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SOUTH ASIA WEEKLY REPORT
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Vol. V Issue. 39
Nepal: And the race begins...
Akanshya Shah
28 September 2012

Analysis

In Nepal, another fierce battle for the top executive post has begun, putting the much important issue of Constitution-drafting in the back burner. As usual, the federalism debate has evaporated from the mainstream, which was the major issue behind the dissolution of the Constitution Assembly (CA) on May 28.

Since the beginning of the Nineties and especially after the 2006 People's Movement, much attention has been focused on the election of the Prime Minister. The matter is much more serious to the political parties in the country than any other issue, for the next Government would hold the elections for a new CA. The traditionally-held belief is that the party in power at the Centre would automatically succeed in getting a majority seats in any election.This obviously has not held true for the historic CA polls held in 2008, when a Nepali Congress (NC) Government headed by G P Koirala was in power at the time. In the CA elections, the CPN (Maoist) emerged as the single largest party much to the disbelief of the international community, including India.

Political matters worsened when the Maoist party could not deliver on larger issues of national concern, mainly on the peace process and constitution writing fronts. The Chairman of United CPN (Maoist) Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda resigned in May 2009 following the Katawal case. Backed by India, which perceived Prachanda's intention to sack the then army chief Rookmangud Katawal as a step towards Maoists' stated design of "State capture", a democratic alliance emerged in Nepal. Led by the NC, the Madhesi parties and a section of the CPN- UML force became part of the alliance. But such an alliance did not hold popular support as many older politicians who had lost CA elections were seen in the helm of affairs. Madhav Kumar Nepal, who was elected PM after Prachanda, had the support of 22 political parties in parliament and more than half of the 601 members in the CA. However, the Maoists, who had the largest number of seats in the assembly, refused to support his government and instead staged protests demanding the disbanding of the government. Nepal resigned in June 2009.

The Legislature Parliament of Nepal then voted for 18 rounds to elect a new PM and finally Jhalanath Khanal, Chairman of UML party, emerged victorious. Unfortunately, Khanal too had to resign within six and half month stint as prime minister after the failure to garner political consensus to conclude the twin task of integration of the former Maoist combatants and constitution making.

On August 28, 2011, the Maoists returned to power with Dr Bbauram Bhattarai as the PM. The people had high expectations from Bhattarai, who was not only popular amongst the general public, but drew considerable admiration of the middle and upper middle class people. Unfortunately, the Bhattarai government could not be converted into a national consensus one due to sharp division amongst the major political parties. Two developments in recent past has hit a blow to the constitution making process. The first was the split in the Maoist party when the hardliner faction led by Mohan Baidya Kiran walked out from the United CPN (Maoist) and the second was the sudden demise of the CA itself. Baburam's government was reduced to a caretaker one immediately after May 28.

After four months of CA's demise, the political parties agreed to go for fresh CA polls. But a date for the new election is yet to be finalised. The Election Commission of Nepal has already said that there are no possibilities of holding the election on November 22, the date announced by Bhattarai. At best, the poll can be held only by March-April next year. In such a scenario, the attention has once again shifted to power politics and a change of guard is in the offing.

Unfortunately, the opposition NC is polarised from within and therefore has not been able to give a consensus candidate for the post of PM. While Party President Sushil Koirala has declared that he is no more in the race for the top post, there is open rivalry between senior leaders Ram Chandra Poudel and Sher Bahadur Deuba and both desire to be the next PM. However, while Poudel is not considered a leader of that stature, Deuba, a former PM, is unpopular amongst the younger leaders of NC. The Maoists, on the other hand, have said that they do not desire a government under NC leadership and instead want to head a consensus government themselves.

In this way, power sharing has remained a dominant feature of Nepali polity since the beginning of the peace process in 2006. Power sharing arrangements have also been vital in determining the pace of progress of both the peace process and constitution drafting since then. But the personal ambitions of top leaders and the ugly race to the top position has cost the country dearly. People are losing patience as no clear direction has emerged. It would be better if the leaders realised the futility of such a tug of war. They should shun petty interests for the sake of larger welfare of the country and the people. But the question remains: are the politicians listening?

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

Pakistan: Dialogue with India since 26/11

Kunkhen Dorji

In what could be regarded as another tentative bid towards re-engagement with Pakistan, India's External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's recent visit to Islamabad signalled another incremental push towards resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue. Although the shadow of 26/11 still looms large on the relationship and the Indian insistence on prosecution of the perpetrators was reiterated by the Indian Foreign Minister, the two countries seem to be focussing on the momentum of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's India visit of July 2011. The broadening and the diversification of the agenda have greatly helped in this regard. The two Foreign Ministers oversaw frank discussion on all segments of Indo-Pak engagement: counter-Terrorism (including progress on Mumbai trial) and narcotics control, humanitarian issues, commercial and economic cooperation, Wullar Barrage / Tulbul Navigation project, Sir Creek, Siachen, peace and security, including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, and promotion of friendly exchanges. The current visit also happened against the backdrop of the release of Indian fishermen under Pakistani custody and Krishna expressed the Indian Government's appreciation of the Pakistani gesture.

The novelty of this round of talks appears to have been the prioritisation of cross-LOC trade as one of the possible offsets to the more outstanding issues between the historical rivals. The two parties adopted joint guidelines on energising cross-LOC trade with measures like monthly trader meetings, infrastructure development in the region and exchange of business delegation and identification of 21 products of permissible items for cross-LOC trade. These recommendations were made by the Joint Working Group on cross-LoC CBMs in its meeting in Islamabad on July 19, 2012. Zardari even emphasised this particular development in his speech to the UN general assembly. Besides the standard assurances of improved and frequent engagement, the visit seems to have been an exercise in soft diplomacy rather than tangible progress. A road map has been finalised for the next round of secretary level meetings amid cautious calibration by both countries on the sensitive issues.

Expectedly, Indo-Pak relations on the whole haven't seen a breakthrough during the visit. India still remains sceptical about the multiple power centres in Pakistan and her sincerity towards following up on the agreed 26/11 progress. Pakistan on the other hand, has reiterated its commitment to following the due process of law to punish the perpetrators of 26/11 without outlining a timeline or standard of progress. It has insisted its own difficulties as a frontier state in the war against terror. The relationship is currently driven by a top-down approach with the impetus coming from the two leaders to sustain the dialogue. But the elite driven soft diplomacy hasn't taken the edge off of the core strategic differences. Hence the two foreign ministers have again focused on the processes and low politics rather than bigger goals during recent times. Issues around the joint eight technical committees, Measures for promoting cooperation in various fields including facilitating visits to religious shrines, media exchanges, holding of sports tournaments, and cessation of hostile propaganda against each other have taken precedence over strategic concerns. Although understandable, the approach is typical of the redundancy in Indo-Pak relations.

Another reason for caution could be that both states are hedging against the variable consequences of the imminent US pull-out from Afghanistan from 2014. The eventuality will lead to new strategic realities in the region and will bring about marked changes in approach towards US by both India and Pakistan. Will US get more assertive towards Pakistan after a tumultuous year in the bilateral relationship? Will Pakistan wrest initiative in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and try to limit India's footprint and influence in the country? What would be the residual American presence? Will Taliban and Pakistani military evolve to a tacit understanding and exacerbate concerns for India? These important questions and their implications have been missing in the recent India-Pak diplomatic discourse. The two countries have instead opted for calculated rhetoric to pacify constituencies and the west while still struggling with strategic distrust. Both leaders - President Zardari and PM Manmohan Singh however, have chosen to stick with the strategy of incremental increase in bilateral engagement without establishing mutually agreed standards of reciprocity and accountability.

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

Country Reports

Pakistan

Kashmir issue symbol of UN failures: Zardari

At the UN General Assembly, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said "Kashmir remains a symbol of failures, rather than strengths of the UN system. We feel that resolution of the issue can only be arrived in an environment of cooperation." He further went on to say that territorial disputes remain the issue of its foreign policy.

The Pakistani President further said "We will continue to support the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to peacefully choose their destiny in accordance with the UNSC's long- standing resolutions on this matter." India on the other hand considers the issue under UN resolution as outdated.

Source: indiatimes.com, September 27, 2012

China-Pak relation

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf met a six-member Chinese delegation led by Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen Ma Xiaotian. During the meeting he said, "We are proud of our excellent relations with China, with whom we have a strategic partnership."

He further went on to say that cooperation between Pakistan and China was exemplary on regional and international level. He also thanked China for their assistance in undertaking development projects in Pakistan.

Raja said Pakistan is strongly committed to fight against terrorism and extremism. He said, "Political situation in Pakistan has stabilized and as we approach elections, parliamentary democracy is taking roots in the country."

On the other hand, Gen Ma said that the friendship between Pakistan and China was of strategic significance. He also thanked Pakistan for its continuous support to China on all major international forums and assured of its continued support to Pakistan.

Source: paktribune.com, September 26, 2012

Non-strategic n-armoury up

According to Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project and Robert S Norris, Senior Fellow, writing inthe Nuclear Notebook, Pakistan is developing non- strategic nuclear weapons, to increase its nuclear capability. If successful it would join the ranks of countries like the US and Russia. On the other hand, India does not feature among the countries that has or is developing non-strategic nuclear weapons.

The report states that the new weapon, the Nasr, is a 60- km ballistic missile launched from a mobile twin-canister launcher. It was first tested in April 2011. According to the Pakistani military news organisation, Nasr was developed as a

quick response system" to "add deterrence value" to Pakistan's strategic weapons development programme. The authors concluded by saying, "This language, which has been repeated after subsequent Nasr tests, strongly indicates a weapon with a new mission that resembles non-strategic nuclear weapons."

Source: hindustantimes.com, September 25, 2012

31 pc rise in trade with Saudi Arabia

According to Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah of Saudi Arabia, trade exchange between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia has risen by 31 percent to SR 18 billion in 2011 as compared to the previous year. The two countries have excellent relations.

In trade sector Saudi Arabia is among the top 15 major export destination of Pakistan and the annual bilateral trade between the two countries stands at around $ 5 billion. Pakistan mainly imports petroleum products and exports raw cotton, rice, vegetables, etc, to Saudi Arabia.

More than 350 Pakistani investors have obtained licenses from Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and have established companies in different fields of construction and services in the Kingdom.

Source: arabnews.com, September 27, 2012

Sri Lanka

India allays concerns over nuke plant

While insisting that the safety measures are in place at the South Indian Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant are of the highest order, the Indian High Commission said safety issues were being addressed in the spirit of the close and friendly ties existing between India and Sri Lanka. It claimed that India the Indian Government gave utmost attention to nuclear and radiation safety.

"The Indian Government complies with the obligations prescribed in the Convention on Nuclear Safety (1994), Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (1986) and the Convention on Assistance in the case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, the High Commission said.

It said India had all the resources to manage radioactive waste and added that appropriate emergency response plans was a mandatory prerequisite for all nuclear power plants there and added that India and Sri Lankan would continue the on-going dialogue on cooperation in the area of nuclear energy, isotope hydrology, radio-tracer studies and dam safety. The High Commission said a Sri Lankan delegation would visit India to discuss nuclear and radiation safety,

Meanwhile, lawyer Jagath Gunwardena who together with other environmentalists raised concerns over the impact on Sri Lanka said India had to underscore its sincere commitment towards ensuring radiation safety. "If India is sincere in their commitment then India should invite Sri Lanka to enter into a bilateral agreement relating to nuclear and radiation safety. India should cooperate with Sri Lankan to enter into an agreement as the Article 1 section 3 of the Convention on Assistance in the case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency provides for promoting, facilitating and supporting the cooperation between States as called for in the Convention," he said.

Source: Daily Mirror Online, September 26, 2012

Human-traffic victims to be deported

Fifteen Sri Lankan Tamils arrested by the Kollam police in the south Indian State of Kerala on June 3 after busting a human trafficking racket and later released from judicial custody on August 17 will be deported to Sri Lanka from the Thiruvananthapuram airport.

Though they were released from judicial custody, the court had made it clear that they were not free and would be lodged at Gandhi Bhavan, a charity home at Pathanapuram, near here, till completion of the formalities for their deportation. They were not permitted to leave the charity home premises.

They were arrested for violating the Foreigners Act by being in the country without proper travel documents. They were part of a group of 151 Sri Lankan Tamils, including women and children, who were about to be smuggled out in a crude fishing boat to Australia.They said they had paid money ranging from Rs.50,000 to Rs.1 lakh to agents of human- traffickers for getting them to Australia. The majority of those arrested were Sri Lankan Tamil refugees housed in various refugee camps in Tamil Nadu.

Those from the camps were identified and sent back to the respective camps. But 15 men who directly came from Sri Lanka without any travel documents were arrested. The court released them from judicial custody under the provisions of a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) notification which classifies them as victims and not accused persons.

Source: The Hindu, September 28, 2012

Transit-point to pump in gold

Sri Lanka seems to have become a transit point for smugglers bringing gold Chennai from places like Dubai and Singapore. In the past month, bureau of immigration officials at Chennai airport arrested 13 people, including several Sri Lankan Tamils, and seized 3.5kg of gold. At least 30kg of gold has been recovered at Chennai airport from smugglers so far this year, sources said.

A senior immigration officer confirmed the new route. "As officials double-check baggage of air passengers from Dubai and Singapore, smugglers are taking a lengthy route via Sri Lanka to avoid being scanned with extra care," a police officer said.

Inquiries with the carriers caught so far have revealed that they get a mere 5,000-10,000 for a trip to India. "Of the 13 arrested in the past one month, at least 10 are Sri Lankan Tamils," an official said.

"We believe the smugglers are also using a few other lesser known routes to bring in gold illegally into our country. We have stepped up security arrangements at Trichy, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore airports apart from Chennai airport. A special circular has been sent to staff at these airports to check carefully the baggage of passengers arriving from Sri Lanka," an immigration officer said.

The increase in the gold prices in India has led to smugglers trying to bring in gold from abroad, officials said. Several attempts to smuggle in the yellow metal had been successful, but a number of attempts had been thwarted with the help of informers, they added. "We are getting information about smuggling of valuables from abroad through sources. Though most of the carriers arrested don't know much about the bigger network, special teams are on the trail of the big fish," the immigration officer said.

Source: The Times of India, September 28, 2012

Afghanistan

Trilateral meet with India, US

The first-ever tri-lateral dialogue between India, the US and Afghanistan was held in New York on the side-lines of the session of the UN General Assembly. The meeting was attended by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Marc Grossman, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake and by Joint Secretary (Pakistan/Afghanistan / Iran) Y K Sinha and Joint Secretary (America) Jawed Ashraf from the Indian side.

A statement issued by the Chairman of Afghanistan's Mission to the UN said "This tri-lateral marks the further strengthening of Afghanistan's cooperation with two of its key friends and partners who are fully behind the vision of a secure, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan living in peace, security, friendship and cooperation with its region and the wider world."

The three Governments had series of discussions on common interests, most particularly on areas like South and Central Asia and have agreed to work together on issues like combating terrorism and extremism, increasing regional trade, reviewing cultural exchanges, investment and economic integration.

The statement said "All sides welcomed the frank and comprehensive nature of the discussions and agreed the dialogue helps advance their shared values, interests and goals." Both the US and India have clarified that this tri-lateral dialogue was not targeted against Pakistan, which has always been suspicious of New Delhi's role in Afghanistan.

Source: indianexpress.com, September 28, 2012

Bangladesh

PM calls for reforms in UN, World Bank and IMF

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for the reforms of the UN, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) claiming that their structures and decision-making processes reflect the 60-year-old power equations. Hasina further accused these institutions of serving interests of a privileged few and ignoring the large majority. She made this comment while addressing the 67thUN General Assembly session in New York this week.

It should be recalled that on April 21 this year, Hasina, while delivering her speech at the 13th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIII) in Qatar, also strongly advocated for correction in the voting and decision-making in the WB and IMF to ensure equitable voice of the vulnerable and developing countries.

Source: The Daily Star, September 28, 2012

Fulfil condition for bridge funding: World Bank

The World Bank (WB) has categorically said this week that preconditions must be met before it reinstates financing for the Padma bridge project in Bangladesh. The Bank said in a statement media reports have been quoting Bangladeshi government officials misrepresenting its position concerning the Padma Bridge project, and it felt "obliged" to correct the record.

Reports published in various media claimed WB has agreed to fund the project. Padma Bridge has been a source of friction between the Bangladeshi government and the World Bank for about a year. The $1.2 billion project, financed with a loan by WB, has been frozen amid corruption allegations raised by the bank.

Earlier WB had cancelled the financing the project. The bridge is an important infrastructure project as once constructed would connect Bangladesh's underdeveloped South with the capital, Dhaka, and the country's main port, Chittagong.

According to the Bank, the Bangladeshi government agreed on Sept. 20 to place public officials suspected of involvement in the corruption scheme on leave until a probe is complete, to appoint a special prosecution team to conduct an inquiry and to grant access to all information to a panel of experts who would advise investors in the project on the credibility of the investigation.

The World Bankhas laid down conditions that for it to engage a new in the project will require new implementation arrangements that give much greater oversight of project procurement processes to the Bank and co-financiers. WB will reconsider its decision only after satisfactory implementation of all these measures as well as a positive report from the external panel of internationally recognized experts.

Source: The World Street Journal, September 25, 2012

China offers to build deep-sea port

China this week has proposed to invest in the $5 billion deep sea port. Besides, it also offered to invest in three more mega infrastructure projects including $700 million mullti lane tunnel under the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong. However, the government is unable to decide, as it finds itself in a quandary over whom to pick as three other countries -- Japan, India and the US have shown interest in building the port.

Considering Bangladesh's dilemma, Li Jun, the Chinese ambassador to Dhaka, has inform that his country has no problem building the port in partnership with India or the US or any other country. Jun informed that China might give soft loans for the implementation of the projects and it might be under the government-to-government formula or by engaging private sectors. China was the first to make a formal offer to invest in the deep-sea port.

A high-level delegation from China would visit Dhaka next month to discuss the projects and investment. It is believed that this port will turn Bangladesh into an economic hub in Asia. The two other projects China has proposed are the construction of Bangladesh-Myanmar road corridor (a part of the Asian Highway) and a Chinese industrial park near the river Karnaphuli similar to that in Shanghai.

Source: The Daily Star, September 28, 2012

BSF, BGB promise restraint

The chiefs of India's Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) met this week in Dhaka to discuss issues relating to the border between the two countries. At the meeting both the BSF and BGB have agreed to exercise restraint in shooting intruders. The two countries have also agreed not to allow militants and separatists groups use their lands.

The BGB asked for 97 Bangladeshi criminals who have escaped to India back, and handed over a list of names to their Indian counterpart. Also, the BGB authorities identified over 70 factories of Phensedyl, a cough syrup banned in Bangladesh for its widespread abuse in Indian territory and demanded that BSF dismantle them. The BSF delegation expressed concern over the flow of fake Indian currency in Bangladesh.

BSF Director-General UK Bansal led the India delegation while BGB chief Maj Gen Anwar Hossain led the Bangladesh side. The meeting was part of a routine arrangement that is continuing for sometimes. These meetings have been effective in understanding each other concerns.

Source: The Daily Star, September 27, 2012

Bhutan

Plan 'bigger in absolute terms'

According to the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretary Karma Tshiteem, the 11th Five-Year Plan is smaller in terms of "investment programmes" but in "absolute size" it would be bigger than the 10th Plan.

This means that, while investment in infrastructure might be less than the previous Plan, the cost of maintaining the infrastructure built in the Tenth Plan would be more, explained commission officials. With an estimated outlay of Nu 201 billion, work on the plan that would make Bhutan self-reliant with inclusive green socio-economic development.

The commission has proposed "16 National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) like sustainable development, food security, poverty reduction are being treated as strategic interventions at the national level that would directly contribute to achieve the overall objective that has been set in the Plan.

Source: kuenselonline.com, 29 September 2012

India

Auction not sole route for allocation: SC

Auction, despite being a more preferable method of alienation/allotment, cannot be held to be a Constitutional requirement or limitation for alienation of all natural resources, said the Supreme Court on Thursday in its advisory opinion on '2G Presidential Reference' matter.

A five-judge Constitution Bench, including Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justice D K Jain, Dipak Misra and Ranjan Gogai, held that every method other than auction "canot be struck down as ultra vires the Constitution mandate'. Justice J S Khehar, in his concurring opinion, gave additional reasons on two issues.

Source: The Hindu, September 28, 2012

CVC for wider probe into 'coalgate'

On instructions from the Central Vigilance Commission, the CBI on Monday decided to expand the scope of its investigation into the scam in coal blocks allocation to private firms between 1993 and 2004.

Source: The Hindu, September 25, 2012

Power tariffs set to go up

Consumers nation-wide should brace themselves for higher electricity tariffs, with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Monday approving a Rs 1.90 lakh crore debt restructuring package for the State Electricity Boards to facilitate a turnaround of the State distribution companies (discoms).

Source: The Hindu, September 25, 2012

UPA allies wary of reforms fallout

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram today put up a strong defence of the government's recent reform measures to UPA allies, who expressed their concern over the Centre's move to hike diesel prices, cap subsidised LPG cylinders and allow FDI into multi-brand retail.

Speaking at the UPA coordination committee meeting, the first time since Trinamool Congress pulled out of the ruling combine, worried DMK representative T R Baalu said these decisions would hurt the common man and that it would be difficult to face them during elections. He pressed for a partial rollback on the diesel price hike and an increase in the cap on LPG cylinders from six to twelve.

Source: The Tribune, September 28, 2012

BJP promises to scrap FDI

BJP on Wednesday issued a veiled threat that it may scrap the decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail if it came to power, prompting the government to rush to reassure potential investors.

Source: The Economic Times, September 27, 2012

S&P cuts India forecast

Global ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) which had earlier threatened to downgrade India to junk status, on Monday lowered its 2012-13 GDP growth forecast for the country to 5.5 per cent, citing weak monsoons and investor sentiments. S&P's move comes after a week after the Centre announced reform measures including FDI in multi-brand retail, aviation, broadcasting and power exchanges.

Source: Hindustan Times, September 25, 2012

N-plant clears land hurdle

At a time when nuclear plants are facing protests, the Gorakhpur Atomic Power Project, in Fatehabad district in Haryana has crossed its first hurdle without any use of force or violence. Of the 1503 acres of land acquired for the project in three villages of Gorakhpur, Badopal and Kajalheri, farmers have already accepted compensation for 1366 acres. The rest are expected to follow soon.

Source: The Indian Express, September 24, 2012

New era of trade ties with Pak

A new era of business activities is being promised to be ushered in, between India and Pakistan, after the latter has promised to totally dismantle the "negative list of commodities" by the end of October. On the anvil is Indian offer of selling locomotives to Pakistan, laying a gas pipeline through Attari, formation of joint business councils, reduction in sensitive list, daily air connectivity between the two capitals besides granting the awaited "most favoured nation" status to India.

These decisions were taken during the 7th round of India-Pakistan talks on commercial and economic cooperation held between Indian commerce secretary S R Rao and his Pakistani counterpart Munir Qureshi on September 20 and 21 at Islamabad.

Source: The Times of India, September 23, 2012

Maldives

History of a nation is never a single event or a single person: President

The Maldivian President Dr. Mohamed Waheed has said that the history of a nation is never a single event or a single person. The President said this while addressing the 67thsession of the United Nations General Assembly. He said that the life of our nation comprises of the lives of all of us who live there.

"We are the building blocks in the evolution of our countries. The knowledge, education, experience and the commitment we bring to our nation is what shapes our history. That is what makes our history unique. Respect for us and our small nation requires that our external partners do not under estimate our capacity to contribute to the shaping of our own destiny," he said.

President Waheed said that the nations must be allowed to resolve their problems on their own. He said that international community should not take punitive actions against any sovereign State, unless there is verified and blatant abuse of human rights. He also noted that international cooperation should not be used as an excuse for larger countries to interfere in the domestic politics of small States.

"Past eight months have been particularly challenging in consolidating democracy in my country. The elected President of the country resigned in February, and later claimed that he was forced to do so. The Government opened a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations. Some of our friends rushed into conclusions, and that did not make it any easier for us.

Some big States and some not so big States took sides in a domestic political crisis and contributed to making a bad situation worse. While the Government was striving to strengthen the country's institutional capacity to manage the new democracy, some international actors continued to publicly criticise the country's young institutions," he said.

"We look for new ideas, and we are receptive to good ideas irrespective of where they come from. That is why we engage in international cooperation. We expect the result of international cooperation to help, not hinder, a country's march towards a better, more democratic society. It is supposed to build a country's institutions and to gain public confidence," President Waheed noted that small States are vulnerable in many ways. He said that small states alone are not able to stop larger and stronger countries from dictating terms. "Our vulnerability is particularly acute when there are discord and system breakdowns in our own countries. This is the time when the larger states should help the smaller states in the international system," he said.

In his address, the President also strongly condemned the recent anti-Islamic video demeaning our Prophet Mohammed. He said that freedom of expression should not be used as an excuse to insult religion, incite hatred and provoke communal violence.

Noting that the video has provoked demonstrations around the world, he said that the Maldives does not believe that violence is the way to respond to such low-level blasphemous acts.

"The Maldives has also condemned the attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi, which took the life of the United States Ambassador to Libya. On behalf of the Maldivian people I express my deepest condolences to the United States Government and the families of the bereaved," he said.

The President expressed the wishes of the Maldivian people to see the day that the Palestinian people will join the UN as a full member. He said that the Maldives strongly calls on all Member States to support the true aspirations of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination in a Palestinian State.

Source: Miadhu, September 28, 2012

Nasheed wants party talks to resume: Yameen

Parliamentary Group Leader of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdullah Yameen has said that former President Mohamed Nasheed met with him to request for the resumption of the discussions between political parties.

Yameen told Sun Online after the meeting, that the meeting was attended in addition to Yameen and Nasheed, by Nasheed's former Political Advisor Ibrahim Hussain Zaki.

The meeting was held at Zaki's residence, H. Hulhugeli, and lasted about 45 minutes.

During the meeting, Nasheed said that Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) wants to resume dialogue between political parties, and requested Yameen to encourage and facilitate this.Nasheed assured that MDP is ready and willing to cooperate in the matter.

"I don't know why Nasheed wants this. The discussions were disrupted because MDP withdrew. Perhaps they think that things will not progress because the talks are disrupted. Nasheed talked about Mujtaba's resignation and the talks being disrupted even before the President left for New York, and expressed interest in resuming the talks," he said.

When asked if Nasheed's trial pertaining to the illegal arrest of Criminal Court Judge Abdullah Mohamed, which is scheduled to commence on Monday, was discussed at the meeting, Yameen said that there is no reason for them to discuss that matter.

"The prosecution has nothing to do with me or the government. That's done by the PG [Prosecutor General]. So we wouldn't even think about discussing that issue. The only thing we talked about was to resume Party Talks," he said.

Yameen said that Nasheed's request does not surprise him, and that the UN expert who works with the Party Talks had also approached him earlier to share similar concerns."They met me at PPM Office earlier, and expressed concern that no Chair had been appointed, and that they also wanted the talks to resume. So I was not surprised. I told them that I will discuss with the President when he returns," he said.

Yameen said that he never met Nasheed when he was President, and that he met Nasheed today in his capacity as a leader of a political party.

Source: SunOnline, September 26, 2012

MDP decides to stop respecting court orders

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has released a statement saying it will no longer follow any orders given by the courts of the Maldives until the changes proposed by international entities are brought to the Maldivian judicial system.

The party said the decision was reached as to date, they had observed no efforts to improve the judicial system based on the recommendations put forward in reports released by numerous international organizations.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem proposed a motion regarding the matter at the party's 128th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting Thursday, which was seconded by Former Minister of Environment and Housing Mohamed Aslam.

The motion stated that the party believed the increasing number of arrests and allegations of serious crimes like terrorism against a large number of citizens, parliament members, city councillors, and other elected political leaders were politically motivated. It further stated that this was unjust manipulation of the judiciary by the government to weaken political competition, and an attempt to prevent Nasheed from contesting in the upcoming presidential elections.

The MDP also states that with reference to the reservations put forwardby former President Mohamed Nasheed's legal team on Wednesday, it does not believe any of the existing courts would be able to give Nasheed a fair and just trial.MDP furthermore intends to go ahead with the trips to the atolls planned to commence on October 1, after the motion was passed unanimously at the NEC meeting.

The Hulhumale' Magistrate Court has placed Nasheed under 'island arrest'effective from Tuesday, with regard to a case concerning the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed last year.

Source: Minivan News, September 27, 2012

Myanmar

President praises Suu Kyi

Myanmar's President Thein Sein while addressing the United Nations General 27 September 2012 paid unprecedented tribute to opposition Aung San Suu Kyi's "efforts for democracy." Thein Sein said in a landmark speech to the UN General Assembly that he wants to "completely end" a long running war with ethnic rebels in Kachin state.

He told world leaders: "This week she is also in New York. As a Myanmar citizen I would like to congratulate her for the honours she has received in this country in recognition of her efforts for democracy."

Source: channelnewsasia.com, September 27, 2012

Foreign Investment Bill delayed

President Thein Sein has returned the draft bBll on foreign investment and has asked for amendments to the law that aims to open up the long-isolated nation to overseas trade.

The Bill was expected to be a landmark on two counts. The first was the boost that the bill will symbolises with respect to the nation's on-going economic reforms. The second reason is that the fact that this bill will open up the nation to the world, with otherwise was close and limited its engagement with other nations.

Source: straitstimes.com, September 24, 2012

Nepal

Sita air crash leaves 19 dead

In yet another incident of domestic airlines accident, 19 people died as a Dornier Aircraft 9N AHA of Sita Air crashed at the banks of Manohara River in Thimi-16 of Bhaktapur district in the Capital on Friday morning.

All the 16 passengers and three crew members died in the crash. Seven Nepalese, seven British and five Chinese nationals were on board the ill-fated aircraft.

The aircraft crashed three minutes immediately after it took off from the airport. The crash site is about 500 meters east from the runway centre. The aircraft was en route to Lukla in Solukhumbu district. The preliminary study has shown bird strike as the major cause of the crash.

Source: nepalnews.com, ekantipur.com, September 28, 2012

Indian help sought

After much delay, the government has requested India to initiate the tender process for the up-gradation of Janakpur-Bijulpura railway and extension of the link to Bardibas, a major junction along the East-West Highway. Previously, the Indian government had cancelled the tender process twice after the government could not provide land for the project. The Indian government had allocated Nepali Rs 600 million in the previous fiscal year for the purpose.

Source:Source: myrepublica.com, September 26, 2012

Aid-cut in the offing

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has briefed Indian heads of missions that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) this year will see a significant cut in their funds of around IRs 25 billion and that they will have to make do with that.

This prospective cut is one of the few instances of fiscal disciplining and manifestations of recent efforts of 'big ticket reforms' undertaken by the Manmohan Singh-led government.

The total appropriation for external grant and loan in the 2012-13 Budget stands at IRs 51.48 billion, which is an increase of 50 per cent and 70 per cent over 2011-12 and 2010-11.

New Delhi has also upped its grant assistance to Nepal to IRs 2.7 billion (2012-13), up from 1.5 billion (2011-12). Apart from this, New Delhi had formally signed a deal last year to provide Nepal an LoC of $250 million, following on the pledge it made during President Ram Baran Yadav's India visit in 2010.

Source: The Kathmandu Post, September 27, 2012

Ex-PLA fighters clear final test

The Nepal Army has said that 1,388 former Maoist combatants have passed the selection test and are now eligible to start their career as soldiers.

The Army Headquarters publicised the names of the former PLA fighters to be recruited in lower ranks after they passed the interview on Sunday.

Earlier, 1,402 combatants had passed physical, medical and written exams. Of them, eight fighters from the fourth division, Nawalparasi, and two from the seventh division, Kailali, skipped the interview. Two former combatants, however, couldn't clear the last test.

Those who are selected to serve in the Army will now go on a 45-day paid leave. The government plans to take a decision on the structure of the directorate to integrate ex-fighters and clear legal hassles for integration within their vacation period.

The NA is still conducting tests for 75 former combatants aspiring to be officers. The aspirants include one division commander, four division vice commanders and four brigade commanders, among others.

Source: ekantipur.com, September 24, 2012

Experts discuss regional peace-keeping force

A workshop on Changing Dynamic in Peacekeeping -- Regional Cooperation among South Asian Nations, which was orgnised in Kathmandu last week, has suggested formaton of regional peacekeeping force in the context of US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The two-day workshop organised as a part of track II and a follow up of the similar workshop held a few months back drew military experts, university professors, researchers and former diplomats from various countries including Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In his key note speech at the workshop, former Chief of Army Staff of Nepal Army Rookmangud Katawal said since the UN is unable to carry the entire burden of maintaining world peace and security, it is high time that regional organisations assumed greater responsibilities.

Source: myrepublica.com, September 28, 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;