MonitorsPublished on Apr 05, 2013
It is almost certain now that the proposed Constituent Assembly (CA) election in Nepal, slated for June 21, is a remote possibility, given the lack of cooperation from the opposition forces to the Interim Election Council headed by Chief Justice Khil Raj Rehmi and the delay caused in finalising election-related processes.
Nepal: Remote possibility for June 21 CA polls
< class="heading1">Analysis

It is almost certain now that the proposed Constituent Assembly (CA) election in Nepal, slated for June 21, is a remote possibility, given the lack of cooperation from the opposition forces to the Interim Election Council headed by Chief Justice Khil Raj Rehmi and the delay caused in finalising election-related processes. With less than 80 days to go for the proposed polls, the Government is still struggling to clear all the legal hurdles, generate a political consensus and complete internal preparations. All these have affected the plan to hold the CA polls in June.

Some 20 days ago, political parties signed an 11-point agreement to form a ’neutral’ government to hold CA elections after it was dissolved in May 2012, when they failed to arrive at any consensus on the federal-restructuring of the country. The CA was dissolved without delivering the promised Constitution after four years of political brinkmanship. The parties also agreed to elect a 491-member CA? in line with the spirit of inclusiveness? in which 240 members will be chosen through first past the post system and 240 through proportional representation system. The new CA will double as Parliament as long as the work of drafting a new Constitution continues. Once a new Constitution was promulgated, it would discharge the functions, if any, designated to it. The four major political forces - United CPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) -- have also formed an eight-member High Level Political Committee (HLPC) to support the Interim Election Council of Ministers for holding the proposed polls.

The new arrangement was put in place as a political compromise but h fundamental legal and political problems remained. While the Chief Justice assumed the position of the Chairman of the Interim Election Council, the outgoing chief executive Dr Baburam Bhattarai did not resign from his position. The CJ himself did not quit his post even after repeated calls from the Nepal Bar Association and other international judicial organisations.

Opposition strengthens

Soon after assuming office, CJ Regmi had to deal with street protests by 22 opposing parties, mainly the breakaway CPN-Maoist (Baidya). The agitating parties have turned down every call for negotiations and are obstructing all election-related work, especially in the remote areas of the country. The Mohan Baidya faction, which is a split-away group of the United CPN (Maoist), has warned of continued protests if the decision to elect a non-political government is not reversed. It is to be seen how the CJ-led Council will bring the agitating groups to cooperate and improve the situation for holding polls. It is unlikely that the Baidya faction will relent to anything except an all-party consensus government, which is their key demand to sit for talks. This position so far is unacceptable to the four major parties.

But the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML leaders too are not very optimistic on the possibility of an early election. Since both the parties were split on the issue of appointment of a CJ-led government, the party chiefs enjoy only limited support. NC central committee members are disappointed over the party President’s decision to support the CJ-led initiative even in the face of opposition from the committee members who were urging him to agree to a CJ-led arrangement only after making the CJ tender his resignation in advance as head of the judiciary. Also, the CPN-UML was sharply divided over the decision.

The Nepal Bar Association, civil society members and various other sections of society have stood against the decision, arguing that appointing the head of the judiciary as prime minister would seriously jeopardise the basic democratic principle of separation of powers among the three branches of the State and would lead to the politicisation of the judiciary. Political parties are also sharply divided over the proposed eligibility threshold for seats under the proportional representation part of the electoral system. While the NC and CPN-UML have stood for the proposed one per cent threshold, the UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based political parties, among others, have rejected it.

The EC, in the draft ordinance on amending the Election of Members of the Constituent Assembly Act, 2013, has proposed that a political party must secure one per cent of the total valid votes cast in the election to be eligible for proportional seats in the CA. Earlier, the constitutional body had proposed a threshold of 1.5 per cent. The EC has forwarded three ordinances to the Government - the ordinance on amending Election of Members of the Constituent Assembly Act, 2013, ordinance on amending Electoral Rolls Act, 2013 and ordinance on amending Election Commission Act, 2013.

Mounting challenges

There are many challenges that the Election Commission (EC) is faced with at present. While the new voters’ registration process is being obstructed by the cadres of the CPN (Maoist) in many districts, the voters’ registration update and verification will take at least a month’s time. In addition, the EC has to allocate reasonable time for campaigning to the parties, which still have not endorsed a formal agenda for polls. The June 21 election date agreed by the major parties is thus too close for all these issues to be resolved within a month.

The next possible time in Nepal to hold the polls is November. Unfortunately, by November, the extreme climatic conditions, especially in the higher mountain regions, will not allow a smooth polling. The current CJ-led Interim Council has been given a mandate only till December to conduct the polls. Thus in all likelihood, the proposed CA polls could be pushed to early 2014.

Poll agenda

Although there is a hostile political climate in the country, most party leaders and the general public do feel that an early election is the only way out of the current impasse. Since the formation of the Interim Council, media commentaries and political leaders have strongly expressed for the need for another CA polls.

The dominant issue for the next poll will be the federal restructuring of the country, over which the last CA was dissolved. While the Maoists, Madhesis and janajati parties want an ethnicity-based federal division, the NC and UML are opposed to it. While India, which is a very important neighbour of Nepal, has not openly expressed its views on the federalism debate, China has categorically told the Nepali leaders that ethnic division will be against its security interest of Nepal. China shares 1400-km long border in the north of the Himalayan nation.

The upcoming poll will also be a contest between the pro-monarchy force, which wants to revive monarchy and Hindu identity of the nation, and the pro-federal group, which wants the formation of a democratic, inclusive republican federal State. But if the elections are not held by early next year, the country will be pushed into another phase of intense trouble and instability as Nepali society at present is highly polarised along ethnic lines.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan: Making up with Afghanistan, but how?

Louis Ritzinger

Scholars of mediation and dispute-resolution will no doubt be familiar with the "orange" metaphor, or at least some version of it. It is, admittedly, simplistic, but it illustrates an important point regarding the interests of parties in negotiations.

The story goes as follows: a woman is hosting a gathering of 10 family members in her house. Oranges being a regional delicacy in her part of the world, she would like to provide each of her guests with one to enjoy after dinner. To her surprise, however, after searching the entire market she finds only one shop with oranges to sell. She counts the oranges sitting in a bit in the front of the shop and finds, to her relief, that the shopkeeper has precisely 10.

"I’ll take all of them," she tells the shopkeeper - but before she can begin to bargain a man spots the oranges as well, requests five, and makes an offer. "Sir," she protests, "I was here first, and I need all 10."

"Ma’am, I’m sorry," he replies, "but I’ve looked all over the market, and I need these five oranges. I have guests coming, and I told them I would prepare my famous truffles. They’re just not the same without orange peels."

Seeing an opportunity, the woman proposes a deal: the two would share the cost. S he would take the ten oranges for her guests, and provide him with the peels. What had appeared an intractable conflict based on the positions of the two parties was shaped by different interests, and thus there was space for compromise.

Needless to say, such clear cases are a rarity in the world of international affairs - particularly in relationships as complex and politically fraught as between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As the recent war of words between the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan would seem to indicate, interests themselves are often far from complementary.

Karzai out in the cold?

President Karzai’s recent harsh words towards Pakistan (as well as the US) are symptomatic of a deep concern that, as he nears the end of what he has promised to be his final term, what little leverage he has vis-à-vis the Taliban is being undercut by the two other major influencers of Afghan affairs, leaving him out in the cold.

The US, President Karzai fears, has been negotiating with the Taliban (who have thus far publicly refused to talk to his Government, referring to him as an "American puppet") in the lead-up to the scheduled draw-down of ISAF forces, without him. While the extent of negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban is unclear, it is certain that some level of talks have been going on for some time now. While the Americans no doubt view such talks as essential for their goals of an orderly withdrawal, President Karzai can certainly not be blamed for his concern that his already weak authority is being undercut.

The other obvious factor behind President Karzai’s sharp words towards the US - alleging collusion with Taliban, insisting that the Americans "surrender" to Afghan demands prior to him signing any bilateral security agreement, etc. - is his domestic audience. The Karzai Government, and particularly its police force, is plagued by allegations of corruption, and the President has seen his approval ratings fall drastically over the course of his second term. If he is to secure his legacy, not to mention his own personal safety, he must work to create some distance between himself and the "occupying forces". Memories of then President Najibullah and his 1996 hanging just outside the Presidential Palace may not be far from his mind.

Regarding Pakistan, despite an uptick in relations earlier this year, and high hopes following the trilateral summit involving the UK, deep mistrust still remains between the Karzai Government - largely consisting of former Northern Alliance members, who have historically opposed the Pakistan-sponsored Taliban - and Islamabad, particularly its military, which still calls the foreign policy shots. President Karzai and his representatives have claimed that the Pakistanis have not diverged from their old approach of viewing Afghanistan as their strategic "backyard", and have failed to sufficiently support the peace process between the Government’s High Peace Council and the Taliban - choosing instead to support the latter’s negotiations with other groups, including opposition parties. Such a development, they argue, is an effort to ensure that Afghanistan remains unstable and pliable to Pakistani interests. Continued cross-border missile attacks on what Pakistani security officials claim are Pakistani Taliban (TTP) elements have further soured relations.

Pakistani perspective

Pakistan, as well, has found itself in something of a pickle when it comes to its northern neighbour. While some hardliners may still view stability under the current regime and Pakistani strategic goals as mutually exclusive, mounting economic pressures and the deteriorating internal security situation have produced a growing consensus that an unstable Afghanistan can only hurt Pakistan’s interests by prohibiting the growth of trade routes to Central Asia and providing a continued safe-haven for the TTP and related elements which seek the overthrow of the Pakistani State.

The problem is that, given the two countries’ historical baggage - including an Afghan-sponsored Pashtun separatist movement, warming Indo-Afghan relations, as well as a continued refusal by successive Afghan governments to recognise the Durand Line as the international border between the two states - the Pakistani establishment still fears the long-term repercussions of an independent Afghanistan that does not include elements over which they can exercise some control - i.e. the so-called Quetta Sura, Haqqani Network, and Hezb-I Islami Gulbuddin. Thus, while a Taliban settlement would ultimately serve Pakistan’s interests, it has sought to use its connections with influential Taliban groups as a bargaining chip to coerce the Karzai administration into addressing its concerns.

Repeated efforts by Pakistan to get the Afghans to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), as well as reports of challenges between the two countries during the trilateral summit in the UK both point to these developments. Afghan leaders, writes Gran Heward, of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, have repeatedly rejected Pakistani overtures toward an SPA - even to the point of disparaging their own government by arguing that they do not exercise full control over the country and thus could not legitimately sign on.

Even the Mujahedeen and Taliban governments, when presented with offers in 1992 and 1999, respectively, flatly refused. The principal reason behind this was a reluctance to acknowledge Durrand, a deeply sensitive issue in Afghanistan, but also one which the Pakistanis view as essential to preserving their territorial integrity. In November, 2012, Pakistani Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar extended another SPA offer to her Afghan counterpart, Dr. Zalmay Rasul, who, once again, rejected it, citing concerns over Pakistani intentions.

Recent challenges in implementing the agreement reached at the trilateral summit at Chequers in February, in which the two countries pledged to reach a settlement with the Taliban in six months, also point to these Pakistani concerns. While the Pakistanis strongly deny the allegation, the Afghans claim they have set "preconditions" for facilitating negotiations with the Taliban. There is a strong chance these preconditions include the resolution of border disputes, and no doubt they are there to ensure the protection of their interests and continued influence.

A way forward

In short, the Karzai regime and the Pakistanis are competing for the same fruit, which they both hold as absolutely essential: influence in Afghanistan. In the case of Karzai, the method has been to seek legitimacy through hardened rhetoric, while the Pakistanis, who obviously cannot govern directly, have sought to use their leverage via the Taliban, with which Karzai is desperate to forge an agreement.

From one perspective, Pakistani and Afghani goals are diametrically opposed to each other. For Pakistan to have its way in Afghanistan, the Government in Kabul must be weak or reliant on Islamabad. To return to the earlier metaphor, there is no way to divide the orange. This is, however, an extremely short-sighted vision of Pakistan’s interests. To begin, the TTP and Afghan Taliban, while currently fighting different enemies, share strong ties and ideological bonds, and reports have indicated that the latter have grown tired of their reliance on the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies. Given the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, and in the absence of a strong government in Kabul, the two may come to find they have even more in common.

Second, while Pakistan may attempt to use its geographic location as Afghanistan’s link to South Asia as a bargaining chip, the reality is that the economic futures of both countries are deeply intertwined. Pakistan, with its faltering economic, soaring deficits, and critical energy shortage is in desperate need of the stimulus and energy resources a productive partnership with Afghanistan could bring. This must be its ultimate goal. The key will be in ensuring that Pakistan’s near-term security concerns are met. These are, after all, the reasons behind its positioning on Afghanistan.

To begin, building ties between Afghan and Pakistani security and intelligence agencies will be vital. This would facilitate useful intelligence sharing and coordinated security operations, while building trust and connections between the two. It would also ease Pakistani concerns regarding the training of ANSF troops by India. In this regard, the resumption of joint training operations in Pakistan - halted in the aftermath of the most recent verbal exchanges - is vital.

The elephant in the room - The Durand Line - must be also addressed. It is naïve to think that any Afghan Government would be quick to recognise a colonial-era dividing line much of its population does not view as legitimate. However, it is equally naïve, given the long-established international recognition of the border, to think that the Afghans have much to gain in continuing to tip-toe around the issue. A final resolution may still be off on the horizon, but a solid commitment to resolving the issue would be a welcome development.

A role for India

India, of course, has a large role to play in Pakistan’s strategic calculations in Afghanistan - and thus in how it will go about playing its hand. The fear of encirclement by Indian interests has been the primary reason behind Pakistan’s support for proxy Taliban forces - however wrong-headed one may think such a strategy is. India’s actions will thus have a large impact on how much Pakistan feels threatened by an empowered Kabul.

In this respect, the continued warming of relations, including a reduction in non-tariff trade barriers between India and Pakistan and productive negotiations on Kashmir would be steps in the right direction. Furthermore, while India certainly has economic and security interests in Afghanistan, the notion that it should pursue an Afghan policy independent of Pakistan strikes as disingenuous. Besides the fact that Pakistan - which is, by all accounts, vital to Afghanistan’s stability - bases much of its foreign policy on calculations vis-à-vis India, one must also ask the question: what are the primary interests of India in Afghanistan? An honest answer would certainly have Pakistan at or near the top.

A Taliban settlement will be unlikely before Karzai’s term comes to an end in April, 2014. Given the high uncertainty of the way in which elections will be held and who will be elected, Taliban fighters will probably be inclined to play the waiting game, rather than negotiate with a "lame duck." Nevertheless, there is still room for Pakistan to play a productive role in promoting Afghan stability - provided its security concerns are met.

A stable future for Afghanistan and its integration into the regional economy will obviously be no easy feat. The scourge of militancy, brought on by decades on unceasing conflict, will be another enormous challenge to meet - one deserving of its own analysis. Should these challenges be met with success, however, Afghans and Pakistanis could both be winners. If not, it will be, of course, the common people who suffer the most.

Time is of the essence. If progress continues to be stymied, all this fighting may turn out to be over rotten oranges.

(The writer is a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Musharraf to contest elections

Despite low public approval ratings, former Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf (retd) has submitted nomination papers to the Election Commission that would enable him to contest four National Assembly constituencies. Analysts have derided the move, as former President Musharraf has three separate "First Information Reports" pending against him for alleged involvement in the assassinations of Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti and the detention of judges. Also curious, despite June 2012 reported net assets of Rs 645,011,645, Musharraf did not pay any taxes from 2009-2012.

At least one analyst, of The Friday Times, believes Musharraf is trying to enact a strategy of survival by disingenuously aligning himself with Pakistan’s military. In any case, the same analyst notes that Musharraf’s two great blunders, Kargil and the dismissal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry, were great contributions to the country: disabusing the military of its adventurism and forever emboldening the Supreme Court.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 3 April, 2013, The Friday Times, 4 April, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Militants attack grid station

In a brazen April 1 attack on Peshawar’s Sheikh Muhammadi grid station, militants set off pre-planted bombs and fired rockets before a direct assault. The militants killed some employees on sight before taking more, hostage.

Thus far, eight Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and community police personnel have been reported killed, while four remain as hostages. Locals said recovered bodies showed signs of torture. "We saw that some of the people were first thrashed with axes and then their bodies were badly broken into pieces, after which they were shot to death many times."

Additionally, the attack did much damage to the grid station, destroying the control room and causing fires that engulfed machinery and transformers, while also disrupting local power supplies.

Police believe the militants were "facilitated by people inside the grid station." The investigation is ongoing, and works to repair the station, which will cost in the billions of Pakistani Rupees, have commenced. The attack highlights two primary vulnerabilities for the country, militant attacks and lacking energy supply/security.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 2 April, 2013, Dawn Pakistan. 2 April, 2013, Dawn Pakistan, 5 April, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fake degrees case

In June 2010, under an order passed by the then Musharraf Government, Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified PML-N MPA Gazanfar Gill for holding a fake BA degree and ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to verify parliamentarian degrees within three months. That latter part of that order had been largely forgotten.

The Higher Education Commission had until recently resolved roughly 50 fake degree cases, while 200 national and provincial legislators had not submitted documentation at all. Consequently, on April 1 this year, the Supreme Court asked 189 Parliamentarians to have their credentials verified by April 5 or risk being excluded from elections, this despite the fact that the degree qualification was abolished in the post-2008 election National Assembly.

Because the ECP and Supreme Court had not pressed the issue at all until issuing a February 2013 letter hinting at the need for verification (a letter later withdrawn), analysts and politicians alike have suggested that the short deadline places an unnecessary burden on lawmakers. Some have even called the initiative a "witch hunt."

As former National Assembly member Jamshed Dasti and former Balochistan provincial minister Ali Madad Jattak were fined and given prison terms for fake degrees, a "sense of crisis" has ensued, especially as more politicians are disqualified (perhaps at the instigation of rivals) and election plans are disrupted. Balochistan High Court Justice Tariq Mehmood summed up the issue well by stating, "Changing the rules of the game so close to the elections is unfair." The ultimate outcome of the issue and its impact on May elections remains uncertain.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 3 April, 2013, The Dawn, 5 April, 2013, The Dawn, 5 April, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Foreign help needed to fix war toll: Govt

Ongoing efforts to ascertain the number of persons, including LTTE cadres, killed during Eelam war IV (July 2006-May 2009)and deaths caused due to natural causes as well as accidents, had been hampered by the reluctance on the part of countries accommodating those making accusations to share information with the Sri Lanka Government, according to officials.

Military Spokesman Brig Ruwan Wanigasuriya told The Island that an accurate assessment of the number of Sri Lankan migrants was prerequisite for a methodical inquiry. He said that some of those categorized as dead and missing since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, were now overseas. The official alleged that some of those who had fled the country included LTTE cadres, though their families continued to insist they were civilians.

During a visit to Colombo last January Canadian Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney revealed that over the past six years 25,000 Sri Lankans had been accepted as permanent residents. Minister Kenney estimated the number of Sri Lankans domiciled in Canada at over 300,000.

Addressing a seminar in Colombo in August last year Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that after the conclusion of the conflict some of those accommodated at welfare camps escaped and their whereabouts remained unknown. The Defence Secretary said that 7,185 persons, who had left IDP camps on various grounds hadn’t come back and 1,380 fled from hospitals where they were receiving treatment. Some of them are believed to have fled the country. Addressing a group of journalists at the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka on Tuesday, Brig Wanigasuriya alleged that the country was under constant attack since the conclusion of the conflict, in May 2009, over accountability issues.

Although the LTTE no longer posed a conventional military threat, some elements still remained committed to creating a separate state in the northern and east provinces of Sri Lanka, Brig Wanigasuriya said. While estimating the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora at around one million persons, the military official said that only a minute section of them were pursuing a hostile campaign. In spite of them being small in number, they were influential and extremely powerful. The Brigadier said that if those organizations representing the Diaspora were genuinely interested in establishing the number of dead and whereabouts of those currently listed missing, they should cooperate with the Government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Census of JVP dead

In the wake of war crimes allegations against Sri Lanka over accountability issues, the Census and Statistics Department is in the process of conducting field tests ahead of an unprecedented census to establish the number of deaths, injuries to persons and property damage due to second JVP insurrection and the separatist war.

Census and Statistics chief D. C.A. Gunawardena told The Island that the project could be completed within six months. The census was expected to get underway next month. Responding to a query Gunawardena said that the proposed census was the first of its kind conducted in the country. According to him, the department was in the process of finalising the questionnaire.

Another senior official told The Island that the Census Department had already conducted some field tests in areas affected by JVP insurgency in the late 80s, in parts of Polonnaruwa district, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu. Commenting on a census conducted in the Northern Province soon after the conclusion of the conflict, the official said that their endeavour was to establish accurate figures relating to deaths and injuries caused due to southern and northern terrorism.

The special census would also deal with those killed during operations conducted by the Indian Army during 1987-89, security sources said. Sources said that a detailed census could show the number of Tamil civilians killed by the LTTE as well as other separatist groups and deaths due to inter and intra-group clashes. The census could highlight the level of Indian intervention in Sri Lanka since early 1980s.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">18 months to implement LLRC report

The Government has set a 18-month time frame to implement the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations. Power and Energy Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, addressing the Cabinet news briefing in Colombo, in the absence of Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, who has gone abroad, claimed that many of the LLRC recommendations had already been addressed and the others would be implemented within the next one and a half years.

He said that the LLRC Report had come up for discussion at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. It had been decided that many of the proposals could be implemented by the respective ministries. The resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons, rehabilitation of LTTE cadres and many other steps aimed at reconciliation had been completed to a great extent, the Minister said adding that criticism of the government in this regard was unwarranted.

The recent adoption of the US Resolution on Accountability and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka, by the UNHRC, had nothing to with a time-frame being set for the implementation of the LLRC Report, he noted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Seize the opportunity, says India

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has said India has always felt that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka provides a unique opportunity to pursue lasting political settlement, acceptable to all communities. Sri Lanka must seize the opportunity for genuine national reconciliation and move ahead, he told Leader of the Opposition in Sri Lankan Parliament Ranil Wickremesinghe during a meeting at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on Wednesday.

Receiving Wickremesinghe, President Mukherjee said India-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship is based on shared historical, cultural and ethnic ties as well as extensive people-to-people interaction. It has always been close and cordial. As a neighbour with thousands of years of close ties, India has a natural interest in Sri Lanka. People of India cannot remain untouched by developments in Sri Lanka, Mukherjee pointed out.

For several years now, Wickremesinghe has been paying private visits to India at least once every year to keep in touch with India’s top leaders and also to meet his innumerable friends here. Apart from paying a courtesy call on President Mukherjee, he also called on External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, and National Security Adviser Shiv Shanker Menon, among others.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sethu project harmful, say Sri Lanka experts

A high-level team of Sri Lankan marine scientists, environmentalists, geologists and marine engineers, appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has found that the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP) is detrimental to the maritime and environmental resources of the island nation. According to a report published in The Pioneer daily in New Delhi, the experts were shocked to learn that India had blatantly violated all global norms like the International Law of Seas and MARPOL Convention, in conceiving the project.

In a report submitted to the Sri Lankan Government, the high-powered team has expressed dismay that though the 167-km long channel lies close to the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between India and Sri Lanka, the Indian Government has not taken into account the environmental and maritime impact the project could have on Sri Lanka. As per the International Law of Seas accepted by the United Nations in 1968, India should have sought the concurrence of Sri Lanka before launching the project.

"You can expect a strongly worded statement by the Sri Lankan government any time now. The Sethusamudram Project in all likelihood will end up in the United Nations," said the source. The MARPOL Convention (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) is a marine environmental convention designed to minimize pollution of the seas including dumping, oil spillage and exhaust pollution.

It was formed on October 2, 1983 (as a mark of respect to Mahatma Gandhi) and as of December 2005, 136 countries, representing 98 per cent of the world’s shipping tonnage, are parties to the Convention. It has been accepted all over the world that the Gulf of Mannar as well as the Palk Bay are ecological hot spots and nothing should be done to disturb their present status. The scientific team found that the initial dredging, infinite maintenance dredging and subsequent shipping through the channel will be disastrous to Sri Lanka.

Ariyaratne Hewage, Secretary, Sri Lankan Education Ministry, was the Chairman of the committee while Prof Shantha Hennayake, a geologist of international repute and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya, was the Vice-Chairman. The report submitted by the committee to the Sri Lankan Government has noted that, though the region through which the channel is being built is an ecologically and environmentally fragile area, no action has been taken by the Indian Government to minimize the environmental and maritime impact it could have on Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan experts have noted that the studies, primarily the project document and the Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) study carried out by India prior to the commencement of the SSCP, are inadequate. "These studies have not identified and evaluated the full extent of the impact. The channel design has not been optimised for minimum impact. The most pressing concern for Sri Lanka is that none of the Indian studies have proposed any mitigation measures for the impact occurring on Sri Lanka," Prof Hennayake told the Indian daily.

He said Sri Lanka has nothing against India building any channels or canals so long as they do not disturb the ecological and environmental balance of the region. "However, this is a project which is detrimental to both India and Sri Lanka. Any dredging work along the placid waters of the Palk Bay is a sure recipe to environmental disaster. "Strangely, India confined the study of the environmental and ecological impact of the project to their side and forgot the existence of Sri Lanka. This is saddening," he said.

The experts have warned that the marine wealth (especially fish) in the region will be destroyed permanently with the commissioning of the SSCP. "The Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay, lying between the two countries, are unique, biologically rich areas linking two large marine ecosystems. This stretch of the sea is a rich source of all types of fish. Unless we accurately forecast and adequately mitigate the impact of the dredging of the channel this could destroy this sensitive and fragile marine ecosystem located between the two countries. It would also impact the fishing communities on the northern and north-western coast of Sri Lanka as they mainly fish in the potential area of impact on the Sri Lankan side of the channel," said the recommendations submitted by the expert committee.

The study found that modelling studies were also inadequate. "Modelling needs to be backed by better field data to reach levels of accuracy required to satisfy the requirement of such a major undertaking. Increase in volumetric water exchange across Adam’s Bridge due to the canal and its impact on the ecology of the region has not been studied," said the report.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No boycott of Indians goods

None of the Port workers will refuse to unload Indian goods that arrive in Colombo as mentioned in some media reports, Port and Highways Deputy Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardana has said. "There were reports regarding a protest by a port employees’ organisation, which said that their members will refrain from handling or processing Indian supplies due to the situation in Tamil Nadu. I am confident that such a situation will not arise," he said.

Meanwhile workers at Sri Lanka’s main container port today threatened to stop handling cargo from south Indian ports to protest the harassment of Sri Lankan monks and pilgrims in Tamil Nadu, PTI reported. "We can’t silently watch the harassment of our monks and pilgrims in Tamil Nadu. We want to stop handling cargo from Indian ports as a result," Mahesh Samarawickrema, a dock workers’ trade union official said. However, port official Nalin Aponso said there had been no official response from the port management to the dock workers demands’ to stop handling cargo from South India.

Port figures showed that almost 60 per cent of Colombo port’s annual container volume of 4.1 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit, a measure used for capacity in container transportation) comes from south Indian ports.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India approached for port loan

The Government will raise a loan of $ 44.3 million from India for the development of the Kankesanturai Port for commercial operations, it is learnt. The port, located in the northern-most part of the country, could not be operated fully for decades due to damages sustained during the war.

There were also wrecks of vessels destroyed due to bomb attacks at the time. After the war was over in May, 2009, India pledged to assist in the restoration of the port for commercial activities which was agreed upon during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to India in June 2010. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and an Agreement to formalise this commitment were signed on July 21, 2011 between India and Sri Lanka.

The Indian High Commission said the Kankesanturai Harbour project would be aided by a mix of grant funding and concessional credit from the Indian Government. India initially committed approximately USD 20 million for three initial elements, consisting of the preliminary hydrographic survey, geotechnical investigations and the detailed project report preparation and wreck removal and salvage. Besides, the public sector Dredging Corporation of India would undertake the second phase of dredging.

Additionally, the Indian Government would provide additional grant funding for the dredging of the harbour and concessional credit for the rehabilitation of the breakwater and construction of a new pier and attendant port facilities.

An official of the Ports Development Ministry said the loan would be raised for the rehabilitation of the breakwater and the construction of a pier and other attendant facilities. India has given a $ 850-million line of credit for the reconstruction of northern railway lines. "We have decided to get this loan. The interest rate is being negotiated. We believe it will be a concessionary loan," he said. The Indian authorities have already completed wreck removal. Once it is commissioned, Sri Lanka already has one port constructed with financial assistance from China in Hambantota.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New currency for $ 2 b

Da Afghanistan Bank (Central Bank of Afghanistan) officials have announced that Parliament has permitted DAB to print fresh banknotes amounting to one hundred billion Afghanis, or $ 2 billion.

The new banknotes will have higher security marks to impede the possibility of printing fake notes. These latest specifications have been placed in an effort to easily differentiate the new notes from the fake ones. The new banknotes will replace the old notes and not be added on top of the current amount of money in circulation. According to the Central Bank, banknotes worth approximately $ 2.9 billion (Afghanis 146 billion) are currently in circulation in Afghanistan.

Afghani banknotes which were previously printed by a Russian company since Mohammad Daud Khan’s era are now printed by a British firm that was awarded the contract to print the new banknotes against $20 million. According to DAB officials, the new banknotes are being printed keeping in mind the needs of the Afghan market over the next five years.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, April 3, 2013, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, April 3, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US military chief discusses withdrawal

Gen Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived at the Bagram Air Field to meet American and NATO commanders and consult with Afghan officials on winding down the war. He is also expected to meet with ISAF commander in Afghanistan, Gen Joseph Dunford as well as Afghan officials and soldiers in the field.

The key issue for Gen Dempsey is the pacing of US troop withdrawals this year and next, as well as the rate of improvement in the Afghan National Security Forces. General Dempsey said that an assessment of the situation on ground will inform US decision on how many American troops should remain in Afghanistan after the US and NATO combat role ends in December 2014.

President Barack Obama has not announced how many American troops he intends to retain in Afghanistan after 2014, but it is estimated that the number is likely to be around 9000 to 10,000 troops. There are currently 100,330 foreign troops in Afghanistan, of which 66,000 are Americans, fighting insurgency alongside 300,000 troops from the Afghan security forces.

On his visit to Germany, Gen Dempsey said that he would like to see how Afghan forces perform this summer before determining the size of a residual US force.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, April 6, 2013, Tolo News, April 6, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army chief’s India visit

India-Bangladesh military-to-military cooperation got a major boost this week with Army chief, Gen Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan’s visit to India Gen. Bhuiyan in his five-day visit was accompanied by General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 33 Infantry Division and director (personal services) of the Army Headquarters.

During his visit Gen Bhuiyan was accorded a warm welcome by the Indian army officers. He also held meetings with top leadership of India’s security establishment including Defence Minister A K Antony, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, Army chief General Bikram Singh and Navy Chief Admiral D.K. Joshi and General Officer Commanding-In-Chief of the Eastern Command Lt Gen Dalbir Singh.

The visit of Gen Bhuiyan is significant as it highlights the improving military cooperation between the two countries in accord with India’s growing political and economic relationships with Bangladesh. This visit has further cemented the defence relationship between the two countries and added impetus to ongoing defence cooperation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, April 1, 2013; Times of India, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Zero-tolerance to defaming Islam

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has categorically said that that her government is firm on taking action against those who will defame Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). Prime Minister said her government would not tolerate any derogatory remark against the Prophet (pbuh) any religion, including Islam. She warmed that stern actions will be taken against those defaming the Prophet (pbuh) and various religions, including Islam.

The Prime Minister’s remarks followed after the country witnessed large scale campaign by various religious organisations to paint the present Awami League government as anti Islamic. This action has been seen as an effort by the government to win confidence of the religious organisations.

Meanwhile, four persons were arrested this week for their alleged write-ups demeaning Islam and Prophet Mohammad On March 31, a group of Muslim clerics submitted to the government a list of bloggers who they think are involved in writing derogatory contents about Islam and the Prophet. Earlier, the Government had asked Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to set up a monitoring cell for blocking instantly the blogs which carry derogatory contents about Islam and Prophet.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, April 2 & 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet to resign on Oct 25

In tune with the provision of Constitution the present cabinet would resign on October 25 this year, three months ahead of the end of tenure of current Parliament, informed Finance Minister A M A Muhith. Minister further added that after dissolving the cabinet the preparation will go on for holding the election of the 10th parliament. He further opined that President may request Prime Minister to continue the Government. The Prime Minister may continue the Government with the present cabinet or form a new cabinet, Minister observed. However he claimed that if Prime Minister forms new cabinet, then it would be the interim government.

Parliamentary election in Bangladesh is due later this year; however, confusion persists about the nature of the government which would conduct the election. The confusion has aroused largely due to abolition of the caretaker government system which used to overlook the parliamentary elections since 1996. The present government is adamant on holding the election under an elected government while opposition is pressing for restoration of the caretaker system.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Islami Chhatra Shibir chief arrested

In a major development, Delwar Hossain, President of Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, was arrested this week for his alleged involvement in recent violence and attacks on police.

Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Ismali Chhatra Shibir had been involved in protest movements to voice their opposition to the ongoing trail of the war criminals. These protests are often turning violent. Police claimed that the Shibir leader was involved in almost all the recent acts of violence, such as arson, vandalism, bombing and attacks on police.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, April 1, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">The Bhutanese Government turned down proposals of Indian private power companies to set up any new project until the first of the 10,000 MW on-going projects with the state-run companies are completed.

The Bhutanese Government turned down proposals of Indian private power companies to set up any new project until the first of the 10,000 MW on-going projects with the state-run companies are completed.

Bhutan believes that projects taken up there should have the backing of the Indian Government, whether it is a project by a PSU or private sector entity. Bhutan has four major rivers - Torsa, Wangchu, Sankosh and Manas - with more than 23,760 MW hydro-power generation potential.

Companies such as Tata Power were planning to expand in Bhutan. Currently, the Tata Group has a joint venture with Druk Power, an entity of the Royal Government of Bhutan, under which it is implementing the 126-MW Dagachhu Hydro Project.

However, the Government has so far not taken any steps to rope in private companies for implementing projects in Bhutan. The bilateral projects set up with Bhutan are funded through grants and long-term loans from India. Also, the electricity generated is purchased by an agency nominated by India. Out of the 10,000 MW to be commissioned, 1,416 MW is operational. And another 2,940 MW is under construction.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu Business Line, April 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest in border-town

A 12-hour long blockade in Chamurchi of Jalpaiguri district bordering Bhutan on April 1 adversely affected the border trade with India. A section of the local population blocked a key road, demanding water, official sources said.

The agitators put up the blockade at Chamurchi in Banarhat area at about 7 am and dispersed around 7 pm after rounds of discussions with local authorities. The protesters demonstrated outside the panchayat office affecting work there and the local market was also closed in view of the agitation demanding regular water supply. No business could be conducted between India and Bhutan during the day as trucks failed to cross the international border due to the agitation.

The locals also threatened that if the district magistrate did not take cognisance of their grievances, they would go for a long term agitation.

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, April 1, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tri-nation connectivity dialogue

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said that after this month’s tri-nation dialogue between India, Bangladesh and Bhutan, they would hold similar talks among Bangladesh, India and Nepal. The dialogues were proposed during the second joint consultative meeting between Bangladesh and India in February in Dhaka.

The Secretary announced expected dates on Tuesday at a press briefing after the first consultations with his Bhutanese counterpart Yeshey Dorji who arrived in on Dhaka Monday on a three-day official visit.

Secretary Haque said the meeting would be held at the technical level where both sides would explore ’potentials and feasibility’ of hydro power sharing as well as connectivity between Bangladesh and Bhutan. He said the meeting would discuss on road link, air link, water ways, water management, hydro power and purchase of electricity between Bangladesh and Bhutan.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rahul pitches for inclusive growth

Ruling Congress Party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on April 4 offered a rare insight into his vision for the country in a 75-minute speech to industrialists that were spare on specifics but notable for its chatty style and use of imagery to emphasise the idea of inclusive growth.Seen by many as potential prime minister if the United Progressive Alliance were to return to power in 2014, he also appeared to take a dig at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a man many feel could be the Opposition BJP’s candidate for the country’s most important job.

The 42-year-old Rahul, clad in his trademark white kurta-pyjama, told a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) meeting the development model of India should be designed on the principle of a "beehive" where the stakes and benefits of growth are evenly spread among the poor and the rich.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, April 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi owns up PM dream?

Virtually acknowledging his prime ministerial ambition, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on April 4 said that it is the duty of every child to repay the debt he owes to "Mother India". As may be recalled, new BJP President Rajnath Singh has since inducted Modi into the all-powerful party Parliamentary Board, from which he had dropped the Gujarat Chief Minister in an earlier tenure.

"Not only Modi, every child and citizen owes a debt to Mother is his duty to repay the debt whenever an opportunity arises. A doctor repays his debt to Mother India when he saves lives...A teacher does by teaching. Everyone has to repay this debt...I hope Mother India gives her blessings and nobody goes away without paying this debt," Modi said, in clearest indication yet that he is ready for a major role in the national political arena in the 2014 general elections.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Won’t destabilise Centre: BJP

BJP President Rajnath Singh ruled out on Tuesday the possibility of an early general election, saying his party was not in favour of destabilising the UPA government.

"Ideally, the government should go at the earliest, but the BJP is not going to take the initiative to dislodge the UPA. If it falls it will be due to differences between Congress and its allies’, he said.

On his first visit to Mumbai after becoming the president, Mr Singh said, "There is nothing to justify continuance of the UPA government which is responsible for rampant corruption and total failure in the economic sector."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, April 3, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SP will continue to back Centre

After spitting fire on the Congress for two consecutive days, Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav changed tack on March 29 to proclaim that he has no intention of pulling the plug on the UPA Government. Yadav said the Samajwadi Party’s support could continue. His decision to call the truce with the Congress came after Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram assured Centre’s help to Uttar Pradesh Government.

During his Lucknow visit on Friday in connection with the inauguration of 300 new bank branches in the State, Mr Chidambaram not only lauded Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for doing well, but also assured the CM and "Netaji" (Mulayam) that the Centre is committed to stand by development of UP." Mr Chidambaram also assured Mr Akhilesh Yadav that he would examine proposals related to "UP’s financial needs" and invited the Chief Minister to Delhi.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minority’ UPA Govt must quit: Trinamool

The Trinamool Congress is "very clear" that it wants the "minority" Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to "resign immediately" as it has lost both its "mandate" and the "moral right to continue for a single moment".

The Trinamoool’s All India general secretary Mukul Roy admitted that the government could hold on to power "using the number game" in Parliament but it remained a minority government in the wake of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) pulling out of the ruling coalition.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cong pulls up Beni for attacking Mulayam

Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma was pulled up by the Congress on Wednesday (April 3) for persistently attacking Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party support is crucial for the survival of the UPA government.

Verma met AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi this afternoon at the Congress headquarters after which the Steel Minister told mediapersons that he was willing to call for a ceasefire provided the SP stopped making derogatory remarks against him.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khurshid rejects TN resolution

The Centre on March 29 rejected the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution that asked the Centre to stop treating Sri Lanka as a friendly nation and to slap sanctions on it while demanding referendum on a separate Tamil Eelam.

"There is no question of (our) supporting them. That is not the only State that has a stake in this. What about others? There are many other States. There are many other Assemblies. The rest of India is not supporting this," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told Karan Thapar in Devil’s Advocate programme on CNN-IBN.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC lifts travel ban on Italian envoy

Acknowledging that the assurance given to it had not been breached despite flip-flop, the Supreme Court on Tuesday (April 2) lifted its March 14 curb on Italian ambassador Daniel Manicini from leaving India after being informed by the Centre that the two marines have returned to face trial of killing of two fishermen off the Kerala coast last year.

Meanwhile, the NIA’s move to invoke Maritime Security Act against the two marines out the Centre in a bind as it had given a "sovereign assurance" to the Italian government which included "not to demand death penalty".

On Tuesday, the NIA said though they will not seek death penalty under the Act, it will be up the court to give the final verdict.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, April 3, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India abstains on UN arms treaty

The UN General Assembly on April 2 adopted a landmark treaty to regulate the &80 billion a year conventional arms trade worldwide, but India, concerned over a possible negative impact on its defence contracts and agreements, was among 23 countries that abstained during the vote in New York.

India is extremely upset with the US and the UK over the final draft of the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which will regulate the multi-billion conventional arms trade around the world, as they have ignored New Delhi’s concerns pertaining to unilateral termination of contracts and terrorism. New Delhi feels that the treaty, in its present form, brings in "unpredictability" and "instability" in defence contracts.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Asian Age, April 3, 2013, The Indian Express, March 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fund for oil imports from Iran?

India does not intend to halt imports of crude oil from Iran, notwithstanding the tightening of sanctions by the US and the European Union (EU). Instead, theGgovernment is working on a scheme to ensure oil import shipments from the Islamic nation to maintain smooth supply and to expand trade in other commodities.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily had, earlier this week, stated that India had no intention to put a halt to imports from Iran.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 30, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan infrastructure loan for $ 2.32 b

India and Japan have agreed to promote bilateral strategic and global partnership especially in economic and security areas, with Tokyo granting a $2.32 billion aid for infrastructure building.

"We hope to deepen and develop a strategic and global partnership (with India) by building a close cooperative relationship," Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said after meeting External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid here.

During the meeting yesterday, Kishida unveiled a 220 billion yen ($2.32 billion) aid to India for infrastructure building and a 71-billion-yen loan ($753.17 million) for the subway project in Mumbai, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.

Khurshid appreciated the aid, saying "Such assistance has been utilised in upgrading our infrastructure. The iconic Delhi Metro project has positively impacted the lives of millions of Indian citizens in the National Capital Region of Delhi."

< class="text11verdana">Source:, March 28, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM’s China trip to bolster ties

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be visiting China within months, and either Chinese president or premier will pay a visit to India in the second half of the year. The visit to Beijing is expected to take place after Dr Singh visits Japan in May-end or early June.

The Prime Minister’s trip to China will ensure both the neighbours who are keen to follow the same script in the bilateral relations after the decadal change in the Chinese leadership.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, April 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Time for free trade pact with Russia

India and Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus will hold their first ever talks on a free trade agreement with the arrival on Tuesday (April 2) of Victor Khristenko, Chairman of the Board of Euroasian Economic Commission.

Speaking at a seminar, senior External Affairs Ministry official Ajay Bisaria described economics the weakest link in India-Russia strategic ties which could be fortified with an FTA or a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India vs. China for ’at Arctic Council

India and China, both looking for new sources of energy, are competing for "observer status" at the Arctic Council. A decision will be made at the ministerial meeting of the Council in Sweden on May 15, and New Delhi is lobbying hard.

The Arctic Council comprises the US, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. India has already conveyed its interest to Canada, Russia and the US at the highest level, and President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected to raise the issue with the visiting Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimson at meetings later this week.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Indian Express, April 3, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC verdict boosts hopes of cancer patients

In a ruling that will help patients continue to buy several life-saving medicines as generic drugs, the Supreme Court on Monday (April 1) held that the modification of a well known cancer-fighting drug is not a patentable new invention.

The judgement allows suppliers to continue making generic copies of Swiss firm Novartis’ Gilvec or Gleevec, which has shown to fight chronic blood cancer effectively. While the Novartis drug costs more than Rs 1 lakh per month, with doctors often advising patients to take it lifelong, the generic equivalents costs less than one-tenth. The ruling would be a relief to some 300,000 patients in India currently taking the drug.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Civic bodies rapped on plastic waste disposal

The Supreme Court on April 3 directed all major municipal corporations across the country to file status reports on their management of hazardous plastic waste estimated at a staggering 3,501 tonnes a day in just 60 cities.

A Bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and Kurien Jospeh passed the order after Additional Solicitor General Mohan Jai informed the court that as much as 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste was generated every day in the country posing a major problem to environment management and people’s health.

A survey conducted by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in the 60 cities showed that Delhi alone accounted for nearly 20 percent (689.52 tonnes) of the total plastic waste generated by 60 cities, followed by Chennai (429.39 tonnes), Kolkata (425.72 tonnes) and Mumbai (408.27 tonnes).

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Tribune, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Why so many cars with red-lights?

The Supreme Court on April 3 asked the Centre and the States to consider restricting use of red lights and sirens to top constitutional functionaries, ambulances, fire services, police and military personnel. Other VIPs had no need for such a status symbol, it said.

A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and Kurien Jospeh told Additional Solicitor-General Siddarth Luthra, appearing for the Delhi government, that the restriction would "bring relief to people who hate red lights. They dislike it not because of the individuals, but because policemen use danda (baton) contemptuously."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 4, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No-trust votes will be defeated: Waheed

President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik has expressed confidence that the pro-government political parties in Parliament would ensure that the two Ministers will survive the no-confidence vote slated for Monday and Tuesday (April 8-9). "The parties in our government have majority in Parliament. So I’m quite certain that all parties will cooperate," President said during a press conference at the President’s Office on Thursday.

He alleged that the no-confidence motions against Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim filed by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are intended to create further political turmoil in the Maldives. However, such moves to disrupt the nation is not in its best interest, Waheed said. "So I don’t believe it is the best thing to take a no-confidence vote against a Minister especially when the election is just around the corner," he said.

The Government parties commands the majority in Parliament as MDP has only 29 seats. A Cabinet Minister can be ousted only through a no-confidence motion with a minimum of 39 votes of the 77 MPs in Parliament. Most parties of the coalition government were yet to decide on their stand on the no-confidence motion.

Parliament had scheduled the no-confidence motions against Home Minister Jameel and Defence Minister Nazim for April 8, while the motion to remove Maamigili constituency MP Gasim Ibrahim as a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was slated for April 9.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No probe against HC chief: Nasheed trial stay

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has decided not to probe the case filed by the Judges of the High Court against Chief Judge Ahmed Shareef over his decision to temporarily suspend former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial. The High Court on Monday temporarily stayed the proceedings of Nasheed’s trial at the Hulhumale Magistrate Court until it can decide over the legitimacy of the lower court’s bench.

The temporary injunction was granted after Nasheed’s legal team had asked the High Court to declare the composition of the Hulhumale Court bench unlawful. According to the case filed by the Judges, the order signed by the Chief Judge of the High Court had been issued while the case had not even been registered at the Court or discussed with the other judges. Haveeru has learned that during a JSC meeting on Thursday it was decided not to probe the case citing conflict of interest as the Hulhumale Court bench had been composed by the commission.

It is believed that six out of the ten members of JSC had voted against probing Judge Shareef while only one member had voted in favour. The High Court on Wednesday had defended the Chief Judge by insisting that the order to suspend Nasheed’s trial was issued after the case was registered in court.

A media official of the High Court told Haveeru on Wednesday that Nasheed’s legal team had filed the case on Sunday and made the payment the following day. The order was issued on the same day after the case was registered and the payment was made, official added. The Haveeru has also found that High Court Judges had issued such orders in similar cases in the past without consulting with the other Judges.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, April 4, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kuwait fund for Male airport

Kuwait has expressed interest to assist in the development of Male International Airport and similar development projects in the Maldives, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik said Thursday. Speaking during a press conference held at the President’s Office after his official visit to Kuwait, President noted the extensive assistance received from the Kuwait Fund to develop the airport so far and said Kuwait is interested in its further development.

"Kuwait is really interested in the airport. It’s because we have received a great deal of assistance from the Kuwait Fund to develop the airport so far. They are well aware of it," he said. "They really believe that we have managed to develop the airport with the assistance of Kuwait. So there is a lot of interest. They are very happy that the Government has now taken the initiative to develop the airport." In that regard, President added that Kuwait was ready to assist in the development of the airport.

"Kuwait has a lot of places to invest in. So Maldives is a very small nation. The investments in Maldives would also be small for them. So they don’t have much of their own opinion on it. They are ready to assist in the way we want," he explained. The President also highlighted including fisheries and construction of a special cancer hospital in Hulhumale as some other projects Kuwait had expressed interest to extend assistance.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, April 4, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Free media makes China uncomfortable

Myanmar allowing privately-owned dailies to publish for the first time in decades has put China in a piquant spot as its vocal netizens asked when will they follow suit.

This debate started by the editors at state-owned China’s Southern Weekly when their New Year’s daily editorial originally titled ’China’s dream: the dream of constitutionalism’ was censored leading to agitation by its journalists.

The article was revised to a piece praising the ruling Communist Party of China and called it ’We are closer than ever before to our dreams’. Journalists, editors and concerned citizens across the country later joined the Southern Weekly to protest against the party’s media censorship. Though Chinese print and television media have expanded rapidly in recent years, most of it is either owned by the government or the CPC.

This raised the prospects of micro-blogging in the country which has now touched about 300 million users. The government brought in new rules to curb the flourishing microblogging media akin to Chinese version of Twitter but the media has still emerged as the fastest growing in China.

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, April 2, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sectarian violence spills over to Indonesia

Ongoing religious and ethnic violence in Myanmar spread beyond the country’s borders on Friday when a brawl broke out at an immigration centre in Indonesia between Muslim and Buddhist detainees, leaving eight dead and fifteen wounded.

A group of 117 Rohingya refugees and eleven illegal fishermen from Myanmar were being held together in the same area of a government detention centre in Belawan, a port city in North Sumatra Province, when fighting erupted in the morning, said Herianto, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Department of Immigration in Jakarta.

The disturbance broke out a little after midnight with the detainees using metal and wood from broken chairs to attack one another. The police subdued it by mid-morning. The injured were taken to a hospital in the provincial capital Medan, 22 kilometers west of Belawan.

The Associated Press, citing the local police, reported that the clash began after a Muslim Rohingya confronted a Buddhist fisherman about sectarian violence back home in Myanmar.

The brawl in the detention center is a reflection of the tensions and deep animosity between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The New York Times, April 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Soros keen on investments

China Mobile, Vodafone and a group backed by George Soros entered the race to secure a mobile licence in Myanmar, as the battle to operate in one of the last major untapped markets kicked off.

The Chinese and British groups, the first and second-largest operators in the world respectively, said on Thursday they had formed a consortium to bid for a licence in the former Burma, where the government wants to increase the number of mobile operators from two to four.

In a separate consortium, Denis O’Brien’s Digicel joined forces with billionaire investor George Soros’ Quantum Strategic Partners and Serge Pun, a well known business leader in Myanmar.

Myanmar, where SIM cards are prohibitively expensive, has said it hopes to increase mobile penetration from ten per cent to eighty percent in three years, lifting it off the bottom of the world’s ladder of mobile use.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 5, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Drug-racket busted in India

The Delhi Police in India on Thursday arrested five persons, including two Myanmar nationals, and claimed that they had busted an international drugs racket. Police also seized Rs 15 crore worth of pseudoephedrine tablets, which are used to make party drugs.

Lianza Daula (46) and C Zoram Thanga (28) from Mizoram, and Vikas Bathla (43) of Delhi and Myanmar nationals Zel Khan Mong (46) and Dongh Lian Kham (41), were apprehended on March 29, police officers said.

Police have seized 140 kg of pseudoephedrine tablets in around 10 lakh strips, 50 kg of pseudoephedrine powder, Rs 1 lakh in cash and a car. Tablets were found in the car in which the four were travelling as well as in the godown. Mong and Kham told police that they were staying as refugee in Dabri since 2009.

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


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Uncertainty over elections

Top leaders from the three major political parties have indicated that they have reached a tacit understanding for holding new election in November or December but not in June. The United CPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda conceded at the party´s central committee meeting on March 31st that the chances of holding election in mid-June are almost nil.

Also, the one-month party programme endorsed at the same meeting showed that the Maoist leaders are expecting the new election not before the coming autumn. But some Maoist leaders aren´t convinced that election would be held even in the winter. They are for devising new plans after studying how the political developments unfold in the months to come.

"It is not certain whether or not polls will be held even in the winter. The party will come up with election-oriented programmes in September if the environment becomes conducive for holding election in November-December. But if there is no possibility of holding election in winter then the party will come up with struggle programmes," central committee member Ishwari Bhattarai was quoted by media.

Meanwhile, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal has said that his party is not rigid on the date for holding new election but his party´s priority is to see that the election is held by mid-June and if that is not possible then it could be held in the winter. He said that polls shouldn´t be conducted in haste because the coming elections must be free, fair and reliable. Nepali Congress leader Bimalendra Nidhi is more explicit in ruling out the possibility of election in June. "Frankly, I don´t think election is possible in June. This was one of the reasons why the taskforce recommended November-December as the alternative date," Nidhi said.

The 11-point deal reached earlier this month clearly indicated that election in June is unlikely. The political agreement has stated that the election government will announce a new date whereby the election will be held by December 15 of this year if election is not possible in June.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, April 1, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Carter stresses on ’inclusive’ CA poll

Former US President Jimmy Carter, who came to Kathmandu for a four-day visit last week, has expressed concern over whether the new Constituent Assembly (CA) would be fully inclusive of women, Dalits and other marginalised groups.

Carter expressed such concerns during his meeting with Chairman of Interim Election Council of Ministers and Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi. He also keenly inquired about the formation of the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission and justice to the victims of decade-long armed conflict in Nepal.

Chairman Regmi, on his part, has assured Carter that the new CA would be fully inclusive of all groups and that the government had started the process of negotiation with the "disgruntled" political parties. Regmi also said that the talks with the agitating parties would ease the situation and expressed confidence that they would not boycott the election process. He said that the government would adopt two-pronged strategy of holding talks and bolstering security situation at the local level to create the environment for the polls.

Carter also said that the Carter Center in Kathmandu is ready to extend all necessary support and monitor the election.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, March 30-April 1, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian encroachments put at 71

Prominent scholars have said that India has encroached upon the border at 71 places in Nepal. Speaking in a programme to discuss about national sovereignty and defence of the national border s with the local communities, the scholars alleged that India still continues to trespass the border with Nepal further putting the border at risk.

Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, a renowned surveyor and expert on border , said that India has encroached upon 37,000 hectares of Nepali territory in the Kalapani area, the largest area encroached upon. The smallest area on the border encroached upon by India was in Ilam which is half a ropani plot at Pashupatinagar, he added.

Shrestha also shared that 14 hectares of Nepali territory has been encroached upon by India at the border in Susta in Nawalparasi district. He said the border was encroached at 53 places 10 years back and it has reached 71 places till date. "This shows that India has not stopped transgressing the border with Nepal," he commented. Shrestha said his conclusions are based on a study research he carried out which are published in a book.

Scholar Shrestha came down heavily on the successive governments in Nepal for doing nothing to check this transgression of its border by its southern neighbour. He also shared that the total border area encroached by India was 60 thousand 600 hectares. Similarly, another scholar Phanindra Nepal alleged government´s negligence in securing its border . He called upon the citizens to be aware of this rampant encroachment on the national frontier and to jointly take action for securing it.

Nepal also exhorted people to join in his campaign of building a greater Nepal. He stressed the need of revising the unequal treaties signed in the past with the then British East India Company, the colonial rulers. Another scholar, Dr. Gopal Shivakoti Chintan said that even the UCPN (Maoist) that waged a People´s War in the past did nothing as regards protecting the country´s border s.

< class="text11verdana">Source: RSS, April 5, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Daniel Rubin and Louis Ritzinger;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Medha Chaturvedi;
India:Dr.Satish Misra

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