MonitorsPublished on Mar 18, 2011
The recent faux pas of Prime Minister D M Jayaratne's allegation of 'LTTE camps in Tamil Nadu' had the potential to damage bilateral relations with the Indian neighbour,
Sri Lanka: Issues with India Need Early Resolution
< class="heading1">Analysis

The recent faux pas of Prime Minister D M Jayaratne’s allegation of ’LTTE camps in Tamil Nadu’ had the potential to damage bilateral relations with the Indian neighbour, which during the years of ’Eelam War-IV’ had reached a level of mutual understanding not felt during the previous decades. If it did not create the kind of ruckus that it had the potential to, it owed to such understanding. Political parties in the south Indian State were too busy with alliance-making and seat-sharing for the upcoming Assembly polls, which again has the potential to rake up bilateral issues all over again.

Of immediate concern to the Sri Lankan side is the possible revival of the LTTE, and the possible role that Tami Nadu might end up playing in it. From the Indian perspective, the fishermen’s issue has the potential to damage the relations between the two Governments and peoples, alike. Inserted into this discourse by some Sri Lankans are larger issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as Tamil Nadu fishermen violate the ’international maritime boundary line’ (IMBL) almost with immunity in the process of pursuing the lifeline to their livelihood.

Other issues remain, and they go beyond immediate concerns and have long-term consequences. India is unsure of the Sri Lankan moods, methods and the ultimate decision on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which they had initialled long ago, and were expected to formally sign on the sidelines of the Colombo SAARC Summit in 2008. Colombo has since linked what may be loosely described as livelihood issues of non-fishermen’s kind to CEPA, but has been slow in wanting to identify the areas, concerns and hence, alternate proposals.

Then, there is the ’China factor’. New Delhi, as different from the Indian strategic community, is realistic about the rights of Sri Lanka and the nation’s need to accept developmental aid, from whichever side it flowed. It is also aware that China, among global nations, is cash-surplus and is willing to ’invest’ it in countries that the West does not really consider worthy of greater returns. Simultaneously, there is equal acknowledgement about the sovereign right of Sri Lanka to choose investors of its choice.

Concerns remain over the return on the investment that Beijing would be tempted to seek, and the way it would like Colombo to acknowledge. In theory, New Delhi cannot bother ? or, be bothered ? about Colombo’s decision, if any, to choose its friends and allies. Yet, India too has the duty to protect its sovereign rights and territorial integrity in ways it evaluates and deems fit. The same is true of Sri Lanka, where again certain strategic thinkers, both within the Government and outside, still live in the past, where they had seen the Indian neighbour as an adversary, not an ally.

Based on such perceptions, for which there was/is no genuine justification at the time, other than the Indian engagement in the creation of Bangladesh, India-phobic sections of the Sri Lankan strategic community has been evolving issues and theories, wherein on a future day, a successor to the LTTE could get succour on other side of the Palk Strait. They focus on the ’Tamil Nadu factor’ often, but underlying their concerns that often do not have any basis in reality is the possibility of New Delhi getting involved in the process, either directly or otherwise.

Over-riding such issues and underlying the hopes for permanent peace in the country are the on-going negotiations between the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Unlike in the past, New Delhi is not playing facilitator any more, having appreciated the consequences of engaging in an operation where it can never ever fully understand the local sentiments, nor can it prescribe solutions that flow from the ’Indian model’, per se. In the post-war era in Sri Lanka, the domestic stake-holders would have to make mutual accommodation and compromises, considering their collective future in its entirety. Yet, as in the past, any consequent failure of the negotiations could impact on India, as it did in the past.

In a way, most of the India-Sri Lanka issues are inter-linked, though not inter-wined in ways that they could not be disentangled. While the issues remain, there is now a greater understanding at the level of respective political leaderships and the two Governments. President Rajapaksa’s oft-reiterated observation that "all other nations are friends, but India is a relation" needs to be read in perspective. The bonhomie of the times should not be allowed to waste away, leading to yet another era of drift in bilateral relations, which could have grave consequences, if only over time.

Even in bilateral relations between the two South Asian neighbours, the past has to be left behind, and the shared future has to guide the present. Under the prevailing circumstances, the initiative for the same has to come from Colombo, considering the new angularities being introduced into the bilateral discourse by periodic prescriptions, including ’LTTE camps’, territorial integrity on the fishing front, and even a review of the 2008 bilateral agreement on the fishing issue. What the Sri Lankan protagonists of such arguments fail to appreciate is any such call for reviews could always trigger a similar call for a review of the ’Kachchativu agreement’ of 1974 and 1976 on the Indian side, citing their own current arguments as a fitting precedent.

It is the kind of argument that has the potential to upset bilateral relations, as had happened in the past, which needed to be left behind. Nations, like people, can choose their friends, not their relations ? or, neighbours for that matter, after a point. It thus becomes an imperative to have good neighbours and keep the relation good ? than suffer from mutual suspicions and consequent mistrust. The 2010 bilateral initiative on the Defence front, starting with the Sri Lanka visit of the three Services chiefs from India are a beginning. They cannot be an end in itself, which would require much of confidence-building and comfort-sharing, even as they share intelligence, information and political thinking relating to their shared strategic space in the Indian Ocean.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Caution about showdown over fishermen’s row

Sri Lankan Tamil Minister Douglas Devananda has warned that recurring clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen may spark a major showdown because the dispute is not getting resolved. "I am afraid the issue is going to take a serious turn, become a serious crisis," Devananda said adding, "We are trying to keep our fishermen under control, but this is becoming a difficulty every passing day."

"It would be ideal if the Indian Coast Guard and the Sri Lankan Navy undertake joint patrols. But that is not happening. And if the Sri Lankan Navy intervenes, it is accused of killing people. The problem has become very serious. Clashes have taken place between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen. Some of our people are threatening to go on hunger strike in front of the Indian High Commission in Colombo." Unless something is done quickly to resolve the crisis, it is sure to lead to a major crisis," said Devananda, who hails from Tamil-exclusive northern Jaffna.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, March 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Democratic space shrinking: US

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake has expressed Washington’s concerns over developments that are shrinking the democratic space and respect for human rights in Sri Lanka. "The US is concerned that some developments are shrinking the democratic space and respect for human rights in the country. The 18th Amendment passed last year weakens checks and balances and abolishes term limits, giving an unprecedented power to the executive presidency," Blake said in his remarks before the Asia Society in New York.

"Perhaps, most critical is a full accounting of the individual lives that are still in question from the end of the war, which means providing information to families about relatives that are either missing or in detention so they know the status of their loved ones," he said. Blake said the Sri Lankan Government had told the diplomatic community that it has compiled a database that will assist in the efforts to locate missing persons. "We hope that families of those missing or detained will have access to this database. Reconciliation also entails charging or releasing those that are in custody," he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, March 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal denies asylum to SF aides

Nepal has refused to grant refugee status to close associates of former Sri Lankan Army chief Sarath Fonseka, residing in the country. The Sri Lankans who worked with Fonseka during his presidential campaign have been reportedly staying "semi-underground" in Kathmandu for the past few months -- seeking asylum in Nepal.

"This information is news to me and this is the first time such a thing has happened. We have written to the Foreign Ministry to seek their directives," Thosapala Hewage, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Nepal, told the Hindustan Times, New Delhi.

The Ministry of External Affairs in Sri Lanka was yet unaware of this development.

A report in The Kathmandu Post stated that the asylum seekers who had fled Sri Lanka following Fonseka’s electoral loss and amid fear of retribution by the present regime could be arrested soon. The Sri Lankans who had entered Nepal via India in the second half of last year fear that if they are sent back, they could be falsely branded terrorists and handed life or death sentences.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, March 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ISAF Commander claims limited success

The Commander of US-led coalition forces, Gen. David Petraeus, testified before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on March 15 and claimed limited success against the Taliban. He reiterated the campaign’s objective to train Afghan forces to assume leadership role by 2014. In this regard, he said that ’the progress achieved has put us on the right azimuth to accomplish the objective.’ He added that the ’surge’ of 30,000 troops has created conditions conducive to transfer security tasks to Afghan forces in some of the provinces.

However, Gen. Petraeus remained non-committal on the scope of withdrawal in July this year. Responding to Senators who believe that the planned withdrawal will weaken local partners and hasten the Taliban’s ascendancy, he defended the strategy and said that a firm commitment to reduce troops will in fact undermine Taliban’s propaganda that projects the US as an occupying force and also compel the Afghan Government to expedite reforms and capacity-building programmes. In an apparent attempt to placate both pro and anti-withdrawal camps in Washington, the General reconfirmed that the scope of the drawdown remains contingent on ground realities.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Washington Post, March 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">35 killed in suicide attack in Kunduz Province

As many as 35 persons were killed and 40 others injured when a Taliban suicide-bomber struck an Afghan National Army recruitment centre in the northern Province of Kunduz. Most victims died instantly after the bomber, disguised as a recruit blew himself, killing many officers and soldiers present. This is the second attack on the recruitment centre. Earlier, the Taliban had targeted the camp in December 2010.

Kunduz, located in the country’s border with Tajikistan, remained relatively unaffected by the Taliban till recently. However, the current counter-insurgency campaign’s focus on Helmand and Kandahar has created a security deficit in northern Afghanistan, and is believed to have allowed the Taliban to make inroads into the previously peaceful region.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Panjwok, March 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suspected insurgents killed in operations

More than 40 suspected insurgents were killed in two days of intense fighting in southern and eastern Afghanistan during the past week. In Helmand, 30 rebels were killed in raids that targeted narcotics and weapons traffickers. In spite of a substantial military presence in the province following last year’s Operation Moshtarak, the Taliban continue to maintain influence in the valley and mount sporadic attacks on coalition troops.

In another operation, 10 insurgents were killed in the eastern province of Kunar, where recent assaults against the Taliban have led to civilian casualties and caused much resentment against foreign troops. Kunar, which borders Pakistan, has long been an insurgent stronghold due to its fragmented tribal society, steep isolated valleys and forested terrain.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, March 17, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Religion-based parties may stay

Religion-based political parties are likely to stay in Bangladesh. The parliamentary special committee on Constitution amendment has decided to propose the easing of restrictions on the use of religion in politics which will enable the Islamic parties to continue functioning. The committee feels that banning of religious parties will lead to unrest as there are hundreds of religious political parties in the country.

Speculation about the future of the religious political parties floated around following recent cancellation of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Act that ratified and validated all changes brought to the Constitution by the erstwhile military regime. Political parties and other organisations using religion as their guidelines are now facing the stringent restriction.

Suranjit Sengupta, chairman of the committee, however, said that restriction might be imposed on political parties who engage in militancy directly or indirectly.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, March 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Second-best business destination for Danish entrepreneurs

A recent Danish survey has shown that Bangladesh was the second-best choice of Danish entrepreneurs after the Chinese trade hub of Shanghai in 2010. The Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh Svend Olling said that the embassy had to increase the strength of its staff in the commercial section four times last year just to fulfil the queries of Denish businessmen.

At least 10 Danish companies visited Bangladesh and held meetings with 45 local companies to discuss joint business opportunities in December 2010. Olling said that 20 Danish companies have started doing business in Bangladesh and four participated in the last BASIS SoftExpo while several Danish ship importers are keeping contact with the growing shipbuilding industry in Bangladesh.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, March 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt not to quit over tax issue

The Bhutan Government has put an end to speculation over the possibility of the resignation over a Supreme Court verdict. It declared its intention to continue in power and fulfil the popular mandate. The verdict which upheld the High Court ruling on the same issue directed the Government to refund taxes on new vehicle imports.

The verdict stated that the opposition was not against the Government increasing the tax, but against the process through which it was increased. It added that the Government’s argument that it has the authority to revise indirect taxes does not have legal basis.

The court said that the tax revision did not follow the required process and was unconstitutional and that the tax revision did not comply with the legislative process as provided under the Constitution. It directed the government to refund all the taxes collected under the revised tax.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, March 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">WikiLeaks exposé rocks Parliament

Proceedings in both Houses of Parliament were marred by repeated adjournments and uproar as a united Opposition demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following fresh disclosures alleging bribing of MPs during the July 2008 confidence vote, which the UPA-1 Government had won by a slim majority. The Government has refused to confirm or deny the allegations.

A set of India-related WikiLeaks documents was published by The Hindu, showing details of the diplomatic cables that had been despatched on several occasions from the American embassy. Controversial comments on issues like the India-Pakistan relations, UN vote on sanctions on Iran and negotiations on the India-US civilian nuclear deal, have been brought out into the public sphere. This has caused considerable embarrassment to the ruling government.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 18, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan nuclear crisis prompts relook

The earthquake and tsunami triggered nuclear crisis in Japan has resulted in the Indian administration reviewing the safety features of existing and proposed Indian nuclear power plants. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government has ordered an immediate technical review of all safety systems in the country’s nuclear power plants to withstand natural disasters.

NPCIL Chairperson S.K. Jain said that they had taken the events in Japan very seriously and safety audits of nuclear plants were of primary concern. Unlike regulatory practices in other countries, in India the regulatory board gave clearance for five years at a time and after that, it was mandatory to conduct a safety assessment to seek re-licensing . He said that all the nuclear plants in the country operated on a high level of safety.

Stressing that Indian atomic power plants were constantly upgraded to match current levels of safety requirements and were safe, scientists said that the events in Japan cannot slow down the country’s nuclear energy programme in any way. Indian organisations had already announced they would revisit all safety aspects of nuclear plants in the country after the situation in Japan. R.K. Sinha, director, BARC, said data on the impact of the earthquake in Japan on the structural integrity of the nuclear plant would have to be studied.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bid to join export regime

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will lead India’s bid for full membership in the four international export control regimes -- the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Group. Several member-countries in the four international export control regimes had been positive to India’s bid.

India is already an adherent to the NSG and MTCR guidelines, but does not, as it is not a full member, have a direct say in deciding on changes in norms. President Obama on his visit to India had expressed support to India’s bid.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No change in nuclear doctrine

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has asserted that there would be no revision of India’s no-first-use nuclear doctrine and said that minimum credible deterrence would be maintained in view of threats and challenges. The Minister dismissed the notion that India was getting isolated or was a "by-stander" in world affairs, including the evolving situation in West Asia.

On ties with Pakistan, he said India was pursuing the path of dialogue to reduce the trust deficit and resolve all outstanding issues in a spirit of openness. Mr Krishna said the Government had accorded high priority to infrastructure development, including roads, on the India-China border as a "matter of strategic interest." He said that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was constructing 61 roads with a total length of 3,429 km, covering States such as Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

With the US, Mr Krishna said, India’s relations were improving as part of the multi-sectoral strategic dialogue. The next round of Strategic Dialogue, to be held in New Delhi in April, was postponed by two months because of certain "difficulties" on both sides. Rejecting the contention that India was acting as an "opportunist" when it came to ties with Russia, Mr Krishna asserted that relations with the time-tested friend continued to improve. On Sri Lanka, Mr Krishna said India favoured a united country, where legitimate aspirations of ethnic Tamils were taken care of.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Doubling exports in three years

Director-General of Foreign Trade Anup K. Pujari has said that India planned to double the country’s exports to US $ 450 billion over a period of three years from now to bring down the trade deficit.

Principal Secretary, Industry, Busi Sam Bob said most promoters who had taken space in Special Economic Zones were harbouring apprehensions about how long the incentives would be continued.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, March 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gayoom withdraws backing for Thasmeen

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has confirmed that as the "honorary leader" of the Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), he would be withdrawing his support for party leader and successor, Thasmeen Ali, to contest the presidential polls in 2013. Neither Thasmeen nor representatives of Gayoom were able to confirm the report which appeared in the newspaper, Haveeru.

The People’s Alliance (PA) party, founded by Gayoom’s half-brother Abdullah Yameen, meanwhile, said that it would not consider breaking away from its coalition with the DRP. PA Secretary-General Ahmed Shareef said that reports that the PA was set to leave the coalition were not true, at least for "the time being".

The DRP last month announced that it would also be getting into a coalition agreement with the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) following the local council elections. The PA had said it expected to continue with collaborating with the party on Opposition issues.

In the past few weeks, this has led to in-party feuding, even extending to a war of words between Thasmeen and Gayoom himself, with the former president last week putting his name to a 12-page document attacking his successor for ruling in a "dictatorial" manner.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, March 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ex-CJ faces graft charge

Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Abdulla Saeed has denied allegations of corruption after a case against him and another former Supreme Court, Ali Hameed, were filed with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Abdulla Saeed is currently a judge on the new Supreme Court Bench, and was the Chief Justice during the interim period under the new Constitution.

Local radio station SunFM reported that the two judges were accused of corruption and a case was filed in the ACC, alleging that they had paid their personal telephone bills from Supreme Court’s funds. SunFM quoted a senior staff member at the judiciary as saying that the phone bills of each of the judge totalled over Rf 17,000 (US$1323) each.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, March 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nasheed backs Libyan rebels

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed has joined earlier calls from the Arab League for the UN Security Council to fulfil its obligations and impose a no-fly zone in Libya. "Through its own actions, the Gadaffi regime has lost its legitimacy and right to govern," President Nasheed said.

"Following the Gaddafi regime’s loss of legitimacy, at the present time the Transitional National Council has emerged as the only legitimate body representing the aspirations of the Libyan people. The international community, led by the UN, must therefore immediately open channels of communication with the Transitional National Council," he said.

Prior to the escalation of the conflict, President Nasheed called for the deployment of UN peace-keepers in Libya, amid a wave of unrest against the region’s assorted dictators.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, March 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-terror ties with Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the Maldives’ National Central Bureau (NCB) are currently cooperating to crackdown on terrorist suspects, who use Sri Lanka and the Maldives as transit hubs.

A senior officer from the CID, speaking to the Haveeru on grounds of anonymity, said that the cooperation between the two countries is part of a bilateral agreement, signed in 2009 by both countries, to share intelligence and exchange information related to terror suspects.

"We have been coordinating with Interpol and the Maldivian authorities to nab terrorist suspects. We have received information on individuals who are on the wanted list in the Maldives. We are keeping a watchful eye on those who visit Sri Lanka since we have learnt from past experiences that international fugitives use Maldives and Sri Lanka as transit destinations," he said.

This move comes against the backdrop of the most recent arrest of a 42-year-old Maldivian national, identified as Iqbal Mohamed, who was traveling to Male via Sri Lanka on March 10.

Interpol had issued a "Red Notice" alert for Mohamed, at the request of the NCB, for his involvement with certain terrorist groups in Asia and, his involvement in a 2007 terrorist bombing.

The Major Events Support Team (IMEST), which is a branch of Interpol currently deployed in Sri Lanka for the 2011 Cricket World Cup, identified the terror suspect during a routine passenger check of Sri Lanka’s Katunayake International Airport.

Immediately after confirmation, the CID notified the NCB, which eventually resulted in Mohamed’s arrest when he landed in Male.

Secretary-General for Interpol, Ronald K. Noble, hailed the arrest as a model example of what can be achieved through police co-operation and information sharing between countries.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, March 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jailed Nepal TV chief shot at

Mohammad Yunus Ansari, the jailed chairman of a television channel in Nepal, was shot at by an Indian national at the high-security Kathmandu Central Jail on Friday (March 11, 2011). Ansari, who was arrested for his suspected involvement in drug-trafficking and fake Indian currency racket, sustained injuries in his neck.

The attacker, identified as Jagjit Singh from Punjab, was nabbed by the police soon after he fired two shots at Ansari. Singh, carrying a card issued by the Election Commission of India, reportedly entered the jail on the pretext of meeting Charles Sobhraj, the more famous bikini-killer.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, March 11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ITC, Dabur-Nepal face closure

Even as the Hindustan Unilever’s subsidiary here lies closed, two other Indian companies, ITC and Dabur-India, also face similar threats over their joint ventures in Nepal, with the Maoists calling an indefinite strike from March 26.

From Tuesday (March 15,2011), the factories of nearly 80 companies, including Hindustan Unilever’s subsidiary in Basmandi town, closed indefinitely after the All-Nepal Industrial Trade Union affiliated to the Maoist party called a strike in Makwanpur district to press their demand for a minimum pay of NRS 10,000 (nearly $140) per month, up from the current NRS 4,600.

The Maoists, who re-joined the Communist government since, are now enforcing strikes in different industrial areas of the country despite a pledge by their chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda last year to withdraw all strikes throughout 2011 in order to support the Government’s initiative to promote the year as the tourism year intended to bring in one million air-borne tourists.

The call for higher minimum wages is also being supported by labour unions affiliated to the ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unifed Marxist Leninist and the Opposition Nepali Congress though they said they were not supporting the strike. The industries, reeling under almost 20-hour power cuts during working hours, frequent labour trouble and deteriorating security, are saying they will not be able to meet the demand.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Gulf Times, March 10, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Prachanda for all communists to unite

Addressing a function organised by Sarbahara Kosh Nepal in Kirtipur, Maoists’ Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachandra has appealed to all communist forces to initiate dialogue for a single communist centre. In a similar tone, Prime Minister and UML chairman Jhala Nath Khanal stressed the need for unity among leftist forces. Unity among left forces is essential to take the leftist movement to a new height, he said at the same function.

Their statements come at a time when other parties have termed the Maoist-UML coalition Government as an attempt at polarising the Left. "Let’s discuss, struggle and unite," Dahal said while addressing a seminar titled ’Challenges and opportunities of Nepali Communist Movement’. Dahal said his party keeps changing its ideology with changing times. Therefore, it could forge unity among the left on the basis of practical opinions, casting aside both dogmatic and compromising stances.

Claiming that Nepali communists were compromising with counter-revolutionary forces instead of struggling against them, he said the major challenge for the Nepali communist movement was to curb the trend of surrendering in the name of pragmatism. He said the 62 per cent vote with leftist forces in the Constituent Assembly could go up to 70 if communists in Madhes-based parties also included. "A pro-people, anti-feudal, anti-imperialist constitution is possible if we have 70 per cent majority," he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan, March 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Skeleton Nepal charter by May 28, says Deputy Prime Minister

Deputy Prime Minister and Information and Communication Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara has said that it will be better to introduce a mini-constitution by May 28 as it was impossible to promulgate a full constitution within the extended deadline of the Constituent Assembly given the inter-party differences over state structuring and other issues.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan, March 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Panel for political consensus

The CPN-UML standing committee meeting on March 17, 2011 has formed a five-member committee under the erstwhile Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to hold talks with other parties, including the Nepali Congress and the Madhes-based parties, on their prospects of joining the Jhala Nath Khanal-led Government.

Party Vice-Chairmen Bamdev Gautam and Ashok Rai, General Secretary Ishwor Pokharel and standing committee member KP Sharma Oli are the other members of the committee. "The team will hold talks with the parties within three days to come with a view to turning the Khanal-led Government into a consensus dispensation," party Secretary Shankar Pokharel told mediapersons after the meeting held at the UML headquarters in Balkhu. Pokharel said the team will submit its report at the next standing committee meeting. He said the party will take a decision on appointing five other ministers from the UML once the team comes up with its report.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, March 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian aid for Dhanusha bridge

The Embassy of India in Kathmandu has pledged a grant assistance of Rs 2.68 crore for the construction of a bridge over the Jamuni River along the Jhoji Kataiya-Lohana-Janakpur Road in Dhanusha.

The embassy has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Dhanusha-based division office of the Department of Roads to begin the project. In a press statement, the embassy said it is the 17thdevelopment project undertaken in the district with Indian assistance.

During monsoon, eight VDCs remain disconnected with the rest of the districts owing to flooding in the river. The construction will directly benefit over 70,000 people of the 8 VDCs, said the embassy. The Department of Roads under the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works will implement the project as per the norms and regulations of the Government of Nepal.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, March 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Raymond Davis released after payment of ’blood money’

Raymond Davis, the reported CIA contractor whose detention over the murder of two Pakistanis derailed Pakistan-US relations for almost two months, was finally released on March 16 after relatives of the victims disclosed to the court that they had received monetary compensation. Under Pakistan’s Shariah law, the victim enjoys the right to pardon the accused after the payment of ’diyat’ or blood money. Davis was immediately freed and flown back to the US via Afghanistan.

Details of the exchange and the identity of the interlocutors, however, remain sketchy. According to different media accounts, the relatives finally succumbed to pressure from the government and received around US $ 1 million in compensation. Some also speculate that they have been relocated to the US as militant groups had threatened them against such a compromise. Lawyers of the victims, on the other hand, claim foul play, and complain that they were detained and prevented from giving counsel to their clients.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that the money was not paid by her Government. US officials hinted that Pakistani officials paid the compensation and it will be reimbursed soon. Other reports suggest that the Saudi royal family served as the interlocutor and made the payment on behalf of Davis after learning that the US was ’growing impatient’ with his detention.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, March 18, 2011; BBC News, March 16, 2011; Reuters, March 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ex-Minister held over Haj scam

Former Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi was arrested after the court denied him bail. Kazmi is an accused in a recent scandal involving residential accommodation for Pakistani Haj pilgrims. He was arrested by the Federal Investigative Agency and placed in the agency’s lockup in Islamabad after the court ruling.

The ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) politician was sacked from office in December when the news of the scam emerged. The scandal proved to be embarrassing for the PPP government which has become unpopular for its failure to revive the failing economy, halt inflation and curb rising corruption. In fact, Kazmi’s expulsion, along with a member of the Islamist Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), caused a major fracture in the ruling alliance and temporarily reduced the incumbent government to a minority.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, March 16, 2011; Daily Times, March 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Drone strike kills 40 in North Waziristan

A US-operated drone strike killed about 40 people in the tribal agency of North Waziristan on March 16. The first missile struck a vehicle carrying insurgents loyal to commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. The second strike, which caused most of the civilian casualties, targeted a gathering of local elders who had assembled to settle a land dispute. Although the meeting was taking place near the vehicle, it was not attended by militants, and most of the victims were ordinary villagers.

The costly error provoked angry remarks by civilian and military leaders. Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, in a strongly worded statement, said that ’it is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life.’
< class="text11verdana">Source: BBC News, March 14, 17, 2011; The News International, March 16, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

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

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

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

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