MonitorsPublished on Feb 18, 2011
India is all set to begin serious efforts to secure a permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC). Two years of non-permanent membership after 19 long years with rotating Presidency of the Council twice over the next two years will mark India's innings.
UNSC Reforms and India
< class="heading1">Analysis

India is all set to begin serious efforts to secure a permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC). Two years of non-permanent membership after 19 long years with rotating Presidency of the Council twice over the next two years will mark India’s innings. Chairmanship of the all- important Security Council Committee on Counter-terrorism, and four out of P-5 members stopping just short of endorsing the candidature of India, which is growing economically and politically, augurs well for the country.

In his speech at the Security Council, External Affairs Minister S.M Krishna’s said "No country has contributed as many peacekeepers to as many peacekeeping operations as India." Advocating change and India’s cause, he said: "The international structure for maintaining peace and security needs to be reformed. Global power(s)...are much more dispersed than they were .We understand the expectations that accompany our Council membership...especially those whose credentials for permanent membership stand acknowledged."

As the Establishment and analysts start to sit up and take notice, there is a distinct feeling of déjà vu reminiscent of India specific NSG. Sadly for us, the UNSC is neither NSG, nor is the process India specific and we are definitely not going to get a ’waiver’ to get in.

Challenges ahead

India’s admission into the portals of permanent membership category is but a part of the larger story of UNSC reform, and to most countries at the UN other than India. India’s admission (if it happens) would be a by-product of the reform sequence, which is by now long overdue.

The main issue of reform is aimed at increasing accountability and transparency of, and participation, in the UN scheme. The spectrum of reform broadly incorporates two aspects. First, it relates to the working method of the Security Council and its relationship with the General Assembly. This aspect largely focusses on the regulation of the use of the ’veto’ power and raises several questions on the limits imposed on the use of the power -- for instance, proposing its abolition for genocides and other crimes against humanity. It also proposes a detailed explanation of the use of the power to the General Assembly.

The second is the issue of expansion and category of the membership of the Security Council from the present 15, including five permanent members and 10 non-permanent ones, the latter with two-year, election- based tenures. This covers issues of the number of seats to be increased (numbers vary from ’low twenties’ to ’high twenties’), geographic representation, nature of membership (non-permanent, intermediate or permanent).and whether or not the new members would be granted the veto powers.

The main procedural difference between both is that while the former requires a simple resolution, the latter requires a UN Charter amendment with two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. On occasions, countries vying for the permanent seats have tended to treat both these as competitive rather than complementing processes, and often emphasised the need to focus on the latter.

The recent history has some interesting insights to offer, especially in context to where India is placed today. The year 1963 saw the first change being made to the UNSC with the non-permanent category being increased from six to 10. The post-Cold War era saw the Security Council, then entrenched on East-West lines, finally getting its act together to intervene in the Middle-East and Africa, notably in the Iran-Iraq war, and in countries like Angola and Cambodia. The UNSC came under considerable criticism in 1994 for its failure to act in Rwanda.

In more recent history, the 1998 Razali proposal saw the Italy-led resolution stipulating that any future expansion of the Security Council would require a two-thirds majority in the Security Council. From 2003, a reform effort, driven by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan, found itself obstructed due to various reasons leading to disappointing and non-committal formulations in the text at the 2005 New York World Summit. Later at the 61st General Assembly session in 2007, under a working group chaired by then President Sheika Haya, five facilitators were appointed to prepare a draft which could facilitate reforms to be formally placed on the agenda for the next session. The suitably modified working group draft that emerged included some modest recommendations which would have set the tone for the reform process in the subsequent session.

However, with just a couple of days of the session to go, another draft supposedly came out of nowhere, catching everyone by surprise. This draft contained some radical proposals for change, which included expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories, greater representation reflecting contemporary global realities, comprehensive improvement in working methods, greater access for smaller nations and provisions for review. This was ’allegedly’ drafted by India and endorsed by IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) which until now had played only a developmental role, away from the Security Council scenario. After the ensuing melee, emerged a modified draft incorporating terms like ’equitable representation’, ’increase in membership’ and ’inter-governmental negotiations’, which according to the Indian delegates came close to the direct negotiations they had been advocating.

This present wave is a continuation of the momentum that has been built since then. Five rounds of open-ended discussions have given way to a robust text-based negotiation under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Zahir Tanin, for the first time in UNSC history. The fifth round of negotiations on the text is underway and some delegates are of the opinion that a revised draft could be made available by the end of this session in September, paving the way towards actual reform.


The P-5, comprising theUS, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, continue to wield one of the strongest influences on the reform process. They have continually resisted any changes to be made, often dismissing with characteristic nonchalance any proposals for improving working methods as British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry aptly demonstrated to one such proposal in 2006 : "I don’t like it. It presumes the General Assembly should tell Security Council what to do."

However, the fast-changing geo-political scenario and increasing legitimacy questions were pointedly expressed by Kofi Annan: "If you want the Council’s decision to command greater respect, particularly in the developing world, you need to address the issue of its composition with greater urgency." This has led to some acceptance among the members, however with the caveat that newly-inducted permanent members to the Security Council will not have ’veto’ powers. Essentially, this would mean the presence of a ’super security council’ with the present P-5 still retaining their exclusive veto powers.

Besides the next step,viz, possible new permanent members would be approved primarily on the basis of their respective and relative strategic interests, which have evolved over time. For instance, the US, which under the Clinton Administration had been neutral to Germany being made a permanent member, was against it during the Bush era, supposedly due to Germany’s vocal opposition to the ’Iraq invasion’. Washington recently seems to have come around to the idea of the G-4 (India, Japan, Germany and Brazil) becoming permanent members, but is however dead set against the expansion of the Security Council membership, both permanent and elected, beyond low twenties.

Similarly, China is opposed to Japan and ambivalent on India ? where it has often changed its stand from outright opposition to ambiguity. The UK and France are for reforms primarily as an attempt to preserve legitimacy of their own seats, the fear being their seats combined into one for the European Union to be occupied on a rotational basis. It is seen that a P-5 endorsement or opposition to a single country could also be the most obvious tactic to stall the entire process in general and thus any such endorsement should only be taken at face value.

The G-4, namely, Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, are the countries staking strongest claim to the new permanent council expansion. Japan and Germany have been at it for almost two decades now, based on their overall contribution to the UN. India and Brazil are relatively newer aspirants. With their democratic and economic credentials and involvement in peace-keeping operations, stake their claims as leading countries of ’global South’. An important point with the latest wave is that except Japan, the other three countries have been elected to the non-permanent category this time.

’Uniting for Consensus’, a formation comprising about 20 members led by Pakistan and Italy, has emerged primarily in opposition to the G-4. They are opposed to expanding the list of permanent members, and want more non-permanent members, instead. This group mostly comprises regional rivals of some of the claimants for the yet-to-be-created permanent memberships, as is evident from Pakistan’s opposition to India.

The African Union (AU), consisting of 53 member-States, forms a large chunk in the 192- member General Assembly. Their stand is based on the ’Ezulwini Consensus’, which demands two veto-based permanent seats for Africa with regional representation. The AU has doggedly stuck to its veto-demand despite its slender chance of acceptance by the P-5. This group is likely to be the key to any chance, but then internal factions have emerged. With competing Chinese and US influence in play, most power games are likely to emerge in the region.

So, without antagonising its G-4 allies, India must not only placate the P-5, especially the US but also reconcile with the African Union, which by itself is a tall order. India has done well so far, by placing demands based on equitable reform. However, much more needs to be done. New Delhi’s future course of action will determine whether India will succumb to power-play politics or emerge as a leader in the real sense.

In between, as the tumults of modern day Morgenthau realpolitik play itself out, ironically in the heart of what Woodrow Wilson envisioned as ’collective security’ paradise, India must strive to find a balance. It should remember its lineage of a Nehru, who by the sheer power of his ideology stood firm on non-alignment against all worldly odds. Which brings us to the larger question on global governance, What is it that we really want?

Akhilesh Variar is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt. agrees to set up JPC on 2-G scam?

After resisting the Opposition demand for over three months, the Government has reportedly agreed to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2-G spectrum allocation issue. According to an in-principle agreement worked out, Prime Minister ManmohanSingh will make a formal announcement at the commencement of the budget session of Parliament.

The decision was clinched following a meeting on between the Prime Minister and the BJP Opposition Leaders, SushmaSwaraj(LokSabha) and ArunJaitley (RajyaSabha). A softening of the Congress-led Government’s stand was evident in the previous week.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Antrix-Devas deal annulled

The Centre has annulled the controversial deal between Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the exclusively State-owned Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Bengaluru--based Devas Multimedia, a private entity.

Under the deal, Antrix was to provide 70 MHz of the scarce S-Band wavelength to Devas for its digital multimedia services. This was to be done by leasing 90 per cent of the transponders in satellites GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A that are proposed to be launched by ISRO. Devas, in turn, was to pay Antrix a total of $ 300 million over 12 years.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, paved the way for annulling the agreement by declaring that the Government will not be able to provide the orbit slot in S-Band to Antrix for commercial purposes, including for its existing contractual obligations in view of strategic requirements.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 18, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Swiss relax rules for info- exchange on black money

In a move that could help India in investigating black-money trail, Switzerland has relaxed norms for sharing information on secret bank accounts of overseas tax offenders by allowing varied modes of identification. The Swiss Finance Ministry made the changes through a revision of ’Requirements for Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters,’ an official said from Bern, Switzerland.

The Swiss Parliament is debating a treaty between India and Switzerland to pave the way for authorities in New Delhi, to obtain details of illicit wealth stashed away by Indians in Swiss banks. To bring this revision into effect, the administrative assistance provisions in double taxation agreements (DTAs) between Swiss and other Governments would need to be revised.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, February 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists abduct District Collector

After a lull, the Maoists have kidnapped R Vineet Krishna, the District Collector of Malkangiri in the eastern coastal State of Orissa. State Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed for the release of Krishna and Pabitra Majhi, a Junior Engineer of the Kudumuluguma Block of Malkangiri district. The two were taken hostage when they were going by the engineer’s motor-bike, reportedly to visit a work-site in the interiors.

As part of the efforts to secure the safe return of the two, the Government ordered the suspension of anti-Maoist operations in Malkangiri and expressed its willingness to hold talks with extremists’ representatives. The Government also contacted veteran social activist Swami Agnivesh, who appealed to Maoists not to cause any harm to the two officials, of whomMajhi is a tribal whose community-cause the Left militants claim to be fighting for.

For the release of the two kidnapped officials, the Maoists have demanded freedom for the Convener of the Political Prisoners Release Committee Dandapani Mohanty. They have also suggested that R. Someswara Rao, a retired professor of economics of the Sambalpur University; and Haragopal, a professor of the Central University, Hyderabad, who is also a civil rights activist, be sent for talks as mediators. The party has also demanded the release of some of its members, who are also in custody.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 18, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karnataka bans Endosulfan

The south Indian State of Karnataka has banned the use of Endosulfan with immediate effect. The Government would now invoke the provisions of the Insecticides Act of 1968 and write a detailed letter to the Union Government with reference to the ban. As per the provisions, a State Government can write to the Centre by virtue of which a ban can be imposed albeit for a brief period. Kerala was the first State to ban Endosulfan, on October 31, 2006.

"The off-patent pesticide Endosulfan has been proposed to be listed as a POP and India is facing mounting pressure not to oppose European Union (EU) proposal to enlist Endosulfan as a POP," Pradip Dave, President of the Pesticides Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India, said. The Crop Care Foundation of India Director Anil Kakkar said the move would pose a serious challenge to Indian farmers.

It was stated that Indian farmers would be hit hard if Endosulfan comes under the ban order by the Stockholm Convention in April this year at the EU’s insistence for it being a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP).
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 18, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nuclear pact with South Korea

India will soon sign its ninth civil nuclear agreement with its negotiators having finalised the text with South Korea. The pact with South Korea will focus on R&D and setting up of civil nuclear power plants.

The civil nuclear pact was a result of the all-round comprehensive relationship being forged by India with East Asian and South-East Asian countries. India has signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CEPA) with South Korea which, in the first full year of operation in 2010, led to a 46 per cent growth in bilateral trade.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, February 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">First national university inaugurated

President Mohamed Nasheed has inaugurated the Maldives National University and appointed former Education Minister, Dr Mustafa Luthfy, one of the seven to be voted out by the Opposition-controlled Parliament late last year, as the first Chancellor, presenting him with the instrument of seal. In his speech at the inauguration ceremony, President Nasheed said it was necessary to appoint "a steady person to hold the rudder of the university."

The President noted that both the right to education and freedom of expression were part of democracy and that the university would uphold these ideals." This university will play an important role in transferring democracy to our children, and our children’s children," Nasheed said.

Dr Mustafa Luthfy said he hoped the national university would one day become "the Oxford" of the Maldives, and thanked the commitment of those who helped achieve the significant national milestone.

The new university represents the evolution of the existing Maldives College of Higher Education (MCHE).Speaking later to Minivan News, Dr Luthfy explained that MCHE had managed to meet the conditions required to establish a full-fledged university; not least in the requirement of ensuring a certain percentage of staff hold PhDs and Masters’ degrees. "That was not easy to achieve," he said. "In the past the government has provided a loan facility to train staff."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, February 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MDP calculates four per cent lead in popular vote

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of President Mohammed Nasheed has claimed that the party has got 44 per cent of the popular vote in the local council elections against 40 per cent for the Opposition Dhivehi Rayyathunge Party (DRP), based on available data.

The popular vote reflects the overall political preference of voters, and has not yet been released by the Elections Commission (EC). The MDP said it produced the figures based on data currently published by the EC on its website.

Both parties declared victory and were celebrating this week after the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) won a decisive seat majority in the local council elections, while the MDP won control of major population hubs.

If the MDP’s figures match those of the Elections Commission, when published, they would reflect a major show of faith in the ruling party ? the MDP received 25 percent in the 2008 presidential election and 33 percent in the parliamentary election early following year, but there has been no impartial polling of the country’s chaotic political scene since then.

"A 44 percent result in the local council election would show that MDP has a clear path to the presidential election in 2013," an MDP leader said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, February 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tiff still over Home Ministry

The new Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal continues to be in a bind over allowing Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) to handle the Home Ministry. Stiff opposition from within his own party however has not deterred him from inking another deal with Maoists’ Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda, reiterating his support to the seven-point agreement signed between the two parties prior to his election as Prime Minister.

Khanal is all set to expand his four-member Cabinet without settling the question of handing over the Home Ministry to the Maoists. Political parties in Nepal and Nepal-watchers are worried over the implications of handing over the Home portfolio to the Maoists as they might use the opportunity to dissolve all cases registered against its militant cadres over the past decades. Doubts are also being raised over the creation of a new separate security force for the Maoist cadres, the current decision on rotational Prime Minister.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, February 17, 2011, Telegraph Nepal, February 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US aid to police

The US has granted $850,000 for the Nepali police to improve their communication system around the country. The announcement by Under-Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Maria Otero, came as Nepal police face difficult days while coping with technological and communication shortfalls. "The US Government has a robust partnership with the Nepal police, because we understand that improving law and order in Nepal and protecting Nepal’s security are essential tasks for a country coming out of the insecurity of a long conflict," Otero said.

The US is also funding the reconstruction of police posts that were destroyed during the conflict as well as offering a range of training programs to the Nepal police, including airport security, natural resource protection, counter-terrorism, international peace keeping, stopping human-trafficking, and respecting human rights, according to the statement. Speaking at a symposium, Otero also offered to help Nepal tackle any devastation that Nepal might face in the wake of a major earthquake.
< class="text11verdana">Source: All Headline News, February 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Crisis over Raymond Davis reaches critical stage

The past week witnessed intense negotiations between the US and Pakistan to resolve the ’Raymond Davis’ crisis. Davis, a US Embassy staffer, shot two Pakistanis dead in Lahore last month, ostensibly in an act of self-defence. His motive and the status of his diplomatic immunity is contested by the Pakistani Government.

In this backdrop, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s Central Information Secretary, FauziaWahabsaid on Monday that Davis enjoyed immunity from prosecution, in what was seen as a bid to nullify earlier statement of then Foreign Minister Shah MehmoodQureshi to the contrary. Qureshi’s public disclosure of Davis’s diplomatic status allegedly led to his removal from the Foreign Office.

On Tuesday, US President Barrack Obama gave a stern message to Pakistan to release the accused. On the same day, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry arrived in Lahore and gave assurances that if proven guilty, Davis will be charged and punished through the US judicial system. He also maintained that the unfortunate incident should not "break the strong relationship between the two countries and we want to see this relationship to grow".

Finally, on Friday, the Pakistani Government declared that the judiciary will decide on the status of Raymond Davis. Most analysts see this as an attempt to have the court ’prove’ that Davis indeed benefits from diplomatic immunity so that the Government, under relentless pressure from the US, can find a face-saving exit to the crisis. However, given the powerful anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, releasing Davis is most likely to compound the problems of the incumbent Government, which is already reeling under severe protests over inflation, corruption and recently, proposed amendment to blasphemy laws.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, February 15, 16, 18, 2011; The News International, February 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt confronting judiciary: CJ

Lamenting the Government over its refusal to remove senior officials promoted under dubious circumstances and its inaction to punish corrupt ones, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhary, has remarked that "the Government has started a confrontation with the judiciary by not implementing the court’s order in letter and spirit".

Senior officials, including the Director-General Federal Investigation Agency, Waseem Ahmed, and Inspector-General Sindh, Salahuddin Babar Khattak, were inducted on a contract basis at the cost of more deserving candidates, which prompted the court to order their removal. The Chief Justice also criticised the Executive for ’protecting’ those accused in the multi-billion rupee LNG scandal.

The judiciary’s troubled relationship with the Executive continued when a two- member Bench of the Apex Court suspended the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee, rejecting the names of four judges for the Lahore High Court, in what was seen an attempt to have a say in the appointment of higher judges and subvert an independent-minded Judiciary. The Bench argued that Article 175-A of the Constitution gave only the Judicial Commission the powers to appoint judges to the higher courts.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The News International, February 16, 18, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Seven militants killed in Swat

Seven militants allegedly belonging to the Swat wing of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were killed last week in a gun-battle with troops. According to official accounts, after soldiers noticed seven men behaving suspiciously and ordered them to stop, militants fired at them and attempted to flee. In the ensuing gun-battle, the seven militants were shot dead without any casualties among the soldiers. This brought to 30, the number of insurgents killed in a two-day military operation over the last weekend.

The security forces carried out massive operations in Swat in 2009, involving three divisions and cleared the valley of insurgents led by Mullah Fazlullah. Since then, troops have conducted small-unit search operations based on specific intelligence. Swat remains one of the more successful examples in Pakistan’s campaign against the TTP, with the security forces having succeeded in convincing the local people to return to their pre-conflict life-styles.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, February 15, 2011; The News International, February 15, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fishermen’s issue to the fore again

With fishermen from Sri Lanka’s Tamil-speaking Northern Province surrounding Indian fishermen from the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu took a new turn after the former surrounded 18 trawlers with 103 fishermen, led them to the shores and handed them over to the local police. This was followed by a similar incident in which the Sri Lankan fishermen reportedly were in possession of petrol-bombs to force the surrender of their Indian counterparts, leading to the arrest of 24 more, the very next day.

At the intervention of India’s External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris took the initiative, leading to courts in the Northern Province that had remanded the Tamil Nadu fishermen to judicial custody, rescinding the orders and setting them all freed. They then returned to India, facilitated by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) and the Indian Coast Guard.

In Tamil Nadu, in between, political parties, starting with the ruling DMK and fishermen in Nagapattinam area, from where the ’arrested’ fishermen originated, had protested against the development. With the release of the arrested men, the two Governments have decided to proceed with the promised meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on fisheries, and also involve the fishing communities from the two countries in related negotiations.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror & The Island, Uthayan &Virakesari (both Tamil)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">JVP backs ’united federalism’

The Sinhala-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has said that that it will lend its support towards a ’united federal’ system. JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe made this statement addressing the sixth National Summit of the party, held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium.

"There is a misconception in this country and this is evident even in the international arena. They think that we are against federalism. We have understood that federalism has two aspects, one would lead to separation and the other to unity. We will lend our support to the aspect of federalism that brings unity," said Somawansa Amarasinghe.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New US envoy on Af-Pak

The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has reportedly selected Marc Grossman, a retired career diplomat as special envoy on Af-Pak policy. Grossman takes the place of Richard Holbrooke, who died of a torn aorta in December. Clinton will make the announcement as soon as Grossman’s background checks are verified.

Marc Grossman is currently Vice-Chairman of the Cohen Group, a consulting firm founded by former US Defence Secretary, William Cohen that helps companies carry out businesses overseas. According to officials, others considered for the assignment included Strobe Talbott, former Deputy Secretary of State for South Asia and Frank G. Wisner, former Ambassador to Egypt, who was recently sent to Cairo to urge former President Hosni Mubarak to not run for re-election.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Panjwok, February 15, 2011; The New York Times, February 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suicide-bomber strikes Kabul

A suicide-bomber struck a plush hotel in downtown Kabul, killing two persons on Monday. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the assault and said that two other militants were also engaging security forces in the premises. This is the second attack in the capital in less than three weeks. Earlier in January, another suicide attack had killed nine people in a supermarket frequented by foreigners in the city’s diplomatic enclave.

The two bombings end a year-long calm in the Kabul, which many observers attributed to a deal between the Taliban and the Karzai Government as the two carried out secret negotiations. President Hamid Karzai denied such an arrangement and termed the attack ’un-Islamic’.

The assault on the hotel is the second major strike this month. Last week, insurgents struck the police headquarters in Kandahar city, which killed twenty one people and injured forty five.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Reuters, February 14, 2011; Al Jazeera, February 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gen. Petraeus to stay

The Pentagon has denied speculation that Gen David Petraeus, is set to leave command of the coalition force in Afghanistan once his tenure expires by the end of the year. Dispelling rumours, the Pentagon spokesperson said, "Obviously he will rotate out at some point, but that point has not yet been determined and it will not occur any time soon. Until then, he will continue to ably lead our coalition forces in Afghanistan."

Petraeus is affectionately nick-named ’King David’ for his leadership in Iraq in 2007 when the ’surge’ for 30,000 troops and subsequent shift to counter-insurgency tactics led to a dramatic reduction in violence. Since his taking over command of the coalition troops, southern Afghanistan too has witnessed patches of stability. Known as a scholar-soldier, he is one of the few serving officers who commands bipartisan respect in Washington, and might use his iconic stature to delay withdrawal plans in July, a strategy unpopular in the military because of its debilitating effect of winning the confidence of local Afghans.

The Times (London) had earlier reported that the General had decided not to request an extension and will either look for a promotion in the military chain of command, or as some speculate, seek Republican Party candidature as presidential nominee for the next elections.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Guardian, February 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Women accept gender violence

A recent study has shown that almost 70 per cent women in the tiny Himalayas nation of Bhutan think that their husbands have a right to beat them if they neglect children, argue with their partners, refuse sex or burn dinner. The findings are published in the Business Bhutan newspaper.

The acceptance of domestic violence is highest (90 percent) among the women in Paro, a picturesque valley that’s home to Bhutan’s most revered monastery, Takshang. The capital city of Thimphu scores the lowest acceptance rate, about 50 per cent, for wife-beating.

Covering 15,000 households, the Bhutan Multiple Indicator Survey also found that more than one in four women believe HIV-AIDS is transmitted super-naturally, one in four children do not attend school and one in five children are involved in child labour. Karma Tshiteem, head of Bhutan’s Commission for Gross National Happiness, called the findings "surprising" and "shocking", and said such attitudes are "totally inconsistent" with Buddhist teachings.
< class="text11verdana">Source: USTODAY, February 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Misusing SIM cards

With increasing number of mobile phone users, the issue of misuse of SIM cards discarded by Bhutanese is beginning to emerge as a matter of serious concern. Misuse, especially by those outside the country, has been reported, and the Bhutanese police fear an increase in such instances could lead to undesirable circumstances for people under whose identity the SIMs have been issued.

The police have already warned its citizens to stop buying SIM cards for others. The police also said that they needed to understand how non-Bhutanese had access to Bhutanese mobile numbers. "It’s especially those in the neighbouring border-towns who use our SIMs," a police officer said. "Most cases of drug-smuggling are carried out using Bhutanese numbers."

Police officials foresee a high possibility of rebels in the neighbourhood nations using Bhutanese SIMs to organise and operate their illegal transactions, including terrorism activities. "Phone dealers and service providers should ensure that SIMs are not all that easily accessible for non-Bhutanese people," a police official said. "Some contractors, however, buy for their expatriate workers in their name," a Telecom official said.

According to him, there is a clear condition between agent and the telecom company, specifying not to issue SIMs to foreigners. The official explained that the best measure was to advise users to block their SIMs should they lose them.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, February 16, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Efforts to restore Constitution

Bangladesh is working to restore the Constitution adopted in 1972. But the Parliamentary Special Committee on Constitution Amendment is now struggling to uphold secularism while maintaining the status of Islam as State religion in the Constitution, in an effort to avoid any political flare-up. To iron out this difficulty, the committee last week met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

It has since decided that to maintain the status of Islam as State religion as it apprehends any move to change the status quo will allow Opposition parties to wage an agitation against the Government by banking on the people’s religious sentiment. The Government is planning to re-structure the Article 2-A of the Constitution, to declare Islam as the State religion and guaranteeing equal rights of all other religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. The meeting also decided to retain the phrase, ’Bismillah-ar-Rahman-ar-Rahim, introduced in the Constitution by the Fifth Amendment in 1988’.

Currently, Article 2-A, included in the Constitution by the Eighth Amendment, reads: "The State religion of the republic is Islam, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the Republic. But recently Supreme Court declared the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, introduced during Gen. Ziaur Rahman’s regime as illegal. The Fifth Amendment deleted secularism as one of the State principles.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, February 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minister says it is time for Yunus to leave Grameen Bank

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith has said that Grameen Bank boss Muhammad Yunus should retire. The Minister expressed his views in an interview with BBC on February 15. This shows the growing difference between the Awami League-led Government and Yunus. The Minister said that the Government has started thinking about a successor of Yunus and also about redefining the bank’s role. Pointing to the Bangladeshi laws, the Minister claimed that retirement age for executives in private banks was 65 and Yunus is 70 now.

Yunus is the founder of the Grameen Bank, a leading micro credit financial institution that works for poverty-alleviation. A Nobel laureate, he is regarded as the ’father of micro-credit’. However, he ran into a controversy after a Norwegian television documentary alleged that aid money was wrongly transferred to another part of the bank in the mid-1990’s.The Government set up a review committee in January to look into the bank’s affairs.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Feb 16, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

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

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