MonitorsPublished on Oct 28, 2011
With the international community refusing to take its focus off the human rights situation in Sri Lanka even in the midst of developments in West Asia and North Africa, there are now expectations that it could well be Colombo's turn to be called to account for, though to be at a lesser degree.
Sri Lanka: Where bilateral interests with India collude or collide
< class="heading1">Analysis

With the international community refusing to take its focus off the human rights situation in Sri Lanka even in the midst of developments in West Asia and North Africa, there are now expectations that it could well be Colombo’s turn to be called to account for, though to be at a lesser degree. What form it takes and how Sri Lanka responds to the same are concerns, but the mitigating role that a neighbour like India could be called upon to play would also be at the centre of the limited global discourse on the issue. In all this, the contemporary sentiments being whipped up as much by the international community on larger issues as by the Sri Lankan Government on more specific concerns would have a say in determining what turn bilateral cooperation in the matter takes - and how far could and would they travel together, or drift away.

Events over the past years have increasingly shown that the perceived concerns of the global community is not all and always about equity for all nations (independent of the professed ideal of equality for all individuals within individual countries). It is about an elite few revising and re-defining issues and initiative, and putting their pre-fixed and fixated agendas through the motions of perceived global consensus. They call the shots and often they fire the last shot, too. It is here that the fate and future of nations like Sri Lanka, and the role of neighbours like India come under increasing stress. It is also in this context that Sri Lankan Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe’s recent concession for allowing the international community to have a peep into his Government’s commitment on human rights and accountability issues need to be judged. In New York, the Minister said that the Government of Sri Lanka would agree to the call for a global preview provided China and India are the nations to undertake such a review.

It is no more (only) about equality for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. It is also not any more about the overall human rights situation in the country, where again much needs to be done - or, undone. Increasingly, the international community (read: West) has been camouflaging its post-War role as a self-appointed ’global policeman’ with its post-Cold War self-righteous projection as the ’global guardian’. Unnoticed by the rest of the world, the West has assumed the role of ’moral policing’, a charge that has been otherwise heaped upon groups and beliefs even now - and with no accountability, self-assessment or self-indictment, as is their case for the rest. Such a trend is fraught with problems, not just for the host nations or even the perpetuators of the intended equations that are emerging, nonetheless. It is dangerous for the global comity, which as a concept was built brick by brick through the past century. It was also the century of desires and disastrous wars of disproportionate and unprecedented proportions.

IBSA takes the lead

The emerging global scenario sans the emerging Cold War involving China has more to do with the global agenda of elite nations in the post-Cold War era, when international organisations like the UN have been losing their relevance, equanimity and sheen by the passing day. Even the Security Council is no more the body that it was intended to be - policing the rest of the world and at the same time functioning as a self-regulatory mechanism of conflicting ideological, political and geo-strategic interests that would hold the balance. The Security Council members do not side-step one another, as used to be the case even a decade ago, when the US-led West launched the first offensive against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq over the more justifiable ’Kuwait occupation’. The veneer is off since.

The Tshwane Declaration issued at the conclusion of the IBSA Dialogue Forum Summit (India, Brazil, South Africa) in mid-October is telling for the width and depth of issues and sectors that it covered. Possibly for the first time, ISBA took note of developments in Sri Lanka. On the issue, Paragraph 83 of the Tshwane Declaration reads thus: "The Leaders recognised the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Sri Lanka and encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to implement a fully inclusive political settlement in Sri Lanka, which will be best achieved through broad consultation and dialogue amongst all the peoples of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the Leaders acknowledged the priority of the timely completion of effective domestic accountability processes, ie, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), before any consideration is given to alternative processes."

On the larger issues of human rights impacting on Sri Lanka, the Declaration had this to say, among other things: "The Leaders expressed the imperative need for the international community to recognise and reaffirm the centrality of the Human Rights Council. The Leaders welcomed the recently concluded Outcome of the review of the status, functioning and working methods of the United Nations Human Rights Council and in this regard reiterated their commitment to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language or religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The Leaders recognized that development, peace and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing."

Read together, the IBSA Declaration might sound like a twin-edged sword in the case of Sri Lanka, but on the larger format, the world needs to note that non-regional groupings like the three-nation IBSA Dialogue Forum may have been left with no option but to take a comprehensive view of the existing world and the emerging global order. The Declaration did not leave out any issue or sector, region or concerns, considering that such an inter-regional grouping would have specific interests and concerns of specific partners that need reassertion and reaffirmation. In a world where existing institutions are losing credibility faster and new crises are flagged with issues remaining clouded and motives becoming questionable, processes rather than policies have greater operational force. The means end up justifying the goal, that too only after the crude elimination of the source of alleged global discomfiture. This is not a civilised way the world does business with itself - nor, should it be confused with any ’clash of civilisations’, either. Those lines, if at all, remain blurred instead, and could remain so for a long, long time to come in a world of inter-dependability and inter-operability.

Delivering on LLRC promise

Like Sri Lanka, India will be coming up for the regular, periodic UNHRC review in the coming year. Yet, on the specific issue of human rights violations flowing from ’Eelam War-IV’, the international community, including IBSA in this case, have only been hoping for Colombo to deliver on the promises that it chose to make by setting up the LLRC in the first place. For now, Colombo is being held accountable not for what others are saying, but on what it promised others. The relevance of such a commitment has increased since, as the Sri Lankan Government’s November 15 deadline for the LLRC to submit its final report is fast approaching. At the September conclave of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, indications were available that the restive West would be willing to wait until the next session in March, for Colombo to roll out the details of the report - but along with the follow-up action by the Government. How credible will both look in the eyes of the international community would also depend on the progress made on the political front nearer home, in terms of the Three-R’s, namely, rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation.

For the West to set the rule first, and keep shifting the goal-post, later, is nothing new. Independent of what it needs to do on the domestic front in terms of an ’inclusive’ political model in terms of the ’national problem’, it is also this vagaries of the West that the Colombo dispensation has been trying to bat away from the closing months of ’Eelam War-IV’. Yet, there have been occasions as in Egypt where the American god-father was caught napping over the imminent downfall of Hosni Mubarak. The US had to recalibrate its priorities overnight. Just as the world was caught napping when the Soviet Union collapsed without notice. The lessons are clear. It can happen to a larger or lesser power without notice. Two, he who lays down the rule need not know how the end-game would play out. It is issues as this that would concern smaller and bigger nations alike as they begin to readjust themselves to the emerging reality - and set their own priorities and processes in ways that would sub-serve their larger ’national, self-interest’. It is this ground reality that could well be at the bottom of the post-Cold War realignment than anything that might have been pre-determined elsewhere.

CHOGM to SAARC, playing the balancing act

India and Sri Lanka cannot escape the consequences. It would all depend as much on what they perceive as their own national self-interest and preservation as the international realities that they cannot escape. If anything, the latter could dictate the course of the former, unless there is an early global review of the motives and methods that drive such impositions. In between, in existing institutions such as the Commonwealth and SAARC (South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation), the traditional differences between the West and the Rest could resurface in ways that were thought to have been buried. Middle-of-the-road players like Maldives, the incoming Chairperson of SAARC, may find themselves playing the balancing act. They are agreed to the policy as dictated by the West but have priorities that are grounded in regional realities - like Maldives, a traditional yet moderate Islamic country. Over the past months, Male has applauded the whiff of ’Arab Spring’ in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt and also the NATO military intervention in Libya, but at the same time has a different take on Sri Lanka.

In the immediate context of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), India joined with other countries, including Maldives in the immediate neighbourhood, to reopen the question of Colombo being the 2013 Summit, an issue settled as far back as 2009, along with the choice of the CHOGM venue even for 2015. Needless to point out that CHOGM, for instance, is a grouping in which Sri Lanka is a member but China and Russia, with their veto-vote in the UN Security Council, are not. New Delhi has also clearly stated that proposals such as the one for the creation of the post of a Commonwealth Commissioner for Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights should await careful reading and detailed discussions. Briefing newsmen in Perth, the CHOGM venue, Foreign Secretary RanjanMathai did mention that India had reservations about some of the proposals of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), and cautioned how the proposals would sidestep the existing office of the Secretary-General, for instance.

Clearly, the efforts seem to be aimed at creating an ’outsourced arm’ on political issues just as NATO and other strategic allies have been ’outsource partners’ on the strategic front. In context, Sri Lankan President MahindaRajapaksa’s refusal to discuss ’accountability issues’ through a special statement at the Summit, and only at bilaterals, implies that efforts have been made to ’internationalise’ the Sri Lankan issue in more ways than one, and at the same time try and make the otherwise toothless Commonwealth, a handmaiden of a select few. While it may soothe some to think that stalling the move was a success in itself, mentioning it might have been the only agenda and goal of those had tried their hands at it. Either way, the fact that it did bring together like-minded nations even on the other side of the fence, to take strong positions, meant that there has now been a consolidation of opinion on few issues and more so on the methodology, recommended by a partisan few. It is the kind of position that an emerging power like India cannot accept - nor can it allow it to fester, as much in the larger interest as in its own self-interest (both for more reasons than one).

’Travel advisory’ against India

How these differential perceptions play out over the short and the medium terms will also determine the future course global relations and equations. The unprecedented five-nation ’travel advisory’ against India in this Diwali reason seems both orchestrated and totally out-of-turn. Unlike many of those nations, the security authorities in the country have seldom held back any festivity-eve threat perception involving terrorist groups from its population. This year round, incidentally, there was no specific or general threat perception or advisory of any kind, either to or by Indian security agencies. That the five nations in the grouping, namely, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, have things in common cannot be overlooked. The travel advisory, particularly from Australia, came at a time when Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna was already in that country for the Commonwealth Summit. That four of the five nations issuing travel advisory, barring the US, were all members of the Commonwealth should not go unnoticed. It is also unclear if at least in the context of the Commonwealth Summit, the ’advising’ nations, kept India posted of their imminent announcement, either formally or informally. It is the kind of embarrassment that is otherwise reserved for ’pariah’ nations, even otherwise.

Sure enough, critics in Sri Lanka would draw a parallel with their own predicament on the international arena in which some of the five nations had been pro-active for some time now. In their eyes, it was not a coincidence that India got the same treatment in the British Parliament on the Kashmir front as Sri Lanka got on the ethnic front, not very long ago. The Sri Lankan embarrassment has been too much, too far, in their eyes. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, while in the US for the UN General Assembly session, was allowed to be sued for human rights violations under domestic American laws. So has been the treatment meted out to him in Australia, where he has gone for the Commonwealth Summit. Worse still in the case of Sri Lanka, already member-nations like Australia and Canada, are seeking to block Sri Lanka from heading and hosting the next Commonwealth Summit in that country, citing human rights violations as the reason. Fair to the hosts, however, the Governments in the US and Australia, have cited ’diplomatic immunity’ for denying official cognisance of the accusations made against President Rajapaksa in their respective courts. But it looked more like a part of a tactic than outside of it, and not certainly against it.

Whatever the intention or motivation, the coordinated efforts at embarrassing India in international forums may be seen as an attempt to blur the delineation and distinction. This may have consequences. Nearer home in India, new meanings may come to be attributed to civil society protests on a variety of issues, starting now with the Koodamkulam Nuclear Power Project, and even corruption and black-money. Such suspicions had festered -- and were fostered in the ’Cold War’ era - had often stuck, thus influencing foreign and security policies of the day. If taken to its logical conclusion, the current phase, if not revisited to India’s satisfaction, could lead to a situation in which the peaked-out IT era generation nearer home might turn its back to the West that had fostered them in the first place and demand a wholesale review of new and emerging strategic relations.

Perched in the strategically-located Indian Ocean, whose global perception and importance have been revived without any change in the geo-political or economic and energy related concerns since the days after the Second World War, and balancing its equations with two emerging powers such as China and India, Sri Lanka might well dictate the course of the world in the years and decades to come. India, in turn, will have more coming its way, either way. In a way, there may be a strong message for the powers-that-be in Sri Lanka in particular and the Sri Lankan State otherwise, that a negotiated settlement to the ethnic issue or not, the international community may have an agenda that may not be palatable to Colombo, particularly on ’accountability issues’. If critics in Sri Lanka recall Libya’s Gaddhafi rolling back his nuclear ambitions with the hope - though, not commitment - that the West would be off his back, it was not to be, they may have a point after all.

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

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN praise for reconciliation efforts

Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary General, has praised the country’s post war reconciliation and rehabilitation efforts, in a meeting held with Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Special Envoy, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.

The Secretary General’s Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambiar, and the former UK Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, were among others to commend the government for its post war recovery, and rehabilitation of former LTTE members.

The UN and the government have an ongoing dialogue on human rights and reconciliation efforts.

Samarsinghe is attending the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee (Third Committee) of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Addressing a meeting of the committee, he also put forth Sri Lanka’s concerns with regard to the transparency of the UN Human Rights Council. Drawing attention to the Darusman Report, he urged the members of the committee to reassess the report and not to accept it as credible, as there are fundamental flaws in the procedure of investigation.

The Minister also called upon the international community to continue to support the nation in its post war efforts, and to give it time and opportunity to achieve its goals.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, October 27, 2011; Daily News, October 27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MR credits economic vision for continued progress

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has credited a clear and consistent national economy for the island nation’s continued economic and developmental progress.

Addressing the Commonwealth Economic Forum in Perth, Australia, he said that Sri Lanka’s continued economic success over the last six years is due to the government’s policy agenda, Mahinda Chinthana, which clearly stipulated its intended vision and measures to achieve these.

He stressed that these achievements were possible after peace and stability was attained with the eradication of the LTTE, allowing the country to move toward social and economic development.

The President also suggested that developed countries need to do more in order to regain confidence following the global financial crisis. He alluded to the high levels of unemployment as a cause for political and social unrest. Sri Lanka is among the Asia Pacific countries that are propping up the global economy, he said.

Sri Lankan economy has grown to eight percent, its unemployment rate has fallen to 4.3 percent and its inflation rate has fallen to six percent in recent years.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily News, October 27, 2011; Daily Mirror, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coast Conservation Department renamed

The Government has renamed the Coast Conservation Department to the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resources Management Department, in order to meet the demands of tourism and fisheries development activities. The renamed department will be a part of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development.

The move comes after new provisions were made to the Coast Conservation Act of 1981, in order to develop and protect the coastal belt of the country. The move comes after new provisions were made to the Coast Conservation Act of 1981, in order to develop and protect the coastal belt of the country. The department will be concerned with developing and maintaining the shoreline, improving the coastal communities’ standard of living, promoting and facilitating economic development.

The coastal regions are home to an increasing number of people, which has led to growth and development in tourism, fishing and other maritime activities.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, October 27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Digital IDs for citizens

A new digital national identity card will soon be issued to all citizens, replacing the present identity card, by the Department of Registration of Persons.

The new card will contain more details than the present card and will be suitable for use both locally and internationally. It will also feature a number of security measures to ensure its authenticity.

The new card will be made available to all those with the present ID card, said a Department of Registration of Persons representative, adding that the issue of the present cards will be stopped.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily News, October 28, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Second phase of security transition to be announced

The second phase of security transition into the hands of the Afghan Security Forces (ASF) will be announced by Mr. Hamid Karzai in the upcoming Istanbul conference on November 2. Security would be partially or completely taken over by the ASF in the provinces of Takhar, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan, Parwan, Balkh, and Badakhshan in the north, and Herat and Nimroz provinces in the west, while the provincial governors have raised concerns on the readiness of the Afghan forces it seems that the transition of security and policing would go ahead irrespective, keeping in mind the 2014 NATO deadline.

Former U.S ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry , has raised serious concerns over the financial viability of the AFS post NATO withdrawal, he said in a conference in Canberra that the budget of the Afghan nation is to meagre to address the future requirements of maintaining the Afghan Security Forces whose maintenance would cost many times the government revenue available. On the other hand, General Azmi spokesperson for the Afghan ministry of Defence has criticised Mr Eikenberr calculations as highly over estimated, stating that if the international community would provide for the equipment, training and construction of bases the expenditure would not be excessive post 2014.

In a statement made by the Australian and German defence ministers the respective nations would maintain their military presence in Afghanistan after the intended 2014 NATO pullout. Australia would maintain its presence through institutional training, special forces, military advisers, capacity building and development assistance said, Mr Smith; Australian defence minister.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, October 27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Political turmoil beckons a serious look

The Afghan Jirga (loyajirga) would be held on November 16, 2011 and attended by 2000 Afghan tribal leaders, senior politicians and clerics. The meeting would go on for four days during which discussion would be held on the strategic partnership with the United States and the US Afghan strategic cooperation pact. Taliban militant groups have issued a statement stating that they would react strongly against the Jirga while also mentioning that the militants have been ordered to specifically target the gathering.

In another political set back for the ISAF in Afghanistan, the Afghan lower house of parliament has rejected a deal on technical and military cooperation between the Afghan interim government and the ISAF which was signed in 2001. The lower house has argued that the deal violated the sovereignty of the nation. The deal provides ISAF complete freedom of movement or action throughout the territory and airspace of Afghanistan.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, October 27, 2011; Surgar, October 26, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Drought and an uncertain winter threaten more misery

Concerns have been expressed by ministers from the rural rehabilitation and development ministry and the parliamentarian commission for natural resources and environmental habitance over the drought conditions that might lead to 7 million Afghans starving this winter. Droughts have affected 14 provinces in the nation seriously affecting 2.6% of people there and 90% of national agriculture. The ministers also state that in case the government does not step up to the challenge the country will face migration, regional conflict, animal deaths and disease. Aid is expected from international donors before the onset of winter as snow falls might block access to various regions.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, October 25, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Insurgency spotlight and the Haqqani answer

In a latest interview given by a senior Haqqani leader, the network has rejected any efforts for a separate peace deal with the United States. The speaker goes on to mention that the network is united with the Taliban and any peace agreements must be negotiated with the Taliban group of Mullah Mohammad Omer. He further mentions that the network wants all foreign forces to leave Afghanistan. The United States has recently urged Pakistan to bring the Haqqani network to the peace table, but this latest interview could be seen as an answer to the American efforts.

Further accusations levelled on the ISI and Pakistan military regarding the training of the Taliban insurgents have not gone unfounded. In an interview with a detained Taliban insurgent who confessed that his initial training took place in Pakistan with the assistance of the Pakistan military and lasted 15 days. Pakistan military spokesman has denied such allegations stating that they are entirely baseless. But evidence has emerged over a period of time that ever since Mr Obama increased the no of troops in Afghanistan, the Pakistan military has stepped up its assistance to the insurgency and suicide bombing.

In a military action lasting 10 days the Baghlan province has been sanitised of insurgents by the 209 Shaheen Afghan National Army. The operation was led by the Afghan security forces and backed by the international coalition force. The province was said to be a stronghold of the insurgents, but no resistance was offered by the militants to the Afghan forces. General Safi commanding the troops stated that the Afghan army has decided to build several bases in AnarKhel, ZamanKhel and Mullah Khel, for security and policing purposes. This operation objective was to prevent missile attacks on Afghan and coalition forces as they crossed into the Kunduz province and prevent attacks in the region by Taliban insurgents.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, October 26, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Developed nations urged to help achieve Millennium Development Goals

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a panel discussion on ’Empowering Women to Lead’ reminded and urged the developed First World nations to adhere to their commitments made at Monterrey Poverty Summit in 2002 and UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC) in Istanbul this year to aid developing nations in achieving socio-economic development including the objective of women’s empowerment. She cited the adverse effects of global economic recession, food security and climate as hindering factors in the government’s efforts.

During her first tenure, Hasina recalled that the National Women Development policy was adopted for the very first time, and she informed that this time around it had been amended to fit within the framework of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, and the 1995 Beijing Plan of Action.

The Monterrey Poverty Summit agreed to give 0.7 percent of their GNP to the Official Development Assistance to developing countries while the 4th UN Conference on LDCs identified priority areas for development and capacity-building. Hasina emphasised that the strategy was to overcome new developmental challenges with the assistance and cooperation of development partners and international organizations.
< class="text11verdana">Source:,, October 27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Opposition party BNP continues its ’war’ on government

Opposition leader Khaleda Zia reiterated that she has declared war to remove the current government that is corrupt to protect Bangladeshis. She criticised the Hasina government on allowing transit to India, in actuality making the country a ’vassal state’. She claimed that "if transit is given (to India), Bangladesh will not become prosperous like Singapore, but turn out to be another Sikkim."

Khaleda Zia also accused the government of plundering, reducing so many small investors into paupers. She also reminded the public of the Awami League’s false promises of selling rice at Taka 10 per Kg and free fertilizers to. She said that the real situation was the heightened production cost of agricultural products and serious scarcity of gas and electricity.

Her interest is to secure the next general elections under a non-party caretaker government through her movement .She advocated that the Awami League would also have to take part in those elections.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Climate change to impact Dhaka seriously

A study by risk analysis and mapping firm Maplecroft says that Dhaka is facing the highest risks from rising sea levels, floods and other climate change factors. The report says that "population growth in these cities combines with poor government effectiveness, corruption, poverty and other socio-economic factors to increase the risks to residents and business." Miami ranked at high risk as did Singapore; New York and Sydney were medium and London was low risk; while Bangkok ranked extreme.

Bangladesh ranked fifth most vulnerable country to climate change and hunger in an ActionAid research report published in late 2010.The Global Assessment Report of the UNDP also this year that the country is one of the most vulnerable ones in the world.

Agriculture experts said that expanded farming of short duration paddies could significantly increase rice production and ensure the nation’s food security and assist in sustaining adverse climate change impacts.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star,, October 28, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ID cards for fishermen to curb piracy in Sundarbans

In order to limit piracy in the Sundarbans and the Bay, and to identify fishermen, the administration is planning to issue identity cards to fishermen in the vicinity. Only fishermen with ID cards will be allowed to fish in the Bay and coastal areas. No specific date has been fixed to give ID cards yet. "The ID cards would be provided to fisherman of the district from the Deputy Commissioner’s office after getting certificate from trawler owners and fisherman organization," said the Deputy Commissioner.
< class="text11verdana">Source:,, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU Ambassador to Bangladesh on CHT Peace Accord and development

EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, William Hanna met with Deputy Leader of the House SyedaSajedaChowdhury. Hanna opined that the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord should be implemented. He also conveyed the EU’s interest of increasing assistance for the overall development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, specifically for the heath and education sectors. Chowdhury articulated that there is much hope that EU-Bangladesh relations will grow stronger in the near future.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 27th, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Private newspapers feel the crunch

Daily newspaper Bhutan Today has gone bi-weekly recently while Bhutan Times, the first private newspaper in Bhutan, laid off seven employees. Managers say that the private newspapers in the country are going through a "sustainability struggle".

The main reason for this is the government practice of distributing advertisements irrespective of the newspapers’ circulation which is stalling the industry’s growth.

Thus with more than 80 percent of advertisements coming from the government alongside new entrants, the industry has become more competitive than before. The newspaper managers expressed the view that government create an environment in which the media can not only proliferate but also prosper.
< class="text11verdana">Source:,, October 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Investigation of senior police official; concern over transparency and justice

The Royal Bhutan Police began an enquiry into an incident, where a senior police officer beat a grade 12 Yangchenphug student, waiting at Tendrelthang to receive blessings from the Buddha relics on display.

Students have are concerned over how just the enquiry would be and one student even said that there was a conflict of interest in this situation with the police enquiring into the actions of one of their own advocating the creation of an independent enquiry. However, even an independent enquiry committee made up of government representatives may prove to be biased, unless the selection of representatives is carefully done.

The police act of 2009 states that the police must be polite and tolerant in dealing with the public and most importantly, uphold the human rights of people while performing their duty.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 26, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tax raise, no substantial impact

Despite the recent tax raise in Bhutan, the import of vehicles has been increasing. Statistics show that the tax raise hasn’t made any significant impact. An official from Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) said there has been no decrease in import of vehicles after the tax revision. In fact, there has been a rise.

Samden Vehicles, an automobile dealer that deals mostly in Indian vehicles in Thimphu, has seen a slight increase in their sale. RSTA has predicted that the vehicle number in Bhutan will grow at an annual rate of 13 to 14 percent over the next two years.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Collaborations and ties

November 4th will see the exhibition of Japanese and Bhutanese calligraphy to be held in Thimphu as part of the observation of the 25th anniversary of Japan-Bhutan diplomatic relation.

November 21st to 25th will see the Election Commission of Bhutan, with support from the Australian government; conduct a BRIDGE (Building Resource in Democracy, Governance and Elections) workshop at Thimphu.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Economic slowdown seen as short-term phenomenon: Dr.Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the economic slowdown in India should be seen as a short-term phenomenon caused by the turmoil in the global economy, and the nation’s long-term prospects are "very good."

"The current slowdown is a matter of concern but it should be seen as a short-term phenomenon, reflecting highly unsettled conditions in the global economy," Singh told a gathering of policy makers in New Delhi today. "We must guard against the mood of negativism that seems to have gripped the country."

India’s economic growth may slip to 8 percent this year from 8.5 percent last fiscal year, according to the Reserve Bank of India. The central bank has boosted the benchmark rate by 350 basis points in 12 moves since mid-March 2010 to curb inflation that has exceeded 9 percent since the start of December.

"It is our collective responsibility to reverse the mood of negativism today," Singh said. "Nothing is ordained or pre- determined. India can rise, but can also falter. We live in a world of rising and faltering economies."
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 22, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tax Treaty with Mauritius likely to come under review in December

The much-awaited talks between India and Mauritius over renegotiation of their tax treaty may begin soon, with India pushing for changes in the clause on the treatment of the capital gains tax. The agenda for the discussion has broadly been finalised -- and India has prepared a list of items proposed to be reviewed when the two countries meet in the second week of December.

Nonetheless, there’s a catch: the renegotiated treaty may prove to be a damp squib if Mauritius does not agree to review the clause on the capital gains tax. Besides, India itself may not ask for completely eliminating the capital gains exemption, as that might hurt genuine investors as well as capital inflows from Mauritius that account for about 40 per cent of the total foreign direct investment into India.

A finance ministry official says Mauritius has agreed to renegotiate the treaty in December. "From our side, everything is on the agenda...including better exchange of information and treatment of capital gains tax. But, ultimately they should agree to it."

The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and Mauritius provides for capital gains tax only in the country of the residence of the investor. A person routing investments through the tax haven to India does not pay tax, as such income is tax exempt under the domestic laws of Mauritius.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to grow faster than China: Ernst &Young report

India is expected to record higher growth than China in 2013 and the two Asian powerhouses are expected to be less impacted among the 25 rapid growth markets in case of a deterioration of the Euro zone debt crisis, a report by Ernst & Young has said.

The first Rapid Growth Markets (RGMs) forecast attributes India and China’s ability to better withstand a likely slowdown to the large size of their domestic markets and the effects of lower oil and commodity prices. The forecast pegs India’s real GDP growth rate at 9.5% in 2013 followed by China at 9%. In 2014, India is expected to grow at 9% and China at 8.6%. In the current fiscal year, the Indian economy is expected to slow down to 7.2% from 8.2% achieved in 2010. A modest recovery to 8%is expected in the 2012 calendar year, the report said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, October 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India elected to serve on ECOSOC

India is among 21 countries which were on Tuesday elected to serve on the Economic and Social Council, one of the six principal organs of the UN and the main body tasked with furthering economic and social cooperation and development worldwide.

UN member states elected 18 countries to serve three-year terms starting next year and three other nations through by-elections held as some countries were stepping down from the 54-member Council before the formal end of their terms.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US joins India & China on emission cuts, opposes EU targets

A unique alliance of countries, India, China, Brazil, the US, UAE, Indonesia and South Korea, has come about against the proposal by the European Union to impose internationally binding targets to reduce emissions for developed and developing countries under a new treaty by 2015.

The countries came together to oppose the proposal at the recently concluded talks in Cape Town, a ministerial level consultation just before the formal UN talks on climate change commence in November, to start negotiations for a new treaty to be signed by 2015.

The host country, South Africa, staking all to find a formula that results in ’successful’ talks, too backed the offer to take an extra step to keep the Kyoto Protocol alive
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, October 26, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Six heavy-lift aircrafts more from US in $ 1.2 billion deal

The Pentagon has notified the US Congress about the possibility of a $1.2 billion deal with India for six more C-130J ’Super Hercules’ heavy-lift aircraft in addition to six ordered for the same price in 2008.

India, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) told the US Congress, has requested a possible sale of 6 Lockheed Martin C-130J United States Air Force (USAF) baseline aircraft including associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of an important partner and to strengthen the US-India strategic relationship," it said in the mandatory notification to the Congress.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament session cancelled

Parliament was adjourned 15 minutes into session earlier this week after a number of MPs protested against the attendance of Ismail Abdul Hameed, an Independent MP for Kasashidhoo, who has been convicted of corruption.

MPs Ilham Ahmed, Ali Arif and Ahmed Mahlouf raised objections regarding Hameed’s presence, following which the Speaker Abdulla Shahid adjourned the session to discuss the issue further with the parliamentary group leaders.

Hameed was convicted on charges of corruption by the Criminal Court on August 29, and sentenced to one and a half year banishment, a traditional form of punishment in the island nation where the convicted are forbidden to leave a designated island.

According to article 73(c3) of the constitution, any member of the parliament convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than 12 months punishment, is immediately disqualified from his seat. The constitution further states in Article 78 that a by-election should be held in order to elect a new member when a vacancy arises, a situation which is irreversible. However, Hameed has appealed against the lower court sentence in the High Court, the first hearing of which was conducted last week.

Parliamentary rules dictate that any MP under investigation be escorted to a session of parliament by the authority conducting that investigation. Hameed was escorted by the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) at his request. This was the first time since the Criminal Court’s ruling that Hameed attended a parliament sitting, giving rise to protests from some other MPs.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Group Leaders decided to seek guidance from the Supreme Court over the vacancy of Hameed’s seat in order to resolve the situation at the earliest.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, October 25-27, 2011; Minivan News, October 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gassan arrest and release

Mohamed Gassan Maumoon, the son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was released earlier this week after the Criminal Court ruled that his arrest was unlawful and in violation of article 46 of the constitution and a Supreme Court precedent.

Gassan was arrested on October 24 for disruptions caused during the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) organised protest outside his residence, Endherimaage. A 17 year old boy was severely injured when he was struck on the head by a wooden plank allegedly thrown from Endherimaage.

His lawyers, in their appeal against his arrest, stated that there were procedural violations in his arrest as the police failed to seek a court order, which was the norm for such arrests. They also claimed his arrest was deceptive, as Gassan had only been summoned for questioning at the time.

The Superintendent of Police, Mohamed Jinah, meanwhile has claimed that the police have enough evidence against Gassan which has been submitted for the court’s consideration. Gassan in turn has urged the police to submit any evidence they may have against him, claiming the police is acting on the orders of the ruling MDP.

Following Gassan’s release, the Maldivian Police Service has begun reviewing the legality of 300 arrests made under article 46. The police were studying the cases to determine if the arrests were lawful in view of the Criminal Court ruling, and would consider releasing the suspects if so found.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu News, October 28, 2011; Minivan News, October 24-25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PPM registered at EC

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was officially registered by the Elections Commission (EC) on October 27.

Headed by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the party was registered with 3,200 members. The President of the EC, FuwadThaufeeg, handed over the registry of PPM to Gayoom’s son, FarishMaumoon, with Thaufeeg encouraging the party to work for the betterment of the island nation and its people.

Interim party spokesperson, Ahmed Mahloof - GalolhuDhekunu MP, said that the party’s main objective is to bring an end to President Mohamed Nahseed’s rule.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru, October 27, 2011; Miadhu News, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Agreement with India misunderstood: PM

On returning to Nepal from his four day official visit to India, Prime Minister Dr BaburamBhattarai was greeted with protests from those within his own party for having signed the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA).

PM Bhattarai said that the BIPPA had been misunderstood in Nepal and would try to make leaders within his party understand it. He believed that since India was already the largest investor, the agreement would open new opportunities for economic development and attract investments in Nepal.

Those protesting opposed the deal on the basis that it would compel Nepal to treat Indian companies at par with national companies. The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) also signed during the visit allows Indian investors to repatriate income back home without paying taxes after having done so in Nepal.

The PM took the protests in his stride and said, "it is positive that they are protesting to caution me against making mistakes. But no mistake has been made." He termed his visit successful and said that it paved the way for creating an environment of trust between the two south Asian neighbours. He stated that, "the visit also added a new dimension to our bilateral relations and has dispelled bitterness between the two countries."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Nepal News, October 23, 2011;, October 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hotline to PMO Activated

’Hello Government’, a hotline to hear public complaints with a view to promote people-oriented administration has been activated in the office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers.

The unit will remain operational round-the-clock to register complaints about the government’s work, file complaints against irregularities in public services and support initiatives. Members of the general public can reach the concerned authorities through fax, email, SMS text messaging and letters or call on the hotline telephone numbers - 1111 and 1100.

The government has also formed an investigation committee coordinated by the Secretary of Nepal Trust Jay MukundaKhanal to investigate into the public complaints regarding road construction and maintenance inside the Kathmandu Metropolis, Lalitpur Sub-metropolis, and Kalanki-Naubise road section.
< class="text11verdana">Source: October 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Administrative Restructuring Unit set up at PM’s office

The Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) has set up an Administrative Restructuring Unit (ARU) within its own structure To facilitate restructuring and coordination of the entire administration in line with the federal system.

The ARU will give technical advice to the government and other stakeholders’ inorder to develop the public administration in accordance to the federal structure. The unit has been assigned two tasks, firstly, it will make prior arrangements for restructuring the administration, and secondly, it will implement the provisions regarding the federal structure to be incorporated in the new constitution. It would also asses the number, nature, jurisdiction and other aspects of various government agencies, ministries and departments to be set up in the provinces. The government will draw its conclusion on whether to set up ministries or departments in provincial states, on the basis of ARU recommendations. The ARU is also expected to provide technical advice to the government on matters including the appointment procedure of employees to the planned agencies.
< class="text11verdana">Source: October 26, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nusrat Bhutto passes away

Begum Nusrat Bhutto, mother of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto died in a hospital in Dubai after a long illness. President Zardari personally brought her body back to Pakistan. The government declared ten days of national mourning and October 24 a national holiday for the lady who led a determined fight against military dictatorship. In 1977, she confronted the military ruler General Zia-ul Haq that forced the dictator to postpone elections for years.

Begum Bhutto was elected member of the National Assembly in 1977, 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997 before she shifted to Dubai with daughter Benazir Bhutto.

She was born on March 23, 1929 in a rich Iranian business family. She was the second wife of Zulfiqar Ali. She had four children, Benazir, Murtaza, Shahnawaz and Sanam. The only surviving member is Sanam Bhutto.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, October 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sixth Population Census delayed

The sixth population census which was due in 2008 was further delayed as reservations over the House Listing Census- 2011conducted by the Population Census Organisation shows serious flaws. The listing of houses before a population census is a mandatory exercise and mistakes in this have also cast doubts about the registration of voters by the Election Commission. These reservations were raised in the Council of Common Interests by the PML-N delegation after they pointed out the drastic difference in increase of households in Sindh showing as 84 percent, Punjab as 32 percent, Lahore showed only 0.94 percent, etc.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, October 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Religious groups against offering MFN status to India

The national religious parties denounced the government’s decision to place India in the Most Favoured Nation’s (MFN) list as they believed that it could harm the Kashmir liberation movement.

According to JamaitUlama-e-Pakistan president Sahibzada Haji FazleKarim, this awarding of MFN status would be a betrayal to the 90,000 Kashmiris who died for the cause of liberation of the valley.

However he maintained that developing bilateral trade ties with India is fine as far as the core issue of Kashmir is resolved. A similar line was taken by MaulanaAmjad of Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI-F) WHO SAID THAT Kashmir would be pushed to the backburner.

AmeerJamaat-e-Islami Syed Munawar Hassan said this approval of conferring MFN status based on the orders of the U.S was a historic blunder the government was committing.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">State Bank of Pakistan likely to extend deadline

The exchange of old designed notes of P-Rs500 likely to be extended. The decision to submit a resolution to extend the deadline was taken after a number of walkouts in the Parliament. Many officials and Senators suggested that the State Bank of Pakistan to issue directives to extend the deadline to all commercial banks as it seized to exist and expired on September 30, 2011. PML-N was of the opinion that the federal cabinet’s approval was not required as the SBP was an autonomous body.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, October 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’Occupy Islamabad’ movement

A group of political workers and representatives of trade and student unions launched an ’Occupy Islamabad Movement’ on October 26. The march started at AabparaChowk and culminated at the World Bank building. However, lesser than hundred turned out for the march that was inspired by the ’Occupy Wall Street’ in New York. Activists of Labour Party Pakistan, Workers Party Pakistan, Awami Party Pakistan, Socialist Movement Pakistan, National Students Federation, civil society members and intellectuals participated.

PPP senior politician Senator RazaRabbani and other Senators came out strongly against privatisation of state run entities and supported the movement.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, October 25, 26, 28, 2011;, October 26, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Aftab Sultan Appointed as IB Chief

Mr. Aftab Sultan has been appointed as the new Director General of the Intelligence Bureau. He takes over from Javed Noor, who retired from the Police Service of Pakistan on October 1.

Mr Sultan was earlier posted as the Additional IG Welfare and Finance, Punjab and belongs to the 4th Common of Central Superior Service. He had received a promotion to the rank of BS-22 roughly three months ago, but was retained by the Punjab government till his recent posting.

There were initially three names under consideration for the IB Chiefs post in the first panel, that of Inspector General of Punjab Police JavedIqbal, Balochistan IGP RaoAmeenHashim and Additional IG Aftab Sultan. Later the name of Sindh IG WajidDurrani was added in the second panel.

Mr Durrani had emerged as a strong contender after being given the go ahead by the PM Secretariat and later got a briefing from then IB Chief Javed Noor at his office last month. However Mr Durrani’s name was later dropped and he was appointed as the chairman of the National Highways and Motorways Police.
< class="text11verdana">Source: APP, October 23, 2011; Dawn, October 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Violation of Airspace

Pakistani officials accused NATO helicopters of violating Pakistan’s air space over the Taliban and Haqqani stronghold of North Waziristan, along the Afghan border.

"Two helicopters intruded several kilometres inside Pakistan territory in DattaKhel town around 2100 GMT on Tuesday," a military official told the AFP news agency. He added that they flew in from the eastern Afghan province of Paktia, circled the border village of Zoi Nara for over five minutes and left after "warning shots" were fired by Pakistani troops.

The spokesman for NATO’s US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told AFP that their "operational reporting" showed that no ISAF helicopter crossed the border, which is unmarked in many places.

This is the second such violation of Pakistani airspace in the recent week, earlier an Indian Lama helicopter with four officers on board had strayed across the Olding-Kargil sector near the Line of Control (LoC) due to bad weather. The chopper was intercepted and forced to land near Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan. The issue was swiftly resolved and the helicopter with the officers on board was allowed to return after a contact between the director-general military operations of the two countries was made.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Dawn, October 23, 24, 26, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pakistan Test Fires Haft VII Babar Missile

Pakistan successfully test fired the multi tube, Cruise Missile Hatf VII (Babur) which has a range of 700 km. The missile test was conducted to validate the design parameters of the weapon system and a new Missile Launch Vehicle (MLV). The three tubes MLV enhances manifold the targeting and deployment options in the conventional and nuclear modes. The Babur Cruise Missile is a low flying, terrain hugging missile with high manoeuvrability, pin point accuracy and radar avoidance features. It also incorporates the most modern cruise missile technology of Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC). The serial production of the Babur started in October 2005.

The test was witnessed by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Director General Strategic Plans Division, Lieutenant General (Retired) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, Commander Army Strategic Force Command, Lieutenant General Tariq NadeemGilani and Chairman National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) Mr Muhammad Irfan Burney.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, October 28, 2011.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Haripal Brar;
Bangladesh & Bhutan: Sriya Coomer;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal: Astik Sinha;
Pakistan: Aarya Venugopal & Astik Sinha;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: Preeti John;

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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