MonitorsPublished on Dec 01, 2008
Even as the war between LTTE and the Sri Lankan army is taking a heavy humanitarian toll, European Union decided to retain its GSP+ trade preferences for Sri Lanka till the time it completes its humanitarian probe in the troubled region.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 48

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">EU’s breather for Sri Lanka’s trade

Even as the war between LTTE and the Sri Lankan army is taking a heavy humanitarian toll, European Union decided to retain its GSP+ trade preferences for Sri Lanka till the time it completes its humanitarian probe in the troubled region. The trade scheme has boosted the island nation textiles exports and supported more then 2 million livelihoods. Its discontinuance would only aggravate the miseries of the common people at a time when the cost of living is crossing beyond 23% points. The humanitarian probe will be conducted by the European Union officials and EU is not clear how much time the probe will take. “It might take six month to a year”, a spokesperson said on a condition of anonymity, “Till such time, the Generalized System of Preferences will remain operational in the troubled region.” The Generalized System of Trade Preferences has been due to expire at the end of the year and according to European Union, the rules governing its extension required a certification that Sri Lanka meets certain human rights standards.  

< class="maroontitle">Nepal-China ink defence pact
With the CPN-Maoist in government, the Nepal-China bilateral relationship has seen a boost. Last week, the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was on a three-day official visit to Kathmandu to take stock of the peace process and furtherer the bilateral ties at the political level. Apparently, the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit was the first at the senior most level from China after the Maoists assumed power. Later, a 10 member Chinese senior military delegation led by Lt General Ma Xiaotian including four Major generals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also visited Kathmandu. The visit is intended to likely enhance the military ties between the two countries.
Significantly, Nepal and China also inked a military agreement. According to the agreement, China would provide Rs 207 million worth non-lethal military support. On behalf of Nepal, the Defense Secretary Baman Prasad Neupane and Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian from the Chinese side signed the agreement. China also reiterated to provide support to the ongoing peace process in Nepal. Meanwhile, despite rhetorically expressing its commitment of not interfering in Nepal’s internal affair, China has proposed to assist Nepal in resolving the critical issue of army integration. The officials from both the countries have stated that signing of military pact is not directed against any particular country. However, the upsurge in political and military cooperation between the two countries is likely to have future implications on the India-Nepal bilateral ties.

< class="maroontitle">Senator John McClain’s Visit

Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in the recently held Presidential election, visited Bangladesh on December 2nd-3rd. McClain visited the country as a part of US government’s policy to spread democratic values. During the brief visit Senator met Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, Chief Adviser of the military backed caretaker government, advisors of the cabinet and military leaders. The visit coincided with a time when the country is preparing for the Parliamentary elections and this increased the importance of the visit. McClain said that US Congress wants to see Bangladesh’s return to democratically elected government through free, fair and credible elections and urged parties to accept the election results and work together for the interest of Bangladesh. McCain also discussed the need for coordinated action to fight terrorism in South Asia.

< class="maroontitle">Home Minister resigns

Gasim Ibrahim, the wealthiest man and the home minister in the present Mohamed Nasheed’s dispensation forwarded his resignation just three weeks after the new government came to power. Gasim accused the government of misappropriating government funds in activities other then that of prison reforms. His Republican or Jamhooree Party has the second highest i.e. the four cabinet posts in the current regime.  Government has however, maintained that Gasim’s resignation is not going to make their coalition fragile as they have full support of other political parties. Just after the resignation, a small but important partner of the coalition Maldivian National Congress has reiterated their unconditional backing for the government. Another interesting development took place when the other three ministers belonging to the Jamhooree Party refused to resign from their posts following the resignation of their party leader. There is a buzzword around that some of the members of the Republican Party might leave their party to join the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party.     

< class="maroontitle">US mediates to ease tensions 
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a veritable team of Who’s Who in the outgoing Bush administration to New Delhi and Islamabad to diffuse growing tensions between the two rivals in the wake of mounting evidence that suggest a role of  elements within the Pakistani State in the Mumbai terror attacks. Rice did some tough talking in Islamabad and asked Pakistan to provide ’complete, urgent and transparent cooperation’ in the ongoing investigation. But at the same time, Ms Rice also urged India not to act in haste by carrying out military strikes in Pakistan. Chairman of the US Joint Chief’s of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen was much more forthcoming in Islamabad, warned the Zardari-Gillani government of the possible fallout of not responding to the international demand for action against terrorist groups. 
< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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