MonitorsPublished on Oct 06, 2008
After lying low for decades, the Sri Lankan Tamil issue made an entry into the native Indian Tamil psyche in a big way. The twin reasons responsible for such awareness among the Tamil population are--- first, the escalation of fighting in Sri Lanka where government forces seem to be getting an upper hand and second,
South Asia South Asia Weekly 40

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Sri Lankan Tamil issue revisited

After lying low for decades, the Sri Lankan Tamil issue made an entry into the native Indian Tamil psyche in a big way. The twin reasons responsible for such awareness among the Tamil population are--- first, the escalation of fighting in Sri Lanka where government forces seem to be getting an upper hand and second, the fast approaching general elections in India. While it is quite natural for the native Tamils to have sympathy for its ethnic brothers suffering in the neighbouring country, the issue is primarily gaining ground because of the political backing it is getting from almost all the political parties functioning in the southern state. On October 2, the day-long fast was observed by the Communist Party in association with the AIADMK of Jayalalitha. Not the one who left behind in adopting populist measures, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Karunanidhi who just two years back pledged to follow the Central Government policy on Sri Lanka, has given a call to convene an All Party Conference on the same issue to which state president of Indian National Congress also landed its support. Feeling the pressure from the domestic parties, the central government also called upon the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner to express its concerns about the safety and security of the Tamils in Sri Lanka to which the Rajapaksa dispensation responded favourably though after expressing some initial reservation on the move.   

< class="maroontitle">Nepal seeking support from US
In an effort to broaden its foreign relations, the Maoists-led government is Nepal is trying hard to reach out to foreign countries and international institutions. Following Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's visit to China, India and the US, the Finance Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai visited Washington DC on October 7. He led a three-member delegation including Finance Secretary Rameshwore Khanal and Chief of Foreign Aid Coordination Division of the Finance Ministry Krishna Gyawali to attend the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
During his visit, Dr Bhattarai met with high-ranking US government officials and urged them to extend all possible assistance to the new government for rebuilding a new Nepal and support the ongoing peace process. He also urged the international community to support Nepal in its efforts to bring economic transformation and change in the changed context. He further briefed the WB officials on the government's policies and plans aimed to bring economic changes. He also offered to provide an appropriate environment for investments in the country for the investors. On the other hand, despite being critical of the Maoists government, the US offered to extend all possible support to the new government.

< class="maroontitle">Visit of Myanmar Junta leader Maung Aye

The Myanmar-Bangladesh relations got a major boost following the three-day visit of General Maung Aye, Vice Chairman of Myanmar’s ruling military junta, starting from October 7 2008. General Aye led a 55-member delegation comprising of 7 ministers and a high profile business delegation.  During the visit General Aye met Bangladesh’s President Prof. Iajuddin Ahmed, Chief Advisor of the caretaker government Dr. Fakruddin Ahmed and Bangladesh Army Chief General Moeen Ahmed. Significance of the visit lies on Myanmar’s agreeing to supply natural gas to Bangladesh for the production of fertilizers which will be utilized by both the countries. The gas will be supplied through a pipeline funded by Bangladesh which will establish a fertilizer factory in Chittagong area close to Myanmar border with an annual production capacity of 600,000 tons of urea using the Myanmar gas. Myanmar will buy back the urea from Bangladesh.   Again, Myanmar also assured that it will not object to Bangladesh’s bidding process for hydrocarbon exploration in the Bay of Bengal. In an effort to expand the bilateral trade and economic cooperation, Bangladesh will procure 100,000 tons of rice from Myanmar on a regular basis. Bangladesh has also proposed early construction of a 23-km road linkage inside Myanmar that would connect Bangladesh with China via Myanmar. But Myanmar refrained from any commitment and simply said they would think about the proposal since it required funding. The construction cost of the proposed road is US$ 20.3 million.

< class="maroontitle">Second run-off between Gayoom and Anni

On October 8, the Maldives voted for its first-ever multi-party Presidential elections. As expected, the current incumbent and the longest serving leader of Asia Maumoon Abdul Gayoom secured the highest (40.63%) of the total votes polled. His arch rival Maldivian Democratic Party’s Mohamed Nasheed Anni secured the second highest (25.09%) of the votes polled. As no candidate secured a absolute majority i.e. 50% of the votes polled, the Election Commission has announced the second round between the two candidates securing the highest number of votes. The Opposition candidate Anni, who earlier was kept as a political prisoner, stands the chance of winning the elections as the third largest scorer Dr Hassan Saeed with 16.78% of votes has decided to support Anni unconditionally. So does Ibrahim Ismail Ibra of the Social Democratic Party who got 0.78% of votes. All eyes are now set on the Republican Party’s Gasim Ibrahim who before standing as one of the candidate against Gayoom, served not only as his Finance Minister but also as one of four Vice Presidents of the ruling Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party. He got 15.32% of votes and can easily tilt the balance in favour of whoever candidate he wishes to win. The stand of the conservative Adhaalath and the Islamic Democratic Party is still not clear.

Under the presence of 20 international and 1400 domestic monitors, nearly 85% of the Maldivians voted for a change (nearly 60% of the votes polled have gone to the candidates other then Gayoom) in an elections which were largely free and fair with no reported incident of violence and booth capturing. The second round of voting will take place on 28th October when the final fate of the two long-standing rivals will be decided. 
< class="maroontitle">ISI chief briefs lawmakers on terror

DG ISI Lt. Gen. Shujaa Pasha gave a detailed briefing on the current state of internal security, especially the ongoing military operations in FATA and Swat to members of Parliament on October 8. It was the third in-camera joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament in Pakistan's history. The briefing was also attended by Gen. Ashraf Parvez Kayani,  Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif, PMLQ leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as well as Chief Ministers and Governors of all the provinces. Chaired by Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza, the session was ostensibly held to take into confidence the public representatives on the measures, both military and otherwise, to counter the growing threat posed by radical fundamentalists. The briefing seems to be part of a wider campaign of Zardari to rein in the army and bring it under civilian oversight.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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