MonitorsPublished on May 16, 2014
Among the many areas of cooperation and assistance between India and Nepal, a very important one is that of power. Nepal has a huge potential for generating hydropower but is constrained due to the lack of supporting infrastructure as well as its geography.
Nepal: Power sharing issues with India
< class="heading1">Analysis

Among the many areas of cooperation and assistance between India and Nepal, a very important one is that of power. Nepal has a huge potential for generating hydropower but is constrained due to the lack of supporting infrastructure as well as its geography. This is why there is an acute crisis of power in Nepal. For a number of years, sharing of power has been on the agenda of furthering bilateral relations with such agreements first starting from the 1960s.

A Power Exchange Agreement was also put in place from 1972, with an Indo-Nepal Power Exchange Committee (PEC) being established in 1991 for regulating power. The two countries already have agreements for the electrification of villages situated in the bordering areas between the countries besides there being a cross-border transmission line to facilitate power trade.

However, there is still no Power Trade Agreement (PTA) between the two countries. Despite Nepal having repeatedly drawn attention to signing a PTA, there has been no clear response from the other side of the border. A proposal for PTA had been forwarded at the Nepal-India Joint Committee on Water Resources (JCWR) at Pokhara in 2009 and subsequently at annual meetings of the JCWR. At the meeting held in 2013, India observed that more time was still required.

The PTA is significant for Nepal because the latter is dependent on India for being able to export electricity because of geographical reasons. On the other hand, India has already placed power trade under the OGL (Open General License). This, experts say, opens up the possibility for Nepal to trade power with India in the absence of any scientific approval or license. However, there needs to be a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and therefore it is believed that trade in power is hindered because of the absence of a PTA.

Nevertheless there is a dire need to upgrade the transmission lines and to transform a point-to-point power exchange into establishing and connecting power grids between the two countries for seamless power sharing. The most important is the transmission line running from Dhalkebar in Nepal to Muzzafarpur in India which needs to be completed as well.

This line was the first to be constructed but there are several challenges to be overcome with there being no financial closing for the project as yet. The Dhalkebar- Muzzafarpur line would go a long way in addressing the power crisis in Nepal by import of power from India initially paving the way for Nepal to be able to export once it has surplus power.

Addressing concerns

While both countries have met to discuss issues related to power sharing on several occasions and a reviewing of both existing, planned and new projects to be undertaken being discussed, there is a sustained sense of discouragement on the Nepali side. Because of the perceived time-response lag on the part of India, Nepal feels and has also voiced its concerns time and again. The latter believes that India has not done or is not doing as much as it probably can in helping Nepal build the supportive infrastructure needed to export power as well as expand the limits of the present bilateral power sharing arrangements. This view has also contributed to the opinion that India is unwilling to have any other country to develop power in Nepal. The general mood regarding the question of power sharing in Nepal is that despite India reiterating the need to share renewable energy at various bilateral as well as regional fora, nothing substantial has been done.

What would be more helpful on the part of India to do is to make matters related to the sharing and trade of power clearer than they are at present. While more time to debate the pros and cons and logistics of increased collaboration or assistance may indeed be required, India would do well to be more vocal and confident about the state of progress that is being made or the challenges and issues they feel Nepal should address. Such steps would help in mitigating the unease of perceived or actual lukewarm responses from India.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan: Balancing act in West Asia

Taruni Kumar

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Iran on 11-12 May 2014, soon after Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia in the previous month, reaffirms Pakistan’s attempts to balance its close relationship with both countries.

Pakistan and Iran’s friendship has seen both good and bad times. Iran supported Pakistan during the 1965 and 1971 wars against India and Pakistan helped Iran during its war against Iraq. The relationship suffered after King Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was overthrown during the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Both the countries reconnected during the Pakistan People’s Party-led government (2008-13) when President Asif Ali Zardari made clear overtures to Iran. The signing of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline agreement firmed up the frayed relationship. But with the Zardari government getting increasingly embroiled in corruption cases and economic crisis, the project remained a ’pipe dream.

There was not much hope of an early revival of the ties when Nawaz Sharif took over as the Prime Minister in 2013. Sharif seemed keen on strengthening his country’s relationship with his principal patron, Saudi Arabia. The Pakistan-Iran relationship took another hit when earlier this year five Iranian border guards were abducted and Iran blamed its neighbour as well as Saudi actors. Four of the five abducted guards were released in April while one was said to have been killed.

With Pak-Saudi relationship taking precedence, relationship with Iran took a back seat during the Sharif’s first year in office. High-level exchanges have marked the renewed bonding with Saudi Arabia. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia visited Pakistan in February this year and soon after, General Raheel Sharif travelled to Saudi Arabia for "Sword of Abdullah" military exercise.

The two countries also issued a joint statement containing references to the Syrian conflict and calling for an interim governing body to replace the regime of President Bashar al Assad. While Saudi Arabia backs the Sunni militant groups, Shia Iran supports the Assad regime. Saudi Arabia also bestowed a $1.5-billion grant to Pakistan in March this year to help the latter’s troubled economy.

Amidst this bon homie with Riyadh, Prime Minister’s Sharif’s visit to Iran early this month is seen as an attempt to build bridges with Iran, a close neighbour who has both influence and interests in Afghanistan and can be a potential source of energy and trade.

IP gas-pipeline

The visit was fruitful to Pakistan, especially in terms of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline. The project, which has been on the backburner for a long time, was initially meant to include India as well. New Delhi withdrew due to international pressure. The United States of America also tried to pressure Pakistan to abandon the project. However, this didn’t work quite as well as it did with India because of Pakistan’s energy crisis. The pipeline would go a long way towards easing the country’s troubles.

During his visit, Prime Minister Sharif convinced the Iranian government to waive a $200 million per month penalty which had been stipulated in the pipeline agreement in the eventuality of a delay in the construction of the pipeline. Tehran has said that if Pakistan shows earnestness towards completing the project, the penalties will be waived. Iran has even agreed to change the deadline for the project and offered funds to Pakistan for laying the pipeline. Earlier, Iran had withdrawn this proposed financial aid because it sensed a decline in the will of its neighbour to pursue the project. Pakistan needs to lay down 781 km of pipeline from the Iranian border. Iran has already laid down 900 km. International pressure because of the sanctions on Iran held up work on the Pakistani side of the border.

Iran and Pakistan also signed eight agreements and Memorandums of Understanding during this visit concerning increasing bilateral trade, extradition of criminals and the establishment of a joint border commission. Bilateral trade between the two countries has dropped to $1 billion because of international sanctions on Iran. The two countries have agreed to work on increasing bilateral trade to $5 billion. Both sides have pledged to work towards regional peace and security.

The Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Prime Minister Sharif that the border unrest between the two neighbours was part of an enemy conspiracy aimed at destabilising the Pakistan-Iran friendship. He hinted at Saudi involvement in the conspiracy and specified that the US also played a role.

Pakistan cannot afford to allow its relationship with Iran to sour especially since it shares a long border with the country. Pakistan already has two troubled borders with Afghanistan and India. Thus, it is in Pakistan’s best interests to keep Iran happy. Another supporting argument for Pakistan’s balancing act between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the impracticality of taking sides in the Middle East. Pakistan benefits greatly from its friendship with both these countries and to side with one or the other would take away an important source of aid and support.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Government moves to resume stalled TTP talks

Minister for Interior and Narcotics Control, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said that the government wants to make the next round of talks with the Pakistani Taliban meaningful and result-oriented. During a news conference, he said that progress towards the next round of talks with the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was expected in a few days.

The minister said that he wanted the next meeting of the negotiating committees to be decisive. He also added that safe access to polio vaccinators in Waziristan will be on top of the agenda during the next round of direct talks with the TTP.

There has been a gap of about six weeks in the dialogue process. The minister said that the TTP, not the government, was supposed to decide the time and venue for the next round of talks but they did not.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 17 May 2014; The Express Tribune, 17 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nawaz Sharif congratulates Narendra Modi on election win

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called India’s Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi after the results of the Indian elections to congratulate on his party’s massive victory.

This gesture showed Islamabad’s willingness to work with the new Modi government at the helm in India.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 17 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Terror network with TTP link busted

Police has claimed to have busted a network of terrorists cum target killers associated with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and another outfit. Eight terrorists were arrested including a traffic warden and a huge quantity of explosives, suicide jackets, laptops and illegal weapons was seized.

Police identified the arrested suspects as Shafique Shah of Fazal Colony, Bund Road, warden Muhammad Azam of Ravi Road, Saqib Anjum, Obaidullah, Muhammad Aftab, Qari Mushtaq, Hafiz Azeem and Qari Asif Mahmood.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 17 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistani national killed by Iranian border guards

Iranian border guards killed one Pakistani national and injured another near the Pak-Iran border on Friday, according to an official. The incident took place in Balochistan’s Panjgur district.

Fateh Bhangar, Commissioner Mekran Division said that Iranian border guards had opened fire on Pakistani territory. He said that they resorted to unprovoked firing and killed one Pakistani national and injured another. According to him, the injured Pakistani had received bullet wounds and was taken to the Panjgur hospital for treatment.

Pakistani officials have lodged a protest with their Iranian counterparts.

Recent attacks by Iranian guards in Pakistani territory and the kidnapping of Iranian guards in February this year have undermined relations between the two neighbours.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 17 May 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi for strong bilateral ties

India’s Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi said he looks forward to a strong relationship between Sri Lanka and India.

After talking to President Mahinda Rajapaksa over the phone soon after the release of the Indian General Election results, Modi tweeted, "It was wonderful speaking to you earlier today. I look forward to strong relations between Sri Lanka & India."

President Rajapaksa earlier congratulated Modi on phone invited him for a state visit to Sri Lanka.

Democratic Party leader Sarath Fonseka has hailed the example set by Indians by toppling the corrupt and inefficient UPA Government and urged Sri Lankans to follow suit and save this country from the clutches of a corrupt regime.

"The people of India have taken a responsible decision by rejecting corruption and inefficiency and electing a new government. We approve and applaud the decision taken by the Indian people to topple the corrupt Government which ruled the country for 10 years. We request our people to also take responsible and brave decisions to save the country from corruption by upholding good governance and justice for all," Mr. Fonseka said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 16-17 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India extends ban on LTTE for five years

The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday issued a fresh notification extending ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in India for five years. "The Government of India, under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, has proscribed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as an ’Unlawful Association’. The declaration of LTTE as an ’Unlawful Association’ has been extended for a further period of five years with effect from May 14, 2014," said an MHA notification made public on Thursday.

The LTTE was banned in India after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. The ban on the outfit was extended the last time in May 2012. The gazette notification then noted that LTTE was an association based in Sri Lanka, but having its supporters, sympathizers and agents in India; and that its objective for a separate homeland (Tamil Eelam) for all Tamils threatened the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India for the Union and thus, fell within the ambit of an unlawful activity.

"The LTTE, even after its military defeat in May 2009 in Sri Lanka, has not abandoned the concept of ’Eelam’ and has been clandestinely working towards the ’Eelam’ cause by undertaking fund raising and propaganda activities in Europe. The remnant LTTE leaders or cadres have also initiated efforts to regroup the scattered activists and resurrect the outfit locally and internationally," read the 2012 notification, adding that the Tamil chauvinist groups and pro-LTTE groups continued to foster a separatist tendency amongst the masses and enhance the support base for LTTE in India and particularly in Tamil Nadu.

The notification also mentioned that the Diaspora continued to spread through articles in the Internet portals, anti-India feeling amongst the Sri Lankan Tamils by holding the top Indian political leaders and bureaucrats responsible for the defeat of the LTTE. "Such propaganda through Internet, which remains continued, is likely to impact VVIP security adversely in India," it said.

The MHA justified the extension of ban in 2012 stating that the Central Government had "information that the activities of the LTTE remnant cadres, dropouts, sympathisers, supporters who have been traced out recently in the State of Tamil Nadu suggest that the cadres sent to Tamil Nadu would ultimately be utilised by the LTTE for unlawful activities".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 16 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Canada to boycott Victory Day parade

Canadian High Commissioner Shelley Whiting yesterday said that her country wouldn’t be represented at the Victory Day parade in Matara on Sunday (May 18). The Canadian envoy said that the annual military parade wouldn’t help post-war national reconciliation, therefore she wouldn’t accept the government invitation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 15 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jaffna University teachers assert right to mourn

The Jaffna University Science Teachers’ Association has condemned the closure of the university between May 16 and 20, claiming it amounts to intimidation and repression of free discussion on campus, according to an online The Hindu report posted on May 14.

The association says some university professors and student leaders received death threats warning them against holding any commemoration for those who lost their lives during the war, alleging that they were trying to revive the LTTE.

Earlier this month, the registrar of the university had sent out a circular announcing that the university and its hostels will remain closed from May 16 to 20, which coincides with the days that the country’s ethnic conflict ended.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 16 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghan elections go into second round

The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) announced on 15 May that the second round of the Afghan Presidential Elections will be held on 14 June between Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Dr Ashraf Ghani. Dr Abdullah and Dr Ghani were the two leading candidates after the first round of elections with 45 percent and 31.6 percent of the votes respectively. However, as per the Afghan Constitution if none of the candidates have managed to secure 50 percent of the votes in the first round, a second round of elections will have to be held.

Both the leading candidates accepted the verdict of the first round and called upon their supporters to prepare for the second round. The voting will take place on 14 June and the results of the second round will be announced on 22 July.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 15 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Zalmai Rassoul joins Abdullah

Dr Zalmai Rassoul, a former Foreign Minister of Afghanistan and the third leading candidate in the first round of the Afghan Presidential Elections endorsed Dr Abdullah for the second round.

During the conference, Dr. Rassoul said that he joined hands with Dr. Abdullah because of their related commitment to the people. "We joined Abdullah to further strengthen national unity," he said. "We have a good working background and can move forward together."

Dr Rassoul becomes the second candidate after Gul Agha Sherzai to endorse Dr Abdullah for the second round of elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 11 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban launches its summer offensive

The Taliban launched their annual summer offensive this past week by staging an attack against the US base in Bagram, Kabul’s international airport and a courthouse in Jalalabad. There are also reports of attacks on Ghazni in the centre, and Helmand in the south-west of the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: BBC News, 12 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Four military deals signed with China

Bangladesh and China signed four treaties to enhance military cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries. Under the treaties, China’s armed forces will provide military assistance to the Bangladesh armed forces free of cost.

The assistance includes providing training and logistic support to the armed forces and setting up a language laboratory at the Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP).

Visiting Chinese Air Chief Marshal General Xu Qiliang, Principal Staff Officer of Armed Forces Division Lt Gen Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq, Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Mainul Islam and BUP Vice Chancellor Maj Gen Sheikh Mamun Khaled signed the treaties on behalf of their respective

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 13 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt wants India in Ganges barrage

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced this week that Bangladesh will construct a new barrage on the Ganges River for preserving water for the dry season in accordance with the Ganges water sharing treaty, while involving the Indian government in the project.

Sheikh Hasina has directed the water resources ministry to involve India in the process of building the Ganges Barrage to minimise trouble in sharing of the waters of joint rivers in the future. This would ensure a sustainable water management process by using water as a hydro-electricity resource in this region, sources said.

In the Ganges water sharing treaty, the two countries signed in 1996, Hasina said a decision has been made that Bangladesh would construct the Ganges Barrage for preserving water for the dry season. A study in this connection has already been completed, she added. Last June, the water resources ministry completed survey work on the barrage and submitted the detailed project plan to the Planning Commission. The ministry has earmarked Pangsha in Rajbari district for the project. Around Tk. 32,000 crore would be required to implement the project.

Justifying the inclusion of India in the process, the Prime Minister said, "We are sharing 54 common rivers. Now India is suffering a lot for the Farraka Barrage. So if we want to implement a sustainable barrage on our side, then we need to share all these with the neighbour for ensuring a better, peaceful atmosphere."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 12 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Leather industry hits record exports: $1b

The leather industry has crossed the record $1-billion mark in exports in the first ten months of this fiscal year (July to June). Between July and April, the leather industry exported $1.06 billion of products, whereas the exports receipts for the whole of fiscal 2012-13 stood at $980.67 million, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.

M Abu Taher, chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leathergoods and Footwear Exporters’ Association, said many buyers are diverting orders from China, where the production cost has increased significantly.

Bangladesh exports leather products mainly to Italy, New Zealand, Poland, the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, the US, Canada and Spain. Also, Japan, India, Nepal, Australia and some other countries are emerging as potential importers of Bangladeshi leather goods.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 14 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cotton demand likely to double by 2022

Bangladesh’s cotton consumption is expected to almost double by 2022, strongly retaining its position of world’s second largest cotton importers, according to a new study. The local consumption is expected to increase from 9% in 2010-11 to 16% by 2022, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nation’s Food and

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dhaka Tribune, 14 May 2014.


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India looks to plug gold smuggling through Bhutan

India is looking to curb gold smuggling through Bhutan after security agencies unearthed three attempts to smuggle gold into the country through the air route this week, government sources said.

Two Indian nationals were arrested on Thursday at Bhutan’s Paro international airport with 3.5 kg of gold. They were on their way to India from Thailand. According to reports in the Bhutan media, this was the fourth such bust by the country’s agencies this year.

Authorities here said gold smuggling through Bhutan became a serious issue since February when seven Indian men were arrested for attempting to smuggle eight kg of gold into Bhutan at Paro airport. Officials here are in touch with Bhutan authorities to help curb gold smuggling, they said. The racket was busted after customs officers apprehended four of them. The limit to import gold into Bhutan as mandated by the central bank is 50 grams.

Expressing concern over the way Bhutan is emerging as a route for gold smuggling, Kuensel Online said in a report that from the way the Indians attempted to smuggle, they seemed way ahead in outsmarting airport officials. "The way the men tried to smuggle gold into the country reminds us of scenes from movies with gold moulded to look like parts of interior frame of suitcases, making them look like parts of stereos and coating them with other materials to avoid being detected," it said.

As gold continues to be one of the most imported items in India, DRI officials arrested 464 people during the last financial year as against 202 in 2012-13 for their involvement in gold smuggling.

Customs officials at Delhi international airport registered 363 cases of gold smuggling and seized 353 kg of the precious metal during 2013-14. Finance minister P Chidambaram, who has been asking people to control their passion for gold, had early this year said about 1,000-3,000 kg of the yellow metal was smuggled into the country every month.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 16 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan offers to supply boulders for Padma bridge

The new Bhutanese ambassador in Dhaka Pema Choden requested Dhaka to allow it duty-free access. She expressed the interest while meeting Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali at the foreign ministry on 14 May.

The government is planning to build the biggest-ever infrastructure project with its own funds. The foreign minister said the National Board of Revenue would "soon" convene an inter-ministerial meeting along with the commerce ministry and other stakeholders to this end.

He also mentioned that the issue had been discussed in the last month’s commerce secretary-level talks held in Thimphu. That meeting also agreed in principle that Bangladesh would allow duty-free access to Bhutan’s tetra pack fruit juice and Bhutan would allow similar access to Bangladesh’s mango and lichi juices.

The ambassador once again showed her country’s keen interest to buy surplus internet bandwidth from Bangladesh. She said Bhutan might send a formal proposal in this regard.

The minister recalled Bhutan’s role in Bangladesh’s war of independence. Bhutan was the first country to recognise Bangladesh even before its birth. He reiterated Bangladesh’s interest to import electricity from Bhutan and appreciated Thimphu’s support to Dhaka’s initiative for sub-regional cooperation.

In this context, he referred to the next round of meetings on water resources management and connectivity and transit scheduled to be held in New Delhi and sought Bhutan’s active support to Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 14 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Landslide victory for BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party swept the elections with an unprecedented win of 283 seats, making it the single largest majority party in 30 years. Along with its allies in the National Democratic Alliance, the total number of party seats stands at 335, nearly five times as many as won by the incumbent Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance, which won 62 seats. The Congress drew a blank in seven states and failed to enter double digits in any which showed the strong anti-incumbency wave across the country.

The landslide victory has mainly been accredited to BJP leader and Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, who is now expected to be formally elected by the BJP parliamentary party in the next two days. The results saw the BJP’s emergence as a pan-India party, 34 years after its inception. However, it may be the first time that a ruling party at the Centre doesn’t have a single Muslim MP.

The BJP trounced the ruling Congress in Assam, breached the TMC-Left stranglehold on West Bengal, and the Dravidian parties’ domination in Tamil Nadu, and left footprints even in Kerala. It swept all seats in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Goa, and virtually won all of Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh as well as Bihar (with allies), and pushed the Congress to the margins in Maharashtra, Haryana, Assam and Jharkhand.

Very few regional parties did well. The DMK, RJD, BSP did not manage to get any seats. The only regional parties that showed utter dominance were Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (34 seats out of 42), Naveen Patnaik’s BJD (20 seats out of 21) and Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK (37 seats out of 39), all incidentally former allies of the NDA.

In the bifurcated state of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam bagged 16 Lok Sabha seats as well as 102 assembly seats paving the way for it to form the government in Seemandhra. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti, similarly is set to form the government in Telangana after winning 63 assembly seats. The party did well in the Lok Sabha elections as well, winning 11 seats.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which ran on an anti-graft platform, won four seats in Punjab but failed to gather seats anywhere else in the country. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal came second in his fight with Narendra Modi in Varanasi. These elections saw the highest ever turnout of 66.38 per cent. The new Prime Minister will take his oath on 21 May.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Indian Express, 17 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Army chief set to be appointed

Brushing aside BJP’s charges of impropriety, the UPA government is all set to take the decision that Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag will succeed General Bikram Singh as the next Army chief when he retires on July 31. Within hours of getting the Election Commission’s green signal, the defence ministry swiftly recommended to the appointments committee of Cabinet that Lt Gen Suhag’s name be cleared to take over as the 26th chief of the1.18-million strong Army after Gen Bikram Singh. If he makes the grade, the 59-year-old Lt Gen Suhag, who was commissioned into the Gorkha Rifles in June 1974, will serve as the Army chief till December 31, 2016.

Though a new dispensation is likely to come to office after the Lok Sabha results on May 16, the government’s contention is that it’s going by the long-standing convention of announcing a new Service chief "at least two months in advance" while adhering to the seniority principle in the armed forces.

The issue had become controversial after BJP last month complained to Election Commission (EC) that the UPA regime was showing undue haste in declaring the new Army chief before it demitted office in mid-May. Incidentally, former army chief and current BJP candidate from Ghaziabad, Gen. V.K. Singh, had put a "discipline and vigilance ban" on Suhag for failure to control an intelligence unit.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, 12 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">RBI panel suggests bank, taxation reforms

A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) panel set up to review governance of bank boards has suggested that the government should either privatize or merge state-run banks, or design a new governance structure for these banks to allow them to compete better and avoid repeated requests for recapitalization, in view of the low productivity and steep erosion in asset quality and "demonstrated uncompetitiveness of public sector banks over varying time periods".

The panel, headed by former Axis Bank Ltd chairman and Morgan Stanley India head P.J. Nayak, has also suggested significant changes in the shareholding pattern of banks.

The panel suggested that the RBI should designate a specific category of investors in banks known as authorized bank investors (ABI), who would be allowed to hold as much as 20% in banks without regulatory approval. Such investors would include funds with diversified investors. The Nayak panel also recommends that if a bank is identified as "distressed", private equity and sovereign wealth funds should be permitted to take a controlling stake of up to 40%.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mint, 13 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defence minister denies Indian offer to build dockyard

Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim has told local media that no official offer from India to build a dock yard in the Maldives has been received.

Following reports in the Indian media last week that India’s Army Chief General Bikram Singh has offered to build a dockyard worth MVR 7.7 billion (US$ 500 million) in the Maldives during his official visit, Nazim told Haveeru that the job would not be awarded to a foreign military.

Nazim did say that many offers had been received for the Uthuru Thilafalhu lagoon project, in the archipelago’s north, but that no decision had yet been made.

Reclamation work is already underway in the area. Once completed, it will serve as the Maldivian Coastguard’s primary operations base and will provide a much-needed berthing space to naval ships and ocean liners.

India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, during a visit to the Maldives in February, visited the Uthuru Thilafalhu project site.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, 14 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MACL can sue ex-chairman over GMR airport charge

The Civil Court has ruled the Maldives Airports Company (MACL) can sue its former chairman for allowing the disputed Airport Development Charge (ADC) to be deducted from Indian infrastructure giant GMR’s concession payments during it’s ill-fated agreement.

MACL alleges ’Kuda Bandhey’ Ibrahim Saleem’s decision to be an act of ’Ultra Vires’ - meaning that Saleem had acted beyond his permitted authority.

The ruling came following a procedural issue taken by Saleem said he was being wrongfully charged claiming the lawsuit was filed in violation to Article 18 (c) of the Contract Act and Article 74 Company Act.

The Contract Act states a clause requiring a party to refer to arbitration any dispute arising from the contract shall be valid, while the Company Act says the court has a right to issue orders holding personally liable the directors of the company to commit an offense in the name of the company.

But the Civil Court ruling stated that the Company Act does not prohibit the company chairman from being sued personally.

The airports company sued Saleem after he signed a letter sent to GMR on January 5 2012 stating that the ADC and the insurance surcharge fee had been deducted from GMR’s concession payments.

In late 2011, the then-opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) had filed a successful Civil Court case blocking GMR from charging US$25 charge for outgoing passengers - stipulated in its agreement with the government - on the grounds that it was a tax not authorised by parliament.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration subsequently chose to honour the original contract, instructing GMR to deduct the ADC revenues from the concession fees due to the state-owned MACL while it sought to appeal the Civil Court ruling.

However, with the Nasheed’s controversial resignation coming just one month later, the opposition soon inherited the contractual problem.

Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government then received a succession of bills from the airport developer throughout 2012, despite its insistence that the January 5 letter from MACL outlining the new arrangement was no longer valid.

In December 2012, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a case with the Prosecutor General’s Office over Saleem’s decision to allow GMR to deduct the ADC from concession fees owed to the state.

As part of the filed case (Dhivehi), the ACC was seeking reimbursement of MVR 353.8 million (US$22.9 million) from Saleem and former Finance Minister Mohamed Shihab over the alleged misuse of authority it claimed had led to significant financial loses for the state.

These losses were used as justification for the contract’s eventual termination in December 2012, for which GMR is currently seeking compensation via a Singapore court of arbitration.

According to the case filed by the ACC, former Finance Minister Shihab stands accused of misusing his ministerial authority to benefit a third party by allowing GMR to deduct the charges between October 2011 and September 2012.

The ACC has also accused Saleem violating the company’s rules. According to the ACC’s case, normal procedure for MACL would be to have the company’s board of directors pass a resolution allowing for consent to be given to deduct the ADC.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, 14 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No reason why Tatas should not commence work

Minister of Housing Dr. Ahmed Muizz has said that there is no reason why the Indian Tata Company should not commence their work to complete the building of flats on the area where the former Arabiyya School was located at.

Speaking to Miadhu Daily, the Minister said that there is no plausible reason to delay the project however the company has been giving the excuse that the company believes that the company may not be paid as agreed.

Minister Dr Muizz said that the government has assured the company that they will be paid as agreed.

"We have not tried to annul the agreement because it will take a lot of time in the court phase," he said.

Dr. Muizz said that now the flats only need the finishing work and it will take about 8 months to complete the work."280 people have been already selected. That is shelter for about 2000 people. That is a large number compared to the over population of Male’," he said.

The minister said that the company submitted documents to change the agreement however the government wants to continue with the earlier agreement considering the financial damage that it might cause the government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, 14 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ASEAN urges ’peaceful resolution’ to Thai crisis

Southeast Asia’s regional bloc called on 11 May for a "peaceful resolution" to the political crisis gripping Thailand, days after a controversial court ruling removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in the Myanmar capital, Nay Pyi Taw, at the weekend in the absence of a top-level Thai representative following the 7 May judicial ruling ousting Yingluck from office for abuse of power.

In a statement by ASEAN foreign ministers, the bloc said it was closely monitoring the situation in Thailand, where both pro- and anti-government protesters have held separate demonstrations, raising fears of unrest.

ASEAN member states "emphasise their full support for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing challenge in the country through dialogue and in full respect of democratic principles and rule of law," it said.

The ministers stressed the importance of "promoting national reconciliation and the return of normalcy in Thailand, in accordance with the will and interests of the people". Thailand’s protracted political crisis has divided the country since Thaksin was toppled. It broadly pits Thaksin’s foes among the country’s royalist elite, the Bangkok middle class and southerners against his supporters in the rural north and northeast and among the urban poor.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 11 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Confusion over state secrets charge as court readies for Unity verdict

As the court hearing the Unity journal case prepares to hand down its verdict, defendants are calling for clarity on whether they have been charged with allegedly revealing state secrets as initially stated.

Daw Aye Aye Thet, a lawyer for the defendants, said charges filed under the 1923 Burma State Secrets Act appear to have been dropped, although a trespassing charge still stands. Pakokku District Court is expected to hand down a verdict on 19 or 20 May, she said.

In late January, Unity published an investigative report headlined "Secret chemical weapons factory in Pauk township" and a follow up, "Factory’s in-charge denies No 24 Defence Equipment Factory as chemical weapon factory".

Four of the weekly journal’s reporters, along with its CEO, were promptly arrested and charged with trespassing and revealing state secrets. The military plaintiff has testified that they were charged on the orders of office of President U Thein Sein, although officials in his office deny this.

However, at the eighth hearing earlier this month, Police Captain Maung Maung Than from Nay Pyi Taw said the five accused hand only been charged with trespassing.

"He stated that the reporters and CEO has been charged with trespassing because they have entered a banned place," Daw Aye Aye Thet said.

The police official made the comments during questioning of witnesses from the plaintiffs side on 6 and 7 May.

Daw Aye Aye Thet said that if the state secrets charge still stands it should now be formally dropped.

During earlier sessions, another defence lawyer, U Robert San Aung, told the court the state secrets charge should be dropped because the military and the government insist there was no chemical weapons factory. He said it would be incorrect to punish journalists for exposing a chemical weapons factory that never existed in the first place. The defence is also vigorously challenging the validity of the trespassing charges. During earlier hearings, witnesses told the court that they had not seen any signs near the factory warning against trespassing. They said signs had been erected following the arrests of the journalists.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Myanmar Times, 16 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Foundation for US sanctions set for another year

US President Barack Obama has extended sanctions against Myanmar through the National Emergencies Act for another year, citing the military’s economic and political stranglehold - as well as ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in ethnic areas - as key reasons for the decision.

The situation in Myanmar was designated under the Act on 20 May, 1997, providing the legislative basis for economic sanctions leveled against certain businesses and individuals.

In a letter addressed to Congress on 15 May, Obama stated that the decision was "necessary", despite some significant steps having been made in Myanmar’s much-vaunted reform process.

Obama singled out ethno-religious tensions and the dire humanitarian situation in Rakhine State as being of particular cause for concern.

"The political opening remains nascent, and concerns persist regarding ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas, particularly in Rakhine State, and the continued role of the military in the country’s political and economic activities".

Obama’s letter said Myanmar continues to pose "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

Despite these concerns, Obama highlighted his administration’s commitment to supporting reform efforts, in order to ensure that the democratic transition is "sustained and irreversible".

"The Government of Burma has made significant progress in a number of critical areas, including the release of over 1,100 political prisoners, progress towards a nationwide ceasefire, the legalization of unions, taking steps to improve the country’s labor standards, and allowing greater freedom of association and expression", he said. Obama highlighted the Myanmar government’s signing-on to the Additional Protocol of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, calling it "a significant step towards supporting the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Myanmar Times, 16 May 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CA begins deliberations on contents of statue

The new Constituent Assembly (CA) has begun deliberations on the contents of the new constitution on Thursday. The debate in the CA´s plenary session began as the CA´s Constitutional Records Study and Determination Committee (CRSDC) forwarded two separate reports to the CA earlier this week. Lawmakers on Thursday discussed the report on natural resources, economic rights and distribution of revenue and the report on protection of national interest. During the deliberations, lawmakers debated mainly on some key provisions and they were divided along the lines of their respective political parties.

The key provisions discussed by several lawmakers include the provisions related to the right to self-determination of provinces, mandatory conscription for citizens of 18 years and above, formation of finance commission and commission on distribution of natural resources and system of taxation. After deliberations, the House will forward the report along with lawmakers´ feedback to the drafting committee because the House on Thursday discussed the report that includes only the list of agreements.

The House will later discuss the list of contentious issues in the two thematic reports -- report on natural resources, economic rights and distribution of revenue and the report on protection of national interest--and forward them to the CA´s constitutional-political dialogue and consensus committee for settling the disputes.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 16 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">HD report stresses bridging divides, enhancing skills

Even as the overall picture has been improving in Nepal over the past one decade, inequalities among regions and social groups remain mostly entrenched, albeit with signs that some of these may be narrowing, according to the Nepal Human Development Report 2014, released on Thursday. The Report titled, "Beyond Geography: Unlocking Human Potential", has recommended that the government enhance skills for the population, bridge the regional and group divides in human potential and invest in youth and agriculture in view of Nepal´s goal to graduate from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) category by 2022.

The report calls for pursuing policies to accelerate the narrowing of regional inequalities in human development as well as productive abilities. It also urges a focusing on lagging regions, expanding the reach of inclusive policies, prioritizing urban management and rural-urban linkage and preparing for opportunities presented by the demographic dividend. This is the fifth Nepal Development Report, the first one being published in 1998. Unlike previous reports, Nepal Human Development Report 2014 focuses on the spatial dimensions of productive abilities and uses several kinds of data to do justice to the theme.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, 16 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladeshis using Nepali passports for Gulf jobs

A police probe into misuse of passports has revealed that a large number of Bangladeshi workers have been using hand-written Nepali passports for employment in the Gulf region. The recently concluded investigation showed that the misuse of Nepali passports has been growing since a number of Gulf countries imposed restrictions on entry visas to Bangladeshi workers citing security concerns.

The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police believes that several groups, including Nepali manpower companies, Nepali manpower agents in Gulf and supervisors of employers were jointly operating rackets that sell Nepali hand-written passports to Bangladeshis for a hefty amount. But there are other challenges in discouraging the trend of passport forgery, which is supposed to be a very serious crime. Police officials have expressed serious dissatisfaction over the lenient law.

As per the law of the land, those involved in passport forgery can walk free by paying less than Rs 10,000 in penalty, said a police official involved in the investigation. Nonetheless, the misuse of Nepali passports has reduced after the government started issuing Machine Readable Passport (MRP), he added. All the handwritten passports are expected to be phased out by November2015.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 16 May 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal gets Rs 1.5bn as remittance daily

The migrant workers abroad are sending home about Rs 1.5 billion on an average each passing day. Nepal has received Rs 397.8 billion so far in last nine months since the fiscal year began in mid-July, 2013, according to Nepal Rastra Bank’s macroeconomic report for nine months published today. The amount of remittance that the country received during the period is four-and-a-half times higher than the country’s allocated capital expenditure for the current fiscal year. The budget for 2013-12 had allocated Rs 85 billion under the section of capital expenditure meant to finance country’s infrastructure projects.

The bulging remittance has contributed in country’s balance of payments (BoP) recording surplus of Rs 106.23 billion by mid-April. The growing BoP surplus is an indication that Nepal is earning more than it is paying for the transactions done with the rest of the world. During the same period of the previous year, Nepal’s BoP was surplus by mere Rs 30.7 billion. Despite the inflated surplus in both BoP and current accounts, trade statistics continue to be worrisome. Total trade deficit — difference between country’s exports and imports — during the review period surged by 29.1 per cent to Rs 454.06 billion compared to an increase of 23.6 per cent during the same period previous year.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 12 May 2014

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Pakistan:Taruni Kumar;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharje;
India: Niharika Betkerur;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

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