MonitorsPublished on Jun 10, 2011
The week-end Sri Lanka visit of the Indian troika comprising National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshanker Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar is important to both the nations for reasons that are more than the obvious.
Sri Lanka: Indian PM's visit on cards?
< class="heading1">Analysis

The week-end Sri Lanka visit of the Indian troika comprising National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshanker Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar is important to both the nations for reasons that are more than the obvious. Media reports in the two nations have highlighted discussions that had centred on rehabilitation and reconciliation, ’war crimes’ and fishermen’s issue, including the two Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions in this regard.

These reports made a passing reference to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accepting the invitation of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for visiting Sri Lanka. According to these reports, NSA Menon handed over the letter of acceptance from Prime Minister Singh in this regard. The President had earlier invited Prime Minister Singh to participate in the year-long ’Sambuddha Jayanthi’ celebrations of the 2600th anniversary of Lord Buddha attaining Enlightenment.

The last time an Indian Prime Minister undertook a bilateral State visit was in July 1987 when Rajiv Gandhi signed the India-Sri Lanka Accord with President J R Jayewardene. In India, this visit is also remembered for a Sri Lankan naval personnel attacking Prime Minister Gandhi at the honour-guard. No Indian President has visited Sri Lanka in living memory. All visits of successive Indian Prime Ministers to Sri Lanka since 1987, including that of Singh in 2008, were to participate in SAARC Summits. Though efforts were made to provide a bilateral content to the Singh visit, undertaken at the height of ’EelamWar IV’, it was once again restricted to discussions on the sidelines that touched upon the ethnic issue, and also the stalemated Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries.

For many years now, every President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and also the Leader of the Opposition and a host of other Ministers and political leaders from Sri Lanka, have made New Delhi their first overseas destination after assuming office. They have also been visiting the Indian capital more frequently compared to equivalent traffic on the reverse route. This has contributed to consternation in a section of the Sri Lankan establishment. The implied generational gap in perceptions has meant that young leaders, officials and people in Sri Lanka, barring those tasked/privileged to be in India from time to time, have not seen an Indian Prime Minister in flesh and blood, for them to make instant contact and draw implicit conclusions. In the absence of constant interactions of the kind, younger generation Sri Lankans in walks of life have been left to make their own guesses, based on ill-conceived political criticism and ill-informed media perceptions.

Prime Minister Singh was in office when the Sri Lankan State caused the military exit of the militant LTTE. The Indian acceptance of the ground reality, and the consequent support and sympathy extended to the Sri Lankan Government was accompanied by promises from Colombo and consequent expectations in New Delhi on the post-war rehabilitation of the Tamil IDPs and political reconciliation involving their leadership. Both have made a start but little headway, according to critics of the Rajapaksa Government, nearer home and afar. The two Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions recently were reflective of these concerns. Rightly, Colombo refused to bite the bait. It declined to take official notice of the resolutions and said it would discuss the matters contained in those resolutions only with the Indian counterpart.

"All substantive issues were discussed," NSA Menon said in this regard. "We speak for India, and they speak for Sri Lanka. We have dealt with all the issues", and not issues raised by one State or a few individuals. A loaded statement addressing the domestic constituency in Tamil Nadu, Menon’s observations should put at rest all ill-informed criticisms of Centre-State relations in the Indian context, particularly on issues pertaining to foreign affairs and national security. However, at Sri Lanka’s internal negotiations on power-devolution, reference could well be made to the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions, indicating that no clash between the Centre and the Provinces could be encouraged or entertained in the local context.

Enabling environment and 13-A

While in Colombo, the Indian team met with President Rajapaksa, External Affairs Minister G L Peiris, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, among other officials, and also leaders of various Sri Lankan Tamil political parties not part of the Government. After the talks, Menon was quoted as saying that "the quicker Sri Lanka can come to a political arrangement ’in which all communities are comfortable? the better? We will do whatever we can to arrive at it’." Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman and Parliament member Suresh Premachandran said that the "Indian team did not suggest any political settlement but assured ’full support’ for the Tamils’ demand for a life of "dignity and security" in Sri Lanka".

Menon clarified that the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, dealing with power-devolution, was "their amendment? We did the India-Sri Lanka Agreement, and gave them an enabling environment? Now, if they want to do better than the 13th Amendment let them do it?. They all (parties) must feel comfortable with it." The clarification has come at a time when India-baiters in Colombo have revived criticism of New Delhi centred on 13-A, in the light of the May 2011 New Delhi visit of Minister Peiris and the joint statement that was issued after his discussions with Indian counterpart, S M Krishna.

Singling out nations at Geneva?

The Menon statement clearly underlines the fact that India was not dogmatic about 13-A, as attributed by critics in the Sinhala and Tamil communities. In another juncture and another environment, whatever was acceptable to all Sri Lankans, New Delhi would have no hesitation in acknowledging it as such. There, however, was an underlying Indian concern for the Sri Lankan State providing for the operationalisation of the legitimate aspirations of the moderate Tamil leadership, and the latter, particularly the TNA, accepting the ground realities and not sticking to pedagogic positions that had their roots in the pre-war past and had made them suspect in the eyes of the Sinhala majority.

Sri Lankan political/media criticism of the joint statement of May had also referred to New Delhi not supporting Colombo on the ’Darusmann Report’ on ’war crimes’, commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the past two years, when India was a member of the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva, New Delhi had not publicised its support, yet was canvassing the Sri Lankan case with fellow-members. So was it in relation to the Indian support for IMF credit-line for Sri Lanka, at the height of ’Eelam War IV’, where it took a more stringent position.

In Colombo, Menon clarified that Sri Lanka did not seek India’s support on the Darusmann Report. According to him, India was against singling out nations at the UNHRC, and that the veracity of reports of 40,000 civilian casualties at the hands of the Sri Lankan armed forces could be questioned. In the global context, talking out against ’singling out’ of a nation is a significant Indian position on ’war crimes’ and ’HR violations’. Considering the content and the timing of the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions, and also his pre-visit meeting with Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, it is again a strong statement from the Centre on the matter.

New Delhi’s position in the joint statement, indicating the need for an internal probe into human rights violations, had also been the stand of China, a P-5 member and considered by some in Colombo a red-herring to India. Critics of India on the Darusmann Report are silent on this aspect. Likewise, those who have linked TNA and India far too much in their assessment of the post-war ethnic negotiations, refuse to refer to the former urging Russia and China, the two backers of Sri Lanka at P-5 and elsewhere, to hear them out.

Russian Ambassador Vladimir P. Mikhaylov, who was vociferous in his public defence of the Sri Lankan Government on the Darusmann Report, received a TNA delegation, possibly a first of its kind. The Ambassador later clarified that the TNA delegation did not ask Russia not to support the Sri Lankan Government. "More than that, they assured me that the TNA adheres to peaceful means of political struggle and is going to solve all the existing problems through dialogue.On my part, I reiterated the well-known principled position of the Russian Federation and expressed hope that the dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil community will bring complete reconciliation in near future," Ambassador Mikhaylov said in the statement.

Though China has not responded to the TNA request for a meeting with its envoy, a party MP and another sympathiser were reported to have visited Beijing in the year, on invitation. The pregnant Chinese silence in the first fortnight of the publication of the Darusmann Report was deafening. It was followed by nuanced support that referred to internal mechanisms for investigating rights violations in Sri Lanka. The support for Sri Lanka, as coincidence would have it, became louder and clearer only after the Sri Lanka visit of US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, whose balanced approach was unlike what Washington was purportedly saying earlier.

The Colombo discussions between India and Sri Lanka naturally referred also to the fishermen’s issue, which could be a real thorn in bilateral relations, independent of the ethnic issue and negotiations in Sri Lanka, in turn impacting on India. Post-war, the problem of fishermen from the two countries sharing the Palk Strait has become as much a livelihood issue as it has been a live issue for long. The Joint Working Group (JWG) of officials from the two countries met in New Delhi recently, and fishermen representatives too have been exchanging visits, to understand the inherent problems, before being able to address mutual concerns.

Menon said that officials from both sides would build on the ideas put forward by the fishermen representatives, to try and find a solution. At the JWG meet in Delhi earlier in the year, Sri Lanka was expected to propose a route-map for normalisation on the fishing front, but that did not happen. Given the complexities of the situation, where livelihood concerns on both sides are contested also by considerations of sovereignty and territorial integrity by Sri Lanka, and the consequent calls in Tamil Nadu for the re-take of Kachchativu islet, both sides need to grabble with the related problems even more to arrive at a solution acceptable to all stake-holders, including the two Governments. If unresolved, the vexatious problem could have a lasting impact on bilateral relations in real terms than even the ’ethnic issue’, with which emotional bondage does exist in Tamil Nadu and greater concerns in New Delhi.

The troika experience

In matters of bilateral relations, the unique India-Sri Lanka troika contacts at frequent intervals since the days of the ’Eelam War IV’ and their continuance subsequently has made beneficial contributions outside of the existing structures of policy-making. They have also faced with certain hitches, particularly in Sri Lanka, where bureaucratic interpretations have often been at variance from the political intent. It used to be said of India previously but the shoe now seemed to be more on the other foot. This has been the cause for purported misinterpretation of Sri Lankan delays to Indian projects, but to a limited extent it has also been education for New Delhi on past delays.

In the Indian context, the three-man team has greater institutional context and content to it, thus ensuring continuance of policies unaffected by political changes. From Sri Lanka, all three members in the past were political appointees, holding constitutional and/or official positions, facilitating faster decisions. Suffice is to point out that from the Sri Lankan side, Basil Rajapaksa, then Senior Presidential Advisor, had signed the all-important and all-inclusive fishing agreement of 2008. For India, the Foreign Secretary was the signatory. With Basil Rajapaksa, the President’s brother, having been shifted as the all-important Minister for Economic Affairs, newer interpretations of the agreement are now being sought to be given in Colombo, based on sovereignty, adding to the prevailing confusion and complexities.

Apart from the prime ministerial acceptance of invitation, the Colombo discussions now will have to be remembered also for the progress made on the defence front. Forming part of the Indian team, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar said that preparations were on for starting an annual defence dialogue between the two countries. This was after the two navies had met, with similar discussions expected between the two armies and air forces in the coming weeks and months. At one stage in the career of the ethnic war, Sri Lanka had proposed a defence cooperation agreement between the two. Given the existing circumstances, New Delhi was hesitant to go-ahead with it at the time.

Post-war, the two sides seem to have picked up the threads, after President Rajapaksa repeatedly reiterated that his Government would accept developmental aid from anyone but on security, it could only be with India. It is too early to predict what it could mean for the medium and the long-term, but a structured approach, as indicated by India, through a stage-by-stage dialogue could take both sides to a comfort zone, where they could either do business without any formal agreement or sign a formal pact, where there would be no room later for mutual suspicions from within and mutual criticism outside of the respective Governments.

Given the historicity and circumstances attending on the pending prime ministerial visit from India, there can be greater hope than in the past about the possibilities of an early settlement to the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka, and for substantive progress being made on other fronts of bilateral interest and common concerns. Both sides would naturally expect the prime ministerial visit, as and when it happens, to put the past behind for good, and walk into the future together. The stakeholders in Sri Lanka would have to walk that extra mile together for that stage to be reached on the ethnic front.

In bilateral matters, including the ethnic issue, the revival of India-Sri Lanka ferry service, between Thuthookudi and Colombo, which remained suspended through most of the decades of ethnic war in that country, in the coming days could provide the right environment in terms of people-to-people contacts, which is at the bottom of governmental policies in matters of bilateral interest and international concerns. A land-bridge between the two nations that opens up Sri Lanka to the vistas of development and opportunities, not only in India but across the Eurasian landmass, could do even more.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TN Assembly resolutions on SL issues

In an unprecedented move, the Tamil Nadu State Assembly in southern India, on two consecutive days, passed separate unanimous resolutions on the Sri Lankan ethnic issue and allegations of ’war crimes’, and also on the fishing issue in relation to the ’Kachchativu islet’, transferred to Colombo’s ownership and possession under bilateral agreements in the Sixties.

The resolution on the ethnic issue and war crimes called for early solution to the power-devolution and rehabilitation concerns, and also referred to the Darusmann Report for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In particular, the resolution called for the naming of the culprits, which was not in the Report. Moving the resolution, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said that she was opposed to the LTTE yet. The second day’s resolution called upon the State Government to implead the Revenue Department as a party to the pending Supreme Court case, filed by Jayalalithaa while not in power, citing procedural lapses in ceding Indian territories without parliamentary approval.

Earlier, in his inaugural address to the 14th State Assembly, post-poll, State Governor Surjit Singh Barnalaurged the Centre to impress upon the Sri Lankan Government, the need for taking up immediate measures to rehabilitate the Tamils in their own area. "Lakhs of Tamils have perished during the recent war in Sri Lanka and the remaining were leading a pathetic life of subjugation in their own homeland," he said. The Government also said that the AIADMK Government in the State would take necessary steps to renovate the Sri Lankan Tamil refugee camps in the state, enabling them to live with dignity in Tamil Nadu.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, The New Indian Express

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 900-m for three A-320 aircraft

Three A-320 aircraft would be added to the fleet of the national carrier in the near future, Minister of Civil Aviation PriyankaraJayaratne said. "Sri Lanka will get two A320 aircraft in September and December and the third aircraft in March 2012," he said.The three aircraft will be purchased at a cost of $ 300 million each from the Airbus Company in Toulouse, France.

"With the increased number of flights the national carrier will operate flights direct to Australia from next year," Jayarathne said. The aviation authorities are planning to purchase more A330 aircraft and they will be used for long distance flights.

The Minister said that when the construction of Mattala international airport was completed at the end of 2012, for the first time in Sri Lanka the aviation authorities would perform ’D-Check’ on 15 aircraft per year where the aircraft will be re-launched after the completion of 35,000 flying hours."This would be performed in collaboration with a company based in Dubai. Currently the D-Check for aircraft was only done in Dubai and Singapore in Asia, he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, Colombo, 10 June 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karzai visits Pakistan

President Hamid Karzai began a two-day visit to Pakistan on June 10. His first trip to the neighbouring country since the Abbottabad raid, an incident used by some Afghan officials to point at the country’s duplicitous counter-terrorism strategy, follows President Asif Ali Zardari’s personal invitation. In the following days, he is expected to hold meetings with President Zardari and Prime Minister YousufRazaGilani.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, June 10, 2011; BBC News, June 10, 2011

Note: In spite of religious and ethnic affinity, Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan have been acrimonious for most part. Pakistan has accused Afghanistan of supporting Pashtun nationalism inside its borders. On the other hand, Kabul is critical of Pakistan’s continued interference in promoting ’pro-Pakistan’ actors across the Durand Line. In fact, President Hamid Karzai has consistently blamed Rawalpindi of supporting and directing the Taliban insurgency through the ’Quetta Shura’, Taliban’s leadership council believed to be based in Quetta and protected by Pakistan. His public outbursts led to a bitter relation with former President Pervez Musharraf. Since 2008, however, relations between the two leaders have improved, even though Afghan officials maintain that support to Afghan rebels as State policy has not changed.

Still, Karzai has made renewed attempts to reach out to Pakistan in order to reach an agreement over future negotiations over the sharing of political power after eventual US exit from the country. Pakistan fears that the US is attempting to bypass it and negotiate directly with Taliban elements. The Karzai regime, on the other hand, is worried about the spectre of being routed by the Taliban in the absence of its international patrons.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN considers lifting sanctions on Taliban

The United Nations is considering the bifurcation of its terrorist list to separate the al-Qaeda and Taliban in order to facilitate recent attempts by United States, NATO members, Afghanistan, and its neighbours to convince the Taliban to enter ceasefire negotiations. This was revealed by Peter Wittig, permanent representative of Germany to the UN and chairman of its Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions committee. Wittig said, ’the links are there, but they don’t justify putting them in the same basket.’ The current sanctions list for the Taliban and al-Qaeda contain 486 people, of which 138 have related to the Taliban. They, in turn, are subject to travel restrictions and asset freeze.

President Hamid Karzai has lobbied fiercely for reconciliation with the Taliban and considers lifting of sanctions as a pre-requisite before meaningful dialogue could take place. In fact, Afghan officials have prepared a list of 50 Taliban members who they no longer consider a threat to security, and believe should be withdrawn from the sanctions list.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, June 7, 2011; Agence France-Presse (AFP), June 7, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Singh to visit Dhaka

India and Bangladesh got a major boost with the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary Ms Nirupama Rao. During her visit, Rao had an intense meeting with her counterpart Mijarul Quayes and discussed various bilateral issues. Rao informed her host that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might visit Bangladesh later this year. In fact, Rao’s visit was seen as a preparatory to the visit of Indian Prime Minister. Expectations are that Indian Prime Minister’s visit might see the signing of some bilateral agreements.

Among issues in the bilateral relations the sharing of Teesta River water is regarded as the most important. Ms Roa informed that the two countries are working hard for an interim agreement on this and the negotiations have made substantial progress. However, she did not share further details. On the issues of connectivity, Ms Rao informed that India has no objection in allowing Nepal and Bhutan to use Indian territory to have trade in Bangladesh.

Another important outcome of the visit was Bangladesh’s declaration that it will not conduct any exploration in the disputed areas in the Bay of Bengal before a settlement of the maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar and India under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).
< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, June 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP protests price rise

On June 5 opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) observed a day-long agitation against the Awami League Government for its failure to control prices. The day-long strikes paralyzed lives of common people and schools, colleges, private offices and shops were closed. Also the day was marked with sporadic incidences of violence in which vehicles were damaged and left many injured.

However, some media reports suggested that the strike was called by the BNP to express its opposition to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s decision to abandon the caretaker system ahead of national elections.

The Supreme Court on May 10 in a verdict declared the caretaker government system unconstitutional and void, but observed that the system may be practiced for holding two more parliamentary elections for the sake of safety of the its people".

It was the fifth strike organized by BNP. Earlier BNP observed four agitations on June 27, November 14, and 30 in 2010 and February 4 this year.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India bank eyes Bhutan

The Central Bank of India (CBI) has expressed an interest to establish its branch in Bhutan. It is planning to invest Rs 250 million for the project in the country. It is also part of its efforts to enhance its overseas projects in Asia.

Bhutan’s Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) however clarified that starting a new bank would not be possible until 2014 as the suspension of new banking licence was in force. The RMA notified potential promoters of banks that licensing of new banks would be suspended for five years (from December 13, 2008 till December 14, 2013).

At the end of last year, the worth of Bhutan’s financial sector stood at Nu 72.61 billion ? a rise from Nu 56.21 billion ? in the previous year. The growth of the financial sector was primarily attributed to the increase of loans and advances by Nu 9.59 billion. The asset of the banking sector grew by 13.97 billion.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Bhutan Observer, June 07, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Centre clears national intelligence grid

The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) was given in-principle approval by the Union Government. The NATGRID will pool information from 21 categories of database such as railway and air travel, income tax, bank account details, credit card transactions and visa and immigration records. This will help in integration and easy access of information which could be critically important for national security operations.

As per the initial plan, access to the combined data will be given to 11 agencies, including the RAW, the IB, the Enforcement Directorate, the NIA, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Narcotics Control Bureau.

In the past year, the project was delayed by disagreements among Ministries of Defence and Finance and Home.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 07, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Right to privacy law on anvil

Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily has indicated the Government’s intention to introduce a Bill on right to privacy in the monsoon session of Parliament. When passed, the new law would make right to privacy a fundamental right under the Constitution.

The Bill would give protection from a citizen’s identity-theft, including criminal identity theft (posing as another person when apprehended for a crime), financial identify theft (using another’s identity to obtain credit, goods and services), etc.

The Bill would prohibit interception of communication except in certain cases with approval of Secretary-level officials in the Government. The Bill would also mandate the establishment of a Data Protection Authority of India, whose function would be to monitor development in data processing and computer technology; to examine law and to evaluate its effect on data protection.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 07, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maran under CBI scanner

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has indicated that it would take a final call in about 20 days on whether a case has been made out against Union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran who held the Telecom portfolio from May 2004 to May 2007.

The statement followedincriminating statements from C Sivasankaran, former Aircel owner, who was questioned by the CBI on the 2-G scam.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 08, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Highest single-value military contract with US

The Cabinet has approved the purchase 10 numbers of C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift transport aircraft from the US, for use by the Indian Air Force. The deal under the Foreign Military Sales (Government-to-Government) arrangement is estimated to cost Rs. 18,000 crores ($4.1 bappx). The contract, when signed, would become the highest single value military contract that New Delhi would enter into with the US and includes an offset obligation of around Rs. 4,500 crore ($ 1 b).

At present the Russian IL-76 and AN-32 are the IAF workhorses for transporting men and material. Earlier this year, the IAF inducted tactical lift C130J Super Hercules aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the US.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 07, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New HIV infection down by half

A report released by UNAIDS indicated that the rate of new HIV infections fell by more than 50 per cent in India between 2001 and 2009, double the average decline in the world . The report said the global rate of new infections declined by nearly 25 per cent between 2001 and 2009.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 05, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India approves three-year quota for essentials

The Indian Government for the first time has approved fixation of quota for supply of essential commodities to Maldives for a period of three years.In a statement, the Indian High Commission Male stressed that New Delhi made the decision in order to alleviate the problem of uncertainty of supply due to scarcity and delay in sanction of quota.

The High Commission further said that as per the new announcement, out of the nine essential commodities supplied to Maldives, quotas for three years have already been approved for seven items, namely, sugar, eggs, potatoes, onions, wheat flour, rice and stone aggregates. For dhal and river sand, the approval has been given for a year and being worked out for longer period, the High Commission added.

"This development is expected to substantially improve the supply situation of these essential commodities for the people of Maldives in the years to come," the statement read.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, 10 June 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maldives ’ashamed’ sharing room with Qadhafi’s rep

Maldives is "ashamed" to share the same room with representatives of Libyan strongman Mummar Qadhafi, the country’s Permanent Representative to the UN Offices in Geneva Iruthisham Adam told the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday.

At the Human Rights Council session held to discuss the alleged human rights violations carried out by the Qadhafi’s regime, Iruthisham said the Maldives was "ashamed to share the room with the representatives of the man who has used his forces? to kill thousands of people."

The Maldives on April 22 suspended all diplomatic ties with the Libyan regime of Moamer Qadhafi ? a move that followed the country’s decision, on 3 April, to recognise the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the sole legitimate body representing the Libyan people.

Iruthisham further stressed that instead of listening to the legitimate aspirations of the protestors, the Qadhafi regime had chosen to use state security to crack down and to intimidate rather than to talk, to put the narrow self-interest of Kadhafi before the well-being of his people and his country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, 10 June 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Draft Constitution in three months

Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ’Prachanda’ and Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala, during a bilateral meeting at Koirala’s Maharajgunj residence, have agreed that the peace and constitution-drafting processes should be concluded within the renewed deadline of the Constituent Assembly.

After the meeting, Prachanda told reporters that they stressed the need to conclude the peace process and prepare a first draft of the new Constitution within the three-month period based on the five-point deal.

Maoists have also begun to hand over weapons as a step to end dual-security system which is likely to clear one hurdle on the path of the peace process. The Army Integration Special Committee (AISC), which is tasked to look into issues of the integration of the former Maoist combatants into the security forces, has decided to remove Maoist personnel from the security of senior Maoist leaders.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, June 6, 2011,, June 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Criminal code to make evangelism difficult

The Nepal Government is drafting a new criminal code making it illegal for anyhperson to convert another from his professed religion. According to Compass Direct News, the code would forbid a person of one faith to "convert a person or abet him to change his religion".

The code would seek to criminalise behaviour that may in any way cause someone to lose their faith or change to a different religion.The crime would carry a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese rupees (around £420).
< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 5, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to help in poll management

Nepal is yet to decide on the type of electoral process it will adopt under its new Constitution, but the country has inked a deal with India to promote cooperation in electoral management. An MoU in this regard was signed by Chief Election Commissioner of India Dr S Y Quraishiand his Nepali counterpart Neel KanthaUprety.

The MoU will deal with promotion of initiatives designed to strengthen electoral systems and democratic institutions and exchange of organisational knowledge and technical development.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 8, 2011, The Himalayan Times, June 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Delhi steps to stop floods from Nepal

The Centre will embank the rivers originating from Nepal to prevent floods in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Friday."The Ministry of Water Resources is taking various initiatives for embankments of the rivers originating from Nepal to prevent floods in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar," Chidambaram said at a disaster management meeting in New Delhi.

Last week, Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid expressed hope that some proposed dam projects in Nepal would help with irrigation and electricity, and also control floods in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 3, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ambuja Cements buy 85 pc of Dang

India’s Ambuja Cements said it acquired an 85 per cent stake in Nepal’s Dang Cement Industries Pvt. Ltd. for 191.3 million rupees. Ambuja also is in the process of acquiring an additional five per cent stake for 11.3 million rupees, the company said in a statement.

Dang Cement holds a limestone mining lease in Nepal and currently doesn’t have any business activity, Ambuja said. Switzerland’s Holcim holds 50.1 per cent of Ambuja Cements.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 7, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Finance budget sets ambitious tax revenue goals

Federal Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh announced the 2011-12 finance budget on June 3. The fourth budget of the Pakistan People’s PartyGovernment envisions a federal expenditure outlay of Rs 2.504 trillion, budget deficit of Rs 975 billion (4.6 percent of GDP)., and targets GDP growth of 4.2 percent during the current financial year. Dr Shaikhalso set an ambitious tax revenue of Rs 1.952 trillion, containing many of the provisions of the RGST (Reformed General Sales Tax) without using the lexicon that had generated fierce opposition in the parliament last year, when it was first announced.

Referring to the controversial Bill, the Finance Minister said ’the reformed GST legislation is pending with parliament for approval. Meanwhile, we propose to continue with structural changes in this direction.’ Special excise duties have been abolished in order to streamline the tax regime and make the country’s business environment more conducive to investment.

The budget has allocated Rs 730 billion for development expenditure, a ten percent increase from the previous year. This includes Rs 290 billion federal public sector development programmes, Rs 430 billion to provinces through Annual Development Programmes (ADP), and Rs 10 billion for the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA).

The armed forces have been allocated 445 billion, an increase in 11.36 percent over the previous year. The forces and Ministry of Defence had earlier made separate requests of Rs 582 billion and RS 524 billion, respectively, to be allocated for defence.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, June 4, 2011; Dawn, June 4, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt shows olive branch to Baloch dissidents

The federal Government has made fresh attempts to hold dialogue with Baloch dissidents. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, during a visit to the insurgency affected province, announced Rs 2 billion program to modernise the province’s police force. Funds will be used to procure better weapons, training and other facilities. He also announced Rs 7 billion scheme to improve irrigation systems and boost agriculture. He was informed by local authorities that out of 144 registered missing persons, 41 had returned home, while cases against 38 others were withdrawn.

Discontent runs high in the province against the security forces’ practice of detaining and torturing suspected militants without due trial. Before leaving, Gilani pledged that the next federal cabinet would be held in Quetta and that in future, he would visit the alienated province every month to review development projects. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, on the other hand, informed officials that the army has been withdrawn from Kohlu and Sui regions, a long-held demand of the aggrieved community. He added that the Government has conclusive evidence of the insurgents receiving support from ’foreign agencies’, a reference to India and Afghanistan.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, June 6, 7, 2011;

Note: The Baloch community is arguably the most alienated ethnic group in Pakistan. Following Pakistan’s creation, Baloch leaders refused to join Pakistan and called for an independent State. Subsequently, federal encroachment into natural resources found in the province, especially gas, generated greater discontent and fed into fears of Punjab’s ’internal imperialism’ against minority ethnic groups. The latest phase of the insurgency began in 2004 and has magnified following the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s death in an army operation in 2006.

Since the restoration of democracy, Pakistan has gradually moved away from a military strategy to a ’hearts and minds’ approach. To this end, President Asif Ali Zardari publicly apologised to the Baloch people and announced the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan program meant to improve the province’s socio-economic condition. The National Federal Commission, Pakistan’s equivalent to India’s Finance Commission, created a more equitable distribution of the national budget, which has benefited the province. At the same time, the army’s pledge that it will not undertake major operations without the Chief Minister’s approval is a promising development, which if followed in spirit, will help mitigate years of alienation.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Confusion over Ilyas Kashmiri’s death

Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, the commander of Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI), and al-Qaeda’s operations chief in Pakistan is believed to have died in a US drone strike in South Waziristan on June 3. According to Government officials, Kashmiri was killed in a village 20 km from Wana, the agency’s main town. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that he was ’98 percent’ sure that the purported mastermind of the attack on Mehran naval airbase had died in the attack, and later revised the figure to cent percent.

However, US officials are sceptical about the reported death. They argue that Kashmiri’s death cannot be verified in the absence of DNA evidence, as the bodies were charred beyond recognitions and immediately buried. Even though local Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Mullah Nazir confirmed Kashmiri’s death, the claim was soon refuted by the insurgent group’s official spokesperson. Besides, the HuJI member who verified the leader’s death is not a known figure and has previously made no public statements, adding doubts about his credibility. Earlier in 2009, Pakistan authorities had announced Kashmiri’s death with equal certainty, but were soon proven wrong.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, June 5, 2011; Daily Times, June 6, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & India: Akhilesh Variar;
Nepal: Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.

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