Services
 
 
SOUTH ASIA WEEKLY REPORT
You are here:orfonline.org Weekly Report SOUTH ASIA WEEKLY REPORT
 
Vol. V Issue. 41
China proposes deep seaport in Bangladesh
Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee
12 October 2012

Analysis

Recently China reiterated its interest in constructing a deep seaport in Bangladesh. The Chinese interest in the project reportedly arises because of two reasons. One, to further strengthen its presence in the South Asia region, which ultimately could help in increasing its influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) strategically important for that country as most of its energy supplies passes through this region. Two, to help in the development of the its land-locked Yunnan Province which is not far from Bangladesh.

A few years back Bangladesh mooted the idea of constructing a deep seaport in Sonadia, 390 km southeast of the capital Dhaka, in the coastal district of Cox's Bazar, to transform the country into a major business hub in Asia. To take the project forward, the country conducted a project study in 2009. As per the project plan, the construction work was supposed to begin in 2011 and be completed by 2015. The port was proposed to be operational by 2016. The claim was that the deep seaport will greatly boost the economy of Bangladesh, as the project was expected to contribute up to two per cent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth annually. It is also expected to generate employment and enhance import and export trade, resulting in higher revenue earning.

During Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to China in 2010, she invited that country to construct the deep seaport. It needs to be mentioned that Bangladesh had earlier invited India to construct the port. Considering Bangladesh's closeness to China it was assumed that it will be a free ride for China in getting the contract for the seaport without any competition. The buzz about China's involvement in the project gained ground even more as the State-owned Chinese Harbour Company opened an office in Bangladesh in September 2011. Interestingly, in January 2012 the Bangladesh Government short listed six companies from countries including China, India, the US, Japan and South Korea.

China has been involved in four major port projects in South Asia. Beginning with the Gwadar port in Pakistan built with Chinese loan, the country is involved in three other port projects -- two in Sri Lanka and one in Myanmar. Hambantota, Sri Lanka's first Chinese-built port, became operational last year. China is also upgrading the Colombo Port. India has not been comfortable with Chinese port-building in South Asian countries, which it considers to be its back yard.

Deep seaport requires huge investments and the Bangladesh Government is not in a position to fund the project on its own. The Government is looking for foreign donors to finance the project. China has even proposed to finance the project but the Bangladesh Government has remained undecided over the project. The Government in Bangladesh is well aware that to make the port commercially viable, it needs India's support. Looking at the geographical proximity between India and Bangladesh India will have to be a major user of this port. It is well aware without India's cooperation the project will be unsustainable and it will also offend India if it allows China to build the project. It appears that China is also aware of the constraints faced by the Bangladesh Government as it declared it is open to the idea of developing the project jointly with any other country.

To break the impasse the Government of Bangladesh can find a midway out and propose the formation of a multi-nation consortium that will greatly help to safeguard its interests. By following this path they will not hurt either of the two -- China or India. Contrarily, it will offer both the countries the use of its facilities.

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

Bhutan polls: Between 'The Church and the State'

Sripathi Narayanan

The infant democracy of Bhutan has already set the ball rolling for its second tryst with the electoral process. This time round, the Election Commission has taken the extra effort to ensure that the nation toes the practice of secularism in both letter and spirit.

The EC's directive in this respect applies to the political class but also impinges upon religious organisations. According to the poll body, the spirit of secularism needs to be upheld is equal measure, and not just confined to the letter of the law. By this, Bhutan has gone a step further is embracing secular democratic values of the 21st century unlike many other nations that offer only lip-service to secularism.

The EC's directive states that all religious rituals and festivity that coincides with the run-up to the polls would have to be scaled down and rescheduled so as not to overlap with the democratic process. The EC has further added that all individuals and organisations are to refrain from public participation in religions activities. This has been in practice since the first General Elections of 2008, and aims at separating politics from religion, thus ensuring the separation of the Church and The State. Apart from this, the EC has also limited the role of the religious bodies in political affairs.

Unlike other nations, Bhutan's tryst with democracy has been a measured one, wherein the overarching image of the monarch has ensured a smooth and plural political climate that does not reflect the negative baggage of politics with all its ills. This is in stark contrast to the nature of politics in much of the rest of the Indian sub-continent, which has witnessed a systematic segregation of the society on the lines of 'identity politics' based on religion, caste and ethnicity.

The current political shortcoming in the region as a whole can be largely attributed to identity-driven political culture which has been allowed to mushroom like a forest- fire, leading to politically-motivated violence, particularly during election time. Bhutan's Elections Commission has sought to nip the prospective problems of the future in the bud by delineating the role of identity and faith from that of the nation's politics even before they can arise as an electoral tool.

This measure, along with the past directive of the keeping the image of the monarch and the royal family, outside the preview of the electoral politics, will pave the way for a healthy and an egalitarian foundation for the future of Bhutan's political landscape. At the same time, it will also force religious organisations, in what is essentially atradition-bound Buddhist nation to bow to the notifications of the Election Commission and thereby pave the way for limiting the influence of such bodies in matters of public life.

In the words of the Election Commissioner Chogyel Dago Rigdzin, one would have to forgo household activities (religious beliefs, customs and practices) for the cause of general good. The Commissioner has thus set the tone for generations to come. At the same time, he has also pointed out that the Election Commission does not profess atheist sentiments towards religion as such. The EC has acknowledges that there could be shortcomings in the enforcement of decisions and there may be a need to relax the notifications under extraordinary circumstances. A news release to this effect says that personal and private religious activities (like funerals) cannot however become a platform for political campaigning if they cannot be avoided all together.

The Dragon Kingdom of Gross National Happiness has gone a step further to set the agenda for domestic politics, election within the realm of the Bhutanese way of democracy when the political fever is poised to rise from the first day of the New Year, which is also the election year.

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

Country Reports

Bhutan

PM pessimistic about winning UNSC seat

According to the Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley, Bhutan is unlikely to win a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). After attending the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, the Prime Minister has reiterated that Bhutan's chances of securing a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council are minimal and attributes it to the nation's lack of diplomatic relations with other countries.

The other nations that are contesting for this seat are Cambodia and South Korea, both of whomhave a stronger diplomatic corps and better relations with the nations of the world when compared to Bhutan.

Source: kuenselonline.com, October 12, 2012

PDP announces first list for polls

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) has 39 out of the total 47 candidates confirmed to battle it out in the 2013 elections. Of this, 15 are from the 2008 elections, including two serving Members of Parliament.

Party Secretary-General Yogesh Tamang said a special committee has been formed to identify the candidates for the upcoming elections. He said they are looking for candidates who are capable and are willing to serve the country while also expecting greater support for the people foe the 2013 elections.

The PDP is planning to have a minimum of 10 women candidates. "It is very difficult to get women candidates, as most of them are not willing to come forward," said the Secretary-General.

Source: bbs.bt, October 10, 2012

India

BrahMos will be Navy's 'primary weapon'

The supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, said to be the best in its class (290km range), would be primary weapons for the Navy in the coming years, said a top official of the BrahMos Aerospace, the Indo-Russia joint venture which manufactures the missile.

The Navy, in continuation of its trials, has successfully test-fired the missile, capable of carrying a conventional warhead of 300 kg.

Source: The Tribune, October 8, 2012

Dhanush successfully test-fired

A day after the launch of Prithvi-II, India successfully test-fired the nuclear-capable Dhanush ballistic missile for its full range of 350 km from a naval ship, off the Odisha coast on Friday.

The surface-to-surface Dhanush, a naval variant of Prithvi-II, was fired by the personnel of Strategic Forces Command (SFC) at 11.25 a.m. as part of regular training. The missile rose from the ship and splashed down near the pre-designated target in the Bay of Bengal with an accuracy of less than 20 meters. All the mission objectives were met in a flawless performance, official sources said.

Source: The Hindu, October 6, 2012

US may block pay-path for Iran oil

India's sole means of dollar payment to Iran for oil may be blocked if a new round of US sanctions is put in place. Diplomatic sources said new sanctions currently on the drafting table could be unleashed after the US presidential election in November.

India currently uses Turkey's Halkbank to route dollar payments to Iran. The new set of sanctions being contemplated would close that route. If these sanctions go through, India's options would be constrained and New Delhi would be heavily dependent on a continuation of the waiver that it currently enjoys. The US administration gave India a waiver on the Iran sanctions, but this was only for 180 days. Japan is the only country that has been given an extension of the waiver.

Source: www.timesofindia.com, October 7, 2012

Putin coming next month

Russian President Vladimir Putin may have postponed his much-anticipated visit to Pakistan at the last minute but he is set to keep his date with New Delhi early November for the annual India-Russia summit.

In the run up to Putin's visit, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov will be in New Delhi next week for a meeting of the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGCMTC).

Source: The Tribune, October 8, 2012

Nagoya Protocol cleared

With the Centre giving its seal of approval, India hopes to officially become the seventh nation to ratify the Nagoya Protocol - which prevents bio-piracy and ensures that local communities will benefit from the commercial exploration of their natural genetic resources - by the time the high-level segment of the U.N. summit on biodiversity begins here on October 16.

Source: The Hindu, October 6, 2012

SC seeks clarification on FDI-in-retail

The Supreme Court now wants to know as to whether the Central Government's controversial order allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail business is in consonance with the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999.

Source: The Tribune, October 6, 2012

GDP growth to drop, says IMF

Indian growth may weaken to a decade- low this year after investment stalled, the International Monetary Fund said, as it called for interest rates to remain unchanged until the nation's high inflation rate eases.

Gross domestic product will rise 4.9 percent in 2012, the Washington-based lender said in its World Economic Outlook report today, less than a July forecast of 6.1 percent. The expansion will accelerate to 6 percent next year, it said, helped by improving overseas markets and a boost to confidence from a recent government policy revamp.

Source: www.businessweek.com, October 9, 2012

Panel not for retrospective tax

A panel set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to rework two controversial tax laws has suggested to the Government to not impose tax with retrospective effect on overseas deals involving local assets.

New Delhi appointed the panel following an outcry over the two tax laws-the General Anti-Avoidance Rules and a retrospective tax amendment-introduced in the federal Budget in March.

Source: www.wsj.com, October 10, 2012

Corporate bribery will be an offence: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday promised to strengthen the anti-corruption law, including "corporate failure to prevent bribery as a new offence". He also admitted that changes to the Prevention of Corruption Act were necessary as currently, consensual bribery goes under the radar and the one who pays the money goes scot-free.

Source: The Indian Express, October 11, 2012

Ease norms for infra projects, MoEF told

The Prime Minister's Office has asked the Environment Ministry to consider exempting construction of railway tracks, roads and power transmission lines from mandatory clearances under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) to expedite environmental clearances for these projects.

Such projects are known as 'line infrastructure projects' and the land acquired for them is usually spread over long distances and not a large patch in one place, sources said. As a result, the MoEF condition that FRA clearance must be accompanied by the consent of gram sabhas has emerged as a major impediment.

Source: The Indian Express, October 11, 2012

Pact with marchers

The Centre today managed to save itself from the embarrassment of witnessing yet another agitation in the capital with Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh signing a 10-point agreement with Jan Satyagrah activist P V Rajagopal for bringing a national land reforms policy that would address issues of landless poor within next six months.

Source: The Tribune, October 12, 2012

Maldives

Nasheed detained on court orders

Riot police picked up former Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed from an island-home far south after a Male court ordered his forceful production for violating summons and 'island bail' in connection with the alleged abduction of Criminal Court Judge Abdullah Mohammed on January 16, when he was in power.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) dubbed both the criminal case and also the police detention politically-motivated, aimed at denying him a chance to contest the presidential polls, due next year.

If ordered to jail term beyond one year in the Judge Abdullah case, Nasheed cannot contest the presidency for three years after serving out the term. While the Government is already talking about amnesty for the former President, if he is jailed, the facility will not entail him to contest elections. Nasheed however has chances of appeal up to the Supreme Court, where his defence said they would take the case on procedural matters, after the High Court dismissed their appeal.

The trial court has since adjourned the case to end-November, and Nasheed himself is back on what the MDP says is the first leg of his campaign trail. For their part, the US, the European Union and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) have all called for a fair trial for Nasheed, with the last one saying that it should not lead to the disenfranchisement of the MDP leader, either.

The Government denied Amnesty International's claims of violence in Nasheed's detention, but conceded that the police had to break open the door of the room where the former President was staying, after the house-owner, an MDP parliamentarian, locked the room from inside even as the prospective detainee was declaring that he was ready to cooperate with the police. The police said that Nasheed cooperated fully with them in the discharge of their duties.

Source: SunOnline, October 6-10, 2012

No-trust move against President

The Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has moved a no-trust motion against President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik. Separately, it has also moved a no-confidence motion against Home Minister Mohammed Jameel.

However, Government spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that they were not concerned about the motions as the MDP did not have the required numbers in Parliament. Abbas was confident that the parliament coalition against MDP is strong, and will remain strong until the presidential poll of 2013.

"There have been no problems within the coalition. The Government is not bothered by this motion. MDP wants to waste time, nothing else," he said.

Source: SunOnline, October 10-12, 2012

Coalition to hold rally against GMR on Victory Day

The political party coalition against GMR, the operator of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, has announced plans to hold a mass rally on Victory Day, 3 November. Addressing a news conference, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdullah said that a 'mass national gathering' will take place at Artificial Beach that day.

Imran said that the eight parties included in the Government coalition will participate in the gathering. He expressed hope that this gathering will ensure that the efforts made to reclaim the airport from GMR are successful, and that the parties are in the full spirit of taking all necessary action in order to reclaim the airport.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Abdullah Mohamed said that the efforts to reclaim the airport have been disrupted due to the killing of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali. However, the work will be resumed now after allowing time to mourn the national tragedy.

'Victory Day' is celebrated on 3 November to mark the country aborting with Indian help, a coup bid involving a Maldivian clique and a Sri Lankan Tamil mercenary group. Sheikh Imran said that the assistance of the Indian government in saving the Maldives from the Sri Lankan terrorist group in 1988 will be remembered during the protest against Indian company, GMR.

Representatives of four of the eight political parties partnering the present Government were present at the news conference. While the Adhaalath Party, JP, DRP and the MRM were present, the PPM, PA QP and Gaumee Itthihad of President Waheed Hassan were absent.

Source: SunOnline, October 12, 2012

Myanmar

Obama lifts sanctions

US President Barack Obama on 6 October signed into law a measure that makes it easier for his country to back international financial institutions which support Myanmar's reform drive.

The legislation, passed by Congress in September, comes as the US lifts financial and other sanctions on Myanmar, to reward a political opening engineered by President Thein Sein after decades of military rule.

The US Treasury said that the move will support "stronger institutions to ensure sound economic policy and good governance in Myanmar" and would support development and help reintegrate the isolated state into the global economy.

At the order of the US President, American representatives will be empowered by the law to support financial assistance from international bodies for Myanmar.Global corporate giants from Coca-Cola to General Electric have already begun to vie for a share of an expected economic boom in the country. The United States has also lifted 2007 sanctions on Thein Sein and parliament speaker Shwe Mann.

Source: channelnewsasia.com, October 6, 2012

Thein Sein in S Korea

President Thein Sein paid a three day visit to South Korea starting from on Ocotber 8, 2012. The focus of the focus visit is in stretching economic and commercial ties which covers apart from other thing military-related companies.

The two sides have also signed a framework agreement on aid for Myanmar and agreed to strengthen cooperation in energy and resources development, infrastructure and construction.

Apart from this a South Korean consortium has signed a deal to build a 500,000-kilowatt power plant and electricity transmission networks by 2015 in Yangon's Tharkayta Township.

The Korean President has also been given an undertaking by Thein Sein that his government would refrain from further weapons purchases from Pyongyang, there by putting pressure on North Korea.

Source: channelnewsasia.com, October 8 and 10, 2012

Singapore pushing for agro-tradek

Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, Lee Yi Shyan, is leading a business delegation of representatives from the food industry to Myanmar to identify opportunities for possible agricultural cooperation from the October 8-11, 2012.

Singapore's Ministry of National Development (MND) said that the Minister will meet key government officials from Myanmar's Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation during the visit as well as visit horticulture farms and port, and attend a business-matching event.

Lee will be accompanied by officials from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, International Enterprise Singapore and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Source: channelnewsasia.com, October 8, 2012

Nepal

Security lapse at Kathmandu airport

In an incident that put security apparatus at Tribhuvan International Airport to shame, nine different currencies totalling Nepali Rs 12.4 million were confiscated from a Fly Dubai aircraft just before take-off on October 5 night.

After one Ramesh Milan made a hoax telephone call to a TIA official at 7:30 pm, claiming that one of the planes scheduled to take off on Friday night contained a bomb, six international flights were evacuated and a thorough search conducted on all airplanes. However, the bomb was nowhere to be found. Instead, one Binod Kumar Soni, 35, was arrested from a restroom of a Fly Dubai aircraft, carrying a handbag containing a bundle of foreign notes. Soni hails from Rajasthan, India.

Among the seized currencies are 41,750 euro, 80,500 Swiss francs, 4,910 UK pounds sterling, 68,150 Qatari riyal, 1,731 Saudi riyal, 16,900 UAE dirham, 519 Omani riyal, 1,787 Kuwaiti dinar and 47 Bahraini dinar.

Source: ekantipur.com, October 7, 2012

Food shortage in Mugu

Excessive rain fall has severely affected this year's paddy as well as wheat production in the Mugu district. Keeping that in mind, the Nepal Food Corporation branch office Mugu has decided to provide 10 kg rice per family for this year's Dashain festival.

Locals have, however, said that that quantity is not sufficient to meet the demand of a family and they are worried about the food shortage on the eve of Dashain festival.

The Government has approved 9,000 quintal of rice for Mugu district so far. Of this approved quantity, only 200 quintal has been transported by helicopter as there is the problem of transportation in this hilly district.

Source: thehimalayantimes.com, October 9, 2012

Fight for PM's berth

Nepali Congress (NC) politicians have accused two senior party colleagues of lobbying for the revival of the Constituent Assembly (CA) to fulfil their own ambition of becoming the Prime Minister, despite the party's position that fresh elections were the only way to resolve the deepening political crisis in the country.

Lower-rung NC politicians alleged senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and party vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel were pushing for CA revival in their bid to become the Prime Minister of the new Government.

The allegations came after a meeting between NC President Sushil Koirala and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal during which Dahal offered NC to lead the new Government in return for support to revive CA.

Source: myrepublica.com, October 9, 2012

APECF, UK firm sign deal on Lumbini

The Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF) and Britain-based Vertical Theme Park (VTP) Group have inked a deal on developing Lumbini as an international peace city. The VTP Group that has a long experience in development and management of big projects is run by realtors close to the UK's family members, it is said.

The APEC had last year made public a three billion dollar project on developing the birthplace of Lord Buddha. It had announced to have reached an agreement with the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) on developing Lumbini.But later, the deal was dragged into controversy as the government of Nepal said it had received no notification in this connection. This time too the government has denied any knowledge of the new deal.

The APECF's involvement in the proposed Lumbini project drew political attention as well because United CPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is co-chairman of the foundation and is actively involved in the Lumbini development project.

Source: myrepublica.com, October 12, 2012

Pakistan

Anti-Taliban teenager shot at

A 14-year-old girl was shot in the head by the Taliban gunman, an assassination attempt that has shocked the world. Malala was shot as she was returning home from school in the town of Mingora, Swat, a north-western area once controlled by militants. She remains critically ill after the surgeons removed a bullet from her neck. She wrote a daily diary for the BBC'S Urdu service in 2009, when Pakistan Taliban had control over Swat valley.

The clash between the militants and the Pakistani army led to the former being pushed towards the border with Afghanistan. The Government of Pakistan has announced Rs 10 million ($100,000) for information leading to the capture of the gunmen involved in the attack.

US President Obama condemned the attack on the minor girl and said that it was "reprehensible and disgusting and tragic". Pakistan's state-run airline has put a 737 jet on standby to take the injured girl to hospital in Dubai once there are sign of improvements in her condition.

Source: telegraph.co.uk, October 11, 2012

Russia ties strengthened

The relationship between Pakistan and Russia has taken a new dimension ever since Pakistan's Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvaz Kayani's three-day trip to Moscow.

In fact, the Defence Minister of Russia Anatoly Sedyukov postponed a high-level annual meeting with defence minister A.K. Antony in New Delhi so that he could meet General Kayani in Moscow. Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who was to visit India on October 4 instead chose to visit Pakistan and hold talks with Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

These two visits have caused some discomfort in New Delhi. For India, Russia is an ally and the largest defence supplier. Kayani wants Russia to partially fill the vacuum that will be created after the US-led NATO forces leave Afghanistan in 2014.

Russia, on the other hand, sees Pakistan as a key regional player to keep check on the spread of religious extremism through the Central Asian republics. The erstwhile Cold War enemies are expected to be signing many agreements especially relating to military equipment.

The details of Kayani's meetings with the military brass were not made public. According to Defence analyst Maria Sultan, the Pak-Russia partnership can change the regional scenario. The former ISI Director-General Lt Gen (rtd) Hamid Gul believes that it's a baby step towards forming a Pakistan-Russia-China block.

Source: dailymail.co.uk, October 11, 2012

Sri Lanka

UPFA won't impeach CJ, wants early end to dispute

Having faulted the judiciary for not complying with the procedures, laid down in the Constitution, to be followed as regards Bills challenged in Court for their constitutionality, the ruling SLFP has said it would settle the issue with the judiciary amicably.

Addressing a hastily arranged media briefing, SLFP General Secretary Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Leader of the House Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, SLFP Treasurer Minister Dallas Alahapperuma and UPFA Gen. Secretary Minister Susil Premjayanth said that the government wouldn't do anything to aggravate the dispute.

The ministers dismissed as baseless speculation that the government was planning to impeach the Chief Justice. Minister de Silva alleged that interested parties were propagating lies to cause a further rift. He backed Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa's decision to issue a statement on the Supreme Court.

The Minister alleged that an attempt was being made to portray the Speaker's explanation as somewhat hostile action towards the judiciary. The Minister said: "The Speaker's statement was made in agreement with all party leaders in Parliament on the manner in which the Supreme Court ruling on the Divi Neguma Bill was conveyed to Parliament. It was delivered to the Secretary General of Parliament and not the Speaker."

The SLFP panel alleged that a section of the Opposition was working overtime to cause chaos by creating a rift between the UPFA and the judiciary. The panel said that the government wouldn't allow the Opposition to exploit the situation.

Minister Alahapperuma said that in the wake of the recent attack on Secretary to the Judicial Service Commission, Manjula Thilekeratne, those who had accused the government of a cover-up of controversial National Savings Bank-Central Finance Company (TFC) had changed their tune.An influential group was trying to utilise the NSB-TFC deal, Divineguma Bill as well as the attack on Thilekaratne to whip up anti-government sentiments, he said.

The SLFP General Secretary said that the government was mindful of the forces arrayed against the ruling coalition, though the LTTE no longer posed a military threat to the country. Those who had been supportive of the LTTE's eelam project were still fishing in troubled waters and exploring ways and means of undermining the Rajapaksa administration, he added.

The minister alleged that certain NGOs and trade unions besides foreign governments were involved in the anti-government conspiracy.

Condemning the attack on the JSC Secretary, the minister claimed that a third party may have carried it out to bring the government into disrepute.

Source: The Island, October 10, 2012

Executive Presidency must end : Fonseka

Lawlessness, corruption and crime had become the order of the day and continued to thrive with the blessings of the rulers, former Army Commander and leader of the DNA, Sarath Fonseka has said.

Addressing a news conference, Fonseka said the need of the hour was to form a mass movement which could force the government to do away with the executive presidency or elect a government which wanted to do so.

The root cause of all the evils that the country was faced with was the Executive Presidency, the former army commander said. "Executive Presidents have not used their powers where necessary for the betterment of society but abused them for personal gain. The powers of the Executive President are not used to combat crime, but to protect criminals."

Fonseka said that the country had experienced unprecedented levels of corruption, crime and fraud in the recent past. "What action has been taken against those who engaged in the Hedging Deal? Has anybody been arrested over the attack on the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission?"

Fonseka, along with some Buddhist monks, announced the launch of a mass movement at a Colombo rally on October 18, with participation from disgruntled elements from within the Opposition UNP. The party has since barred members from participating in the rally, which the protestors said they would defy.

Source: The Island, October 10, 12, 2012

Local Govt polls scheme changed

Parliament has unanimously passed amendments to the Local Government Elections law, which many members hoped would bring an end to preferential voting system which has been blamed for intra-party disputes and violence.

The new system will be a cross between the Westminster (First-past-the-Post) and the Proportional Representation (PR) system to elect members to local authorities in the future.

The amendments will see thecountry revert to the Ward System under which 60 per cent of the councillors will be directly elected to Municipal Councils, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas, while the remaining 30 per cent will be elected under the PR system.

Minster of Local Government A. L. M. Ataullah, who introduced the amendments, said that the changes in the election law were historic and would enable people to elect councillors to local bodies who will be responsible for their areas.

The government has agreed in principle to increase to 40 per cent the number of members elected under the PR system once the report of the Delimitation Committee, which will decide on the boundaries of each Ward, is submitted.

Several parties wanted the number of members elected under the PR system increased so as to accommodate members from various ethnic minorities who may be at a disadvantage.

The election to the Puthukudirippu and Maritime Pattu Pradeshiay Sabhas, postponed until the area was cleared of landmines, would be held under the existing election system, Minister Ataullha said.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, welcoming the amendments and said the new system should be considered a pilot project and after using it for the local government elections the same could be applied for other electoral systems. He said the Opposition would support the amendments and hoped that it would be successful.

Source: The Island, October 10, 2012

Afghanistan

Govt may fall after troops pull out: ICG report

According to Candace Rondeaux, the ICG's (International Crisis Group) senior Afghanistan analyst, the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO's withdrawal. She has said that the "window for remedial action is closing fast" in the the report "Afghanistan: The Long Hard Road to the 2014 Transition." She also said the country was leading to another chaotic presidential and parliamentary poll like the one in 2009 and 2010.

The process of withdrawing troops has already begun and all combat forces are scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014. "The Afghan army and police are overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition. Another botched election and resultant unrest would push them to breaking point," said Ms Rondeaux.

The Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and the parliament have failed to take any serious steps towards free and fair election, she said.

"Karzai seems more interested in perpetuating his own power by any means rather than ensuring credibility of the political system and long-term stability in the country," she added.

The report said that the chances of Karzai declaring state of emergency as a means of extending his power cannot be ruled out, which would ultimately lead to state collapse and likely precipitate a civil war.

Source:australian.com, October 8, 2012

Karzai mulls strategic deal with Pak

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that a strategic partnership agreement with Pakistan was possible, but with conditions attached to it.

Talking about the conditions, he said that Pakistan must stop "the export of terrorism, suicide bombers, interference and all the other things which result in killing and disturbing the Afghan people's tranquility and destabilising Afghanistan". Pakistan, on the other hand, has rejected these acquisitions, terming them totally "misplaced and without any basis".

According to the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Pakistan wants mature and responsible dialogue with Afghanistan. He also said that "diplomacy through media needs to be avoided," in reference to President Karzai's statement. He said that the spokesman, the Strategic Partnership Agreement was proposed by President Karzai during the Trilateral Summit held recently in New York on the sidelines of the United General Assembly session.

Source: tribune.com.pk, October 9, 2012

Bangladesh

India seeks transparency

New Delhihas urged Dhaka to ensure the highest level of transparency and fairness in utilising its $1 billion Line of Credit (LoC) for procurement of buses and railway wagons, and infrastructure development projects. An Indian official informed that Right to Information Act is very strong in India, so Bangladesh must strictly follow the LoC guidelines and procurement procedures as well as maintain maximum level of transparency and fairness in approving the projects and utilisation of money.

India also called for expeditious implementation of the projects undertaken, particularly for communication infrastructure, apparently to facilitate transit process with Bangladesh.

India and Bangladesh agreed to expedite the implementation of the projects by maintaining transparency at the Third Review Meeting of the $1 billion LoC held at Dhaka this week. Joint Secretary of Development Partnership Administration of the Ministry of External Affairs Radhika Lokesh led the Indian delegation while Economic Relation Development Joint Secretary Ashifuzzaman led the Bangladesh side.

Source: The Daily Star, October 11, 2012

First indigenous warship launched

Bangladesh moved a step forward in developing indigenous technology for the armed forces as the first-ever homemade warship was launched this week. The warship, categorised as a patrol boat, was built by Khulna Shipyard at a cost of Tk 58 crore and will be handed over to Bangladesh Navy in December.

With a cruising speed of 18 nautical miles and a maximum speed of 23 nautical miles, the 255 tonne patrol boat is equipped with two 37 mm and two 20 mm guns capable of taking down aircrafts and ships. Moreover, the 50.4 by 7.5 metre patrol boat can be at sea with 31 crew members for one week at a stretch without docking.The patrol boat is among five Khulna Shipyard is constructing for Bangladesh Navy at a cost of Tk 288 crore, scheduled to be handed over by mid- 2013. China Shipbuilding Offshore Company is supervising the construction and is also providing the designs and materials.

Source: The Daily Star, October 12, 2012

US wants closer military ties

Commander of the US Pacific Command (Pacom) Admiral Samuel J Locklear said that the US wants to build closer "military-military relations" with the Bangladesh.

Asia Pacific is the region that the US will be giving the most priority over any other in the coming days for the existence of some critical lines of communication and for the existence some of the largest economies of the world, Admiral Locklear observed during his visit to Bangladesh in the week.

The Pacom commander said they have a plan to observe over the next five years what progress is made in the military-military relations between the forces of both the countries through the completion of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise.

Source: The Daily Star, October 11, 2012

Contributors:

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