MonitorsPublished on Jun 22, 2012
The reforms in Myanmar took yet another symbolic step in the past few weeks with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the nation's crusader for democracy, set foot for the first time outside the country in over 24 years.
Myanmar: Suu Kyi needs to do more on her'healthy scepticism'
< class="heading1">Analysis

The reforms in Myanmar took yet another symbolic step in the past few weeks with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the nation’s crusader for democracy, set foot for the first time outside the country in over 24 years. Her maiden visit to Thailand from May 30- June 3 for participating in the World Economic Forum (on East Asia) was the first foreign travel by Suu Kyi after years of imprisonment. By her visit, she also ended her self-imposed foreign travel embargo, with the full confidence that her international visit will not become an excuse for the military-backed Government to keep her outside the nation and its politics.

The development marks a significant change with respect to the political realities of Myanmar. Earlier, Suu Kyi was reluctant to visit even her dying husband in 1999, for the fear of being denied re-entry into the country by the junta. The situation in recent months seems to have undergone a big change which has given the Lady the confidence of not only venturing outside the nation but also be portrayed as the changing face of Myanmar. During her recent visits, Suu Kyi wore a number of hats, including one that showed her up as the new ’poster girl’ of a changing Myanmar, engaging with a number of groups with varied interests.

Suu Kyi’s visit to Thailand marked the first step of a giant, both personally and for her country. However, despite the fanfare attaching to her Thai visit, which marked absolute freedom for her after years of denial, the Myanmarese Government was disappointed with her. For all practical considerations, Suu Kyi sounded a note of caution on the speed with which internal changes were taking place in Myanmar, flagging the deep-seated uncertainties on what the future could hold for the country. It was this tone ("healthy scepticism" was the phrase she used to describe the developments in her nation) in her visit that compounded the discomfort of an already uneasy Government. This in turn resulted in a slight misunderstanding between the two.

The Government had expected Suu Kyi to be the torch-bearer of the changing nature of Myanmar and echo the same during her visits. However, her scepticism too needs to be understood in context, for the anxieties that continue to haunt the nation’s diverse politics. She did not stop with suggesting areas where the State as a whole needs to reform (judicial reforms was one of the many issues that she touched upon). She also nudged potential investors to play a responsible role in the nation’s developmental endeavour by keeping the people’s concerns in mind.

It was in this light that Suu Kyi undertook her multi-nation visit to Europe that covered Switzerland, Norway, Britain, France and Ireland. The itinerary included her addressing the British Parliament, receiving an honorary doctorate from her almamatar, Oxford university, as well as collecting her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Suu Kyi’s European tour was unlike her Thai visit and made a world of difference despite the similarities of her being treated as a celebrity.

In Thailand, the expectation from her, and the fact the visit was planned at the last-minute, meant that Suu Kyi was singing a different tune that was not pleasing to the Government back home. However, her European tour was in the pipeline for sometime and catered to a different breed of audience when compared to South East Asia. In Thailand, the outreach to the refugees of Myanmar was received positively while her efforts in Europe were largely in the realm of engaging with the host-nations and attracting investments to Myanmar.

However, the ethnic violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas that coincided with Suu Kyi’s European tour in many ways highlighed the realities of Myanmar. It also showed the limited efforts, or the lack of it, taken by her to diffuse the situation. (At a news conference, she said that "I do not know" when questioned about the nationality of the ethic Rohingya Muslims).

At the same time, the public display of the Lady’s fragile health (a dinner hosted in her honour by the Swiss Government was cancelled) is a concern that many seem to have brushed aside despite its grave importance. Even during the election campaign in March, Suu Kyi displayed similar symptoms of her fragile health. It is in this context that the NLD needs to forester an alternative plan that could be operationalised in the eventual event of the unthinkable, the deteriorating health of Suu Kyi. The NLD must establish its credibility as a competent and organised government-in-waiting that has the vision, the discipline and respect for the rule of law, which can reach out to all the ethnic groups in the nation.

At the same time, the NLD needs to work for international co-operation by attracting investments to the resource-rich nation. The road ahead for the party is not smooth despite the absence of yesteryear hardships. It is for Suu Kyi to promote a strong second-line leadership within the ranks of her party before the 2015 elections. The new crop of leaders should be in a position to address the future in context of the international arena as well as domestic politics. The recent tour of the Lady might reflect the popularity of Suu Kyi but the refugee community and the ethnic violence echo the kind of ground realities in Myanmar, which even an NLD Government would need to handle.

Suu Kyi must ensure that she does not go down in history like her father Aung San, who was assassinated before he could implement the Panglong Agreement. He had not built a strong second-line, in the absence of which the pro-democracy movement had to wait for decades before external circumstances, and not domestic politics, forced pro-democracy developments in Myanmar. As the possible government-in-waiting, her leadership should also be thinking as much about providing an administration that matches up to the aspirations of the people, as it continues to keep talking about democracy issues. Else, the ’healthy scepticism’ that she has begun talking about could end up unfulfilled.

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

Sri Lanka: Internationalising the ’fishing isuse’?

N Sathiya Moorthy

It did not require rocket science to decipher what Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was referring to when he addressed the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), Rio+20, at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. "A cardinal principle governing the behaviour of nations in the modern world should be recognition of the principle that the resources of a country, whether on land or in the oceans, belong to the people of that country," he said, referring to Sri Lanka’s ocean wealth, though without reference to the expanded EEZ under UNCLOS-II.

"Their enjoyment of these resources for the improvement of their economic and social condition should in no way be hampered by encroachment on these resources by external interests. Protection of the sea-bed and ocean-floor against damage by the use of environment unfriendly methods of fishing, such as bottom trawling should be guaranteed by international law and practice, by means of effective remedies," he said further.

The reference to bottom-trawling in President Rajapaksa’s speech gave the game away, as it is a burning issue between India and Sri Lanka, contributing to continuing harassment of fishermen from the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu, which charges the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN), with occasional mid-sea killings, from time to time. This time too, reaction to President Rajapaksa’s Rio speech from across the Palk Strait too has been quick in coming, with some political party leaders readily referring to international laws providing for up to 20-year prison term for violators of the international maritime border line (IMBL) between nations. Apart from livelihood issues that concerns fishermen from the two nations, violation of the IMBL, bottom-trawling and use of banned fishing nets in the Sri Lankan waters, are charges that the Indian fishermen had to answer over the past decades.

President Rajapaksa’s reference to the fishing issue came around the time he was meeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the side-lines of Rio+20, and ahead of National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shanker Menon’s visit to Colombo, scheduled for June 29. At the political-level the President’s reference to the ’fishing issue’ in his Rio speech may read like a tit-for-tat for the Indian vote at the Geneva UNHRC resolution, sponsored by the US. It could also mark a vague and unsure internationalisation of a bilateral issue, for the record, just as New Delhi is seen by many in Colombo as having contributed to the internationalisation of Sri Lanka’s human rights record at the UNHRC.

If so, the parallels are dis-similar. Sri Lanka’s HR record became internationalised even as the nation was wounding up the conclusive ’Eelam War-IV’ in May 2009. If anything, India was on Sri Lanka’s side, out and out. Less than a fortnight after the war, the UNHRC voted on a EU-sponsored resolution. At the time, India, with unlikely cooperation from China and Pakistan that their common approach to Sri Lankan issue commanded, caused the defeat of the EU resolution that sought to condemn Colombo. The three, along with other friends of Sri Lanka, also had a counter-resolution successfully voted in at Geneva at the time.

The internationalisation of the HR issue at the time owed to the readiness with which Sri Lanka participated in the processes, little realising at the time that it would not end there. The 2012 resolution too would not end here. Instead, it could be revived ad infinitum in the years and decades to come, given the complexities of the processes and certain compulsions of the parties concerned, both on the domestic and international planes. The resolution as passed by UNHRC has in-built mechanisms to activate the process. Yet, unlike in 2009, and even once later, Sri Lanka had taken the Indian vote for granted, without having to earn the same by keeping up the bilateral commitments given to New Delhi on the ethnic issue.

The justification for India having to ’internationalise’ its position at Geneva-2012 thus flowed from bilateral commitments that were not kept. They were neither addressed at the bilateral-level in any serious way during the run-up to the Geneva vote, possibly because Colombo might not have had the answers to India’s legitimate concerns over inexplicable delays in not meeting commitments and keeping deadlines. Post facto, it can be argued that Sri Lanka, even while confidently hoping for India to vote in its favour at Geneva, was working over-time for the numbers that were just not happening. Unlike in 2009, it did not seem to have approached New Delhi for its broader support against the US resolution, lest it should face embarrassing questions for which it did not have convincing answers any more.

Lost lives and livelihood

The complexities of internationalisation of bilateral issues being what they are, setting the process in motion, be it on the HR front or the fishing front, comes with consequences, the like of which States have often found hard to face up to. Independent of the Sri Lankan position on the fishing issue at Rio, there has always been cries for a similar Indian approach to resolve the issue from the affected fishers, their representatives, including political and governmental stake-holders in Tamil Nadu. Based on theoretical constructs and legal arguments, such demands have often included India approaching international judicial forums for relief ? for lost lives and livelihood.

If the intention of the Sri Lankan State was to flag the options available to Colombo for finding a solution acceptable to it on the fishing issue, the current approach, however subdued, may only be counter-productive. Having opened the Pandora’s Box, it may not have the key and the option to close it at will. In the prevailing Sri Lankan situation, there are more nations and civil society organisations that want to see Colombo in a corner, wherever and whenever possible, whatever the reason, whatever the issue. Any unthinking approach by Colombo to problem-solving thus would only give yet another handle to the detractors of Sri Lanka.

Better or worse still, the innocent Indian experience with the ’internationalisation’ of the Kashmir issue at the turn of Independence should have been an eye-opener for Sri Lanka. At the time, in good faith, New Delhi took the issue to the UN, where it still rests. It took India decades before Pakistan agreed to resolve all bilateral issues through bilateral mechanisms under the ’Shimla Agreement’ in 1972. Yet, nothing has come out of the Agreement either, with bilateral mechanisms becoming the victim of ISI-induced anti-India terrorism, with greater periodicity than the bilateral peace process. The ISI as Pakistan’s ’first-line of defence’ as later-day President Pervez Musharraf described once, had not even been thought of when the Shimla Agreement was up on the anvil but no one could re-rail the peace process when it was being continuously de-railed.

Kachchativu and expanding the scope of internationalisation

Such has been the travails of bilateral issues between India-Sri Lanka, if taken out of context or when placed before forums that are driven by politics and geo-strategy and not necessarily by fair-play and an overwhelming motive to resolve the issue through mutual understanding and accommodation. Sri Lanka’s experience with the human rights issue and the UNHRC too should have taught the nation some lessons, on approaches and attitudes. At the end of the day, Sri Lanka and India are neighbours, bound as much by contemporary politics and geo-strategy as by history and culture. Any pragmatic and practicable solution to any problem, as should be the case with any two neighbouring nations, lies in them and not beyond them.

As bilateral domestic fronts are concerned, if the fishing issue is here, the ’Kachchativu issue’ cannot be far off. Or, that is how the political class and successive Governments in Tamil Nadu have treated them, despite the repeated reiterations of the Indian Government delinking them at every turn. The Government of India has also repeated the known official position that the 1974 transfer of the Kachchativu isle to Sri Lanka cannot be revisited. Yet, New Delhi would have no answer if the internationalisation process were to be initiated by non-State actors in this case, as a response to any Sri Lankan initiative of the kind, however minor and transient the intention and purpose could be.

’Internationalisation’ of one issue could then lead to a similar approach to an accompanying one from the other stake-holder, and no solution, stand-alone or otherwise, could even attempted, owing to political compulsions nearer home and legal entanglements, otherwise. Internationalisation of one issue could thus lead to internationalisation of many, which is what the ethnic issue too should be teaching the stake-holders on the fishing-front.There would then be no question of any bilateral solution to the problem on hand, even if one were in sight, as linkages would be established and collective campaigns launched ? with no reference to the consequences, particularly for those directly involved and thus affected.

It is easy for either or both, India and Sri Lanka, to take bilateral issues out of context, to forums whose understanding of the regional culture, sensitivities and contexts do not match their action-oriented approach with their basis in template-models that might work in classroom conditions and given contexts, but not elsewhere. Once again, Sri Lanka’s exposure to internationally-driven peace processes involving the LTTE should have educated it on the limitations involved, however proven the processes and however genuine the intention. The accompanying complexities to the internationalisation process of domestic and bilateral issues are often episodes-driven, and are punctuated by global and regional responses by countries that have no stake in the peace and prosperity in the region, but still seem wanting to have a stake otherwise, wherever and whenever possible.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tripling the GDP in five years

President TheinSein has set an audacious goal to triple the size of the nation’s economy in five years. This was made in statement in a nationally-televised speech, in which he called for a fresh wave of economic reforms in the rapidly changing country. Among other steps, he called for a reduction in the military’s role in the economy, privatisation of key industries and changes to Myanmar’s foreign investment law, all of which should help spur more growth.

"Our aspired goal is a triple increase in per capita GDP," he said, according to an English language transcript of the speech published in the State-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper. Tripling per capita GDP would be the same as tripling overall GDP, barring a major change in the size of the population.

To triple in size in five years, though, an economy would have to expand on average 25% a year. That’s a tall order for even the world’s fastest-growing countries. Oil-and-gas rich Qatar was the fastest growing economy in 2011, and it grew 18%. Mineral-rich Mongolia, which was second fastest, expanded 17%.

Though resource rich, Myanmar would have trouble creating that kind of wealth so quickly. Thein Sein’s speech says the government estimates growth will be around 7.7% a year, faster than the IMF or the Asian Development Bank’s estimates, which are closer to 6% a year. But he set the goal higher as a challenge to improve the lives of Myanmar’s 60 million citizens, who are among the poorest in Asia with a per capita GDP of around $1,300.

< class="text11verdana">Source:wsj.comJune 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TheinSein invited to UK

British Prime Minister David Cameron has invited President TheinSein to visit Britain to discuss the need for further reform after decades of military rule. The news of the invitation emerged just hours before Myanmar opposition icon Aung San SuuKyi was due to meet Cameron as part of her own trip to Britain, a first in 24 years.

’He is due to visit the UK in the coming months to continue the discussions that began when the Prime Minister was in Burma in April,’ Mr Cameron’s spokesman told reporters, using the South-east Asian nation’s unofficial name.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 21, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Oil deal with foreign firms

State-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise has inked nine agreements since early March to allow firms from Asia and Europe to explore for oil and natural gas, the Myanmar Ahlin newspaper reported.

’It was the first time in the history of Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise to sign nine agreements within such a short period,’ the report said, without giving financial details. ’More significantly, Myanmar national companies were involved in all nine agreements as partners,’ it added..

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 20, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC sacks Gilani, Pervaiz Ashraf new PM

The Supreme Court declared that Yousuf Raza Gilani has been ineligible to act as Prime Minister on June 19. The verdict is retroactive since April 26, when he was convicted on the charges of Contempt of Court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. Following the court’s order, the Election Commission issued a notification of Gilani’s disqualification and declared his seat vacant.

Some legal experts believe that the disqualification challenges all the actions and orders made by Gilani after his conviction, and even raises doubts over the legality of the federal budget. On June 22, the allied parties declared Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, June 19, 21, 22, 2012; The Express Tribune, June 20,2012.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Power shortfall leads to riots

Daily power outages, in some cases lasting as long as 22 hours, have triggered countrywide protests resulting in violence and destruction of public property. In Kamalia, mobs enraged by the outages attacked the house of Pakistan Muslim League ? Quaid (PML-Q) MNA Riaz Fatyana. In retaliation, his guards opened fire, killing a 14 year old boy and injuring over 34 people.

The electricity shortfall reached its peak with a shortage of nearly 8500 megawatts of electricity on June 17. Inefficient governance, short-sighted solutions and failure to carry out policies are just some of the many reasons behind this crisis. To tackle the problem, the government has finalised a gas allocation plan that is supposed to increase power generation to the maximum level.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Dawn, June 17, 20, 21, 2012,The Express Tribune, June 21, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">French Al-Qaeda leader captured

A French al-Qaeda leader named Naamen Maziche was captured in Quetta. The security official described him as one of the close associates of senior al-Qaeda leader Yonis al-Mauritani, who was arrested just months earlier.

Mauritani is believed to have been involved with planning attacks on Australia, Europe and the US. Maziche was detained after Mauritani had told interrogators that the French militant had entered Pakistan from Iran and intended to travel to Africa. The official refused to say whether or not Maziche was wanted in connection to a specific plot.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Dawn, June 21, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNHRC chief condemns drone attacks

In her opening statement to the 20th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, expressed serious concern over the continuing use of drones for targeted attacks, particularly since the risk of civil casualties remains so high. Referring to her recent visit to Pakistan, she also commended the efforts made by the Pakistani Government to strengthen human rights.

The Permanent Representative of Pakistan thanked the High Commissioner for her encouraging comments and reiterated the position of the Government of Pakistan, that drone attacks were in direct violation of international law and breached Pakistan’s sovereignty. During the session, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberty Union also expressed concerns about drone killings.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Dawn, June 19, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US won’t apologise

The stalemate between Pakistan and the US concerning the reopening of supply routes for the NATO war effort in Afghanistan continues, as during an interview on June 21, the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta all but ruled out an apology for an air strike that killed 12 Pakistani soldiers last year.

The previous week, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khan stated that before considering reopening the routes, Islamabad is still seeking an unconditional apology. However, Panetta suggested that previous expressions of regret were enough and said that he thinks that "it’s time to move on".

The supply line negotiations are just a part of a bigger crisis between the two countries. Recently US-Pak relations have become increasingly strained. Pakistan is frustrated about what it sees as US violations of its sovereignty, including continued CIA drone strikes and the US incursion to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011. Meanwhile the US is vexed about Pakistani safe havens used by militants attacking NATO forces in Afghanistan.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Dawn, June 22, 2012

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mahind-Manmohan one-on-one at Rio

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a one-to-one meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday followed by a delegation-level meeting, the Indian Government has officially announced. Excerpts of the meeting released by Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said that Singh had "once again underlined the great importance we attach in India to the ability of the Tamil people to lead a life of dignity and as equal citizens of that country."

India had expressed its intention of continuing to assist its program in Sri Lanka saying that the housing project that it is undertaking will begin disbursing funds to the beneficiaries sometime in July. India had also reiterated her intention to continue all bilateral assistance programs in the economic field, Mathai said. On security-related issues, the two leaders noted that the dialog will be taken forward on June 29 when India’s National Security Advisor, Mr Shivshankar Menon will be visiting Colombo.

Mathai disclosed there was a substantial discussion on economic relations between the two countries with Power Minister Champika Ranawaka giving an update on the Sampur Coal Power Project which is a major project being undertaken as a joint venture between the Ceylon Electricity Board and India’s NTPC. Minister Ranawaka said that there was good progress in this regard with as much as 95% restoration of power in Jaffna with the figure for other parts of the Northern Province being 50-70 per cent.

"In terms of the overall relationship, both sides had felt that the scope for progress was very great and expressed the view that the two countries now must concentrate on dealing with those areas where good progress can be made," Mathai said. He said that President Rajapaksa had referred to the situation within Sri Lanka and continuing discussions on the issue of devolution. The large focus was on what is being done for the rehabilitation of internally displaced people. The President had said that the number of IDPs now in camps was about 3,000 against 300,000 when the war ended. Rajapaksa had also noted that the resettlement process was underway as well as electrification of the North.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, June 23, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Environment, not Third World’s task: MR

"Addressing the environmental crisis should not be a burden for the developing countries alone. The developed countries, which largely contribute to the environmental crisis, cannot and should not leave the responsibility of saving the environment to developing countries, at the cost of their economic development," said President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), Rio+20 in Rio de Janeiro yesterday (20).

"Transition to a green economy is one among many tools that could minimize unsustainable consumption and production practices. On the other hand, transition to a green economy must not generate negative externalities to slow down the growth of social and economic development of a country. The solution for sustainable development, therefore, should derive from a concept that encapsulates poverty eradication, resource and energy efficiency, equity and better living standards for all the people," he said.

On the need to protect the sea bed and ocean floor from environment unfriendly methods of fishing, President Rajapaksa said: "A cardinal principle governing the behaviour of nations in the modern world should be recognition of the principle that the resources of a country, whether on land or in the oceans, belong to the people of that country.

"Their enjoyment of these resources for the improvement of their economic and social condition should in no way be hampered by encroachment on these resources by external interests. Protection of the sea bed and ocean floor against damage by the use of environment unfriendly methods of fishing, such as bottom trawling should be guaranteed by international law and practice, by means of effective remedies," he said.

World leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, have come together at the Rio+20 Conference to take forward methods to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet.

The UNCSD is being organized to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, June 21, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai seeks help to fight graft

President Hamid Karzai called out for greater international support to help him supplant the corruption that pervades the government structure in the country. The Afghan president also personally pledged to stop deals that run counter to the reforms. While addressing a specially convened parliamentary session that sought to confront Karzai’s political rivals as well as the plethora of challenges that the country will be confronted with before the imminent withdrawal of the NATO troops due in 2014.

Karzai’s address can, at best, be seen as an attempt to change the international perception of his government’s ability to handle the foreign funds that the US as well as its NATO allies intend to keep granting to the war torn Afghanistan after their projected departures from its political frontiers.

In the meanwhile all the aid donors to Afghanistan are scheduled to meet in Tokyo to discuss the prospects of providing aid to the destitute, war torn country that is heavily reliant on foreign aid for its development.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Khaama Press, June 21,2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Heart of Asia’ Conference in Kabul

The second chapter of the ’Heart of Asia’ Conference culminated in Kabul recently. The multilateral dialogue served to strengthen commitments of regional cooperation that will further bolster the support that Asian countries provide to Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the NATO troops by pursuing joint interests collectively.

Fourteen delegations and high level ministries from ’Heart of Asia’ countries participated in the Conference. The meeting was particularly important in establishing sustainable approach to implement the confidence-building measures (CBMs), which were agreed at the Istanbul Conference in November, 2011.These CBMs included; Disaster Management CBM, Counter-Terrorism CBM, Counter-Narcotics CBM, Chamber of Commerce CBM, Commercial Opportunities CBM, Regional Infra-Structure CBM and Education CBM.

The progress of these measures shall be looked over and into in a follow up meeting scheduled to be held next year in Kazhakstan

< class="text11verdana">Source:Outlook Afghanistan, June 16 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China shelves Chittagong-Kunming rail link

Dream of establishing Bangladesh as a regional hub got a major setback as China shelved the proposed railway link project between Chittagong and Kunming following opposition from Myanmar. However, China is still interested in establishing road linkage between the two countries to boost bilateral trade and commerce.

Li Jeming, vice-minister for commerce of Yunnan provincial government of China, during a press briefing for Asian journalists in Kunming in the week claimed that his country is always keen on establishing a rail link between Kunming and Chittagong, but they had to give up the idea as Myanmar is against it.

Highly placed Bangladesh government sources claimed that Myanmar in late last year refused to allow China to build the rail links through its territory.

In March 2010, Hasina during her visit to Kunming expressed her interest in road and rail links between Chittagong and Kunming.

Chittagong-Kunming road could have been a major gateway for China to connect on road connectivity with South Asia.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Daily Star, June 16, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rohingya refugee exodus

Thousands of Rohingyas, who fled their homes from the neighbouring Rakhine province of Myanmar to escape violent riot were barred from entering into Bangladesh. In Myanmar ethnic riot had erupted among the minority Rohingya muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists this month. Various Human rights groups have urged Bangladesh to accept the refugees. But Dhaka is reluctant to accept refugees claiming that its resources are too strained.

Bangladesh shares a 2271 kilometres of border with Myanmar. Thousands of Rohingya refugees are already living in Bangladesh who left their homes during riots in 80’s.

Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Bangladesh says Rohingyas have been living in Myanmar for centuries and should be recognized there as citizens.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, June 18, 2012/ Associated Press, June 21, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No land for Sahara

State Minister for Housing Abdul Mannan Khan refuted recent media reports that Indian business conglomerate Sahara India Parivar will be given one lakh acres of land to build a satellite town near Dhaka. Khan said that a memorandum of understanding was signed between Bangladesh government and Sahara Matribhumi Unnayan Corporation Ltd in this regard. But there is no such provision like giving the land to Sahara in the MoU. The country’s procurement policy and other rules and regulations will be followed properly in such housing projects, he added.

Sahara and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) signed the deal on May 24 in the capital. The deal has become controversial as the country’s real estate sector is objecting to this deal. On June 2, real estate and housing association leaders demanded the government enter a dialogue with them before going ahead with Sahara’s proposal.

Communications Minister Obaidul Quader on June 14 said the government should have discussed the matter with its own stakeholders on whether the sector needs any foreign investment.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maitree Express yet to pick up

The Bangladesh Railway (BR) officials claimed that the Maitri Express, the train that runs between Dhaka and Kolkata, has failed to gain popularity owing to cumbersome checking process of passenger on the India side. According to BR officials, passengers often complain of humiliation by the Indian side in the name of checking them.

They say that passengers are confined in a cage-like structure at the Gede border-point until the checking of all the passengers is over. BR officials added that the passengers are not allowed to take their seats in the train even after the customs and immigration formalities are done.

The Maitree train resumed service in April 2008, after a break of 43 years. Every Friday one train of BR leaves Dhaka for Kolkata and returns on Saturday while an Indian train reaches Dhaka on Tuesday and returns back to Kolkata the next day.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Diplomatic ties with China

On the side-lines of the Rio+20 Summit on the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Bhutanese counterpart, Jigme YThinley met and expressed their willingness to establish formal diplomatic ties between their countries Wen said China highly appreciates Bhutan’s staunch support of China’s position on issues concerning Taiwan and Tibet.

China, Wen said, also values the traditional friendship between the two nations andrespected Bhutan’s choice for development path according to its own conditions. Noting that China pursues a foreign policy of good-neighbourly ties, Wen said China is ready to forge formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan on the basis of Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. Wen also added that China is willing to complete border demarcation with Bhutan at the earliest and strengthen ties.

For his part, Thinley said his talks with Wen carry great historic significance as it marks the first meeting between the heads of the two Governments.The Bhutanese, he said, highly appreciate China’s endeavour to safeguard the common interests of developing countries in international and regional affairs.Bhutan firmly sticks to ’one-China policy’ and has a strong desire to strengthen understanding and friendship with China. He confirmed that Bhutan wishes to forge formal diplomatic ties with China as soon as possible.

The two countries share about 470-km long contiguous borders and have held several rounds of talks to resolve the dispute and signed for the first time an agreement promising to ’Maintain Peace and Tranquillity on the Bhutan-China Border Areas,’ in 1998.

< class="text11verdana">, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Call for sustainable development

Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinleyhas urged world leaders, who had gathered at the Rio+20 conferences on sustainable development, to seize the opportunity for sustainable development for the sake of humanity."Sustainability, well-being and happiness are still within our reach," the Prime Minister said in his address, adding that sustainability is absolutely necessary and not a choice. "Indeed, survival is the question of the day, and it is this fear and the knowledge of having erred, that have brought us back to Rio after 20 years ? after two more decades of living dangerously and hurtling ourselves toward annihilation." he said.

Bhutan believes, he said, that not only is Rio the last opportunity for humanity to prevent its own extinction, but for civilization to truly flourish. "Let us seize the opportunity here and now, for in another twenty years, humanity will have crossed the point of no return."The Prime Minister expressed his regret on the international community not being able to agree on most of the conference’s subscribed outcome document, and said that the outcome document falls far short of what needs to be done.

Endorsing the need for sustainable development goals, the Prime Minister said that these goals however must be guided by human happiness and wellbeing, because sustainability, wellbeing and happiness are interdependent.Prime Minister Thinley met with the United Nations’ Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon and United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP)Administrator, Helen Clark, in New York en route to Rio.

< class="text11verdana">, June 19, 2012;, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parties told to take RAA audit seriously

Political parties need to take recommendations of Royal Audit Authority (RAA) ’seriously’, cautions the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report presented to the National Assembly (NA) recently. The annual audit report presented to the NA highlights that both DrukPhuensumTshogpa (DPT) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have not fulfilled audit requirements. PDP has been audited only once till date. PDP’s audit of accounts and operation was conducted only up to June 30, 2008.

RAA had planned to audit PDP in the early 2011 for subsequent years and requested the secretariat to provide the financial statements for auditing. However, despite RAA reminding and cautioning the party of its responsibility for any future complications, PDP’s auditing for 2009, 2010 and 2011 are yet to be done.

According to the PAC report, political parties need to maintain proper books of accounts in line with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). It says that the party treasurer shall "maintain rules and accounting and reporting format as per the requirements of the election rules and regulations of the RAA."

Meanwhile, RAA issued an audit report of DPT. There were 11 observations pointed out in the report involving Nu 26.916 million, out of which irregularities of Nu 19.743 million were either resolved or considered not significant for inclusion in the draft audit report.

The total unresolved significant observations reflected in the draft annual audit report amounted to Nu 7.174 million. Based on the responses, observations amounting to Nu 2.957 million were either resolved fully or substantially. The total unresolved irregularities amounted to Nu 4.217 million, which was mainly on account of shortfalls, lapses and deficiencies. The DPT secretariat had outstanding advances of Nu 1.351 million against office staff, party members and regional offices.

< class="text11Verdana">, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IT park awaits Wipro’s consent

The ThimphuTechpark (TTP) is awaiting a decision from potential tenant, global IT services company, Wipro. The company will be sending its Vice-President to visit the IT Park in July, TTP’s chief operating officer, TsheringCigayDorji, said. "The July visit will be followed by one more in August, which he added is an optimistic sign," he added. "If Wipro does rent space at the park, it’ll initially take half of the available commercial space." The first phase of the IT Park provides 50,000sqft, of which 40,000sqft is for commercial lease.

Department of information technology and telecom (DITT) director, PhuntshoTobgay, said that Wipro had inquired about the incentives being offered and their time validity. He said that Wipro had been informed that the incentives are available to the company until December this year.

The incentives include a telecom subsidy to bring rates on par with what is offered in India, and a one time fitting out of 150 seats or workstations. Each workstation will cost the government USD 3,000, which in total would be USD 450,000. From TTP’s side, it has reduced the rent Wipro will have to pay.

PhuntshoTobgay said that rent is not an issue between TTP and Wipro anymore. He also added that Wipro would be discussing a potential move to Bhutan with some of its clients. He said that, as its clients are located mostly in the US and Europe, a move cannot be undertaken on its own. Wipro is headquartered in Bangalore, India.

The shell of the IT Park was inaugurated in November, last year. Its private sector development component, the Bhutan innovation and technology centre was launched in May.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mukherjee, President-in-waiting

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee appears set to be the next President with his candidature being announced today (June 15, 2012) by the ruling UPA and endorsed swiftly by supporting parties SP and BSP. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s objection to his candidature was ignored, leaving her to take a call on her party’s continuation in the ruling coalition at the Centre.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 16, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">To force contest, Sangma quits NCP

Determined to contest against the UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential election next month, former LokSabha speaker P ASangma resigned from the primary membership of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Wednesday.

While the AIADMK and the BJD proposing his candidature and the BJP likely to support him, it was untenable for Sangma, one of the founder members of the NCP, to continue in the party which has firmly backed Mukherjee’s nomination.

The BJP too confirmed its support to Sangma thus ensuring a contest for the presidential post and expressed a hope that NDA alliance partners would also back Sangma.

The left parties also took a divided stand with the CPM and the Forward Block supporting Mukherjee and the CPI along with RSP deciding to abstain from the election.

Earlier, divisions within the National Democratic Alliance over the pros and cons of putting up a fight against the UPA presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee forced it to postpone a decision on Sunday.

At the end of a two-hour meeting, at the residence of NDA working chairperson and senior BJP leader L K Advani, it was decided to hold further consultations with the constituents of the alliance, and the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Odisha who have backed the candidature of the former LokSabha speaker P A Sangma.With no indication that there were enough numbers to ensure his return to the RahstrapatiBhavan, A P J Abdul Kalam declared that he would not contest the presidential election.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Indian Express, June 21, 2012, The Hindu, June 18, 2012, The Triune, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">YSR Congress sweeps by-polls

The Congress suffered a serious setback as it lost 18 out of the 28 seats in just concluded by-elections to the Assemblies in 10 states and the NeloreLokSabha seat in Andhra Pradesh.

The party could win only three seats while losing 18 Assembly seats and the LokSabha seat it held originally.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, June 16, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Krishna visits Cuba

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said India wishes to increase investments and economic relations with Cuba, where he is on an official visit.

"Our political relations are excellent, but we must give greater economic content to those ties," the foreign minister of India, who arrived in Havana last Thursday, told the official news agency Prensa Latina in a statement.

Krishna mentioned the need for Indian companies to invest in Cuba and for organizations from the island to increase their presence in his country.

In that sense, he announced that India’s commerce and industry minister, JyotiradityaScindia, will travel to Cuba in July to "open new horizons" in bilateral economic cooperation.

< class="text11verdana">, June 16, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 10 b for Eurozone

India has pledged $10 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help Eurozone countries out of the current crisis and prevent adverse fallout on emerging economies. "The International Monetary Fund has a critical, supportive role to play in stabilsing the Eurozone. All members must help the fund to play this role," the prime minister told the G20 Summit in Los Cabos.

"I am happy to announce India has decided to contribute $10 billion to IMF’s additional firewall of $430 billion," he said, also appealing to countries with surpluses such as China to make similar contributions.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindustan Times, June 19, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN chief promises cooperation

The President’s Office has said that "the claim that the United Nations does not recognize current government of the Maldives has become obsolete, following the meeting between President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon".

Abbas AdilRiza, Spokesperson of the Government said today that the government was assured in its position after UN Secretary-General met President Waheed at Rio de Janeiro yesterday. Abbas also said that "it would be senseless for MDP to continue with that claim anymore". Abbas said that UN Secretary General assured the Maldivian Government about the continuation of UN cooperation and assistance to the Maldives and the current Government.

"The MDP’s claim that the UN does not recognize the current government has today become obsolete. The Secretary General would not meet any leader of a State in that capacity if the leader has no legitimate authority or if the international community does not accept him as such. Hence, it would be senseless for anyone to make the said claim after this meeting", said Abbas.

Abbas said that the President briefed UN Secretary General about the works being undertaken to reform the Commission of National Inquiry, established to independently investigate incidents that occurred in the Maldives from 14th January 2012 until 8 February 2012, during their meeting. He also said that the President expressed his gratitude for the UN’s assistance to improve democracy in Maldives.

According to Abbas, the UN Secretary-General congratulated the Maldivian President on the country’s formulation of a Marine Reserve Policy, and assured that the UN would provide all possible assistance to the implementation of the policy. The UN has called upon all political parties in the Maldives to work in order to find a solution to political turmoil in the Maldives following the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed on the 7th of February, this year.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, June 21, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police deny Amnesty charge

The Maldivian police have refuted "in the harshest terms" allegations of police brutality by Amnesty International, after the human rights body released a statement on June 11 condemning the "excessive use of force" against demonstrators.

Amnesty’s statement followed its investigation of the police crackdown on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest against the dismantling of the MDP’s Usfasgandu protest camp on May 29 ? a crackdownwhich included "beatings, pepper-spraying, and arrests. Those attacked include peaceful demonstrators, members of parliament, journalists and bystanders."

In a press release, police insisted that "the minimum required force" was used to arrest 52 protesters on May 29, which included those who "obstructed police from performing their duty" and "disobeyed and resisted orders" as well as others taken into custody "on suspicion of attempting to inflict physical injury on police officers" and "for behaving in ways that cause loss of public order."

In its statement on the May 29 incidents, Amnesty had said that despite police claims to have used "the minimum required force to dismantle the area and arrest unruly demonstrators", "it is clear that by far the majority of demonstrators were not using violence, and any such incidents cannot be used by police as an attempt to justify the ill-treatment of bystanders and those rallying peacefully."

< class="text11verdana">Source:Minivan News, June 21, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Another MP to quit MDP

S. Maradhoo MP Hassan Adil has made the decision to leave MDP. Adil said that he had made the decision to leave MDP next week, because he is ’not at all happy’ with the way the party is operated. He also said that he is considering joining another party, but had not yet decided which one. Sun has received information that Adiltill join Jumhooree Party at a ceremony at Traders hotel next week.

Adil was elected to the Parliament on Gaumee Party’s ticket, but later changed to the MDP. Three MPs have left MDP since the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed. They are Feydhoo MP AlhanFahmy, Fuvahmulah MP ShifagMufeed, MaafannuHulhan’gu MP Abdullah Abdul Raheem.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Sun Online, June 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GMR dollar-payment to staff

Despite recent Government assurances that Indian investments in the Maldives would be protected, parties in the now ruling coalition have renewed calls for the airport to be nationalised.Indian infrastructure company GMR has meanwhile informed staff that it will pay 50 percent of employee salaries in US dollars from July onwards, as part of the new employee benefits scheme. Further benefits announced include the payment of Ramadan bonuses in US dollars, and a profit-sharing scheme awarding employees a one percent share of the company’s profits from 2011.

The decision follows a week in which former opposition parties ? now in a coalition government following the controversial transfer of power of February 7 ? sent replies to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s request for opinions on the airport, the development and management of which was taken over by GMR in 2010 in a 25 year concession agreement signed with the now-opposition government.

The pro-government parties ? including the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), People’s Alliance (PA) and Jumhoree Party (JP) ? advised Waheed that they continued to endorse an agreement signed in June 2010 calling for the airport to be taken back from GMR and nationalised ? the ’Joint Statement by political parties opposing government’s efforts to hand over the Male’ International Airport to a foreign party’.

A delegation from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) ? a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on private sector in developing countries, which brokered the deal between GMR and the government of Maldives - recently addressedthe Government’s concerns over the concession agreement in a meeting with senior Government officials.The DQP ? a small but extremely vocal party which has consistently opposed the airport deal and filed court cases against it ? has since accused the IFC of mishandling the bid evaluation report of the airport privatisation agreement

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Pankhuri Mehndiratta;
Bangladesh:Dr. JoyeetaBhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India:Dr. Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Jussi Albert Jännes;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;

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