MonitorsPublished on Dec 28, 2012
Nepal President Dr Ram Baran Yadav's India visit last week helped to bring some clarity on New Delhi's current position vis-a-vis the political developments in Nepal. Although the visit came at the height of political tensions back home,
Nepal: India advocates consensus during President's visit
< class="heading1">Analysis

Nepal President Dr Ram Baran Yadav’s India visit last week helped to bring some clarity on New Delhi’s current position vis-a-vis the political developments in Nepal. Although the visit came at the height of political tensions back home, Dr Yadav was told that India is now only an interested observer of the Nepali situation from outside and that the internal political differences are for the Nepali political parties to resolve, and at the earliest.

India is clearly supportive of the President’s approach towards resolving the current political impasse by urging all major political parties to form a consensus government at the earliest. Although repeated deadlines given by President Yadav to the parties in Nepal have been missed, New Delhi feels this is the only option available to move ahead. This message was conveyed clearly to the visiting President.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid reiterated this position during his meeting with President Yadav and told him that a stable, secular and democratic Nepal was in India’s interest. "We (India) want to see the things in Nepal stabilise soon in a safe, quick and comfortable manner," Khurshid told media persons after his meeting with Dr Yadav.

Power-import

The two sides also discussed bilateral issues. But the most urgent issue for Nepal is import of power to meet domestic electricity needs. With the daily load-shedding now touching 17 hours, Kathmandu has requested for 70 MW of additional electricity supply from India during this dry season. Dr Yadav was told that steps are being taken to provide more power to Nepal. India at present supplies just over 150 MW of electricity to Nepal through its northern grid.

New Delhi’s promise on supplying power to Nepal also comes at a time when Kathmandu has assured removing all difficulties faced by Indian investments in the country. Indian companies, including infrastructure major GMR and the Tatas, hope to commission four hydro-electricprojects with a combined capacity of about 3,000 MW. Part of the electricity would be exported to India.

New Delhi is interested in two more mega projects and has offered to construct a smaller hydel plant as a gesture of friendship. The two countries also signed the BIPPA (Bilateral Protection and Promotion Agreement) during Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s India visit last year. Although criticised by Opposition parties in Nepal, BIPPA is the first step towards guaranteeing protection to the Indian investors.

India for ’national govt’

Dr Yadav met President Pranab Mukherjee, who has always taken a keen interest in Nepal. During the meeting, Yadav extended an invitation to Mukherjee for visiting his country, which the latter accepted. President Mukherjee also attended a programme in Varanasi where Dr Yadav was conferred an honorary doctorate by the Banaras Hindu University at a special convocation on December 24. In a statement Mukherjee said, "It is in India’s interest that Nepal progresses as a stable, secular, democratic republic. It has always been India’s endeavour to support peace, stability and prosperity in Nepal, in accordance with its (Nepal) wishes."

Dr Yadav met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Defence Minister A K Antony and leaders of Opposition political parties called on President Yadav and expressed concern over the prolonged political stalemate in Nepal. They all expressed unanimous views. External Affairs Minister Khurshid has publicly said that the only way forward to end the present crisis in Nepal is the formation of a national government and holding of fresh polls in April.

India has, however, thrown its weight behind Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who has been reluctant to quit office, to pave the way for a national government. But ironically the most-needed consensus, which drove the Jana Andolan II of 2006 and the 12-point agreement in 2005, is now completely absent in Nepali polity. It was over the issue of the restructuring of the State that the Constituent Assembly was dissolved in May.

The political parties need to first resolve the issue of federal-restructuring and put in place a time-bound agreement. There is huge mistrust and division in and among all major parties. The polity and society at large is now polarised on ethnic lines. Thus the consensus politics, which Delhi has this time too has taken up with Dr Yadav, will not emerge easily in Nepal. There are daunting challenges ahead for the Himalayan nation.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Myanmar: ’Rohingya issue’, an opportunity and challenge for Suu Kyi

Sripathi Narayanan
The Myanmar Government’s decision to name pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi to lead a group that is directed to look into the Rohingya Muslim’s citizenship and ethnic issue is a welcome development not only in terms of the raging problems in the Arakan State but also for the nation as a whole.

The reasons for this are many. The first and the most obvious one relates to the Rohingya issue. Secondly, the international dimension of the problem, not necessarily in terms of the human rights concerns of the comity of nations but more so on the impact of the ethnic violence on neighbouring Bangladesh. This is so because the genesis of the current problem is a child of history which has been violated by geography of the modern Nation-State.

For Suu Kyi, the issue at hand gives her the opportunity to address the Rohingya issue by working with Bangladesh. However, the crucial point is not the problems of the Arakan State which is anyway a part and parcel o Myanmar, but the ethnic question that has plagued the nation and bilateral relations since its inception. Thus for Suu Kyi success or failure on the current mission/assignment at this juncture could define the future course of her politics and political success, even if it is only to a limited extent. It could at the same time define/re-define bilateral relations with Bangladesh, among other neighbours to start with, and her own contributions, if any, to the process.

For Suu Kyi and for the rest of the country, the Rohingya issue need not remain a scar that Myanmar needs to be ashamed of, but could be an opening which could pave the way for an inclusive, pluralistic and democratic society. This, coming at the this juncture, would gain added significance since Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Government would have to bring themselves to address the issues that concern the people at large, what with both the cosmetic changes and acceptance of the same by the international community are things that are now behind them. They need to show tangible results, and the NLD in particular can claim credit nearer home, as afar, if Suu Kyi is able to make progress.

Beyond citizenship

At the same time, the issue needs to be juxtaposed in the context of the larger internal ethnic strife in Myanmar, since Rohingya question is relatively simple and straight forward unlike others. The Rohingya issue is mainly about conferring citizenship on the Muslims, who historically had migrated from what now constitutes Bangladesh, in what essentially is a Buddhist nation. It is not about devolution of powers, which has remained the persistent demand of other ethnic groups that are native to the nation or specific regions. The Rohingya issue thus does not involve separatism, sovereignty and militancy, and should be seen mostly as an issue concerning the Government and governance.

The success or a lack of it in Suu Kyi tackling this issue is of significance for the NLD since the party and the leadership need to appeal to all sections of the larger community, Barman or not. Their credentials of democracy and freedom to a large extend has ran its course, in the absence of an umbrella organisation that can claim to be a representative of all ethnicities.

The magic of the 1947’Panglong Agreement’, signed by Suu Kyi’s father, the late Gen Aung San,on the ethnic issue six months before the nation attained Independence, ran its course with the ’Rainbow coalition’ that she had brought about for the 1990 Elections. The post-poll military crackdown rendered the anti-junta coalition ineffective, and with that possibly went the possibilities of various ethnic groups working towards a common political goal. The democratic reforms of the past year or two is largely being carried out in a vacuum, wherein the military rulers in civvies has been opening up the nation and the Government, even in the absence of any significant pressure of demand from within the country and outside.

In the light of this, and also the little understood limitations of the NLD in championing the cause of the ethnic groups by going beyond larger democracy issues, the Rohingya Muslim question could be a welcome opener for Suu Kyi in political terms. For the same reason, it could also be a dampener if the democratic reforms were to be replaced by sectarian, ethnic interests in the larger Myanmarese society in the run-up to the next parliamentary polls in 2015.

’Rainbow coalition’ from the past

Any ability displayed by Aung San Suu Kyi to reach out to the ravaged sections of the polity could in turn position the NLD favourably in the elections. This is crucial since the success of the 1990 polls was a product of the ’Rainbow coalition’, led by the NLD. It was not a single-handed victory either for the party or the leader. The inability of the party to perform to expectations in the Shan State, both in 1990 general elections and the 2012 by-elections, is a reflection of the ethnic-divide dominating electoral politics.

Thus, the current assignment gives Suu Kyi an opportunity to create a 21st century edition of a coalition ethnic political groups and parties. Conversely, her inability to do so could also affect the NLD’s future electoral prospects at the national-level. It also gives the party and the leader, as forces that are seen as a government-in-waiting in post-junta Myanmar, to engage with sections of the society in a region where mistrust runs deep, and negotiate solutions that they could display to the rest of the country as a possible model for other regions and other issues, as well. The reverse is also true. Suu Kyi would thus be keenly watched, and her every step on the handling of the Rohingya issue closely monitored by the nation as a whole.

Aung San Suu Kyi needs to inspire the polity and the political class about her ability at problem-solving and consensus-building. The outcome in the Arakan State on the Rohngiya issue would not in itself propel the NLD into greater heights but could create a parallel, democratic entity that can engage the warring ethnicities in problem-solving, consensus-making and hence nation-building.

Citizens or not, the Muslim community has made international headlines after this year’s attacks on them. The negative publicity may have rubbed off some of the positive gains the nation may have made in terms of international image-building on democratic reforms, in turn highlighted by the Nobel Peace Prize for Suu Kyi. But will the incumbent Government and/or the NLD as the government-in-waiting (as seen by many in the international community) be able to capitalise on thepositive image, in a bid to address larger issues of nation-building that a democratic government in Naypyidaw cannot push under the carpet, or put down violently, as a military junta could do in the past?

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Nepal
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President’s India visit

President Dr Ram Baran Yadav paid a five-day India visit this week and met with Indian President, Prime Minister, senior Cabinet Ministers and political leaders of ruling and Opposition parties.

Reportedly, the Indian side has conveyed its concern over the delay in the Constitution-writing process in Nepal. During the meeting, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee expressed concern over the recent political developments in Nepal, efforts to forge consensus among the political parties, conduct of election, among other issues.

Before reaching New Delhi, the Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University and President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Karan Singh conferred an honorary doctorate degree - Doctor of Law (LLD) - on President Yadav ar a special convocation function in the university premises on December 25. The programme marked the 150 birth anniversary of BHU founder Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya.

< class="text11verdana">< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Power-cut worsens

According to the latest projection of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the load-shedding hours will reach 17 hours daily by the end of this year even if 70 megawatts of electricity is imported from India. The load shedding hours are up owing to decrease in the water levels in the rivers and surge of demand.

The Government has planned to import 70 megawatts of electricity this year and NEA has warned that if electricity is not imported from India, the power-cut may increase to 21 hours daily.

According to Bhuwan Chettri, Chief at Load Dispatch Centre, load- shedding hours can be limited to 16 hours if electricity is imported from India.

< class="text11verdana">< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bird flu hits capital

Officials of the Department of Animal Health culled over 2240 chickens and destroyed 700 kg of chicken grain and 105 eggs in Sitapaila-1 in the capital after the confirmation of bird flu (H5N1) on December 26.

A day after the culling of some 2,500 chickens and destroying 19,000 eggs from Manjushree Poultry Farm at Ramkot VDC-6, the team culled and destroyed chickens and their grains in Sitapaila-1 based poultry farm.

The step was taken after the confirmation of bird flu on the farm and it was put into surveillance.

< class="text11verdana">< class="text11verdana">Source:

Pakistan
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Benazir’s son makes a ’fiery debut’

In what has been dubbed a ’fiery debut’, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, son of President Asif Ali Zardari and slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, appeared at his mother’s fifth anniversary rally organised by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), founded by her executed father Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, and vowed to ’defend democracy and fight extremism’ in the country. He also accused the Supreme Court of undue judicial activism and flawed priorities, and praised his father’s achievements during his five-year tenure.

A couple of month’s short of the 25-year legal age-limit to contest elections, he is currently being groomed as an important campaigner for the PPP during election time. Together with his father, he is already the party’s co-chairman, appointed after his mother’s killing.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, December 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt declines ceasefire offer

The Pakistani Taliban has outlined conditions for a ceasefire, including the adoption of Islamic law and a break with the US, a spokesman said Thursday, an offer a senior Government official described as "preposterous".

The Taliban, in a letter sent to Pakistani media outlets and endorsed by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesperson Ehtisullah Ehsan, also demanded that Pakistan stop its involvement in the war between Afghan insurgents against the Kabul Government and re-focus on a war of "revenge" against India.

Describing their actions as ’defence’ and a religious right, the letter claimed that they were dragged into the war by the Pakistani military, which they want to become a "pure ’Islamic army’, and not mercenaries of the West". Should the Awami National Party, whose head they killed last week, changed their position, the TTP might forgive them, the letter added.

Even though the cease-fire proposal was lauded by some as a step in the right direction, Interior Minister Rehman Malik energetically rebuked the offer, accusing Pakistan-Taliban of attempting to dictate Government policy and said that "enemies will attempt to derail Pakistan’s path of democracy but their nefarious designs will be foiled by national unity"

The TTP, an umbrella organisation of several militant groups, was founded in 2007 and in targeting the Pakistani State in their quest for an Islamic theocracy, while supporting the Afghani Taliban in their insurgency against the Kabul Government and NATO forces.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Dawn, The Express Tribune, December 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MFN status to India may hit impasse

Trade normalisation with India may hit an impasse as Pakistan has not yet decided to implement its decision of granting the Most-Favoured Nations (MFN) status for the southern neighbour.

Under the agreement signed some time ago, Islamabad is scheduled to phase out its negative list of tradable goods by December 31. The list contains 1,209 items that cannot be imported from India.

However, at a weekly news briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan said that Pakistan was still going through the ’internal processes’ on granting the MFN status to India. He would not comment on the December 31 deadline and said, "Internal processes are expected to be implemented as soon as possible."

The spokesperson also commented on the recent Indo-Russian defence treaty, raising Pakistan’s objections to anything that could initiate a regional arms race.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, The Nation, December 28, 2012

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PSC chair defends process

Denying the demand by Left parties forming part of the Government for an independent committee to look into the charges against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, in turn facing impeachment, Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa as the chairman of the now-defunct PSC, said that such a suggestion would not fall within the provisions of the Constitution.

"Our duties are set out clearly in the Constitution and the standing orders. We have been given a task under our Constitution and our standing orders.So other requests are not my concern. I was given a certain task as the chairman of the PSC and I performed it according to the present provisions of the Constitution and the standing orders" he told newsmen.

When asked whether the Minister had not realised that there would be a conflict of interest when the husband of the Chief Justice was appointed chairman of the NSB, Yapa said he had not seen a conflict of interest at the time."I don’t agree with your view, people can have positions but they have to be careful. No, I didn’t see a conflict of interest" he said.

Defending criticisms of the PSC for not providing the CJ and the Opposition members in the PSC with a list of witnesses and documents to be produced, he said that the government members had called the witnesses after both parties had walked out. He said the only reason the witnesses were called was to authenticate the documents.

Responding to allegations of insults hurled against the Chief Justice, as alleged by both the opposition members and the lawyers of the Chief Justice,Yapa said that the recordings would prove otherwise.

Responding to another question Yapa said the Government members took part in the proceedings with an open mind.When it was pointed out that a sitting minister had publicly condemned the conduct of the Chief Justice prior to the proceedings and this contradicted the assertion that the committee had an open mind, the minister said that he as chairman always tried to keep to the middle ground.

When questioned as to the impending constitutional deadlock, in the event the Supreme Court finds that the standing orders are not legal and therefore renders the PSC a nullity, Yapa said, "I can’t explain this in two words and I have to give you a long drawn out explanation. We have to work within our boundaries, in every country where you have a parliamentary procedure, the courts and other organs always respect parliament."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, December 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Batti elections will be put off

The holding of elections to the nine local bodies in the Batticaloa district in March next year has hit a legal snag because of the introduction of a new electoral system, polls observers said yesterday.

When the two Bills that provide for a new electoral system were passed in Parliament, an amendment was incorporated to enable the authorities to conduct the local government elections to Puthukudyiruppu and Maritime Pattu Pradeshiya Sabhas under the preferential voting system.

However, no such amendment was incorporated for conducting of elections to the nine local bodies under the same system. The Batticaloa elections are due to be held before March 17, next year.

The People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi said delimitation work had to be completed before conducting elections under the new system. He said it was practically impossible to complete that process before March, and therefore, there was a problem in conducting the polls in Batticaloa either under the new system or the old system.

"Delimitation work cannot be completed before March. Therefore, it is impossible to conduct the poll in March under the new electoral system. Neither are there legal provisions to conduct the poll in these areas under the old system," he said.

Deputy Elections Commissioner M.M. Mohamed also confirmed that there were no legal provisions to conduct the election in March under the old system. "If the Government wants to postpone the polls, it can only be done through a parliamentary Bill. Otherwise, there will be practical difficulties in conducting the election under either system," he said.

When asked for a comment, Local Governments and Provincial Councils Deputy Minister Indika Bandaranayake said the Government would postpone the elections in these areas using the legal provisions available."We will conduct the election under the new system after delimitation work is completed. We will postpone elections until then," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, December 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian naval ship at Trinco

An Indian naval ship, INS Carnicobar, arrived at the Port of Trincomalee on an operational visit.The visiting ship sailing under the command of Lt-Com Akshay Dixit was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy in accordance with naval traditions on arrival, the Sri Lanka Navy said.

The Commanding Officer of the INS Carnicobar, accompanied by Defence Advisor at the Indian High Commission in Colombo, Captain Sumeet Kapoor, paid a courtesy call on the Commander Eastern Naval Area, Rear- Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne. They held cordial discussions and exchange mementos as a gesture of goodwill.

The visiting Indian naval ship was harboured in Sri Lanka till December 27.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, December 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">45 ex-LTTE cadres held in Jaffna

At least 45 ex-LTTE cadres, who were hiding since long period without surrendering to the security forces, were arrested in the Jaffna peninsula by the Terrorist Investigations Division (TID), official sources said.

They said that following several search operations covering the entire peninsula in the recent past, these former LTTE members were taken into custody.

The TID was interrogating these suspects and steps would be taken to take legal action against some of the suspects, if found involved in criminal activities.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, December 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian fishers freed on bail

Twenty-seven Indian fishermen arrested yesterday while illegally fishing in the Eastern waters of Sri Lanka were released on personal bail of Rs.100,000 each by Trincomalee additional Magistrate.They were asked to appear before the Magistrate on December 31.

The boats belonging to these fishermen were ordered to be kept Navy custody. The Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was ordered to present report on the illegal catch.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, December 30, 2012

Afghanistan
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mixed reaction for peace talks

The Taliban representatives at the Paris conference insisted that they were not looking to secure a monopoly of power in Afghanistan and were willing to share power with other factions. Moreover, they also pledged to grant rights to women and ethnic minorities.

Such declarations have been seen as a softer stance on the part of the Taliban. Some political parties in Afghanistan expressed hope and optimism about a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Some civil society activists slammed the claims of a softer Taliban, alleging that Pakistan is trying to infiltrate Afghanistan’s politics and vastly influence the upcoming elections.

"Pakistan, in coordination with Taliban, are trying have a major role in the Afghan peace process and influence Afghan elections to re-establish the Taliban Emirates," activist Ajmal Balochzada said, adding that the Taliban are benefiting from the government’s weakness and trying to regain power.

The Taliban also demanded a rewriting of the Afghan constitution, rejecting the existing one as one which was signed under duress. The lack of a government response to this demand was heavily criticised by Afghan parliamentarians. The lawmakers emphasised that the Afghan delegation should have strongly rejected the Taliban’s demand.

"We should not provide too many chances to the Taliban. The High Peace Council representatives should have reacted strongly to Taliban demands," Kabul MP Shukria Barekzai said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: : Associated Press, December 23, 2012; Tolo News, December 22-24, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban’s Doha office nearing completion

A formal agreement between the governments of Afghanistan and Qatar regarding a political bureau for the Taliban in Doha has entered the final stages.

The bureau is not meant to serve as a political office. Instead, it is meant to provide information about the peace-seeking Taliban. The Afghan Foreign Ministry also said that this was meant to prevent sporadic sessions in other foreign countries with the Taliban group. The Afghan Foreign Minister, Zalmai Rassoul told Afghan lawmakers, "This will be the only place outside of Afghanistan to hold talks. All other Afghan related talks will be held inside the Afghan soil."

The agreement will be presented to the parliament for approval.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, December 25, 2012; Pajhwok, December 25, 2012

Bangladesh
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Break free of AL misrule: Khaleda

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia, this week urged people from all walks of life to join her party’s movement to free the country from the misrule of the present government.

Khaleda was addressing roadside rallies, attended by hundreds of BNP supporters in different parts of the capital Dhaka, as part of her party’s mass contact programme to drum up support for the restoration of the non-party caretaker government system to the country’s charter.

Khaleda said that it was Awami League which had launched movement for establishing a caretaker government system when BNP was in power in on the ground that elections would not be fair under a party rule. Khaleda categorically said that her party shall resist any attempt to hold general election under Awami League government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, December 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China to set up silk industries

China is contemplating to establish silk industries in Bangladesh to strengthen its presence internationally. Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) informed that China wants to set up silk industries in Bangladesh.

The BGMEA has signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese entrepreneurs to this end. Mohiuddin said that the agreement followed as a high-profile delegation of China Chamber of Commerce for Export-Import of Textiles visited in Dhaka to scoop out outsourcing opportunities in Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, December 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition to Meghalaya dams

The Government of Bangladesh has sent a letter to authorities in India to express its objection to the construction of two hydro-electric dams on two rivers in the north-eastern Indian State of Meghalaya.

Sources in the Water Resources Ministry in Dhakal opined that India cannot construct dam without prior consultation with the downstream country. They have hence urged India not to proceed with the projects as Umiew and Myntdu rivers were common to both the countries and and Bangladesh will not allow any construction on any common river without a proper study of their consequences in the downstream.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Rediff.com, December 27, 2012

Bhutan
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SSB to beef up border security

India’s Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) guards the 1,751 km India-Nepal and 699 km India-Bhutan border plans to install 24 surveillance cameras along the porous border regions of Nepal and Bhutan. The areas in focus are Jaigaon in West Bengal along the Bhutan border and Raxaul in Bihar along the Nepal border under the initially phase. The SSB has introduced Global Positioning System-based Patrol Management System for effective border management.

The Director-General (DG) of the SSB has denied reports of Chinese incursions being made from the India-Bhutan border. "As far as China is concerned, this border has not been used very frequently...We have not got any trace of China using this border. It will use the Myanmar or Arunachal border for coming in, but not this border," said the DG.

The SSB plans to recruit more people. "There is a plan to recruit people from border areas. We will try to increase representation of people from border areas such as Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the force," the DG added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: indianexpress.com, December 24, 2012 2

India
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Plan target still ambitious: PM

Prime Minister Manmhan Singh has termed the twice scaled down average growth target of eight per cent for the 12th Five-Year Plan period as "ambitious", and warned against business-as-usual policies while pitching for tough decisions, especially on energy prices.

"I must emphasise that achieving eight per cent growth, following less than six per cent in the first year is still an ambitious target," Singh said addressing the National Development Council (NDC) comprising cabinet ministers and chief ministers. The NDC on Thursday approved the 12th Five-Year Plan.

The Prime Minister made a pitch for a phased hike in energy products such as petroleum, coal, natural gas and electricity in these "difficult" economic times to achieve the target of eight per cent growth.

Earlier, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa walked out of the meeting leaving her speech unfinished after a bell rang to signal the end of her allotted 10 minutes.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, the Tribune, December 28, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FDI up by 67 pc

Foreign Direct investments in India increased 67 per cent to $1.94 billion in October, but total inflows since the current fiscal year started in April remained lower compared with a year earlier, government data showed Friday.

Total FDI between April and October fell 42 per centfrom a year earlier to $14.79 billion, the data showed. Investment inflows were the strongest in September, when they rose more than two-and-a-half times to $4.68 billion.

Foreign direct investments were hit in the early part of this fiscal year after the federal government in March proposed a rule to retrospectively tax such investments. New Delhi later put the rule’s implementation on hold due to criticism from foreign and local businesses.

< class="text11verdana">Source: www.wsj.com, December 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defence deals signed with Russia

India agreed to buy dozens of Russian military helicopters and fighter jet assembly kits at the annualbilateral summit on Monday, underlining the resilience of ties between the long-time allies despite New Delhi’s recent moves to diversify its arms suppliers.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin trumpeted their countries’ strategic partnership at the summit in New Delhi, and in a joint statement agreed on global issues from Syria’s unrest to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The deals reinforce a long-standing strategic alliance based on shared suspicion of China - even though Russia has latterly been courting India’s adversary, Pakistan, and India has been turning to the United States and Europe out of frustration with Russian weaponry.

< class="text11verdana">Source: www.in.reuters.com, December 24, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks to make Pak truce effective

India is understood to have drawn Pakistan’s attention towards the increase in ceasefire violations along the LoC and the international border (IB) in recent years at the sixth round of expert level talks between the two countries on conventional CBMs here today.

The two sides also exchanged ideas to further advance the CBM process and reaffirmed their commitment to continue discussions with the aim of strengthening conventional CBMs, a joint statement issued after the meeting said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: www.economictimes.indiatimes.com, The Tribune, December 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India-ASEAN summit

India-ASEAN ties have touched a new high with the Dialogue Partnership having been elevated to a Strategic Partnership during the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit, 2012, in New Delhi. It is comprehensive as it now includes trade in services and investment along with the goods free trade agreement (FTA). It is strategic because it encompasses the whole spectrum of political and security, economic, socio-cultural and development cooperation.

The Agreement on Trade in Services and Investment Promotion has been concluded and its signing is a mere formality. The agreements with the 10-member ASEAN would follow an 8+1+1 format, which means that there would be three separate arrangements; one with eight Asean members, and one each with Indonesia and the Philippines, separately.

It is also understood that the market access opening by Asean to India would be lesser than their commitments with Australia and New Zealand. This lower level of ambition points to lack understanding, giving rise to apprehensions in ASEAN countries, which must be addressed to take bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015.

< class="text11verdana">Source: www.economictimes, December 22, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Drug inspection office in Beijing

Increasing the heat on Chinese drug firms exporting medicines to India, the drug controller general of India is all set to open its first foreign drug inspection office in Beijing by March 1.

Around four Indian drug inspectors will be posted in China to inspect manufacturing sites and check whether good manufacturing practices (GMP) are being complied with.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, December 24, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM promises women’s safety

With protests against the gang rape of 23-year old woman in the capital turning violent, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight appealed to the people to maintain peace and calm while assuring that the government would make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in the county.

In a statement, the Prime Minister said he shared everybody’s concern for the young woman, who was the victim of the gang rape last Sunday night. "This is a genuine and justified anger and aguish at this ghastly incident. We are constantly monitoring her medical condition. Let us pray for her and her loved ones during this critical time," he said in a statement.

Earlier, despite massive deployment of police and para-military personnel and barricading of major roads, protestors belonging to various students’ and social organisations managed to reach the war memorial at Indian Gate. There were clashes between the protestors and police.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, The Hindu, December 24, 2012

Maldives
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nexbis moves court on border system contract

Nexbis Malaysia has submitted a case to court requesting to declare that the Maldivian Parliament does not have the jurisdiction to order the Government to terminate the agreement regarding the border control system, a lawyer representing the company said. The petition has sought a direction to the Maldivian Government to delay the execution of the Parliament’s decision until the court had disposed of the matter.

However, Attorney-General Aishath Azima Shakoor told newsmen that the Government had strong legal arguments in favour of terminating the Nexbis agreement, signed when erstwhile MDP President Mohammed Nasheed was in office. The AG said that the Immigration Department had commenced the border control system project even after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had advised against doing so, and that the Government should have complied with ACC’s advice.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, December 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NSC to summon Defence Minister

Parliament’s National Security Committee has decided to summon Commissioner of Police Abdullah Riyaz and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim to the committee, to investigate the change of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Government. br />
The decision to summon Nazim and Riyaz was made following investigation by the committee of the report by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) on the change of Government. br />
The committee has also decided to travel to Singapore, Myanmar and Malaysia to investigate the case of allegations involving former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen with regard to the alleged embezzlement of funds related to oil trade involving amounts totalling up to $800 million.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, December 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No place now for smaller parties

Parliament has passed the Bill on Political Parties, which states that parties with less than 10,000 members will be dissolved.The Bill states that once it is ratified by the President, parties with less than 10,000 members will be given three months to increase its members, and failure to meet this requirement within three months would result in the party being dissolved.

Over 40 amendments were proposed to this bill, out of which about 15 were passed by the Parliament. Article 11 (a) of the bill states that a political party can only be registered by submitting the names, signatures and fingerprints of a minimum of 10,000 people to the Elections Commission.

Even though the Bill states that fingerprints are a requirement in the application forms to join political parties, this requirement has been discontinued by the Elections Commission.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, December 27, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ministry facilitates easier Indian visa

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to issue queue numbers previously issued by the Indian High Commission for obtaining Indian visa, from the ministry.

An announcement made by the Ministry said that those wishing to obtain Indian visa should provide their name, ID card number and passport number by sending an SMS to 7794601, and that this can be done between 8am and 12pm on Saturday. "People will be contacted by the Ministry in the order that we receive SMS’s, and informed their token numbers," says the announcement.

An official of Foreign Ministry said that this arrangement was made after discussions with the Indian High Commission in relation to the problems associated with obtaining Indian visa."The main purpose of these changes is to facilitate easier procedures for the people to solve the problems related to the visa," the official said. "This would hopefully reduce the queues."

It was recently announced that Maldivians travelling to India for purposes other than tourism must obtain the relevant visa prior to travel. Foreign Ministry subsequently advised that travel for family, medical, business and official purposes will require ’family visa’, ’medical visa’, ’business visa’ or ’official visa’.

Due to the long queues formed at the the Indian High Commission entrance following this announcement, a tent has been put up outside the High Commission by the City Council.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, December 28, 2012

Myanmar
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two die in plane crash

An Air Bagan plane en route from Yangon to Heho airport in Shan Province when the engine gave out, forcing the pilot to land about two miles from the runway in a rice paddy on Christmas Day leaving two people dead and 11 injured. The plane was carrying 65 people, including 51 foreign tourists and six crew members were also on board.

Two Americans, two Britons and one South Korean man were among those taken to the hospital in nearby Taunggyi, according to Air Bagan officials. Two French tourists were also slightly injured.

Ma Nwe Lin Shein, a tour guide, died in the crash, Air Bagan said in a statement. A motorcyclist identified as U Pyar was killed as the aircraft skidded to the ground.

< class="text11verdana">Source: nydailynews.com, December 26, 2012

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan to install radar system

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will help Myanmar install the second radar system in early 2013 for upgrading weather forecast work. The radar system will be installed in Yangon, Mandalay and Kyaukphyu, western Rakhine state. The first Myanmar radar system had been established in Kyuaukphyu with the assistance of the World Meteorology Department and Japanese government.

Earlier reports said that Myanmar would launch a small globe- observing satellite with the assistance of Marubeni Aerospace of Japan for Myanmar Meteorology and Hydrology Department which will use the satellite for broadcasting weather news through one of the satellite channels.

< class="text11verdana">Source: globaltimes.cn, December 26, 2012

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Matthias Vollhardt;

The Himalayan Times, December 24-26, 2012
The Himalayan Times, December 2, 2012
ekantipur.com, December 26-27, 2012
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