MonitorsPublished on Nov 25, 2011
In Nepal, since the signing of the seven-point agreement on November 1, two significant developments have taken shape. First, the integration process of former Maoist combatants has begun in all seven cantonments despite strong reservations.
Nepal: A delicate balance
< class="heading1">Analysis

In Nepal, since the signing of the seven-point agreement on November 1, two significant developments have taken shape. First, the integration process of former Maoist combatants has begun in all seven cantonments despite strong reservations from the hard-line faction of the party led by Mohan Baidya. As per the agreement, 6,500 fighters will be integrated into the Nepal Army while the rest choose between retirement payoffs of Nepal Rs 500,000 to 800,000 ($6300-$10,200) and a rehabilitation package that includes vocational training. The rest of the thousands of former fighters will leave the camps over the coming days. There are more than 19,000 former fighters confined to the cantonments, which were homes for them since the end of the civil strife in 2006. The camps were set up and monitored by the United Nations until January this year when the UN mission in Nepal handed over the keys of Maoist weapons containers to a cross-party special committee.

Second, after initial bickering, the major political actors of Nepal - UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and United Madhesi Democratic Front - have formed the much-awaited State Restructuring Commission with eight members drawn from the four political fronts. The Commission has been entrusted with the responsibility of recommending to the Government the transformation of the country into a federal system. It has been given a two-month term for study to complete the work.

With the initiation of integration work, a process which should have been completed six months within the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, a sense of optimism is now seen in Nepali politics. By starting a parallel process on integration and reconstruction model, the Government of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai is attempting to follow the middle path, thereby bringing in a balance between democratic forces on the one hand and the left-wing factions of the Nepali polity, on the other. If the seven-point deal is implemented in earnest, both the peace process and Constitution-writing could now be completed within a timeframe of six months. However, the success of this crucial agreement, which is the last-ditch effort by the political parties to save the peace process, will depend on the prompt implementation of the other clauses of the seven-point deal, like the one on return of seized properties. Already, Maoist leaders have said that this is a process easier said than done due to resistance from the hardliners of the party.

On integration, the Government has to seriously take into consideration the concerns of the combatants who are now seeking clarifications on technical and practical points. For instance, Maoist commanders have sought clarity on their current educational qualifications being considered during integration or the ones they had when they joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The seven-point agreement clearly says that the educational qualifications at the time of their joining the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be considered but the Maoist leadership has assured combatants of considering their current educational level. Other political parties and the Nepal Army have already rejected such a possibility. The combatants are important stakeholders of the peace process and they should be provided with full truth and all information so that they can take an informed decision; otherwise, the peace process faces the danger of a backlash from the cantonments.

Third, and most importantly, the consensus among the major parties has to remain intact for the peace process to be completed within time. Undesirable demands and resistance by different factions within the major parties can fracture the process anytime, as has been the case in the last four years. Already, the Madhesi Front is putting pressure on Prime Minister Bhattarai to take forward the integration of 10,000 Madhesis into the Nepal Army. It was a key point of agreement when the Front joined the Maoist coalition to form a new government in August.

Likewise, Bhattarai had said that a government of national consensus will be formed once the peace process is completed by November 23. That date has expired. Instead of focusing on the twin taks of peace process and constitution writing, much time has already been wasted in petty disputes. Already, the Cabinet expansion and the pardon sought for murder-convict Balkrishna Dhungel have brought some loss of credibility to Bhattarai. With 49-member team at present, Bhattarai’s Cabinet has become the largest in Nepal’s history. At a time when he is working out a national unity government, this was quite unnecessary. On the other hand, Bhattarai recommended amnesty to Maoist law-maker Dhungel who is convicted for the murder of Ujjan Shrestha in 1998. The Supreme Court has stayed the Government decision. It was also criticised by rights activists, lawyers and international community.

Such untimely actions should have been avoided. Leaders from the two major Opposition parties? NC and UML? have already protested against the expansion of the Cabinet, and termed it counter to the spirit of the seven-point deal. Bhattarai must now act urgently to salvage his trust. He should also draw powerful message from the past when the then Prachanda Government stepped down on the issue of the sacking of the then Army Chief, Rookmangud Katawal, an issue picked up by the then Prime Minister just three months before the general’s retirement date.

Finally, the success of the current processes depends much on the continuity of the Bhattarai-Dahal tie-up. Both Bhattarai and chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda is faced with tremendous pressure from hardliners, who burnt copies of the seven-point deal and organised chakka jams in the streets of Kathmandu when the keys of the weapon containers were handed to the Special Committee on Supervision, Rehabilitation and Integration by Bhatatrai government. Thus the main challenge for Bhattarai remains from within his party.

Bhattarai is already talking about a further six-month extension for the Constituent Assembly to complete the peace process. The present deadline expires on November 30. The extension would depend on the strengthening of ties with other parties in the Opposition, especially the Nepali Congress, and continuous support from the Prachanda faction of the UCPN (Maoist). Either could pull out of the process anytime as in the past. Prime Minister Bhattarai is aware that this is a delicate balance.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Nepal
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Regrouping of former Maoist combatants begins

In a major push to Nepal’s peace process, the regrouping process of former UCPN (Maoist) combatants has begun in all seven cantonments despite reservations from the hard-line faction of the Maoist party led by Mohan Baidya.

The regrouping of 50 Maoist combatants, cantoned at the Fourth Division in Nawalparasi district, has been completed. Similarly, the process has been kicked off at Dudhauli in Sindhuli district.

Member of Special Committee Secretariat and Deputy Commander of Maoist Chandra Prakash Khanal were quoted by Nepali media as saying that there was excitement as well as some suspicion during the commencement of the work.

The historic transition follows a breakthrough peace deal signed on November 1 by the Maoists and the three other major political parties which paved the way for life beyond the cantonments for the battle-hardened ex-fighters.Under the deal, 6,500 fighters will be integrated into the Nepal Army while the remainder choose between retirement.
< class="text11verdana">Source: ekantipur.com, AFP, November 19, 2011..

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mukherjee to visit Nepal

Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will visit Nepal on November 27 and sign the new Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), an accord which will enable Indian investors and traders enjoy tax credit in India once they pay taxes in Nepal. It will be a day-long visit. Once signed, the agreement will supersede similar Treaty on Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion in Respect to Taxes on Income that the two countries signed in 1987.

The new DTAA embodies modern principles for creating a better investment environment and reducing the cost of doing business. Hence, it is believed to boost investors´ confidence, thereby helping Nepal attract more investment from the southern neighbour.

The DTAA was expected to be signed during the visit of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to India last month. However, India wanted to add one more clause to the draft DTAA that the Nepal Cabinet had endorsed, the two sides failed to finalise its texts till the last minute.India has long been seeking to persuade Nepal for the revision of the agreement, mainly as growing electronic and other new forms of transaction and payment channels in recent years called for the inclusion of new measures to prevent tax evasion, among others.

Though Nepal responded to the call positively and the two sides finalised the new accord almost a year ago, it could not be sealed so far because India wanted it to be signed along with Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA). BIPPA, however, was signed during the PM’s visit in October.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, November 21, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">19 convicted for mass murder

A court in north-western Nepal has convicted 19 villagers for the beating deaths of seven people from a rival community in a dispute over foraging for a rare fungus known as ’Himalayan Viagra’. The Manang district court sentenced six of the accused to 20 years in prison and the rest to two years.

Residents of Naar village attacked the seven rivals in June 2009 after they came to nearby mountainous areas to collect yarsagumba, a rare fungus that grows out of the corpses of caterpillars. It can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram for its purported effects as an aphrodisiac.
< class="text11verdana">Source: AP, November 16, 2011.

Pakistan
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sherry Rehman new envoy to U.S

Sherbhano (Sherry) Rehman was appointed as the Ambassador to the US after the resignation of Husain Haqqani over what is termed as the ’memo-gate’ scam. "I see it as a major challenge and hope to bridge some divides and, at the same time, be an equally strong advocate for Pakistan’s interests." Ms Rehman said.

A former Minister, Sherry Rehman is known for her stand on women and minority rights. She had a long career as a journalist and after her resignation she focused her energies on the Jinnah Institute a think-tank founded by her. She has been an active participant in Track-II diplomacy with India and also a strong advocate of normalising bilateral ties.

She is seen as a good choice by many analysts as she doesn’t have the added baggage of being critical of the military establishment like Haqqani. The US praised the outgoing Ambassador and also looked forward to working with the new appointee.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, November 24-25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Challenging phase at IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), after talks with Pakistani officials as part of annual discussions, has said that the outlook for Pakistan’s economy seems ’challenging’. The Pakistani authorities have stressed on implementing reforms and efforts to build infrastructure, jobs, etc.

Pakistan had a $ 11 billion loan from the IMF that ended in September, 2011 after the country could not meet targets. The current account deficit of the country is around $ 220 million.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, November 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">14 FC troops killed in Balochistan

At least 14 para-military soldiers, including an army major, were killed and 10 hurt in an ambush in the south-western province of Balochistan.The incident took place near Bahlol Basti and Kingari in Musa Khel district where a coal mine project was initiated on August 12.

The banned outfit Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack and said that BLA attackers took away the arms of the Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, November 22, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cut in military spending

Pakistan would like to lower its military expenditure, which currently stands at 16 per cent of the national budget, in the next fiscal year. This was announced by the military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas on November 19.

The cash-strapped country allocated around $5 billion to the army’s budget in the current fiscal year, an increase of 12 percent over last year. Gen Abbas hoped that the next military allocation would not exceed the present percentage of the annual budget. He added that it had been increased this year because of the security environment and based on the needs of paramilitary forces.

Pakistan’s fiscal year runs from July 1 of the previous calendar year to the end-June of the following year. With one of the world’s lowest tax-to-GDP ratio, reaching around 10 per cent, the country is growingly dependent on foreign funds and loans, even for development projects.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, November 19, 2011; Daily Times, November 20, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ISI chief intervened in memo scandal?

Mansoor Ijaz, a US businessman who made public a secret Pakistani memo that urged Washington to rein in Pakistan’s military, has said that the ISI chief personally intervened to check details of the scandal. Mansoor Ijaz claimed that he had met with Lt Gen Shuja Pasha in London on October 22. He added that he provided Pasha with evidence that was requested, including phone and Blackberry records. Ijaz had accused Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, of orchestrating the memo, an allegation that resulted in a denial followed by his resignation. A senior ISI official was quoted as having no knowledge of the meeting but did not deny it occurred.

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan was recently introduced to Cameron Munter, American Ambassador to Pakistan, in the presence of Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief, according to The Sunday Times. Imran Khan was believed to have gained the backing of the country’s security establishment, which had grown tired of the corruption pervading in the two traditional political groupings, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by President Asif Ali Zardari, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by Nawaz Sharif.
< class="text11verdana">Source: AP, November 20, 2011; Daily Times November 21, 2011, The News International, November21, 2011.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Nationalised’ companies can go to court

Keheliya Rambuwella, the Government spokesperson and Media Minister has said that any of the 37 companies acquired by the Government under the Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilised Assets, can go to court if they have any grievance against the decision.Acknowledging that some of the enterprises might be concerned about the overnight takeover and the future of the investments made by them, the Minister said that the appropriate place to voice this concern is at the court of law.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet of Ministers, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has approved the appointment of Competent Authorities to those enterprises.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, November 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt promises action on ’war crimes’

Defence and Urban Development Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said that as a sovereign nation Sri Lanka is capable of achieving its post-conflict reconciliation goals without external intervention or guidance.Speaking at the inaugural National Conference on Reconciliation in Colombo, hetouched upon the strides made by the Sri Lankan Government and people towards all-round rehabilitation and development since the elimination of the LTTE in 2009. He said the biggest strength was the growing economy which has been steadily improving.

Gotabhaya also assured the people and the international community at large, that the government would take strict action against members of the Sri Lankan military who were found guilty of any act of battlefield excess during the final phase of the conflict. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has investigated all matters related to the conflict and has presented their report to the President who will table it in the Parliament soon.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, November 24, 2011; Daily News, November 25, 2011.

Afghanistan
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghan Govt. failed to implement law to protect women from violence: UN

A latest report by the United Nations states that the Afghan government has failed to properly implement a law on the elimination of violence against women. The law, passed two years ago, protects women from abuse, rape, forced marriage and the trading of women to settle disputes. Between March 2010 and march 2011, 594 instances were investigated by the courts. This is about only 26% of the total 2,229 cases registered by the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission (HRC). Further, prosecution and indictments were registered in only 155 cases. The report also mentions that in some cases the complainants were pressurised to withdraw their allegation or settle for mediation by the traditional councils.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Surgar, November 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New UN Special Representative

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed Mr. Jan Kubis of Slovakia as its new special representative and the head of the assistance mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). He will replace Mr. Staffan de Mistura, who will continue in office till the 31st of December 2011.

Mr. Kubis has served as the executive secretary of the UN economic commission for Europe (UNESE). He has decades of experience in the field of diplomacy, foreign security policy, and international economic relations. He has also served in the ministry of foreign affairs of former Czechoslovakia and has been posted as a special representative of the secretary general to Tajikistan. Mr. Kubis is fluent in Slovak, Czech, English, French and Russian.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Deccan Herald, November 24, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Russian ambassador to Kabul Speaks

Russian Ambassador to Kabul Andrey Avetisyan has said that the resolution of the Loya Jirga would lead to growing insecurity in the region. The Loya Jirga in a joint declaration had recommended construction of United States military basis in the country. The declaration also said that the endorsement of the US-Afghan strategic pact was necessary for the nation, which required American presence for the twin fight against terrorism and narcotics. The Russian Ambassador said though the mandate of the NATO forces would end in 2014, their objectives were far from achieved. He said the presence of American military bases in the region would make Afghan neighbours jittery. The Ambassador said that Russia would continue its assistance to Afghanistan through regional forums like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is committed to the fight against terrorism and narcotics. He said any assistance by the international community to Afghanistan should be coordinated by the United Nations.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, November 24, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Local Police Forces strengthened in Northern Baghlan

Seventy two Local Police Force recruits graduated after completing three weeks of military training by foreign forces in Northern Baghlan province. The recruits have received 21 days of military and literacy training. The graduation ceremony took place inside a United States Special Forces compound and was attended by the provincial police chief, Gen. Asadullah Shirzad. Mr. Shirzad said the recruits were residents of various districts in central Baghlan and would return to their villages to take up the security responsibility there. Residents of the area urged for an increase in the local police forces. Nearly 175 local police personnel have graduated in Northern Baghlan so far.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, November 24, 2011

Bangladesh
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Incentives for armed forces

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that her Government was considering a number of financial incentives and peace-medal for the members of the armed forces. This would along with the regular gallantry awards in recognition of their service to the nation. The Government is planning to introduce peace medals along with monthly allowances and one time endowment to boost up the competence and excellence of the armed forces.

Addressing a reception on the Armed Forces Day, the Prime Minister said that the Government was also considering the introduction of CSD, fair price marketing and banking facilities for the in-service members of the armed forces as well as pensioners.
< class="text11verdana">Source: www.theindependentbd.com, November 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tremor shakes Dhaka

Monday morning at around 9.15 am an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 on Richter scale rocked the north-eastern Bangladesh. A senior meteorologist said that the epicentre of the earthquake was in Myanmar, 468 km from Dhaka. The epicentre was 907 km north of Yangon and 130 km east of Imphal, the capital of the north-eastern Indian State of Manipur.

The tremor lasted 41 seconds in Dhaka but no casualties were reported. On November 2 and 5, Dhaka’s meteorological department recorded two tremors in Chandpur and Mymensingh. The last strong quake to shake Bangladesh twice on the same day was on September 21 last year, coinciding with Eid-ul-Fitr.
< class="text11verdana">Source: www.theindependentbd.com, November 22, 2011.

Bhutan
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Education Minister honoured

Education Minister Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel was awarded the Gusi Peace prize at Philippine International Convention Centre in Manila, for his contributions to education and academics in native Bhutan. Lyonpo Thakur is the first Bhutanese to receive the award. This year’s list of the Tenth Gusi Prize awardees list comprised 20 persona, including three former presidents and luminaries from across the world.

The Gusi Peace Prize, Asia’s foremost awarding body and among the leading in the world, brings out the best of human achievements, ideals and values. It is an annual event organised by non-profit Gusi Peace Prize Foundation, based in Manila supported by the Government.
< class="text11verdana">Source: www.kuenselonline.com, November 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ngultrum falls against dollar

The value of the Ngultrum has dropped massively against the dollar. The banks sell US dollars at an all-time high rate of Nu.52.95 a dollar, from 45.5 earlier. It will now be more expensive to buy imported goods which need to be paid in US dollar, Kuenga Tshering, Director of the National Statistical Bureau, has said.

Not only regarding the dollar rate but the drop in the value of Ngultrum can affect the price of goods imported from India. The ngultrum is pegged to the Indian rupee. The import of oil by India at higher rates can directly affect oil price in Bhutan as well.

Bhutan imports more than 75 percent of goods and commodities from outside, mainly from India.
< class="text11verdana">Source: www.bbs.com, Thursday, November 24, 2011.

India
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bail granted to 2-G scam accused

Declaring that the right to bail cannot be denied merely because of the community’s sentiments against the accused, the Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to five corporate executives, accused in the 2G spectrum case.

The court order has given hope to the other 12 accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi and the former Telecom Minister A Raja (who is yet to file a bail application), to come out on bail.

Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and H L Dattu said: "This court has time and again stated that bail is the rule and committal to jail an exception. It is also observed that refusal of bail is a restriction on the personal liberty of the individual guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Even persons accused of non-bailable offences are entitled to bail if the court concerned comes to the conclusion that the prosecution has failed to establish a prima facie case against him/her and/or if the court is satisfied there is need to release such accused on bail."

Writing the judgment, Justice Dattu said: "The object of bail is neither punitive nor preventive. Deprivation of liberty must be considered a punishment, unless it is required to ensure that an accused person will stand trial when called upon by the court. The courts owe more than verbal respect to the principle that punishment begins after conviction, and that every man is deemed to be innocent until duly tried and duly found guilty."
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, November 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ULFA splits, peace talks to continue

In a possible setback to the on-going peace talks, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has split, with the hard-line faction led by its commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah forming a new central committee by dropping the eight top rebel leaders now engaged in peace talks with New Delhi.

The pro-talk faction and the Government have termed Baruah’s decision as unfortunate. "The decision to restructure the organisation is unconstitutional and wrong," ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said, adding theirs is the real ULFA. The Assam Government stated that it does not recognise Baruah’s group and that talks with the ULFA would continue.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, November 21, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Interest in SEAsia seas ’purely commercial’

Talking on the side-lines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao agreed on the need to work together as there was "enough space" and areas for them to work together for mutual benefit.

Dr Singh maintained that Indian exploration of oil and gas in the South China Sea was "purely commercial." He also conveyed to Wen that the issue of sovereignty over the Sea waters should be resolved according to international law and practice. Indian activity in the South China Sea was raised by Singh in the context of China’s misgivings over a recent pact between India and Vietnam on oil exploration.

Maintaining that the issue needs to be resolved in accordance with the international law and practice, India is stressing the freedom of navigation and right to passage in these waters given its importance as a trade route.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, November 19, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cyrus Mistry is Ratan Tata’s heir-apparent

Cyrus P Mistry (43) will be crowned chairman of Tata Sons when Ratan N Tata formally retires in December 2012 on reaching the superannuation age of 75. Mistry is at present Managing Director of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group and is also on the board of Tata Sons, the holding company which controls the Tata Group.

A unanimous choice of the selection committee, Mistry was chosen ahead of Noel Tata, younger half-brother of Ratan Tata, long considered a favourite. Mistry is a graduate in civil engineering from Imperial College, London, and has a Master of Science in Management from London Business School.

Mistry is the youngest son of construction tycoon Pallonji Mistry, who also owns a significant stake in the group. In the next one year, he will work as an understudy of Ratan Tata, before eventually taking over from him when the latter retires.

A day after Mistry was named Ratan Tata’s successor as the Tata Group chief, the stocks of a number of companies from the salt-to-software conglomerate soared higher on the bourses, adding more than one-billion-dollar to the combined market value of the business house.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, November 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">51 pc FDI cleared in multi-brand retail

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail and 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail. The decision is likely to clear the decks for the entry of foreign retail giants such as Teso, WalMart and Carrefour into the $450-billion retail Indian market.

The proposal for 51 per cent FDI in retail has come with certain riders, including approval to be taken from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), a minimum investment of $100 million by the foreign investor, putting 50 per cent of the total FDI in back-end infrastructure and procurement of 30 per cent of the products from small-scale industries. The retail chains will be allowed only in cities with a population of more than 10 lakh as per the 2011 Census. There are 51 cities with a population of more than one million, based on the 2011 Census.

The announcement evoked strong criticism from Opposition parties, including the BJP and the Left, but was welcomed by corporate India.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, November 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rupee touches all-time low

On a day of hectic activity, the rupee closed at 52.32 to the USdollar on Tuesday, November 22 -- 16 paise lower than the previous closing of 52.16, though the 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange sensitive index, Sensex, closed 0.75 per cent higher snapping an eight-session losing streak. The rupee touched an all-time low of 52.73 intra-day against the dollar.

The small gain in the equity market is seen as temporary as falling rupee would likely to cause more economic turmoil for the country. The Planning Commission Vice-Chairman, meanwhile, said the rupee value was reflecting only the global economic situation. But the rupee would regain its value.

The fall in the value of rupee against other major currencies will push up petroleum prices as well as inflation.Oil and other importers were scrambling to buy dollars at the inter-bank foreign exchange market as the value of the rupee was falling sharply with an increasing current account deficit and fears over unstable Eurozone and gloomy global economy.

In seven straight sessions, the rupee has lost a total 217 paise or 4.34 per cent. While the demand for the U.S. dollar shot up from importers, persistent capital outflows accelerated the rupee downtrend as foreign institutional investors (FIIs) pulled out $460.40 million in five days since November 15.

Even as the market speculated that the central bank might intervene. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said RBI’s intervention in the foreign exchange market would not check the slide as FIIs’ pullout and global reasons were behind the depreciation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, November 23, 2011.

Maldives
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNHRC chief for removal of ’Muslims-only’ citizenship

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for the removal of the constitutional clause that states all Maldivian citizens must be Muslims.Navi Pillay also expressed concern over the continuing trend of flogging women found guilty of extra- marital affairs. In a speech made to Parliament, she urged the Maldivian authorities to conduct a public debate on the issue which is likened to other inhumane forms of violence against women.The Commissioner also credited Maldives’ transition to a democracy as a worthy example for the Islamic world to follow.

Her visit to the Maldives is the first by any UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. During her four-day visit, she met with President Mohamed Nasheed, leaders of the Opposition parties and members from civil organisations to discuss issues like the growing religious intolerance in the country, gender inequality and child abuse.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, November 24-25, 2011, Minivan News, November 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Renewable Energy Prices Set

The Cabinet of Ministers has set the prices for government owned utilities companies to purchase renewable energy. According to the new rules, State Electric Company Limited (STELCO) can buy a unit for Rf3.42. South Central Utilities Limited will be charged the highest rate per unit (Rf5.39), and Upper North Utilities Limited can buy a unit for Rf4.44. Units are available to Northern Utilities Limited for Rf4.40, Central Utilities Limited for Rf3.97 and Southern Utilities Limited for Rf3.94.

The move is part of Maldives’ scheme to achieve its carbon neutral goals. Currently the island nation aims to cut its carbon emissions by 60 percent by using solar power.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, November 24, 2011, Minivan News, November 24, 2011.

Myanmar
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NLD back in politics

The National League for Democracy (NLD) re-registered formally to enter the political fray. On the 18 November 2011, in an intra-party meeting NLD had backed the proposal to join the Political arena after years of marginalisation. This decision of the party comes in the wake of the government revising the laws of political participation and registration of political parties.

The NLD’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to run in the upcoming by-elections, for 48 parliamentary seats for which polling dates are yet to be announced.

The NLD’s decision to end its boycott of the political process came on the same day the military-dominated government received a dramatic seal of approval from the United States for a string of nascent reforms.

NLD is also expected to undergo internal party reorganization since most of the current leaders are at their sunset of their career. It is expected that by the time the country is set for the next general election in in 2015 there will be new crop of leaders.According to rumour reported Aung San Suu Kyi if elected in the by-election might be made a part of the government
< class="text11verdana">Source: channelnewsasia.com, November 18, 21 and 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cease-fire and peace talks

Five ethnic armed groups held peace talks with the Government in the Thai-Myanmar border on 20 November 2011. The fiver groups are the Kachin Independence Organization, Karenni National Progressive Party and Chin National Front (CNF), Karen National Union (KNU) and Shan State Army-South (SSA-South). Of the five only three groups informally singed ceasefire agreements with the Government. They are the Chin National Front, Karen National Union and Shan State Army-South. The Government was represented by Aung Min, the minister for railways.

The ethnic groups that informally agreed to a ceasefire agreement proposed a four point plan comprising the cessation of hostilities, political negotiations, setting up of a special development zone and cooperation for the eradication of drugs.

In the past all ceasefire agreements with ethnic armed groups were between the military and the ethnic groups. The current talks are initiated by the civilian government and not by the military. The ceasefire talks are planned at state level with political dialogues between Naypyidaw and ethnic armed groups to take place at division level.
< class="text11verdana">Source: irrawaddy.org, November 21, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">VIPs on their way

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said that he would be visiting Myanmar as soon as possible to propel reforms, while the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit Myanmar on December 1-2. This was announcement that was made on the side-line of the East Asia Summit that was recently concluded in Indonesia.

The Secretary of State said that she will be visiting Myanmar to investigate whether the new military-backed leadership there is serious about allowing political and economic change.
< class="text11verdana">Source: channelnewsasia.com, November 19, 2011.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

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

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