MonitorsPublished on Nov 18, 2011
The 17th SAARC Summit was held at Addu Atoll, Maldives on the 10th and 11th of November 2011. The venue, in the words of the Bhutanese Prime Minister, reflected the vastness of South Asia.
SAARC Summit: Finally, some positive movements
< class="heading1">Analysis

The 17th SAARC Summit was held at Addu Atoll, Maldives on the 10th and 11th of November 2011. The venue, in the words of the Bhutanese Prime Minister, reflected the vastness of South Asia. The outgoing Chair, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, and the incoming Chair, the India Ocean archipelago of Maldives, represented the geographic extremes of the SAARC member states.

This year’s summit, unlike the past, was not overshadowed by the tensions between India and Pakistan. Instead, it showed signs of capitalising on the improving ties between these two big member states. The summit was preceded by a positive development of Pakistan granting India the Most Favoured Nation status, under the guidelines of the WTO. India had granted the same status to Islamabad 15 years ago. The MFN status, despite its political overtones in the South Asian context, also paves the way for the implementation of the SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement). SAFTA, the holy grail of SAARC, if implemented in both letter and spirit, would result in greater linkages and interdependency among the member nations.

The summit also witnessed some positive movement in the fields of on inter-connectivity and commerce. Noteworthy among them were the Railways Agreement, with the India, Nepal and Bangladesh railway networks acting as a trial to set the ball rolling; yet to be finalised Indian Ocean Cargo and Passenger Ferry Service starting with the establishment of a ferry network between Kochi of India, Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal atoll of Maldives and Colombo, and Motor Vehicles Agreement. SAARC nations also committed to harmonise their standards and customs procedures which would better integrate their economies with one another.

It was argued that Brettenwood institutions based, GDP-linked model of economics had proven inadequate while asserting the need for an alternative and more comprehensive gauge.

South Asia is gaining both prominence and influence, bringing it to the centre stage of global politics. But these nations need to work together since their success will depend on the degree of mutual cooperation. They also emphasised that economic stagnation in one part of South Asia would dampen the prosperity of others just as instability in one member state causes insecurity for all. Maldives President Nasheed reiterated this, saying "we can only make progress if we integrate our economies, ensure our financial system is stable, and foster a political climate that creates confidence".

The Indian Prime Minister highlighted the point that India had reduced the Sensitive List for the Least Developed Countries under the South Asia Free Trade Area Agreement, from 480 to 25 tariff-lines, with zero basic customs duty. The Prime Minister mentioned that India was aware of the geographic and economic realities of the region and would rise to the demands made upon it to further the prospects of SAARC. At the same time, he also highlighted India’s commitment to improve economic ties within SAARC by reducing restrictions that hampered trade and investments. The Indian Premier also mentioned that the global economic downturn could end up squeezing investment and export destinations, and concerted action is needed to overcome these challenges.

To this end, the Prime Minister said that the region should develop favourable conditions for trade and investment. The normalisation of trade relations between the SAARC nations would itself create opportunities for economic growth. He also sounded a note of caution that the wealth generated by South Asia should plough back into the region. Given that India is undoubtedly the prime mover in the regional grouping, Indian initiatives would play the key role in SAARC realising its full potential.

The Summit declaration termed as Addu Declaration touched upon 20 points. Apart from the ones that have been mentioned, the other notable ones were agreements concerning Charter of Democracy, rapid response to natural disasters, reaffirmation of the regional block’s commitment to implementing SAFTA and allowing greater flow of capital and investment. It also included an inter-governmental frame work agreement for energy cooperation and power exchange and market for electricity, besides reasserting their commitment to renewable energy. It was also decided to set up a seed bank. The Declaration also finalised SAARC Regional Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children; and combating piracy in the region. The Declaration also underlined the need to reduce the wealth disparities among people in the region.

The Summit, which was themed as "Building Bridges" -- both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue -- did not move mountains, but did managed to break the ice. It also lived up to its set theme as the initiatives, in reality, would reflect upon better connectivity among member states.

After 25 years of its inception, SAARC has finally started to take concrete steps towards becoming a regional entity to benefit all its members. SAARC would indeed demand greater Indian commitments and in turn spiral jet India as a regional player.

(The author is an Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Glaciers shrinking fast

The national glaciers in Bhutan have shrunk by 189 sqkm over the last three decades. It is a fall by 7.3 percent, compared to 860 sqkm in 1980, which, when recorded in 2010, dropped to 671 sqkm. The matter of glaciers shrinking fast was discussed during a presentation on global earth in eastern Himalayas and was attended by Lyonchhoen and agriculture minister.

A recent report study of glacier changes in Bhutan conducted by international centre for integrated mountain development (ICIMOD) showed that the melting of glaciers led to a growing number of smaller glaciers by 2.9 percent. Samjawal Bajracharya ICIMOD’s remote sensing specialist said that it is very likely that by 2100, the area covered by glaciers in the country could be only 436sqkm. In the past 100 years according to an intergovernmental panel of climate change, the global temperature has increased by 0.75 degree Celsius in 100 years.

The report also stated that of the total 4.2Msqkm of glacier ning across the entire Hindu Kush Himalaya, Bhutan contributed about 1.1 percent of the glacier reserves.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, November 18, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lyonchhen calls for political will to build stronger South Asia

Addressing an opening of a SAARC summit in Maldives on 10th of November, Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley underlined the failure of the South Asian countries to reconcile with geographical and historical realities. He added further that the SAARC countries have allowed themselves to be guided by politics and views that dwell in the past while being fearful of the future. Lack of political will, Lyonchhen said, is stalling South Asia’s progress. With this he cited Bhutan’s example and said that in its early journey towards development and modernization Bhutan chose to appreciate and value its geo-political realities with a positive stance. He also added that this optimism has led to a perception of the limitless opportunities that had been obscured by the veil of doubts and suspicion.

The 17th SAARC summit in the island of Addu Atoll is witnessed the signature of four accords in addition to the SAARC Democracy Charter.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, November 11, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to enter ICBM club in three months

The countdown has begun. Within three months, India will gatecrash the super-exclusive ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) club, largely the preserve of countries like the US, Russia and China that brandish long-range strategic missiles with strike ranges well beyond 5,500 km.

However, it will become a full-fledged member of the club only when its most ambitious nuclear-capable Agni-V ballistic missile, which will be able to target even northern China if required, becomes fully operational in 2014.

Gung-ho a day after the successful test of the new-generation 3,500-km Agni-IV missile, senior defence scientists on Wednesday declared that Agni-V, with a strike range of over 5,000-km, would be test-fired within the December-February time-frame.

"The three-stage Agni-V is undergoing integration at the’s on schedule," DRDO chief V K Saraswat said, adding that both Agni-IV and V were comparable to the best missiles in their class, including Chinese ones, as far as the technology was concerned. Agni programme director Avinash Chander said his team was "confident" of offering the 17.5-metre-tall Agni-V for induction to the armed forces by 2014. The much-lighter two-stage Agni-IV will be operational by 2013 after two to four more "repeatable" tests.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, November 17, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Factory output slows to a two-year low

India’s factory output growth decelerated sharply in September, the slowest pace in two years, as high interest rates and unabating economic troubles in Europe weighed on industrial activity, raising the odds that the central bank may put its monetary policy on hold after a significant tightening since early last year.

Output of factories and mines rose 1.9% from a year earlier in September, significantly slower than August’s revised 3.5% increase, hurt by a contraction in mining output as well as weaker growth in manufacturing output.

The reading missed by a wide margin the market expectations of a 3.7% increase, based on the median estimate in a poll of 15 economists.

The rupee weakened against the U.S. dollar. The dollar was at 50.21 rupees compared with 50.16 rupees before.

A long series of increases in the Reserve Bank of India’s lending rate has led to a spike in borrowing costs, crimping demand and prompting companies to scale back production plans while the weak global economy further dims export prospects for Indian businesses.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, November 12, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Electronics import bill could surpass oil: Government Advisor

From chip plants to research parks, India must invest in an electronics manufacturing base to satisfy the swelling demand for smartphones, laptops and other gear or risk an import bill larger than for oil, a top adviser to the prime minister said.

Information technology and services may have powered India to be one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies, but manufacturing accounts for just 16 percent of output, roughly half of the share in China and far behind India’s targeted 25 percent over the next decade.

"We have lost all of the electronics manufacturing base, whatever little we had," said Sam Pitroda in an interview on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum event in Mumbai.

"Electronic hardware (imports) could be $400 billion if we’re not careful, in the next 10-15 years." he said. "It could be more than oil."
< class="text11verdana">Source: November 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Joint Army exercise with China in 2012

India and China resuming their bilateral military exchanges four months ago, the two nations are planning to revive their joint military exercise in 2012.

The planning for the exercise will be done at the next round of annual defence consultative talks that the two sides will hold in mid-December when they will also chalk out their bilateral exchanges and interactions, a top Indian Army official told here on Sunday.

The dates and the scope of the joint exercise will be chalked out during the talks, which are essentially to finalise their year-long bilateral programmes, he said.

If this exercise comes through, sometime late next year, it will be the first such in four years. It will also be the third such war game since the first bilateral exercise in Kunming in China in December 2007.

The second ’Hand-in-Hand’ exercise, as war gaming is called by the two sides, was held at Belgaum in Karnataka in December 2008.

Since then, the joint exercise could not take place, first due to celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in October 2009 and second due to the suspension of bilateral exchanges by India after Lt Gen BS Jaswal, its then Northern Army Commander of troops in Jammu and Kashmir, was denied visa by China in mid-2010.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, November 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">In high grade Titanium league: Scientific Advisor

India has joined a select group of nations in developing high purity aeronautical grade of titanium for space and defence applications.

This was disclosed here to reporters by Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister V.K. Saraswat, after inaugurating the 65th annual technical meeting of the Indian Institute of Metals (IIM) at Shamirpet near here on Sunday. He said the technology was developed by the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) and transferred to Kerala Metals and Minerals Ltd which was setting up a 500-tonne year capacity plant. The product produced by KMML would in turn be converted into a finished product by MIDHANI (Mishra Dhatu Nigam) for use in space and defence applications.

DMRL director G. Malkondiah said the technology was developed after two-decade-long research.

M. Narayana Rao, Chairman and Managing Director, MIDHANI said the newly developed titanium was an import substitution product and only four other countries ? United States, Russia, Japan and Kyrgyzstan had the knowhow to produce aeronautical grade titanium.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, November 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Australia at last may sell uranium to India

Australia has given indications of reversing the ban on selling uranium to India in return for greater strategic proximity between two countries. Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard after pushing for India’s case in a newspaper article and at a press conference on Tuesday, will have to persuade the Labour Party to endorse her stand at its conference next month.

The policy shift?outlined by Gillard in a newspaper editorial?comes despite India’s continued refusal to sign an international treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

India’s rapid industrialization is straining its ability to generate power from traditional energy sources like coal. Concerns over climate change have also prompted it to look at alternative fuels such as nuclear power, and court overseas uranium exporters that can plug a domestic supply gap. At the same time, Australia is looking for new markets for uranium exports after the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and prompted several other reactors offline for safety checks. Japan’s uranium consumption next year will likely decline by 50%, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, an Australian government agency, said in September.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, November 15, 2011, The Hindu, November 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India wants best of relations with China: Prime Minister

Weeks after war of words between India and China over the exploitation of South China Sea resources, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao met and agreed on the need for working together as there was "enough space" and areas for them to work together for mutual benefit.

Singh told Wen that India was committed to developing the "best of relations" with China while the latter underlined that the two countries should work "hand-in-hand" to ensure that the 21st century belongs to Asia.

"We are neighbours and also large growing economies of Asia. We should cooperate bilaterally and globally," Singh told Wen as they met here on the sidelines of the ASEAN and East Asia Summit.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, November 18, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">4 Agreements, 20-Article Declaration Adopted At SAARC Summit

The leaders of the member nations of SAARC signed four agreements and a 20 point declaration of cooperation at the conclusion of the 17th summit held in the Maldives.

The Addu Declaration, named after the venue of the summit, essentially focused on a renewal of the organisation’s dedication toward the alleviation of poverty and bettering the quality of life of the people.

The eight member strong organisation also signed four agreements; namely, SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, SAARC Agreement on Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment, SAARC Agreement on Implementation of Regional Standards and SAARC Seed Bank.

Hailing the summit a success, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed said that under his chairmanship he hopes the organisation can implement decisions made at the summit at least once a month, beginning with starting the ferry service between India’s Kochi, Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal atoll and Colombo next month.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, November 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PPM now 16000 members strong

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has taken its membership numbers up to 16,000 after it submitted 3,000 new applications to the Election Commission.

PPM had been registered as a political party by the Commission on October 27, with 3000 members. On November 1, the party registered 9400 new members.

The PPM says it hopes to attain a membership of 25000 by the November 30 deadline set by the Election Commission to apply for state funding.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, November 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">War and Peace: KNU’s Engagements

Representative from the Karen National Union (KNU) will hold peace talks with the Government of Myanmar, according to KNU sources.

The representatives are from both the political wing of the group and its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). As a preliminary step toward the negotiating table, Burma’s President Thein Sein sent a delegation led by Minister for Railways Aung Min in October to meet Karen rebel representatives at the Thai-Burmese border. However, the KNU delegation rejected Aung Min as a state-level official, saying they would only negotiate with someone from the central government in Naypyidaw.

On 3 November 2011, a breakaway Karen rebel group, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Brigade 5, which is led by Brig-Gen Saw Lah Pwe, reached ceasefire agreement with Burmese officials in Karen State. Brigade 5 is widely assumed to be allied with the KNLA.

At the same time the Myanmar army has reinforced its troop strength in areas where Karen rebels have been blocking construction of a road linking the Thai town of Kanchanaburi with Tavoy, the site of a multi-billion dollar deep-sea port project being built by Thailand’s biggest construction company, Italian-Thai Development Coy. At the same time the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has destroyed a section of the commercially-strategic railway from Mandalay?Burma’s second largest city?to Myitkyina in Kachin State, in an effort to deter the military from resupplying its troops in Kachin State.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 10 and 11 November 2011

Note: The KIA has been engaged in almost continuous fighting with government troops since June following the government’s failure to convince the KIA to join its Border Guard Force after two years of attempting to do so.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Clinton on Myanmar

On the side lines of the Pacific Rim summit the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Myanmar was making real progress toward reforms but much more needs to be done, including the release of political prisoners. At the same time Clinton quoting senior U.S. diplomats said that real changes were taking place at the ground level.

Clinton said the US would continue to call for release of all political prisoners, an end to conflict in minority areas and greater transparency regarding Burma’s relations with North Korea.

The US special envoy to Burma, Derek Mitchell, told reporters in Rangoon on 18 October that the government has taken positive steps and that the US is thinking of how to actively support those reforms.

To this end Clinton also said that the Myanmar will find a partner in the United States if the government was to pursue a policy of genuine and lasting reform that benefits the people.

The Secretary of State also highlighted the need to protect civilians who are victims of the protracted conflict between the government and the ethnic militia, and also added that those responsible for human right abuses to be made accountable
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 11 and 12 November 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">General Visits Vietnam, Snubs China

Gen Min Aung Hlaing as commander-in-chief of defence made his first official foreign visit to Vietnam. His visit is perceived by observers as signalling a departure tradition that his predecessors have set. Previous military chiefs have made China their destination for their first official foreign visit.

This visit comes in by background of China having difficulties with its ties with Vietnam because of the on-going maritime dispute and Myanmar cancelling the Myitsone Dam project in September, which was to be completed by a Chinese firm.

Burma’s former Commander-in-Chief Tin Oo, a leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) suggests that this visit could be a means for Myanmar to gain some political respect from China by showing military cooperation with Vietnam.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 15 November 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Myanmar to Chain ASEAN in 2014

On 17 November it was announced that Myanmar would be the chair of ASEAN in 2014. This comes despite warnings from the US that the move was premature, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) handed Myanmar the diplomatic prize despite the latter’s poor record on the issue of human rights.

"All leaders are in agreement that significant changes, significant developments, have taken place in Myanmar and those changes have made it more conducive for Myanmar to carry out this responsibility," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. The Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that Southeast Asian leaders were satisfied with the momentum in Myanmar. The Prime Minister said that the reforms may not reach the level that makes everybody happy but as far as ASEAN is concerned they are positive and encouraging signs.

Along with the ASEAN chairmanship, the decision means Myanmar will host the East Asia Summit in 2014, which brings ASEAN members together with the United States, China and Russia, among others.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 17 November 2011.

Note: In 2006, Myanmar was forced to renounce the ASEAN rotating presidency in the face of criticism over its human rights record and the ruling junta’s failure to shift to democracy.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dhungel amnesty puts PM in controversy

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s decision not to recall the recommendation made to the President to pardon Maoist lawmaker Balkrishna Dhungel, a murder convict, has dragged him into controversy thereby stalling the seven-point agreement on the peace process of November 1.

The Supreme Court has already ordered the President not to act on the government recommendation to pardon Dhungel until next week when the court is scheduled to decide whether to stay the controversial recommendation.

Dhungel has been convicted by the apex court on the murder of Ujjan Shrestha in 1998. Shretha’s sister moved the court last week with a writ petition seeking the apex court’s intervention to block the government recommendation to President Dr Ram Baran Yadav to grant amnesty to Dhungel who is a Maoist member of the Constituent Assembly at present. The government recommended the pardon despite opposition from national and international human rights groups.

Mindful of the gravity of the case that has rocked national politics, the bench drew the attention of the chief justice to assign a special bench to hear the petition.

Meanwhile, Nepali Congress sister organisations -- Nepal Women’s Association and Nepal Students’ Union -- jointly organised a protest in Kathmandu against the government recommendation. Similarly, CPN-UML’s All Nepal National Free Students´ Union and Nepali Congress´ Nepal Students’ Union jointly held a torch rally in Kathmandu and burnt an effigy of the prime minister on Sunday evening protesting the government’s move.

After returning from SAARC summit from Maldives, Bhattarai defended Dhungel by claiming that it was a political crime and not every case against his party workers could be reopened.
< class="text11verdana">Source:,, November 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM forms largest cabinet ever

Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai’s cabinet size reached 49, the largest ever in Nepal’s history, this week. Bhattarai, who earned popularity by introducing a number of austerity measures like his decision to ride Nepal-made Mustang Max, fly economy class and reduce the size of government delegations during foreign visits among other things, jumped his austerity pledge as he appointed three new state ministers on Sunday to his 46-member cabinet.

Earlier, Sher Bahadur Deuba’s coalition cabinet in 1997 had 48 members. The cabinet size is expected to reach 50 as a defense minister has yet to be appointed. With the new expansion, the government will now have to allocate around 4.7 million rupees in salaries, allowances, hospitality allowances and other expenses for the jumbo cabinet.

The Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN-UML have criticised Bhattarai for expanding the cabinet at a time when the major parties have agreed to form a national consensus government.

Prime minister’s principal advisor Devendra Paudel has told media that the cabinet had to be expanded as the coalition partners claimed their "rightful share". He argued that the expansion will not affect the formation of a national consensus government.
< class="text11verdana">Source:,,, November 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Morcha wants to begin Madhesis’ entry in Army

The Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, a key coalition partner, has decided to immediately start recruitment of 10,000 Madhesi youths in Nepal Army.

Chairman of Sadhbhawana Party and Health and Population Minister Rajendra Mahato said the meeting also decided to make arrangements in the law, if need be, to provide citizenship to children of those who have obtained naturalised citizenship.

Morcha has also decided to send the inclusive bill immediately to the parliament with necessary amendments. The four-point deal struck between the UCPN (Maoist) and the Madhesi-based parties, which led to the formation of the current coalition government, talks about the inclusive bill and the bulk recruitment of Madhesi youths in the Army.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, November 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian PM hails parties’ 7-point deal

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the recent seven-point agreement signed among the major political forces in Nepal is a ’very helpful development.’

Referring to the meeting with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in the Maldives as a ’very good one’, Singh said, "We reviewed the progress made with regard to peacekeeping and peace initiative, and on that the Prime Minister (Bhattarai) was true to his word."

The Indian PM also informed that both countries can now move ahead to sign the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement as it has now been cleared by Nepal’s Cabinet. According to reports in the Indian media, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is expected to go to Kathmandu this weak for signing the deal but the officials close to him said the date has not been fixed yet.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Kathmandu Post, November 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade with India to be normalised soon

The Commerce Ministers of Pakistan and India Zafar Mahmood and Rahul Khullar held a two day discussion in New Delhi to address the trade issues between the two countries and to double the annual trade in the next three years. They agreed to normalise trade ties from February. This comes after Pakistan’s Cabinet had decided to grant most-favoured nation status to India. The Cabinet supposedly had not just given its full approval but also directed the Commerce Ministry to make all efforts to achieve normalization of trade. The removal of discriminatory higher pricing and duty tariffs as part of the granting of the MFN status was welcomed by India. An agreement on the same is likely to be finalised during the Home Secretary level talks that is to be held soon. India-Pakistan trade stands at $2.65 billion which would touch $11 billion if not interfered with as in the present scenario.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had discussed with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani regarding signing of a Preferential Trade Agreement with Pakistan which would eliminate duties for all goods by 2016.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, November 14, 15, 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ambassador Haqqani offers to resign

Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani has offered to resign over allegations of his involvement in the controversial secret memo which contained a message from President Zardari to Admiral Mullen requesting assistance to stave off a military take over.

There are reports that speculate the involvement of Haqqani in the conception and communication of the memo in the Pakistani media. Captain John Kirby, who was the spokesman until the Admiral was in office, had acknowledged the existence of the memo but said that Admiral Mullen did not take it seriously as he did not find it credible enough.
< class="text11verdana">Source: November 17, 2011; Dawn, November 18, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lt Gen Khalid Rabbani appointed Commander of 11 Corps

Lieutenant General Khalid Rabbani was appointed as the new Commander of 11 Corps and would take over from Lt General Asif Yasin Malik in December. General Rabbani presently serves as the commandant of the Command and Staff College, Quetta. He would be the 20th corps commander to lead the 11 Corps. He had commanded Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Operation Path to Salvation) against the Hakeemullah Mehsud led banned militant organization TTP in 2009. Lt Gen Rabbani’s vast experience of operations in tribal areas would be useful at a time when the United States has pressed Pakistan to initiate stronger action against the Haqqani group in North Waziristan.

The 11 Corps were at the forefront during the Afghan war to oust the Soviets in 1979. Both the incoming and outgoing corps commanders belong to Punjab Regiment.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, November 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chief Justice Cautions Army

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said that any action of the military without the permission of the federal government would be illegal and unconstitutional. He was speaking to the participants of the National Defence University in Islamabad on November 12, 2011.

The Chief Justice said that any unconstitutional step by the military would come into the ambit of sedition and Article 6 would be used over violations of Constitution and law. He stressed that coordination and harmony among the state’s different institutions would help Pakistan to progress politically as well as economically. He added that all state institutions should work within their perimeters of influence and that the constitution guaranteed the judiciary’s independence. He believed that the Supreme Court had tried its best to protect the basic rights of the people and curtail the misuse of power.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, November 13, 2011; Dawn, November 12, 2011; Daily Times, November 13, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Former Vice-Air Chief calls for cuts in Army

Pakistan should adopt a strategy to reduce its land forces and increase its air power capabilities, a view held by former Vice-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Shahid Lateef. He was speaking at a seminar on "Pakistan’s problems and their solutions" held at the TECH Club in Lahore on November 13, 2011.

Air Marshal Shahid Lateef, who also supervised the JF-17 Thunder project, said that vital information about Pakistan’s nuclear assets had been provided to the US under the cover of security trainings. In his view incidences like the Abbottabad operation, the attack on the Army General Head Quarters and Mehran base were planned in order to take over Pakistan’s nuclear assets. He added that Pakistan should strengthen its relations with China instead of depending on the US which had never been a reliable friend. In his view, Pakistan had spent its foreign exchange on the purchase of expensive ’nuts and bolts’ of military equipment bought on terms and conditions of the US and other western powers.

The former Air Marshal believed that the present government had failed to deliver in the last four years and urged people to safeguard Pakistan rather than wait for miracles. He also mentioned that the present electoral structure was flawed and elections held under the present system would result in a dysfunctional corrupt government coming to power once again. He added that Pakistan should portray an image of a peaceful country instead of being seen as a ’militant state’.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, November 14, 2011; Daily Times, November 14, 2011.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Former Army Chief Found Guilty

Sarath Fonseka, the former Army Commander, was found guilty on charges of inciting violence, and sentenced to three years imprisonment with a five thousand rupees fine, by a 2-1 verdict by a three member team of the Colombo High Court in the controversial ’White Flag’ case.

Having led the Sri Lankan Army to victory against the LTTE in 2009, Fonseka was accused of inciting violence, after he alleged in an interview given to an English weekly newspaper that he was ordered by Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary to shoot surrendering LTTE cadres.

Fonseka is currently serving a 30-month prison term imposed by a court martial last year which found him guilty of four charges relating to irregularities in military procurements during his tenure as Army Chief.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, November 18, 2011; Colombo Page, November 18, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mandatory Registration for News Websites

The Media and Information Ministry has announced that it is mandatory for all news and information websites to be registered.

The head of the ministry, Keheliya Rambukwella, has said that any enterprise failing to register or one that propagates false information and indecent content shall be liable to punitive action.

Responding to accusations of unlawful censorship and authoritarianism, the minister cited the examples of United States and China and the need to protect the interests of the general public as reasons for such action.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Colombo Page, November 17, 2011; Daily News, November 17, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rs 1.3 billion Allocated for IDP Rehabilitation

The Sri Lanka government has allocated Rs. 1,336 billion as part of its resettlement and rehabilitation process for IDPs (internally displaced person).

Over 290,000 people were displaced from their villages following the end of the war in May 2009. Of these, around 97 percent have already been resettled by the Ministry of Resettlement till October 2011. The government aims to complete the resettlement process by the year end.

As part of the rehabilitation process, every family will be provided with a permanent house with toilet facilities among others.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, November 17, 2011; Colombo Page, November 17, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SAARC seed Bank to be set up

Sri Lanka will set up the SAARC seed Bank to promote agricultural production in the South Asian region, as decided during the recently concluded SAARC Summit held in the Maldives.

The decision to set up the Bank in Sri Lanka was presented at a cabinet meeting by Minister of Agriculture, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, and approved by other cabinet ministers.

According to the agreement signed by the SAARC member nations, the Bank is meant to act as a regional seed security for the eight countries. Each country is meant to contribute one percent of their total seed requirement to the Bank as a reserve, as a safeguard in the event of any calamity in any of the eight countries.

The seed bank is also meant to encourage an exchange of resources, practices, technologies and techniques to improve the overall quality of agricultural produce in the region.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, November 16, 2011; Colombo Page, November 17, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Possible strategic partnerships with UK and the EU

Preliminary work on a long term strategic agreement between the United Kingdom and Afghanistan has already begun said, Afghan presidential spokesperson, Mr.Aimal Faizi.

Further discussion on the proposed strategic agreement will take place during Mr. Hamid Karzai’s visit to UK, after the Bonn conference, where he would meet with British PM David Cameroon. While speaking at the inaugural session of the Loya Jirga in Kabul, Mr. Hamid Karzai emphasized that, such a long term strategic agreement would be in the interests of Afghanistan.

The EU and its 27 member nations provide Afghanistan with 1 billion Euros in aid every year. The partnership agreement would be one of the first concrete agreements that would put into perspective Afghanistan and EU relations post 2014 withdrawal. It would include counter terrorism, development and assistance for the fight against drugs. International assistance is essential to help the Afghan nation completely move from transition to transformation. The ministers vowed to continue EU assistance to Afghanistan in the fields of public finance, reform of the judiciary, enforcement of the parliamentary process and in the promotion of human rights.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, November 16, 2011; Outlook Afghanistan, November 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">60 public welfare projects implemented in Baghlan province

In an example of an ongoing reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, Baghlan province which is one of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan and is situated in the North of the country has witnessed the implementation of 60 public welfare projects since the beginning of the year. These projects include road pavement, construction of clinics, drilling of wells, construction of masonry walls, and construction of small water dams. In total these include some 60 small and medium projects that have been implemented by the Rural Rehabilitation and Development department of Afghanistan with the assistance of donor countries.

The budget for the Rural Rehabilitation and Development department is 300 to 350 million Afghan rupees. The implementation of these 60 projects has provided jobs for a large potion of the population, thus preventing them from joining the insurgents. Moreover the public welfare projects so far implemented have benefited close to 21000 families in the Baghlan province. Mr. Jarullah Mansoori, minister of the Rural Rehabilitation and Development during his visit to northern Baghlan has vowed to implement the second phase of rural development in the region within the next 6 to 7 years.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, November 16, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Natural resources to be introduced at a London exhibit

In a recent development, the Afghan Ministry of Mines has announced that five mines would become available to foreign investors for development; these would include two gold mines, two copper mines and a lithium mine. The mines would be put forward to investors in an exhibit that would be held in London on the 6th of December 2011, after which the bidding process for them would proceed.

The exhibit would include the Badakhshan gold mine, the Zarakshan gold mine in eastern Ghazni province, the Namaksar lithium mine in western Herat province, the Shaida copper mine in western Herat province and the Balkhab copper mine in Sarepul province.

The ministry of mines estimates gold deposits in the Zarakshan gold mine which is located in the eastern Ghazni province to be 7,500 kg’s while estimates on the copper deposits at the mine in, Shaidai western Herat province, is close to five million tones.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, November 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban spokesperson arrested in Paktika province

A man arrested in the Sar Hawza district of Paktika province after a military raid is claimed by the Afghan government to be the spokesperson of the insurgents, Zabiullah Mujahid. Zabiullah Mujahid is the arch enemy of the NATO and government propaganda campaign and was arrest within a few hours, of the Taliban releasing the leaked security plan for the Loya Jirga. Afghan journalists however claim that the name Zabiullah Mujahid is a common name being used by various individuals that are operating in the same capacity around the country.

Zabiullah Mujahid has been in touch with leading news papers, and has used cell phones to communicate with the press, often changing numbers every few days. The insurgents also use twitter, facebook, and have their own web site. Claims made by the Taliban propaganda institutions some times many hours before the official government versions, seems accurate and real time, but there are also a large no of claims made by the insurgents which turn out to be complete fabrication. For the last five years Zabiullah Mujahid has been the spokesperson of the Taliban. An individual who has been in regular touch with the daily telegraph claims that he is Zabiullah Mujahid and he is safe. This provides a start contradiction to the official version.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Surgar, November 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rally Calls for Building peaceful South Asia:

A rally was organized in Dhaka on 18th November which vowed to establish a peaceful South Asia through mutual cooperation and increasing communication. South Asia Social Forum (SASF) also added that the government to government contacts have proved to be fruitless thus cooperation among the countries of the region needs to be observed through people to people communication.

The rally was organised jointly by Dhaka University and SASF with the theme "Another South Asia is Possible". Bangladesh organized this five day long program where representatives from almost all SAARC countries along with delegates from Europe, Africa and Latin America were present. The programmes will focus issues on globalisation, democracy, gender, human rights, fundamentalism, peace and conflicts, food security, social safety, mass media, cultural aggression and current movement.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 19th November 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM takes stock of market situation

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina taking the capital market situation into consideration decided to hold a meeting with the concerned stake holders aiming to stabilise the volatile market. The decision to hold the meeting came after the meeting with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman M Khairul Hossain following continuous fall in the market and unabated demonstrations by investors. The meeting was timed at 7 pm and was to be attended by Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman M Khairul Hossain and other high officials of the SEC, banks and insurance companies.

Invertors demonstrated throughout the trading period in front of the Bangladesh Bank building at Motijheel as the Dhaka Stock Exchange continued witnessing a significant downtrend since Sunday. The demonstrators blocked the busy city street from Shapla Chattar to Ittefaq intersection from noon when the main bourse started to fall drastically.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, 16th November 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt has to act first, says Khaleda

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia said the government would have to take initiative to resolve the current political standoff over the caretaker government issue. She said this when asked to comment on the suggestion put forth by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that political parties should end their differences through dialogue.

During his recent official visit to Dhaka, the UN secretary general had meetings on November 14 with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, the Leader of the Opposition.

At his pre-departure press conference, Ban Ki-Moon said the UN was ready to provide technical and logistical support to conduct credible and transparent general elections in Bangladesh.

The BNP-led four-party alliance, headed by Khaleda Zia, has been carrying out movement to restore the provision of caretaker government that was scrapped through the 15th amendment on June 30 this year.

About joining the upcoming Comilla City Corporation polls, Khaleda Zia said the decision would come out at a meeting of the party forum.

In the Narayanganj City Corporation elections last month, BNP pulled out from the mayoral race at the last moment in protest against non-deployment of army in the election.

Asked when her party’s acting secretary general will be made a full-fledged secretary general, the BNP chairperson said it would happen at an appropriate time.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Haripal Brar;
Bangladesh & Bhutan: Shraddha Bhattarai;
India: Satish Misra;
Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Aarya Venugopal & Astik Sinha;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: Preeti John;

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