MonitorsPublished on Jun 07, 2013
Ever since Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa-colleague, Tensing Norgay, set their foot on the summit of Mt. Everest 60 years ago, the desire of the alpinists the world over to scale the world's highest peak has grown vigorously.
Nepal: Mountaineering tourism, 60 years after Everest conquest
< class="heading1">Analysis

Ever since Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa-colleague, Tensing Norgay, set their foot on the summit of Mt. Everest 60 years ago, the desire of the alpinists the world over to scale the world’s highest peak has grown vigorously. Unfortunately, the innumerable conquests since then have harmed the beauty and magnificence of Everest as it now suffers from environmental degradation and reels under acute effect of climate change. In fact, the entire Himalayan range is under threat.

On May 29, 2013, Nepal celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of the first ascent of Mt Everest. On this day in 1953, Hillary and Tensing reached the top of the world’s highest peak. In one of the most dramatic events, the duo successfully scaled the 8,848-m high peak by fighting the severest cold, thinnest air, steepest rocks and crossed some of the most dangerous glaciers with the help of just a few oxygen cylinders. Before and after this historic climb, many climbers have lost their lives or limbs. Yet, the conquest has been a test for human endurance and perseverance. It set start a new era in Nepal’s mountaineering tourism. Nepal became the Mecca of the mountaineering world and every mountaineer dreamt of scaling the Everest. There have been more than hundred successful expeditions to the Everest since then and the attempts continue.

Vital to rural economy

Mountain tourism contributes around 150 to 250 million Nepali rupees per year by way of wages and other services to the locals. It supports 917 trekking agencies (as of March 2013) with a management staff of around 6000 and field staff of approximately 9,000. According to the data available with the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), there is a seasonal employment that fluctuates between 40,000 and50,000 people in all categories of support manpower. This means that mountaineering is an essential enterprise providing the much-needed cash input in to the rural economy.

The phenomenon of mountaineering tourism is a big source of sustenance for the population living in the Himalayas. Since cultivation is low in this region given the extreme climatic conditions and productivity remains low, tourism plays an important part in livelihood generation. In the Himalayas, trade and commerce are conducted in traditional ways, market size is small and connectivity is poor. In such a situation, tourism over the years has become vital to this part of Nepal, which is inhabited by around 10 per cent of the nation’s population.

On the other hand, apart from contributing to convertible currency, mountain tourism has directly benefitted the government in two ways - by way of peak royalty and by way of trekking permits. The other direct beneficiaries are the NMA, airlines, hotels and restaurants. It has thus come to occupy the centre-stage in Nepal’s tourism sector.

Environmental degradation

The increase in population density, the declining land-man ratio, the over-dependence on wood for fuel and constructions, over-gazing and over-cutting the mountain slopes are some reasons for environmental damage in the mountains of Nepal. As per one statistics, there is an estimated loss of 240 mil cu m of topsoil from the mountains which triggers low productivity and depletion of forest area. The accelerated soil erosion in the mountains, if unchecked, can assume the proportion of a major ecological disaster.

Mountain tourism is a great consumer of forest wood. Since tourist concentration is acute in one particular region in the Himalayas, like the Khumbu, use of wood increases. It is believed that on an average the daily demand is 7.04 kg, which on an average trek of 15 days comes to 105.6 kg. This poses a serious ecological hazard. The NMA data state that less than 50 per cent of organised trekking expeditions carry their own fuel.

Waste and garbage disposal are compounding sanitation-related pollution problems as a result of over-crowding in camp sites. Plastic and cellophane along with empty bottles and cans are a frequent sight all along some trails. The garbage accumulation along the Sagarmatha (Nepali name for Everest) trail is one of the main cases of pollution in the mountain.

Impact of global warming

The impact of climate changes is highly visible in the high Himalayan region where the rise in temperature is double that of the global average temperature increase. There were over 3000 glaciers in the high Himalayas and in the last 50 years almost as many glacial lakes have been formed. This region is now considered one of the most vulnerable regions due to climate change. The global warming is causing melting of snow-capped peaks and glaciers at an unusually rapid rate. The threat of massive glacial lake outburst flood is real putting the lives and property of the mountain communities at high risk.

Climate-change has also had a massive impact both on the landscape and the lives of climbers, especially with more frequent avalanches and rock falls than have ever been observed in the past. Melting ice also means that the climbing routes are littered with exposed rocks, trekking over which is much more demanding and increases vulnerability of the less-experiences climbers to fatigue and exhaustion. Several incidents of avalanches in peaks like Manaslu and Annapurna in recent years have shown how weather system is impacting climbing and trekking in the Himalayas. Routes have to be assessed and corrected each season according to the weather, temperature and snow condition - all of which are now unpredictable.

The road ahead

Nepal can be a much-more attractive destination for trekkers and climbers if the government focuses its effort on improving infrastructure development, streamlining bureaucracy to make licence-obtaining process easier, strictly monitor environmental impact, speed clean up campaigns, ensure law and order in the mountain region and promote tourism-friendly policies through one-door system. The stakeholders must unite to give quality service to the tourists.

The Government of Nepal must look at sustainable economic and social development of the Himalayan region. It should encourage eco-friendly conservation by mobilising local community organisations, NGOs and public authorities to work in a planned and integrated manner for the development of tourism, which contributes almost 3 per cent to the national GDP. This figure does not include contribution from Indian tourists as Nepali currency is pegged with that of Indian rupees. Last year alone some 1,40,000 Indians visited Nepal as per Nepal Tourism Board figures.

More importantly, Everest is a world heritage and it is the responsibility of the larger international community to help conserve the mountain and its surroundings from degradation. India can help in this regard. It should join the Eco-Everest expedition organised each year since 2008 as a platform to attract global attention on the plight of the Himalayas with the objective to raise awareness about the impact of climate change in the mountains. India can in fact lead expedition which can use alternative energy solutions like parabolic solar cookers for cooking, solar energies for lighting and others. In this regard, the participation of Indian Army in the May 2013 clean-up drive in the Everest base camp is commendable. More bilateral cooperation initiatives must be taken in tourism sector of Nepal.

There must be increased use of appropriate technology like solar, hydro and bio-gas for fulfilling energy needs. There is a need to develop small hydro-electric schemes on a priority basis in areas where pressure of mountain tourism on energy needs is high.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan: PM Sharif’s agenda for third term

Wilson John

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took charge on June 5, carries the weight of extracting a country of 180-million people from compelling domestic and external challenges, bring about a sense of balance and hope, and keep his equations with the military on an even keel, all within a short of time.

Sharif is returning to Islamabad as the Prime Minister for a third term, after 14 years. A lot has changed in Pakistan and elsewhere since October 1999 when Gen Pervez Musharraf ousted him in a bloodless coup. The world has gone through many "9/11s", a Global War on Terrorism, a global economic meltdown, and the killing of Osama bin Laden, all of which have had a profound impact on Pakistan.

Sharif, a veteran politician, is acutely aware that many more things have changed at home, too. The economy has been crumbling for long, pulled down by bad governance, wrong priorities and energy crisis. Power shortage has been widespread and endemic, crippling industry and home. Security threats have only multiplied in the last five years.

Home-grown terrorists are not new but their targeting of Pakistan certainly is. Armed rebellion in Balochistan remains a big challenge. Smaller insurgencies in the tribal areas cannot be wished away either.

Sharif inherits a bag full of trouble which he must deal with, squarely and honestly. It must be clear to him as he begins to set up his Cabinet and mark his priorities that his actions in the next 12 months will set the course of his country’s immediate future. It should equally be clear to all those keenly watching Sharif’s actions that his actions will be driven by domestic compulsions. There is too much at stake at home and Pakistan’s dealings with the external world will have to factor these compulsions.

Sharif’s top priority will be to set the economy in order. It is a monumental task, considering the time and resources frittered first by Musharraf’s military regime from 1999- 2007 and then by President Asif Ali Zardari’s civilian government. He will have to figure out ways to invite investments in infrastructure and energy sectors, negotiate with the IMF to be more accommodative, cut down energy and other losses at home, and engage with two sceptical neighbours, India and Iran, and a distant patron in Washington. Building a shattered economy, in fact, is Sharif’s biggest foreign policy challenge. He has already opened a dialogue with China and Saudi Arabia for investments and other economic assistance. He is talking to India and Iran. He cannot but talk to the US on economic issues and this where his first foreign policy challenge will confront him.

US drone attacks

The Prime Minister has made his views on the US Drone attacks clear: he does not want them. US President Barack Obama has made it bluntly clear that he is not giving up drones despite contentious legal, ethical and human issues these combat machines evoke. Sharif’s principal political opponent, Imran Khan, won his share of the votes for his strong opposition to the drone attacks in Pakistan. He has been smart enough to sense the pulse of the people in the Pashtun-dominated areas at least where Drone attacks are seen as a "war" against the tribal communities, against Pakistan. Sharif cannot afford to ignore this sentiment which is gaining a far wider audience, even in Punjab, his party’s main support base. His economic engagement with the US will squarely depend on how he tackles the Drone issue.

There is an added complexity in this issue which will bring Sharif face to face with a problem which he would rather avoid confronting for the moment-the military. The Army has an altogether different take on the drones. Gen Ashfaq Kayani is not in favour of these attacks but finds that he has no other alternative to the drones in containing the terrorist and militant groups holed up in the tribal areas. The US has a tacit approval of the military leadership in continuing with the Drone campaign. In fact, many of the Drone attacks take place on the basis of intelligence inputs from the army. The army is aware that the drones have taken out key terrorist and insurgent leaders who have been targeting Pakistan since 2007.

Besides, the army has a much deeper relationship with the Pentagon than what the civilian government led by Nawaz Sharif can hope to have with the White House or the State Department. Given President Obama’s nature and a simmering suspicion in Washington about Sharif’s past relationship with militant groups, including the Taliban, the relationship between Islamabad and Washington is likely to remain "business-like" and certainly not reach the level of "a forced bonhomie" which marked the Bush-Musharraf relationship.

If Sharif goes all out to oppose the Drone campaign, it might pit him against Rawalpindi’s own interests, besides the US, and seriously undermine his focus on economy. He is likely to follow the military route-raise a stink over the drones but stay away from any precipitous action. He might lose some political points to his opponent, Imran Khan, but he might gain enough on other fronts.

Going slow on India?

The second challenge on the economic front which might bring him to face the military is India. He is keen on firming up the relationship with India - he wants to begin from where he left of last time, in 1999. Going by his words, he seems to be serious. But the army chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, has already thrown the ner in the works when he met Sharif for a three-and-a-half hour tête-à-tête and told him to go slow on India.

One of the reasons for Sharif’s ouster the last time was his overtures to India. Pragmatism tells Sharif that a strong economic relationship with India is what an ailing economy needs at the moment. He will most probably strike a deal with the GHQ - keeping control of some areas while letting the army take lead in issues like internal security and Afghanistan. This deal will depend on how much leeway the military leadership is willing to give the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whose relationship with the military in the past has been troublesome.

Sharif faces a long and tortuous path of reforming his country, re-drawing his relationship with other key stake-holders and garner courage, vision and trust to become a statesman.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nawaz Sharif sworn in as PM

PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as Pakistan’s Prime Minister for an unprecedented third term on June 5. He was elected by Pakistan’s National Assembly with a two-thirds majority. He got 244 votes while his opponents Makhdoom Amin Fahim of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) bagged 42 votes and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf secured 31 votes.

In his inaugural speech, Sharif touched upon every aspect from crime and corruption to the economy and extremism. Recognising the mammoth challenge that confronts his government, he acknowledged that it could not be resolved by one party alone. It is for this reason, that he claimed he would approach the heads of all the political parties to seek their support. However, Sharif’s critics claimed that his speech had no path breaking policy declarations, announcements or even deadlines for tackling the issues listed by him. Moreover, his mention of terrorism and drones was considered to be extremely cautionary and too mild to be taken seriously as a statement of intent on his part.

Nawaz Sharif’s swearing in was welcomed by both the US and Afghanistan. The US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, "We look forward to working with him and the newly democratically elected government of Pakistan". Afghan President Hamid Karzai invited Sharif to visit Afghanistan and expressed hope that his tenure could lead to better bilateral relations between the two countries.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, June 6, 2013; The Express Tribune, June 6, 2013; The Nation, June 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Shahbaz Sharif, new Punjab CM

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif was also sworn in as Punjab’s Chief Minister this week. Shahbaz secured 300 votes in the provincial assembly to secure the post for the third time. He had previously served as the province’s CM from 1997 to 1999 and from 2008 to 2013.

The only other contender was Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PTI wants govt to stop drones

The PTI-led government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) announced that it was the responsibility of the federal government to formulate a comprehensive policy to put a stop to the US drone attacks on Pakistani soil. "The drone hits are being carried out in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which is directly administered by the federal government," said Pervaiz Khattak, the K-P chief.

He went on to add that if "the federal government fails to stop drone strikes the K-P government will protest, as continuation of this practice will damage our credibility".

However, the PTI clarified that even though it was vehemently opposed to drone attacks and would protest against the failure of the federal government to resolve this issue it would not create a rebellion-like situation in Pakistan as it would be against the national interests.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, June 3, 2013; The Express Tribune, June 2, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Power to merge provinces to go

The Cabinet of Ministers has approved a proposal to repeal the President’s right to merge Provinces, which has been provided for under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella addressing a news conference in Colombo, said that constituent members of the ruling UPFA had been given time to study the Bill to amend the Provincial Councils Act.

The two proposed amendments pertained to the President’s right to merge provinces and the requirement that the approval of all provincial councils were required to amend the Constitution, he noted.

Asked if the government was also trying to strip the provinces of land and police powers, the Minister said that it had not been discussed.

Rambukwella said that the ruling UPFA had only taken up the proposals to repeal the President’s right to merge Provinces and the consent of all provincial councils to enact legislation.

At Cabinet meeting the SLMC leader and Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem had asked for more time to study the proposed amendments and it had been granted.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has proposed that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSSC) on the National Question be reconvened with or without the participation of the Tamil National Alliance.

Informed sources said that the President was of the view that if the TNA refused to attend the PSC process, the?PSC should continue with the participation of Tamils in the government and Opposition.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 6 June 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JVP insists on scrapping PCs

The left-nationalist JVP has urged the government to scrap the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and do away with provincial councils without wasting time in making amendments to the existing Provincial Council Act.

JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath told The Island that the government’s draft amendment to the Provincial Council Act had been postponed for two weeks, when it was presented to the Cabinet.

He said that the proposed amendment would only pave the way for passing something at the provincial council level even though it could not be passed by a council.

Herath said that, for example, when the impeached Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake ordered that the approval of Provincial Councils had to be sought before taking up the Divi Neguma bill in Parliament, it was asked how the approval of the Northern Provincial Council could be obtained as there was no sitting council.

The Gampaha District MP said that the Provincial Council system set up on the Indian model had failed to be a solution to the national issue. "We have been against the PC system since the inception and our stand on that remains the same," Herath said, adding that first of all the government had to abolish the provincial council system and thereafter it should look after the needs of Tamil people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces without further delay as four years had already passed since the defeat of terrorism.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 6 June 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EP ruling coalition goes sour?

The boycott of Eastern Provincial Council (EPC) sessions by the Board of Ministers (BoM) and all ruling Party councilors continued, Council sources said yesterday. The protest was consequent to a row with the Chief Minister and the Governor.

Chief Minister of the Province Najeeb A. Majeed, when contacted for comment, said that the President or the government was yet to intervene to settle the matter. He however expressed confidence that he could patch up differences with the board of minister and the members of the ruling party in time for the next session scheduled for June 18.

The rebellious EPC Ministers are said to be demanding that the President remove the Governor and the Chief Minister. They have accused the Governor of being an impediment to the implementation of the decisions of the Council and the Chief Minister of being inefficient. They have also accused the Chief Minister of not inviting them to functions and events attended by government Ministers.

The EPC board of ministers initially boycotted the ruling party group meetings chaired by the Chief Minister on the May 18. Thereafter they skipped the ministerial meeting of May 30 and all sessions of the council.

The EPC board of ministers comprises Provincial Minister of Education, M. S. Uduma Lebbe (National Congress), Provincial Minister of Education, Wimalaweera Dissanayake (SLFP), Provincial Minister of Agriculture Nazeer A. Ahamed (SLMC) and Provincial Minister of Health M.I.M. Mansoor (SLMC).

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 6 June 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt denies move to re-introduce criminal defamation

The government has said that it had not proposed the reintroduction of criminal defamation laws. Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, when asked at yesterday’s Cabinet Press briefing in Colombo, why they were contemplating the re-introduction of criminal defamation, which was a retrograde step, said it was not so.

The UNP proposed, at a recent Consultative Committee meeting, that there should be a mechanism under which media laws operated. So, it was now open to discussion, he noted.

The Minister said that there was no move to impose new laws or ethics on the media. Even the State media sometimes exceeded the boundaries and that needed to be checked, but the same applied to some of the private media, he pointed out.

Certain websites were producing filth and had destroyed the reputations of entire families Rambukwella said adding that the government had a duty to protect its citizens.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 6 June 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian fishers nabbed during BJP-led visit

Sri Lanka Navy patrols on Wednesday apprehended ten Indian trawlers, along with 49 fishermen, in the northern waters. Five of the trawlers were seized north of Talaimannar, where the SLN took into custody 24 persons. The rest were apprehended off Karainagar.

One of the boats capsized as it was being towed by the SLN, security sources said. Wednesday’s arrests were the first instance since the end of the annual breeding season, when there was a 45-day ban on mechanised trawling from April 15.

Asked whether Indian fishermen remained in the custody of the SLN, sources said that those arrested north of Talaimannar had been handed over to Talaimannar police and the others to the fisheries inspector at Karainagar, respectively.

The navy caught the poachers close on the heels of the arrival of a six-member BJP-led delegation in Colombo for high level consultations. The delegation is led by Ravi Shankar Prasad, Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. The five-day visit has been organised by the New Delhi-based India Foundation and Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in Colombo.

In Jaffna, the Indian team heard out local Tamil civil society representatives and TNA leaders, and told them that India could not be expected to interfere in local processes and that they would have to negotiate a political solution to the ethnic issue with the Sri Lankan Government.

In Colombo later, the delegation met President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Defence and Urban Development Secretary, Gothabaya Rajapaksa, among others, and impressed upon the need for a negotiated settlement to the ethnic issue within a united Sri Lanka. They said that the Jaffna visit was an ’eye-opener’ in terms of the developmental works done and being undertaken by the Government.

The delegation includes Suresh Prabhu (Shiv Sena), Ram Madhav (RSS), journalist and political commentator Swapan Dasgupta, former IFS officer Vivek Katju and human rights activist Monika Arora. This visit comes two months after an Indian parliamentary delegation visited Sri Lanka and held talks with different groups, as part of a visit organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 6 June 2013, Daily Mirror Online, 8 June 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NATO endorses post-2014 role

All NATO member-nations have endorsed the new NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan to train, advice and assist Afghan security forces. The main focus of the mission will be the Afghan national security institutions and core level of Afghan army and national police.

Although NATO fleshed out details regarding which ally will take charge of the mission in each region of the country, it did not spell out how many troops would stay on post-2014. The NATO members countries, willing to retain troops in Afghanistan after 2014, are waiting for the US to detail its commitment before making any pledge of its own.

The US, however, has committed to being the single largest contributor to the post-2014 mission and to being the lead nation in the east and south of the country. Germany would be the lead nation in northern Afghanistan, Italy in the west and Turkey was considering taking up the mantle in Kabul.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, June 5, 2013; Reuters, June 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Iran, Taliban meeting

Senior Taliban officials were invited by Iran for a three-day visit in an effort to overcome the differences between the two sides. One of the Taliban officials had declared, "he Taliban will explain their policies and will allay the fears of Iran as it always had concerns about Taliban being Sunnis".

At the end of the meeting, the Taliban assured Iran that it would accommodate all ethnic groups in any post-2014 political set up, and, particularly, allayed Iran’s concerns about the Hazara group in Afghanistan. The Taliban also requested Iran not to extend support to the Northern Alliance, the main anti-Taliban force that had fought the group in the 1990s.

Although doubts were raised about the credibility of the Taliban representatives, the Taliban confirmed the visit themselves.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, June 2, 2013; The Express Tribune, June 2-3, 2013; Tolo News, June 3, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Turkmenistan begins rail construction

Turkmenistan has started the reconstruction work on the tri-nation railway project. The project is said to connect Turkmenistan and Tajikistan via Afghanistan. The inauguration ceremony, attended by the Presidents of the three countries, was held in Turkmenistan.

The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry asserted that this project besides giving a boost to the trade relations between the three countries would also free Afghanistan from its transit dependence on Iran and Pakistan. Officials said that the railway project will reduce the cost of importing a container by up to $400 and the transit time will be drastically reduced.

The length of the rail-line is said to be 400 km starting from the Ata- Murad region of Turkmenistan and passing through Faryab, Jawezjan, Balkh, Samangan and Kunduz provinces. Ashgabat and Kabul signed the draft inter-governmental framework agreement on this project in 2011.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, June 5, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP returns to Parliament

Main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) returned to the Parliament this week after an 83-day abstention. BNP’s return ended a protracted boycott demanding restoration of the scrapped caretaker government system for overseeing elections. Interesting BNP, led by chairperson Khaleda Zia, returned to the House on June 3 and staged a dramatic walkout soon after.

The opposition though returned to the Parliament the next day, surprisingly, contrary to popular expectation, it did not initiate talks on restoring the caretaker government system, its primary demand. The party informed that it wants the ruling Awami League to initiate the discussion on the caretaker government.

However, some of the local media observed that the Opposition joined the Parliament as due to a constitutional obligation they would have lost their seats after 90 consecutive days of abstention. The BNP has boycotted the House for 316 days out of 370 days of sittings in the current Parliament.

The ruling Awami league with its three fourths majority in the Parliament scrapped the non-party caretaker government system introduced in 1996 citing the system proved counterproductive particularly after the installation of an army-backed interim government in 2007. The Army intervened to install the 2006-2008 military- backed interim government under emergency rules as rivalry between the then ruling BNP and Opposition Awami League worsened ahead of scheduled elections.

The Opposition has decided to participate in the parliamentary election unless caretaker government is reinstituted. But ruling party is adamant on not reversing its decision, leading to a political logjam. There has been pressure from the international community for a dialogue to resolve the issue. UN Secretary General Bon-Ki Mon had also urged the government to sit for a dialogue.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget on populist line

Finance Minister AMA Muhith this week unveiled a Tk. 222,491 crore populist budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, in the Parliament. In the present budget he avoided imposition of any significant tax burden and by expanding social safety net programmes. The budget, having a deficit of 4.6 per cent, eyes 7.2 per cent GDP growth for the next fiscal year. The minister expects that the space created by fiscal and monetary sectors would have a conducive impact on investment environment, and would raise the GDP to 8 per cent in FY 2014-15.

Expressing hopes to keep the inflation rate at 7 per cent, Muhith said that he expected food inflation to come down to a tolerable level, due to satisfactory domestic agricultural production, and downward trend of food prices in the international market. The revenue income for FY 2013-14 has been estimated at Tk. 167,459 crore, which is 14.1 per cent of GDP, of which, NBR tax revenue is Tk. 136,090 crore.

The total expenditure for FY 2013-14 has been estimated at Tk. 222,491 crore. The allocation for non-development and other expenditure has been estimated at Tk. 156,621 crore. Education, communication, agriculture, rural development and health sectors are given the highest allocations in the budget.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, June 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Law to protect Hindu religious property

In a move to protect interest of minorities, the cabinet approved a draft law for development of Hindu religious properties and protect them from encroachment and land grab. Sources in the government informed that a list of the Hindu charitable endowments or ’Devottar’ property will be made, and the government will constitute a management board after the law is passed in the Parliament. The law is likely to be passed in the current budget session.

The move has been welcomed by the country’s minority community. "Since the British period, a law is in place for management and protection of Muslim Wakf sites while Hindus are yet to have any such law for their ’Devottar’ property, so we appreciate the move," observed a minority rights activists. . Thousands of pieces of land offered to temples were encroached or grabbed over the decades while the law could now allow authorities to take steps for recovery as well as protection of such property.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ban on YouTube lifted

Ban on popular video sharing website YouTube was lighted this week. YouTube was banned around eight months back to prevent the viewing of an anti-Islam film which sparked worldwide protests. Following the withdrawal people in Bangladesh will now have access again to the YouTube as all the International Internet Gateway (IIG) were directed to provide the popular service to the customer.

The telecom regulator blocked YouTube in Bangladesh on September 17 in 2012 year to prevent people from watching the 14-minute trailer on a film titled ’Innocence of Muslims’ which sparked deadly protests from the Middle East to Southeast Asia claiming many lives.

Telecom regulator has informed that the Google also assured to install an independent server in Bangladesh at the earliest. The site was banned as the Google US and Google APAC that control the operations of YouTube facility across the Asia-pacific region did not respond to Bangladesh request to withdraw the film.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, June 5, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Elimination round is over

Voters in Bhutan are taking part in elections on Friday to determine which two out of four parties will go on to participate in the second and decisive stage of the vote on 13 July. The winner of the July vote will form the government and the runner-up will become the opposition.

The election is the second to be held in Bhutan since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 2008. There are 381,790 registered voters out of a total population of some 750,000. They say there is a degree of consensus about the key issues facing the country -- to strengthen the economy, to narrow the income gap between rich and poor, to improve education and healthcare and to invest in roads and transport infrastructure.

The incumbent government has been damaged by the recent conviction of two ministers in a land scam. This time around four parties are competing to enter parliament, compared to only two in 2008. It is the first time that an election has been staggered. Observers say that the government will have to fight a tough campaign if it is to repeat its landslide win in the last vote.

The two new parties in the contest, the Druk Nymrub Tshogpa (DNT) and Druck Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) are both led by women. They will compete against the former ruling party, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the former opposition.

The Kuensel, the official national daily carried the provisional result, which goes in favor of DPT and PDP with highest and second highest vote counts. Going by the percentage of votes, DPT won 44.5%, PDP won 32.5%, DNT secured 17.1% while DCT got only the dregs, 5.9%.

Observers say that the expectation is that the DPT led by Jigme Thinley will return to power with a reduced majority and with him remaining as prime minister. In the last election the opposition could win only two out of the 47 seats up for grabs.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bhutan News Service, BBC, May 31 and June 1, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Luitel calls on Aussie PM

Bhutanese-Australian, Parsuram Sharma-Luitel, who is based in Melbourne, called on Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard on June 2. "It was my great privilege to meet our honourable Prime Minister, and thank her government to resettle Bhutanese refugees in Australia," Luitel told Bhutan News Service.

On behalf of the Bhutanese community, he also presented the national flag, a traditional khada, bangchung (a traditional Bhutanese handicraft), a photo album and a DVD of the recent multicultural festival hosted by Luitel and his colleagues to the Aussie PM.

During a breakfast sitting with the Prime Minister, Luitel was able to directly thank Gillard and the Australian Government for resettling the exiled Bhutanese, and reported on the progress made by the resettled Bhutanese in short of time of five years.

In response, the Prime Minister is learnt to have thanked the Bhutanese community for the presents. Gillard also mentioned that her government has made some nation-building long-term policies announcements, which would help all Australians including migrants to be inclusive in the Australian society.

The morning breakfast was organised by Mohammad Masood, and co-hosted and coordinated by Farrukh Hussain, President of South Asian Community Link Group (SACLG) -Australasia Inc, and invited selected community leaders from wide range of communities.

The organizers invited Luitel to represent Bhutanese community and a recent inductee as the Executive Committee Member of SACLG-Australasia, In-charge of Community and Grants Affairs. Around 80 people attended the special morning sitting with the Prime Minister, informed Luitel.

Other guests included State Member of Parliaments and former ministers, elected councillors from the municipality of Wyndham, Hume, and Whittlesea, multi-faith leaders, People of Australia Ambassadors.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Bhutan News Service, June 3, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi wins, Mamata stands ground, setback for Nitish

The Lok Sabha and Assembly bypoll results in four states offer no cheer to Congress, deliver a boost to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, bring succour to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and present Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with a reality check.

Wednesday’s standout result was BJP’s clean sweep of two Lok Sabha and six assembly seats. Modi immediately hailed the victories as a signal that Congress’s time in office is up. As all the seats were held by the Congress, they amplify BJP’s success.

While the ruling party or alliance in Gujarat and West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra won the bypolls in their respective states, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) in Bihar got a jolt, failing to wrest the lone Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat from Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Not only did RJD candidate Prabhunath Singh hold on the party’s seat, he also won by a huge margin of 1.37 lakh votes.

The Congress, however, sought to play down the results with spokesman Sandeep Dikshit saying, "These are local elections. Don’t see them as results of national elections."

Congress’s continued poor run will give the Opposition a leg-up ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament where it may be even less inclined to cooperate with the government. The poor results shrink Congress’s political capital, impacting its capacity for unilateralism.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, Hindustan Times, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Non-Congress states firewall NCTC

A sharp political divide has stalled the government’s hopes of building a consensus on a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC)-a centralised entity to evaluate and process intelligence on terror threats-with most non-Congress chief ministers rejecting even a diluted version of the body.

States opposed to it invoked a threat to federalism despite the Centre agreeing to move the entity out of the Intelligence Bureau an curtailing its powers to make arrests on the basis of intelligence-gathering in suspected cases of terrorism. Two Congress CMs, of Karnataka and Maharashtra also expressed reservations.

The political polarised sentiment meant that the NCTC-seen by many as essential for improving India’s response to terrorism-may remain on paper more than four years after 26/11 attacks on Mumbai shook the nation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Political parties now under RTI

All major political parties have closed ranks to oppose the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling opening them to public scrutiny through the Right to Information (RTI) Act. An emboldened government is thinking of diluting the RTI Act itself.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the CIC’s order was no based on a "credible argument" and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) the nodal agency for the implementation of the Act said it was examining the ruling to determine its future course of action.

In a landmark ruling, the country’s transparency watchdog on had Monday said political parties were public authorities and answerable to citizens under the Right to Information Act.

The ruling of the full bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC) will allow people to ask six national parties about their source of funding, how they spend money and choice of candidates among others. The six parties are the Congress, the BJP, Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist). CPI and Bahujan Samaj Party.

While almost all the national parties, including the Congress and CPM, have opposed the CIC’s order brining six national parties under the jurisdiction of RTI, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has supported the move, saying the general public has the right to know how political parties function and get funds.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, June 4-5, 2013, The Indian Express, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition impatient: PM

A confident, calm and composed Manmohan Singh fielded a wide range of questions-from his relations with Congress president Sonia Gandhi to his "three regrets" after a stint of nine years-from the media contingent accompanying him on his way back from visits to Japan and Thailand but revealed precious little.

The Prime Minister had not complaints with the UPA allies, his Council of Ministers or the Congress rank and file. He implied that all is "three regrets" were about the Opposition.

"I think there has been a great sense of continuity between UPA-1 and UPA-2. But it is unfortunately a fact that the Opposition has become more impatient than ever before. They never expected that we would win the election for UPA-1.

"But they were doubly disappointed when we won the election for UPA-2. Therefore, the obstructionist role of the Opposition has increased in recent years. And it is my great regret that some very essential business of the House has not been transacted because of these animosities between the Opposition and the government," Dr Singh noted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 1, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Advani props up Chouhan

Barely two weeks after he embarrassed BJP by saying the party lost Karnataka due to "opportunistic" politics, Mr L K Advani sought to run down Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi suggesting his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Singh Chouhan deserves more credit.

Mr Advani reiterated his argument that Mr Chouhan’s achievements rank higher as he is the CM of a "Bimaru" (laggard) state, while Mr Modi only improved economically well-off Gujarat. "He only made it a better state," Mr Advani said, referring to Mr Modi.

Addressing party workers here on Saturday, Mr Advani went a step ahead comparing Mr Chouhan to Vajpayee, discovering a common trait in the CM’s "humble" manner that he said is reminiscent of the saffron patriarch.

Although Mr Advani claimed that has often mentioned this analogy to Mr Modi, the remarks are bound to be seen as part of unceasing factionalism in the BJP over the Gujarat CM’s claims to being the prime ministerial nominee.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, June 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BJP not against special session

As the UPA government plans a special session of Parliament to pass the Food Security bill, the Bharatiya Janata Party said on Sunday that it was not opposed to it, even while preferring that the Monsoon session be brought forward.

"There are media reports that the government is considering ordinance or....a special session of Parliament. The ordinance route for such an important legislation is not desirable. We are not opposed to a special session of Parliament," Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Susham Swaraj tweeted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 3, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">National policy to tackle Maoists

All nine States affected by Left-wing extremism have agreed to form a unified national policy to tackle the Maoist menace and follow the Andhra Pradesh model to counter them. The decision after a two-hour special session on Left-wing extremism at the chief ministers’ conference comes ahead of the all-party meeting called by the government next Monday to discuss the strategy to tackle Maoists, following the Darbha attack in Chhattisgarh that wiped out the state Congress leadership.

During the meeting, chief ministers of Chhattisgarh and Bihar, badly affected by Maoists, advocated diverse strategies to tackle militants, exemplifying the challenges for the Centre to organise a coordinated offensive.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US asked to extradite Headley

India has asked the US to "temporarily" hand over LeT terrorist David Headley for a year and extradite his accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana to get more information about the conspiracy hatched to carry out Mumbai terror attacks.

In its fresh efforts to get access to the Pakistani American terrorist, India has conveyed to the American interlocutors to "temporarily" hand over Headley for a year after the US expressed its inability to extradite him.

The request was made during the Indo-US Homeland Security Dialogue held in Washington between May 20 and 22. "The US interlocutors assured us to actively consider the request," said a top Indian official, who participated in the meeting.

Washington also assured New Delhi to positively consider the request to extradite Headley’s Pakistani-Canadian friend Rana, who helped Headley to recce the 26/11 targets for Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal to share intelligence on terrorism

India and Nepal have agreed to exchange information to combat terrorism and curb criminal activities like human and drug trafficking and smuggling of Indian counterfeit currency across their open border.

During the annual Home Secretary-level talks between Home Secretary R K Singh and Nepalese counterpart Navin Kumar Ghimre that concluded here yesterday, both sides agreed to increase vigilance and cooperation in border areas. The day-long meeting mainly focused on border management, security and problems facing the people residing on both sides of the border, according to a press release issued by the Home Ministry of Nepal yesterday.

The two sides agreed to tackle criminal activities such as human and drug trafficking, smuggling of Indian counterfeit currency and trade in illegal substances at the meeting. India has previously expressed concern over the emergence of new routes for infiltration into the country via Nepal.

Akhilesh Mishra, Joint Secretary (North) and Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad were also present at the meeting.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maritime coop with Australia

India and Australia have agreed to hold a joint naval exercise in2015 to raise their defence cooperation initiatives to a higher level and strengthen their strategic partnership.

India and Australia have also decided to implement a slew of defence cooperation initiatives to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries, which range from stepped up military exchanges and regular defence dialogues to maritime security and a joint naval combat exercise in 2015.

This came after Defence Minister A K Antony held extensive talks with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in Perth and Canberra on June 4 and 5.

"The two ministers acknowledged the deepening bilateral strategic and defence cooperation. They agreed to continue to contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and to promote cooperation in the Indian Ocean region (IOR)," said an official.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 5, 2013, The Hindu, June 6, 2013

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bid to resolve Vodafone row

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet approved a non-binding proposal that would start a conciliation process to resolve a $2.2 billion tax dispute with Vodafone Group Plc. (VOD)

The decision is the first step toward a resolution which will need parliamentary approval, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi yesterday. Ben Padovan, a Vodafone spokesman, declined to comment on the Cabinet plan.

Vodafone, which has expressed willingness to settle the claim if it isn’t liable for interest, has invested at least 513 billion rupees ($9.1 billion) in the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, including buying wireless airwaves. The dispute dates back to the Newbury, England-based carrier’s 2007 acquisition of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (13)’s local unit for about $11.1 billion.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet nod for real estate regulator

A Bill providing for setting up a regulator for the real estate sector and having such provision as a jail term of up to three years for developers issuing misleading advertisements about their projects repeatedly was approved by the government today.

The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill seeks to provide a uniform regulatory environment to the sector. It also intends to make it mandatory for developers to launch projects only after acquiring all statutory clearances from the authorities concerned.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Tribune, June 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bank licenses to be subjective

Grant of new bank licenses will remain subjective instead of being decided on pre-determined metrics as RBI maintained its stance of giving in to the wishes of prospective applicants to ease conditions. The regulator declined to say by when the next bank would be borne.

The central bank has also poured cold water on hopes of regulatory forbearance on liquidity requirements for finance firms such as IFDC, which are planning to convert into banks.

The 165-page clarification on new bank guidelines posted on RBI’s website failed to define the two key measures on which it would grant a bank license-’fit and proper’ persons, and businesses ’misaligned with the banking model’.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, June 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gold import duty up

A day after raising the import duty on gold to 8 percent, the second increase in six months, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday indicated that banks could impose restrictions on selling gold coins.

Earlier, the government had raised the import duty on gold and platinum by another two percentage points on Wednesday to discourage buying that threatens to worsen India’s already high current account deficit.

The yellow metal, the demand for which is mostly met for imports, will now attract 8% import duty against 6% levied earlier, making third such increase in about a year but the measure does not seem to have helped.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, June 6, 2013, The Indian Express, June 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Q4 GDP better than Q3

The Indian economy recorded two successive quarters of sub 5 percent growth rate in 2012-13 to end up with the lowest growth rate for the past 10 years. The de celebration is the economic numbers made the markets dip by 455 points and Finance Minister P Chidmabaram make a cryptic comment "For 2013-14, (we) have to do much better than 4.8 percent", recorded by the economic in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the Re fell to an 11-month low of 56.76 against the dollar on the back of what dealers said was dollar purchases by defence and oil refiners.

"It was not necessarily an Indian story. The dollar has been gaining against all emerging market currencies following signs that the US economy is on the mend. Besides expectations that there will be gradual reduction in quantitative easing there has been a massive sell off in emerging markets ETFs (exchange traded funds)," said treasurer, First Rand Bank.

But news from the fiscal deficit front brought some cheers as the government was able to better its fiscal deficit and contain it 4.9 percent in 2012-13, as against a target of 5.2 percent.

The data also prompted the Finance Minister to announce that the government will focus on lowering the deficit below 4.8 percent.

"I don’t wish to compress expenditure; therefore revenues have to go up. For 2013-14, we have to do much better than 4.8 percent," Mr Chidamabarm said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Indian Express, The Times of India, June 1, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fresh US waiver over Iran sanctions

The US on Wednesday exempted India and eight other nations from sanctions, noting that they had significantly reduced their imports of crude oil from Iran "The United States and the international community stand shoulder to shoulder in maintaining pressure on the Iranian regime until it fully addresses concerns about its nuclear programme," said Secretary of State John F. Kerry.

Besides India, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan have been exempted from US sanctions for either significantly cutting of imports from Iran or enduring those chases all together.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Tribune, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Eye on sea-bed minerals

India will soon seek the mandatory nod from Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA) to carry out deep-sea exploration of minerals and metals in central Indian Ocean region. The move is largely seen as a bid to anchor the country’s strategic significance in the Indian Ocean region even as it will open up a new possibility to extract valuable metals and minerals including copper, cobalt, nickel and manganese.

China has already obtained the go-ahead from ISA, the administrative body established to control all mineral-related activity in international waters beyond the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of respective countries. Korea has applied for rights while Japan is planning to do so soon.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Times of India, June 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Biggest migrant-exporter

India has become the leading source of permanent migrants to Australia for the first time, ahead of China, a government report showed on Monday.

Reflecting the growing prominence of Asia to Australia, seven of the top 10 source countries during 2011-2012 were from the region, Australia’s Migration Trends study showed.

"Between 1996 and 2011, Australia’s overseas-born population grew by more than 40% to reach six million," said immigration minister Brendan O’Connor.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, June 3, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FTA with New Zealand soon

India and New Zealand today decided to speed up negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

"An FTA is an immediate goal for us. In pursuing it, we believe that the potential of the relationship between New Zealand and India will be unlocked," New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said after wide ranging talks with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, June 5, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nothing much for Indian investors: Gayoom

President of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said that not much can be done at the moment to solve the recent problems faced by Indian investors in Maldives. In what read like a clarification statement after his Indian media interviews while in Delhi earlier, the PPM claimed that Gayoom had said as much this during a meeting with Indian External Minister Salman Khurshid.

The PPM said that Salman Khurshid expressed concerns during the meeting regarding the discontent of the Indian public due to the Maldives’ recent actions against Indian investors, and the criticisms faced by the Indian government following those developments. In this regard, Salman Khurshid urged Gayoom to work towards solving the problems faced by Indian investors in the Maldives.

The PPM said that Gayoom responded to this request by saying that there is not much that can be done at the moment to find solutions to those problems, and added that efforts would be made to improve the relations between India and the Maldives if PPM establishes a government. Gayoom said that a PPM government would not allow any activity that might interfere with regional peace.

Other issues discussed during the meeting include the suspension of the export of aggregate from India, and problems faced in relation to visa. Salman Khurshid said that the visa problem remains unsolved because Indians working in the Maldives are not treated well enough, and that complaints in this regard have been voiced by Indian parliament members who represent those foreign workers.

He said that problems are being faced in the export of aggregate because environment protection groups in India are working towards halting the export of aggregate from India. He said that discussions are ongoing with relevant groups in Chennai to establish policies in relation to this issue.

President Gayoom also met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of his ongoing visit to India. The Maldivian government, in which Gayoom’s PPM is included, has terminated its agreement with Indian company GMR. In an interview to The Hindu during this visit to India, Gayoom said that former President Mohamed Nasheed had not sought proper approval from the parliament before making the deal with GMR.

"This was a mistake. Had he consulted all political parties, the public would not have formed the impression that corruption had taken place. Then we told the next President Mr. Waheed that he should hold discussions with the GMR Group and the Indian government to arrive at an acceptable solution, after which the government was free to act on its own. Unfortunately, this was not done and suddenly there was this unhappy ending," Gayoom said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Sun Online, June 7, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">All should accept credible election: McKinnon

The Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has called for increased international assistance to help ensure a free and fair presidential election in September, alleging that the country’s political system is presently under considerable "stress".

As the country’s sole political Opposition, the MDP has criticised what it calls a "lack of decisive action" from the international community both in implementing findings from the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report, as well as providing election support.

The government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which is also fielding a candidate in September’s election, meanwhile said it believed "a lot more has to be done" by the Elections Commission (EC) to ensure voting is free and fair.

The claims were made following Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon’s visit to the Maldives this week, as preparations get underway for the presidential vote scheduled for September 7, 2013.

In a statement, McKinnon called for free, fair, peaceful and inclusive elections, while also highlighting the need for the public to ensure their details were correctly included on the recently gazetted electoral register.

With the conclusion of a four-day visit to the Maldives yesterday, McKinnon called on all Maldives nationals with the right to vote to take the time to verify their details were correct. "Voter registers are at their best when the regulatory authority and the political parties work together to ensure their accuracy," he said.

"It is also my hope that the nominated candidates of political parties will be able to contest the election, on a level playing field, so that the election outcome fully reflects the will of the voters. This will be important for the election’s credibility. I would also expect all candidates to accept the outcome of a credible election."

McKinnon’s statement also spoke on the importance of moving forward with recommendations raised in the CoNI report on holding "perpetrators of police brutality" during last year’s controversial transfer of power to account. As part of his visit, McKinnon met with President Dr Mohamed Waheed to pledge the Commonwealth’s support for free and fair elections, while the government said it remained committed to fair polling and the need for unspecified political reform.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP can’t talk about coups: Gasim

Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim has said that Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) holds the record for conducting coups, and MDP should be ashamed to talk about coups.

Speaking at the parliament today, Gasim said that MDP came to power in 2008 through a coalition in which Jumhooree Party (JP) was a party to. He said that an agreement including fingerprints had been made to give 30 percent of the government to his party, but his party was ’kicked out’ of the government in violation of this agreement.

He noted that MDP received only 25 percent votes in the first round of the presidential election in 2008. He said that MDP received 54 percent in the second round as a result of the cooperation, coalition and efforts of JP and Gaumee Party.

"He kicked us all out and tried to make everything his own, what right do they have to say ’my vote’ or ’our vote’? Can there be a more serious coup than this?"

He said that the investigation conducted by international groups had clearly proved that the government was not changed through a coup. Gasim said that MDP talks about coups to cover up the coup they conducted themselves.

He said that MDP’s calls for building tourist guest houses, while they also call to boycott tourism in the Maldives, do not make sense; and that Maldivians are better informed now and cannot be misled by MDP.

Gasim also spoke about the lack of a proper sewerage system in Maamigili, which has a population of about 2,500 people. He referred to remarks made by an MDP member who referred to Gasim while speaking at the parliament earlier and said that the people of Maamigili use contaminated water, and pointed out the lack of a proper sewerage system in Maamigili.

Gasim said that the provision of a sewerage system in Maamigili had been included in the State budget for three years, and the misappropriation of those funds by some people is not something he should be held responsible for.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Sun Online, June 5, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suu Kyi for President

Mynamar Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi declared her intention to run for President in 2015 and sought an amendment to the country’s Constitution under which she is not eligible to contest.

"I want to run for President and I’m quite frank about it," Suu Kyi said at a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) being held at Nay Pyi Taw. "If I pretend I did not want to be President, I would not be honest and I would rather be honest with my people than otherwise.

"You really don’t run for the President because President is not elected directly, but for me to be eligible for the post of the President the Constitution will have to be amended," the 67-year-old said.

Asked if she is confident that the Constitution will be amended, Suu Kyi said: "I don’t believe in indulging in optimism. Let me put it in this way, hope has to be backed by endeavour. The constitution at present blocks anyone whose spouses or children are overseas citizens from being appointed by parliament for the top job. Suu Kyi’s two sons are British and the clause is widely believed to be targeted at the Nobel laureate.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Telegraph, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kachin leaders back UN involvement

Kachin representatives met Vijay Nambiar, the special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Myanmar, on May 29 in Myitkyina, during the cease-fire talks between the government and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). Nambiar was an observer at the talks, which concluded with the signing of a seven-point agreement on May 30.

Kachin representatives urged Nambiar to monitor the conflict until a fair solution was found. They also asked him to raise the issue of Myanmar’s ethnic conflicts in the UN Security Council and encourage other members of the international community to take part in the peace process.

The Kachin National Consultative Assembly (KNCA) published a statement before Nambiar’s visit and this was presented to him at the meeting. The statement included nine points on the conflict and alleged that the government "consistently ignores the ethnic rights that ethnic nationalities have been demanding, or intentionally stalls and gives excuses".

The statement said that past meetings have not been successful in part because international monitoring groups have not been involved and called for these groups to be involved in future talks. Nambiar said at the meeting that the UN is supporting and facilitating peace talks and that those talks were being watched closely around the world.

"Every one of you has an aspiration, an expectation ? and an experience. But any political solution that comes will not satisfy everybody in all respects," Mr Nambiar said. "I have no doubt that the UN and KIO, as well as the Kachin people and Myanmar people, will see the peace process move forward," he said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Myanmar Times, 03 June 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India for strategic inroads

Indian companies are joining global firms as they rush to draw up investment plans in Myanmar where some 900 delegates from more than 50 countries would come together in Naypyidaw for the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia. Indian’ government is eyeing several opportunities ranging from special economic zones (SEZs) to banking ventures in the emerging investment hot-spot in the region.

Telecom major Bharti Airtel has been shortlisted for submitting final bids for telecom licences in Myanmar that is planning to award two telecom licences soon. Commerce, industry and textiles minister Anand Sharma, who is leading a business delegation to the WEF’s East Asia summit, is expected to hold wide-ranging talks to push the case for Indian investments in the strategic country that is slowly attracting global investor attention after opening up its economy.

During a meeting with Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma On June 6, Myanmar is learnt to have raised the issue of a pipeline that starts from Sittwe, runs along the Kaladan river and enters India from Mizoram. While the plan was meant essentially to benefit strife torn North Myanmar, officials said the plan will also help north-eastern India, where investments have been slow.

Officials said that India maybe be willing to offer $150 million of credit for project exports for setting up an SEZ at Sittwe and would like the Myanmarese government to provide land for the project. India is developing the Sittwe port and it would be an ideal location for a SEZ and would encourage Indian firms to participate in the venture.

< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, Times of India, June 5 and 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trilateral highway from 2016?

The proposed trilateral highway covering India, Myanmar and Thailand is expected to be operational by 2015-16, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said today.

"India is working closely with Myanmar and Thailand to develop the trilateral highway as we call it. We are half-way there, and this should be fully operational by 2015-16," Sharma said during a session - The Long-Term View.

The idea of the highway - from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand, via Myanmar - was conceived at the trilateral ministerial meeting on transport linkages in Yangon in April 2002.

The highway represents the most significant step in the establishment of connectivity between India and South East Asian countries. It was visualized as a highway of opportunity and friendship that would facilitate not just the movement of goods and services but also of people and ideas.

Sharma said the free trade agreement between India and ASEAN will act as a catalyst to boost trade and investment ties with countries in the region including Myanmar. He also said that India is looking to set up information technology institute and university in Mandalay.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UK discusses military training

Britain’s most senior serving military officer discussed possible cooperation with Burma’s armed forces during a visit that ended on June 4, the first by the head of a Western nation’s armed forces since the Southeast Asian country began recent reforms. Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Sir David Richards also confirmed that Britain will appoint a permanent defence attaché at its mission later this year, the British embassy said.

The embassy said in a statement that a British "joint military-civilian team comprising experts on security sector reform, policing reform and governance" arrived in Burma on June 4 for a two-week visit, with plans to meet representatives from all sectors of society to help identify how Britain can help support further reforms.

Gen Richards met with Thein Sein and Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as armed forces commander Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, politicians and representatives of ethnic minority groups, the embassy said.

"Richards discussed the role of the military in supporting Burma’s democratic transition, and the importance of security sector reform," the embassy further said adding that he also talked about moves for peace and reconciliation and "welcomed the progress made over the last two years in ending fighting across much of the country."

British Ambassador Andrew Heyn described Richard’s mission as "very successful."

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Myanmar Times, June 4, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President okays money-laundering bills

President Ram Baran Yadav endorsed the Second Amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2008 and the Proceeds of Crime Bill, forestalling a possible blacklisting of Nepal by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The FATF had warned that Nepal could be blacklisted at its next plenary (starting June 17) if it did not endorse these two bills. It complained that Nepal had a history of delaying promised tasks.

Being put in the dishonour roll could be a disaster for the country’s international image and foreign banking transactions, and it could make trade difficult.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Wanted man handed over

It has been reported that Nepal police secretly handed over India’s most wanted criminal, Babloo Dubey aka Mithilesh, to the Indian authorities on Tuesday.

A team led by Narayani Zone police had arrested Babloo, a resident of Sishuwakhadaar Thana Kalyanpur in Motihari District of Bihar state and notorious for his ransom calls and murderous assaults, from a flat at Sita Housing Colony at Sitapaila, with the assistance of the Metropolitan Police Sector Office, Swayambhu on May 28.

After his arrest, police had filed a case against him at Bara District Administration Office (DAO) and the latter had remanded him in custody for seven days.

According to media reports, the zonal police quietly handed over Dubey to Indian police Tuesday night, a day before his seven-day remand in custody expired. The sources added that zonal police made the move under pressure from Bihar police.

Dubey was handed over to a team from Bihar police led by SP BinayaSingh.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Republica, June 6, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EC finds November suitable for CA polls

The Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety has said that the Election Commission has found November 14 and 15 suitable for conducting the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls.

"After consultation with meteorologists and other studies, we at the commission have concluded that November 14 and 15 would be suitable for holding polls," Uprety said at an interaction organised by Ganeshman Singh Study Academy held in Kathmandu on Thursday. He said even a delay of a few days would be unfavorable for the polls as some districts in the Himalayan region would see heavy snowfall by the third week of November.

He also urged leaders from the major political parties, who were present at the gathering, to help the government finalise the ordinance on election laws and to fix the poll date. The commission drafted the ordinance to update election laws over a month ago but the government has failed to forward it to the president for approval as the major political parties remain sharply divided over some of the proposed provisions.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, June 7, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Pakistan & Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

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