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SOUTH ASIA WEEKLY REPORT
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Vol. V Issue. 37
Bhutan: Refugees from the 'Dragon Kingdom'
Sripathi Narayanan
14 September 2012

Analysis

Since time immemorial, the land that is now Bhutan has been a nation that has limited its interaction with the outside world and discouraged immigrants. This to some extend could be attributed to the nation's tie and linkages with Tibet. Till the turn of the last century, Tibet used to be known as the Forbidden Land and Bhutan inherited that trait from Tibet.

However, contemporary Bhutan's concerns and issues on the note have been mixed. On the one hand, it has the issue of Tibetan exodus from China. On the other is the issue of people of Nepali origin. The Tibetan question was handled with least complication since the Kingdom permitted the co-religious Buddhists to transit thought Bhutan, to reach their final destination, India.

The issue of people of Nepali origin has embroiled the otherwise peaceful nation in a period of difficulties. The footprint of people of Nepali descent is predominantly found in southern and western Bhutan, and have a more than sizable presence in these regions of the nation.

The issue with the people of Nepali descent in the Bhutanese context, unlike in the case of Tibetans, relates to a lack of cultural familiarity Bhutan traces its roots to Tibet and pays homage to the Dalia Lama and Lhasa. In contrast, the Nepali population was brought in, to the Himalayan kingdom, as labourers to cultivate the agricultural pastures that feed the nation. Thus the influx of Nepalese into Bhutan was more a product of State policy rather than a natural progression.

The early introduction of labour from outside the Kingdom, over time, led to a steady flow of its own. Thus within a short period of time the demography of the nation was undergoing a change, resulting in the Bhutanese identity being submerged with that of Nepalese. A corollary of the same can be traced in Sikkim, another Himalayan Kingdom till it became apart of the Indian Union in 1975. In the case of Sikkim, the influx of outsiders resulted in the Kingdom losing its distinct cultural identity.

However, in the case of Bhutan, the situation underwent a different turn quite early. The first step on this path was the initial policy of allowing the foreign immigrant labour into the country. The policy was quite clear with respect to Nepalese since these people were not citizens of Bhutan. The State thus retained the power and the right to evict them from the country at a moment's notice. Such a mind-set has been quite evident since the 1940's.

The Citizenship Act and policy of 1958 and 1985 were contributory factors to the ethnic clash in the Nineties. This clash was preceded by the Bhutan's first National Census in 1988, which brought the issue to the surface. The Census was flawed on two grounds. The first was that the officials who were to carry out this nation-wide head-count were not adequately trained. Secondly, the Census focused on distinguishing Bhutanese nationals from non-nationals.

The Census, along with the increasing political activity of the Nepalese community in the country provided the cause and substance prepared them for an active confrontation with the Bhutanese State on the ethnic issue. Secondly, the changing political profile of Nepal itself, with it swing from absolute monarchy to limited democracy, accompanied by a spectre of left-leaning and left-wing politics were inspiration for the rise of a 'Nepalese conscience' in Bhutan.

But then the changing realities within Bhutan resulted in a slow but a steady outflow of Nepalese from Bhutan. From 1990, the exodus began and by 1996, Nepal was housing close to 107,000 nationals as refugees from across the borders. Since the later part of the Nineties, and through the efforts of the UNHCR, the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal have reasons to hope for a better future. On this part nation like the US, Australia, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the UK have pledged to rehabilitate and absorb Nepalese refugees from Bhutan into their societies.

Till date, more than half the displaced people have been rehabilitated in distant foreign lands, with the remaining will follow soon, though only in instalments. The US has been in the forefront of accepting Nepalese refugees from Bhutan into the country and at regular intervals. Given their mark as a community of militia people that are trust-worthy, Nepalese find ready acceptance in a host of service industry jobs for the unskilled and semi-skilled in their adopted homes. Their new homes in the interim havealso been providing the financial cushion that their families can do with. With this, Nepalese who have been a part of the British armed forces for centuries and a substantial presence in countries of Europe and Asia, starting with India, may have reached out to the US, too.

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

India: Third Front, mirage or reality?

Dr Satish Misra
Talk of a non-Congress, non-BJP political alliance invariably gains traction around election time in India over the past two decades in particular. It is not surprising therefore that the possibility of cobbling such a front is finding mention in media and political circles as a general election appears to be round the corner if media reports can be trusted. Election surveys are being carried by print and visual media, and online opinions are being sought practically every day which talk of a Third Front and predict the decline of national parties.

Earlier, the Left parties led by the CPM used to take the initiative, but in view of the decline of the left forces in the country,they are keeping silent on the issue. Instead, ruling Samajwadi Party supremo from Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, has taken the lead this time. Or, so it seems. Recently in the West Bengal State capital of Kolkata for the the party's convention hethat a Third Front would take shape only after the next Lok Sabha polls.

Mulayam Yadav does not intend to waste time by delving deep into the nitty-gritty of the eventual formation of such a front and prefers to focus on improving the party's electoral fortunes in the next election in full knowledge that without improving the Samajwadi's performance in the Lok Sabha elections, his chances of leading the front are poor.

The politician in Mulayam's persona has thrown the idea in the air to gauge the public mood and at the same to secure the political space that the Congress is forced to vacate in the wake of the perceived erosion of the party's popularity and credibility. Asked if he was in the race for the prime ministerial chair, Mulayam said "I am not in line but I am not a sadhu-saint either".

Notwithstanding several short-lived experiments of so-called Third Fronts in the last few decades, political leaders continue to harbour hopes that they can perform the miracle yet again. They know that it would all depend upon the actual number of Lok Sabha seats that each party is able to win at the next General Elections. It also depends on individual party's electoral ability to lead such a coalition, particularly in power after the polls, or the likelihood of its leader being promoted as the 'alternative prime minister' even at that stage.

That has also been why every non-Congress and non-BJP political player would be focusing on improving their respective Lok Sabha seats in the coming months. At the time, they could be expected to attack the two national parties with vengeance and would try to improve relations among themselves. Some of them may even take wide swipes at one another, depending on their respective 'threat perceptions' or changes of post-poll support, for the prime minister's job.

Mulayam does not even hesitate in saying that the nation should be ready to undergo the experience of the short-lived Government of Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (or the successor in I K Gujral in the second half of the Nineties). In reply to a question at Kolkata, he boasted thus: "It depends upon the opportunity. Even Deve Gowda got an opportunity. So such an opportunity can come before the SP also."

It was amply evident at Kolkata where both UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father emitted positive signals towards West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee trying to make Mulayam's somersault on the issue of support to the Congress presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee when the SP supremo changes his stand overnight.

Mulayam's expression of intent has already raised hackles among the national parties. The main Opposition party, the BJP, which is hoping against hope to come to power in 2014 if not earlier, has come out strongly against the SP chieftain. BJP leaders said that the SP was the 'B team' of the ruling Congress-UPA combine and indulged in "shadow- boxing" with the Congress leader.

Earlier, Yadav took the initiative by organizing a protest within Parliament against the ruling United Progressive Alliance Government on the issue of the alleged loss of revenue in the allocation of coal blocks to the private players. The TDP and the Left backed the SP leader and joined the protest but the ruling BJD in Odhisa and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu refused to join the ranks.

CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat has also said that the idea of a Third Front was little premature. However, Mulayam's hopes are based in the perceived failure of the UPA-II Government to meet the expectations of the people who have been deeply disappointed at the rising prices and allegations of corruption.

Though there has been a sincere wish of many in the country, particularly most regional parties for long that a non-Congress and non-BJP political formation should come to the Delhi throne yet this had remained a pipe-dream as first such move in 1996 left a bitter taste in the mouths of the people. Two Governments of Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujaral lasted from June 1996 to March 1998. Both came to power with the support of the Congress.

There is hardly any doubt that the two national parties-the Congress and the BJP- are on decline and this is equally true that the electorate of the country are disillusioned with the present political class. But whether, the two national parties are so weak that an alliance of regional and smaller parties can come to power on their own electoral strength without the direct or indirect support of the two big ones is highly improbable.

At the same time, many regional parties are arch rivals of each other, making it impossible for them to come on the same political platform. In Uttar Pradesh, which elects 81 Lok Sabha MPs, the two main players namely the BSP and SP can never be part of the same government. The two are likely to share more than half of the total seats.

Similarly in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and DMK of former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi don't see eye to eye to each other. The Trinamool Congress of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would be loath to share the same platform with the Left what to talk of being part of the same government.

In Gujarat, Delhi, Goa, Himachal, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, the two national parties are in direct contest. Roughly 140 Lok Sabha seats are at stake in these states. In Maharashtra, the two national parties share the political space with two regional parties like the Shiv Sena and NCP.

In States like Punjab, Haryana, Manipur, Meghalaya, the Congress is facing regional parties. In Kerala, the Congress and the Left are in directly in contest and it seems unlikely that the BJP would be able to make an electoral dent in 2014 general elections.

There is a galore of contradictions within non-Congress and non-BJP parties. Then leaders of regional parties also suffer from larger than life egos. In this background, any formation aspiring to form the government at the Centre would require the support of one of the national parties.

Despite the contradictions, vaulting ambitions of Mulayam would continue to inspire him to strive for country's top job. His success would depend on his party's performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. From all available indications, it seems very difficult for the SP to repeat the performance of the 2012 Assembly elections. Already, the SP Government of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is drawing flak for its performance on the law and order front. Two communal clashes in Bareilly and Lucknow have dented the image considerably.

What may further go against Mulayam is that he has given expression to his desire little too early which has brought him into media focus. Like his arch political rival former UP chief minister Mayawati, he too has thrown his hat in the ring within couple of months of winning the Assembly election.

On the contrary, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been slowly and steadily emerging as a possible candidate for the prime minister's post. Nitish has been playing his cards close to the chest without giving expression to his ambition and desire in the media or elsewhere. He has been focusing on Bihar alone and his government has succeeded in giving a relatively better performance both in terms of economic growth as well as on the law and order front.

Though the JD (U) is the part of the NDA at present but Nitish has been making all the right moves. He has been intelligently cultivating and nurturing his secular image which would provide him a decisive edge over his rivals when the crunch time comes.

Both the Congress as well as the BJP would not hesitate to lend support to an alliance led by him. If he decided to leave the company of the BJP, then even the Left would not be averse to him.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

Country Reports

India
Diesel price up, subsidy to be limited for fewer LPG cylinders

The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) on Thursday decided on a massive hike in diesel price by Rs 5, and for the first time, restricted the supply of subsidised LPG cylinders to each family to six per year. Every cylinder beyond this limit will have to be purchased at more than Rs 700 per cylinder.

Both decisions have agitated the political Opposition, particularly with the household sector feeling the pinch of the one on fewer LPG cylinders than the steep increase in diesel/petrol prices, which have become a norm and periodic, too.

Source: The Tribune, September 14, 2012

Govt de-allocates four coal blocks

Showing its resolve to come down hard on the private companies who have not made any progress on the coal blocks allocated to them, the Government has decided to de-allocate four such coal blocks while taking punitive action against four others.

The decision comes in the wake of what has come to be dubbed the 'coalgate scam', after the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) found large-scale policy and procedural faults in such allocation, over which the political Opposition protested in Parliament, which lost much of the working time during the recently-concluded monsoon session.

Source: The Tribune, September 14, 2012

Policy logjam may pull down growth

In fresh grim news for the economy, the Planning Commission has cut the growth rate target for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) to 8.2 per cent from 9 per cent.

However, it has said that event his target is not a "foregone conclusion" and the rate could slip to as low as five per cent if "difficult decisions" are not immediately take to reverse the economic slowdown.

Source: Indian Express, September 12, 2012

Exports of wheat and rice to continue

India is likely to continue exports of wheat and rice despite the poor monsoon, Food Minister K.V. Thomas said on Tuesday, as the country has ample stocks from last year's harvest.

India is the world's second-biggest producer of rice and wheat. The country relies on imports of pulses and edible oils to meet local consumption.

Poor monsoon rainfall in key oilseeds and pulses growing regions is likely to hit output, Thomas told reporters on the side-lines of a conference in New Delhi.

Source: www.reuters.com, September 11, 2012

SC declines work-stay at n-plant

Declining to put on hold for now the loading of fuel rods in one of the two reactors of Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court on Thursday said it would hear September 20 the plea seeking to restrain the Central government.

The apex court decision came as hundreds of people from Tamil Nadu's Idinthakarai village, the epicentre of the protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), stood in the sea water Thursday to protest moves to load uranium fuel in one of the two reactors.

Source: www.hinustantimes.com, September 13, 202

ISRO scores a centum

A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C21) blasted off from here (Sriharikota) on Sunday and placed two foreign satellites in orbit, accomplishing the Indian Space Research Organisation's 100th mission, a milestone in the country's space journey.

Source: The Hindu, September 10, 2012

Consensus with China on peace in Asia-Pacific

In a significant decision, India and China have agreed to "work together to maintain peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region". The "consensus" was reached during the recent visit of the Chinese defence minister General Liang Guanglie to India, the first such visit since 1976.

A little noticed joint communique issued at the end of the visit said the two sides had agreed to cooperate in the Asia-Pacific region. The decision, which was greeted by silence on both sides, is the first clear indication that India has a role to play in the strategically important Asia-Pacific region, where, until recently, New Delhi wasn't considered to be a power to contend with.

Source: Times of India, September 8, 2012

Visa norms eased with Pakistan

In a historic development that will go a long way in normalising relations between India and Pakistan, the two countries on Saturday ushered in a new visa regime aimed at increasing people-to-people contact and visit of business people.

The liberalised norms, signed by external affairs minister S M Krishna and Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik, introduce a number of measures aimed at easing of travel for businessmen, tourists, pilgrims, elderly people and children.

The two sides also signed a MoU on cooperation in the field of culture.

Source: www.deccanherald.com, September 8, 2012

$ 10-m aid promised to Palestine

India on Tuesday announced another tranche of aid to Palestine and promised to back the Palestine National Authority's quest for a non-member status at the United Nations, an upgrade from the observer status a move the US has threatened to veto.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a $10 million contribution to Palestine and vowed to back Palestine's bid for full and equal membership of the UN after a meeting with Palestine National Authority President Mahmud Abbas here on Tuesday.

Source: The Hindu, September 12, 2012

Maldives
New defence policy rests on "Islam and national unity"

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has described the Maldives' first ever National Defence Policy as "the main axis of civil protection", resting on a bedrock of Islam and national unity. He made these observations during the official launch of the policy white paper at Male's Islamic Centre in Male on Wednesday.

Waheed described the policies as "institutionalised embodiments of civil protection" which ought to be respected by all Government bodies. "Contained [within] are also important policies which protect individual, social and economic freedoms, and promote environmental conservation in conjunction with strategies for sustainable development," said the President. He stressed that civil protection was not just the responsibility of a few institutions, highlighting the importance of "sharing common objectives, so as to facilitate adherence to a well-determined course of action."

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim said that the person in the post of the President will not have to order individual officers ever again with the launch of the Maldives first ever National Security Policy and Defence Policy. "To see the President running here and there in panic and ordering individual officers is not something we would want to see," he said.

Nazim said that he believes that there is a lot of work to be completed to reform the defence and national security sector of Maldives. He said that work has been initiated to strengthen command and control mechanism in accordance to international standards as part of the reform process.

The Minister said that National Security Policy outlines a fundamental and comprehensive framework on inter-related issues and concerns that may impinge on national security. He said that it identifies strategic national priorities and envisions a whole of government approach to national security.

Nazim noted that the national security policy is the backbone of all the other national policies and provides guidelines for formulating, enhancing and revisiting other related national policies. He added that it will guide the national decision making process so that the sovereignty and territorial integrity, the well-being of the people and state institutions and other national interests are protected and enhanced.

The Minister also said that the National Defence Policy outlines the way forward to fulfil the mandate of the Ministry of Defence and National Security and gives policy guidance to the three major components under the Ministry; the Maldives National Defence Force, Disaster Management Centre and Aviation Security Command. He added that the National Defence Policy is formulated with guidance from the President and as per the National Security Policy.

Source: Minivan News, September 13-14, 2012

Indian Defence Minister visits

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Anthony has today arrived in Malé, on an official visit to the Maldives. The visit shall continue for a period of three days. Minister Anthony was welcomed at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at Hulhulé, by his Maldivian counterpart, Colonel Retired Mohamed Nazim and Chief of the Defence Force Maj-Gen Ahmed Shiyam. Indian High Commissioner D. M. Mulay and senior officers of the Maldivian National Defence Force were also at the Airport to receive the Indian Minister.

MNDF said that a special reception would be held in honour of Minister Anthony.

The first-ever military hospital built in the Maldives would be officially opened by Minister Anthony during his visit. Also, he would officially lay the foundation of MNDF Composite Training School to be built in Lh. Maafilaafushi, said the MNDF.

Minister Antony would be making a courtesy call on the President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik. He was also set to hold official discussions with Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr. Abdul Samad and Defence Minister Muhammad Nazim. MNDF also reported that Minister Anthony would discuss about ways in which relationship between the Maldives and India in the area of defense would be strengthened.

Indian Defence Minsiter's visit to the Maldives has coincided with a phase of very positive developments in the relations between the Maldives and China.

Source: Minivan News, September 15, 2012

Clear action must, says US

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake on Wednesday met with President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, former President Mohamed Nasheed and a number of civil society organisations.

"In all of my meetings today with the leaders, I stressed the importance of all parties working together to develop and act on the needed legislation on issues of reform, to increase capacity of the judiciary, the security services and independent institutions like the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission," Blake said at a news briefing.

Blake told media that during his meeting with the President, he had emphasised the importance of ensuring security services acted in accordance with international standards and to do everything they can to respect human rights.He added that all parties should work to promote dialogue and cooperation so that they could together strengthen Maldivian democracy and prepare for elections in the coming year.

Although Blake claimed that all leaders had pledged to implement the CoNI's recommendations, he declined from commenting on the government's stand regarding the recommended action against what the report states to be "acts of police brutality which occurred on February 6, 7 and 8."

"Let me tell you what I said. We take all allegations of human rights violations very seriously. We urge that the government investigate those [allegations] in a credible manner. And

Source: Minivan News, September 12, 2012

Moderator of All-Party Talks resigns as MDP withdraws

Convenor Ahmed Mujuthaba has resigned from the All-Party Talks.The talks were envisaged by India as a means to resolve political tension in the country as one track of the international community's response to the situation, together with the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), but have since been eclipsed by the leader's dialogue talks.

The CoNI recently released its report stating that there was no coup in the Maldives that Nasheed did not resign under duress, and that no police mutiny took place.In a news release issued by the talks' secretariat, Mujuthaba stated two specific reasons for his decision to resign.

The first reason was that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had declined from participating in the talks at present, Mujuthaba stated. As the All-Party Talks have now been converted to Leaders' Dialogue, which is limited to parties that have parliamentary representation, he suggested that the talks could be continued within parliament itself.

The MDP in a statement said the party had decided in its National Executive Council meeting to stop participating in the talks for the time being. While it further states that this is not a permanent withdrawal from the discussions, the statement does not cite the reasons behind the decision.President's Office Media Secretary Masood Imad however said: "Mujuthaba has resigned. What more is there to say? MDP has hijacked the all-party talks."

Source: Minivan News, September 17, 2012

Those accountable for airport leasing issue to be sued

Prosecutor-General Aishath Azima Shukoor has said that the state has decided to institute legal action against the party responsible and accountable for the issue of leasing Ibrahim Nasir International Airport since the leasing of the airport was not conducted in the best interest of the country.

Attorney General Azima made this remark at the press conference held at President's Office yesterday afternoon. She said that the ministers of the former administration concluded many decisions related to the matter without considering the consequences of the agreement on the Maldivian economy. She added that they did not even consider the law and the rights of the Maldivian people when they made the agreement.

In addition to the issues in all of the phases of the lease process, Azima said that the decision taken by the former g the concession fees payable byovernment without taking the court order into account is causing major economic harm to the Maldives. She added that these issues should be investigated.

GMR has made proposals to the current government to resolve the dispute regarding the lease of the airport to the company. The company reveals that they are ready to hold discussions to solve the issues.

Source: Haveeru Online, September 13, 2012

Myanmar
President, Suu Kyi to go to US

For the first time in over two decades the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein and the leader of the National League for Democracy, Aung Sang Suu Kyi will be visiting the US

The President is expected to leave for the US on September 24 and is expected to attend the UN General Assembly. Aung San Suu Kyi is heading for the US on September 16 and is to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal while she is in Washington.

Source: channelnewsasia.com, September 10, 12, 2012

Refugees to return from Thailand

The Thai National Security Council has announced that around 120,000 Myanmarese refugees are expected to return to their home land within a year from that country.

According to information from the President's office of Myanmar, the Government is awaiting the return of the refugees and is planning to provide training and jobs for the returning refugees. The government also wants Thailand to invest in Myanmar so as to employ the returning refugees.

Most of the refugees are from the Shan and Karen ethnic minority communities.

Source: channelnewsasia.com, September 14, 2012

Nepal
$ 685-m aid package from UN agencies

The National Planning Commission and the UN Country Team (UNCT) have published the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), which includes a package worth $685 million for the UN agencies in Nepal for five years.

The document lays out a common development strategy and overall framework for the UNCT for 2013-2017 aimed at assisting vulnerable groups' better access to development progress, activities aimed at protecting Nepal's development gains to date, and support aimed at facilitating Nepal's international cooperation.

One part of the document describes the key development challenges facing Nepal, taking particular account of its post-conflict, transitional context. Another part describes ten outcomes that UNDAF is structured around: six that deal with moving the development agenda forward, three that aim to protect development gains made in the past, and one that helps create an enabling environment for enhanced international cooperation. The final part consists of the Results Matrix and outcomes.

Source: thehimalayantimes.com, September 11, 2012

Revolutionary Singh passes away

Veteran revolutionary leader Ram Raja Prasad Singh passed away on September 12.He was 77 and was suffering from high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease and dementia.

Singh's name was proposed by the United CPN (Maoist) as their candidate in the first presidential election in the country in July, 2008.

Source: ekantipur.com, September 12, 2012

Indian police free 'criminal'

The Indian police have released the alleged mastermind in the abduction and subsequent killing of a 10-year-old Nepali boy despite the existence of ample evidence against the culprit.

According to Nepali police sources, a joint police team from India and Nepal had arrested Ramesh Yadav from Mumbai on December 21 last year. Ramesh is the mastermind in the abduction for ransom and killing of Diwakar Yadav, the son of Rupendehi businessman Parashuram Yadav.

However, the Nautanwa police post in India released Ramesh within a week of his arrest and without further investigations. Indian police also rejected pleas from Nepali investigating officers to carry out investigations of the crime from the Indian side as the victim was taken to India after abduction and killed there.

Source: myrepublica.com, September 12, 2012

Artist charged with blasphemy

In what could perhaps be the first-ever blasphemy charge against works of art in Nepal, a young artist has received death threats from activists of the World Hindu Federation (WHF).

A group led by Hem Bahadur Karki, a member of the WHF, threatened Manish Harijan, 27, at the Siddhartha Art Gallery at Babarmahal in Kathmandu for "outrageous portrayals" of Hindu gods. One of his portrayals depicts the Hindu goddess Kali in miniskirts and Hanuman carrying a bottle of alcohol, which the WHF claim is "abuse of freedom of expression".

Harijan's solo exhibition is on since August 22. The exhibition that has 11 works by Harijan on display has several images of deities, which the artist has blended with images of Western superheroes, the 'Ghost Rider' and Superman.

Source: ekantipur.com, September 12, 2012

Pakistan
100 dead in Salarzai

According to the spokesmen of both Pakistan and Afghanistan governments, over 100 people were killed during the two weeks of fighting in Salarzai, a mountainous tribal region of Bajur. This was the first instance in which Pakistani Taliban militants coming from Afghanistan had taken control over the territory in Pakistan.

The Government of Pakistan has called on Afghan and NATO forces to take more convenient steps to stop militant from crossing the border. According to Jehangir Azam Wazir, the top Political Officer in the area "unexpectedly the militants showed tough resistance this time, but finally our security forces along with volunteers of the Salarzai militia succeeded in eliminating them".

During the crossfire, at least 80 militants, 18 civilians, 12 anti-Taliban militiamen and 8 soldiers died and an additional 13 soldiers are missing and are believed to have been abducted by Taliban. Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahs Anullah Ahs has warned that they would regroup and attack again.

Source: NYDailyNews.com, September 9, 2012

$ 125-m overseas aid

Pakistan received $125.7 million assistance during the first quarter of the current fiscal year, including $41.2 million from multilaterals and $84.3 million from bilateral donors

Two multilateral donors, the World Bank and Islamic Development Bank disbursed $ 35 million and $ 6.2 million respectively for 2012-13. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is the major bilateral donor by releasing $ 32.4 million to Pakistan while Japan released $ 23.6 million and the US became the third largest bilateral donor by releasing $ 13.6 million to Pakistan.

The European Union (EU) released $3.74 million through European commission Humanitarian Aid Office , Australia released $5.8 million through Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID), UN $ 0.9 million through Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNDP, Norway $ 2.4 million, Netherlands $ o.98 million, Germany $ 0.55 million and Global Environment Facility (GEF) disbursed $ 0.14 million.

But Pakistan remains unsuccessful in achieving the target of $4.5 billion of foreign assistance set for last financial year 2011-12 and only received $1.4 billion.

Source: brecorder.com, September 11, 2012

India for re-building ties

Indian Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna, on a three-day visit to Pakistan, spoke about renewing and rebuilding ties through regular dialogue and talks. India's main focus was terrorism and the other main issue was trade.

The two countries signed an agreement in Islamabad to relax visa rules. This agreement will help strengthen the already strained relation between the Governments and also at the people to people level. Despite Visa curbs, the relaxation to specified categories of joint- families, senior citizens, business people and artists will go long way in confidence -building measures.

According to Interior Minister Rehman Malik of Pakistan, there are eight different categories of visas, which include diplomatic, non-diplomatic, tourist, 36-hour transit visit, civil society, media and business. The tourist visa will be limited to five destinations and only valid for six months, while the diplomatic visa category will provide to the Consular, its mission and their family members.

However, the other core issues like Kashmir, the Siachen glacier, the Sir Creek sea boundary could not be solved but according to the Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani of Pakistan, the two sides had "positive discussions" and were looking forward to the second round of talks. Talking about these issues, Krishna said India and Pakistan are heading in right direction, reminding that all issues cannot be solved at once.

Krishna described his visit to Pakistan as fruitful as both the countries have signed several important agreements. Before leaving for India, he visited historic monuments like Minar-e-Pakistan, Dera Sahib Gurudwara and Data Darbar Sufi shrine.

Source: ndtv.com, September 10, 2012

Sri Lanka
Fresh call from US to reduce military in North

Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Blake today called on the Sri Lanka government to reduce the presence of military in North and accelerate implementation of LLRC action plan.

Addressing a press conference in Colombo a short while ago, Mr. Blake said that during his meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, he has promised to hold the election in the north by December 2013. "But I hope that the election could be held sooner," he told newsmen. He also expressed his disappointment over the lack of talks between the Government and the Tamil National Alliance.

At talks with External Affairs Minister G L Peiris, Blake expressed interest in the economy of the North. The Minister briefed him on the development activities, the resettlement of internally displaced people and the reintegration into society of ex-combatants.

The minister said there had been no specific mention of the US-led resolution adopted at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva.

Source: Daily Mirror Online, September 14-15, 2012

Negative perception was changed: C'wealth

General Secretary of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Dr. William F. Shija who led a delegation to Jaffna said yesterday that he had really had a change of his negative perception of Sri Lanka after visiting the war affected area.

Dr. Shija, after concluding the observation tour in the north, told Daily Mirror that the international media had painted a negative picture of Sri Lanka to the effect that nothing had been done about the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war affected areas.

However, he said, though the scars of destruction were still visible, a great deal of development work had been done to resuscitate the economy of people.

Dr. Shija was one of over 50 delegates representing various parliaments and state assemblies, who participated in a state-sponsored programme to observe the development projects and to meet resettled people in Jaffna and Kilinochchi.

"The Kilinochchi Brigade Commander explained to us how the entire population of that district was displaced due to the war over a couple of years ago. Now, almost all of them have been resettled. We wish best of luck for peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka," he said.

Commenting on the development work, he said that infrastructure development was a key to peace and unity. "The international media, as you know as journalists, has given a negative picture as if nothing has been done. But, a lot of work has been done," he said.

He added that the CPA was ready to share with Sri Lanka the experiences of member-States, in bringing about reconciliation. Hamad Rashid Mohamed, a Parliamentarian from Tanzania, said the international community should recognise the work done by the Government of Sri Lanka, and continue to help. "It is commendable that the government has invested a lot in infrastructure development. It will help improve the quality of life of the people," he said

Source: Daily Mirror Online, September 14, 2012

US court dismisses lawsuit against President

US District Judge For The Southern District Of New York Naomi Reice Buchwald deferred to the Suggestion of Immunity issued by the U.S. State Department and dismissed the lawsuit brought by Vathsala Devi, the wife of Col. Ramesh.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit asserts cause of action against President Rajapaksa for torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and international infliction of emotional distress in violation of the Alien Torts Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act, International Covenant on civil and political rights and the customary international law pertaining to armed conflict.

In her decision Judge Buchwald stated that President Rajapaksa enjoys head of state immunity. She added that head of state immunity is premised on comity as well as on the recognition that foreign leaders must be able to represent their nations abroad without the threat of being hailed into a foreign legal system. The Judge further stated that, "it is settled law that a determination by the Executive Branch that a foreign head of state is immune from suit is conclusive and a court must accept such determination without reference to the underlying claims of a plaintiff."

Judge Buchwald noted, however, that the plaintiff advanced several arguments to break new jurisprudential ground. The court acknowledged "the emergence of an international criminal regime that provides no shelter even to sitting heads of state is certainly a remarkable development". Nonetheless, the Court said that it is not applicable to civil remedies.

A human rights scholar observed, "It would be paradoxical if a victim of human rights violation could exercise universal jurisdiction in a criminal context, but not obtain civil redress under the same basis of jurisdiction?Civil proceedings are less intrusive in governmental functions and most importantly it empowers the victim herself," said plaintiff's attorney and Tamil separatist leader Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran. He said that the law is evolving with respect to liability for a Head of State for violation of international crimes.

Source: Daily Mirror Online, September 13, 2012

Afghanistan
You Tube banned

Afghanistan banned the YouTube website on Wednesday. According to the Government official, it was done to stop Afghans from watching a U.S. - made film insulting the Prophet Mohammad.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the film and called it an insult to Islam.

He further said that insulting Islam was not allowed by freedom of speech.

"We have been told to shut down You Tube to the afghan public until the video is taken down" said Ajmal Marjan, Director-General of Information Technology at the Ministry of Communication, told newsmen.

In 2010, U.S. Pastor Terry Jones and his plan to burn the Koran triggered riots in Afghanistan. The accidental burning of copies of the Korannear Kabul in February this year saw huge protests and killings across Afghanistan for weeks.

Source: reuters.com, September 12, 2012

Taliban ready for talks with US

The Taliban are open to negotiations with the US which could lead to its military presence in Afghanistan till 2024. They are open to a general ceasefire as well as a political agreement but minus the President Hamid Karzai and his government being involved in such reconciliation, which it sees as corrupt and weak, according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The report, entitled "Taliban perspectives on Reconciliation", claims that insurgent group led by Mullah Omar is willing to take part in rapprochement in exchange for political control after 2014.Taliban regrets its past association with Al -Qaeda and is looking forward to renounce it as soon as a ceasefire or political agreements are decided. But so far no Taliban leader has publicly approved the idea of a ceasefire, the report said.

Source: thenews.com.pk, September 10, 2012

Bangladesh
Seven more Ministers join Hasina team

Amidst political drama Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expanded her Council of Ministers by inducting seven new members. Among the newly inducted most of them are little known except for Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and Hasanul Haque Inu. This has led to speculation about the possible reasons behind the move. The new ministers are Inu, MK Alamgir, Mujibul Haque, Mostafa Faruque Mohammad and AH Mahmood Ali; and the two state ministers are Omor Faruk Chowdhury and Abdul Hyee.

Interestingly, veteran Awami League leader Tofail Ahmed and Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon, were offered positions in the cabinet this time but they declined. In fact it was their refusal that compelled Hasina to replace them with two little known diplomats-turned-lawmakers Mostafa Faruque and Mahmood Ali. Considering Bangladesh's political culture, such a kind of behaviour but senior party member is unprecedented. Media claims that having refused to join the cabinet, Tofail and Menon have upset Hasina, also the AL president, and other senior party leaders, 14-pary insiders said.

Political observers of the country have opined that refusal by Ahmed and Menon to be part of the cabinet indicates rifts among not only with Awami League but also in the 14 party alliance. However none of the allies have talked about the rifts in public.

Source: The Daily Star, September 14, 2012

Poverty reduced by 25 pc

Bangladesh has reduced its poverty rate by 25 percent over the last 10 years revealed the progress report on the 6th Five Years Plan presented this week at National Economic Council (NEC).

The country aspires to reduce its poverty rate to 22.5 percent by 2015. The report also stressed on the needs to make the efficient use of the foreign assistance and investment to meet the goal of achieving 8 percent GDP growth by 2015.

Source: unbconnect.com, September 12, 2012

Bhutan
Teaching English to Thais

In a first for the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, Bhutan will be sending a batch of 15 teachers to teach English in Thailand for an initial period of one year in selected technical training institutes of Thailand. In return Thailand will reciprocate by sending technical instructors to impart vocational training for Bhutanese in Bhutan.

Based on the performance of the Bhutanese teachers, their stay in Thailand would be extended along with an appropriate pay rise. The Bhutanese teacher's initial salary would be Thai Baht 18,000, around Nu 29,000 a month. Accommodation, in-country transportation and health insurance would be covered by the host government.

Source: bbs.bt, September 13, 2012,kuenselonline.com, September 14, 2012

India-China ties welcomed

Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley has welcomed the improving relationship between India and China.

In an interaction with the media while in Bhubaneswar, India, the Prime Minister said that the visit of the Chinese Defence Minister's recently visited to New Delhi India and the agreement between the two nations to resume joint military exercise after a gap of eight years is a welcomed development.

Source: articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com, September 8, 2012

Contributors:

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kunkhen Dorji;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan and Myanmar: Sripathi Narayan;
India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;