MonitorsPublished on Jul 18, 2014
The continuing ceasefire violations on the India-Pakistan border could become a stumbling block in the renewed attempts by the leadership of the two neighbours to improve their relationship.
Pakistan: Ceasefire violations could undo peace moves
< class="heading1">Analysis

The continuing ceasefire violations on the India-Pakistan border could become a stumbling block in the renewed attempts by the leadership of the two neighbours to improve their relationship. The July 16 ceasefire violation at R S Pura sector in Jammu district is the latest violation which raises questions about the efforts.

It is no less significant that the cease-fire violation followed a day after the two sides held a ’flag meeting’ at Chambiliyal border outpost in Samba district to discuss removal of wild bushes along the zero-line and adjoining areas to improve visibility during patrolling.

Cross-border firings have become a serious irritant in the relationship for the past few years. This is third ceasefire violation by Pakistan in July. In 2013, there were 149 violations of the cease-fire agreed to by both the countries in 2003.

Clear signal to PM Sharif

However since the ceasefire, both the countries have routinely accused each other of violating the same. There was a serious escalation in the border violations from the Pakistani side, particularly after Nawaz Sharif took over as the Prime Minister in 2013.

Many believe that the firings along the border by Pakistan Army were a clear signal to Prime Minister Sharif not to step beyond the red-line in friendship with India. The Army, among others, decides the India policy of Pakistan and not the civilian Prime Minister.

When Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi called the neighbourhood leadership, including Prime Minister Sharif, for his oath-taking ceremony, it was a ground-breaking decision. The fact that Mr Sharif accepted the invitation, though a bit hesitantly, demonstrated his marked willingness to walk the extra mile. Risking the wrath of the army and other non-State actors, the Pakistani Prime Minister decided to come to India to explore opportunities and new grounds for talks with the traditional enemy.

Undoing the initiative

The benefits flowing from the momentous occasion in the bilateral relationship could be squandered if the ceasefire violations were to continue on the border. The firing leaves no doubt about the army’s continuous suspicion of India and about the civilian leadership in Pakistan. There is no doubt such irritants could assume serious proportions as in the recent past when Indian soldiers were beheaded by Pakistan Army. Such incidents could undo much of the initiative taken by both the Prime Ministers at great risk.

The two countries must therefore take a serious view of the ceasefire violations and find a mutually acceptable resolution for making the unprecedented initiative taken by Prime Minister Modi and responded with equal courage and vision by Prime Minister Sharif come to fruit in the interest of the people of the sub-continent.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal: A new budget, a new start?

Pratnashree Basu

For the first time in three years, the government of Nepal has come out with an annual budget - this one for fiscal 2014-15. Guiding the country out of years of political and economic instability after having won the elections in November 2013, the second since 2006, has not been an easy task for the ruling Nepali Congress.

The country is yet to come up with a constitution which is expected by 2015 and despite there being a new government after the elections last year, Nepal still has a long way to go. Nonetheless, the new NRs 618-billion ($ 6.18 billion) budget is another step towards establishing constancy in the country. Previous attempts at formulating a budget were largely limited to accounting for revenues and expenditures.

Focus on farm, energy sectors

The budget, unveiled by Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat, focuses primarily on energy and agriculture, besides infrastructure development and tourism. The budget is aimed towards reforming policies and creating an investment-friendly environment. The tabling of this budget has come after weeks of delay as the constituent assembly members demanded 50 million rupees as development budget. The government has finally agreed at 10 million provisional upon review.

The import accorded to the securing of energy is extremely for Nepal, which is in a perpetual electricity crisis. The budget includes the setting up of a 25 MW solar plant in Kathmandu, generation of 560 MW from Upper Tamakoshi, Kulekhani III, Chameliya and Upper Trishuli and an additional 628 MW from 42 hydropower projects promoted by independent power producers.

The completion of the Dhalkebar-Mujaffarpur power transmission line will also enable the country to export surplus power during the monsoon and import power during the summers. Overall, the plan for meeting the electricity needs of the country is expected to be achieved in three years. The Independent Power Producers Association of Nepal (IPPAN) has welcomed the incentive packages announced in the budget since it is projected to give a boost to the hydropower sector in Nepal.

Most importantly, the government has tried to provide an impetus to industry by offering 50 year generation licenses to companies which would consume the electricity produced by them through the establishment of other industries. The government thus plans to create avenues for the private sector to engage with developmental efforts.

Besides the investment in the power sector, the budget also centers on agriculture with subsidies and incentives to the young generation to go into rearing livestock, commercial vegetable farming and so on instead of leaving the country in search of work abroad. In infrastructure the government has proposed plans for developing roads aimed at providing better links within the country along with an overall improvement of the public transport system.

The construction of a road from the capital, Kathmandu to India is also expected to begin. The budget also laid out plans for the improvement of the IT and telecommunications sector though increased access to information and channels of communication, and a significant investment in the tourism sector. Investment in tourism is primarily on infrastructural expansion with the construction of the Gautam Budhha Regional Airport and Pokhara Airport along with the development of Biratnagar, Nepalgunj and Dhangadi airports.

’Replete with flaws’

The budget has however attracted a good amount of criticism from the opposition, especially the UCPN (Maoist). Leaders from the opposition are of the opinion that the budget is replete with flaws and will actually set the development process of the country backwards and that it has failed to introduce any substantive new plans for the progress of the country.

It has also been observed that that budget is a half-hearted attempt which falls short of addressing the structural problems of the country’s economy and that the finance minister is unsure whether to steer the country towards more state control or towards a liberal economy.

However, despite the criticisms leveled by the opposition parties there are aspects of the proposal that would prove to be beneficial for the country. What is important from this stage onwards is to oversee the implementation of the plans that have been designed. There needs to be an emphasis on good governance for the plans to bear fruit. While the budget is being labeled as an ambitious one, it does not appear to be an unachievable or an unworkable one.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition scuttling military operation: Minister

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid says those talking about revolution are trying to fail the Zarb-i-Azb military operation being conducted in North Waziristan.

Rashid said it was very strange that Dr Tahirul Qadri predicted events before they took place and named those responsible. Similarly, he said PTI leader Shah Mehmood Quershi was predicting another ’Model Town tragedy’ if the government blocked the PTI’s long march and questioned the PTI vice-chairman as to how he knew everything beforehand.

The minister reiterated the PML-N’s stance that it had no link with the safe exit deal for Musharraf as claimed by former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. He said Pervez Musharraf had himself rejected the claims made by Gilani. He said statements of the PPP leadership including Farhatullah Babar, Gilani and Qamar Zaman Kaira were conflicting while Pervez Musharraf himself denied any kind of deal.

The minister said the PML-N had a very clear stance on the dictators and it had never been a part of any deal against the Constitution and would not do any such act in future. Regarding the operation he remarked people of the area had been held hostage in their own homes and land and it was the responsibility of the state to rescue the land and people from usurpers and terrorists

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 14 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Air-strike in Shawal

War planes bombed suspected militant hideouts in Shawal mountains and eliminated 35 terrorists early on Wednesday morning, hours after local people said a US drone strike killed 20, mostly foreigners, in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan.

A senior security official said the jets targeted militants in the forested Shawal Valley. He said the Shawal bombing had forced militants to flee their hideouts. Fifteen ’Punjabi’ militants fleeing the bombing in pickup trucks were captured by security forces in Birmal and taken to Wana camp in South Waziristan. Local residents said the US drone fired four missiles into a compound and a vehicle in Zoi Saidgai, near Miramshah, killing 20 militants.

Sources say that most militants have fled the town but fire-raids, including rocket and mortar attacks, continued. Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said the Pakistani military had no confirmation there had been a US drone strike. Pakistan publicly condemns the US drones strikes saying they often kill civilians and are a violation of sovereignty.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt promises to clear Army’s bills

The federal government on Monday pledged that it would fund the ongoing operation in North Waziristan amid the military’s insistence on fresh but firm timelines for release of all outstanding disbursements.

The assurances were given by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to Maj-Gen Mohammad Tauqeer Ahmad, Director-General for the army’s budget, who called on him to discuss matters related to the military’s budget.

"The Finance Minister assured the Director-General that adequate resources will be provided for the military operation and facilitation of internally displaced persons", according to a handout issued by Ministry of Finance.

For the current financial year 2014-15, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government has apportioned Rs700 billion for meeting the country’s burgeoning defence needs. The amount is exclusive of the military’s share in CSF, disbursed by the United States and receipts from the United Nations on account of contribution to the UN’s peacekeeping missions.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune Express, 15 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Zardari fires another salvo at Sharif

Pakistan People’s Party on Tuesday, in a major blow to the PML-N government, apparently joined hands with Imran Khan for recounting in four constituencies. Former president Asif Ali Zardari, in a surprising move, expressed dismay over the continued rejection of the demand of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) by the PML-N government for recounting of votes in four constituencies of Lahore.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which is creating ripples in political arena by giving unexpected statements has shocked the ruling clique (PML-N) for putting weight behind Imran Khan’s demand for recounting in four constituencies. Only a day before, Zardari blasted the government the way it was handling the issue of IDPs. The spokesperson said that Zardari had made these remarks feeling anguished about the deepening controversy over recounting in four constituencies in Lahore and wondered why the prime minister felt so nervous about it.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Nation, 16 July 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN won’t name investigation team?

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has said that it wouldn’t release the names of the investigation team tasked with probing the war crimes allegations against the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) as well as the LTTE, though Ms Sandra Beidas was named its coordinator.

OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville, for High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein said: "While we felt it is important to announce the coordinator of the investigation, OHCHR does not normally release details of the staff team working on any particular issue, and we will not be doing so in this case either. Again this is standard practice, whether it is an OHCHR-led investigation like this one, or an independent Commission of Inquiry to whom we loan staff.

Prince al-Hussein’s predecessor, Navanethem Pillay, having announced the appointment of Britisher Beidas, earlier of Amnesty International, as the coordinator of the investigation team in a letter dated July 5 sent to External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, said that the selection of other members of the probe team was underway. Ms Pillay said that the process would be finalised soon.

An authoritative government official told The Island that the OHCHR was yet to outline the procedures relating to the investigation, though Ms. Pillay has declared that Beidas’ Geneva-based investigation team will be operational for 10 months from mid-June, 2014.

The OHCHR’s refusal to divulge the identities of investigation team members has come as a surprise against the backdrop of Pillay’s assurance that a panel comprising Silvia Cartwright (former New Zealand HC judge), Asma Jahangir (former President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) and Martti Ahtisaari (former Finish President) would only play a supportive and advisory role to the investigation team and wouldn’t lead the investigation team.

Pillay said in her letter dated July 5: "Their purpose would be to provide expert advice and guidance to the investigation, but also to accompany the process and provide an independent verification of the investigation."

Colville’s statement that the names of the investigation team wouldn’t be divulged was contrary to Ms. Pillay’s position, the GoSL official said. If Pillay intended to keep identities of the members secret she wouldn’t have sought Sri Lanka’s permission for the investigators to undertake field visits between July and November, 2014. As Pillay had also called for the appointment of a high-level GoSL representative to work with the investigating team, the decision against revealing the identities was surprising, the official said.

Reacting to the UNHRC position, External Affairs Miniter, Prof. G. L. Peiris said that the government couldn’t accept a secret investigation team. "How could there be any faith in a mechanism when those investigated wouldn’t even know the identities of those handling the inquiry?" he asked. He asserted perhaps the anonymous inquiry team was even worse than a Kangaroo court, hence GoSL decision to shun the investigation.

Referring to a series of statements attributed to Pakistani HR activist Asma Jahangir, a member of the three-member advisory team named for the investigation team, Prof Peiris expressed serious concern over her motives. He alleged that Jahangir seems to be engaged in a campaign of her own targeting Sri Lanka. Accusing a section of the international community of undermining post-war reconciliation process, Minister Peiris said that the global community couldn’t ignore measures taken by the government to address grievances.

Commenting on President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to broaden the scope of the mandate of the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons headed by retired High Court judge Maxwell Paranagama, Peiris said that the appointment of an expert panel was meant to strengthen the domestic process.

The Presidential Secretariat has announced the appointment of British lawyers Desmond de Silva and Geoffrey Nice and U.S. law professor David Crane, on to the advisory panel, are all former U.N. war crimes prosecutors.

President Rajapaksa, Peiris said, made the appointments subsequent to HC judge Paranagama informing him of completion of substantial amount of work and that appointment of experts could help the ongoing process.

Minister Peiris emphasised that it was wrong to interpret the newly appointed body as a foreign body as its role was to support the domestic process. "It was within the local mechanism." The minister reiterated that the government wouldn’t subject itself for an external investigative mechanism under any circumstance.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 17-18 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Australia has no plans to return asylum-seekers

The Australian government has told the High Court it has no plans to send 153 asylum-seekers back to Sri Lanka. The asylum seekers have been detained on the high seas, outside of Australia’s migration zone, since their boat was intercepted on its way from India on July 7.

Stephen Donaghue QC, representing the government, told the High Court in Melbourne on Friday the government would stick to its undertaking that no one on the boat would be sent to another country without three days’ written notice.

Justice Kenneth Hayne said given the asylum-seekers were in custody it was important the legal battle over their future was finished as quickly as possible."The parties are just going to have to bend their back to get on with it," he said. "I am not going to let this case devolve into a procedural morass. There’s got to be some sense shown," he observed.

Justice Hayne said the case appeared to come down to whether the Australian government had the power to intercept the asylum-seekers and take them to a country other than Australia.

Australian media quoting their lawyers said that the 153 asylum-seekers aboard an Australian Customs ship somewhere in the Indian Ocean are being locked up in windowless cabins. They claim because their boat was intercepted 27 kilometres from Christmas Island they were within Australian waters.

The decision not to take them to Australia did not fall within the bounds of ’legal reasonableness and it was otherwise disproportionate and therefore invalid’, their statement of claims says. It goes on to say that mothers and children had been separated from their fathers and husbands on the Customs ship, and there was no freedom of movement.

Their phones and belongings have been confiscated other than the clothes they were wearing. Almost all the Sri Lankan asylum seekers are unable to communicate in English and none of them have been asked why they left Sri Lanka, the reports said.

Their lawyers argue their clients should not be returned to Sri Lanka or transferred to offshore immigration detention centres on Nauru or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. That’s because Nauru and PNG are not signatories to international law principles of non-refoulement, which forbids victims of persecution being returned to their persecutors.

The lawyers are demanding ’procedural fairness’ and an acknowledgment that border protection authorities acted unlawfully.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 18 July 2014, The Island, 18 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Local chief jailed for killing British tourist

Former Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Sampath Chandrapushpa Vidana Pathirana and three others were found guilty of the murder of British tourist and aid-worker Khuram Sheik and of raping his Russian girlfriend Victoria Alexandrovna, and were sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment on each of the two counts on Thursday.

The tragedy had occurred at the Tangalle Resort on December 24, 2012. Colombo High Court Judge Rohini Walgama sentenced the accused, Lahiru Kelum, Saman Deshapriya, former Tangalle PS Chairman Sampath Chandrpushpta Vidana Pathirana and Prageeth Chaturanga, for 40 years RI on the charge of murder and rape with the jail terms to run concurrently. The Judge acquitted M. Sarath alias Sahan and W. Chaturanga of the charges on the grounds that they were not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Before delivering judgment, the Judge addressed the prosecution and the defence saying that more than anyone else it was she who had to face many challenges during this case. She said the trial began on April 3 and took her three and half months to conclude. The Judge said even though this was a special case unlike such other cases where they were heard before a jury or at a trial-at-bar, in this case she was on her own.

Judge Walgama said she did not consider sitting on this case as a duty but as an obligation entrusted to her by God. She said she did her best not to be prejudiced by what appeared in the media and passed the sentence after contentiously weighing the evidence and urged those convicted of the crime to look deep into their conscience before appealing her judgement.

In Colombo, the British High Commission in a statement welcomed the verdict and said, "We hope that this will bring some closure for Khuram’s family and friends who have faced a long and difficult fight for justice?The officials of the Attorney-General’s office have shown great professionalism and integrity and we would like to thank them. We will continue to monitor any developments in the case closely."

In a statement, Nasser Sheikh, the brother of Khuram, also welcomed the verdict given by the Colombo High Court on his brother’s murder trial. "Today, the country has done what many people hoped and prayed for. Those who killed my brother have been punished and are now behind bars for a long time," he said, adding that he was however not ready to forgive the initial delays involved with the prosecution.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island 17 July 2014, Daily Mirror Online 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Badulla seats reduced to help UPFA in Uva: Fonseka

Leader of the Democratic Party (DP) General Sarath Fonseka has accused the government of tampering with the allocation of seats in the Moneragala and Badulla districts by increasing the number given to Moneragala from 11 to 14 and reducing it in Badulla from 21 to 18 to help its unpopular Chief Minister candidate for the Uva Province Shashindra Rajapaksa, in the upcoming PC polls.

The population in Moneragala was only 332,000, while it was 613,000 in Badulla and it was quite clear that the move to increase the number of seats in Moneragala was to help Sashindra Rajapaksa, the DP leader said. The government has already started using all its machinery for its benefit and bribing the voters with all kinds of gifts, he alleged.

"One third of Yala National Park and half of Uda Walawe National Park are part of Moneragala district and there are chunks of uninhabited areas in the district, hence there is no justification for increasing the number of seats in that district," he said. Fonseka alleged that the Elections Commissioner had become a puppet of the government and was dancing to the tune of the President.

Responding to a query the DP leader said he was confident that his party would win around five seats at the forthcoming Uva polls. Asked about DP fielding artistes as candidates he said that his party was nominating the right kind of people accepted by the masses and the actors and actresses fielded by the ruling party had miserably failed at the previous elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka tops in South Asia in e-govt growth

Sri Lanka ranks first among South Asian countries in the latest E-Government Development Index conducted by the United Nations, according to a news item published by the Policy Research & Information Unit of the Presidential Secretariat (PRIU) on its web site.

The PRIU quoted the UN having said that "Sri Lankan government has made a substantial effort to develop its online portal which now ranks 74th in the world." Sri Lanka ranked 115 in 2012.

The online portal offers A-Z government web indexes, 108 e-services for citizens, 51 e-services for businesses and 10 non-residence related e services. The portal also offers extensive mobile and SMS services, an e-participation portal, government forms easily accessible online, a developed open data portal with data available in various formats, as well as a whole-of-government strategy.

According to the Government Information Centre (GIC) Sri Lanka’s e-government policies have been geared towards including all segments of the population and offering services to everyone, regardless of their IT literacy levels or access to the internet. With mobile usage rates in the country exceeding 100 per cent and even the poorest people today having cell phones, albeit basic, Sri Lanka offers many m-government services.

The GIC is now providing more than 65 online services through basic phone calls, such as train schedules, job opportunities abroad, flight schedules, exam results, economic indicators, medical services and contact details.

Even though the IT literacy rates jumped from 9.7 percent in 2004 to 40 percent in 2012, the numbers are still not high enough to allow maximum utilization of the e-services the government provides. With the GIC, all-inclusive e-services can be delivered to the rich and poor alike and hence everyone can become a beneficiary of the digital advancement in government.

< class="text11verdana">Source:The Island 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jobs for 10,000 skilled fishermen in S. Korea

Over 10,000 Sri Lankans would be employed in the South Korean fisheries sector following discussions between the Sri Lanka National Fishermen Federation and the Korean National Fisheries Federation in 2012, according to Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne.

The minister said that the South Korean government had offered jobs for skilled Sri Lankan fishermen therefore the Fisheries Ministry would take steps to send those with experience.

"There was a dispute between my ministry and Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Ministry over the fisheries sector job vacancies," he said. "I discussed the issue with the President and my ministry took the responsibility for sending fishermen." Dr. Senaratne said that no fees would be charged for sending fishermen and the only criterion would be they must be skilled.

"We have discussed to send 1,000 fishermen as a first step and then to increase it gradually to 2,500, 5,000 and to 10,000. The fishermen will receive around SL Rs. 175,000 per month for a contract of four years," Minister Senaratne said.

According to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), Sri Lankan workers are sent to South Korea under Korea’s Employment Permit System (EPS), the only legal way for a foreign worker to be employed in that country. More than 26,000 Sri Lankan workers have been sent to Korea since an MOU was signed and Sri Lanka holds fourth place out of 15 labour supplying countries. There are around 230,000 foreign workers in South Korea at present.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 17 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Political impasse ends

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Kabul over 11-12 July, was able to convince the Afghan presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, to reach an agreement, which brought the political deadlock between the two to an end.

Both candidates agreed to an audit of all the eight-million votes that had been cast and agreed to abide by the eventual result forming a unity government led by the victor.

As per this arrangement, the losing candidate will occupy an executive position in the new government and become the prime minister after the country shifts to a parliamentary system in the next two years.

The ISAF and ANSF were entrusted with the task of bringing the ballots from all the provinces to Kabul, where the auditing was to be supervised by the UN and the candidates’ agents.

Although the commencement of the auditing process was delayed by a few days, it eventually started on 17 July. Although Dr Ghani’s team expressed satisfaction with the way in which the auditing was being carried out, Dr Abdullah’s team expressed concerns about the process.

The entire process is expected to take at least three weeks meaning that the initial date of 2 August set for the inauguration of the new president will most likely be missed.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 12 and 17-18 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kabul airport under attack

The Kabul International Airport was attacked by a group of six suicide bombers on 17 July. In the subsequent clashes with the Afghan National Security Forces, four of the insurgents were gunned down while the remaining two detonated their explosives killing themselves.

According to reports, the insurgents were targeting military aircrafts that are stationed at the airport. No civilian casualties were reported during this attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for this attack.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 17 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Concern over India’s river-link project

Worried over India’s ambitious river inter-linking project, Bangladesh has asked its Water Resource Ministry to get a "clear picture" of New Delhi’s initiative. A parliamentary committee has decided to seek details of a renewed initiative for river linking in neighbouring India as allocation of fund afresh for the purpose visibly worried Dhaka.

"We have come to know from media that the new government of India allocated Rs 100 crore in budget to bring pace in the river interlinking project which will harm us," chairman of parliamentary standing committee on water resource ministry Ramesh Chandra Sen informed. "Allocation of fund afresh for the project is a matter of concern for us," Sen opined.

Lower riparian deltaic Bangladesh is criss-crossed by some 230 rivers, 54 of them originating from India while sharing of waters in common rivers remained to be an outstanding issue in bilateral ties with Dhaka seeking agreements to ensure its fair share in the natural flow of the streams.

But the parliamentary committee’s concern came as the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 10 allocated Rs 100 crore in its maiden budget for the project initiated by the previous BJP-led NDA government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in 1998.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 18 July 2014; Business Standard, 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Testing labs mandatory in land, sea ports

In a major decision the High Court (HC) in a verdict ordered setting of chemical test units in all land and sea ports within six months to stop harmful chemical-mixed fruits from entering the country.

The HC directed the government to prepare a guideline to stop chemical use to ripen fruits within six months from the date of receiving the verdict. It asked the government to circulate the guideline to the field-level administration.

The verdict further directed the government to deploy law enforcement agencies in mango orchards of Rajshahi and major harvesting areas of the country during the season of the fruit to stop chemical use.

It further asked the government to monitor fruit markets and warehouses through surveillance committees every month to prevent buyers from selling chemically treated fruits in the market.

The verdict ordered the government to issue a circular for taking legal steps in case of adulteration and chemical treatment of fruits, and to ensure that the perpetrators are indicted under the provisions of law of the land.

The HC passed the orders following a petition filed by lawyer Manzill Murshid as public interest litigation on behalf of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) on May 10, 2010, seeking court directives on the government to take steps to stop the use of chemicals in fruits as well as sale of contaminated fruits.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 16 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt protests Israeli strikes on Gaza

The cabinet this week expressed concerns over the spurt in violence in Gaza and condemned Israeli aggression that has led to the loss of innocent lives in the last few days.

Cabinet ministers, in a weekly meeting, also called upon the international community to put pressure on Israel to stop the air strikes to civilian areas in Gaza. The cabinet also termed the excessive force used by the Israeli military, which has led to the loss of innocent lives, including children, as violation of human rights.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 15 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dragon’s share in Indian budget

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s engagement with Bhutan has helped the Kingdom nation with the grants and loans allocated to the latter going up by nearly 50% — from Rs 4,100 crore last year to Rs 6,000 crore this year.

Bhutan has always been getting significant financial aid from India by way of grants, both under plan and non-plan expenditure heads. This year, particularly after PM Narendra Modi visited the neighbouring country soon after his swearing-in, the NDA government has significantly increased the financial package. Bhutan was Modi’s first foreign visit.

Comparatively, other countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have got marginal hikes in grants from the Indian government this year. Even Afghanistan, where India’s engagement has increased in recent years, has been allocated Rs 676 crore, not a big hike against last year’s Rs 525 crore.

Nepal, with which the PM has expressed his desire to engage more, has not found as much prominence as Bhutan in monetary terms. Among grants and loans to foreign countries, Nepal has got Rs 450 crore as against Rs 380 crore in the previous year. In case of Sri Lanka, the allocation has been Rs 500 crore, an increase of Rs 90 crore from last year.

Bangladesh is the only country in the SAARC region for which the Budget has made lower provisions. The aid for Bangladesh in the current year Budget has been Rs 350 crore as against Rs 580 crore of last year.

PM Modi showed his special emphasis on neighbourhood diplomacy with his one-on-one meetings with all SAARC heads of government on his first day in office. He had invited all SAARC leaders for his swearing in ceremony. The next day, he met Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa and heads of governments from Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal and the Speaker of Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 13 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two hydro-projects up for bidding

Two new hydropower projects will be up for bidding to investors from outside in the next two years.

The bidding process is taking off after the Norwegian government-funded Energy+ Cooperation Partnership project started its work recently. A total of Norwegian Kroner 100 million ($ 17 m) will be contributed to this project, which has hydropower as one of the four packages. In the package, six hydro-power projects are in the pipeline with a budget of $ 1.8 million.

Manaschu is the biggest, with an estimated capacity of 1,800 MW. Other projects include the 140 MW Dagachu II in Dagana, the 107 MW Shongkharchu in Mongar, 566 MW Chamkharchu II and 382 MW Chamkharchu IV in Zhemgang, and the 170 MW Dangchu in Wangduephodrang.

It is not yet known, which among these projects will be held for bidding first. The department of hydropower and power systems (DoHPS) is currently carrying out detailed pre-feasibility studies on these six hydropower projects.

Executive engineer for planning and coordination division with DoHPS, Ngawang Choeda, said the bidding aspect for Manaschu has been ruled out. "A project of this size would not be for bidding," the engineer said, adding any other two hydropower projects of the remaining five, which are in the pre-feasibility study stage, would be floated for bidding.

The findings of the projects’ capacity in case of the Dagachu II and Shongkharchu, Ngawang Choeda said, were preliminary, based on reconnaissance studies. "Power generation capacity for the two Chamkharchu projects and Dangchu is estimated through the pre-feasibility studies," he said. "Preparation of procurement manuals, bidding documents for soliciting the investors are also ongoing for these projects."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, 18 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to head BRICS bank in China

Leaders of the BRICS group of emerging powers on 15 July created a Shanghai-based development bank and a reserve fund seen as counterweights to Western-led financial institutions. The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa agreed to launch the institutions to finance infrastructure projects and head off future economic crises.

"These initiatives show that, despite our diversity, our countries are committed to a solid and productive association," Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said at a summit in the northeastern seaside city of Fortaleza. Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the agreements as "a very powerful way to prevent new economic difficulties." The five emerging nations first unveiled their plans last year. The New Development Bank aims to rival the Washington-based World Bank while the reserve is seen as a "mini-IMF." BRICS leaders have pressed for reform of the International Monetary Fund to give developing countries more voting rights.

The development bank will have an initial capital of $50 billion that could rise to $100 billion, funded equally by each nation. To ease worries of any nation getting more power than the other, BRICS leaders agreed to put the bank’s headquarters in Shanghai.

The first president will be Indian while the first board chair will hail from Brazil. China is expected to make the biggest contribution, $41 billion, followed by $18 billion each from Brazil, India and Russia and $5 billion from South Africa.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 16 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’US can play key role to address challenges’

Ahead of visits by top American diplomats to bolster economic and strategic ties with the new Indian government, the US has said it can play a key role to help India address challenges in priority areas such as defence, infrastructure and foreign investment.

"In all the areas that the Modi government has identified as priorities, we think the US, including our businesses and universities, can play an important role in helping address the challenges India faces and creating opportunities that benefit both countries," said Nisha Biswal, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. Her comments came as Secretary of State John Kerry is set to visit New Delhi on July 31 for the next round of annual India-US Strategic Dialogue.

"We expect that the strategic dialogue will kick off a series of Cabinet and sub-Cabinet-level visits throughout the late summer and fall, culminating in the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Washington at the invitation of the President," Biswal said. Modi by inviting leaders from the SAARC countries for his swearing-in ceremony signalled that India will play a greater role in its immediate neighbourhood and across the Indo-Pacific region, she said.

Biswal added that a strong India will play a critical role in the coming decades in shaping the Asian landscape, and the US partnership with New Delhi will play an increasingly important role in that context. Shel also underlined India’s potential in enhancing economic ties and peace in the neighbourhood.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu Business Line 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Low coal-stock in power plants

As many as 45 power plants in the country have a coal stock of less than seven days and the power supply position between April and June during peak demand fell short by 5,295 MW, the Lok Sabha was informed on 17 July.

The Government also said coal-based generation capacity has increased by 46 percent — from 77,649 MW as on March 31, 2009 to 113,280 MW as on March 31, 2014. But, the corresponding domestic coal supply increased from 342.6 million tonne during 2008-09 to 419.6 MT during 2013-14 — an increase of only 22.5 percent, Power Minister Piyush Goyal said.

Responding to supplementary questions, Goyal urged members to help the Centre mine coal in their respective states with support of locals so that power supply can be improved. He said the state governments should ensure that land issues are settled so that railway tracks are laid to transport coal to power stations.

The minister said "corrective" action is being taken by the government to improve coal supply, including efforts by Coal India Ltd to enhance production of domestic coal beyond current year’s targets. Power utilities have been advised to use imported coal wherever necessary.

Goyal said a committee has been set up for rationalization of coal links to work out "ideal" nearest coalfields and the government will rationalize the supply. He said the government wants to accelerate power generation during the 12th Plan with a proposed target of 88,537 MW from conventional sources sand 30,000 MW from renewable energy sources.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 17 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GMR arbitration amount paid from MACL revenues

Minister of Finance Abdulla Jihad has said that the arbitration fee of $4 million owed to GMR Infrastructure was not deducted from the State budget, and that it was paid using the revenues of Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL).

A Singaporean tribunal declared on 18 June in relation to the arbitration case filed by GMR, that the concession agreement between government of Maldives and GMR Male’ International Airport (GMIAL, a subsidiary of GMR Infrastructure) was valid and binding and "was not void for any mistake of law or discharged by frustration".

The Maldivian government was consequently directed to pay $4 million to the company as compensation for legal costs within 42 days.

Finance Minister Jihad said that the $4 million owed to GMR was paid "a few days ago". He did not specify the date on which the payment was made.

He said that it was earlier mentioned to the media by error that the payment was made from the State budget, and clarified that it was in fact MACL’s revenues that was used to pay this amount to GMR.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 6.5-m financial management grant

World Bank Board has approved a grant of $ 6.5 million to support the strengthening of the Public Financial Management (PFM) System in Maldives.

World Bank said in a press release that the project will help strengthen the government institutions to make informed decisions on fiscal adjustments in an efficient manner which will positively impact the economy of the country.

"A key challenge for the country will be to ensure that the government’s social and economic goals are fully consistent with the urgent need for fiscal consolidation to restore fiscal and debt sustainability" said Francoise Clottes, Country Director, Sri Lanka and Maldives. "We are happy to assist the government in this endeavor with both financial and technical support" added Clottes.

The objective of the project is to enhance budget credibility, transparency, and financial reporting of central government finances.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President cancels I-Day event

The annual event hosted by the President and First Lady to mark the Maldives Independence Day will not be held this year, President’s Office has announced.

President’s Office said in a statement on Monday that President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom cancelled the event as a measure to reduce government spending. However, the President is scheduled to address the nation on 26 July.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 16 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed backs spend-cuts for ex-Presidents

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has expressed his support for the bill detailing ways to discontinue providing security and allowances for former presidents of the Maldives. Villufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed, from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), had submitted the bill to the parliament on Wednesday despite the bill being rejected thrice by the former parliament. MP Riyaz re-submitted the bill to the current parliament without making any amendments.

Nasheed, who serves as the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) interim president, said on twitter that he did not think that it was fitting to give former presidents large incentives. The law on allowances and security of former presidents had to be made because former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom had direly wanted it, Nasheed said.

The bill submitted by MP Riyaz states that if a former president was found guilty of a crime, taken part in a crime, having encouraged for a crime or any other illegal endeavour, he will not be granted protection or security. It also stipulates that any act that risks the independence and freedom of the nation, risks land loss or poses an economic threat will all require the government to discontinue providing the allowances and security to a former president.

According to the bill a court ruling against a former president would also suspend his allowance and security.

The law on allowances and security of former presidents states that a president who rules for one term - five years - will be paid MVR 50,000 per month. More than one term of governance rewards the president with MVR 76,000 monthly.

In addition, former presidents need be given MVR 50,000 per month for their household expenditure whilst another MVR 175,000 will be given for staff and office expenditure if they continue to work for the benefit of the nation or the welfare of the public. The former president and his spouse must be given medical insurance as well security, all covered by the State.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online 17 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jabir pardoned, released from prison

Former Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir has been pardoned by President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, and released from prison.

The pardon was reportedly granted by the President under the Clemency Act. This pardon comes following Jabir’s completion of half of his sentence.

Jabir was sentenced to one year in prison on 20 February 2014 for refusing an order by the police to provide a urine sample, after he was suspected of being intoxicated on 16 November 2012 in Hondaidhoo, an island in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline 16 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cross-party rally against Israel

Thousands of Maldivians marched in Malé on Tuesday night against the continuing Israeli offensive in Gaza. The march set off from the Social Centre and ended with a prayer for the Palestinian people in front of the stadium. Event organizer Hamna Waheed said approximately 13,000 people participated in the rally.

"It was more successful than we expected. We are planning further activities such a fair for children and for disabled children to express solidarity. We will also be sending the prayer and materials to all the islands in the Maldives," she said.

"We are also going to hold discussions with NGOs, Palestine Brotherhood and Islamic Foundation to see what the Maldivian government can do to help." The rally received cross-party support and was attended by several women and children.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party also held a separate rally on Saturday night in solidarity with Gaza and condemning government inaction on the issue.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has asked the Maldives Police Service to investigate participants for gathering against the law in front of Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s residence. The 2012 Freedom of Assembly Act prohibits protests against individuals at their private residences, the ministry said. The MDP condemned Naseer’s "unconstitutional order" and said it is an attempt to undermine the right to peaceful assembly and expression.

Meanwhile, Shaheem in a tweet on July 13 said he has forgiven those who gathered outside his house and verbally abused him and made his children afraid.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has called for an immediate cease-fire. "Israel must stop the invasion of Gaza, it should stop the killing, the airstrikes, and declare a cease-fire, and start dialogue with Palestine," she said on Saturday.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News 16 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Refugees reject repatriation rumours

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and refugee groups have rejected reports that the Thai government plans to deport more than 100,000 refugees encamped along the border back to Myanmar.

In a statement released on 17 July, the Ministry said that beyond discussing the issue in "general terms," there were no plans to repatriate the refugees, who mostly fled from Kayah and Kayin states. The ministry further promised that any future program would be voluntary and in line with UN principals.

Several refugee groups working on the border echoed the Ministry’s comments. "The (Thai) government has reassured us on several occasions that there is no rush to close the camps," said Vivian Tan, a Bangkok-based spokesperson for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. "As far as (UNHCR is) concerned, conditions in south-eastern Myanmar are not yet fully conducive to organised returns."

She said her agency "is not aware of any changes in this government policy, or of a government timeframe to repatriate refugees. We have certainly not agreed on any timeframe."

The rumors were ignited when General Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the Thai junta, mentioned during his weekly address to the nation that the issue of refugees had been discussed during his meeting with Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who visited Thailand earlier in the month.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt defends 10-year term for journalists

Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut has defended a controversial ten year sentence given to four journalists and an executive of the Unity Journal last week.

The Pakokku District Court sentenced the five to ten years hard labour on 10 July under a colonial-era secrecy law for publishing a story revealing a secret weapons factory in Pauk Township, Magway Region, last January.

Ye Htut justified the sentence in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) as a matter of national security rather than a matter of press freedom, despite the widespread outcry from media professionals and rights groups.

"Any nation, any government, must control secret issues for their national security. Information that harms national security is not even tolerated in the United States. We don’t think this case is about press freedom," Ye Htut told RFA.

He added that if only reporters followed media ethics, they would avoid such problems echoing the original prosecution claim that they had sneaked into the factory ignoring signs that said the area was off limits. The defence council denied that there were any such warnings.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Eleven Myanmar, 13 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nation-wide ceasefire hangs in balance

Aung Min, the President’s Office Minister and lead peace negotiator, addressed the Upper House on 18 July to reconfirm the government’s commitment to achieving a nationwide ceasefire agreement, and he voiced his confidence that an accord could be reached soon.

"The peace process will not go backward, although there is some fighting," he told journalists after the parliamentary session, referring to a growing number of clashes between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups in Kachin, Shan and Karen states.

Last weekend, President Thein Sein paid a visit to government advisors at the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) in Rangoon to provide support and instructions on achieving a nationwide ceasefire.

However, some three months after the government, army and the ethnic rebel groups began a new approach to the nationwide ceasefire talks by agreeing to jointly draft a single ceasefire text it is far from clear whether this approach is succeeding.

Some government sources involved in the peace process are even warning that if negotiations fail to progress in coming weeks, a nationwide ceasefire before the 2015 elections could become impossible and rebels might have to deal with a new, tougher commander-in-chief.

On 18 July, Aung Min expressed the government’s oft-repeated, optimistic assumption that a nationwide ceasefire accord with an alliance of 16 ethnic rebels groups is only weeks or months away. "We will meet with the ethnics leaders in Yangon after the ethnic armed groups’ conference in Laiza next week and the signing of the nationwide ceasefire accord will come in September," he told reporters.

Since mid-2013, Aung Min has repeatedly said a nationwide ceasefire would soon be signed but the agreement has proven elusive. Formal nationwide ceasefire talks on drafting a single ceasefire text have stalled since June.

On 24-26 July, the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), an alliance of 16 ethnic groups, will meet in Kachin rebel-held town of Laiza to discuss whether they will accept the current draft of a single ceasefire text and the Burma Army demands for the inclusion of a six-point statement.

The government and rebels have not formally met since June and it appears the sides have reached an impasse in further developing the ceasefire text.

Among rebel leaders opinions are divided over the current draft and the negotiations and concerned about the army’s demands. Worries also abound over the ongoing fighting and the lack of a bilateral ceasefire between the government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Irrawaddy, 18 July 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Study centre in Beijing

In a bid to promote Nepal´s culture, education, politics and economics among the Chinese people, the first Nepal Study Centre has been established in China on 16 July.

At a function held at Hebei University of Economics and Business (HUEB) in the Chinese Capital, the NSC was formally inaugurated by Nepal´s ambassador to China, Dr Mahesh Kumar Maskey and HUEB President Prof Ji Lainggang.

While addressing the function, Nepal´s ambassador Maskey said the NSC was a continuation of the fine tradition of friendship and cooperation between China and Nepal. "I am sure, the establishment of this centre will prove a giant step in the long journey aimed at nurturing the understanding between China and Nepal," the ambassador further said.

A few institutions are currently active in Nepal aiming to promote Sino-Nepal ties, such as the Confucius Institute and the China Study Centre.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mixed bag for Oli? Nepal

Counting of votes to elect central committee members of the CPN-UML concluded on 16 July with the KP Sharma Oli and Madhav Kumar Nepal factions evenly splitting the seats in the party’s apex body.

Bharat Mohan Adhikari, who was the eldest member in the erstwhile central committee, will administer the oath of office to newly-elected party Chairman Oli, who will then swear in all the elected central committee members, after the election commission announces the results.

Out of the total 35 seats contested under the "open category", the Nepal faction got 18 seats. This was the hottest constituency, with most of the central committee members elected by the previous general convention and other popular leaders in fray.

The Oli faction, however, outnumbers the Nepal faction in "Janajati category", winning nine of the 12 seats. The Oli faction bagged all five seats allocated for the Dalits and three for the backward region. But the Nepal faction has won two seats kept aside for trade unions.

Under the Madhesi quota, seven people were elected from the Oli panel and two from the Nepal panel, said Ramnath Dhakal, newly-elected CC member. Madhav Nepal, who lost the election for party chair, however, got elected to the central committee with the highest number of 1,111 votes.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 16 July 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Budget comes under criticism

Parliament members debated the budget for fiscal year 2014-15 tabled by Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat on 13 July. Taking part in the discussion at the Legislature Parliament, Unified CPN-Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai charged that the Congress-led government had brought a pro-rich budget instead of a pro-poor one. Bhattarai blamed said the budget has ignored the people’s broader welfare agendas and the remaining tasks of the peace process.

Stating that the budget has created ground for promoting brokers, he said it would help to push the country 20 years back. Although, the government seems to be staring a few good works, in totality, the budget is not progressive, he said. Bhattarai charged that the budget did not mention anything about federalism although the country has already entered federalism.

Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel, however, defended the budget and said the budget had introduced novel ideas in a balanced manner. The focus on agriculture, hydro power and infrastructure are encouraging aspects of the budget, he said. CPN-UML leader and former Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari said, the budget had missed the issue of increasing domestic investment. Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal Chairman Kamal Thapa said the government had discouraged people through the budget.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 15 July 2014

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

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