24 August 2009
UK-Sri Lanka relations hits a new low
The Sri Lankan government registered an official protest after the London-based Channel 4 television station telecast footage that showed Sri Lankan soldiers executing some blindfolded Tamil men in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan army spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said that it is an attempt to malign the international image of Sri Lanka and also of its armed forces. The story, however, does not end here. In a similar development, authorities in United Kingdom have asked all Sri Lankan applicants to fill a column on any involvement in war crimes. It means that an applicant from Sri Lanka has to declare his/her involvement in war crimes, if any, and if the applicant is found guilty, his/her application for the UK visa will be rejected. It is significant to note that in a recent past many visa applications from government officials, including that of defence spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella, have been rejected not only by the UK, but also by the Canadian High Commission.
China to enhance economic cooperation with Bangladesh
China will provide US $1 billion assistance to Bangladesh for various projects. China wants to strengthen its economic relationship with the country. The proposal was tabled at the meeting of the China-Bangladesh Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation held in Beijing in July 2009. The amount proposed will be one of the biggest Chinese assistance to Bangladesh. Since 1975, Chinese assistance to Bangladesh has been US $1.5 billion. The amount proposed, however, is far short of Bangladesh’s expectation, which sought US $5.14 billion assistance from China. Interestingly, China’s assistance package has come with the rider that the contractors selected for the projects funded by China should be a Chinese firm. Though this assistance from China will help the government in materialising some of the proposed projects, but experts feel that the assistance is not sufficient.
President cuts his salary by 20%
Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed has cut his salary and that of his Vice President by 20 per cent. The voluntary wage cut has sent a positive message across the country, which has been struggling to cope up with the global economic slowdown. The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has also voiced its concern against the bill, which recommends Rf 300,000 pension for ex-presidents. Besides, President Nasheed spoke of various other fiscally prudent measures to stem the downward tide of the Maldivian economy. In his weekly Friday address to the nation, he spoke about downsizing the government, which would save Rf 2 billion. Currently, the salaries of bureaucrats account for Rf 5 billion.
Pakistan accused of illegally modifying missiles for use against India
A New York Times report has revealed that Pakistan breached arms sale contracts by modifying US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles. According to the report, US officials protested to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that the missile, a defensive weapon system sold during the cold war years, was being modified for a land-attack role illegally against the Arms Control Export Act. Experts, however, maintain that Pakistan possesses more advanced weapons and that the accusation may not have too much substance. Pakistan has invited US inspection teams to make independent appraisals. The controversy also reveals the level of mistrust between the two nations and comes at a crucial time when the proposed Kerry-Lugar Bill that envisages a US $7.5 billion aid over five years is to be tabled in Congress. While Pakistan remains skeptical about the growing ties between the United States and arch -rival India, and blames US presence in Afghanistan for the ongoing insurgency in the tribal areas. The United States, on the other hand, has accused Pakistan of failing to sever ties with former proxies like the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Tayeeba. Last year, US officials blamed the ISI of masterminding the bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul. The US has also criticised Pakistan for misusing much of the aid meant for counter-terrorism missions. According to a Harvard University report, Pakistan spent more than 85 per cent of the aid in acquiring combat aircrafts and other advanced systems, which are ill-suited for counterinsurgency operations. In the past, Pakistan billed the US for Navy vessels and Army helicopters that were never used in combat, besides claiming reimbursements for roads, bunkers, which on inspection turned out to be fraudulent.
- Anjali Sharma – Sri Lanka, Maldives
- Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
- Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti – Pakistan