MonitorsPublished on Apr 22, 2011
Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to form a joint commission to collaborate their efforts to reach a political solution to the Taliban insurgency. This was announced during the visit of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to the Afghanistan capital of Kabul over the weekend.
Will Af-Pak peace effort succeed?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to form a joint commission to collaborate their efforts to reach a political solution to the Taliban insurgency. This was announced during the visit of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to the Afghanistan capital of Kabul over the weekend.

The talks, which lasted several hours in the Presidential Palace, were described as ’historic’ by officials. The two countries will proceed to form a ’two-tier’ joint commission to coordinate their efforts. Speaking at the occasion, Gilani endorsed the idea and said, "I have assured President Karzai that Pakistan strongly supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation and peace". He reiterated the importance of ’Afghan ownership’ in giving the exercise the needed legitimacy.

Pakistan will be represented by Gilani, Kayani and ISI Director-General, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha. The Afghan component will comprise President Karzai, Opposition Leader Burhanuddin Rabbani and members of the High Peace Council, formed to promote reconciliation with and reintegration of the insurgents. Besides the two affected countries, the US and prominent Muslim States, particularly Turkey and Saudi Arabia, will play a role in the upcoming negotiations. Turkey, it may be noted, recently agreed to host Taliban representatives in Ankara.

How ’historic’ are the talks? What are the factors that have prompted the two countries that otherwise routinely accuse each other of sponsoring rival insurgents to collaborate? Which actors will emerge as the real power-brokers, and what are the levers that they will bring to the board in the coming months?

The historicity of the talks can be measured only with the advantage of hindsight. After all, the three countries, including the US, have coordinated their efforts in the past through the institutionalised Tripartite Commission. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have, in fact, improved considerably since the departure of Pervez Musharraf as Pakistan President, with whom President Hamid Karzai appeared to have had problems of personal equations.

Moving beyond the usual lip-service to political solutions, the two countries have increased the tempo and substance of their talks following US President Barack Obama’s announcement of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan beginning July 2011. Since the announcement, Gen Kayani has made several trips to Kabul and is said to have offered his services to mediate with sections of the Taliban and the Haqqani network. As a break from the past, the two have deliberately kept the US ’off the loop’, which illustrates the seriousness of the negotiations. Thus, the principal driver of the recent development is shared anxiety about the looming US exit from the region.

In spite of sharing common religious and ethnic identities, Afghanistan and Pakistan have never enjoyed cordial relations, except during the Taliban rule, which too was not without its problems. Afghanistan irks Pakistan by refusing to acknowledge the Durand Line, which demarcates their border. According to Kabul, the border treaties signed with the colonial British rulers of pre-Partition India ceased to exist after Pakistan was born.

Pakistan, in order to offset these territorial claims and secure its western border, enabling it to focus exclusively on its eastern flank with India, has sought ’strategic depth’ in Afghanistan by aiding ’pro-Pakistan’ groups to gain ascendency in Kabul. Pakistan’s alleged support to the Taliban is the most recent instance of a decades-old strategy which has made it notoriously unpopular among Afghans.

Notwithstanding the mutual bitterness, leaders of the two countries have shown greater interest in negotiations in recent months for the sole purpose of securing their stakes. All sides recognise that the absence of international largesse will make it extremely difficult for any single player to achieve monopoly of power. President Karzai, given his limited support-base inside the country, realises the fragility of the Afghan State and appears willing to share power with his current belligerents.

Pakistan, on the other hand, realises its inability to fund a future Taliban State on its own, and dreads the prospect of a malnourished, ’failed State’ in its periphery. As such, it appears contend with limited influence, instead of a client-patron relationship. Finally, the US, after fighting the fog of war for almost a decade, has reconciled to the best ’possible’ solution, and arguably, in near future, will look for ways to ’re-brand’ elements of the Taliban as ’Pashtun nationalists’ and include them in the political process.

In conclusion, State actors appear set to safeguard their interests for the uncertain political environment ahead. The behaviour of the non-State actors, on the other hand, remains far more difficult to predict. Will Taliban, once it senses victory, be still willing to play the role of an obedient proxy and accommodate its ethnic rivals? Or, will it instead choose to fight indefinitely for overlord-ship across Afghanistan? Of greater consequence to the international community, will the Taliban sever ties with al-Qaeda, after fighting alongside its ranks for 15 years? Or, will it instead make the terrorist group its honoured guest in those parts of Afghanistan under its control, all over again?

These questions beg for answers, which are not easy to come by.

(The author is Junior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kayani spreads healing touch over Balochistan

Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has announced the military’s decision to withdraw all units from active combat operations in Balochistan on April 18. He added that in future, military operations will be conducted strictly on the recommendations of the political leadership of the Province concerned. The two battalions currently present in the Province will soon be pulled out, and security tasks handed over to the para-military Frontier Corps.

Gen Kayani visited the insurgency-affected Province to inaugurate the Gwadar Institute of Technology in Sui, and used the opportunity to reach out to the alienated Baloch community, and announced that 5000 Baloch youth are to join the army this month.

Balochistan has witnessed as many as five separate insurgencies, the most recent of which began in 2004 and spiralled after the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti, a respected political leader and former Governor of the Province, in a military operation. However, since 2008, Islamabad has taken several measures to reduce the feeling of estrangement by adopting a more ’healing touch’ strategy.

After coming to power, President Asif Ali Zardari tendered an official apology to the Baloch community, a symbolic gesture which was followed by political reforms in 2009. Last year, the enactment of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution conferred greater autonomy on the Province. Unfortunately, such laudable steps have been accompanied by continued human rights abuse by the security forces, making reconciliation difficult. GenKayani’s gesture, therefore, is a welcome step towards a concerted political-military approach to resolving the Baloch conflict.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, April 19, 2011; Daily Times, April 19, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pak seeks drone technology

US House Speaker John Boehner led a congressional delegation for his first visit to Pakistan since the Republican Party took over the House of Representatives last year. Boehner met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, and travelled to Peshawar to meet with commander of XI Corps, which is responsible for counter-insurgency operations against the Taliban.

Boehner acknowledged ’the efforts of the Pakistani military and the sacrifices of the troops and the Pakistani people.’ Gilani used the opportunity to reiterate Pakistan’s renewed demands for transfer of drone technology and called for greater sensitivity towards collateral damage caused by aerial raids.

The visit comes in the wake of intense diplomatic activity by both the countries to restore bilateral relations, particularly counter-terrorism cooperations, which have been severely strained in recent months. Last week, ISI’s chief, Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha visited the US. He will be followed by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, who is expected to meet with State Department officials.

It is worth noting that Republicans, unlike the incumbent Democrats, are in favour of a more sustained campaign in Afghanistan and are critical of US President Barack Obama’s inclination towards an ’early exit’ strategy. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s criticality in the Afghan campaign enjoys bipartisan consensus, which, according to the view from Washington, makes Pakistan’s cooperation indispensible.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The News International, April 19, 2011; Agence France-Presse, April 18, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN, Sri Lanka stick to their guns

In the week following the leak of the three-member advisory panel on Sri Lanka, appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the international body has declined Colombo’s request for not publishing the full report. The UN has also regretted the leak even as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona declared that Colombo had indicated such possibilities emanating from the side of the international organization, as had been the case in the past.

Not losing much time after the UN passed on a copy of the report to the Government, President Mahinda Rajapaksa called upon the Sri Lankan population to protest against the international body, a move that would have been made by lesser politicians in the country, otherwise. Even as the Government has reserved its full response to the panel report, External Affairs Minister G L Peiris indicated that it has the potential to upset relations with Sri Lanka and also the credibility of the UN system.

In the UN and in Colombo, Russia, one of the P-5 members with veto-power publicly indicated its opposition to the panel and the report, pointing out that it was not set up/commissioned either by the Security Council or the General Assembly, and was only a personal initiative of Secretary-General Ban.

The one-time pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) welcomed the report, but the strongly-worded statement threw enough hints about the need for a political solution to the ethnic issue. Translated, it would mean that the TNA would continue with its political negotiations with the Government, which has been rendered further fragile by the content and timing of the UN panel report.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror &The Island, Colombo

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Doubts over TNA visit

Controversy surrounds the Singapore visit by some TNA MPs amidst allegations that they had gone there to hold talks with representatives of the LTTE’s so called transnational government.Though the TNA says that a German organisation was behind this seminar, speculation is rife in political circles that it has been organized to provide a cover up for the TNA’s meeting with the LTTE’s overseas activists to discuss a political solution.

TNA General Secretary MavaiSenathirajah, Jaffna district MP Suresh Premachandran, National List MP M.A. Sumanthiran, Batticaloa district MP P. Ariyanethran and a few others participated in this workshop. Asked for his comment in this regard, TNA MP A. Vinayagamurthy said he was unaware of such a visit undertaken by his colleagues.

However, Deputy Minister and one-time LTTE commander Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan alias ’Col’ Karuna, said that this could well be an attempt to meet with LTTE activists."Otherwise, there is no need for them to go to Singapore to discuss a political solution. They can do it here without any problem," he said. "They are now trying to create another separatist war in Sri Lanka. There should be an end to this," he said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, April 22, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arabic name-boards in East

Access roads and by-lanes in Kaththankudy, a majority Muslim area, had been named in Arabic in addition to Tamil, Sinhala and English, officials have said. A few private companies have sponsored the naming of these access roads.

The use of Arabic in name-boards in Muslim-majority areas comes at a time when the ongoing Census-2011 is expected to show up the community as having the second populous group in the country after the Sinhalas, replacing the Sri Lankan Tamils. The decennial Census exercise is being undertaken in the war-torn North and East for the first time since 1971.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror, April 23, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban ’recruits’ rogue soldiers

The Taliban has launched the anticipated ’Spring offensive’ by carrying out two suicide attacks against foreign security forces in the country. On April 18, a suicide-bomber, wearing military uniform, penetrated the heavily fortified Defence Ministry in Kabul, killing two Afghan soldiers and wounding seven others. The assailant had prior information about the planned meeting between the Defence Ministers of Afghanistan and France, who were the target of the suicide attack.

Earlier on April 16, another bomber disguised in military fatigues targeted the Afghan National Army’s 201 Corps in the East. The blast in Forward Operating Base Gamberi, located on the borders of Laghman and Nangarhar Provinces killed five NATO and four Afghan soldiers. The attack occurred during a meeting between Afghan and foreign military officers.

The Taliban took responsibility for both the assaults and declared the commencement of the anticipated ’Spring offensive’. Furthermore, they claim to have infiltrated the country’s security forces by influencing disaffected soldiers. "We had recruited this man one month ago, and he was serving as an Afghan soldier for the last month," said ZabiullahMujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman.

Insurgents are known to exaggerate claims to penetration of local security forces in order to foster suspicion among Government troops and generate mistrust between local forces and their foreign counterparts. However, the coincidence of the attacks with important meetings at the side of the assault suggests that Taliban’s claims may well be true. In the past two years, 20 instances of attacks by ’rogue’ Afghan soldiers have been recorded.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The New York Times, April 16, 2011; Panjwok, April 18, 2011; Associated Press, April 19, 2011


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Demands for trial of Fakhruddin and Moeen

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on April 18 organised a human chain at the Parliament premises, demanding the trial of Gen Moeenuddin Ahmed and Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, charging them with capturing state power unconstitutionally.

Gen Moeenuddin Ahmed was Army chief and Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed was chief advisor during the term of the military-backed caretaker government (2007-08). They are now residing abroad. The Opposition demanded that the Government should bring them back and duo should be tried.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Bangladesh Today, April 19, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jamaat leaders denied bail

The ’International Crimes Tribunal’ has rejected the bail petitions filed by the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s detained Amir Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary-General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Assistant Secretaries-General Mohammad Kamruzzaman and Abdul QuaderMolla.

However, the tribunal, which was instituted on 25 March, 2010 for the trial of crimes committed during the ’War of Independence in 1971, ordered the investigation agency to submit formal charges or the investigation report at the earliest. Earlier, the tribunal rejected a bail petition filed by Jamaat leader DelwarHossainSayedee in connection with war crimes.
< class="text11verdana">Source: New Age, April 22, 2011/ The Daily Star, April 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ethnic clashes cost three lives

At least three persons were killed, around 20 injured and 30 houses burnt this week following clashes between indigenous people and Bangalee settlers at Shankhola Para of Ramgarhupazila in Khagrachhari hill district.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, April 18, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sri Lanka calls for stronger ties

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called for stronger political relations with Bangladesh. He made the remark this week during his three-day official visit to Bangladesh.

The Sri Lankan leader met President Zillur Rahmana and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. During his meeting with Prime Minister, the two leaders observed that both the countries can work together at regional and international forums for mutual benefit. They also discussed the issue of terrorism and countering terrorism, as well as food security and cooperation in the shipping sector.

President Rajapaksa has assured that his country would consider Bangladesh’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Prime Minister Hasina emphasized the need for establishing direct air and maritime links with Sri Lanka.

Besides, the two sides also discussed ways and means to further expand mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields, including trade and commerce, investment, civil aviation, shipping, tourism, people-to-people contacts, culture, education, agriculture, fisheries and livestock, health, defence, youth affairs and disaster management.

The immediate outcome of the visit was the five agreements signed between the two countries. The five MoUs are on cooperation between the Export Development Board of Sri Lanka and the Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh, cooperation between the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock of Bangladesh, cooperation in agriculture between Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council and Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy, cooperation between Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Education of Bangladesh, and on Cultural Exchange Programme between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, April 19, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Moscow offers gas

Bangladesh and Russia are all set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) soon on the development of the gas sector. The MoU will enable Russian companies to be involved in drilling some hydrocarbon wells and installing two gas compressors in Bangladesh on a fast track basis.

In this regard, an eleven-member team from Russian state-run oil and gas company Gazprom headed by its Managing Director ValeriGulev visited Bangladesh this week. Expectations are there that the Gazprom will help Bangladesh develop a gas sector strategic master plan.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, April 21, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’No’ to third-party role in refugee issue

Bhutan has refused any intervention by India or any other third country in resolving the problem of Bhutanese refugees living in various camps in eastern Nepal. Addressing a news conference before wrapping up his three-day official visit to Nepal, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley argued that there was no point in seeking India´s role in resolving the Bhutanese refugee problem just because New Delhi facilitated "people in the refugee camps" to travel through its territory to Nepal.

Thinley contested the claim that people living in the seven refugee camps in south-eastern Nepal were necessarily from Bhutan. It was alleged that thousands of victims of torture had been forced to live in exile as refugees when the royalty ruled even at present.

The UN refugee agency with the support of International Organisation for Migration initiated third-country resettlement programme in 2007 after repeated round of dialogues between Nepal and Bhutan failed to resolve the crisis. Bhutan has offered to resume bilateral talks stalled since 2003 with Nepal to resolve the issue.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online , April 21, 2011,Republica,April17,2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Poverty-rate falls by 5 pc

The latest data of the Planning Commission indicates that poverty has declined to 32 per cent in 2009-10 from 37.2 per cent five years ago. The preliminary estimates are based on the formula suggested by the Tendulkar Committee for computing the number of poor.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 21, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PSLV-C16 launched successfully

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) heaved a sigh of relief as PSLV-C16 carrying three satellites Resourcesat-2, Xsat and Youthsat was launched successfully putting all three into the orbit. This has added to the impressive track record of ISRO’s PSLV program even as it continues to struggle with its GSLV program especially the indigenous cryogenic engine.

ISRO is set to launch more satellites this year including GSAT-8, GSAT-12, Indo-French Megha- Tropiques and RISAT-1. Indo-Russian collaboration on the Chandrayaan 2 moon mission slated for 2013 is also ongoing.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, April 21, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">74.27 per cent polling in West Bengal

The turnout at the first phase of West Bengal Assembly elections in 54 constituencies was 74.27 per cent. This is lower than the 2006 figure of 82.91 per cent. It was concluded that the turnout could rise further in the ensuing five phases of polling.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Darjeeling Times, April 19, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Energy Agreements with Kazakhstan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kazakhstan saw India getting its foot into the Central Asian energy sector. A package of three agreements signed between the national companies of both countries will give India access to the North Caspian Sea region which is in close proximity to major discoveries. The block contains two prospective structures Satpayev and SatpayevVostochni (East) with estimated hydrocarbon reserves of 256 million tonnes.

The agreements will enable ONGC Videsh (OVL) to acquire 25 per cent equity from Kazmunaigas (KMG), define how OVL will pay KMG, repayment in case of commercial discovery and development of the discovered fields. Although OVL has been trying to gain a foothold in Kazakhstan for over 15 years, the efforts got a boost only with the inking of anMoU in 2005.

The move signals India’s attempts to diversify its sources of oil to reduce its dependency on the Middle east. The two countries moved towards more intensive collaboration in nuclear energy with the signing of the Agreement on Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.

Dr. Singh and Kazakhstan President NursultanNazarbayev also agreed on a three-year Joint Action Plan. The plan details specific milestones in hydrocarbons, civilian nuclear energy, space, IT & cyber security, high-tech and innovative technology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, agriculture and cultural exchanges.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 17, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Stockholm Convention to discuss endosulfan ban

Conference of parties to the Stockholm convention meeting in Geneva will discuss among other things a global ban on endosulfan, which is a commonly used insecticide in India. India was the only member-country to take a stand against the ban at the Sixth Meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Convention that recommended the ban last year.

Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide and has emerged as a highly controversial agrichemical due to its acute toxicity, potential for bioaccumulation, and role as an endocrine disruptor. It is banned in more than 63 countries, including the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, and other Asian and West African nations and is being phased out in the United States. It is still used extensively in many other countries including India and China.

India is the supplier of 70 per cent of the world’s endosulfan needs?a market valued at $300 million (Rs. 1,340 crore). Out of the 9,000 tonnes India produces every year, half is bought by the country’s 75 million farmers, making it the world’s largest consumer of endosulfan. It is alleged that the manufacturers lobbying to oppose the move for a global ban. The argument is that the ban would deprive the farmers of a cheap and effective broad spectrum pesticide.

Kasargod district in Kerala, where thousands became victim to indiscriminate spraying of the pesticide, has become the hub of the domestic opposition to the central government’s stand. Along with Kerala state government various eminent environmentalists such as Vandana Shiva have endorsed the ban.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 18, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jaitapur protests turn violent, curfew imposed

Curfew was imposed in Ratnagiri following violent protests during a bandh called by the Shiv Sena on the death of a protestor due to police firing. The protests had been against the Jaitapur nuclear power project issue. A magisterial probe will be conducted by the Maharashtra government into the incident of firing.

Even as Shiv Sena announced its opposition to the project and expressed its support to the protestors, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that there was no possibility of withdrawing the requisite environmental clearance.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 20, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">IMD predicts ’normal monsoons’

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasted that rainfall in the coming southwest monsoon season was "most likely" to be normal, at about 98 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA), with a model error of plus or minus 5 per cent.

IMD is keeping a close watch on the El-Nino La-Nina conditions over the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and developments related to the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) which could have an impact on the Indian monsoon.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Deccan Herald, April 19, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SBI withdraws ’teaser’ loans

The State Bank of India (SBI) withdrew low-interest home loans, popularly known as ’teaser loans’, putting an end to the RBI-government tussle on low interest loans.

While SBI and the Government continued to maintain that such loans were in the interest of ’inclusive growth’ and allowed the common man to access low interest housing loans, the RBI had expressed serious reservations in the interest of sound finance.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Economic Times, April 20, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Dy Speaker for transparency

Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Ahmed Nazim has claimed that he would welcome moves to promote transparency in the People’s Majlis, such as revealing the financial assets of MPs to the public, but added similar commitments would also be needed from the country’s judiciary and executive.

Nazim, who is also a serving member of the Opposition People’s Alliance (PA) party and the Majlis’ Public Accounts Committee, said he would "fully support" any initiative to improve the image of parliament such as providing details of the property and assets of MPs. However, the Deputy Speaker believed that the appointment of an Auditor-General, a position that has been vacant since March 2010 when Ibrahim Naeem lost a parliamentary no-confidence motion by 43 votes to 28, was needed to oversee such a process.

The claims were made as debate over whether MPs should publicly declare details of their assets and income was found to have reached an impasse, with opinion divided in the Majlis over whether doing so was a constitutional necessity.The issue had also been raised by the political NGO, Transparency Maldives, which claimed that it was having difficulties in getting details on the assets and financial status of MPs despite parliament showing a generally more open attitude to supplying information.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, April 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Higher rent for resort-island challenged

Villa Shipping and Trading group of former Finance Minister and Opposition People’s Alliance founder Gasim Ibrahim has sued the Tourism Ministry over an increase in rent for the picnic island Kaafu Kudafinolhu. Under the lease agreement made in January 1998, annual rent for the first five years was set at US$1,500.

Villa’s team of lawyers, which includes former Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, claim that the new government hiked the annual rent to US$47,840 in September 2009 without consulting the company as stipulated in the agreement.State Attorney MariyamShunana however countered that the Tourism Ministry consulted Villa twice before revising the rent.

The Villa Group of Companies is owned by Maamigii MP Gasim Ibrahim, former Finance Minister under the previous government before he resigned to contest the presidency. After joining the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party-led coalition for the presidential election run-off in October 2008, Gasim however resigned as Home Minister of the new administration after 21 days in office.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Sun Online, April 20, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Thasmeen ordered to pay over Rf1 m

The Civil Court has ordered Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to pay in a six-month period over Rf1 million (US$77,800) owed to coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) Deputy Leader Ahmed Nazim, reports Haveeru.

Delivering the verdict, Judge Hathif Hilmy told Thasmeen’s lawyer to pay monthly installments to the court until the debt is repaid. The judge also ordered Thasmeen to pay NazimRf 1,800 ($140) incurred as lawyer’s fees, based on a rate of Rf300 per hearing. Nazim had however claimed Rf100,000 in compensation for lawyer’s fees.

Deputy Speaker Nazim sued Majority Leader Thasmeen to recover Rf 1.92 million ( $149,400) unpaid from a loan worth Rf 2.55 million ($200,000).
< class="text11verdana">Source: Minivan News, April 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Krishna in Nepal, ahead of May deadline

With the May 28 deadline for the completion of the Constitution process fast-approaching with no end in sight to the current deadlock, India’s External Affairs Minister S M Krishna arrived in Kathmandu on Wednesday (April 20) on a three-day visit to hold talks with the Nepalese government and political leadership. He was accompanied by the Foreign Secretary, NirupamaRao.

Reacting to recent spurt in anti-India statements, rhetoric and activities by ruling Maoists in Nepal, India stated that it wants an end to such baseless criticism. "We have taken note of statements and activities of Maoists leaders. We encourage them to refrain from such baseless criticism and activities like defacing of the Indian flag," said MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash.

The Maoists have in the past few weeks unleashed a fresh wave of antagonism against India leading the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to take up the matter with newly-elected Prime Minister JhalaNathKhanal.

During his talks, Krishna also took up the issue of problems faced by Indian companies in Nepal."The External Affairs Minister underlined the need to create an atmosphere that is conducive for strengthening of economic ties. We want a level-playing field and fair treatment to Indian companies in Nepal," he said.

Against the backdrop of increased anti-India activities by Maoists, Nepal assured that its security concerns would be addressed and vowed not to allow any activity from its soil directed at the neighbouring country. Instability and insecurity in Nepal would also pose a threat to India, Khanal’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Milan Raj Tuladhar said, briefing reporters about the talks. "The Prime Minister has assured India that Nepal will not allow any activity that would pose threat to India’s security," he said. India is Nepal’s biggest trade partner and 44 per cent of investments in Nepal come from Indian companies. In 2009-10, 58 per cent of Nepal’s trade (US $ 3.5 billion) took place with India.

Krishna reiterated India’s cooperation and contribution to Nepal’s development. He also expressed commitment for a democratic, stable, peaceful and prosperous Nepal. Leading a seven-member delegation, Krishna said: "It has been India’s endeavour to strengthen economic cooperation with Nepal and to contribute to Nepal’s development. Relations with Nepal are and will continue to be a matter of highest priority for India."

The two sides had an hour long bilateral discussion that encompassed the entire gamut of issues. Nepal foreign secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai termed the deliberations as fruitful. Krishna held meetings with President Ram BaranYadav and Prime Minister JhalanathKhanal. During his stay the external affairs minister also held meetings with leaders of major political parties and visit Birgunj on the India-Nepal border to lay the foundation stone of the Integrated Check Post and Terai Roads Project.

The visit had been planned in March soon after Khanal was sworn in Prime Minister. However, it had to be postponed due to the long delay in the formation of the Cabinet as Khanal remained locked in a power struggle with his ally, the Maoists.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, April 20- 21, 2011, Indian Express, April 20-21, 2011, Hindustan Times, April 21, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Ruling Allies indulge in India-spat

Nepal’s new ruling coalition of communists and Maoists appears divided over the shape of ties with India. Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), is keen to visit New Delhi on his first trip abroad since he took charge in February after almost seven months of gridlock on government formation.

Khanal wants to be in India before the expiry of the May 28 deadline to promulgate a new Constitution, according to Milan Tuladhar, the Prime Minister’s adviser on foreign affairs. The dates are still being finalised.

But his Maoist ally has ratcheted up its anti-India propaganda in recent weeks, demanding, for instance, that the existing bilateral agreements on hydel power be annulled.

Khanal does not want to follow in the footsteps of Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal or Prachanda who went to Beijing on his first trip overseas after taking the top job in 2008. In doing so, he broke an unwritten tradition that has seen most Nepali Prime Ministers before him make New Delhi their first destination. Sources said Khanal hoped to request New Delhi to convince Madhesi parties and the Nepali Congress, both seen as pro-India, to agree to the extension.

But New Delhi believes the source of Khanal’s problems is Prachanda, his anti-India propaganda and his desire to win a fresh election that would allow him to change the Constitution and make Nepal a totalitarian regime. Prachanda and his party members are yet again stoking anti-India protests by demanding cancellation of hydel agreements that are favourable to Kathmandu," said an external affairs ministry official. Khanal is already facing accusations of being pro-India from Prachanda, who had grudgingly bowed out of the race for the prime ministership in favour of Khanal in February.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Telegraph, April 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Deuba agrees to ’integration’

Senior Nepali Congress leader Sher BahadurDeuba has agreed to the Nepali Army (NA) proposal on integration of Maoist combatants. Speaking at a Press meet organised by Press Union, Banke chapter here today, Deuba said the integration process should go ahead by taking the NA into confidence, adding, "Most parts of the NA proposal regarding integration are reasonable so this proposal should be taken positively."

The NA had proposed a separate General Directorate under its command comprising a certain number of personnel from NA, Nepal police, Armed Police Force and Maoist combatants.

On a different note, Deuba said the government had completely failed to maintain security in the country, adding,’’ The series of incidents of shooting, murder in the capital tells us of the deteriorating security situation.’’ Deuba said nobody is secure in the country now.’’ Nepali Congress President SushilKoirala also stressed on Tuesday (April 19) that the task of constitution drafting should be accomplished only after the integration, rehabilitation and management of the Maoist combatants.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 18, 20, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Madhesis demand Hindi as common language in Terai region

A Madhesi leader had demanded that Hindi be recognised as the common language of the people living in Nepal’s terai region bordering India, amid fears that it could spark another language row in the neighbouring country.

"Nepali is regarded as common language among the people in the hilly region. In the same manner, Hindi should get recognition as the common language of the Terai people," RajendraMahato, president of the Terai-based Sadbhavana Party, said. He demanded that Hindi should be mentioned as the common language of the Terai people during the ongoing census. Mahato said in the hilly region, where people speak Tamang, Gurung, Magar, Sherpa, Newar and Khas languages, the national language Nepali is regarded as the common language. In the same manner, Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi are spoken in the Terai region, where most of the people understand Hindi and it should get the recognition of a link language of the Terai people.

Nepal’s Terai plains are home to about half of the country’s 30-million population. The residents of the region are known as Madhesis. They are of Indian origin. Madhesi leaders have earlier threatened to launch an agitation if the government fails to provide Hindi the status of an official language and give greater rights to the community living in the plains bordering India.

The pro-Terai parties argue that people in the Madhesi-dominated southern plains have long been treated as second-class citizens in Nepal, where hill-origin elites dominate politics, security forces and business.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, April 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GMR project comes under attack of Maoists

Ignoring India’s repeated expressions of concern at the continued attacks on Indian investment projects in Nepal, the ruling Maoists, supported by minor communist parties, went on the rampage against Indian infrastructure and power major GMR’s hydropower project in far-western Nepal.

The Maoists, backed by the Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party and RastriyaJanamorcha Nepal, stormed a public interaction organised by GMR officials in remote Dailekh district Saturday, destroying the projector and sound system rigged up to provide a demonstration on the company’s work on the 302MW Upper Karnali hydropower project.

The Indian company had called the interaction to explain how work to develop the power project, including a geographical survey, was progressing.

Though the meeting was called at the office of the district development authorities and was being attended by the chief district officer, chief district judge and district police chief, the mob was undeterred, shouting slogans against the company and going on a vandalisation spree.

Senior Government officials, scenting danger, slipped out of the emergency exit, leaving GMR officials at the mercy of the crowd.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 17, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lama resigns after Chinese protests

Minister of State for Finance Lharkyal Lama has resigned, causing a major diplomatic embarrassment to Nepal’s new Government. Lama was forced to quit following a raging controversy about his possessing an Indian passport and ration card and an identity card issued as a Tibetan refugee.

Earlier, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu has lodged a strong protest though in an informal channel to Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal and some of his party (UML) leaders against the mysterious appointment of Free Tibetan activist LharKyal Lama as the State Minister for Finance, writes journalist Kiran Bhandari for Nagarik National Daily, April 18, 2011."The appointment of Dr. Lama has raised big question mark in Nepal’s one China policy", sources at Prime Minister’s residence quote Chinese officials conveying to the Prime Minister.

Bhandari reveals further quoting an unnamed UML leader as saying that he too was conveyed a similar message by the Chinese embassy official in Kathmandu.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 18, 2011, The Himalayan Times, April 20, 2011,, April 22, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Kali Baba advocates a ’Hindu state’

Sri 1008 Baba Kali Das Swami KrishnanadaParamahansa, popularly known as the Kali Baba, arrived in Kathmandu, on Saturday with an aim to reestablish the Nepal as a ’Hindu state’.

The Baba’s arrival in Nepal, from India, has taken importantly not only on the sector of religious one but also in the political level as Baba had openly been advocating for the revival of Hindu State.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 18, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest against Indian security personnel

Citizens from both sides of the open border joined hands to protest against the alleged ill- treatment of Indian security personnel meted towards Nepali citizens crossing the border. The incident, that will go a long way in recording brotherly relationship that exists between the citizens of two countries, took place in Gaurifanta border entry-point in the far western district of Kailali.

The check-point remained closed for over three hours on April 14, 2011.

Ishwari Lal Rai, an Indian national, was quoted as saying by Nagarik Daily: "We have been closely watching how Nepali nationals were being looted by our police men. We were not at all happy with the treatment. It was too much. Thus we are in the streets now against our own policemen."

Chet Raj Fulara- a Nepali national who was returning home from Mumbai was looted in broad day light at the checkpoint. He says, "What do we have?just old clothes. They threw my clothes in the street and looted the money that I had."
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US Peace Corps to resume service

The US Government on Thursday agreed in principle to resume its Peace Corps Volunteer Programme in Nepal responding to a request by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary.

The US Government had suspended the programme on September 13, 2004, citing security threats in the wake of Maoist insurgency. Volunteers were working in areas of health, education and agriculture. DPM Adhikary had visited the US Peace Corps director Aaron S Williams at the body’s headquarters and requested resumption of programme in Nepal.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 16, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade-investment pact with US

The US and Nepal have signed a framework agreement aimed at enhancing trade and investment between the two countries and promoting more comprehensive bilateral economic pacts. The accord, which will replace the 1947 bilateral Economic and Trade Agreement, was inked here on Friday by the US Trade Representative, Mr. Ron Kirk, and the visiting Nepalese Deputy Premier and Finance Minister, Mr. Bharat Mohan Adhikari.

The new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) will provide a forum for bilateral talks to enhance trade and investment, discuss specific trade issues and promote
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu-Business Line, April 16, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

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

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