MonitorsPublished on Dec 29, 2011
The Government of Myanmar, in the past few weeks, has played host to a number of high-ranking foreign officials. These include the likes of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
When Myanmar opens up
< class="heading1">Analysis

The Government of Myanmar, in the past few weeks, has played host to a number of high-ranking foreign officials. These include the likes of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Other dignitaries included the Foreign Ministers of Singapore and Japan to name a few. Yangon also hosted the Greater Mekong Sub-regional Summit, which was attended by member-States like Cambodia, China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

These visits come at a time when Myanmar has accepted the responsibility of chairing the ASEAN Summit in 2014. The significance of these developments is that Myanmar is moving away from its xenophobic attitude that it had towards the world -- a world which it had shun a long time, and was in turn side-lined by other countries in reciprocity.

The opening up of Myanmar comes at a time when the Government has initiated a process of internal political and economic reforms. The current phase of reforms is one that reflects a State-sponsored initiative which imitates a guided democratic system. The visits and the statements issued by the visiting dignitaries were in fact a testimonial to the on-going political developments and validated the nascent steps taken by the Government. In general terms, the visitors urged the Government to follow a path that lead to greater liberalisation, but at the same time did not discount the steps that have already been taken.

This is so as Myanmar till recently was known as a closed and authoritarian State with scant respect for human rights and democracy. Of all nations in the South and South East Asian region, Myanmar was an exception. Its brutal suppression of public dissent and the methods that the State followed in tackling militancy that imitated its ethnic troubles had received condemnation from the international community. But the Myanmar in a short of a year has shown signs of change.

These changes have been in the form of its political engagement both within the country and also outside. To this end, the Government is interacting with dissident groups within the country, including political organisations like the NLD of Aung Sang SuuKyi and a host of ethnic groups that have taken to militancy. The Government has welcomed them into the political fold by giving them the room and opportunity to participant in the political process.

This right to engage in political activities used to be discouraged by the State till recently. Past attempts of peaceful political activism resulted in the State coming down heavily on those who expressed their displeasure with the Government. At the same time, the Government is limiting its military operation with all the ethnic militants in a bid to find a peaceful political solution to all their problems. The Government, when compared to what it was in the past, is going out of its way to engage with the various ethnic groups and their military arms. The multitude of ceasefire agreements and peace accords are indeed echoing a change of heart.

At the same time, Myanmar has relegated its reserved attitude to participate in international forums. In this context, the Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014 is significant since Myanmar was offered the same in 2006 and it declined the offer (the ASEAN Chair is on rotation). The primary reason for this was the responsibilities of ASEAN included engaging and interacting with non-ASEAN countries. The then Government was apprehensive to interact with the international community since it did not want to add pressure on the burning issues at home.

On the other hand, Myanmar is also trying to build bridges with its neighbours and has not shirked from seeking external assistance to improve its socio-economic conditions. This was visible when the Government readily accepted the assistance that the US Secretary of State and the Japanese Foreign Minister offered during their visits. Already, Myanmar has opened up to economic and development projects involving neighbouring countries like India and China.

The domestic developments of Myanmar are as vibrant as its international engagement. The first is the junta relinquishing is rigid hold of the country by introducing certain civil liberties. This included the right to peaceful protest by the people, something that was unimaginable a year ago. At the same time, the government is welcoming participation of dissent groups into the political spectrum. To this end, the election commission has announced that the by-election would be held in a free and fair environment. There is high hope that the opposition would fare well in the polls now.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt buys peace with rebels

The Government’s attempt to engage with the ethnic groups has got a shot in the arm after it formalised the mainstreaming of the largest ethnic militant group of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), and its ally the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA). The UWSA and NDAA have received a go-ahead from the Government to trade in timber and construction supplies in order to build roads and also to engage in other developmental activists. At the same time, the Government has also been holding discussions with Wa representatives on issues of development in the Wa region.

On the other hand, the Government is facing a testing time with respect to Kachin group as ceasefire order issued by the President to the army has not been implemented by on the ground. There have been sporadic instances of military engagements between the government troops and the Kachin Independent Army. To this end, there has been an uninterrupted redeployment of Government troops and the army had carries out a late night assault on Christmas Day.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December, 28 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan to help in poverty reduction

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba paid an official visit to Myanmar on December, 26 2011. This is the first visit by the Foreign Minister of Japan to the country since 2002. During the visit, the Minister met with President Thein Sein and his Myanmarese counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin. The meetings focused on the renewal of Japan’s engagement with the country in form of developmental aid. Japan’s engagement will focus on issues of reducing poverty and strengthen democratic institutions.

Japan had downgraded its engagement with Myanmar on grounds of poor record in areas like human rights, freedom of press, civil liberties and democracy. Japan had also suspended its aid assistance to Myanmar in 2003 after the Government has detained pro-democratic leader Aung Sang SuuKyi.

The Minister in the backdrop of the demise of Kim Jong Il has pressed Myanmar to revisit its military ties with North Korea since Myanmar is suspected by the international community to have developed clandestine relationship with Korea on sensitive areas like nuclear energy.

Minister Gembamet Aung San SuuKyi and the latter has urged the Japanese government to push for greater political reforms in Myanmar. Ms SuuKyi has said that economic reforms and prosperity in absence of political reforms would be futile.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December, 25 2011;, December, 27 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IT relief for emigrant workers

The Government has scrapped the income tax in the salaries of its workers employed overseas. This comes as part of new series of labour concessions by the State. The new tax rules will come into effect on January, 1 2012 and is aimed at avoiding double taxation. It will also help mainstreaming the millions of Myanmarese who work outside the country under inhuman conditions. The formalisation of immigrant labour outside the country would also help the State as its remittances will increase.

At present there are over six lakh registered workers employed outside the country and they contribute 10 present of their income as taxes to the government. At the same time it is estimated that there are over 25 lakh unregistered workers, mainly in Thailand Malaysia.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dispute over mechanism stalls cadre-integration

The integration process of former Maoist combatants is likely to be further delayed with political parties failing to sort out differences over a mechanism to monitor the process. The Maoists have demanded formation of a monitoring mechanism comprising representatives of the Nepal Army, the People’s Liberation Army and ’neutral experts’. Such a mechanism, the Maoists say, would be required to resolve disputes that could arise during integration process.

The seven-point agreement signed on November 1 commits to set up a non-combatant directorate within the Nepal Army to integrate 6,500 combatants. As per the agreement, each combatant should meet standard norms of Army during selection and ranks would be determined in accordance with existing norms of the concerned security force.While the deal stipulates that the Army will execute the integration process, the Maoists are insisting on the need of new mechanism to design the bridging course, decide on the rank determination and monitor impartiality of the selection process that will be carried out by the Nepal Army. They are also stressing that both the voluntary retirement and integration process should be carried out together.

The Maoists are asking other parties to make a decision for providing them the rank of brigadier general in the proposed directorate to be formed under the Army. They also stress that numbers of colonels or lieutenant colonels to be offered to the combatants should be settled at the political level. The Congress and UML have been opposing this arguing that the rank determination is an already settled issue and that it will be determined by the Nepal Army on completion of the bridging course.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 26, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists’ rift to the fore

The intra-party rift within the UCPN (Maoist) seems to have reached a critical stage with the hardline faction led by Mohan Baidya Kiran flatly rejecting party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s new initiative to patch up internal differences. Dahal had presented a document aimed at patching up differences with his deputy Baidya. In his document, Dahal prioritised peace and constitution, stating that the party’s attempts in the past to capture the state powers failed.

The hardliners blamed Dahal of abandoning the line of revolt adopted by the party’s sixth plenum last year. Baidya is preparing to present a counter-document that proposes going for a "people’s revolt to promulgate a people’s constitution". Dahal has proposed laying the groundwork for the general convention, the highest authority in the party. The Baidya faction argues there is no meaning of holding the convention without "correcting" the party’s moves, including the decision on integration and rehabilitation of former combatants.

The hardliners are demanding resignation of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai at the earliest and have pushed for formation of a national consensus government, which contradicts Dahal’s line that the present government could be reshuffled to induct some ministers from the Baidya faction. The hardliners have also said that such a new government should be formed under Dahal’s leadership; otherwise, the party should field General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa as the party’s candidate for prime ministerial post. Thapa on Thursday told media-persons in Kathmandu that the party has already split and "only awaits a formal announcement" to this affect.
< class="text11verdana">Source:,, December 26-29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC rejects review petitions

Stating that the November 25 verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) on Constituent Assembly’s (CA) term-expiry has not contravened any constitutional provisions or any precedents, the apex court has refused to register review petitions filed separately by the Government and Parliament.

The executive and the legislature had knocked on the SC door demanding review of the apex court verdict that said the CA term would automatically expire in six months following its last extension on November 31. Both the Government and the Legislature argued that the Supreme Court had infringed the jurisdiction of parliament while issuing its verdict on CA term-extension, and sought that the ruling be reviewed.

The main Opposition Nepali Congress has defended the apex court decision while the ruling political parties ? UCPN (Maoist) and MadhesiMorcha -- and the CPN-UML accused the higher judiciary of stepping beyond its jurisdiction. Constitutional experts have claimed that political leaders do not have any moral grounds for objecting to the court ruling.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 27, 2011,, December 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No question of military takeover: CJ

"There is no question of a (military) takeover and, rest assured, good times will come," observed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ifthikar Mohammed Chaudhry, who heads a nine-judge bench hearing petitions filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and others over the memo scandal.

Justice Chaudhry directed an inquiry into the memo case and said that the Army and ISI Chief along with Ambassador Haqqani trusted the judiciary. He questioned that if the memo was merely a piece of a paper then, what was the task of the ’parliamentary investigation committee’? He assured the courtroom that the days when the judiciary used to validate extra-constitutional acts, were gone.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, December 23, 24, 27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 5.5-b Bank aid tagged to tax reforms

The World Bank has come up with an agreement with the Pakistan Government to give $5.5 billion in development aid, in order to support an economy struck by poverty and inflation. This is likely to give a boost to the much-needed reforms in taxation and the power sector in particular. It would also help in the education, health infrastructure that was required as fixed investment was very low in 2011.

In an effort to bring about change in the revenue collection system, the Federal Board of revenue issued notices to 295,000 people for not filing income tax returns
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, December 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India seeks nuclear doctrine

After four years, Pakistan and India resumed talks on the conventional and nuclear confidence-building measures. Y.K. Sinha, Joint Secretary in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and his counterpart Munawar Saeed Bhatti, the Additional Foreign Secretary, led the discussions.

Pakistan had proposed that India withdraw its deployment of artillery and mortars 30 km away from the LoC, repatriation of citizens of both countries who strayed inadvertently into the other territory and also suggested an agreement to prevent major incidents at sea.

However, India rejected the proposition on moving heavy artillery owing to frequent violations of the ceasefire by Pakistan. India, on the other hand, asked Pakistan to come out with a coherent nuclear doctrine.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, December 27, 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nuclear arsenal meant for deterrence: Kaira

The Information Secretary of Pakistan People’s Party, Qamar Zaman Kaira on December 28 said that the nation’s nuclear arsenal was meant for deterrence and not for belligerence against any country.

Kaira’s statement comes in response to former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s view that the country’s nuclear arsenal was not safe under the PPP regime. Kaira said, "When it would come to defend the country, those weapons would be engaged."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, December 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US hints at action on Salala air-strike

A Pentagon spokesperson on December 28 said that possible action against those involved in the Salala check-post attack could not be ruled out. The spokesperson said that punishments would be handed out on the basis of the final inquiry report, adding that the report would determine whether the attack was a mistake on the part of NATO or ISAF forces. Earlier the US military had briefed Pakistan’s Army Chief on its investigation.

A report by military investigators was delivered to General Kayani on December 25. The spokesman added that the approach represented "an appropriate professional courtesy" to General Kayani. Meanwhile, the New York Times in a report said that US officials believed that the country’s relationship with Pakistan had been seriously damaged and a counter terrorism alliance could survive only in a limited form.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, December 26, 2011; Express Tribune, December 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gas emergency?

The Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited faced a shortage of close to 30 per cent, i.e. 700 million cubic feet daily, thereby leading to protests by industrial consumers. Many associations including the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry felt that there was strong discrimination in the supply of gas to Punjab.

Petroleum Minister Dr AsimHussain said that there could be a nationwide emergency that could have direct implications on the closure of CNG stations soon. However, he was not specific about the duration of the closure. CNG associations have called for a protest on December 31 to force the Government to withdraw the decision. He also said that there will be a massive increase in gas tariff from January 1, 2012 and it could increase from a range of 14 per cent to 207 per cent.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, December 29, 30, 2011.

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Krishna, Kalam for Colombo?

Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is expected to visit Sri Lanka in mid-January for discussions with the Government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leaderships, over the stalled negotiations between the two over finding a negotiated settlement to the ethnic issue. Krishna will also visit the Indian housing project in the war-torn areas, to assess the progress made since his last visit in 2011.

Former Indian President A P J AdbulKalam will be another Indian dignitary expected in Sri Lanka in the New Year. Kalam is expected to launch the tri-lingual policy of the Government in the North, while local Tamil media citing Indian sources said that he would also address the Jaffna University faculty and students, and also interact with a group of students, separately.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, December 30, 2011, Uthayan (Tamil), Jaffna, December 30, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP undecided on ethnic issue?

Senior UNP leaders clarified that the party was yet to take a position on the issue after party MP, Jayalath Jayawardene challenged the Government to amend the Constitution to render the Thirteenth Amendment irrelevant. He had argued that the Government could not deny police and land powers to the Provinces as long as the Amendment was on the statute book.

Media Minister Kehaliya Rambukwelle said that the Government could not be expected to accept contentious issue that formed part of the Thirteenth Amendment while Opposition UNP Chairman Jayawickrema Perera said that it was for the party advisory committee and working committee to decide on its position, and not otherwise.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, December 30, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban office acceptable to Govt

President Hamid Karzai has agreed to a Taliban liaison office in Qatar or any other Islamic country. Officials said that there should be no foreign interference in these talks and the leadership for talks with the Taliban must rest with the Afghan government and the High Peace Council.

Meanwhile, President Karzai has extended the tenure of two independent Election Commission (IEC) members while replacing three others.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, December 27, 2011, Surgar, December 27, 2011, Outlook Afghanistan, December 26, 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Joint military operations yield results

Join operations conducted by the Afghan security forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Nangarhar, Kandahar, Helmand, Logar, Ghazni and Paktika provinces led to the death of two militants and the arrest of twenty eight others. The security forces were able to recover 67,800 kg of Ammonium Nitrate along with weapons of different types, 84 kg of opium and 300 kilograms of Hashish. A known Taliban commander was detained in Kandahar province following separate operations conducted by ISAF.

Meanwhile in another operation, officials from the Afghan intelligence detained two Pakistani nationals who they believe were militants. The suspects were caught with USD 7,000 in Asadabad district of Kunar province. The suspects confessed to plotting against the government during investigations.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, December 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US troops leave Afghanistan

US officials have stated that 10,000 American troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan, bringing the total down from 101,000 to 91,000. The next batch of 23,000 troops is expected to leave the country by the summer of 2012.

Governor of PanjshirProvince announced the departure of United States troops from the region. The troop departure was a scheduled evacuation as security responsibility in the province has been handed over to the Afghan Security Forces. US troops stationed in Panjshir were part of the reconstruction programme in the Province.

Meanwhile the second phase of security transition began in Daikundi, an army battalion would be stationed in the region and importance would be given to improving cooperation with the local inhabitants.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Surgar, December 24, 2011, Khaama, December 29, 2011, Outlook Afghanistan, December 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Major oil deal signed with China

China’s National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) will develop three oil fields in northern Sar-i-Pul and Faryab Provinces. CNPC will invest $400 million which will generate thousands of jobs for Afghan citizens and also share with the Afghan Government 70 per cent of its profits. The oil fields are estimated to be worth $7 billion.

The CNPC won the bid amidst severe competition from Pakistani, Canadian, French and American companies. The deal would also include the building of Afghanistan’s first oil refinery within the next three years and the payment of 15% royalties and other dues.

Meanwhile private airline operators have raised concerns over the government’s decision to allow foreign airlines to operate in the country. Chief of the Afghanistan Chambers of Commerce has questioned the ability of domestic airlines to face competition from foreign airlines. Domestic airline operators urged the Afghan government to support the private sector in Afghanistan by arranging special privileges and implementing special laws and regulations that boosts the capabilities of the private sector in the country.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama, December 25, 2011, Outlook Afghanistan, December 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Food shortage likely: WFP

United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has stated that due to financial woes they have been unable to raise their budget requirements of $400 million from donors. Funds that have been raised would be focused on providing assistance to vulnerable families, especially households headed by disabled people and women, feeding programs for malnourished children less than five years old and pregnant women.

Further reports stated that programmes catering to food security, including agriculture schemes and a school feeding programs, would be put on hold due to lack of funds.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Outlook Afghanistan, December 25, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Death penalty for terrorists

To strengthen counter-terrorism initiatives, the Cabinet has approved the final draft of the Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Act, 2011. The amendment includes the provision of death penalty as the highest punishment for any kind of involvement, support or financing militancy and terrorist activities in the country.

Under the proposed law, a convict will have to serve a minimum rigorous jail term of three years to a maximum of 20 years, and fine, depending on the nature of the crime. The draft also recommends that any Bangladeshi or foreign national using the country’s soil for launching terrorist activities in other countries or supporting such activities would be prosecuted.

According to the draft, a person or entity is a terrorist if he or entity commits murder or injures, detains or kidnaps other(s) or do harm to someone else’s property and uses or keeps explosives, flammable objects, firearms or other chemicals to destroy the integrity, solidarity, security or sovereignty of Bangladesh.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, December 27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BNP to join talks on poll panel

A major political log-jam has ended as the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) agreed to participate in the dialogue with President Zillur Rahman on formation of a new Election Commission. The dialogue will take place in January 2012.

Earlier, the BNP was reluctant to join the dialogue and expressed doubts about the motives behind the President’s initiative. Some media reports claimed that during the meeting BNP plans to formally urge President Rahman to initiate a move to resolve the political stalemate over the issue of caretaker government system before formation of the next Election Commission.

The Awami League-led Government abolished the caretaker government (CG) system by amending the Constitution on June 30, following a Supreme Court verdict that had declared the system to be unconstitutional.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, December 27,2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU to aid refugees in Nepal

The European Commission of the European Union has agreed to contribute Euro 29,50,000 (NPR 330 million) towards UNHCR’s programme in Nepal. This contribution is for the year 2011 to 2014. It is meant to address the needs of Bhutanese refugees who are in Nepal. The UNHCR will provide assistance in the field of health, nutrition, education, sanitation and legal.

At present there are around 54,900 Bhutanese refugees in various camps in Nepal. This figure has come down from the high of 108,000 refugees who were present before the UNHCR initiated a resettlement programme. As part of the on-going UNHCR’s efforts an additional 41,300 individuals have expressed their interest to be resettled.

All individuals who have been either resettled or have expressed an interest to the same have made a new beginning in a third country.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December, 28 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Strained ties with Nepal

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Nepal had said that the Government of Bhutan has not responded to its request for bilateral talks between the two governments.

This announcement comes after the Government of Nepal sent a request for the same twice in December 2011. Incidentally the Prime Ministers of the two countries in November 2011 agreed to initiate decisive talks between the two governments by December.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December, 27 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Anti-graft bill introduced amid row

Amidst objections from the Opposition, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 was finally tabled in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on Thursday with House leader Pranab Mukherjee appealing to members to allow historic draft to be introduced as the first step towards collectively discussing, changing and amending it.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill on Tuesday (December 27, 2011) with some amendments but the bill to give a constitutional status to the proposed institution of the Lokpal was defeated by a divided but determined Opposition.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, December 23-27, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Food Security Bill tabled

The Government has introduced a long-promised Food Security Bill in Parliament on Friday, aiming to provide subsidized food grain to two-thirds of the population. Critics on the right have expressed fears that the measure will result in a disastrous increase in the deficit and cause distortions in the commodities market.

However, the Bill’s proponents say that there is not only a moral imperative to eliminate hunger, but also that the food subsidy will have positive effects on the economy such as increased productivity. In addition, they point out that the estimated $5 billion cost of the Bill will not hit the treasury immediately, as the plan would be implemented in several phases.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Minority quota announced

The Government has said that a proportion of Government jobs and seats in State-run education centres will be reserved for minority groups.

It ordered 4.5 per cent of Government jobs and education places to be reserved. Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) are the main minorities in India.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$ 7.8 b funding for Afghan iron mining

An Indian Government-backed group that won rights to mine Afghanistan’s biggest iron ore deposit has sought $7.8 billion in State aid and loans to develop the venture, two people with direct knowledge of the plan said.

India’s Steel Ministry backs the proposal by the Afghan Iron & Steel Consortium, which comprises seven companies led by State-owned Steel Authority of India Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), the people said, declining to be identified because details of the plan are confidential. The ministry will seek approvals from the foreign and finance ministries, they said, without giving a timeframe.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 23, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM stresses on ties with Iran

Bilateral cooperation with Iran would continue despite problems in making payments for imported oil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said. In his meeting with Iranian supreme leader’s top advisor for international affairs Akbar Ali Vilayati in New Delhi on Friday, Singh made these remarks saying that efforts would be made to find a payment solution in making monthly payments of about $ 1 billion for the imported oil.

"The Prime Minister said some technical difficulties are there and we want to resolve this problem with understanding from both sides," Vilayati told newspersons.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, December 24, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Extradition treaty with Thailand

After holding talks last week to step up defence cooperation, Thailand and India are aiming at accelerating pacts to ensure that Bangkok does not remain a magnet for fugitives.

The two sides also held talks on connecting mega ports being built in Myanmar and Thailand with Indian ports during the o-ngoing visit of Thailand Foreign Minister SurapongTovichakchaikul.

"Our Government attaches great importance to the rule of law by working closely with other like-minded countries,’’ said Mr.Tovichakchaikul, when asked whether Thailand would extradite fugitives to India just as it did with Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen, who was transferred to US custody on terrorism charges despite a plea from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

With several Indian gangsters known to have operated out of Bangkok and other cities of Thailand, the visiting Minister said the two sides were keen on accelerating negotiations on transfer of sentenced persons and an extradition treaty.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, December 28, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President discusses security with Sri Lanka

President Mohamed Nasheed has discussed plans to enhance defence cooperation between Maldives and neighboring Sri Lanka during his official visit to the country.

The two Governments are considering joint naval operations as a means to counter the increasing threat of maritime terrorism and piracy. Identifying South Asia as a "conflict-stricken region", he commended the work of the Sri Lankan Security Forces.

President Nasheed was chief guest at the passing-out parade for 194 cadet officers, including one Maldivian, at the Sri Lanka Defence Academy. President Nasheed is the first foreign Head of State to be conferred the honour, and it was his third visit to the country in the year.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, December 31, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Finance Minister quits after row

Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz has submitted his resignation following an incident in which he was caught by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists while he was having a meeting with Abdulla Yameen, Opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP and half-brother of former President Abdul Gayoom.

The meeting was held in Yameen’s car in a rarely visited area of Male. MDP activists surrounded the car, which attempted to leave the area, and requested that Inaz step out because "it was wrong." He was taken to party headquarters and pressured to resign.

Yameen told the Press that the meeting had been called by the Finance Minister to discuss the 2012 state budget, passed by Parliament earlier in the week. However, MDP activists allege that Inaz was plotting with Yameen and making secret deals.

State Minister for Finance, Ahmed Naseer, has also resigned, although according to Zuhair he did not mentioned the reason of his resignation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, December 29, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt mull reopening spas

The Government of President Mohammed Nasheed was said to be reconsidering an earlier order to close down resorts and spas across the country, citing the demand made at the Opposition rally to ’defend Islam’ as the reason. Opposition leaders participating in an NGOs-sponsored protest had challenged the Government to stop the sale of alcohol and pork across the country.

In what is essentially seen as a political ploy to embarrass individual Opposition leaders who have financial interest in resorts that sell these items, and also offer massage services by women, the Government ordered their ban forthwith. A civil court has since stayed the ban, after a resort owned by Opposition Jumbhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim contested the Government order.

The Government is looking into ways to allow resorts to operate spas as it does not want to close down the spas in the resorts, Tourism Minister Dr MariyamZulfahas said since. Media reports said that many resort-owners had participated in the Opposition rally or sent their employees.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru/Minivan News, December 28-30, 2011.

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan: Haripal Brar;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Myanmar & Bhutan: Sripathi Narayan;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Astik Sinha and Aarya Venugopal;
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.