MonitorsPublished on Aug 25, 2008
Leading a 11-member delegation, Nepal's newly elected Prime Minister Prachanda, visited China on August 23, to attend the closing ceremony of Beijing Olympics Games. Prachanda met his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao and discussed bilateral issues.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 34

< class="maroontitle">Prachanda in China

Leading a 11-member delegation, Nepal's newly elected Prime Minister Prachanda, visited China on August 23, to attend the closing ceremony of Beijing Olympics Games. Prachanda met his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao and discussed bilateral issues. The Chinese leaders reiterated their commitment to Nepal's political stability and economic development. They stressed on strengthening the bilateral relationship and supported Nepal’s peace process. Prachanda welcomed the Chinese gesture and assistance, expressed his determination to take the bilateral relationship to a higher plane. Significantly, he articulated his government’s view that Nepal would maintain a policy of equidistance with its two big neighbours, India and China.

The visit has evoked positive vibes in Beijing. Prachanda’s decision to visit China first is being viewed as an indication of the shape of relationship Nepal under the Maoist government is likely to pursue with China, and more significantly, with India, its traditional neighbour and support-base. Undoubtedly, Prachanda's China trip has ignored Nepal's age old ties with India, indicating the possibility of the new Nepalese government reworking its policy vis-à-vis India.

< class="maroontitle">Joint border patrol

A significant effort at strengthening bilateral relations was initiated by both India and Bangladesh by deciding to patrol the borders jointly. Ice is melting on the border issues between India and Bangladesh. The decision was arrived at the recently held talks between the heads of India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) in Dhaka. It was decided to patrol the most vulnerable border stretches with both the sides first exchanging lists of infiltration-prone areas on the border by the end of September. India and Bangladesh share a 4000-km long border which is mostly porous. Such a long and unmanned border has encouraged illegal migration and smuggling and often skirmishes between BSF and BDR have been witnessed in the area. These sporadic exchanges of fire have only added to the general distrust among the people of both India and Bangladesh. The joint patrolling is bound to facilitate a better understanding and atmosphere for the relationship to grow in the months ahead.

The decision told a monthly informal meeting instead of the standard flag meeting which followed a border incident and the agreement to fight the menace of cattle smuggling would go a long way in bringing about a better understanding between the two countries. The meeting also saw BDR giving BSF a list of 1464 criminals reported to be hiding in India; BSF handed over  a list of 263 anti-India criminals hiding in Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">LTTE attacked Trincomalee

Barely a year after the East was regained by the Sri Lankan armed forces, LTTE has managed to re-establish its presence in the  north-eastern town of Trincomalee. This became evident this week when two LTTE aircraft attacked the high security zone housing the Eastern Naval headquarters and Trincomalee dockyard. The attack was partially successful as not much damage was done to the Eastern Naval headquarters but they did succeed in inflicting human casualties taking four lives and injuring dozen others. Immediately after the attack, Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) launched retaliatory strikes on LTTE’s Iranamadu air strip and its assets. Though the group has suffered serious depletion in the recent past, LTTE’s capability to launch air attacks on a heavily protected asset has come as a big surprise. The attack is bound to bolster the sagging morale of its cadre and supporters. In fact, its arch rival turned political group TMVP has of late been warning the Sri Lankan authorities of LTTE’s heightened intelligence activities in the East. LTTE cadres continued to maintain their presence in isolated pockets in remote places which the Army had not focused on.   

< class="maroontitle">Zardari as President
The unilateral decision by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to nominate Asif Ali Zardari for the Presidential election scheduled for September 6 took the country, as well as the world, by surprise. The decision followed in quick succession to coalition partner, Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s move to withdraw support from the government, reducing its comfortable 235 member majority to a vulnerable 143 (excluding the Independents). Since Zardari stands a better chance to win the presidential elections, the political scene in Pakistan has taken a different turn, not necessarily good for the country struggles with democracy. What is adding to the instability is the growing clout of terrorist and extremist groups like Tehrik-e-Taliban led by Baitullah Mehsud. Recent months have seen renewed violence in the Frontier regions of Bajaur, Swat and other areas, causing more than 500,000 tribals to migrate to other areas.    

< class="maroontitle">No women judge

There are no women judge appointed to the newly-commissioned Judicial Services Commission, an independent body appointed to deal with the matters of appointment, transfer and dismissal of the Maldivian Judges. The lone woman contender Aishath Velezinee faced a defeat at the hands of her hawkish rival Sheikh Ibrahim Ahmed who was believed to be affiliated to the ruling Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP). Soon after his election, Sheikh expressed his displeasure with the provisions which allowed women judges in the Maldives and removed gender bar on the women becoming the country’s president. In the Maldives, women judges were allowed only last year but their number remain woefully low.    
< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

  • Anjali Sharma                  – Sri Lanka, Maldives
  • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
  • Paul Soren                       – Nepal, Bhutan
  • Kaustav Chakrabarti     – Pakistan
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