MonitorsPublished on Jan 17, 2014
Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid's recent reminder that the Sri Lankan Government of the day alone had invited India to facilitate the peace process in the eighties should clarify a few points for Sri Lankans who harbour other views in the matter.
Sri Lanka: A role (alone) for India, if at all?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s recent reminder that the Sri Lankan Government of the day alone had invited India to facilitate the peace process in the eighties should clarify a few points for Sri Lankans who harbour other views in the matter. This is not to leave out the earlier Indian ’mis-adventure’ in arming and training Sri Lankan Tamil youth, with the fond and misplaced hope that the then-emerging and mostly untested western classroom models of creating a ’level-playing ground’ for conflict-resolution alone would help under the circumstances.

In turn, the latter has to be contextualised to the anti-Tamil pogrom, in which the Sri Lankan Government played a significant part, and the political opposition too looked the other way. The Indian experimentation of the time may have flowed from the pages of emerging yet mostly unproven western classroom, template models of conflict-resolution, which had placed a high premium on creating an all-round ’level-playing field’ for conflict-resolution, for any peace negotiations to succeed.

The irony is that even after the failure of the model, India allowed testing it again and again, with worse results than earlier, in terms of human, political and military losses, until the roles got reversed for a new-generation’s leadership to take the decisive plunge. In the process, successive Governments of the day also allowed more soldiers and weapons sacrificed at the altar of such experimentation without any explanations or answers.

If the popular frustration and consequent political desperation fuelled the continuance of the failed experimentation without much alteration, the fact was also that tools and equipment available to the Sri Lankan Government and its diverse and divided political leaderships were inadequate for undertaking an evaluation of the kind. It was the case with India a decade and more earlier, to be able to predict the consequences of what was a genuine attempt at peace-making in Sri Lanka that was at the core of stability in the nation’s immediate neighbourhood.

Where criticism of external facilitation at peace-making was there, it was in political terms and was excessively politicised, too. The Sri Lankan Government would have to await help from the US Pacific Command around the time of the Norwegian facilitation, and other externally-sourced ’Net Assessments’ to conclude that it had a war that could be won, after all. President Mahinda Rajapaksa later became the benefactor, and consequent beneficiary of a tough political decision, from which his successive predecessors excepting JRJ had shied away from.

Mutual suspicion still

Today, the continuing mutual suspicion between the Government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the latter the polls-proven representative of the larger Tamil community in the country, post-war, has delayed, and denied, meaningful and conclusive bilateral talks for a ’home-grown solution’ to the ethnic issue. But that is the truth.

It is sad that the TNA trusts the international community more than the Government nearer home, as used to be the wont with generations of moderate Tamil leadership, pre-war. The Sri Lankan State and Government too cannot escape its share of the blame for creating such a psyche, for ’Tamil separatists’ to live on and live off.

Through acts of commissions and omissions, the Government allowed the TNA to seek comfort in external forces. Slowly but steadily, the TNA has given the impression that it relies more on the non-regional powers more than the Indian neighbour to fight the Tamil cause. The West’s efforts do not augur well for the prospects of a political solution, which still seems to be the TNA’s (sole?) priority.

Against this, the Indian vote against Sri Lanka on two successive US-sponsored resolutions at the UNHRC, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s staying away from Colombo CHOGM has denied India the traditional role and leverage on the other side. For India to play its due role in the immediate neighbourhood, which has been its ’traditional sphere of influence’ and concern at the same time, it has to walk half-way back, to re-assume the neutral position intended under the India-Sri Lanka Accord.

Widening the ethnic chasm

’Accountability issues’ of the kind that the West is now flagging and fanning in forums such as UNHRC can only help widen the ethnic chasm in Sri Lanka - and the TNA could be expected to be aware of that as well. Better or worse still, it would not require great efforts on the part of friends of Sri Lanka, starting with China and Russia, to take it all back to the UN parent, and have the western initiatives torpedoed at the Security Council.

The situation needs to be reversed if Sri Lanka has to remain stable, and the Tamils (in Sri Lanka) has to feel secure. The world can only punish the guilty, or those that it perceives as guilty and proves as one. It could not have prevented the guilt from happening under the circumstances it may have happened. Whatever the western initiative, the Tamils would still be where they had begun - battling for their lives and livelihoods, if not with their lives and livelihoods.

The problem with the post-war political negotiations is that both stake-holders want external guarantees of one kind or the other. The Tamils acknowledge their predicament. The Sri Lankan State cannot, and will not. Yet, to ensure that the TNA, or its successor(s) nearer home do not breach a political contract, the way the LTTE did continually before it, and allow pan-Tamil militancy to be revived all over again, Sri Lanka will need the world with its Diaspora Tamils spread all over, to stand by it. As the world had stood by it at the height of the conclusive ’Eelam War IV’.

Given the current and continuing priority of the West in la affaire Sri Lanka, the latter too is not in the prospect of happening in the foreseeable future. Instead, it needs the intercession of a ’powerful’ neighbour like India, with the political leverage and security concerns, for the world to listen, and the TNA to stand committed. The TNA too would require a similar guarantee, which in the case of the Government has to come from an external player that it could trust. India, if at all, fits the bill, despite Tamil separatists’ propaganda since the IPKF era.

This is not to say, India can facilitate daily negotiations as it had done in the past, or Norway did it, face-to-face, later. Japan’s off-again, on-again attempts at peace-making, if any, have remained just as much. The recent talk of South African assistance in peace-building will end up as Sri Lankans taking their problem to South Africa, but not returning home with a workable model.

Anyway, at the centre of all talks on this score are limited to the setting up of a ’truth and reconciliation commission’ on the South African model. Which is what the LLRC is supposed to have addressed. Which is also what the UNHRC, in turn, had acknowledged - but seems wanting another commission of another hue. No one, nearer home or otherwise, is talking about a South African model or help at finding a permanent political solution to the ’ethnic issue’.

Nor can India end up as being a signatory to any stake-holder in Sri Lanka. Which is where India’s naiveté at conflict-resolution exposed its limitation and inadequacies -- and still proved its sincerity of purpose and commitment to the cause. Apart from the text-book model India had adopted at the time to the ethnic issue, the Indian success-rate in similar attempts within the country may have confused its clarity of vision and thought in applying the same yardstick to external players, both State and non-State, without comprehensively understanding the problem and appreciating mind-sets. Such problems and consequent mind-sets had dated back not to decades but centuries.

Sovereign State, home-grown solution

It is Sri Lanka’s problem, which Sri Lankans - Sinhalas and Tamils, Muslims and the rest - alone understand, and will understand. The people and the problem have always been a step or two ahead of the comprehension of external players, however much they have tried. India as the elder brother can keep a watch. It cannot be perceived as a ’big brother’.

Minister Khurshid’s recent reference to Sri Lanka being a ’sovereign country’ and has to decide for itself, should be understood in this context. Learning from experience, India too should stay clear of any controversial role in Sri Lanka, and not stray onto negotiating for one or the other of the Sri Lankan stake-holders, or signing for one or other of those stake-holders.

India’s role, if at all any, could and would commence only if the Sri Lankans have a ’home-grown’ solution, signed sealed. Such a role, if at all again, too would (have to) be fiduciary in nature, not to be operationalised one way or the other. Definitely, it cannot and should not be an operational role, given the complexity of the factors and players, and the inter-dependability or otherwise of these players and their priorities at any given point.

The India-Sri Lanka Accord and 13-A links India still to the Sri Lankan situation. The Accord will remain even if 13-A were to be altered, one way or the other. India thus has greater legitimacy in continuing to help Sri Lankans of all ethnic hues to try and resolve their internal problems through ’home-grown solution(s)’. It cannot be the ’Indian model’ under the changed circumstances. It can be more - or, less - or, more of the less, or less of the more. It can still be the ’Indian experience’ of the time, when the Government resolved domestic conflicts with non-State actors, moderates and militants, through a carrot-and-stick policy.

In contrast, the rest of the world has been imposing relatively extraneous concerns, erroneously, on Sri Lanka. The latter only has consequences for ethnic peace, political stability and strategic security in and for Sri Lanka! They are however not accountable for any or all of these probabilities, over which Indian concerns alone are equally significant and serious, as well.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghanistan: Not the legacy Karzai wanted

Aryaman Bhatnagar

The year 2014 will see a new leader in Kabul for the first time since 2001. The incumbent President Hamid Karzai has won two elections and is constitutionally barred from contesting a third term. President Karzai, according to many sources, is worried about the type of legacy he will leave behind after his final presidential term is over.

It is no surprise that he seems to be working overtime to find a breakthrough in the peace talks with the Taliban and cement a future relationship with the US on his terms. He is hoping that positive developments on both counts can consolidate public opinion in his favour.

A stooge of the West

For much of the past decade that he has been in power, President Karzai has been seen as a stooge of the West. This perception, along with ineffective governance and a kleptocratic government, has done much to make him a highly polarising figure in the country.

Thomas Barfield in his book "Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History" argues that Afghanistan’s history suggests that rulers whose power rests on the protection of foreign troops were naturally distrusted by the populace and in order to be successful such rulers have to convince the Afghans that they will not be beholden to foreigners, even as they convince these very same foreigners to fund his state and military.

This is an apt description for President Karzai’s approach to the US. In the last two years, as the American withdrawal from the region was confirmed, he has stepped up the rhetoric against the US to demonstrate his own independence and assertiveness. The most recent instance of President Karzai’s defiance has been his decision to stall on the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), despite the unanimous approval given to it by the Loya Jirga.

The presence of foreign military on Afghan soil has generally been a controversial issue and President Karzai does not want to give the impression that he is over enthusiastic about allowing the US to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan for another decade. Thus, by appearing to be reluctant to sign off on the BSA, he is hoping that he can shed the tag of being an American puppet.

However, for now it seems that his standoff with the US is doing more damage than good for his reputation. The BSA is not only important for ensuring that the US maintains a residual force in the country, but is also a guarantee for sustained international aid to Afghanistan. Although it is unlikely that the BSA will not be signed, either by President Karzai or his successor, the delay for now has increased concerns about future uncertainties.

Moreover, his approach to the US in recent years has strained the bilateral relations, which are likely to have some bearing on the next government as well. President Karzai, instead of being depicted as a national independent hero as he is striving for is being viewed as someone willing to prioritise his own personal ambitions and interests over that of national interests.

No peace deal

Despite how President Karzai is perceived about his stance on the BSA, it is doubtful that a decade-old stigma will be removed so easily. The Taliban, in particular, are unlikely to change their view about him. The group has repeatedly denounced his government as an American stooge and used this to justify their decision to not hold direct talks with the Afghan government. The possibility of them reaching an agreement with his government within the next few months is extremely slim.

Apart from their perception of President Karzai and the present Afghan political system in general, the Taliban have shown no sign of agreeing to a peace deal. They have not accepted any of the preconditions laid out by the Afghan government or the international community. The Taliban continue to perceive themselves as the legitimate government of Afghanistan that was illegally overthrown by foreign invaders.

Statements by Mullah Omar continue to propose the establishment of an ’independent Islamic system’ as the best solution for Afghanistan’s current predicament. Finally, despite the losses and casualties incurred by the Taliban, the military balance has not shifted drastically against the insurgents and it is unlikely that the NATO-ANSF alliance will be able to break through the military stalemate by December 2014, let alone April 2014.

This naturally will further reduce any incentive for the Taliban to come to the negotiating table as they would prefer to simply bide their time till the drawdown takes place. President Karzai may still retain hope of leaving behind a lasting positive legacy. However, as the 5 April 2014 elections draw closer the time may be running out for him to do so.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban confident of victory

The Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told BBC this past week that the group was confident of achieving victory over the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Taliban is in control of large areas of the country and the operations of the NATO forces are limited within the vicinity of their bases only as they are scared to leave their bases.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 17 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sharp fall in economic growth rate

The World Bank this week predicted that Afghanistan’s economy in 2013 grew at a rate of 3.1 percent. This is a sharp drop from the growth rate of 14.4 percent for the year 2012.

The World Bank claimed that the withdrawal of international forces would affect Afghanistan, as previously donor-financed expenditure would need to be financed from budget expenditure. As a result in 2014 the growth rate would continue to be low at 3.5 percent. However, as the security situation stabilises and mining projects pick up the growth rate will gradually increase to around five percent.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 15 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">First female police chief

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior for the first time appointed a female officer as the district police chief in Kabul. Colonel Jamila Bayaz was appointed as police chief for the first district of Kabul city, which is considered to be among the vital districts and the main commercial site in Kabul.

Kabul security chief, Gen. Zahir also praised Col. Jamila Bayaz’s services while she was serving in the Criminal Investigation Department of Kabul security commandment.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 15 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">FIFA award for fairplay

Afghanistan’s Football Federation won the FIFA Fairplay Award at the FIFA Ballon D’Or 2013 Awards ceremony held in Zurich this week.

The award was received by Keramuddin Karim, Afghanistan’s Football Federation President who said that Afghanistan had never imagined that it would win the award.

"Thanks to football, we managed to bring unity and solidarity to our country. This award is for everyone who plays football and who loves football, it’s about bringing peace to a country that put up with so much conflict for many many years. We never imagined that we would win such a prize," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 14 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">49-member team for Hasina

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina along with her 49-member Cabinet was sworn in this week. This is the first time in the history of Bangladesh that a Prime Minister took oath for a second successive term. New faces dominate the 49-member strong cabinet. As many as 35 influential figures of the previous government could not make it to the new Cabinet.

Twenty-one of them were ministers and 14 junior ministers. Among the top former ministers who were dropped are- former foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni, former law minister Barrister Shafiq Ahmed, former food minister Dr Abdur Razzak, former civil aviation minister Faruk Khan, former industries minister Dilip Barua and state minister for home Shamsul Huq Tuku.

This cabinet also saw the return of many veteran Awami League leaders who were side-lined in the previous government. They include Awami League (AL) veterans like Amir Hossain Amu and Tofael Ahmed. This cabinet also has ministers from AL’s alliance partners, Workers’ Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal. Interestingly, members from the Jatiya Party, who participated in the election against AL, were also included.

President Abdul Hamid administered the oath to the Prime Minister and her Cabinet members at Bangabhaban in presence of Jatiya Party leader H M Ershad and foreign diplomats. AL rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) did not attend the oath taking ceremony.

Elections were held in 147 constituencies on 5 January, as the candidates for the remaining 153 constituencies were elected unopposed in the 10th Parliamentary election, which was boycotted by the BNP. Altogether 292 candidates were elected through the poll.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 13 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khaleda goes ’soft’, calls for talks

In a major policy shift, the leader of the 18-party alliance and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson, Khaleda Zia, this week urged the government for talks and declared a string of soft programmes, putting an end to the series of violent protests that have lasted for two months.

At her first press conference after the 5 January election, which her alliance boycotted demanding a non-party caretaker government (CG) to oversee the poll, termed the present government "illegal" and vowed to continue her protests to realise the demand. "I am again urging the government to hold a dialogue immediately for an inclusive general election under a non-partisan CG," Begum Zia said.

Explaining her plan about a fresh movement, Begum Zia claimed that her party will stage demonstrations and bring out black-flag processions across the country on 29 January. Earlier BNP had declared that it will hold protest movements to topple the Awami League government.

Reacting to Begum Zia’s remarks Awami League’s joint general secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif said that the BNP chairperson was spreading false information in a bid to mislead the nation. The Awami League leader said Khaleda was trying to restore her party’s image by spreading falsehood, as all her conspiracies against the Awami League-led government had failed.

Meanwhile, the government seems to soften its stance on BNP as it this week allowed BNP activists to enter their central office at Nayapaltan in Dhaka after 47 days. Analysts of Bangladesh politics suggests that this development followed Begum Zia’s request to sit for a dialogue and announced some soft programmes instead of hartal and blockade that crippled the normal life across the country for nearly two months.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 16-17 January 2014; The Daily Star, 13 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">International support for new govt

Despite reservations expressed about the political developments, especially by western countries, international support for Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina started pouring in. The major countries who were forth coming in expressing their support were China and India.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee telephoned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and congratulated her. Indian President hoped that the two countries’ identical fight against poverty and illiteracy would be expedited under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. Earlier, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Sheikh Hasina for becoming the Bangladesh Prime Minister. Southeast Asian nations Cambodia and Vietnam have also congratulated Hasina.

Chinese premier Li Ke Qiang congratulated Sheikh Hasina for being the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the third time. The Chinese premier, in his message on behalf of the Chinese government and people, extended warm congratulations and best wishes to Sheikh Hasina on the occasion of assuming the office. Li Ke Qiang said, "China and Bangladesh are close and friendly neighbours. In recent years, sound progress has been made in all-areas of cooperation between China and Bangladesh through joint efforts of both the sides."

The US has declared that it will continue working with the new government although it is disappointed over the 5 January polls. Besides, Russia, Myanmar, Nepal and Belarus have congratulated the new government of Sheikh Hasina on the assumption of the office.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 14 & 16 January 2014; The Daily Star, 14 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">European Parliament resolution

The European Parliament passed a resolution this week, calling on the government and the opposition to find a compromise to give the people of Bangladesh a chance to express their democratic choice in a representative way. ’Sincerely regretting’ the failure of the political parties to agree on an inclusive mechanism for the 5 January elections, the resolution also said that "all options should be considered, including an early election if all legitimate political parties are willing to stand and offer voters a choice".

The members of European Parliament said that the European Union should use every means available to assist a process seeking "a compromise which would give the Bangladeshi people a chance to express their democratic choice in a representative way", according to the European Parliament website.

The resolution said that in the interest of Bangladesh’s future, parties having a democratic reputation need to develop a culture of mutual respect and urged the BNP to unequivocally distance itself from Jamaat-e-Islami and Hafezat-e-Islam. It also stressed that parties which turn to terrorist acts should be banned.

For a long time EU has been urging political parties for a dialogue and expressed its displeasure over Awami League’s decision for hold election without participation of major political parties like Bangladesh Nationalist Party. To mark is opposition to it did not send observer in the 5th January election.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 17 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Foreign envoys call talks

Foreign diplomats stationed in Bangladesh have called for an immediate dialogue between the ruling Awami League and its rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to overcome the ’ongoing political impasse in the country’.

They made the call during a briefing organized by newly-inducted State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shariar Alam to foreign envoys. In response, the state minister informed that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s offer for a dialogue to the BNP on the modalities of the next general election. However, he did not give any details about the timeframe for the next election.

The foreign ministry organised the briefing for the heads of foreign missions to apprise them of the latest situation in the country, including the January 5 election, boycotted by many parties including the BNP. Diplomats from about 50 countries and organizations attended the first briefing since the appointment of the new state minister.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 17 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP wants good relation with India

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia this week said her party wants to maintain good relations with India based on mutual respect and benefits. She made this comment during a meeting with Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Pankaj Saran at Dhaka.

Briefing reporters BNP vice chairman Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, who was present at the meeting, informed that the Indian High Commissioner told BNP chairperson that it is the people of Bangladesh who will take decision to elect their own government.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, 17 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India seeks crackdown on KLO camps

With the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) showing signs of resurgence in north Bengal and parts of Assam, India has requested Bhutan to resume flushing out operations in forested areas along the border with India where the organization is suspected to have camps.

Cadres of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-Sonbijit) and United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) are also suspected to be holed up in these camps. In 2003, the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) had carried out a full-fledged attack on militant camps along the border, which led to peace in the area for several years.

"Things have taken a turn for the worse in recent times. The NDFB has split and the Sonbijit faction has declared that it will carry out armed strife against Indians. There is sufficient evidence that this outfit is providing necessary support to the KLO, which has regrouped in the recent past. This was evident from the recent blast in Jalpaiguri.

The ULFA also suffered heavily in the past several years but there is evidence that the outfit still has a stockpile of weapons and is training cadres of other groups and arming them. Though some leaders are known to have taken shelter in Myanmar, there is some activity in Bhutan as this is closer to their areas of operations in Assam and north Bengal," a source said.

India and Bhutan share a border of 699 kilometre. The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) guards the border on the Indian side while the RBA is deployed on the other side. Last Thursday, two NDFB - Sonbijit cadres were shot dead by Indian security forces in Kokrajhar close to the Assam-Bengal border.

"There are clear indications that Maoists in Bhutan have ties with militant outfits in the north-eastern part of India. Bhutan will be in trouble if outfits like the Ulfa and the NDFB - Sonbijit start training the Maoists there and arm them. India has also asked Bangladesh to crackdown on anti-Indian outfits operating from its soil. Myanmar has promised all assistance," the source added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 14 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Economic Minister to visit India

Bhutan’s Minister for Economic Affairs will lead an 11-member delegation to New Delhi to attend SAARC’s business leader’s conclave starting tomorrow.

Norbu Wangchuk, the Minister for Economic Affairs, will lead the delegation comprising senior Bhutanese officials and representatives from the private sector to attend the 5thSAARC Business Leaders Conclave in New Delhi scheduled for 16-17 January.

The conclave is being organised by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and India’s Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

The theme for this year’s conclave is ’South Asian Century: Progressing towards Regional Integration’.

The conclave will be attended by senior government officials, renowned entrepreneurs, media representatives, social activists, cultural ambassadors, analysts, academics and other professionals.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, 15 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">10,000 MW by 2020 ambition stymied

The two of country’s lofty ambitions on the hydropower front may not come through after all. The first was to generate 10,000 Mega Watt (MW) of energy by 2020 to realise which, it was planned all mega hydropower projects had to take off together.

Economic affairs ministry officials said the country would be unable to achieve the 10,000MW hydropower target by 2020, mainly because all 10 megapower projects, which were supposed to begin by 2013 are yet to take off.

Last year, hydropower officials said the entire hydropower projects including the four joint venture ones under the 10,000MW initiative were supposed to take off within 2013.

"With some of the ongoing projects being delayed and the new one’s not taking off as planned, achieving 10,000MW by 2020 will be impossible," a senior economic affairs ministry official, requesting anonymity, said.

The ministry had submitted a complete report of the status and progress of projects to the government. Hydropower department’s study in early 2012, considering the best case scenario, predicted the country could achieve 6,664MW of hydropower by 2020, more than 3,000MW short of the target.

The consideration was based on assumptions that the two biggest projects of Sankosh, 2,560 MW and Kuri-Gongri 2,640 MW would not be completed before 2020. Much time was wasted in deciding their size and capacity.

But going by the trend today, the actual realisation, in terms of meeting the 2020 target would be even lower than 6,664MW. Assuming the economy achieved 6,664MW by 2020 based on the 2012 study, the country, economic affairs ministry officials said would be able to generate a yearly gross revenue of Rs 62B by then.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuenselonline, 16 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Extraordinary sitting ends amid discord

The extraordinary parliament sitting held on Tuesday, scheduled for passing several revenue bills proposed by the government, has come to an end amid discord and ’points of order’.

Items scheduled for today’s sitting include debate on a bill proposed by the government to extend the imposition of Bed Tax until 31 December 2014, which according to Article 35 (a) of the Tourism Act introduced 14 years ago in 1999, ended on 31 December 2013.

Debate was also scheduled for today’s sitting on the bills submitted by the government proposing to increase GST from 8 to 12 percent, and an amendment to the Tourism Act to complete payment of the fee to extend resort lease period to 50 years, in three months.

The parliament sitting commenced at 9:00 a.m., but was halted at 9:30 a.m. when opposition members continued to disrupt order by bringing up points of order. The morning session of the day’s sitting was suspended by Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid after discussion with the Majority and Minority Leaders.

When the afternoon session and the debate on the bills proposed by the government began, MPs of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) raised further points of order and insisted that the sitting should not proceed.

They said that they do not support the revenue bills submitted by the government, which propose to increase taxes.

Pro-government members countered by saying that the pledges made by the government to the people can only be fulfilled by increasing government revenue. They said that the only way to provide financial support to fishermen, farmers, and the elderly is by passing the bills.

They further argued that unless the bills are passed within the next two months, the national debt will increase and the government will face difficulties in providing public services. Speaker Shahid concluded the sitting at 2:30 p.m. as scheduled, and did not announce a date for the next sitting.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 13 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Over 90 state and deputy ministers

The number of state ministers and deputy ministers in President Abdulla Yameen’s government has reached more than 90, official figures show.

Figures published on the president’s office website show that 92 state and deputy ministers have been appointed by the president. On average, almost all the ministries have four deputy ministers.

Health and transport ministries each have five state ministers, whilst Islamic ministry has the highest number of deputy ministers (six). Health and transport ministries each have a total of nine state and deputy ministers.

The high number of state and deputy ministers contradicts with the new government’s policy of limiting the number of state and deputy ministers to two in each ministry. The government had said that the policy would cap the number of political appointees and cut down on state expenditure.

State ministers receive MVR 46,000 per month as salary and allowance whilst deputy ministers are given MVR35,000 per month as their salary and allowance.

But President Yameen had asked ministries to reduce MVR5000 from the monthly salaries and allowances of state ministers and deputy ministers. The salary cut is expected to save the government more than MVR 300,000 every month.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, 14 January 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rohingya issue ’not for ASEAN agenda’

Myanmar has rejected the inclusion of talks on the country’s Rohingya minority at the first meeting of South-East Asian foreign ministers to be hosted by the once pariah state.

The country will hold its first meeting of Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in Bagan on Thursday, and its first ASEAN summit in Naypyitaw, the capital, in early May.

"The Bengali issue is our internal affair and we will not discuss it in the ASEAN meetings, even if member countries ask for it," said Ye Htut, a spokesman for Myanmar President Thein Sein. Myanmar government officials refer to the Rohingya Muslim minority group as "Bengalis".

On 16 January, a Buddhist mob rampaged through a town in an isolated corner of Myanmar, hacking Muslim women and children with knives, a villager and a rights group reported, saying there could be more than a dozen deaths. A government official said the situation was tense, but denied any deaths.

While excluding the Rohingya issue from the ASEAN agenda, Ye Htut said the government was willing to take advice on the conflict from the separate governments.

"They may have experience in solving such problems peacefully, so we will accept the advice that suits our country," Ye Htut said. The South China Sea dispute, involving conflicting territorial claims between China, Japan and various ASEAN countries, is one of the main threats to regional security and is often raised at ASEAN forums.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, 16 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Monks to push for inter-faith marriage ban

Thousands of Buddhist monks at a meeting in Mandalay have vowed to campaign for a law banning interfaith marriage until it is enacted by parliament.

The pledge was included in an 11-point statement agreed by an estimated 30,000 monks late on 15 January at a meeting held at Mandalay’s Maha Ahtulawaiyan monastery. The meeting also resulted in the creation of the Upper Myanmar Organization for the Protection of Nation and Religion (UMOPNR).

In their 11-point statement, the monks pledged to strive for the protection "of defenceless Myanmar men and women" until a draft law banning interfaith marriage was enacted and called for the enforcement of the 1982 Citizenship Law "in the interests of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and its citizens".

The statement said constitutional reform should focus on the long-term interests of Myanmar and its people.

It said the monks objected to the activities of "internal and external elements" who were providing encouragement to organizations and groups that are not included in the list of national races named in the 2008 Constitution.

The statement said there should be a review of members of parliament who are not on the list of national races and that voting rights should be withdrawn from those holding temporary national identification cards.

It expressed thanks to members of the government who had attended the meeting and expressed support for forming the UMOPNR.

The statement also called on the media "as the fourth pillar of the democratic state, to report accurately and fairly in line with their ethical responsibility not to harm the interests of the nation and religion" and urged all citizens to refrain from speech and actions that may hurt the feelings of those of different faiths.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 17 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt to cut military spending

The government plans to reduce military spending to 12.26% of the budget in the financial year beginning 1 April, down from 13.66% in the 2013-2014 financial year, parliament has been told.

Addressing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on 14 January, Defence Minister Lieutenant-General Wai Lwin, said the allocation for 2014-2015 was about 127 billion kyats less than what had been proposed in the budget.

Lt-Gen Wai Lwin said the total allocation for military spending would be 2,282 billion kyats, of which about 1,215 billion kyats would be spent on construction for defense purposes. Spending on economic development did not cover the Defence Ministry’s infrastructure needs, he said.

The defense budget for 2012-2013 totalled 1,877.7 billion kyats and for 2011-2012 was 1,101 billion kyats. Meanwhile, the Office of the President has allocated 7 billion kyats to the peace talks between the government and Myanmar’s armed ethnic groups. The allocation, the first to directly cover the cost of the peace talks, is for the fiscal year beginning on 1 April.

It was included in President U Thein Sein’s national plans allocation, which is part of the budget for 2014-2015, said U Kay Chun, a member of the Nay Pyi Taw Council, which is under the President’s Office.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Mizzima News, 15 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Madhes parties form task-force

Three Madhes-based parties -- Tarai Madesh Democratic Party (TMDP), Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Nepal (MPRF-N) and Sadbhavana Party -- formed a 15-member taskforce by including five members from each party on January 16 to finalize the unification process within a week.

A meeting of top leaders at MPRF-N Chairman Upendra Yadav´s residence at Hattiban asked the task-force to submit a report on the modality of leadership, party statute and structure, formation of central and other committees as well as the name, flag and election symbol of the unified party within a week. The taskforce is also assigned to prepare party´s manifesto that addresses issues to be raised by the unified party in the Constituent Assembly. The meeting decided to hold a joint meeting of newly elected lawmakers on January 21. If the unification process completes, the new party will be the fourth force in the CA with 27 seats -- three more seats than the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, which is currently the fourth largest party in the CA.

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

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NC? UML to collaborate

The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML on January 16 agreed to move ahead on the basis of consensus but they continue to differ on whether there should a new election for the president. These two parties held talks today on formation of the government and other contemporary political issues.

Among the leaders who attended the talks were NC President Sushil Koirala, Vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel, senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, party leaders Ram Sharan Mahat, Arjun Narsingh KC and UML Chair Jhala Nath Khanal, Vice-chair Bamdev Gautam senior leader K P Sharma Oli and General Secretary Ishwar Pokhrel. NC negotiator Mahat said though both parties had some difference on some matters, particularly on whether there should be fresh presidential election, both parties, however, agreed to collaborate on government formation and the framing of the new constitution.

Another NC negotiator Arjun Narsingh KC said they discussed all contemporary issues, including business in the Constituent Assembly, its modalities and modus operandi. He said the NC wanted to form the government with the help of the UML, but both parties would try to bring other parties into the coalition. UML negotiators could not be contacted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalyan Times, 16 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Talks to share border info with India

In a meeting held between Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and a Nepalese delegation headed by the country’s foreign and home affairs minister in Delhi on January 16, it was decided that the forces of the two countries would share live information on border crimes to help nab culprits and improve coordination on cross-border smuggling of fake currency, narcotics and human trafficking including passage of terrorists across the border.

Sources said the meeting was held between a five-member delegation from Nepal headed by the country’s minister of foreign and home affairs Madhav Prasad Ghimire and SSB DG Arun Chaudhary, at force headquarters in RK Puram, New Delhi. Officers of ministry of external affairs were also present during the meeting. Chaudhary, in his opening remarks outlined the issues concerning trans-border crimes including terrorism; drug trafficking and human trafficking and FICN racketeering on Indo-Nepal border.

Issues related to security of India and Nepal with special emphasis to trans-border crimes were discussed. Deliberations were also made on how to strengthen the age old cooperation between the two sides particularly in context of the border guarding forces. Ghimire stressed on greater cooperation in the operational level in the field between district magistrates of India and CDO of Nepal, SP of Police of India and Nepal and SSB and its counterparts APF Nepal for establishing live contact so that real time information can be shared on crimes to prevent it. DG, SSB and IPF level talks will soon be held in Kathmandu, said sources.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 16 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Higher commitments for foreign aid

The Nepali government has recorded overwhelming increment in commitments for financial assistance from different foreign donors, governments and development partners, an officials said on January 12. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Nepal has already signed agreements for foreign assistance worth $537 million so far during the current fiscal, Xinhua reported.

The Nepali financial year is July 16-July 15. The total foreign aid amount for which the agreements have been signed during the review period is three times more than the same period last fiscal. During the first six months of the last fiscal year, Nepal government had signed agreements for $157 million. "Of the total agreements signed so far in this fiscal year, $359 million is for grant while remaining $178 million is for loan -- both commercial and soft loan," said Madhu Marasaini, chief of International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division at Nepal’s Finance Ministry.

Despite the huge commitment from donor agencies and foreign governments, the Nepali government has been failing to get the assistance amount in real sense due to its failure to introduce and implement effective programmes on which the assistance are pleaded.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, 12 January 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban killings part of a pattern?

Two Afghan Taliban commanders were killed in Quetta according to militants and police. Officials in Afghanistan have described these as a series of assassinations within the Islamic insurgent group.

The motive for the killings and the numbers of those killed is unclear. These deaths could make peace between the Afghanistan government and the rebels more difficult to achieve. Afghan officials say that many of the victims had been engaged in unauthorised peace talks with the government.

The Taliban has denied any such spate of deaths. However, four members of the Afghan Taliban stated that the insurgency had killed some of its own commanders because the men were involved in unauthorised talks.

A senior Afghan official has blamed the killings on Pakistani officials. Pakistan has denied knowledge of who is behind the killings.

A Taliban commander in Quetta blamed Afghan intelligence stating that they were targeting senior members of the rebel group.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 10 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Award for teenage martyr?

Aitezaz Hassan, 17, a Pakistani schoolboy who died stopping a suicide bomber from attacking his school has been recommended for a national award, Sitara-e-Shujaat or Star of Bravery, according to the Pakistan Prime Minister’s office. Amjad Afridi, a senior adviser to the provincial government, also announced that Hassan’s school and a sports stadium will be named after him. He added that the provincial government would also donate five million rupees to the bereaved parents.

Hassan tried to tackle the bomber as he was attempting to enter a government school in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The bomber and Hassan both died but no one else was hurt.

A Sunni Muslim sectarian group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the attack. The school is in Hangu, a predominantly Shi’ite Muslim area.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 10 January 2014; 13 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Blast kills seven in Peshawar

At least seven people including an eight year old child were killed in an explosion that ripped through a packed Islamic preaching centre, Tableeghi Markaz, just before Maghrib prayers. 70 people were wounded in the blast.

Shafqat Malik, a senior police official and head of a local bomb disposal squad, said that a timed device had exploded at the centre.

The Pakistani Taliban distanced itself from the attack and no group has come forward to take claim. The new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, had called for an end to attacks on civilians at the end of 2013 and had vowed to attack only government and security officials.

Three other remote-controlled explosive devices were discovered and were defused. At least two bombs were defused in the same main hall of the building and another bomb was discovered at the Tableeghi Markaz in Nowshera.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, 16 January 2014; The Express Tribune, 17 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM awarded honorary doctorate

Government College University (GCU), one of the oldest educational institutions in Pakistan, awarded an honorary doctorate to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is an alumnus of GCU.

During the ceremony, Nawaz Sharif also spoke about the Youth Loan Business Scheme which he stated gives students more choices for the future.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 17 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bank branches in India

India and Pakistan are working on allowing three banks to set up branches on each other’s soil to help improve trade relations according to Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan.

In August 2012, both sides had agreed to issue full banking licenses to two banks from each country. State Bank of India and Bank of India were the two Indian banks proposed to operate in Pakistan. Quasi-state owned National Bank of Pakistan and privately-owned United Bank Ltd. Were selected to run operations in India. But there was not much forward movement in this regard.

The Reserve Bank of India has, since, lessened its restrictions and now any bank that fulfils the requirement can apply. As of now, three banks each are being worked on.

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

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defence ministry ponders ’rehabilitation’

The Defence Ministry is seriously considering accommodating Northern Provincial Council (NPC) member Ananthi Sasitharan at a rehabilitation facility to prevent her from propagating separatist sentiments. She represents the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), the dominant partner of five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led by R. Sampanthan, MP.

A senior Defence Ministry source told The Island that those who hadn’t been arrested/surrendered at the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009 missed the government rehabilitation project. Ananthi was among those who had avoided rehabilitation, the official said, adding that a decision would be made soon.

Ananthi is the wife of Sinnathurai Sivakumar alias Elilan in charge of LTTE political section in the Trincomalee District. The Defence Ministry alleged that Sivakumar had been masquerading as a political activist during the Norwegian arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).

Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp in charge of the Office of Global Criminal Justice received a briefing from Ananthi during his recently concluded visit to Sri Lanka. Since her election to the NPC, Ananthi toured Canada, the US, India, Germany, Denmark and Norway, where she met government officials and LTTE activists.

Asked whether the government was planning to hunt for those who had managed to avoid rehabilitation, the official said perhaps Ananthi wouldn’t have adopted such a hostile stance towards the government and the military if she had undergone rehabilitation.

The government has released over 11,000 LTTE cadres in batches following rehabilitation over past four years. The release of LTTE personnel took place under the supervision of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The project was funded by several countries, including the UK, the Netherlands and Japan.

The spokesman admitted that the detention of Ananthi at a rehabilitation facility could trigger strong protests from the international community ahead of the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva as well as the TNA. However, the government was of the opinion that Ananthi would continue to undermine post-war reconciliation process unless she underwent rehabilitation, he said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, 14 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Peiris to meet Kurshid

Sri Lankan and Indian External Affairs Ministers Prof. G.L. Peiris and Salman Kurshid are to meet later this month to discuss ’all aspects of the bilateral relationship,’ including the fishermen issues, the government said in Colombo.

In a statement on the talks between the Indian and the Sri Lankan fishermen, the Sri Lanka External Affairs ministry said, "the release of fishermen on a reciprocal basis by the government of Sri Lanka and India, which began after the telephone conversation last week between External Affairs Ministers Prof. G.L. Peiris of Sri Lanka and Salman Kurshid of India, is proceeding as a continuing initiative".

It said that an initial batch of 20 fishermen were released from Mallakam and Tamil Nadu, and this was followed a few hours later by the release of 32 fishermen from Pondichery, held in Sri Lanka and an equal number of fishermen from Sri Lanka, held in Tamil Nadu, India.

Dr Rajitha Senarathna, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka, will have talks in New Delhi on Wednesday with Mr. Sherard Pawar, Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries of India, on the main elements of a durable solution to the problem of illicit fishing and the use of prohibited methods, which have given rise to vexed problems over a sustained period, it added.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 14 January 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Two Chinese war ships in Trinco

Two Chinese war ships, ’Jing Gangsha’ and ’Heng Shui’ arrived at the port of Trincomalee on 13 January on a good will visit.

The Navy Headquarters said that the ’Jing Gangsha’ (LPD) is commanded by Captain Liu Zhonghu, the ship is 210 meters in length and has a displacement of 19,035 tons. The ’Heng Shui’ (FRIGATE) is commanded by Commander Zhang Xiaosheng. The ship is 134.1 meter in length and has a displacement of 3647 tons.

These ships will stay in Sri Lanka until 15th January 2014 and the ships’ crew will participate in several special programmes arranged by the Sri Lanka Navy in enhancing mutual relationships and friendship.

Commanding officer of the task group, Rear Admiral Jian Zhonghua, accompanied by the commanding officers of the ships paid a courtesy call on Commander Eastern Naval Area, Rear Admiral Rohan Amarasinghe at the Esatern Command Headquarters. They held cordial discussions focused on enhancing bilateral cooperation and exchanged mementos as a gesture of goodwill.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 14 January 2014

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

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