MonitorsPublished on Sep 06, 2013
The recent arrests of some of India's top terrorists along the Indo-Nepal border indicate the vulnerability of the porous border between the two neighbours. More importantly, it reflects on the bilateral cooperation in intelligence-sharing and joint-operations,
Nepal: Terrorist arrests and cooperation with India
< class="heading1">Analysis

The recent arrests of some of India’s top terrorists along the Indo-Nepal border indicate the vulnerability of the porous border between the two neighbours. More importantly, it reflects on the bilateral cooperation in intelligence-sharing and joint-operations, which are needed to crack down on the terrorists attempting to take advantage of the open border.

Last month, the Delhi Police arrested Abdul Karim Tunda, one of India’s top 20 wanted terrorists, and mastermind of over 40 bombings in India, from the Banwasa-Mehendarnagar border with Nepal. The 70-year-old Tunda, an expert bomb-maker of terror outfit LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba), was one of 20 terrorists India had demanded the Pakistani Government to hand over after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. Police said Tunda was wanted in 21 cases in Delhi alone that were committed in 1994 and in 1996-1998. To little surprise, he was carrying a Pakistani passport --No AC 4413161 issued on 23 January, 2013, in the name of Abdul Quddus.

Shortly thereafter, the Indian police also picked up Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal. Bhatkal was one of India’s most wanted terrorists responsible for several bombings that have claimed over 140 lives. The 30-year-old, whose real name is Ahmed Siddibappa, was picked up from Pokhara, a tourist hub in central Nepal where, he was reportedly living in the guise of a Unani doctor.

The successful operation of the Indian Intelligence Bureau also yielded a bonus in the form of Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, an absconding front-ranking member of the Azamgarh module of the IM who had played a crucial role in the 2011 serial blasts in Mumbai.

Problems and accusations

The two arrests, made within two weeks’ time, was a major breakthrough for India and were facilitated by Nepal intelligence and police, especially in the second case where the terrorists were picked up from Pokhara. Such cooperation can go a long way in strengthening the Indo-Nepal ties, which has seen its ups and downs in recent times. While India is criticised within Nepal for meddling in the country’s internal affairs, Nepal’s own political instability and lack of a strong central government has prevented it from taking concrete measures to curb all illegal activities in the border regions.

India and Nepal share 1800-km long open border. The Himalayan nation borders five Indian States, including Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The border areas adjoining these two States are hotbeds for illegal trade, trafficking, and for other criminal activities. Given the porous nature of the border, criminals and terrorists use it as easy routes to cross into both the countries from each other.

Border regulation is made difficult due to huge informal trade, daily travel and the close relationship between the peoples of the two countries. Any attempt to obstruct the daily routine is met with local protests on either side. One of India’s para-military force, Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB), has often been criticised for alleged high-handedness while patrolling the border region.

In both the countries, a blame-game is often played out on alleged encroachment of each other’s land. In 2011, Indian news channel reports claimed that thousands of villagers in seven border districts of Bihar have lost their land and homes to "encroachers from Nepal". The land grab also "triggered a significant rise in violence and conflict along the State’s border with Nepal".

The problem is that although the 600-km long open border in Bihar is patrolled by the SSB, pillars demarcating the border are regularly uprooted. Indian intelligence reports claim that an estimated 716 international border pillars have disappeared along the Indo-Nepal border. Of them, 28 pillars had been uprooted in Madhubani district, 116 in East Champaran district, 61 in West Champaran and three in Araria district.

Similarly, Nepali media reports claim that Indian nationals have encroached upon patches or pockets in ’no man’s land’ in the country’s Siraha district, which shares border with Bihar. The alleged "Indian encroachment" of Nepali land reportedly became evident after border pillars in the district were found to have been either lost or destroyed. As many as 34 pillars were said to have been lost in a total of 231 in Lagadi-Gadiyani area of ’no man’s land’.

India’s concerns

However, India has serious security concerns in Nepal, emanating from the open border. Besides illegal and criminal activities, the counterfeit currency racket is posing a big challenge for India. Besides, India blames the Pakistani ISI behind running the fake currency racket and making use of goons to push the fake notes into the country, through Nepal. It has often been reported that Indian and Nepali nationals are used in this misdeed.

The other issue is the thriving business of small firearms and weapons in the border towns. There has been large-scale proliferation and easy availability of ’Small Arms and Light Weapons’ (SALW) over the years in the border regions. The burgeoning illicit trade in small arms in the Terai plains in Nepal is a matter of great concern to India. Terai also has a number of armed outfits. The number of weapons in the Terai region along the border with India has also gradually increased and some of these find their way across the open, porous border into UP and Bihar. But it is to be remembered that such flow is often facilitated by Indian criminal groups operating in these two states. India for long has been urging Nepal to sign the extradition treaty, finalise the strip map and let it fly sky marshals, among other demands. These demands were put forth to Nepal after the IC 814 hijacking incident from the Kathmandu airport in December 2009. But due to political instability and lack of consensus among major Nepali political parties in its policy towards India, Nepal has not been able to agree to these demands. Any attempt by a major political force in Nepal to sign an extradition treaty would invite domestic backlash.

The demand for an extradition treaty with Nepal is increasing within India. The bordering states too are keen on it. But Nepal is passing through the most unstable times. The country has a bureaucracy-led government and the failure of the first Constituent Assembly to draft a constitution has brought more uncertainties in Nepali politics. Given the strong anti-Indian sentiment, no government is in a position to lobby for such a treaty.

There is no doubt that Nepal should address the security concern of its neighbour, with whom it has deep relationship. Nepal also cannot afford to be a safe haven for terrorists and cannot allow its soil to be used for anti-India activities. But given the fragile nature of Nepali politics at present, it is unlikely that such a treaty would be signed in the immediate future.

Strengthening bilateral mechanisms

The only way to move forward is to strengthen the existing bilateral cooperation mechanisms between the two countries. Since security-related issues are prime concerns of both the countries, to deal jointly with each other’s security concerns, the two countries have established the following mechanisms: Meeting of the Home Secretaries, Nepal-India Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues (NIBCGSI), Joint Working Group on Border Management (JWG) and Border District Coordination Committee (BDCC). Through these mechanisms the two countries can greatly improvise information sharing and better coordination amongst the security agencies.

The recent terrorist arrests are a reflection of the success of these initiatives between the two countries. But the frequency of the talks must increase. Regular meetings at local, state and government levels engaging all stakeholders from both sides will help immensely to curb terrorism in this part of the region.

Lately, five new SSB posts have been created along the Indo-Nepal border and additional manpower has been sanctioned to man them. The SSB has also been given powers to check passports and arrest people under the Passports Act. These are done to check infiltration (terrorists using fake passports) through the open India-Nepal border. Proposals are afloat to give the SSB customs powers as well to check smuggling.

In the last home secretary level meeting of both the countries, India’s concerns regarding smuggling of fake Indian currency notes and new routes of infiltration were discussed. Nepal has promised to cooperate with India on this matter. Nepal is also positive on the Indian proposal to set up Indian immigration counters at the Kathmandu international airport and in other two major cities.

Given the complex nature of the Indo-Nepal relation, it will also be prudent to engage at institutional-levels to strengthen cooperation on the counter-terrorism front. India should help to strengthen Nepal Police and Nepal Armed Police Force through training programmes, financial assistance and in building the required infrastructure which are badly needed in Nepal.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan : Can Sharif deliver on his new counter-terror policy?

Wilson John

The new government in Pakistan has recently unveiled a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy which aims to strike at the roots of the terrorist problem afflicting Pakistan and the region through proposed restructuring of the current security doctrines and architecture.

The policy, which follows in the wake of the National Counter Terrorism Act 2013, passed by National Assembly early this year, is unprecedented in many ways. Terrorism till recently has never been an issue requiring a legislation to address. Terrorist groups and their activities have been an intrinsic part of the state craft, unwritten but practiced and approved by both successive civilian and military governments.

The decision to enact a law to curb terrorism and then follow it up with a fairly comprehensive policy which seeks to break down the existing structures of security dominated by Pakistan Army indicate both the gravity of the situation and the willingness on the part of the civilian leadership to "bell the cat".

The legislation and the policy called the National Counter Terrorism and Extremism Policy 2013 are important first steps but require much more than rhetoric and intention to make them effective instruments of the state to deal with terrorism.

The first and perhaps the most daunting set of roadblocks would be the nature of the state and its support and use of terrorist groups as instruments of state policy. The new law and the policy aim at uniting this umbilical cord. The state in Pakistan has always had two faces - the civilian and military; the latter dominating most of the country’s 66 years of history. The military monopolised, and continues to, all matters of national security, including the support and deployment of ’strategic assets’, in simpler words terrorist groups.

Changing the equation

The Nawaz Sharif government aims to change this equation. But neither the legislation nor the policy gives an indication of how it proposes to untie the Gordian knot which has been the bane of not only Pakistan but the region as such. No less difficult for the Prime Minister would be to persuade the military from supporting the terrorist groups or using them as instruments of state policy. Although the policy has called for dismantling of terrorist structures, the military, without whose support such structures could not survive, has remained unmoved.

The army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, has indeed indicated that he considered terrorism as the most serious threat to Pakistan but there is no visible sign of the army actually taking any significant action to buttress the claim. The army continues to support terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and the Haqqani Network and is using them to counter any civilian overtures to India or Afghanistan and to contain anti-army Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headquartered in northern Waziristan.

Besides, Nawaz Sharif and his party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, have had a cosy relationship with militants, and the military, for decades. Extremist and militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) played an important role in galvanising support for Sharif’s return to Islamabad. Most of the groups are based in Punjab which has been ruled by Sharif’s party for over five years now with his younger brother, Shahbaz, as the Chief Minister.

There is no evidence of the PPP government in Punjab having taken any action against terrorist groups like LeT which operate out of Lahore, Sargodha, Multan and Jhelum, to name a few major towns in Punjab. It is also widely reported that after the ’Mumbai attacks’ in November 2008, the Punjab police and other state agencies helped LeT leaders to escape arrest.

On top of it, the Shahbaz government, a year later, approved a grant of over $ 1 million to LeT’s charity front, Jamat-ud Dawa (JuD). Likewise, LJ which operates out of Jhang and other south Punjab towns has been indulging in mass killings of Shias and Hazara Shias in the past two years with the PPP government finding it convenient to look the other way.

Past relations

Nawaz Sharif’s own past relationship with the Taliban and al Qaida do not encourage confidence in his government’s intent and capability to follow through on the promises made in the counter terrorism legislation and the policy. It can, however, be argued, with some conviction, that Nawaz Sharif is a changed leader and is committed to contain terrorism, not for any altruistic reason but for the simple but stark reality that Pakistan faces an existential threat from terrorist groups like TTP and others.

But for Sharif to make the policy work, he will have to take the army on board, sever ties with militant and extremist groups and create an environment for a regional approach to tackle terrorism-that would mean to work with India and Afghanistan to start with. Can he do that in less than five years he has? Or is it too tall an order for Nawaz Sharif who is desperate to shake off the perception of a blundering poodle of the military?

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rangers to lead operation in Karachi

This week, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif convened a series of meetings in Karachi to find a solution to the increasing violence in the city. Sharif described the violence in Karachi as ’extraordinary’, which required ’extraordinary measures’.

The measure decided upon by the government is the launching of a targeted operation against criminals, extortionists and targeted killers in Karachi. Sindh Province Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah will supervise the operation which will be spearheaded by the Rangers or the Paramilitary Forces. The campaign seeks to eliminate all the criminal elements in Karachi within six weeks. The Rangers assisted by the police will go after targets identified by the federal and civil agencies.

Although this plan was met with a mixed reaction as a number of people and analysts were sceptical about the potential of this plan to succeed, the MQM extended support to the plan. MQM said it would support all legal and constitutional steps taken for permanent peace in the city.

The army also resolved to provide civilian authorities with all out support in bringing the law and order situation under control in the financial hub of the country. The army, however, stated that that since the operation would be led by Rangers, the army’s role would be confined to providing necessary intelligence to concerned law enforcement agencies.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 3-5 September 2013; The Express Tribune, 3-5 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Army to continue operation against TTP

The Pakistan Army announced this week that the decision of the Nawaz Sharif government to hold talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would not affect its decision to launch a military operation against the militants.

The army has looked uneasy with the idea of dialogue and General Ashfaq Kayani, the Chief of Army Staff, has been calling for developing clarity and national consensus against terrorism. In his independence day anniversary speech, Kayani had categorically said that surrender before militants was not the answer.

< class="text11verdana">Source:Dawn, 5 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">K-P to have own spy agency

As part of the province’s counterterrorism plan, Chief Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak announced that the province will have its own intelligence agency.

Khattak said the provincial government will hire youth from the province to run the intelligence agency. "They will be trained to cope with any incident of terrorism."

The CM also revealed that the government plans to install close circuit television cameras (CCTV) in multiple areas in the province. In order to enhance the efficiency of the police department, CCTVs will be fixed in all police stations.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune Express, 1 September, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UK Premier to attend CHOGM

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his foreign secretary William Hague will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka in November, the Foreign Secretary has said.

Responding to question at the British House of Commons session on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Hague said "We are very concerned, as the hon. Gentleman knows, about human rights in Sri Lanka, including media freedom. We raise those issues regularly with the Sri Lankan Government. The Prime Minister and I have decided to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka. We think that the Commonwealth and its future matter so much that we must do that, no matter what the location. However, we will do so in a way that draws attention to the issues. We and other countries will continue to press Sri Lanka on those issues over the coming weeks."

< class="text11verdana">Source:Daily Mirror Online, Colombo, 5 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Foreign Minister faults Pillay for ignoring UN report

Addressing Sri Lanka Army’s Third Defence Seminar held in Colombo, External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris demanded to know why UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay (High Commissioner) in her statement, prior to her departure from Sri Lanka, had chosen to ignore a UN report which reflected the genuine sentiments of the residents in the North. It had been compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), based on a survey carried out by UN officials having themselves interviewed nearly 200 people, selected by the UN itself. An overwhelming number of persons had expressed positive views about the national military, he added.

Prof. Peiris said he had personally handed over a copy of the aforesaid report to Pillay and the survey results ran counter to her unfounded allegation of sexual harassment. A significant number of persons interviewed in the survey had said they were satisfied with their security, the External Affairs Minister said. He said he was constrained to refute several unwarranted sections of the statement of the Human Rights Commissioner since Sri Lanka was dismayed at her approach.

What is clearly lacking in the statement of the High Commissioner was an objective assessment of the actual situation in Sri Lanka which had contributed to the growing perception in the country about the lack of fairness in the treatment meted out to Sri Lanka. The Minister added that Sri Lanka accepted constructive criticism but resented vicious and baseless positions incessantly repeated disregarding facts presented by the UN itself.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 5 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sinhala, Muslim extremists pose threat: Defence Secretary

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said that the emergence of hardline groups among the Sinhalese had caused further fragmentation of the post-war Sri Lanka. He emphasised that the country was faced an uphill task of tackling Sinhala hardliners as well as Muslim extremists. He was addressing the Defence Seminar in Colombo yesterday.

The Defence Secretary said: "It has been observed that there are some foreign groups that wish to encourage Sri Lankan Muslims to identify themselves more with the global Muslim community, thereby reducing their integration with the rest of the population. It is a known fact that Muslim fundamentalism is spreading all over the world and in this region. This is a situation that our law enforcement agencies and security forces are concerned about, particularly as there have been instances where extremist elements have been in transit in Sri Lanka prior to arrest and handing over to appropriate authorities. The possibility that such extremist elements may try to promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern.

The Defence Secretary warned that some western powers would try to have a Sri Lankan government that could be closely aligned with their interests. They might seek to influence Sri Lanka’s destiny so that it couldn’t pursue an independent course it was following at present, he said. "In addition, the power politics among key countries in the region, such as India and China, or India and Pakistan, are also important issues for Sri Lanka because of our relationships with these nations."

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TNA manifesto calls for North-East merger

The TNA has called for the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces in its manifesto presented yesterday for the Northern Provincial Council election.The manifesto also states that devolution of power should be on the basis of shared sovereignty, necessarily over land, law and order, socio-economic development including health and education, resources and fiscal powers

"To achieve the above including self-reliance it is imperative that we need self-government. We have set out a two-stage constitutional process to secure this. Whilst we do our utmost to play a positive role in promoting self-government for the Tamil-Speaking Peoples in the North-East, we will carry on with our political negotiations for meaningful sharing of powers of governance. We cannot emphasise more the immediate necessity for a democratically elected body with legislative, executive and fiscal powers -- to take over those functions of governance rightly belonging to us," the manifesto states.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 5 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Secret negotiations between government, Taliban

An official of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) declared that a number of Taliban leaders are in secret negotiations with the government to arrive at a common strategy to end the conflict. According to him, those in contact with the government are factions of the Taliban that are interested in a negotiated settlement to the conflict. However, divisions exist within the movement and there are factions, whose exclusive objective was terrorism and harassment.

While the official claimed that the Afghan government was interested in talking to the Taliban factions, it would continue to pursue military action against those that continue to mount an armed opposition to the Afghan government.

In the meantime, the MoFA reiterated its preference for talks with the Taliban to be held within Afghanistan. However, in case of this condition not being met, the MoFA was open to the idea of Taliban’s political office opening in another Islamic country like Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 1 September, 2013; Tolo News, 1 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New political party formed

A new political party called "Harkat-i-Mili", involving intellectuals, academicians, and influential figures, was formed this week. The party’s manifesto states that the party aims to steer the country out of crises including violence and seeks to protect human rights and national interests.

Mohammad Ishaqzai, the central leader and spokesman for the party, stated that a large gathering would be organised over the next three weeks during which the party’s motive and mission would be shared with the country and decisions would made accordingly. This would include the elections of the party leaders and a decision on whether the party should field a candidate for the 2014 Presidential Elections or support another candidate.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 1 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to boost commando presence

India has decided to increase the presence of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) commandos in Afghanistan in response to the recent attacks on Indian targets in the country. India will send in an additional 79 commandos to join the 219 already deployed in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior claimed that India’s decision was not in violation of the internal law. However, security experts and analysts claimed that the Indian government’s decision reflected a clear lack of trust in the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and also because of the suspected increase in the number of covert Pakistani intelligence (ISI) operatives in Afghanistan.

The arrangement between the ITBP commandos and the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), which is normally in charge of foreign Embassy security, would be such that the ITBP would provide security within the premises of the Indian Embassy, but the APPF would provide protection from outside.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 1 September, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament not to be dissolved for polls

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said this week that the parliamentary election would be held without dissolving the current parliament and the cabinet. She further informed the polls would be held within the last 90 days of the parliament’s tenure, which ends on January 24. However, the Prime Minister did not specify the polls date. Hasina also said the House would not be in session and the cabinet would take no important policy decision during the 90-day timeframe (October 27 to January 24).

Reacting to Prime Minister’s declaration the acting secretary-general of the Opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, warned the Awami League government that his party would work on a new strategy with its leaders and activists to force the government to restore the provision of the non-party caretaker government (CG) to the Constitution.

Commenting on the present declaration by the Prime Minister popular English newspaper The Daily Star said that the Prime Minister’s latest stance was a sure recipe for political conflict, which must be avoided both for the sake of democracy and for the future of the country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 3,5 September, 2013; The Independent, 6 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$46 away from middle-income nation

Finance Minister A M A Muhith said that the per capita income of the country has crossed $ 1,000 mark. Bangladesh’s per capita income in fiscal 2012-13 rose to $ 1,044 from $ 923, the minister said.

According to him, improvement in the social security sector and positive change in different economic indicators contributed to this rise. He further opined that if the per capita income could be raised to $1190 then the country would meet one of the three requirements for having the status of the middle income country.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 5 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US won’t buy blood-stained shirts

US ambassador Dan W Mozena this week warned that Bangladesh must improve on safety standards and labour rights in the apparel sector before hoping to reclaim trading benefits from his country. He categorically said that there simply can’t be any more horrid disasters such as the Tarzeen Fashions fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse.

To US envoy greed, corruption and ignorance in these two disasters had snuffed out the lives of 1243 innocent Bangladeshi women and men trying to eke out a decent living. The US envoy said stakeholders in the apparel sector need to decide how to deal with fundamental issues of workers’ rights.

The US government had suspended an important trade benefit to Bangladesh on June 27 this year over poor labour rights and safety standards. The US, according to sources, will review the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) facilities for Bangladesh in December and the country is working in line with the US action plan.

To get back the GSP facilities, the US ambassador urged all stake-holders to work together, implement the US action plan and safeguard workers right, ensure workplace safety and other compliance issues. The US had spelt out a 16-point action plan on July 19 and urged the government to engage with it for reinstatement of the GSP facilities.

In April this year more than thousand factory workers died following a building collapse which housed few readymade garment factories.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 3 September, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Entwined security

Bhutan has assured India that the security of the two countries is entwined and during its Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s first overseas visit after winning the elections, reiterated Thimphu’s desire to continue with the cooperation as in the past, on matters relating to core national interests.

Continuing with the pattern of high level exchanges, President Pranab Mukherjee will visit Bhutan in October. But there was little cheer on the economic front despite India’s promise of stepping up its contribution to the Bhutanese Eleventh Plan (Rs. 4,500 crores) and helping in a Rs. 500-crore stimulus for its economy.

This is because of no forward movement on the revised funding pattern for several hydel projects due to shortage of funds. Bhutan’s assurance about commonality in security interests comes against the backdrop of the previous government’s dalliance with the Chinese, which did not go down well in the Indian strategic community.

A warning shot across the bows came from Thimphu at the time Tobgay was reiterating his government’s desire to walk in step with New Delhi on security and strategic issues over lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

While Tobgay promised to keep strategic ties on an even keel, both sides would have to make extra efforts to maintain the momentum of the current partnership in the hydel sector. Both sides have planned to evacuate 10,000 mw of electricity from Bhutan’s four major river systems - Torsa, Wangchu, Sankosh and Manas - but have been struggling with seven projects after a smooth start to three projects, the last one over six years back.

Tobgay had an unpublicised meeting with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in addition to interactions with the top leadership. The request came from the Bhutanese side and reflects their assessment of the Indian power structure, said government sources.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian investments sought

Bhutan has sought investments from India in different sectors such as infrastructure, power, education, healthcare, IT and financial services to further enhance economic ties between the two countries.

"We are keen to attract more investments from India. We provide huge opportunities. India is permitted to invest in Indian currency. Our foreign direct investment policy is friendly for them," Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said in Hyderabad while addressing Indian industry chambers - CII, Ficci and Assocham.

"Hydro power has emerged as a major industry. Today, we have a number of mineral based industries like cement. Other sectors for cooperation include education, healthcare, tourism, IT and financial services," he added.

The newly-elected Prime Minister was on his maiden visit to India since assuming office last month. He said already several Indian companies, including Tata Power, Punjab National Bank and General Insurance Corporation, have invested in Bhutan.

Bhutan has rolled out the red carpet for the Indian IT industry to participate in its ambitious information technology development programme. Now Bhutan would pursue a programme to build on its natural foundation and tread the path of modernisation, led by IT.

"Show us the path. We will first take baby steps in this direction, followed by giant strides. It will be a profitable proposition for you," he told a meeting of CII in New Delhi. He welcomed Indian IT companies to set up operations in Bhutan. "I assure you we will give you the very best option and incentives to do business in Bhutan. You can feel the sense of my enthusiasm?I am open for business," he said, adding that Bhutan would welcome an IT-led business delegation to the country.

Tobgay said infrastructure development holds tremendous opportunity and that includes setting up of special economic zones, dry ports and industrial townships in Public-Private-Partnership mode.

Speaking at the occasion, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said the bilateral trade between the countries is well below potential. "Huge business opportunities are there in Bhutan for Indians. Huge potential is there in hydro power sector."

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IAF chopper rescues soldiers

Five Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) personnel who were critically injured in a blast have been rescued by Indian Air Force (IAF), officials said.

IAF was tasked with the rescue operation on Monday after receiving a message about the blast near Haa in Bhutan, they said."A quick endurance check was made on the chopper before deciding to proceed to Haa from where five critically injured personnel with one attendant each were airlifted to Thimphu," IAF spokesperson, Group Captain Amit Mahajan, said.

Using the latest Mi-17 V5 chopper, IAF had also evacuated a critically ill person from Lunana village near Thaanza glacier at an altitude of 13,000ft in northern Bhutan on August 24, Mahajan said. rescue operation on September 1 was cancelled due to bad weather, he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: PTI, 4 September, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Food bill gets Parliament nod

Parliament stamped its approval to the National Food Security Bill with the Rajya Sabha passing it by voice-vote the landmark legislation aimed at providing cheap food grain to nearly 82 crore people in the country.

The Upper House rejected a statutory resolution moved by Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley disapproving the National Food Security Ordinance promulgated by the President on July 5 and more than 200 amendments moved by Opposition members.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, 2 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lok Sabha clears pension bill

After nearly a decade, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday cleared the pension bill that paves the way for individuals to plan for their post-retirement needs and allows foreign investors to acquire up to 26% stake in the sector.

The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill was passed by the lower House after some tough political negotiations that included the government accepting a crucial suggestion of the parliamentary standing committee on finance headed by BJP’s Yashwant Sinha.

The government agreed to stipulate that the pension regulator would ensure that fund managers offer at least one product with an assured minimum return to protect investors from volatility. The investment option will be in addition to the schemes already available. The schemes on offer give investors the choice to invest up to 50% in shares that offer higher returns but are riskier. Alternatively, they can play it safe and invest the entire corpus in government bonds.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rajya Sabha okays Judges Bill

Amid a walkout by the BJP, the Rajya Sabha (upper House) on Thursday passed a Constitutional Amendment Bill which provides a role to the Executive in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the high courts.

Under the proposed law, a panel, known as the Judicial Appointments Commission will be set up, compromising the Chief Justice of India, two Supreme Court judges, Union Law Minister and two eminent persons.

The Constitution (120th Amendment) Bill 2013 was approved by the House with a two-thirds majority after Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley and other BJP members walked out of the House as the government did not accept the party’s demand to refer the legislation to a Select Committee.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New RBI chief starts with a bang

Reserve Bank of India’s 23rd Governor, Raghuram Rajan, has started with a bang. In a seven-page statement read out at a press conference after markets closed, Dr Rajan set out a bold, reformist vision for his tenure at the central bank. Included in it are measures to deepen securities markets, improve financial inclusion including SMEs, support and push for the rupee as an international currency and a warning for corporate defaulters of loans.

Declaring that they would "preserve the value of the currency"", Dr Rajan said India is a fundamentally sound economy with a bright future. "Our task today is to build a bridge to future, over the stormy waves produced by global financial markets."

Markets welcomed RBI’s new Governor and his agenda by pushing up prices of stocks and the value of the rupee. The rupee closed at 66.01 compared to the previous close of 67.06 on Wednesday. Intra-day, the rupee touched a high of 65.53 to the dollar.

Despite the ongoing economic slowdown, gross domestic tax collections went up by 14.33 per cent to Rs 1.88 lakh crore in the first five months of the current fiscal from the Rs 1.64 lakh crore mopped up during the same period of 2013-13.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fiscal deficit scales 63 pc

In what may be interpreted as definite indication of intense pressure on the fiscal front, official data on Friday revealed that the government has exceeded almost two-thirds of the budgeted fiscal deficit target set for 2013-14 in a of four months.

As per the data, the Centre’s fiscal deficit during the April-July period in the current financial year has already peaked at Rs 3.40 lakh crore, which works out to 62.8 per cent of the budget estimate (BE) for the entire fiscal.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 31 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Iran oil could save $ 8.5-b

India could save $8.5 billion in foreign exchange spending on crude oil imports in 2013/14 if it relied more on supplies from Iran, which is able to accept payment in rupees, India’s Oil Minister M. Veerappa Moily said.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spelling out a strategy to curb foreign exchange outflow against a backdrop of a weak currency, Moily said India was likely to import about 13 million tonnes of oil from Iran in 2013-14. It has already imported two-million tonnes so far in the fiscal year that began in April.

"An additional import of 11 million tonnes during 2013/14 would result in reduction in forex outflow by $8.47 billion (considering the international price of crude oil at $105 per barrel)," the letter, seen by Reuters, said.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 1September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Clearing the decks for PMs’ meet

India and Pakistan are making efforts to address each other’s concerns before their Prime Ministers meet in New York later this month. The sticking point, however, is the killing of soldiers on the Line of Control (LoC). A convergence on this aspect could help interlocutors aim for a Prime Minister level meeting that yields substantial outcomes.

India wants Pakistan to come clean on two widely publicised instances of Indian soldiers being killed on the LoC in January and August, and put curbs on anti-India statements by Hafiz Saeed, who it holds culpable for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Hindu, 2 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Military action against Syria opposed

India has firmly opposed any military action against Syria while emphasising that it would wait for the outcome of the UN inspection about the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Arab nation.

"There can be no military solution to this conflict. We continue to support the proposed "International Conference on Syria (Geneva II), being the best prospect for a political solution, for bringing the Syrian Government and the Opposition to the negotiating table," MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said on Tuesday in response to a query.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">First defence satellite launched

India’s maiden dedicated defence satellite was launched by a European rocket early Friday, giving a boost to Navy’s modernisation push to improve space-based communications and intelligence fathering over a wide oceanic region including the country’s landmass.

Custom-made for the Navy by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the advanced multi-band state-of-the-art GSAT-7 was successfully lofted into space by European space consortium Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket at 2 am from Kourou spaceport, French Guiana.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, 31 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IAF chief’s Beijing visit called off

India has cancelled IAF chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne’s visit to China, signalling its reluctance to go into "diplomatic overdrive" to engage Beijing in the wake of increased Chinese aggression along the line of actual control (LAC). New Delhi is trying a delicate balancing act to stabilise bilateral ties, plagued by territorial disputes in the northern and eastern sectors.

The IAF chief’s visit may have been called off, but joint army exercises with China are on track-scheduled to be held in the Chengdu military region in November after a gap of almost five years.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, 1 September, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ensure fair poll, SC tells panel

The Maldivian Supreme Court has issued an order to the Elections Commission, to ensure that the upcoming presidential election is fair and that the integrity of the election is upheld. The order, by a majority of five of the seven Supreme Court Judges states that people’s names and addresses do not match on the electoral register, and that the electoral register also includes names of dead people.

The Supreme Court said that the Elections Commission had also not included in their database, the information of the people who had registered their names on the Male’ Municipality Dhaftharu (Register) between 2009 and 2010. The order also states that the Elections Commission should ensure that every voter is above the age of 18.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, 2 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC locked up under advice: Nasheed

MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has said that the Supreme Court was locked up in accordance with the advice of the Ministry of Finance. "As you know, by then, the Supreme Court’s interim phase had passed. But a permanent Supreme Court had still not been formed. So, I also discussed this matter with political party leaders. Finance Ministry said that it is a violation of the law to spend on an institution that had been dissolved. It was a problem even to keep a light on in there," he said.

In August 2010, the key to the Supreme Court was withheld by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) security officers at Theemuge building, where the court was located. Nasheed said that despite the escalation of this problem back then, he has accorded due cooperation after a permanent Supreme Court was formed.

Nasheed said that the most serious problem back then was that the police initiated an investigation after receiving information that a coup was being orchestrated. When asked about the arrest of politicians during his presidency, Nasheed said that no one was held prisoner for political reasons during his term in office.

He said that people such as Abdullah Yameen and Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed were arrested in relation to investigations by the police. Nasheed assured that he did not interfere with police investigations during his presidency.

Nasheed said that he did not order the arrest of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdullah Mohamed (Judge Abdullah), and that there is no proof to indicate otherwise. He said that the court case against him regarding the arrest of Judge Abdullah was postponed because the case cannot be proved against him.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Sun Online, 4 September 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Moon calls for peaceful polls

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the people of the Maldives to ensure that Saturday’s elections are "conducted in a credible and peaceful manner."

In a statement posted on the Secretary-General’s official website, he encouraged all candidates to respect the results and to overcome past differences, no matter the winner.

"He urges all Maldivians to work together in a constructive manner toward national harmony and democratic consolidation and he highlights, in particular, the need for a renewed commitment to the institutional reform process," read the statement.

The UN has announced that it will be sending an observer group to the country for this weekend’s poll.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, 5 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border row in Manipur

The Myanmarese army has asked the tribal village chief of Hollenphai village to demolish houses and churches located at "areas of Myanmar." This was stated in a joint press statement by Thangkhosai Haokip and Khaimang Chongloi, the president and the general secretary of the Kuki Impi Manipur (KIM), the apex body of the Kuki tribals in Manipur.

The KIM representatives had visited Hollenpahi village to inspect the ongoing construction of the border fence by Myanmar that is reportedly encroaching upon Manipur’s land. Representatives of the Kuki students, village chiefs and women activists were also present during the visit.

They said that the boundary pillars 74, 75 and 76 are "missing" near Hollenphai village. Besides, boundary pillar 80 is missing near Gobjang village. But the boundary pillar 23 of Myanmar is very much there.

Lalkholun Haokip, the tribal village chief of Hollenphai, told reporters that the border fence now being constructed under the supervision of Assam Rifles is one km deep inside Manipur’s territory. Myanmarese army’s instruction to demolish houses and churches in this village had been conveyed to the district administration.

However there is no government response. Some churches had been damaged at Gobjang village. It is also said that the Myanmarese army is carrying on with the construction works of the army camp at Hollenphai village.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strategic cooperation with China

Myanmar President Thein Sein and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met on Monday in Nanning, in southern China, according to Myanmar’s state-owned broadcaster.

The President travelled from Nay Pyi Taw to China yesterday morning to attend the 10th China-ASEAN Expo and the Chinese-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, according to the web page of President’s Office.

Thein Sein and Li Keqiang exchanged views on comprehensive strategic cooperation between the two countries and Myanmar’s relationship with other countries, according to government sources.

At 2.30 pm local time, Thein Sein received Secretary of Guangxi Zhuang Provincial People’s Congress, Mr. Peng Qinghua at Liyuan Resort.

The two sides discussed cooperation in the agricultural sector, arranging flights between two countries, promotion of comprehensive cooperation between Myanmar and Guangxi Zhuang Province.

The president was accompanied by ministers and deputy ministers and is due to return to Myanmar on Tuesday. The Expo is held from September 3 to 6 and the trip is his 4th visit to China. Chinese investment in Myanmar reached to US$14 billion including 49 new projects, according to sources.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Unease over US military ties

The Obama administration wants to restart U.S. defense training for Myanmar that was cut 25 years ago after a bloody crackdown on protesters. While assistance would be nonlethal, some American lawmakers are resisting saying concerned Washington is moving too fast in forging ties with a military still accused of attacking ethnic minorities and blocking humanitarian aid.

Last Thursday, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel met on the sidelines of a regional conference in Brunei with another former junta member, Lt. Gen. Wai Lwin - the first bilateral meeting between the U.S. and Myanmar defence chiefs in two decades.

The administration has backing from Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell. He’s the most influential voice in Congress on Myanmar policy, and in August declared support for "a modest, targeted military-to-military relationship."

But other lawmakers are against it, sharing the concerns of activists who argue it would give international legitimacy to a military that has waged a brutal campaign displacing 100,000 civilians in northern Kachin state during the past two years of political opening.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, 3 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Language-barrier in grilling Rohingya Muslims

Know the Rohingya language? You may have a job waiting with the Border Security Force (BSF). Rohingya Muslims, originally from Myanmar, are sneaking into India from Bangladesh through the districts of North 24-Parganas and Nadia but officials of the BSF’s South Bengal frontier aren’t able to interrogate them as they don’t speak English, Hindi, Urdu, Bangla or any known Indian language.

"Though we haven’t received any indication as yet that the Rohingyas apprehended along the Indo-Bangla border have been involved in any crime, interrogating them is a major problem. As we don’t know their language, we have to get experts from universities or other agencies to act as interpreters.

"Unlike illegal migrants from Bangladesh, it is difficult to send them back across the border. For Bangladeshis, we issue a One Time Permit and send them back. This is not possible with the Rohingyas. There are certain United Nations guidelines that have to be followed. Our government has held talks with foreign embassies on this subject," said Santosh Mehra, inspector general, BSF (South Bengal Frontier).

This year, till August, the BSF apprehended 107 Rohingyas. Nine of them were nabbed in August alone. According to Mehra, the phenomenon has shown a marked increase in the last couple of months.

"From what we have gathered, they are trying to spread across the country from Bengal. They choose the location to cross over depending on rail connectivity. That is why they select North 24-Parganas and Nadia. The movement is at a nascent stage now," he said when asked whether the Rohingyas are headed for a large camp that supposedly exists near Srinagar.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Times of India, 3 September 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fast unto death for dead son

A fast unto death by an elderly couple seeking justice for their son, allegedly murdered by Maoists during the civil war, has shaken the government and political establishment in Nepal.

Nanda Prasad Adhikari and his wife Ganga Maya are on a fast for over a month now seeking fair investigation and punishment to those guilty of killing their son, Krishna Prasad, 18, in 2004.

The couple from Gorkha district admitted at the intensive care unit of Bir Hospital in Kathmandu has managed to rally rights activists seeking justice for all such cases during the civil war. It has rattled the interim election government and polarised political parties.

Maoists say it could disrupt the forthcoming polls and even threatened revolt if action is taken against their cadres. Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda says such cases should be dealt by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and not by other courts.

As per the peace deal signed in 2006, TRC was to investigate all cases of human rights violations and disappearances during the civil war. But due to differences between parties it is yet to be formed.

"Apparently the Maoists no longer believe in justice, at least when it comes to investigating their own crimes," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch in a release.

Other rights bodies like International Commission of Jurists and those within Nepal have urged the government to conduct a quick and fair investigation into this particular case and others.

Though the government restarted probe into the murder nearly a fortnight ago, there has been no headway and no one has been arrested yet. Earlier this week, chairman of the interim government Khil Raj Regmi visited the couple and urged them to end their fast. Various political parties have also asked them to do the same.

But the couple who is being administered intravenous fluids has refused to eat till at least one of the guilty is arrested.

The fast has also given hope of justice to the families of nearly 13,000 killed and around 1,400 who disappeared during the civil war due to atrocities by Maoists as well as government forces.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindustan Times, 1 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC notice to Dahal

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to furnish clarification over a contempt of court charge against him.

A single bench of Justice Gyanendra Bahadur Karki on September 5 ordered Dahal to appear before the court in person within three days or to furnish clarification in writing through a bearer of the power of attorney.

Advocate Dinesh Tripathi on September 2 had moved the apex court accusing Dahal of making a public statement against the judiciary. Addressing a function in the capital last week, Dahal had said, "Which caste and ethnicity does the court belong to?"

Prachanda had also warned that his party would revolt if insurgency-era cases against Maoist leaders and cadres were revived.

< class="text11Verdana">Source:, 6 September, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">40,000 face deportation in Malaysia

Around 40,000 Nepali migrant workers may face immediate deportation as Malaysia prepares to begin its "biggest-ever" crackdown on illegal migrant workers.

According to media reports, the Malaysian government is planning to start arresting an estimated half a million foreign nationals working illegally in the Islamic kingdom. The three-month-long crackdown, which is seen as a measure to ’flush out unwanted foreigners’, is expected to begin on September 8, The Star, a Malaysia-based English language newspaper, reported on September 4.

Malaysia is one of the biggest work destination for Nepali workers in terms of existing volume of the migrants who number around 650,000. According to the Department of Foreign Employment, Malaysia took in 156,770 Nepali migrants in the fiscal year 2012-13, up from the 98,367 the previous year.

The Star quoted Malaysian Immigration director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad as saying that the operation would be like "a cat and mouse" game, but "we are fully prepared for it."

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 29 August, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">British Army trains engineersg

A team of five C-IED experts from the British Army provided training to Nepal Army engineers in Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Route Opening and War Materiel Removal techniques.

The two-week long training was conducted at the Nepal Army’s Explosives Ordinance Devices Holding Unit based at Tribhuvan International Airport. The training concluded on 30 August.

The British team of trainers had recently returned from operations in Afghanistan. The training on cutting-edge C-IED measures was provided to assist the Nepal Army engineers in their preparation for United Nations operations in Mali.

< class="text11verdana">Source: British Embassy press release, 2 September, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar;
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.