MonitorsPublished on Jun 03, 2015
The Sri Lankan Government's decision not to send a 'special delegation' for the 29th session of the UNHRC this month should be seen as an attempt to try and 'de-politicise' the engagement with the UN body.
Sri Lanka: UNHRC can still be an albatross
< class="heading1">Analysis The Sri Lankan Government’s decision not to send a ’special delegation’ for the 29th session of the UNHRC this month should be seen as an attempt to try and ’de-politicise’ the engagement with the UN body. The success or failure of the decision would depend on the response(s) from Geneva in what is seen as the run-up to the more crucial 30th session in September, when alone the UNHRC probe team’s report on ’war crimes’ and ’accountability issues’ in Sri Lanka are expected to be tabled. At the moment, Colombo does not seem to be excessively perturbed by the tabling of the report or its content. Ahead of the March session, when the report was originally scheduled to be tabled, the new leadership in Colombo sent out Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera to the UNHRC, UN Headquarters and to the US, which is the main mover behind the probe-decision. Samaraweera could get a six-month reprieve for the new government, which was even otherwise seen as more pragmatic and less aggressive in western capitals. That the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were not unduly concerned became clearer after Mahishini Colonne, Foreign Ministry spokesperson in the newly-created post, made a matter-of-factly reference to the September session, at her maiden news conference. Or, that’s how news reports on the subject read like. Whether the Government was being brave about it, or if it had not taken time off from the increasing politico-electoral mess on the domestic front to access the impending crisis in its full reach will become known only when days roll on to weeks and so on. Colonne said that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was expected in Sri Lanka, but no dates had been finalised. However, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) invited by predecessor government of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa would visit the country from 3-12 August, she said. Whether a report of the UNWGEID team would be available for the September session, along with the UNHRC probe-findings, is unclear at this stage. It’s not without reason. The Rajapaksa Government repeatedly went on record that many of the ’missing persons’ might have gone overseas under aliases and in large numbers, implying ’political asylum’ or more of ’economic refuge’ as the real cause. It had also reiterated its demand for cooperation from host-countries to trace/identify them, so that Sri Lanka could tally the figures of those that were really missing in the ethnic war. The new government too seems to have taken a near-similar position. The implication could be that no real figures of ’missing persons’ could be arrived at until the head-counts were balanced. Govt dilemma However, this cannot absolve specific episodes of ’war crimes’, though it is unclear at this stage as to what the new Government intends doing with the UNHRC Report, when presented. Expectations are that the report would indict the Sri Lankan armed forces of specific crimes of HR violations in the course of conducting the anti-terror war against the LTTE. Whether the report could dub them as ’crimes against humanity’ or ’genocide’ remains to be known. Though the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government has refrained from commenting on what it does not know, on other specifics, it has taken a position not different from that of the predecessor regime. For instance, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and other Government leaders too have denied the existence of special camps/cells where Tamils, including ex-LTTE cadres, continued to be held and tortured. Even while releasing Tamil civilian lands in the possession of the armed forces in phases, the Government has also been reluctant in closing down military camps in civilian localities in the security-sensitive Northern Province. What’s also not forgotten in Sri Lanka, possibly in the circles close to the predecessor regime in particular, is the unmistaken fact of the ’surprise leakage’ of the Darusman Report earlier. The three-member panel was named reportedly to advise UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but neither was the report kept private, nor was its contents treated as such. Recently, Ban was reported to have spoken to President Sirisena on phone - purportedly to discuss 20-A proposals and passage in Parliament. Independent of the political posturing/position nearer home, the new Government in Colombo, representing the Sri Lankan State interests and those of the armed forces in particular, should feel disquiet. It should be as much over the repeated leaks of the interim and final reports of the Darusman panel, as over the UN chief making a ’private report’ of the kind a public document and forwarding the same to the UNHRC as the basis for the subsequent probe and the pending findings. The Sri Lankan Government can be expected to come up with a long list of anomalies of the kind, if any, as and when the UNHRC report is tabled in the September session. It could be expected to be even more concerned about the possibilities of the ’leaks’ of the earlier kind, as the UN Secretariat does not seem to have probed those ’leaks’ and plugged them. At least there is no evidence or report of such action(s). What should add to the concern is the ’repeat’ of the ’leak’ - of the final report - after the interim report of the Darusman panel had been leaked once. The fact that some portions of the ’leak’ had been blackened would indicate that the ’leak’ was not an accident but an incident. Probe and polls Going by present indications - and governmental commitments - parliamentary polls are likely in Sri Lanka just ahead of the September session of the UNHRC. It is inevitable that the UNHRC probe report, its purported contents and the Sri Lankan Government’s perceived reaction, would all form a part of the poll campaign. On the reverse, the prevailing confusion about former President Mahinda Rajpaksa’s continued presence - and dominance - of the nation’s political scene, particularly in the majority Sinhala constituency, has a message of its own for the UNHRC, the UN and possibly the US, too, ahead of the Geneva session in September. War-time Army commander, Sarath Fonseka, who has been restored his rank and honours and created the nation’s first Field Marshal by the new Government, has since said that they did not have a problem facing any international probe on ’accountability issues’. Surprisingly, the US-headquartered ’trans-national government of Tamil eelam’ (TNGTE), the pro-LTTE separatist group, has welcomed Fonseka’s changed stand, and in public. Against this, former hard-liner minister and ’Sinhalana-Buddhist nationalist’ JNN party founder, Wimal Weerwansa, citing media reports, has claimed that the UNHRC probe report had named 43 individuals, including President Rajapaksa, on ’accountability issues’. If true, Weerawansa’s claims should punch yet another hole of ’leakage’ on the continued credibility of the UNHRC. It could not only become an election issue nearer home, but could also send out confusing signals to voting-members at the UNHRC, all of whom are not as wedded to the ever-changing political priorities and consequent human rights ideologies of the West. That would not mean that Sri Lanka would be off the UNHRC hook, whoever won the parliamentary polls. Instead, it could only complicate matters, both nearer home and overseas, equally or even more. Should the present government consider the possibility of its leadership returning to power, post-poll, they should be taking - and also seen as taking - a greater interest in the UNHRC probe and report than is at present. It’s not about sending jumbo political and politicised teams to Geneva even weeks before each and every session as the predecessor government did. Instead, it’s about strategising a future and futuristic position, which would be easy to sell both to the domestic constituencies - including the minority Tamils and Muslims - and also market to the international community, independent of who came to power in Colombo, after the parliamentary polls. (The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation) < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghanistan: Challenge of engaging Pakistan Aryaman Bhatnagar The recent furore in Afghanistan over the memorandum of understanding between the external intelligence agencies of Afghanistan and Pakistan is yet another reminder of how difficult it is for the two countries to work towards normalisation of ties. The MoU between the National Directorate for Security (NDS) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been the focus of much debate, criticism and complete denouncement in Afghanistan for the better part of the past month. The deal sought to promote closer operational relations between the two institutions in terms of intelligence sharing, coordinated actions and interrogation. Amidst a deteriorating security environment, Afghan and Pakistani government officials declared it as an important and necessary measure. However, this has not been seen as such within Afghanistan. Most see it as an ill conceived policy that is undermining the interests and sovereignty of the country. The former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh, for instance, recently took to a social media network to denounce the ISI-NDS deal as the "third most sinful signature in the history of Afghanistan" after the Treaties of Gandomak (1879) and the Durand Agreement signed in 1893 with the British. Ghani’s Pakistan tilt The MoU is the latest development in what has generally been a relatively improved phase in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. Ever since President Ghani assumed office in late September last year, improving relations with Pakistan has been amongst his topmost priorities and he has worked incessantly, at great political cost, towards achieving that end. The numerous high level bilateral exchanges, an unprecedented visit by an Afghan President to the Pakistan Army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, Kabul’s targeting of Pakistani insurgents on Afghan soil and the arrival in Pakistan of Afghan security personnel for training all seemed virtually impossible during the previous tenure of Hamid Karzai. President Ghani naturally had his task cut out given the deterioration the relations had suffered on account of Mr Karzai’s frequent outbursts and accusations against Pakistan. In light of this uphill challenge, his supporters may claim some progress. Both Nawaz Sharif and General Rahil Sharif have publically pledged support to the Afghan Reconciliation Process and have vowed to tackle terrorism in the region claiming "Afghanistan’s enemies will be treated as Pakistan’s enemies". Nawaz Sharif, during his visit to Kabul on May 12, also publically condemned the Taliban’s spring offensive, the first time such a public rebuke of the Afghan insurgents has been issued by a Pakistani leader. No real progress The problem for President Ghani, however, is that this alone may not satisfy his critics. Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs for more than three decades and the provision of a haven for Afghan insurgents - till this day - continues to be a major source of resentment among the Afghans. Pakistan continues to be viewed with suspicion and many see it as the main factor responsible for the country’s present predicament. The criticism against the ISI-NDS deal should be seen in light of this broader narrative against Pakistan prevalent in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s own internal security challenges and lack of capacity to address it are unlikely to gain any sympathies or even patience as far as expecting results are concerned. The domestic constituency opposed to President Ghani’s overtures to Pakistan expects more significant and immediate results on the ground. From its perspective, Pakistan, despite its claims of wanting peace in Afghanistan, is yet to deliver on its promises. For instance, it is committed to facilitating the reconciliation process by bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. However, there is yet to be any definite breakthrough in the peace talks. The only developments on this front have been preliminary talks - or the ’talks about talks’ - between Kabul and the Taliban’s representatives. Although Pakistan reportedly played a role in facilitating these talks, it remains to be seen how effective they will be. Such talks were held in the past as well, but failed to achieve anything substantial. The ongoing spring offensive in Afghanistan further complicates the situation for President Ghani. As the Taliban continues to launch one major military offensive after another and has made inroads into areas far removed from its traditional strongholds, the pressure on Kabul to justify its Pakistan policy has increased. The increasing violence tends to vindicate the opposition who believe that Rawalpindi has taken no action against the terror infrastructure on its soil. Mohammed Mohaqiq, the second deputy to Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah raised this issue this week claiming that "Pakistan promised that it would do two things: first, bring the Taliban to the negotiation table, and then, try stop the summer offensive <...> but unfortunately none of these promises have been fulfilled". President Ghani may be feeling the pressure himself. In a strongly worded letter to Pakistani political and military leaders, he threatened to reverse the diplomatic gestures made by his government if Pakistan did not take stronger action against the Taliban. The actions demanded of Pakistan include placing Taliban officials in Peshawar and Quetta under house arrest and detaining members of the Haqqani Network. At this stage, it is too early to suggest whether this is just to quell the increasing criticism back home or a possible beginning of the end of President Ghani’s outreach to Pakistan. It is possible that the lack of progress in the reconciliation process and the violent spring offensive is a possible indicator of Pakistan’s own limited influence over the Taliban. The Taliban, even during the 1990s, resented and resisted Pakistan’s attempts to pull its strings. Such opposition increased post-2001 as Pakistan’s participation as the frontier state in the US-led Global War on Terror was seen as a betrayal. As such Pakistan, even if willing, may not be in a position to deliver on its commitments. Irrespective of whether it is a question of capacity or willingness, neither of the two scenarios bode well for President Ghani. He has invested significant political capital in reaching out to the Pakistan and till he has anything significant to show for it - whether at the negotiation table or on the battlefield - the domestic opposition to his Pakistan policy will continue to grow. (The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi) < class="heading1">Country Reports < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Afghanistan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ghani demands stronger action Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a stern warning to Pakistan this week. In a letter addressed to Pakistan’s political and military leaders, President Ghani demanded stronger action from Pakistan against the Taliban, including the house arrest of Taliban leaders in Quetta and Peshawar. He threatened to reverse Afghanistan’s diplomatic outreach to Pakistan if it did not take stronger action against the militants. In the meanwhile, Mohammed Mohaqiq, the first deputy to the the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah blamed Pakistan for the increasing violence in the northern provinces claiming that it had failed to fulfil any of its commitments to Afghanistan. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Afghan leader demands action from Pakistan against Taliban", Dawn, 31 March 2015; "Mohaqiq Points Blame at Pakistan for North’s Security Woes", Tolo News, 3 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bamiyan, SAARC’s cultural capital This past week, Bamiyan has been chosen as the cultural capital of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation for 2015. Mohammed Mohaqiq, the first deputy to the chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, was present in Bamiyan to unveil a statue for the occasion. A number of events are expected to be held in Bamiyan to celebrate this announcement, including seminars, exhibitions and musical events. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Bamyan formally introduced as cultural capital of SAARC nations", Khaama Press, 5 June 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Bangladesh < class="heading12boldGeorgia">40 charged for factory collapse More than two years after the collapse of garment factory building in Dhaka that’s killed 1,100 people police has pressed charges against 42 culprits. Owner of the building is among the 42 who are facing criminal charges. Government officials responsible for safety inspections were charged with murder alongside various factory stakeholders. They all face the death penalty if convicted. It is the biggest industrial disaster in history of Bangladesh. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "41 face murder charge over Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh", The Independent, The Daily Star, 4 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arrest of IS activist Security forces have arrested one more activist of the Islamic State (IS) from Dhaka. This is second incidents of arrest of the IS activist in the country. Earlier, two more activists were arrested in May this year. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Another suspected member of Islamic State arrested from Bangladesh capital Dhaka", Dhaka Tribune, 31 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Bhutan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM meets EU team Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay on 3 June met the Members of Parliament delegation for relations with South Asia. Tobgay on his second day in Brussels discussed strengthening relations and cooperation between Parliaments of Bhutan and the European Union (EU). < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "PM meets Members of European Parliament", Kuensel, 5 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hydro units, India-centric The financial viability and sustainability of Bhutan’s 10,000 MW hydro-project construction plans depend on selling surplus power to India. However, Indian power minister Piyush Goyel’s statement that India has surplus of power and the states are not buying power to supply to its residents, raises doubts over Bhutan’s assumptions. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Broke Indian Discoms And GoI Power Production Plans Pose Questions On Bhutan’s Unlimited Hydropower Market Pitch", The Bhutanese, 1 June 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">India < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Defence pact with US renewed Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar signed the ’2015 Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship’ with visiting US Defence Secretary, Ashton Carter on 3 June. The ten-year defence framework involves partnership in key areas like defence technology and trade initiative, and maritime security. Two projects on developing mobile power generation and protective gear were also finalised. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India, US clear two ground-breaking defence projects as Ashton Carter holds talks", The Economic Times, 4 June 2015; "US Defence Secretary Ashton B. Carter arrives in India, defence pact to be signed between two countries", The Indian Express, 3 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pranab visits Sweden and Belarus President Pranab Mukherjee visited Sweden and Belarus, marking the first presidential visit to the East European country. India and Sweden agreed to resume the bilateral strategic dialogue after a gap of four years and explored Sweden’s participation in the ’Make in India’ program. In Belarus, Mukherjee held meetings with his counterpart President AG Lukashenko about security and counter-terrorism, trade, energy and education and oversaw the signing of several important agreements. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India, Belarus agree on road map for stronger ties", The Hindu, 4 June 2015; "President Pranab Mukherjee Arrives in Sweden", NDTV, 1 June 2015; "Indsia, Sweden to resume strategic talks", The Hindu, 2 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">RBI cuts repo rates The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reduced repo rates by 25 basis points to 7.25 percent. It was stated that any further cuts in the year are unlikely due to poor monsoons expectations, increasing oil prices and the slow recovery of global economy. The stock market plummeted by 660 points as a result of the announcement. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "RBI policy review: Raghuram Rajan cuts repo rate 25 bps, says more reduction will depend on Centre’s response to poor rains", The Economic Times, 3 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Growth estimates revised GDP growth for 2015-16 was marked down from 7.8 percent to 7.6 percent during the second bi-monthly monetary policy review. Consequently, the OECD also revised its growth estimate to 7.3 percent. Poor monsoons, delayed structural reforms such as the GST, and low corporate investments have been cited for the downgrade. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "India poised for strong growth; GDP to rise 7.3% in FY15: OECD", First Post, 3 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Decline in FDI Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) declined by 40 percent to $2.11 billion in March 2015. The services sector received the maximum FDI, followed by telecommunications and automobiles. The relaxation of FDI norms by the government aims to boost foreign investments in the coming months. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "FDI dips 40% in March", The Hindu, 3 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">FM dispels monsoon speculation Finance Minister Arun Jaitley downplayed the predicted adverse effects of a deficient monsoon as announced by the Indian Meteorological Department. Instead, he emphasised that sound irrigation system in north-west India will mitigate below normal rainfall. Further, he noted that India has sufficient food grain stocks to meet any contingency. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "FM Arun Jaitley downplays monsoon fears; says govt has enough food stocks", The Financial Express, 4 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">WTO lauds efforts The World Trade Organisation conducted India’s sixth trade policy review. India was lauded for its efforts to liberalise FDI norms in insurance and railways and initiatives such as ’Make in India’ and ’Skills India’. However, structural bottlenecks were pointed out and members urged India to undertake greater tax reforms and FDI liberalisation to achieve higher growth. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Summary- Trade Policy Review: India", World Trade Organisation, 4 June 2015; "WTO urges India greater tax reform, FDI liberalisation", Business Standard, 5 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Call for anti-BJP poll alliance Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav called out for an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress to contest the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the Bihar state assembly elections. The statement comes in wake of rumours that the BJP is courting RGD chief Lalu Prasad against joining such an alliance. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Sharad Yadav pitches for RJD-JD(U)-Cong alliance in Bihar", The Hindu, 4 June 2015 "Will Fight Bihar Polls With RJD and Congress, Says JD(U) Chief Sharad Yadav", NDTV, 4 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">18 soldiers killed in ambush 18 soldiers of the 6 Dogra Regiment were killed when their convoy was ambushed by rebels while travelling from Manipur’s capital Imphal to the town of Motul, on 4 June. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang claimed responsibility. The government has directed security forces to launch an offensive against NSCN(K). < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "18 Army men killed in Manipur, Naga rebel outfit NSCN-K claims responsibility", The Indian Express, 5 June "Army chief reaches Manipur, forces launch offensive against rebels after 18 soldiers killed", Hindustan Times, 5 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ex-IB chief, counter-terror envoy Asif Ibrahim, former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, was appointed the Prime Minister’s ’Special Envoy on Countering Terrorism and Extremism’. His mandate is to improve cooperation with West Asian and South East Asian states, besides Afghanistan and Pakistan. The appointment signals greater concern over the Islamic State’s growing influence in the region. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : "Ex-IB chief is Prime Minister’s special envoy on counter-terror", The Hindu, 4 June 2015, "Former IB chief Syed Asif Ibrahim named Afghanistan-Pakistan special envoy", The Indian Express , 4 June 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Maldives < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Terror case against Imran In a move considered non-conducive to political negotiations offered by President Abdulla Yameen, his government officials have arrested Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran and initiated ’terror’ proceedings against him, in connection with violence at the all-Opposition May Day rally organised by the party. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Sheikh Imran arrested", Miadhu, 2 June 2015; "Adhaalath Party, Jumhooree Party leaders charged with terrorism", Minivan News, 31 May 2015; "Charges against 32 people have been brought up regarding the May Day protest", SunOnline, 1 June 2015; "Hearing against the 14 people who protested against the imprisonment of former President Nasheed in Ibrahim Nasir International Airport held", Haveeru Online, 1 June 2015; "President Yamin: Speeding the trial is a constitutional duty of the president", SunOnline, 1 June 2015; "Three councilors suspended for boycott of independence day activities", Minivan News, 1 June 2015; "Dr. Shaheem leaves politics for academic role", Miadhu, 31 May 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">No politics on economy: Yameen While his government had no issue with political demonstrations in a democracy, President Abdulla Yameen has urged his detractors not to politicise the nation’s economy and call for a boycott of tourism industry in the country. < class="text11verdana">For more information see : ""Do not politicize economic issues": President Yameen", Miadhu, 31 May 2015; "Tourism is linked to all industries in the country: President Yameen", Miadhu, 2 June 2015; "PPM constituencies will be prioritised for development, says president", Minivan News, 1 June 2015; "Home minister claims 100,000 participated in independence parade", Minivan News, 31 May 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Myanmar < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Thura U to lead USDP Speaker of Parliament’s lower house, Thura U Shwe Mann will continue as the Chair of the Union Solidarity Development Party and lead its election campaign. The three-day meeting of the party that began on 29 May discussed the strategy, party policy and discipline besides leadership. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Thura U Shwe Mann gets party nod to lead USDP into elections", Myanmar Times, 1 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ceasefire hopes dashed Hopes of a national ceasefire agreement dashed again as five armed ethnic groups failed to reach an agreement on ceasefire. The armed ethnic groups included Ta’ng National Liberation Army, Arakan Army and Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance could not reach a ceasefire agreement. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Armed groups disagree on ceasefire", Eleven Myanmar, 1 June 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Nepal < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Consensus on federalism The leaders of the Nepali Congress, CPN (UML), UCPN (Maoist) and the Madhesi front have said they have nearly reached consensus on the disputed issues- federalism, judiciary, electoral system and form of governance. The parties agreed on federalising country with six provinces. The determination of the number of provinces is one of the prickly issues of the constitution writing. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Major parties near consensus on six provinces", eKantipur, 4 June 2015; "Major parties ’nearing’ deal on federal model", eKantipur, 4 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Operation Maitri’ ends ’Operation Maitri’, the massive rescue and relief operation initiated by India in Nepal following the April 25 earthquake, came to an end on June 4. Indian Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster-III arrived at Palam airport carrying the last of Indian contingents of the operation from Nepal, a defence ministry spokesperson said. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "India’s Operation Maitri in Quake-hit Nepal Ends", The Economic Times, 4 June 2015; < class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM to head reconstruction? The National Planning Commission (NPC) Wednesday suggested to the government to form a high-powered body under the prime minister to lead the task of reconstruction of earthquake-ravaged infrastructure. The new body should have three objectives - rebuilding quake-ravaged infrastructures (or building entirely new), mobilization of resources needed for the task, and capacity enhancement of local institutions. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "NPC recommends high-powered reconstruction authority under PM", Republica, 4 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maggi imports banned The government has imposed a ban on the import and sale of Maggi, instant noodles produced by Nestle in India, for an indefinite period, as the product is suspected to contain traces of "lead" beyond permissible limits. Nepal’s restriction comes a day after the Indian government banned Maggi sales in New Delhi stores. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "After India, Nepal bans Maggi import, sales", eKantipur, 5 June 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Pakistan < class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Indian terror’ to be flagged in US The government of Pakistan is collecting evidence of involvement of foreign hands in causing terrorism on Pakistan soil. It would share the information with US and other world leaders when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be visiting New York. According to sources privy to the development, significant evidences of RAW involvement in supporting insurgency and terrorism in Balochistan and FATA were already collected. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "PM to raise issue of Indian involvement with Obama", The Nation, 1 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">US-India N-deal affected strategic stability’ Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said, the US nuclear deal with India affected the strategic stability that existed in South Asia before the deal. The Foreign Secretary would be leading the Pakistani team at the US-Pakistan talks on security, strategic stability and non-proliferation in Washington D.C. Pakistan’s main line would be maintaining strategic balance was necessary for peace in South Asia. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "US-India N-deal affected strategic stability, says Pakistan", Dawn, 2 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Imran caution on Yemen PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) chief Imran Khan cautioned government against military involvement in the Saudi led military campaign to oust the Houthi rebels from Yemen. Addressing his core supporters in the Hunza and Nagar valleys Imran said, it was due to his party’s strong opposition that the Pakistan government decided against military action in Yemen in the spiralling Middle east conflict. Otherwise Pakistan would have dispatched troops he claimed. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "Military support for Riyadh: Imran Khan warns against involvement in Yemen crisis", The Express Tribune, 5 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">China backs NSG membership China has extended its support to Pakistan for its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG). Pakistan has taken steps towards its mainstreaming into the global non-proliferation regime. China has noted Pakistan’s aspirations to get membership to the NSG and the Foreign Ministry spokesperson for China said "We support Pakistan’s engagement with the NSG". < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "China supports Pakistan for NSG membership", Daily Times, 4 June, 2015 < style="color: #a52a2a; font-size: medium;">Sri Lanka < class="heading12boldGeorgia">MR to contest polls Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa will contest the upcoming parliamentary polls, and will decide on the party and symbol, based on the decision of the SLFP-UPFA combine to which he belonged, his spokesman Rohan Weliwita has said. < class="text11verdana">For information more see : "MR will definitely contest: Spokesman", Daily Mirror Online, 2 June 2015; "Mahinda cannot be PM - Ranil", The Island, 31 May 2015; "SLFP won’t field MR at general election - Rajitha Minority parties don’t want him nominated - SB"; The Island, 31 May 2015; "SLFP CC will decide whether to field MR or not - Dilan", The Island, 31 May 2015; "No burning problem in SLFP- Chandrika", Daily Mirror Online, 31 May 2015; "Sajith predicts UNP-SLFP cohabitation after polls", The Island, 31 May 2015; "’Dissolve Parliament’... Speaker backs MPs’ call", The Island, 3 June 2015; "Corruption: Presidential Commission ready for public hearing shortly...Mandated to summon anyone, even a former president", The Island, 31 May 2015; "Ravi challenges MR on his economic policies", Daily Mirror Online, 2 June 2015; "Shiranthi responds", Daily Mirror Online, 1 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">New poll alliance Three Upcountry Tamil political parties, now sharing power in the government of President Maithripala Sirisena under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have formed a new electoral alliance. The DPF, UPF and WNC have formed the ’Tamil Progress Alliance’ (TPA), to negotiate a better deal from the Sinhala mainline party with which they are expected hold pre-poll seat-sharing negotiations. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "DPF, UPF, WNC form new political alliance", Daily Mirror Online, 3 June 2015 < class="heading12boldGeorgia">Mosque attacked In the first major incident of the kind after the 8 January presidential polls, some unidentified persons attacked the Borella mosque in Colombo. Police said that the attackers could be identified from the CCTV footage. < class="text11verdana">For more information see: "Mosque attack: Police hopeful of arresting suspects shortly", The Island, 31 May 2015; "Mosque attackers to be identified from CCTV footage", The Island, 2 June 2015 < style="font-size: large;">Primary Documentation < style="font-size: medium;">Bhutan Ambassador-Designate of The Kingdom of Bhutan to Canada to present credentials, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 June 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">India Interviews K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Telangana Chief Minister, "Govt. giving top priority to welfare of the poor", The Hindu, 2 June 2015 Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minority Affairs minister, "We are accountable to the people. They will judge our work", The Asian Age, 31 May 2015 Press Release "Trade Policy Review: India", World Trade Organisation, 4 June 2015 "Second Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2015-16", Reserve Bank of India, 2 June 2015 India-US Joint Press Release on visit of US Secretary of Defence Dr. Ashton Carter to India, Ministry of External Affairs, 4 June 2015 India-Netherlands Joint Communiqué released during the visit of President of the Netherlands to India, Ministry of External Affairs, 5 June 2015 Onboard Media statement by the President enroute to Delhi from Minsk on his visits to Sweden and Belarus, Ministry of External Affairs, 5 June 2015 President’s speech at Joint Business Council Meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Ministry of External Affairs, 4 June 2015 List of Education MoUs signed during President’s State visit of Belarus, Ministry of External Affairs, 3 June 2015 Roadmap for India-Belarus Cooperation, Ministry of External Affairs, 3 June 2015 List of Agreements signed between India and Belarus during the State Visit of President to Belarus, Ministry of External Affairs, 3 June 2015 Address by President at the Belarus State University, Ministry of External Affairs, 3 June 2015 Remarks by President at the Civic Reception during his State Visit to Belarus, Ministry of External Affairs, 3 June 2015 President’s remarks at the Luncheon Banquet in Minsk hosted by the President of Belarus, Ministry of External Affairs, 3 June 2015 President’s Public Lecture at Uppsala University on-" Tagore & Gandhi: Do they have Contemporary Relevance for Global Peace?", Ministry of External Affairs, 2 June 2015 President’s speech at the Business Seminar in Stockholm during his State Visit to Sweden, Ministry of External Affairs, 2 June 2015 President’s Banquet Speech in Stockholm, Ministry of External Affairs, 1 June 2015 List of Educational MoUs signed during the State Visit of President to Sweden, Ministry of External Affairs, 1 June 2015 List of agreements/MoUs signed during the State Visit of President to Sweden, Ministry of External Affairs, 1 June 2015 President’s Address to Indian Community in Stockholm, Ministry of External Affairs, 31 May 2015 MoU between India and Sweden on cooperation in the field of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, The Prime Minister’s Official Website, 30 May 2015 Agreement on Coastal Shipping between India and Bangladesh, The Prime Minister’s Official Website, 30 May 2015 Remarks by External Affairs Minister at Ground Breaking Ceremony of South Asian University in New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs, 3 June 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Myanmar Union Minister for Foreign Affairs U Wunna Maung Lwin gave a briefing to the Yangon-based diplomatic corps and the UN agencies on the current developments in Myanmar at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yangon, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 June 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Nepal Press Release issued by Embassy of Nepal, Bangkok, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 June 2015 Post-Earthquake Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Measures undertaken by the Government of Nepal, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1 June 2015 Press Release on condolence messages sent on sinking of a cruise in the Yangtze River in China, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 May 2015 < style="font-size: large;">Bibliography < style="font-size: medium;">Afghanistan Opinion Pieces Aryaman Bhatnagar, "Terror go round",, The Indian Express, 4 June 2015 Joseph Goldstein, "In ISIS, the Taliban Face an Insurgent Threat of their Own",, The New York Times, 4 June 2015 Tamim Asey, "Afghanistan’s Illusion of a new Pakistan",, The Diplomat, 1 June 2015 Micah Zenko, "The New Unknown Soldiers of Afghanistan and Iraq", ,Foreign Policy, 29 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bangladesh Opinion Pieces Syed Munir Khasru, "Great expectations in Dhaka: Modi has an opportunity to reboot India-Bangladesh relations after many erratic flip-flops", Times of India, 5 June 2015 M J Akbar, "Why India stands a better chance with Bangladesh over its other neighbours", The Economic Times, 4 June 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Bhutan Opinion Pieces Passang Tshering, "Indian Cars with White Number Plates" The Bhutanese, 1 June 2015 Kuensel, "The throny Thromde issue", Kuensel, 5 June 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">India Reports Evelyn Nieves, "Girls Rule in an Indian Village", The New York Times, 3 June 2015 /> Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri, "The Rs 19,000 crore mystery: How the CAG figure for "undue benefit" to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio shrank", The Caravan, 31 May 2015/> Atul Bhardwaj, "Silk Routes versus Sea Lanes: The Return of Landlubbers", The Economic and Political Weekly, 30 May 2015 Opinion Pieces Pradip Phanjoubam, "In Manipur’s Absurd Theatre, Even Grief and Mourning are Open to Negotiation", The Wire, 5 June 2015 R Sriram, "RBI not done with rate cuts amid concerns like poor monsoon, Fed hike & inflation", The Economic Times, 5 June 2015 Christophe Jaffrelot, "Holes in the government", The Indian Express, 4 June 2015 "A fiscal nightmare", Live Mint, 4 June 2015 Akeel Bilgrami, "Dare we begin to hope?", The Hindu, 2 June 2015 Shiv Visvanathan, "Sum and substance of a real Opposition", The Hindu, 1 June 2015 M J Akbar, "The citizen’s real questions", The Indian Express, 2 June 2015 Pratap Bhanu Mehta, "Higher abdication", The Indian Express, 2 June 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Maldives Opinion Pieces Shoko Noda, "Living with water", Minivan News, 5 June 2015 Mark Lynas, "Maldives cannot represent climate leadership with an autocrat at the helm", Minivan News, 4 June 2015 Hassan Mohamed, "Crisis in Maldives: Can talks succeed?", Minivan News, 31 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Myanmar Opinion Pieces "Myanmar’s Election Test", Economic and Political Weekly, 30 May 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Nepal Opinion Pieces Kanak Mani Dixit, ’Local or National Government’, eKantipur, 5 June 2015 Michael Useem and Rodrigo Jordan, ’Civil Action’, Republica, 3 June 2015 Prem Phyak, ’Survivors, not victims’ eKantipur, 5 June 2015 Daman Bahadur Ghale, ’Preparing for the worse’ eKantipur, 4 June 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Pakistan Opinion Pieces Richard G Olson, "US-Pakistan cooperation- developing sustainable solutions", The Express Tribune, 5 June 2015 Majid Mahmood, "South Asian nuclear dynamics", The Nation, 3 June 2015 < style="font-size: medium;">Sri Lanka Opinion Pieces Gomin Dayasiri, "In Sri Lanka political sins are washed away without detergent", Daily Mirror Online, 5 June 2015 Kelum Bandara, "20-A now hangs in the balance", Daily Mirror Online, 4 June 2015 Gunadasa Amarasekara, "Rape and murder of Vithiya: Two grey areas that need to be cleared" The Island, 3 June 2015 < class="brown12verdana">Contributors: Afghanistan : Aryaman Bhatnagar; Bangladesh : Joyeeta Bhattacharjee; Bhutan & Myanmar : Mihir Bhonsale; India: Kaustav Dhar Chakrabarti and Shruti Gupta; Maldives & Sri Lanka : N Sathiya Moorthy; Nepal : Pratnashree Basu ; Pakistan : Sridhar Ramaswamy
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