infrastructure or financial strength to develop all these projects of its own.

So, it is proceeding with two finalized financial models in hand. These are inter-governmental (IG) and joint venture (JV) models. For the IG model, a new body, powered by Indian finance, will shoulder the responsibility of installing capacity of 7,000 to 8,000MW.

For the rest 2000-3000 MW capacity, Indian public sectors, with DGPC as partners, are undertaking the projects under JV model. Indian partners will organize loans to suffice 70 percent of the need. They, along with DGPC will put in their own equity as the rest 30 percent.

Here, DGPC’s share of equity also will be provided by India as Grant. However, in addition to all the seven projects started this year, three more are about to be started soon. But all these need to be completed by next 6 years which is a tough task.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 5 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament passes RTI law

Bhutan’s Parliament has passed the Right to Information (RTI) bill to curb corruption and ensure transparency in the government nine years after India introduced the powerful accountability tool. The bill, passed by the National Assembly, will now go to the council for review. Of the 40 members present, 32 voted in favour of it, four abstained, while another four voted against the bill.

Speaking in Parliament, Minister of Information and Communications Lynpo D N Dhungyel said the RTI Act in place would benefit the country’s governance system with better transparency and accountability.

The Act would also help curb the issue of corruption, he said. North Thimpu’s representative Kinga Tshering said although he appreciated the efforts the legislative committee put in to come up with recommendations, he was dissatisfied the bill was passed. "Only about 50 per cent of committee’s recommendations were accepted by the House," he said.

Another Member of Parliament Drujegang Tsheza likened the law, at this stage, to a child and said it was unreasonable of members to express their concerns over possibilities of the child falling down when it had barely stood up.

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, 7 February 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Visa-on-arrival for 180 nationalities

In a significant step towards liberalization of the visa regime, the government on 5 January cleared two initiatives: visa on arrival and electronic travel authorization for all countries barring eight "prior reference’’ countries including Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and China.

The ETA will allow foreign travelers to apply for a visa from home and receive an online confirmation in five working days.

"We have decided to extend visa-on-arrival to tourists from 180 nations. It will take 5-6 months to put the infrastructure in place. We hope to implement this from the next tourist session beginning October," Planning Minister Rajiv Shukla said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, 6 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Australia keen to ink CECA

Australia on 6 February said it was keen to sign the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India to bring trade and investment ties to the forefront. Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said his country would push for the agreement after the general election in India.

The Australian government was "working on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with India and Indonesia which would be pushed soon after polls are held in both the nations," Robb said at the Australia.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 6 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$100-m buyer’s credit to Namibia

India and Namibia on 6 February agreed for early conclusion of a preferential trade agreement between New Delhi and Southern African Customs Union (SACU), aimed at reducing tariffs on certain items traded between the two sides.

The SACU consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland.

The matter was discussed between Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Namibian counterpart Carl H G Schlettwein. Sharma was on an official visit to Namibia. "The progress of India- SACU Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) negotiations was discussed between the two ministers. Both sides agreed that there was need to come to an early conclusion.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 6 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NCERT to weed out gender bias

The first-ever gender audit of NCERT textbooks reveals that though they are largely gender inclusive and attempt to highlight gender concerns, "there are elements of stereotypes in some textbooks".

The Gender Analysis of primary school NCERT textbooks -18 of them - shows "men mainly in a variety of professions and women as homemakers, teachers, nurses and doctors".

Following the December 16 Delhi gangrape, the Prime Minister’s Office had asked the Human Resource Development ministry to emphasise on moral science in schools and include chapters on value education in textbooks so that gender sensitivity and respect for women are inculcated in students at a young age. The Justice Verma Committee also recommended that gender equality be integrated in the curriculum at all levels in school education and gender modules developed for percolation of issues of equality and equity.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, 5 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Delhi Cabinet clears Jan Lokpal Bill

The Delhi Cabinet on 3 February cleared the ’Delhi Lokpal Bill, 2014’ that aims to bring all public servants- from the Chief Minister to all Group D employees - under its ambit with no safeguards or "special privileges" extended even to the Chief Minister’s Office. The Bill will be tabled in the Assembly to be convened on February 13 without sending it to the Home Ministry for approval as has been the convention so far.

The Bill was passed at a Cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, fulfilling a key election promise made to voters by the Aam Aadmi Party. Urban Development Minister Manish Sisodia hailed the passage of the Bill as a "historic moment" and told reporters that the Bill ensures time-bound investigations and filing of charge sheet. The Bill also guarantees legal protection to whistleblowers and witnesses who will speak up against corruption.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 4 February 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chief Justice urges Parliament to appoint prosecutor-general

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain has called upon Parliament to expedite the process and appoint a Prosecutor-General during the on-going extraordinary sessions of the People’s Majlis.

Talking to newsmen on the sidelines of an event to launch the developmental framework of the Drug Court, Chief Justice Faiz said that the absence of a Prosecutor-General has pushed the criminal justice system into a void.

"I call upon all Parliament members to make this happen. For the rights of the people, it has to be done in the interests of completing the criminal justice system. Every day that passes without a Prosecutor-General is worrying. "If the law states that a particular task has to be completed within a time frame, it must be done. This is a great obstacle facing the Maldivian criminal justice system," he said further.

Prosecutor-General Ahmed Muizzu resigned on 25 November last year, moments before an Opposition-majority Parliament was to take a vote of no- confidence against him. President Abdulla Yameen nominated Maumoon Hameed as the new Prosecutor-General, for approval by Parliament, where it is pending.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 5 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP, Adhaalath fined for wrong finger-prints

The Adhaalath Party and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have been fined MVR 5,000 by the Elections Commission for submitting membership forms with finger-prints that do not belong to the owners of the forms. The Elections Commission said in a statement that both parties had violated Article 48 (a) of the Political Parties Act, and been fined MVR 5,000.

Earlier, in January, the Elections Commission fined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MVR 5,000 for submitting a membership form on behalf of a dead person. In December 2013, the commission fined Jumhooree Party (JP) MVR 12,000 for submitting membership forms on behalf of two dead persons.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: SunOnline, 5 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Religious turn to death-penalty row

Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has said that it is not permissible for any Muslim to go for a public referendum regarding any judgment of Allah. Dr Shaheem made this remark on his official twitter page. He said this in view of the announcement of Galolhu Dhekunu MP Ahmed Mahloof of presenting a resolution to the Parliament, seeking a public referendum regarding whether the death penalty should be implemented in the Maldives.

Dr. Shaheem made a similar remark regarding the resolution submitted to the Majlis to go for a public referendum if the condition of being a Muslim for every Maldivian is to be changed. He said that it is not permissible to for a public referendum regarding on that issue, either. He said that there will always be people who will vote against it. He said that regardless of their being in small numbers, Islam-phobic organisations will use that to cause further problems.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, 5 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Joint military exercises with India

India and Maldives have agreed to hold the next round of joint exercise this year as part of measures to increase interactions between the two armed forces.

The agreement was reached during Maldives Chief of Defence Force Maj-Gen Ahmed Shiyam’s meeting with India’s military leadership, including Defence Minister A K Antony and the chiefs of the three armed forces, during his four-day visit to the country. During the meetings, the two sides discussed ways to enhance defence ties, including the steps needed for strengthening Maldivian armed forces, officials said.

Over a recent visit by Maldivian Defence Minister, Col Mohamed Nazim t(retd) o India and meetings with his Indian counterpart, New Delhi had stated that it was committed to strengthening the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). Maldives and India have been conducting joint exercises since former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Economic Times, New Delhi, SunOnline, 5 February 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Panel for amending constitution

Myanmar’s parliament has formed a Committee for Implementation of 2008 Constitution Amendment, according to an official announcement Monday. The 31-member committee was chaired by U. Nanda Kyaw Swa, deputy speaker of parliament Xinhua quoted parliament sources as saying.

The committee is designed to review the report, which includes a wide range of public suggestions, submitted in January by the Parliament Joint Committee for Review of 2008 Constitution. The committee will also submit a report on the amendment to Parliament.

The Joint Committee for Review of 2008 Constitution said it received over 28,247 letters of suggestions from over 20 political parties, legal experts, government departments including the military and civil societies with the majority favouring the amendment.

The 194-page and 15-chapter Republic of the Union of Myanmar Constitution-2008 was promulgated by the previous military government in May 2008. Under that constitution, a general election was held in November 2010 in which the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won the majority of the parliamentary seats with its then party chairman U. Thein Sein being elected as president of the new civilian government who took office in March 2011.

In 2012, the government amended the party registration law, re-legalising the opposition NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 4 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minister decries Indian ’occupation’ of border

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has demanded that structures built by Indians on the Myanmar side of the border be destroyed. The request comes as the two countries have agreed to demarcate their more than 1600-km-long common border.

About 165 km of the border remains to be established with the setting up of marker-posts. On January 17, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw approved an agreement between the two governments to complete the demarcation.

According to a joint survey conducted last month, homes, a playground, part of a road, some fences and three lampposts were built on Myanmar’s territory between border posts 76 and 79, some of which have yet to be put in place, U Tin Oo Lwin, vice minister for foreign affairs, told Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on January 28.

"We will exchange findings made by both sides and renegotiate in joint working groups on border affairs so we can start the border measurement. We have also demanded that India withdraw their occupation to within a 10-metre zone," he said.

Daw Khin Moe Wai, MP for Min King constituency in Sagaing Region, said, "Protests have arisen in Kalay and my own constituency. The lack of precise border measurements has led to disputes, as well as drug trafficking, illegal log trade and even illegal entry by Bengalis."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Myanmar Times, 4 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New SEZ law for FDI

In an effort to draw more foreign interest in Myanmar’s future Special Economic Zones (SEZ), the state-run media last week announced the promulgation of a new SEZ law, superseding the relevant laws adopted by the former military regime in 2011.

"The new law seems to decentralise decision-making to the SEZ committee, so that central government is no longer involved. This is probably attractive to investors," said advocate U Than Maung, adding that the new law provides for a management committee responsible for administration, management and supervision of the zone.

"The committee has to protect citizens’ rights, and solve problems," he said.

The law allows seven years’ income tax exemption for local and foreign investors and eight years for construction companies in designated areas, while those involved have promised further incentives this year.

Economist U Maung Aung, of the Advisory Board for Kyaukphyu SEZ, said the new law would encourage developers to speed up construction of the SEZ. "This law, especially its tax provisions, seems likely to encourage investors to make huge investments," he said. The Advisory Board is currently seeking a prominent international consultant to work on inviting tenders for developers.

"We want a fair competition for a developer," said U Maung Aung, adding that the government plans to implement the three SEZs next year.

In the 2400-hectare Thilawa SEZ 20km south of Yangon, the government and nine domestic enterprises are providing 51 percent, while a Japanese consortium contributes 49pc. Japanese investors are also being courted to get involved in the Dawei project in southern Myanmar, as the lead developer, Italian-Thailand Development Company, suspended work several months ago.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Myanmar Times, 4 February 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japanese aid for radar system

Japan has granted financial aid of $ 40 million to help Myanmar establish three weather radars and 30 automatic weather observation stations, media reports said Wednesday.

The four-year project will be implemented from 2014 to 2017, Xinhua quoted Myanmar Transport Minister U Nyan Tun Aung as saying. He was speaking at an information system modernization project preparation workshop in Nay Pyi Taw, said the New Light of Myanmar.

Aung said that besides Japan, the World Bank is also supporting Myanmar by taking the initiative to equip the centre with advanced equipment and technique worth $35 million. The workshop also discussed proposed Ayeyawaddy integrated river basin management project, it said. According to earlier reports, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has helped Myanmar install radar system in Yangon, Mandalay and Kyaukphyu for upgrading weather forecast work.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 5 February 2014

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India:Ananya Pandey;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale

Mihir Bhonsale was a Junior Fellow in the Strategic Studies Programme and Indian Neighbourhood Initiative of ORF.

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