MonitorsPublished on Apr 11, 2014
The country has already seen three years of Thein Sein government, a critical phase in the history of Myanmar, which back then was on the throes of transition to democracy.
Myanmar: Tough road ahead for President Thein Sein
< class="heading1">Analysis

The country has already seen three years of Thein Sein government, a critical phase in the history of Myanmar, which back then was on the throes of transition to democracy. Thein Sein, if a recent survey undertaken in the country has to be believed, has firmly put the country on the road to reform which is irreversible.

This optimism which is the general mood of the Burmese is natural, considering that the country faced over 60 years of military-rule and President Sein’s civilian government was a glimmer of hope. However, Thein Sein, who is unlikely to contest for another term, has a tough road ahead before he hands over the leadership to his successor.

Thein Sein’s legacy

Thein Sein, a former military general, became the President of Myanmar after the elections were held for the first time in 2011 and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) assumed power. The 2011 elections saw the National League of Democracy (NLD), the main Opposition party, boycott the elections, and so had armed ethnic groups. This raised serious doubts about the inclusive nature of the elections.

The government recuperated well and convinced the NLD to participate in the by-elections held in April 2012. The government has not looked back since. It has been able to sign cease-fire agreements with most armed ethnic groups excepting the Kachins.

The government has also been successful in instituting a parliamentary committee for reforming the Constitution. The government has also taken strides in bringing in all political parties in reforming the Constitution.

Relations with major powers

The country’s foreign policy also looks more balanced under the Thein Sein government. Thein Sein’s curt handling of the Myitsone Dam project showed to the world, Myanmar’s attempts at re-balancing China’s influence. Myanmar’s diplomatic ties with US and the European Union have also improved in the last three years. Both have lifted sanctions on investment in the country.

Japan has come forward with assistance for development and infrastructural projects in the country besides Japanese corporations are also investing in Thilawa SEZ which is the biggest foreign investment project of the country. The government’s role in clearing obstacles for foreign direct investment in the country has been another achievement. However, the government’s treatment of the ethnic minorities, especially the Rohingyas, has drawn flak from over the world. The continued persecution of the Rohingyas at the hands of majority Bamar community and denial of citizenship have had a deep impact on the foreign relations of Myanmar.

The UN, armed with the newly-incorporated Responsibility to Protect (R2P) clause, has urged the government to consider granting citizenship to Rohingya Muslims. Countries that have been seeing an exodus of Rohingya Muslims entering their lands -- Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand -- have urged Myanmar to contain the migration of Rohingyas to foreign lands.

Year ahead, critical

The year 2014 would be critical for the Thein Sein government. This is the penultimate year to the 2015 elections and a chance for President Sein to end his tenure with splendor. The government would be eyeing at completing the constitution reform before the elections so that the party represented by Thein Sein could win the election mandate in their favour.

The government would also like to hold a conference with armed ethnic groups after making them sign the peace accord. This conference which is said to be on the lines of the Panglong Conference is expected to end ethnic conflict and establish a federal system. However, crucial would be how the junta sees the ethnic reconciliation being attempted by the government.

For any reforms to be introduced, the military’s support is crucial as it still holds 80 percent of the seats in the Union Parliament. In a recent development, the government has been able to engage the military in the ongoing peace process with the armed ethnic groups. However, it is to be seen whether the military would withdraw from its political role.

As the chair of ASEAN, the Thein Sein government would have to put to test its diplomatic acumen in dealing with China, whose aggression in the South China Sea has been a cause of concern for the South-East Asian nations. President Sein would have to prove the point that the government would be steadfast and take a stand in the interest of ASEAN members on this issue.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal: Observing the Indian elections

Pratnashree Basu

As India is in the midst of the general elections to elect the 16th Lok Sabha, there is some amount of speculation and debate about how it is going to impact on Nepal. There are a number of news reports on how the political leadership in Nepal is observing with attention the lead up to the polls and waiting for to understand how the outcome would shape India’s political attitude towards their country.

The elections are all the more significant this time because it is widely anticipated that there will be a change in political leadership which in turn might signal a transformation in regional or bilateral policies. There are broadly two kinds of opinion in this respect.

Prospects for Nepal

According to one section, the dominant opinion is that there is not much of a need to be worried about who will come to power in New Delhi because India’s policy towards Nepal has remained more or less unchanged. This is so because no matter which political party or coalition assumes power, the posture towards Nepal remains confined to the broad framework of approved policy towards the latter.

This opinion also holds that there may not be much change of direction because there is a general agreement over the fact that in the South Asian neighbourhood, the increasing influence of China needs to be curbed. Hence, the workings of foreign policy towards Nepal will be guided by the bureaucracy.

There is another view that a change of guard, which most widely expected to happen, may be a considerable cause of concern, to Nepal. There are two reasons for this. First, the possible coming to power of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), since the incumbent Congress party and the UPA coalition at large are perceived to have garnered large-scale dissatisfaction and most importantly distrust among the people of India, is being perceived with much apprehension.

The main reason for this being the fact that Narendra Modi, the nominated prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, a right-wing, Hindu nationalist party, is a person with a contentious past, which includes religious extremism. The BJP has several sister organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), all of which conform to the idea of a ’Hindu nation’ as a key basis for their socio-political ideology of ’Hindutva’.

A leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who visited Nepal recently, remarked that the latter would turn into a ’Hindu State’ if the BJP came to power. Added to this is the fact that these sister organisations of the BJP have their respective chapters in Nepal which might gain considerable strength in the event of the BJP coming to power in India.

Change in neighbourhood policy?

In addition to the BJP factor, another reason for the Indian elections being followed closely in Nepal is the belief that India’s policy towards its immediate neighbourhood may change if the Congress-led UPA loses the elections, because the present stance has not proved to be effective enough. A new Prime Minister therefore may review and revise the existing outlook which could possibly signal substantive changes.

Some Prime Ministers in the past have also been instrumental in formulating significant changes in policy by virtue of their political will and individuality. Also, diplomatic and political relations are no doubt more cordial if visits at the level of heads of government take place. While previous Prime Ministers have visited Nepal, Dr Manmohan Singh has not done so in two full terms of 10 years.

Nevertheless, in the past few months, the two countries have met to discuss several key issues of cooperation of which some have been quite constructive, especially in terms of hydro projects and border management issues, among others. It is unlikely that in India, no matter which political party comes to power, there will be a drastic or negative alteration in policy towards Nepal. This is because it is acknowledged that in the current regional scenario, the benefits of mutual cooperation and assistance far outweigh any adverse or even ambiguous attitude.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fake passport cases double

The use of fake non-machine readable Nepali passports has been increasing more than 100 percent every year. According to data obtained from the Department of Immigration (DoI), the number of fake non-machine readable passports and visas (which have to be filled in by hand) that were recorded in 2013 was 873 while the figure was just 485 in 2012.

Most of those arrested with the fake passports were returning to Nepal after their employment in foreign countries, mostly in the Gulf. He said that the technological resources available at Tribhuwan International Airport can easily identify the fake passports. The DoI has established that the original photographs in the passports are tampered with by both Nepali and Indian nationals.

The authorities say that Nepalis are found either understating or overstating their age in a bid to secure employment in foreign countries. They argue that altering the date of birth raises the chances of foreign employment. The highest number of such fake passports, 154, was recorded in the month of September in 2013 while only 37 cases were recorded in December of the same year.

However, Khanal claimed that the trend of using fake non-machine readable passports will decline once machine readable passports (MRP) replace the non-machine readables.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 9 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Disagreement over transitional justice

On the third day of its formation, the cross-party task force found itself in the thick of fresh disagreements over transitional justice bills. In Tuesday’s meeting of the task force, a dispute surfaced over the provision of amnesty and prosecution in the proposed bills on Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

According to leaders, the three major parties —the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) —had agreed to drop the clauses on amnesty and prosecution in the bill on Monday as they could not reach a consensus. A day later, the UML is said to have put its foot down opposing the provision of giving the proposed commission sweeping powers to decide cases on its discretion.

On Monday, the task force members were divided over crimes for which amnesty should not be granted. Extra-judicial killings, murder of an unarmed person, torture, rape, disappearance and abduction were earlier categorised as crimes for which amnesty should not be granted.

Interlocutors involved in TRC negotiations say the leaders’ reluctance to accept the provision of prosecution stems from the fear that high officials may get dragged in cases under the principle of command responsibility, a doctrine of hierarchical accountability in cases of war crimes. The task force is scheduled to meet to sort the differences on Wednesday, the day when the bills are due to be tabled in parliament for discussion.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Ekantipur, 9 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TTP prisoners to be released

Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the government will release 13 Taliban prisoners to aid ongoing peace talks with militants.

He also said he hopes the Taliban will release some of its own prisoners as well. Khan said some of those being released by the government were on a Taliban list.

The number of released prisoners might go up to 30 following talks with the Taliban which are to be held this week. The government released 19 prisoners last month.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, 5 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">30 ’militants’ killed in Balochistan

He Frontier Corps claimed to have killed more than 30 militants in Balochistan’s Kalat and Khuzdar districts on 7 April, according to Khan Wasey, the spokesperson for FC. He told newspapers that the forces launched an operation against suspected militants in Kalat district’s Parodh area.

"So far more than 30 miscreants have been killed in the operation", Wasey said adding that "Forces also destroyed six vehicles of miscreants". A large contingent of the forces, backed by local administration, was taking part in the operation.

The spokesperson however said that ten security personnel also sustained injuries during the operation. Provincial interior minister Sarfraz Bugti said security forces seized a large quantity of weapons during the raids. The claims could not be verified by independent sources.

A day after the raid, a train blast at Sibi railway station in the province claimed the lives of 16 passengers and wounded 40 others. The train caught fire after an IED exploded at the station. BBC Urdu reported that the United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 7&8 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Explosion at Islamabad market

The United Baloch Army (UBA) - a separatist militant outfit in Balochistan - has claimed responsibility of the deadly terrorist attack in Sabzi Mandi area of the capital city that killed at least 24 people and wounded more than 115.

The blast was said to be a high-intensity explosion. Police in Pakistan’s capital city said that about 11 pounds of explosives were planted in crates of guava fruit that were brought from different cities to be sold at the market.

Spokesman for UBA Mureed Baloch said the rebel Baloch group has carried out the attack in retaliation to military’s ongoing operation in Balochistan’s Kalat district.

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid condemned the blast in the capital city, adding that the death of civilians in the attack was regrettable.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 9 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PML-N lawyer shot dead in Karachi

Advocate Waqar Shah, former Vice President of Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz’s lawyers’ wing, was gunned down by three unidentified armed men while he was on his way to a court after leaving his house

The Sindh High Court Bar Association boycotted court proceedings for the rest of the day to protest the lawyer’s killing. Moreover, Sindh High Court (SHC) Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar took notice of Shah’s killing and directed the inspector general of Sindh police to submit a report of the incident. The incident comes one day after violence claimed 12 lives across Karachi.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 10 April 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gopi among three LTTE cadres shot dead

Ponniah Selvanayagam Kajeeban alias Gobi, a former LTTE intelligence cadre, was among the three LTTE leaders who were shot dead by the Army during a clash at Vedivachchikallu in Nedunkerni, Welioya, the Army said.

The shoot-out occurred when a group of soldiers encircled a house in Nadunkerni on a tip-off that the suspects were staying there.

"The three suspects were identified as Gopi, Appan, and Thevian. Judicial inquiry is being held at the scene of the shooting," Army spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya said.

"The detectives recovered arms, ammunition, explosives and other material from the hideout," he said. The previous day, troops recovered four back-packs containing rations, medicine and clothes

It was the largest man-hunt launched in the Northern Province since the conclusion of the ethnic conflict in May 2009, and the first confrontation between the LTTE and the Army, since. Of the dead, Thevihan was involved in the LTTE air-attacks on the Anuradhapura air base in October 2007 and the Kolonnawa Petroleum Storage facility also in the same year. .

The Government launched a major hunt for LTTE cadres in the wake of Gopi shooting at a police officer on March 13 at Dharmapuram, a one-time LTTE stronghold east of Kandy-Jaffna A-9 Road.

A senior military official told The Island that a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) activist, Mrs Balendran Jayakumari, had harboured Gopi at her Dharmapuram residence though she knew of his involvement in terrorism. When the police arrested Jayakumari and took her 13-year-old daughter, Vipooshika into protective custody, the TNA raised the matter at the 25th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Tamil LTTE activists in London launched a protest outside the British Premier’s office, demanding the British intervention to secure their release

Addressing the UNHRC, under General Debate on Agenda Item 2 on the Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary General, Northern Provincial Councillor, Ananthi Sasitharan alleged that Vipooshika had been arrested for participating in protests demanding the release of her detained brother. Sasitharan said that Vipooshika’s arrest was a threat to every child protesting injustice caused to Tamil speaking people.

Police headquarters said that following investigations into ongoing attempts to revive the LTTE, authorities detained 60 persons, including 10 women in connection with their alleged involvement in the new terrorism project.

Authoritative sources said that as both Gopi and Thevian had lived abroad, investigators were in the process of checking their relationship with Diaspora activists. Intelligence services believe that Appan had been staying at Jayakumari’s home for some time and was involved in clandestine operations. Sources said that they had been funded by the Europe-based LTTE?groups.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 10 April 2014, The Island, 10 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Why no cooperation with UN probe

Sri Lanka will not cooperate with the proposed war crimes investigation undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, though the government remains committed to work with the United Nations as well as other international agencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris emphasised that the government of Sri Lanka wouldn’t accept the jurisdiction of the UNHRC to undertake an inquiry, therefore the question of the government cooperating with the proposed mechanism didn’t arise.

Peiris said that the government decided against cooperating with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, primarily due to three reasons. The proposed investigation was beyond the scope of Ms Pillay’s office, the Minister said, adding that the second reason was her hostility towards Sri Lanka. The minister pointed out whatever those calling for UN intervention in Sri Lanka say; Ms Pillay would not approach the inquiry with an open mind.

Referring to an ongoing project titled Joint Needs Assessment, the minister said that the government was working closely with the UN to tackle problems faced by the displaced.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 9 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">32 living in India on ’LTTE banned list’

Thirty-two Sri Lankans currently residing in India are among 422 individuals named by the Sri Lankan government as members of the banned LTTE offshoots.

Sri Lanka last week banned LTTE and 15 other Tamil diaspora groups for their alleged terror links and prohibited its nationals from making any contacts with them.

Some 422 individuals, including 32 persons presently residing in India, were named in the Sri Lankan government gazette dated March 21.

However, Indian addresses have been cited in only six of the 32 cases in the gazette.

The other individuals in the list are residents of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Thailand, the UK and Sri Lanka.

In respect of the Sri Lankans in the list, the gazette says Interpol red notices have already been issued for their arrests.

A senior official as said that while the listing of individuals and groups could not be currently treated as a proscription, the government had the option of banning or proscribing them by passing legislation in Parliament.

Besides the LTTE, the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) and British Tamil Forum (BTF) are among the proscribed groups. Both these groups are regularly consulted by the government of the UK and US. The GTF was an official invitee of the African National Congress (ANC) at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

Sri Lankan Defence Ministry would now be requesting foreign governments to take action against the designated groups and individuals as per the UN Security Council resolution 1373 which is binding on all states, officials said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 10 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">A high turnout, ’credible’ elections

The Afghan Presidential Elections held on 5 April saw an extremely high voter turnout despite the prevailing security threats. It was estimated that almost 7 million people cast their vote, a 50 percent increase from the number of people who had cast their vote in 2009. The high turnout has been hailed around the world as a clear sign of defiance of the Taliban. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon congratulated Afghans for the "momentous achievement" of their recent elections.

The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) declared that they would declare the partial results of the elections by 12 April. IEC officials said votes have been tallied from provinces across the country and are being transferred to the IEC headquarters in Kabul via air transport. Once the ballots have arrived they will verify the count and then announce the preliminary results of the presidential election on 24 April.

The IEC urged the candidates to respect the outcome of the elections. The IEC has asked all the presidential candidates and their supporter to not speculate on the results of the election and to respect people’s votes. Election monitoring groups have also expressed concern about candidates claiming victory before the results are established. In the meanwhile, observer groups that monitored this year’s elections claimed that early reports show that fraud during the 2014 elections was significantly lower than the 2009 elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 6-7 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Insurgent casualty on the rise

In coordinated operations undertaken by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in the past week, the Taliban witnessed massive casualties. The Afghan Interior Ministry announced on 7 April that in operations undertaken by the ANSF, at least 32 insurgents were killed and 8 were injured. At least 11 Taliban militants were also arrested during the operations which were conducted in Kabul, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Kapisa, Ghazni, Kunar, Nuristan and Helmand provinces.

The Afghan National Directorate of Security also announced that an airstrike against a gathering of senior Pakistani and Afghan Taliban leaders in Kunar province resulted in the death of 17 senior leaders, including Noor Qasim Sabari, shadow governor of Taliban in Kunar.

Moreover, 86 militant leaders were arrested in 35 operations undertaken by the Afghan intelligence in Kandahar province.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 8 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mujib was an illegal PM: BNP

Tarique Rahman, senior vic- chairman of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and elder son of the party’s chief Khaleda Zia, this week said that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first Prime Minister of independent Bangladesh, was an ’illegal’ Prime Minister in 1972.

Tarique who is exile in London since 2008 made the assertion at a function, organised by the BNP at the Westminster Hall in London. He said that said Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the ’first illegal prime minister of Bangladesh’ as he had apparently ignored the declaration of independence made on 10 April 1971, when the first government-in-exile was formed.

Tarique quoted the declaration saying Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would remain as the President and Syed Nazrul Islam as the Vice-President until the adoption of the Constitution. "So, how does Sheikh Mujib take oath as the Prime Minister on January 12, after returning to Bangladesh on January 10? The Constitution was yet to be prepared then," said Tarique.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and senior law-makers of the ruling Awami League have come down heavily on BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman for his remarks. Sheikh Hasina, also daughter of Mujibur Rahman, urged the people not to be confused with the motivated remarks of those who never wanted Bangladesh’s independence.

Reacting to Tarique’s comment Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed alleged that Pakistan is hatching a conspiracy against Bangladesh while the Pakistan’s Inter- Services Intelligence (ISI) was distorting history. Awami League leaders are demanding sedition charges against Tarique for his remarks on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, with a view to protecting the country’s independence and sovereignty.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 9 April 2014; The Independent, 11 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Natural friend of China

Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh Li Jun this week said that China and Bangladesh are natural friends and partners. The Chinese envoy also said that the two countries have shared glorious history, they face common challenges, common interests and pursue and common dreams.

Li further opined that the fundamental interest of Bangladeshis is in a stable, prosperous and united Bangladesh. He made these comments while unveiling the book, ’Contemporary Thoughts’, written by BNP standing committee member and former army chief Mahbubur Rahman.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, 8 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Transit for gold smuggling into India

A leading newspaper in Bangladesh this week revealed that Bangladesh is regularly been used as a transit for gold smuggling into India. Bangladesh’s customs intelligence statistics show that about 650 kilograms of gold were seized in January 2013-March 2014 while the amount was on 25 kg in 2012.

Detectives said that gold smuggling increased alarmingly immediately after India had increased duty on gold jewellery import to 15 per cent from 10 per cent in September 2013 as part of efforts to keep demand for gold low. Customs intelligence and Detective Branch officials said that smugglers mostly prefer land-routes to smuggle gold into India as the country maintained strong security and vigilance at airports and smugglers were regularly using air route to Bangladesh, taking the advantage of poor security and officials who could be ’easily managed.’

The paper claimed that t international crime syndicates active on the prowl were using Bangladesh as a major transit to smuggle gold into India as it imposed a high duty of jewellery import.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, 9 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Forex reserves hit new high

Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves touched a new height this week as it exceeded $20 billion for the first time due to rising exports. Reserves rose from nearly $14 billion a year earlier.

Rising exports and a slow pace in imports have built up reserves despite a drop in remittances due to fewer Bangladeshis going abroad to work.

In the first eight months of the financial year beginning July 1 2013, exports totalled $19.83 billion, up nearly 14 percent from the same period a year ago, boosted by stronger garment sales.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 10 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Govt-change will not influence India’s policy’

Indian policy towards Bangladesh would remain the same, irrespective of whether there was a change in government at India or in Bangladesh, said Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Pankaj Saran.

"If our government changes after May 17 or the life of your current government expires, we are not going cut down power lines or shut down Moitree Express, say for example," Saran said at a lecture titled "India and India-Bangladesh Relationship," organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies in the capital Dhaka.

Claiming that substantial progress had been made through New Delhi’s interactions with several Bangladeshi governments over the past four decades, Saran said: "Our national interest would be to try and give it our best shot to deal with any government that is in Bangladesh at a given point in time."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dhaka Tribune, 8 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Reliable power for East and Central

To export surplus power from the Kurichhu hydropower plant and to re-import it during the lean season, the Deothang-Rangia transmission line will now serve as an alternative to already existing Salakati- Gelephu transmission point.

This would improve the reliability of power supply to eastern and central region of the country.

While the agreement also formalises the inter-linking of eastern and the western grid at Jigmeling, power supply to the eastern and central regions of country can be made available from western Bhutan through Tsirang-Jigmeling transmission line.

Officials said the integrated grid will facilitate power from any of the plant’s flow through any of the energy entry/exit points to India. However, this could not be implemented because of the different tariff for different hydro plants.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 8 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Banks record slump in profits

For the first time, some local commercial banks recorded a significant drop, between 2012 and 2013, in their earnings, while others saw a marginal increase. Officials of the various banks were undivided to cite the reason for the poor performance.

They said continuing restrictions on housing and transport loans coupled with a high rate of defaults in loan repayments were the main causes. Bhutan National Bank’s (BNB) net profit dropped by around 28 percent and that of T-bank’s by about 40 percent.

Bank of Bhutan and Druk Punjab banks recorded an increase albeit rather marginally. BNB’s net profit after paying taxes decreased from Nu 698M to Nu 483M. The bank declared Nu 222M as corporate tax to the government.

The bank’s chief executive officer, Kipchu Tshering said they could not make any additional income last year.

Financial institutions recorded the highest rate of defaults in 2013 or translated to more than Nu 5B. In other words, Nu 5B became bad loans on which the banks did not earn any income.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 4 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lok Sabha elections begin

Voting for the 16th Lok Sabha began on 7 April with five parliamentary seats in Assam and one in Tripura going to polls in Phase I of the general elections, the biggest exercise in democracy in the world.

72% of the 64.4 lakh voters exercised their franchise peacefully in Assam sealing the fate of 51 candidates in the fray. The Congress is expected to hold onto Assam, where they emerged the biggest party in 2009.

The Tripura West constituency registered an 80% voter turnout down from an unprecedented 93% in 2009. The seat has been a CPI(M) stronghold since 1996.

In all, six seats in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland went to polls in Phase II which was held on 9 April. Nagaland recorded 82.5% voter turnout and Manipur as well as Arunachal Pradesh registered around 70% balloting. Meghalaya saw almost two-thirds of its voters turn up.

The biggest polling day so far was on 10 April which saw voting in 91 constituencies across 11 States and Union Territories, including all seats in Delhi, Haryana and Kerala and several in UP, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra.

The Congress is facing a rout in the 7 seats in Delhi. Pre-poll surveys in Bihar are predicting a win for the BJP, with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Party facing problems after breaking a 17-year-old alliance with the former. The BJP is also expected to perform well in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress-UDF alliance is expected to hold on to Kerala despite anti-incumbency against the centre.

Parts of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra also went to polls along with Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar, Chandigarh and Jammu. Some incidents were reported in Bastar in Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra where Naxals exchanged fire with security forces. In Jamui parliamentary constituency of Bihar Two CRPF jawans were killed and three others injured when Maoists triggered an explosive.

Phase IV saw the lone seat in Mizoram going to polls where there is a triangular contest among ruling Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and United Democratic Front (UDF), which is an alliance of eight opposition parties.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Firstpost, 7, 9, 10, 11 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sun Pharma to acquire Ranbaxy

Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy Laboratories announced that they have entered into definitive agreements pursuant to which the former will acquire 100% of Ranbaxy in an all-stock transaction. The deal being termed as a "landmark transaction", has been estimated at $4 billion.

Under terms of the agreed deal, Ranbaxy shareholders will get 0.8 of a Sun Pharmaceutical share for each Ranbaxy share they own. The exchange ratio represents an implied value of Rs 457 for each Ranbaxy share, a premium of 18 percent to Ranbaxy’s 30-day volume-weighted average share price and a premium of 24.3% to Ranbaxy’s 60-day volume-weighted average share price, in each case, as of the close of business on April 4, 2014, said the statement.

The combination of Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy will be the fifth-largest specialty generics company in the world and the largest pharmaceutical company in India.

The merged entity would create a new market leader in the immensely fragmented Rs 75,000-crore domestic pharma market, with the company commanding close 9.3% market share, according to AIOCD AWACS.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, 7 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IMF predicts recovery

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes the Indian economy will recover this year, predicting it will expand by 5.4 percent in 2014-15 and accelerate to a pace of 6.4 percent the following year.

The fund estimates that India grew 4.4 percent in 2013-14. According to the IMF, India’s recovery will be enabled by a stronger world economy, improving export competitiveness and policies encouraging investment. The fund expects consumer price inflation to slow to 8% in 2014-15 and 7.5 percent in 2015-16 from 9.5 percent in 2013-14.

Slowing demand, high borrowing costs and stalled projects on account of delays in securing mandatory government approvals have contributed to the sharpest economic downturn in India in a decade. Asia’s third largest economy grew 4.5 percent in the year ended 31 March 2013. The government expects sub-5 percent growth in the year just gone by.

IMF warned that though interest rate hikes by the Indian central bank may address inflation, they could hurt economic growth. The Reserve Bank of India has raised the policy rate by three quarters of a percentage point since September to 8%. "Reforms should focus on removing structural impediments to growth in India," IMF said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mint, 8 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arbitration in GMR case to begin soon

Proceedings in the $1.4-billion GMR arbitration case will begin soon. Officials at the Attorney-General’s Office said that while they could not confirm the precise dates, representatives of the office were working on the case are currently in Singapore.

Citing sources within the government, media has reported that both the government of Maldives and the State-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) will be represented at the hearings.

The Attorney-General’s office has earlier stated that the Maldives will be represented by Singapore National University Professor M. Sonaraja, while former Chief Justice of the UK Lord Nicholas Addison Phillips will represent GMR.

The arbitrator - mutually agreed upon by both GMR and the Government of Maldives - is retired senior UK Judge Lord Leonard Hubert Hoffman. Both GMR and the government have earlier stated that arbitration proceedings will be concluded around May this year.

In 2010, GMR Male International Airport Pvt Ltd, owned by GMR-MAHB consortium, was awarded a concession contract to manage INIA in an investment worth $ 511 million - the largest in the Maldives history.

In December 2013 President Waheed’s government prematurely terminated the concession agreement claiming that it was ’void ab initio’, or invalid from the outset. The management of INIA was returned to the State-owned MACL which at the time was still responsible for some aspects of airport operations.

After an injunction blocking the Maldivian government from voiding the agreement was overturned by the Supreme Court in Singapore in June 2013, GMR initiated the arbitration process claiming US$1.4 billion in compensation for "wrongful termination".

During the second round of procedural hearings in August 2013, the tribunal acceded to GMR-MAHB’s request to split the proceedings in two - firstly determining liability, before quantifying the amount of compensation to be paid separately.

The proceedings will consider GMR’s claim is for compensation as per the termination clause of its concession agreement, a parallel claim for loss of profits over the life of the agreement due to its termination, and the Maldives government’s counter-claim for restitution should the tribunal decide in its favour.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, 10 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MPs to take oath, elect new Speaker on 28 May

Parliament has announced that the ceremony for MP-elects to take the oath of office and elect a new Speaker and Deputy Speaker for the 18th Parliament has been scheduled, by the Parliament Speaker, for 28 May.

The term of the 17th Parliament, which began its five-year term on 28 May 2009, will end on 28 May 2014.

The Constitution states in Article 81 that a person elected as an MP shall assume membership in Parliament upon taking and subscribing, before the Chief Justice or his designate, the oath of office of members of Parliament.

It states in Article 79 (a) that Parliament shall continue for five years from the date of its first sitting, and shall then stand dissolved; and first sitting of the newly elected parliament shall be held immediately after the dissolution of the previous Parliament.

Article 82 (a) of the Constitution states that Parliament shall at the first sitting after the general election elect a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker from its members by secret ballot.

Article 208 (a) of the Parliament Procedures states that the arrangements for MPs to take the oath of office, as prescribed in Article 81 of the Constitution, shall be made by the Speaker of Parliament.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 10 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese grant for farm research

China has extended grant aid of MVR 2.5 million to the Maldives, under the "Agreement on Agricultural Research Project Cooperation" signed on April 10.

The agreement was signed at a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon and Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Maldives Wang Fukang.

The Foreign Ministry said that the grant aid will be utilised by the agriculture sector of the Maldives.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 10 April 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Waheed visits China, meets Cambodian PM

Former President Dr. Mohamed Waheed has met with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.

President Waheed’s former advisor, Ahmed ’Topi’ Thaufeeq told Haveeru on Thursday that he had met the Cambodian Prime Minister on his unofficial trips to China and Cambodia, but he did not give details of those trips.

Some Cambodian news agencies report that President Waheed discussed improving the relationship between the two countries, and on sharing tourism and agricultural experiences between the two countries. According to the news agencies, Cambodian Prime Minister had responded by saying that he would make a trip to the Maldives at a convenient time.

According to Thaufeeq, President Waheed had met the Cambodian PM with his wife, Ilham Hussein. "President Waheed keeps very close relations with foreign countries. He went to Cambodia to establish good relations with them as well. He went to Cambodia after going to China", Thaufeeq said.

He informed that President Waheed would return to the Maldives after making a stop-over in Malaysia, at the end of April. He is visiting Malaysia because some of his family members live there.

After having governed the Maldives for a period of 18 months, President Waheed now attends the Singapore National University as a visiting lecturer. He will attend the Singapore National University, ’Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’, named after the first prime minister of Singapore, for one week every month.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 9 April 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Infosys’ help to improve governance

With its economy opening up after decades of isolation, the reformist government in Myanmar is trying to make the country’s presence felt on the global information-technology (IT) map. The South-East Asian nation is learnt to have roped in tech major Infosys to devise a strategy on using IT to improve governance efficiency. This would focus on grooming the local eco-system.

Sources say Infosys, India’s second-largest IT services company, has bagged a consulting project from the Myanmar government to for the same. This deal would give Infosys an entry into the country once considered untouchable by global investors, owing to its prolonged civil war under the military junta.

In November last year, Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited Infosys headquarters. During her interaction with senior company officials, Suu Kyi discussed on how technology could play a role in the Myanmar’s development. Infosys had also committed to undertake a six-month training programme for 100 engineering students from that country.

According to research firm IDC, the IT spends in Myanmar is estimated to reach $ 233.56 million by 2016, with a compound annual growth rate of 16 percent between 2011 and 2016.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 9 January 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Planting mines on B’desh border denied

Myanmar has denied having planted mines along the border areas with Bangladesh. It is learnt from a letter sent by a responsible Burmese official from Maungdaw, Arakan state of Myanmar.

The letter, sent by an authorized person from Maungdaw police station to Narinjara, rejected the claim made by the Bangladesh Border Guard that Burmese agencies were involved in planting mines in Burma-Bangladesh border areas.

"It (planting of mines) is not related to our border security forces. It may be handiwork of some miscreants who wanted to destroy our goodwill to a neighbouring nation," said the letter sent to Narinjara through e-mail.

Mentionable is that the Bangladesh border security forces had discovered 39 mines along the international border with Burma in the last week of December, which were later removed, said a report published in The Daily Star recently.

"As far our knowledge goes all those reported mines were actually handmade and locally manufactured bombs only. Our forces do not deal with those kinds of explosions. So the accusation does not have the merit," added the letter.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nation-wide cease-fire tops Karen meet agenda

A Karen National Union delegation of 10 and led by ’general’ Mutu Say Poe met 5 January with Burma’s President Thein Sein and Defence Minister Min Aung Hlaing.

The KNU’s Joint Secretary, P’Doh Mahn Mahn confirmed with Karen News that, "the objective of the trip is to meet with the President and the Defense Minister in Nay Pyi Daw. The meeting will focus on the cease-fire process and how to proceed future political dialogues."

The KNU statement said that the objective of the meeting was to discuss a nationwide cease-fire. The KNU said armed forces units and relevant military officers and high level government officers would then discuss and will report to the KNU.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Burma News International, 6 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan’s support for peace process

Japan has pledged Yen 10 billion to aid conflict-affected communities and to support the peace process in Myanmar, Japanese Ambassador Mikio Numata told a press conference on Monday.

"The peace process between the Myanmar government and the ethnic is a must implement plan. The Japanese Government at the moment welcomes the progress being made between them," said Ambassador Mikio Numata.

The Japanese government has already provided Yen 91 billion when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Myanmar last May. Myanmar also received Yen 63 billion at the Myanmar-Japan Summit held in Tokyo in December aimed mainly at supporting development and infrastructure projects.

Special envoy to Myanmar, Yohei Sasakawa was appointed to help Myanmar’s peace process and to coordinate between the Myanmar government and ethnic armed forces.

The Yen 10 billion assistance will be provided over a five year period. At first, assistance will go to fulfilling the basic needs of the refugees such as food and medicine. Later, it will help in building houses for refugees and providing vocational training.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 8 January 2014

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan & India:Niharika Betkerur;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
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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