MonitorsPublished on Jan 21, 2011
The exit of the UN mission has created a security gap in Nepal which may not augur well with the prevalent disunity among different political parties. People want the original stakeholders should undertake the responsibility of completing the tasks left over by the external agencies.
What after the exit of UN Mission in Nepal?
< class="heading1">Analysis

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which was established four years ago on January 23, 2007 to oversee the country’s peace process, ended on January 15, 2011. The task of the UNMIN, which was initially set up for one year, however, remained incomplete even after getting seven term-extensions at the request of the Nepalese Government. Its mandate in the Himalayan nation included monitoring the management of arms and armed personnel of the Government and the Maoists, assisting the political parties through Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee on the management of arms and armed personnel, ceasefire monitoring and electoral assistance. During its tenure, the UNMIN was able to complete two major functions, namely, ceasefire-monitoring and electoral assistance quite successfully, but it drastically failed to accomplish the first two objectives of its mandate.

The UNMIN blamed political infighting for petty gains in the country as the reason behind its failure. In 2008, it had asked the then Government to clearly define its role. The Government never came up with a definite answer. In short, the UNMIN never received any whole-hearted cooperation from political circles in its work. Yet, it was a grim portrayal of the future of Nepal by none other than the Chief of Mission Karen Landgren that offended everybody who matter in Nepal. The UNMIN chief highlighted the possibility of a military coup or a Maoist take-over in the wake of the current political uncertainty. Right from the Maoists’ leaders to the nation’s army chief, everyone described the remarks of the UN Chief as ’market gossip’.

While the UN body complained about the non-cooperative attitude of the political parties, the latter accused it of being ’pro-Maoists’. In fact, it is the UCPN-Maoist, which lobbied really hard for its term-extension, beyond January 15. In its closing remarks on UNMIN, the UN Security Council cited lack of progress and the unnecessarily drawing of the mission into political battles as the reasons behind the closure. Although the Mission is being closed down in Nepal, the UN has promised to extend support and assistance to the beleaguered nation through its other humanitarian agencies.

The exit of the UN mission has created a security gap in Nepal which may not augur well with the prevalent disunity among different political parties, according to some analysts. The general opinion is more inclined towards indigenous participation. People want that the original stakeholders, their leaders to be precise, should undertake the responsibility of completing the tasks left over by the external agencies. A beginning in the desired direction has already been made, with parties, including the Maoists, unanimously agreeing that the task of integrating the Maoists cadres into the ranks of the State security forces will be taken over by the Army Integration Special Committee (AISC), which went official on January 22. In the meantime, new monitoring teams stationed at seven different Maoist cadre-cantonments will comprise six members, with representatives from the Army, the Armed Police Force, the Police and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the Maoists.

Irrespective of the all-party consensus on the setting up of the AISC, differences still remain to be sorted out before it starts functioning. The Army has refused to come under the scanner of the AISC. The Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) Chhatramann Singh Gurung told caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal that the Army "won’t be able to operate under the monitoring committee". He further ruled out the possibility of monitoring of the NA’s arms- containers located at Chhauni barracks by the AISC.

Another troubling issue came up during the announcement of the three names proposed by the AISC to its monitoring committee. The foremost among them is Barshaman Pun of the UCPN-M followed by Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat of the Nepali Congress and Ishwar Pokharel of CPN-UML. The selection of the candidates made to give the final shape to the structure of the AISC met with a fierce criticism from the Madhesi political parties with a combined strength of 82 members in the Constituent Assembly but got no representation in the monitoring mechanism. A note of dissent was also forwarded by the Madhesi parties to the caretaker Government. Although Prime Minister Nepal has given an assurance to the Madhesi parties to look into their demand, the issue is unlikely to be settled any time soon.

Other issues too are expected to come up during the course of the working of the AISC and the Government will find it difficult to deal with most of them. It is hoped that political parties shunned their differences in the larger interest of the nation and proceeded ahead with the peace-building mechanism, as the main responsibility of coming up with concrete solutions rests solely with them and not with any other external agencies, be it the UN or India.

Dr Anjali Sharma is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to resume arms supplies

In a move which could possibly be taken as an attempt by India to fill the security void left behind by the exit of the UNMIN from Nepal, New Delhi has decided to resume arms supplies to Kathmandu. This follows requests from the Nepalese Government for urgent supply of nominal lethal weapons as the army was running out of assault rifle ammunition, training artillery ammunition, among others. Nepal also wanted more anti-mine vehicles to support its counter-insurgency operations, apart from India’s help to revive the ordnance factory at Sundarijal in the North. Negotiations between the anti-mine vehicle manufacturers and Nepalese Army have already begun with the help of New Delhi and orders will be soon placed.

The Indian decision to resume supplies was taken after the Nepalese Army assured New Delhi that it had no political ambitions and would come out in support of the democratic mandate given by the people. However, some local analysts are not in a mood to accept such a simplistic explanation of what they consider was a great game being played by India. The aim of India, they claim, was to kill two birds with one stone. While New Delhi wanted to support ’democratic forces’ in Nepal with urgent military assistance, the aim was also to keep China at bay.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Indian Express, New Delhi, January 1, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dissent among Maoists deepens

During the party cadres’ training session held at Bhrikuti Mandap, difference of opinion between party Chairman Pushpa Kumar Damal alias Prachanda and Vice-Chairman Baburam Bhattarai came to the forefront when the latter abruptly left the session along with his supporters when he was barred from airing his views. Politburo member Hisila Yami, however, made an unsuccessful attempt to address the session at the instance of Prachanda, but he was also forced to leave after organisers disconnected his microphone.

Following the incident, Yami protested, shouted slogans and demanded internal democracy in the party. Answering Yami’s demand, Pachanda tried to calm down the leaders saying emotions would not work and problems would be resolved later. Party Secretary CP Gajurel later termed the incident a ’mishap’. However, soon after Prachanda appeared to be in a damage-control mood and promised to address dissenting views during a Central Committee meeting.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, Kathmandu, January 17, The Himalayan Times, Kathmandu, January 17

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Earthquake strikes Dalbandin

An earthquake of 7.2 on the Richter scale shook parts of Balochistan after Tuesday midnight and damaged at least 200 mud-houses in Dalbandin. A woman patient, who suffered heart-attack at the time, died later.

Dalbandin, close to Pakistan’s border with Iran, has a small population of approximately 15,000 people. Reports indicated that the tremors were felt from Dubai to Karachi to as far as New Delhi.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 20, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Food security strained

The import bill of eatables witnessed a significant growth of 75 per cent during the first half of the current fiscal year, indicating that Pakistan is not only dependent on the import of non-staple products but that it also pressurises the nation’s food sovereignty.

According to reports, the import of palm oil and soyabeans increased by 60 per cent and 68 per cent respectively. Analysts believe that such high increase is indicative of the lack of production of non-staple items. The import bill of milk products rose by 74 per cent, owing to high consumption in the winter. According to the Executive Director of Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Dr. Abid Suleri, "for the policy-makers in the Government, food security is confined to ensuring good wheat production."

In comparison, the import bill of petroleum products reached $ 3.4 billion, up by 16.4 per cent, from $2.9 billion in the same period in the previous year. The import of mobile phones surged by 92 per cent whereas the import of construction machinery declined by 32 per cent, indicating that there has been a slowdown in the construction sector owing to a slowing economy.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 20, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Government not amending blasphemy law

In a speech at the ’Ulema and Mashaikh Conference 2011’ at the National Library, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani noted, "We are not in favour of amendment to the blasphemy law, but we are not in favour of misuse of the law either?and it does not matter what law it is."

Gilani reassured religious leaders not to fear or apprehend the reformation of Islam or its teachings by the present Government. On the sanctity of the Constitution and rule of law, the Prime Minister said that the law of the land must be adhered to.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, January 18, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt to pay $ 261 m in hedging-deal

The Government is deemed to pay a colossal sum of $ 261 million (SL Rs. 29 billion) with interest to the three foreign banks that demanded compensation from the Sri Lanka Petroleum Corporation (SLPC) regarding the controversial hedging deal as the arbitration in Singapore have failed, Petroleum Industries Minister Susil Premajayantha has said.

The banks went in for arbitration in London and Singapore in 2008 after SLPC abrogated the hedging deal following a Supreme Court ruling that the deal was ultra vires the Constitution, demanding$ 64 million for Deutsche Bank, $ 103 million for Standard Chartered Bank and $ 94 million for Citi Bank from the SLPC.

"The current agreement which was rejected by the Supreme Court has misled the Sri Lankan Government. Yes, we must pay the banks if there was a legally correct agreement. Our argument at the arbitration should have been based on the illegality of the agreement. It is clear that the arbitration panel has not been in agreement with the position taken by Sri Lanka," Minister Premajayantha said, pointing out that he was the departmental minister either when the deal was signed or when arbitration proceedings commenced. Officials said that the Government should try and negotiate a better deal with the banks.

A spokesman of the Attorney-General’s Department meanwhile said it was of paramount importance to sign the ISDA (International Swap Dealers Association) ? a derivative agreement- together with the principal hedging agreement. This was not done.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, January 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strengthened defence ties with Pak

Pakistan has stressed the importance of having a mechanism to strengthen defence ties with Sri Lanka. Visiting Pakistan Army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, made this observation at a meeting with Prime Minister D M Jayaratne, who stood in for President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was on a private visit to the US.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Gen Kayani noted that Pakistan had helped Sri Lanka in its fight against terrorism and the time had now come to strengthen the existing ties further, including bilateral economic ties.

Gen Kayani met his local counterpart, Lt-Gen Jagath Jayasuriya, and said later: "Sri Lanka has sought more opportunities for its personnel to be trained in Pakistan as the army chiefs of the two countries explored the possibilities of sharing military knowledge. The talks centred largely on military matters of mutual and regional interest, and the possibilities that existed for sharing strategies in the successful humanitarian operations in Sri Lanka’s Vanni area, after the conclusion of the ethnic war.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, January 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police to recruit 1000 Tamil youth to junior grades

The Police Department has commenced interviews to recruit 1,000 Tamil youth to junior grades of the police service, the President’s office said in Colombo. The interviews were held to recruit both men and women sub-inspectors and police constables as well as drivers. All applicants are from districts in the Tamil-majority Northern Province.

The selected individuals would be trained at police training schools before being posted to police stations in the Northern Province. Earlier this month, a batch of 336 Tamil police constables, including 16 women officers from the Northern and Eastern Provinces, were admitted to the police service after basic training.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, January 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Contrasting claims over crimes in Jaffna

Crimes were being committed all over the country, and therefore the situation in Jaffna could be compared to a hair on an elephant’s tail, Prime Minister D M Jayaratne has told Parliament. He was speaking during the debate on the crime wave in Jaffna, which had claimed the lives of 16 persons in the past few months, according to members from the Opposition.

However, the Prime Minister said, he did not want to underestimate the situation in the North. "The Government’s policy is to safeguard the life of each citizen in this country. Nowhere in the world have crimes been curbed fully. We can contain crimes to a certain extent. It is impractical for anyone to expect the government to eradicate crime totally," he said.

Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva, while dismissing all the allegations made by the TNA, said that the Tamil legislators had even cited certain natural deaths killings carried out by the government. He said it was ridiculous to think that the Government which had implemented giant development projects in the North would create a fear psychosis in the area.

Moving an adjournment motion earlier, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member, M A Sumanthiran blamed the crime wave in Jaffna Ppeninsula on the EPDP, an alliance partner of the ruling UPFA, and urged the Government to crack down the situation. There was a complete breakdown of law and order in the North, resulting in murders, kidnappings, extortion and other crimes. Sumanthiran said the perpetrators had managed to get away in each of these incidents.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, Colombo, January 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP tops in civic polls

The Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has come on the top over the ruling Awami League in the municipal elections. Though in the overall figure, the BNP too did not win a majority, out of a total 236 municipalities, the party won 97 against the Awami League’s 90.

The municipal elections that began on January 12 ended on January 18 was a major challenge for the Election Commission (EC) as the BNP demanded the deployment of Army, in anticipation of foul-play. The BNP sweeping the polls could imply that the election was free and fair. Post-poll, the Election Commission is contemplating an inquiry into allegations of irregularities, to root out apprehensions in this regard.

The Awami League’s poor performance in the election signals a declining popularity. The party is on the introspection-mode, to identify the causes for the downfall. While faction-feuds within the ruling party, leading to the presence of a large number of rebel candidates, the Government’s performance over the past two years also mattered with the voters.

The Awami League rode back to power in the parliamentary polls of 2008 on the promise of controlling prices and improving the power situation. However, theparty-led Government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has failed to curtail the prices of essential commodities. Instead, the prices are spiralling, which in turn worked in BNP’s favour. It remains to be seen how the municipal poll results the future course of politics in the country, and also the BJP’s approach in the matter.
< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, January 20, 2011, Samakal (Bengali), January 20, 201, Sangbad (Bengali), January 20, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Border talks with India

The Home Secretaries of India and Bangladesh met in Dhaka this week, and expressed their commitment to resolve the long-standing border issues before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Dhaka visit, scheduled for this year. The Bangladesh Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikdar said that a consensus on the border issues will be arrived at within one or two months.

The issues include the 6.5-km un-demarcated border, the enclaves -- India has 111 within Bangladesh territory while it is 51 in the reverse -- land in adverse possession in both the countries, fence-construction within 150 yards from the international border, etc. Sikdar said that the power network in Dahagram Agorpota had been completed while the Tin Bigha Corridor would soon be opened round-the-clock for its residents.

The meeting also discussed matters pertaining to security, border-management and increased cooperation between the law-enforcement agencies against the smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency, and also the activities of extremists, terrorists and insurgents, apart from trafficking in women and children, repatriation of prisoners.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The daily Star, January 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bhutan transit takes shape

Bhutan is all set to get an exclusive waterway transit to utilise the port facilities of Bangladesh. A committee looking into the issue of providing transit to neighbouring countries has completed the final document in this regard.

The committee is considering potential routes which could be included for regional connectivity, besides the conventional routes. The route of the waterway transit for Bhutan is likely to be from Bangladesh’s Doikhawa border in Lalmonirhat district. Already, major conventional transit routes for India, Nepal and Bhutan have already been identified. Studies are still continuing to ascertain the transit fees.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, January 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Chinese investments to grow

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xianyi has said that Bangladesh will soon receive a surge in the inflow of Chinese investments in various industrial sectors. Chinese investment is likely to flow in areas such as power generation, IT, readymade garments, textiles and home appliance manufacturing sectors.

Zhang claimed that discussions were going on for forming joint ventures and for increasing direct investments. The Chinese envoy opined that export industries in Bangladesh have abundant scope for future growth.

China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh. In January-November 2010, bilateral trade amounted to $6.2 billion, with 52 per cent year-on-year growth while Bangladesh’s exports to China amounted $230 million.
< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, January 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hasina visits Saudi Arabia

To enhance economic relationship with the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made an official visit to the country this week. During her visit, the Prime Minister attended the Fourth World Future Energy Summit and called upon everyone to work together to achieve a carbon-free world.

Hasina also met top leaders of the country, and also interacted with the business community, promising all cooperation from her Government to boost investments in the country. The major outcome of the visit was the two agreements signed between the countries ? one, to avoid double-taxation on income, and another, promoting investments.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Financial Express, January 18, 2011/ The Daily Star, January 19, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Friendship conclave with India

With the aim of consolidating Indo-Bhutanese friendship, the first Indo-Bhutan Friendship Mela was held in Subankhata district of Bhutan. Coinciding with the 59th Subankhata Magh Mela, it was aimed at invigorating the age-old ties between the people of the two neighbouring countries. Besides, such conclaves will also help strengthen trade relations, sharing of skills and exchange of culture.

Another interaction was held in the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh on issues pertaining to Indo-Bhutan friendship. It was decided that for people wanting to visit each other country, whether for pilgrimage or film-shooting, should obtain prior approval from the authorities concerned at Tawang in India, or in Bhutan, as the case may be.

Sporadic issues relating to grazing, cattle-lifting, damage to border pillars also figured inthe discussion. During the conclaves, which aimed at increasing the administration-to-administration, and also people-to-people contacts, a suggestion was also made for joint border patrolling.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Assam Tribune, Guwahati, January 16, 2011,, New Delhi, January 19, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rights for Christians

For the first time in Bhutan’s history, the long-isolated Buddhist nation’s Government seems ready to grant official recognition and accompanying rights to a miniscule Christian population that has remained largely underground. Chhoedey Lhentshog, the authority that regulates religious organisations, met in December to discuss the question of registration for organisations representing the Christian community.

Thus far, only Buddhist and Hindu organisations have been registered and thus are permitted to openly practice their religion and build places of worship. Asked if Christians were likely to enjoy the same rights soon, a senior official said: "Absolutely." It would represent a paradigm-shift in policy, given that Bhutan’s National Assembly had banned open practice of non-Buddhist and non-Hindu religions in resolutions passed in 1969 and 1979.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The National Post, Ontario (Canada), January 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cabinet reshuffle impresses none

Two Congress representatives, Salman Khursheed, Sriprakash Jaiswal and also Praful Patel ?from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ally ? were elevated to Cabinet rank, while Ministers of State Ajay Maken and K.V. Thomas were given Independent charge in the first-ever reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers effected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since returning to power for a second term in May 2009. There were also three new faces at the second rung, all from the Congress party.

The most significant change was that of Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy being moved to the high-profile Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora being shifted to the relatively low-key Corporate Affairs Ministry.

The Prime Minister described it as a "minor reshuffle" and said that he intended to "do a more expansive exercise" after the budget session of Parliament. This would become necessary particularly as the DMK ally from Tamil Nadu, whose representative A Raja had to quit as Communication Minister following the 2-G scam and the Trinamul Congress partner from West Bengal, have chosen to stay out until after the Assembly polls in the two States. With not much pressure of the alliance kind thus visible, the reshuffle remained an unimpressive affair, and analysts pointed out how the Prime Minister may have allowed moss to gather around the Government for some more time.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 20, 2011, Indian Express, January 19, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Plan to cut security forces in J&K

As part of the confidence-building measures concerning Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre has decided is contemplating a 25-per cent cut in the strength of the security forces deployed in the troubled northern State, bordering Pakistan. Union Home Secretary G. K. Pillai also said that six-month multiple entry permits would be unilaterally issued for the people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) wanting to visit Jammu and Kashmir through the Line of Control (LoC).

Even as the Home Secretary hinted at a reduction of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, the Army chief, GenV K Singh, said they did not feel the need to "cut down" the strength in the State. Independent of this, the State was faced with the immediate issue of the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the national-level seeking to revive one of its constant ’nationalist issues’ by announcing a programme to unfurl the national flag in Lal Chowk in the State capital of Srinagar, whereas as local political parties and separatist groups are opposed to avoidable provocation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 15, 2011,Times of India, January 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">OCI, PIO cards merged

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced the merging of the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and the People of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country.

"We have recently reviewed the functioning of these schemes and have decided to merge the OCI and PIO cards into a single facility. We hope to iron out some of the problems that have arisen in the implementation of these schemes", the Prime Minister observed while inaugurating the Ninth Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, January 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Warmest year

The India Meteorological Department(IMD) has declared that 2010 was the warmest year since 1901. According to the department, the annual mean temperature averaged over the country as a whole was 25.8023 degrees Celsius last year. This translates to an increase of 0.93 degrees C over the average for the 30-year period from 1961-1990.

The previous record was achieved in 2009, when the annual mean temperature averaged over the country in its entirety was 25.7876 degrees Celsius. The temperatures were generally above normal both in terms of maximum (day) temperature and minimum (night) temperature.

IMD Director-General Ajit Tyagi said an analysis showed that the mean annual temperatures were generally above normal throughout the country during the year, with the departure from the normal being more pronounced in north and central India.

The U.N weather monitoring agency World Meteorological Organisation said that the warmest year on record in the world is a three-way tie- 2010, 2005 and 1998 and that average temperatures globally last year were 0.53 Celsius higher than the 1961-90 mean.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 15, 2011, The Hindu, January 20,, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Qatar to supply more LNG to India

Qatar agreed to increase supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet India’s requirements and also facilitate participation of Indian companies in the oil and gas sector in that country. The Gulf nation has also shown an interest in bilateral cooperation in the area of banking supervision and exchange of information to combat money laundering and terror financing.

Currently, India is importing 7.5 million tonnes of LNG annually from Qatar and Indian companies such as NTPC and Petronet are in discussions with that country for an additional 5-10 million tonnes a year. Qatar is the biggest supplier of gas to the US but due to gas supply surplus in America, it is diverting supplies to Asian countries like India and China.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Petrol dearer by Rs 2.54 per litre

State-owned oil companies raised petrol prices by Rs.2.50-2.54 per litre, the second hike in a month, and sixth in the year against the backdrop of rising crude oil prices.Political parties, youth bodies and trade have come out strongly against the petrol price hike. They also said it would have a multiplier effect on the market, and food prices were bound to go up again.

The increase follows international crude oil prices climbing to US$ 92 per barrel. The State-run retailers are deliberately adopting marginally different rates to avoid being accused of acting as a cartel in the free market, it is said.

The Government had freed petrol prices from official control in June, but the State firms, which control 98 per cent of the retail market, continue to informally consult the Union Petroleum Ministry before revising prices.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 17, 2011, Economic Times, January 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Supreme Court alarmed over ’plunder of the nation’

Describing black money stashed away abroad by Indians as "pure and simple theft of national money", the Supreme Court has questioned the Centre’s approach to tackling this menace and retrieving the huge amount kept in foreign banks.

Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanian, appearing for the Union of India, told the court that the Government was taking all steps to retrieve the black money but explained the difficulties in sharing the information provided by banking nations, which was in turn based on bilateral agreements, aimed at curbing tax-avoidance.

Pending further hearing in the Supreme Court, the Union Cabinet also discussed the matter. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told colleagues how other nations would stop sharing banking information with India if the available details were published.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, January 20, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gayoom talks about Islamic education

Former President and ’Honorary Leader’ of the main Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has said that the Government of President Mohammed Nasheed now was attempting to erase Islamic education in the country. Addressing rally for local government elections, he said that the people "are again in need of a change."

"Our economy has gone down, respect for the constitution and laws have totally disappeared, violence and assault have become widespread and extreme, thousands of people are unemployed, and the amount of money they earn has decreased," he said adding and claimed that the first-ever multi-party polls for the presidency that he lost in 2008 after 30 long years in office was rigged.He claimed to have accepted the result of the election "for the sake of people’s security," he said, coming out of political retirement ahead of the February 5 polls to the local government institutions.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru News Service, Minivan News, January 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Full freedom for Islamic scholars, says President

President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed that no other country in the global Muslim community "grants more freedom to Islamic scholars than in the Maldives." "No other country in the Islamic world allows scholars to preach the way they do in the Maldives," Nasheed said. "Our goal was to give scholars the freedom to deliver their good religious advice, and to give the opportunity for them to provide council freely."

Nasheed noted that Islam had been a way of life in the Maldives for more than 1000 years. "There is no other country that has continued Islamic Shariah, Islamic principles and Islamic culture for such a long time, other than the Maldives," said Nasheed.

The Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, meanwhile, alleged that the present Government was intending "to wipe out Islam in Maldives."Thasmeen reportedly claimed that the Government had demolished the only Arab medium school in the Maldives "to build 1000 flats."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, January 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Caution against rising expatriate population

Immigration Controller Ilyas Hussein Ibrahim has alerted National Security Advisor Amin Faisal about the increased number of expatriate workers in Maldives, which he says has raised apprehensions -- economically, socially, and politically and is a "threat" to the country.

In a letter, Ilyas said the number of expatriates entering the Maldives on work visa is increasing without any limits. From January-October 2010, 18,000 new expatriate workers came to the Maldives, he added.

The expatriate workers population of the Maldives reaches some 80,000 at present, which accounts for about 25 percent of the population. "Expatriate workers, who leave their jobs without the knowledge of the local employer, earn an income through personal business activities in the islands. Groups of illegal expatriate workers have been formed in various parts of Maldives, he said putting the number of illegal expat workers at a minimum of 30,000 and their annual remittances out of the country at $ 168 m, apart from an annual loss of $ 90 million in visa fees.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru News Service, January 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President ratifies Corporate Tax Bill

President Mohamed Nasheed has ratified the Corporate Tax Bill passed by Parliament on December 30. Following the ratification, the Corporate Tax Act has been published in the Government Gazette.

The Corporate Tax Act, which is made up of six chapters, has set out a framework and guidelines for placing a levy on profits of businesses operating in Maldives.

The delay in passing the Bill by Parliament earlier sparked disputes between the Government and the Opposition with the former raising the issue in every major political discourse last year. With the ratification, the country is expected to begin taxing profits of businesses this year.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal & Bhutan: Anjali Sharma;
Pakistan: Anjana Verma;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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