Vol. V Issue. 17
Myanmar: Deadlock over the oath
27 April 2012
Even before the Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) could celebrate its victory in the recently-concluded by-elections, Myanmar is facing its first test as a nascent and evolving democracy. This has come in the form of a 'technical problem' in administrating the oath of office for the newly-elected parliamentarians. This test is more like a speed-breaker that could either set the democratic tone for the future or undo the nation's political reform process.
The 'technical problem', as termed by NLD leader Aung San SuuKyi is actually over the phraseology of the oath. The current deadlock between the NLD and the Government is whether the term 'safeguard the Constitution' or 'respect the Constitution' should be used while new members take oath. The NLD prefers 'respect' over 'safeguard' whereas the Government stands by the existing word 'safeguard'. This debate is not really over the choice of words, but it is a political discourse on basic principles, the eyes of the NLD.
For the NLD, the existing terminology, 'safeguard', would inevitably mean that the party was submitting to the (whims and fancies of) the Government, ie, the military, whereas 'respect' would result in securing the party's political position since the interpretation of the word would mean that the NLD does not intend to abide by the Constituting blindly. The difference over interpretation gains importance since the Constitution was drafted by the military in the pre-democratic era and the term 'safeguard' under the existing scheme would be dubbed as the party toeing the line of the military.
The latter argument gains added substance since the Myanmarese parliamentary system, as it exists today, favours military representation in both Houses, comprising a quarter of all parliamentary members. In this scenario, the NLD needs to strive as an independent entity that can be identified by the masses, as the other existing political parties are either promoted by the military/Government, or have a tacit blessing of the same.
The other issue that confronts the NLD is to have an exit strategy since the current composition of Parliament is flooded by members who are loyal to the military/ Government. It would now need a new platform to project itself and distinguish it from the rest. In this light, the NLD would also have to project itself as an independent political party that would not compromise on its principles. It would be too long before the NLD starts to play the dirty game of politics and that too of a weak and insignificant Opposition. As things stand, the NLD has an insignificant presence in Parliament but this is not the case in the political landscape of the country.
While on the same note, the future political relevance of this political party is uncertain, owing to two factors. The first being the unpredictability of Myanmar as a state and the second being the ability of the party to carry forward its image of a pro-democracy, opposition political party. This is in the light of the fact that the nation is poised to have its first true electoral process in 2015; by that time the ground realities of Myanmar could have undergone a sea change affecting the prospects of NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi as well.
The unsaid reasons for Suu Kyi and her supporters to raise this issue could be to test the waters, and to gauge the true colours of the Government's reform process. At this point, it is imperative for the Suu Kyi and her party to reorient themselves from their maximalist Opposition psyche to a minimalistic political entity. The raison d'être for this is that the reform process, both political and economic, has been an initiative of the erstwhile junta with set objectives. This process, if threatened to be derailed, would result in a clampdown like in the past. At the same time, the success of this process will be measured by the comfort level of the military vis-à-vis the civilian entity as a whole.
The 'safeguard vs. respect' contest at the same time is not just an issue of principles and schematics but is also a process of political evolution. For the military, which considers itself as the backbone of the nation and rightly so, 'safeguard' implies the survival of the State, territorial integrity and sovereignty. For the NLD, 'respect' refers to the supremacy of Parliament and therefore of the people. If the debate is to proceed on these lines, then the NLD would continue to challenge the might of the military, a position that been a synonymous with the Government.
An amicable settlement to this political game of one-upmanship would not only have to be through dialogue but would also set the tone for the two sides to trust each other and also to work together. It is an imperative for such an outcome since no one, both inside the country and outside, would appreciate the return of the dark days of hostile politics between the NLD and the military. By all counts, the current issue by itself is insignificant when compared to the developments that have taken place in Myanmar over the last so many months. But then, this could be the first of its kind in the changing Myanmar with many more to come.
(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation)
Shared border: India's security concerns in Nepal
Nepal and India share 1850 km of open border. The present boundary demarcation and delimitation took place after the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-16. On the Indian side, the mountainous portions of the boundary lie in Sikkim State and Darjeeling district of West Bengal State in the east, while the rest of the boundary runs along the plains in the south and along the Mahakali River in the west. Given the cultural, language and traditional proximity between Nepalese and Indians, there has been free movement of people and goods along the borders since the British days.
However, an 'open border' has created a number of problems for both the countries. Illegal movement of goods and people became a common feature on both sides of the India-Nepal border. The fake Indian currency racket is now run along the border regions by criminal groups and others with vested interests in India. Cross-border crime has flourished. In addition, due to the absence of a clear boundary map, the locals, especially in the Nepal side, have complained about encroachment from India's border guards. The political parties-affiliated groups in Nepal often blame Indian forces of atrocities and illegal occupation of Nepali land.
Given the political instability in Nepal and an anti-India campaign led by prominent parties since the days of Maoist insurgency, India's security concerns were largely left unheeded to by Kathmandu. New Delhi too could not take a proactive and pragmatic approach to resolve the outstanding issues and put in place a regulatory mechanism at the border points. Of the 22 check posts that exist at the border, only six are said to be functional.
Since the end of Jana Andolan-II (people's movement) in 2006, India has placed before Nepal Government key demands concerning its security interests. India wants strict border regulation in addition to control of all anti-India activities, including curbing illegal currency making and ISI activities in Nepal. More recently, given the threat of global terrorism and terrorist activities in India pushed by regional terror groups, India wants strict vigilance so that terrorists do not cross through the porous Indo-Nepal border.
These are valid concerns. Unfortunately, however, India and Nepal are yet to sign the border map. Also, Nepal Government has not let India fly Air Marshal or the two countries signed the much-talked about extradition treaty. There has also been no significant progress in stopping cross-border crime or other illegal activities. In fact, there has been a rise of illegal activities along the borders. The newly elected Chief Minister of UP, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav, said on April 23, 2012, that the open border is emerging as "a possible ingress point for anti-national elements." A day before that, the Indian government decided to deploy police personnel from Jammu and Kashmir along with the Sashastra Seema Bal along the Indo-Nepal border to plug the Nepal route "used by" Kashmiri militants to re-enter the Valley.
Both the countries must respond to the situation with urgency it deserves. While it is in Nepal's interest to address the legitimate security concerns of its neighbour, India too must take a non-reciprocal approach while maintaining its position. It is also the most appropriate time as Nepal now has in place a Maoist-led government. The UCPN (Maoist) so far has taken strong opposition to Indian demands.
A four-day meeting of Nepal-India Bilateral Consultative Group was held in Pokhara in Nepal from April 25. An eight-member Indian delegation, led by a joint secretary of the External Affairs Ministry, handling Nepal, participated in the dialogue. This meeting addressed many of India's concerns. It discussed border management, military training and cooperation and information sharing between the two countries to curb cross-border criminal activities. It is good news that the two countries have recognised that the dangers at the borders are real and have the potential to cause immense damage to Indo-Nepal relations at large.
(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)
Ties with the West a mixed bag, but much better
Britain will no longer discourage trade with Myanmar, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said. The change in British policy comes after Prime Minister David Cameron made a joint call with Myanmar's NLD Opposition leader Suu Kyi for the European Union to ease sanctions against the impoverished country.
"After discussion with Aung San Suu Kyi and very careful consideration, I can announce that the British Government will lift its policy of discouraging trade with Burma," Hague said adding, "We believe that at this moment in time, the right kind of responsible trade and investment can help aid the country's transition."
Britain is also opening a branch of its Foreign Office in Myanmar's new capital Naypyidaw. "A British interests' office in the administrative capital would strengthen the work of our embassy in Rangoon (Yangon) and demonstrate our intention to step up engagement with the Burmese Government and people," he said.
On the other hand, Canada has suspended most sanctions and Japan has waived $3.7 billion of Myanmar's debt. But the United States ruled out an immediate end to its main sanctions on Myanmar, saying it wanted to preserve leverage to push the regime on an end to ethnic violence and other key issues.
Source: channelnewsasia.com, April 27, 2012.
Hope for early end to the deadlock: Suu Kyi
The leader of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi says she is hopeful her party's dispute over the wording of Myanmar's legislative oath will be overcome soon. She calls the issue a 'technical problem' and says it should not end in political deadlock.
Suu Kyi and dozens of other opposition members refused to take up their newly won seats in parliament this week because of the dispute, which could potentially unravel the unprecedented detente between her party and the military-backed Government.
Suu Kyi wants phrasing in the lawmakers' oath changed from 'safeguard' to 'respect' the constitution, which her party wants to see amended because it gives inordinate power to the military
Source: straitstimes.com, April 26, 2012.
Parties agree on bi-cameral legislature
After a series of negotiations, top political party leaders have reached an understanding on the total strength and form of the federal legislature. As per an understanding reached on April 24, the major parties -- UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and United Democratic Madhesi Front -- have floated a proposal for a two-tier legislature comprising of 325 members in the lower house and 60 in the upper house.
While 180 of the lower house members will be directly elected, 145 will come through a proportional system as per a proposal floated by the major parties for a 55:45 ratio between the first-past-the-post system and the proportional representation quota. Likewise, 50 of the total 60 members of the upper house will come from provincial houses and 10 others will be nominated by the president.
Leaders from the smaller political parties have, however, expressed their reservations over the proposal for reducing the percentage of lawmakers to be elected under the proportional representation system.
On system of governance, the major parties are close to a consensus on adopting a mixed system in which executive powers will be shared between a popularly-elected president and a parliament-elected prime minister. The major parties also reached an agreement on forming a constitutional court for a limited period of five years.
However, on the federal restructuring parties are still holding discussions. While the Maoists have proposed 10 federal provinces, the Nepali Congress party's official stance is six provinces. There are also differences on the names of the proposed federal provinces.
Source: ekantipur.com, myrepublica.com, April 24-27, 2012.
Two rail links with India
India and Nepal have geared up to accelerate the pace of progress on the rail link projects between the two countries. In this regard, a joint-secretary level bilateral meeting was held in Kathmandu on 19-20 April for the development of railway infrastructure at five border points along the India-Nepal border.
During the meeting, the Indian team reviewed the progress made by the two sides for the expeditious execution of the two rail links, namely, Jogbani (India)-Biratnagar (Nepal) rail link (17.65 km) and Jayanagar (India)-Bardibas (Nepal) rail link (68 km), which are being covered under Phase I of the project. Both sides reiterated their common objective for the early implementation of the project, which would lead to easier and faster connectivity between the two countries and would further strengthen the economic development of Nepal.
The Government of India has accepted the request of Government of Nepal for establishment of cross-border railway links at five locations on the Indo-Nepal border. These are (i) Jaynagar (India) to Bardibas (Nepal), (ii) Jogbani(India) to Biratnagar (Nepal), (iii) Nautanwa (India) to Bhairahawa (Nepal), (iv) Rupaidiha(India) to Nepalgunj (Nepal), and (v) New Jalpaiguri (India) to Kakarbhitta (Nepal).
Work on the railway connectivity at Jaynagar-Bardibas involving conversion of 51 km railway line from Jaynagar to Bijalpura into broad-gauge and its 17 km extension up to Bardibas is expected to start soon. Both the governments have also decided to undertake work on the 17.65 km Jogbani?Biratnagar rail link in the first phase. Estimated cost of the two rail links proposed to be taken up in the first phase is more than Nepali Rs 1100 crores.
Source: Press statement, Indian Embassy, Kathmandu, April 20, 2012.
Abducted entrepreneur rescued
A joint operation of Nepal Police and the Indian Shashastra Seema Bal rescued a Nepali furniture entrepreneur from the border city of Rupaidiha in Uttar Pradesh on April 25. He was abducted early this month.
According to police, the kidnappers had held Suresh Maharjan, a resident of Satungal, Kathmandu, in a small house at Nanpur locality in Rupaidiha, which is seven kilometers south of Nepalgunj in Nepal.
Source: myrepublica.com, April 26, 2012.
SC convicts PM Gilani
A seven-judge Bench pronounced its verdict in the contempt of court case against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and held him guilty for the charge. The Prime Minister was convicted and sentenced under Article of contempt of court ordinance (ordinance 5 of 2003) of the Constitution. The term of sentence could have been six months in prison but the court ordered imprisonment until adjournment of hearing.
While addressing a Press conference Aitzaz Ahsan, Prime Minister's counsel said that Prime Minister was not disqualified after the verdict and an appeal challenging the verdict of Supreme Court would soon be filed. It should be noted that President Asif Ali Zardari and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, were charged for corruption and found guilty in absentia in a Swiss court in 2003.
In 2007, the then-President Pervez Musharraf passed the National Reconciliation Ordinance which provided immunity to the president and others from old corruption charges and this led to the dropping out of case in 2008 by Swiss prosecutors. The Supreme Court ruled the ordinance unconstitutional in 2009 and ordered the government to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen the case against President Zardari. Prime Minister Gilani refused the Supreme Court's order saying that Constitution exempts President Zardari from all criminal prosecution while being in presidential term.
Source: Dawn, April 26, 2012.
Decreasing military role in foreign policy, says Khar
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar pointed out the changing trends in Pakistan and said that there is renewed realization among all institutions to work within the mandate provided by the Constitution. Mentioning the current development of ties with the US and trade ties with India she further said that it is for the first time that relations with the US and other countries were put on hold until the Parliament gave a green signal.
The Government's recent approach towards India suggests that Pakistan's democracy is becoming robust and the military's grip on policy has loosened. She called it the success of consistent four years of democratic government, which has happened for the first time after Independence.
Source: Dawn, April 26, 2012.
Haft IV test-fired
Pakistan conducted a test launch of the intermediate range surface-to-surface ballistic missile Haft IV, also known as Shaheen-1A which is an improved version of Shaheen-1 with better range and payload.
The Shaheen 1A is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads. Director General of Strategic Plans Division (SPD) Lieutenant General Khalid Ahmed Kidwai congratulated scientists and engineers on the successful launch and said that the improved version of Shaheen-1A will strengthen Pakistan's defence.
Source: Dawn, April 24, 2012 .
127 killed in air-crash
A Bhoja Airline plane, the Boeing 737, carrying 127 on board crashed about 9 km from Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad. Notably it was the inaugural flight of the 27-year old Boeing 737, an old series plane which took off from Karachi airport at 5 pm and was about to reach Islamabad at 7 pm.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority sources, the plane lost contact with air traffic control at 6.40 pm after receiving signal to land. Six children, five infants, 68 women and 53 men were on board the flight. The airliner held bad weather responsible for the crash.
Bhoja Air re-launched the domestic operation with five Boeing 737s in March after a long time when its operations were rescinded because of financial crisis.
Source: Daily Times, April 21, 2012.
New arrangement sought with IMF
Pakistan has decided to take another loan from International Monetary Fund. The decision comes in the wake of the country's failure to repay its foreign debts without external support as a result of the financial crisis. Pakistan started repaying the $ 7.6 billion IMF loan in February 2012. It paid a total of 399 million in February; still, it has to repay a total of $1.3 billion by the end of current fiscal year.
According to the latest IMF report on Pakistan's economy, the country's gross financing requirements will climb to $10.5 billion while ability to pay back loan would weaken significantly in 2012-13. Discussion on new loan were held in Washington between Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh and IMF officials where the latter underlined the country's rising commodity prices, increased oil imports and near-dated deadlines for repayments will diminish foreign currency reserves.
Dr Shaikh insists that international financial institutions still have faith in the Pakistan's economy. An unprecedented $1.8 million loan by the World Bank is a perfect evidence to support his argument. The World Bank is also supporting Pakistan to raise funds for Dasu dam on the Indus River in Kohistan, which is expected to generate 1500 MW electricity.
Source: Dawn, April 23, 2012.
GL to present Lanka's action plan to US
The Government has sought views from its alliance partners to prepare an action plan to be presented to the United States (US), on the implementation of recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), political sources said yesterday.
The US-sponsored resolution demanding the implementation of constructive recommendations of the Commission was adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 23.
External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris has decided to go to Washington next month with an action plan on the implementation of LLRC recommendations. He will interact with his US counterpart Hillary Clinton during the visit. The government has requested its alliance partners to put forward their views in this respect.
Source: Daily Mirror, April 27, 2012.
TNA forced to seek int'l help: Sampanthan
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has been forced to seek international assistance to find a political solution to the national issue as all its efforts to come to a deal with the respective governments have failed, its leader R. Sampanthan has said.
"We are being told not to go to India and not to go to Washington to seek help but we have been trying to find a solution locally until January this year, but there had been no favourable response from the Sri Lankan government," he said speaking during a ceremony that was organized by his party to commemorate the late Federal Parry Leader S. J. V. Chellvanayagam at Colombo.
Mr. Sampanthan recalled that TNA was engaged in seven rounds of talks with the present government but the latter did not respond to their request for an acceptable solution. He said the government failed to respond positively for a solution based on a united Sri Lanka despite the assurance given that whatever agreement reached ay the bilateral talks with the government would be the basis for the discussions at the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC).
Source: Daily Mirror Online, April 27, 2012.
Dissolving Eastern PC: MR to meet Pillaiyan
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is to meet Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan soon to discuss the possibility of dissolving the Eastern Provincial Council to go in for a snap poll, informed sources said yesterday. According to the election law, the chief minister's consent is required for the premature dissolution of a provincial council.
The Government is also trying to persuade Mr. Chandrakanthan for this purpose. Along with this council, the government is planning to dissolve two more councils. The eastern provincial election was held for the first time on May 10, 2008 after the province was demerged from the north.
Source: Daily Mirror, April 27, 2012.
Muslims upset over mosque row
The ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government's Muslim Ministers and parliamentarians headed by Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie urged Muslims to desist from getting involved in any protests or demonstrations
The statement by Muslim leaders including Western Province Governor S. AlaviMoulana urged the people to follow the instructions of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema (ACJU) and recite special prayers after Jumu'ah prayers. The statement said the decision was taken unanimously at a meeting held under the chairmanship of Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie on Wednesday 25.
"We will meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a delegation with the participation of all Muslim ministers, Mr. Maulana, the members of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama and the Trustees of the Dambulla Khairiya Jumma Mosque to resolve the problem amicably," the statement said.
Source: Daily Mirror, April 27, 2012.
Key player in Bay: US
US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Andrew J Shapiro, has claimed Bangladesh is a key player in maintaining security in the Bay of Bengal and active partner of US in regional counterterrorism efforts. Shapiro who just returned from Bangladesh made this observation in Washington, DC on April 24. He further observed bilateral defence relationship between the United States and Bangladesh is one of the robust in South Asia.
Shapiro also informed Bangladesh has been working through a military modernisation plan, which included looking to partners for affordable defence systems. He opined that this modernisation effort is an opportunity for both the countries to expand security cooperation, especially through US Excess Defence Articles programme, which makes US equipment that is surplus to its requirements available to its partners.
Source: The Daily Star, April 27, 2012.
Making Navy weapons locally
The parliamentary standing committee on Defence Ministry this week recommended domestic production of weapons and boats for Navy instead of procuring them from abroad.
The committee also suggested modernisation of the naval force. The committee also called for strengthening the monitoring by Navy and taking necessary steps to reduce the response time by the Navy surveillance teams.
Source: The Daily Star, April 23, 2012.
Chaos over disappearance
Political chaos that resulted over mysterious disappearance of former Member of Parliament and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) organising secretary M Illias Ali continued in the week. BNP staged dawn to dusk agitation in the week demanding state action also and in sudden regions it turned violent. Political violence caused two lives in Sylhet in North-eastern Bangladesh.
Illias Ali went missing on April 17 since then BNP has been agitating. Interestingly, BNP alleged that Awami League government is behind abduction of Illias Ali. The party also declared that agitation will continue until it returns him. BNP secretary general Fakrul Islam Alamgir claimed that the government is trying to blame BNP for the abduction.
Source: The Daily Star, April 23&24, 2012, New Age, April 26, 2012.
Forest for monetary gains
With a forest cover of 72 per cent in the country, the Government is working towards having a mechanism that would help measure the financial value of carbon stored in the forests of Bhutan.
The UN-sponsored Reducing Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) provides financial incentives for countries that protects and conserves their forests from deforestation and degradation.
REDD+ program is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands, and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. After evaluating the financial value of its forest cover, the Kingdome would be in a position to participate in carbon trading and gain monetarily.
According to Chief forest officer of watershed management division ChadoTshering, reducing deforestation and forest degradation would also bring in funds to developing countries like Bhutan. He also added that the forest cover in Bhutan on a national level has increased by six percent from 1990 to 2010. "Although we don't have the exact figures, deforestation has decreased, while forest degradation has increased, and the quality of forest has dropped in the last decade," he said.
A feasibility study to identify potential areas, opportunities and threats of REDD+ was done in 2010. The implementation of REDD+ was then finalised. "However, without proper guidelines, technical support and globally agreed REDD+ mechanisms, it's a challenge to be precise of what decision and investments would take us forward in advancing REDD+ in Bhutan," Chador Tshering said.
Source: kuenselonline.com, April 27, 2012.
Stock exchange goes online
The Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan Limited (RSEBL) that facilities the trade in stocks and securities has now gone online.
This enables access to the security exchange from any corner of the Kingdome with all information required to buy and sell shares being made available online. It will also make the transfer of funds and shares easier.
Source: kuenselonline.com, April 23, 2012.
MRI satellite launched
Early Thursday, an Indian rocket successfully launched into orbit a microwave Radar Imaging Satellite (Risat-1) from the spaceport here in Andhra Pradesh, around 80 km from Chennai.
The indigenous Risat-1, with a life span of five years, would be used for disaster prediction and agriculture forestry and the high resolution pictures and microwave imaging could also be used for defence purposes as it can look through the clouds and fog.
Source: www.india.nydailynews.com, April 26, 2012.
Agni-V ICBM in two years
India's new long range missile, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead anywhere in China, will be operational within two years, its developers said Friday, a day after the weapon's maiden test.
The state-run Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), which built the Agni V, also rejected the prospect of India "capping" its missile program just because it had now had a weapon with an intercontinental reach.
"We will carry out two more tests of Agni V which will take about one-and-a-half years, and after that the production of the missile will commence and we will start handing it over to the military," DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat said.
Source: www.nydailynews.com, April 20, 2012.
10 French nationals deported
India ordered the deportation of 10 French nationals who police say illegally worked with an Indian advocacy group accused of supporting Maoist rebels, police said Monday.
It was the second time in a matter of weeks that India has deported foreign citizens working for local non-governmental organizations. Earlier this month, police expelled a German tourist for helping to raise funds for anti-nuclear activists in Koodamkulam in southern Tamil Nadu State.
The French nationals violated their tourist visas by working for EktaParishad, or unity forum, a non-governmental organisation in the eastern Indian State of Bihar.
Source: www.sfgate.com, April 23, 2012.
MPs press Sri Lanka for power-devolution
Indian legislators on Saturday asked neighbouring Sri Lanka to de-militarise former war zones and share political power with minority Tamils to ensure lasting peace.
Indian national opposition leader Sushma Swaraj, leading a 12-member multi-party delegation, said they urged President Mahinda Rajapakse to deliver on promises to devolve "meaningful power" to the island's ethnic Tamil minority.
Swaraj's delegation also included five law-makers from India's southern state of Tamil Nadu whose 60 million population share close cultural and religious links with Sri Lanka's Tamils.
Source: www.nydailynews.com, April 21, 2012.
Addressing US business' concerns
Seeking to allay apprehensions on the proposed retrospective tax amendment, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said India is ready to address concerns of the American businesses within its legal framework.
"Our policies are transparent ... whenever there is any misapprehension, we are ready to listen to them and readjust it when it is necessary.
Source: www.dnaindia.com, April 21, 2012.
Quick ratification sought for IMF reforms
India's Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday urged countries that haven't ratified the reforms to the International Monetary Fund's quota program to move quickly to do so.
The reforms, that were agreed to in 2010 are designed to give developing nations greater say on the fund's operations, but they won't come into force until 70% of IMF countries have ratified the changes.
The highest-profile country that has yet to approve the changes is the U.S. The Obama administration hasn't made a decision yet on when to seek congressional backing for the IMF quota reforms.
Source: www.marketwatch.com, April 22, 2012.
$ 110-b energy find mooted
The Government is considering the formation of a strategic energy fund to help secure supplies of raw materials such as coal and crude oil to sustain the nation's economic expansion.
Such a fund likely would begin with $10 billion and would be India's first attempt at a government-backed investment vehicle?a model that has been used for years by other emerging-market nations including China and Singapore.
Source: www.wsj.com, April 24, 2012.
Normal monsoon forecast
Indian officials Thursday predicted monsoon rains, crucial for farm production in a country of more than 1.2 billion people, to be normal this year, but cautioned that a weather condition that affects rainfall may occur later in the season.
Union Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the rainfall during June-September will likely be 99% of the long-term average, predicting a third straight season of normal rains.
India's weather department defines normal monsoon as seasonal rainfall between 96% and 104% of the long-term, or 50-year, average, which is 89 cm currently.
Source: www.wsj.com, April 27, 2012.
C'wealth ultimatum on 'coup probe'
Following up on the earlier call for independent and credible investigations into the circumstances accompanying the change of Government on February 7 in Maldives, the Commonwealth Ministerial Group (CWMG) has served a four-week ultimatum on the Government of President Waheed for providing details in the matter. It has also reiterated the call for presidential polls by December 31, ahead of the November 2013 deadline, when it is otherwise due.
The Maldivian Government has reacted by promising to engage with the CWMG, and procure details on what it thought would make the probe credible. Earlier, President Waheed had declined the demand for an international probe, citing reasons of sovereignty, but said that they would be ready to include international experts to assist the probe team, from a list that they would request the Commonwealth and/or the UN to provide.
DRP Leader of the Opposition Thasmeen Ali said that the CWMG's expectations were unreasonable. He however was committed to early polls, once the 'coup probe' was completed.
Source: Minivan News, April 16-20, 2012.
Nasheed seeks Indian support
Former Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed and a delegation of his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spent most of the week in the Indian capital of New Delhi and the business capital, Mumbai, seeking support for their demand for early presidential polls in their country, ahead of scheduled meetings with the Indian leadership.
At interactions with Indian intellectuals, strategic and business community, and the media, Nasheed reiterated what he described as his forced exit, and said that India should use its influence to ensure early presidential polls, if needed by enforcing sanctions and travel restrictions on the current leadership in his country.
Source: Minivan News, April 18-20, 2012.
PPM, main 'minority group'
With the election of a first MP under the party symbol in by-elections on April 14, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the breakaway faction of the Dhivehi Rayyathunge Party (DRP), both founded by former President MaumoonGayoom, has become the main 'minority group' in the People's Majlis or Parliament, after the 32-strong Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The parent DRP's strength has come down to 15 after 16 members identified with President Gayoom formally crossed over.
Under the law, for a political party to claim recognition in Parliament, it should have won at least one seat under its symbol. With the DRP split occurring during the interregnum, the PPM had to wait the election of the first member under its flag and symbol before effecting the formal split.
Source: Haveeru, April 19, 2012.
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan: Vinesh Kaushik;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;