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SOUTH ASIA WEEKLY REPORT
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Vol. V Issue. 42
India: Kejriwal's party and its prospects and predicament
Dr Satish Misra
19 October 2012

Analysis

Social activist Arvind Kejriwal announced on October 2 in New Delhi with lots of fanfare that a new political party has come into existence whose name would be decided later, but it has started functioning. It is now engaged in protests, agitations, hurling allegations and receiving both praise and flak from the citizenry as well as his rivals and competitors.

Political-watchers and observers have started speculating the impact of the newly- founded outfit on the politics of the country and sceptics dismiss it saying "yet another party" shrugging their shoulders.

Kejriwal and his team, former members of the erstwhile 'Team Anna', participated in the social activist and social reformer Anna Hazare's Janlokpal movement actively and decided to part ways from him (Hazare) after a realisation that the UPA government, rather the political system, was not prepared to accept their version of a Lokpal. Frustrated and disillusioned with the political set-up, the Anna Hazare movement was sharply split between those who wanted to float a new political party to achieve their goal and those who were opposed to it.

Kejriwal and some of his associates chose to part company with Hazare to start a new party whose goals and objective are not yet well defined apart from their public pronouncements that their party, which has been called 'benami Party" (BP) till it is given a name, would fight against corruption and would try to usher in change in country's political system which would be responsive to people's demands and aspirations.

In its very first public agitation against the Delhi State Government of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on the issue of power price hike in Delhi, Kejriwal had to face the wrath of the BJP whose leader Vijay Goel demanded public apology from him for trying to hijack the saffron party's agenda and the BP was accused of being "the Congress agent". At present there are eight parties that enjoy the distinction of being national parties and over 40 parties are active in different States. Apart from them, there are over 200 registered parties which have been crying for electorate's attention and have failed to graduate into a recognised category of the Election Commission of India.

The new party, therefore, would have to now compete with recognised and unrecognized parties for the political space or would have to tap those voters who till now have not been participating in the electoral process in order to emerge a political force to be able to impact the national politics in a significant way. The battle for political space is very fierce and cut-throat and the BP would have to develop thick skin to be able to stand up to the dirty games that political parties and political leader play not only in India but across the world.

Possibly, Kejriwal and his BP comrades are confident of their political victory march in the light of the crowds that they pulled at Jantar Mantar, Ramlila Maidan and subsequently at their place of protests and agitations, but the public mood and temperament are mercurial by its very nature. It would be worthwhile for Kejriwal. advocate Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and others in the BP to realise the vacillations of the public mood and take it into their political calculations.

Kejriwal appears to be cocksure that the BP would become the agent of change that the country has been waiting for decades now and has felt cheated many a times in the past beginning from the 'JP movement' to the 'Ayodhya movement'. In between came the great crusader V P Singh who promised to eliminate corruption, but ended up in disappointing people but succeeded in injecting identity politics in the country's polity.

Undoubtedly, the people are very disillusioned with the political parties which have failed in the people's expectations, and these outfits have without exception disappointed them. They have lost touch with the people and the political system drifted away from day-to-day popular concerns and politics increasingly became a business. Pursuit of power and absence of spirit of public service snapped the relationship between the political leaders and their followers. Not only this, political parties and their organisations are out of sync with the changing times and continue to use same old tools of politics which have been in vogue for the last 100 years or so.

Almost all political parties began to talk of macro issues ignoring micro issues and this hiatus has caused and has been causing a grave damage to country's polity. Kejriwal had begun very well as he was pursuing micro issues and helping people in need and was taking up popular causes. As a RTI activist, he was helping people at grassroots. It has helped him in building up the India Against Corruption movement which became the pivot of the Anna Hazare movement that had stirred the nation's conscience in 2011. It had brought many from divergent fields and vocations on one platform.

But then, the drift began and the movement so assiduously built by Hazare started losing momentum. Kejriwal and his associates are just one component of the following that was represented by Hazare. As it often happens, Kejriwal may not accept this bitter fact, but it is true that people like Kiran Bedi, Justice Santosh Hegde are not with him any more. While rigidity may be a virtue in pursuit of utopian and idealist goals, it is a sin in politics where flexibility facilitates solutions and spirit of give and take enables to reach healthy and honourable compromises.

It is easy to use Gandhian methods of agitation and public protest, but these instruments were a path for the great political saint to achieve his goals of independence of the country from the foreign yoke. Gandhi had well defined and well-thought out political philosophy, but Kejriwal appears to be a man in haste who wants to achieve his desires in a short time and appears to be a perpetual agitator.

Questions like whether the BP would forge political alignments and strike electoral deals with other political parties or not would confront Kejriwal soon and answer to this and other similar questions would ultimately decide the future of the new political venture. Indeed his goals are laudable, but some of them are utopian and thus would be difficult if not impossible to realise. Almost all political parties have similar objectives and goals so what would be different in Kejriwal's BP which would be its USP to make it acceptable to the country's electorate.

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

Maldives: Justice is for all

N Sathiya Moorthy

By clearing former President Mohammed Nasheed for overseas travel to Abu Dhabi, the suburban Hulhumale court trying him in a criminal case may have set at rest initial apprehensions about his getting a fair trial and hearing in the case. The judicious nature of the court order, giving him a few days for undertaking the foreign travel without even mentioning of the destination may have also taken some wind out of his MDP's sail in political terms - at least for now.

In doing so, the court order should have set the world thinking as to what President Nasheed's earlier protest on violating the 'island bail' was all about, when he defied court orders and travelled to the Maldivian South only hours before the trial court was to take up the scheduled case. In all fairness to President Nasheed, his detractors in the country too should acknowledge his returning home on the scheduled day, thus ending all possibilities of any controversy on the score. The accusations and counters should rest there, and hopefully for good.

In contesting the case flowing from the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Mohammed when President Nasheed was in power, his defence, both inside and outside the court, has countered the very relevance of Article 81 of the Maldivian Penal Code under which he has been charged. Titled "Public servant using authority to arrest or detain innocent persons", the Article provides for imprisonment or banishment, an archaic provision still on the penal law. "We are deeply concerned the Prosecutor-General is proceeding with the trial that will neither be fair nor lawful. President Nasheed is charged under obsolete regulation that does not tally with the new democratic Constitution and this trial is politically-motivated," said Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, MP and MDP spokesperson for International Affairs.

The charge of political motivation flow from President Nasheed's possible imprisonment leading to his disqualification from contesting the presidential polls, due by November next year. Considering the grudging acknowledgement in adversarial circles to President Nasheed being the most popular leader in the country - it does not extend to the MDP as a party - the predicament on all sides is understandable. However, his adversaries have problem accepting the MDP's claims of absolute majority for him in nex6t year's Presidential polls. The MDP's claims are based on prospects and projections. The Government parties opposing him base their straight and simple arguments on past performance, and the consequent pooling of individual vote-share. The MDP calls it in turn too simplistic for reckoning.

In the same vein, the MDP leaders have been referring to the perceived impossibility of the Nasheed Government being able to reform the laws as also the judicial system when he was in power. The latter owed to the absence of parliamentary majority. At present, Parliament is seized of the new Penal Code Bill. It will be interesting to find out, for instance, how the equivalent of the present Article 81, if any, gets passed. The larger question pertaining to house arrest and banishment as legal penalties under the new law would be of interest.

Likewise, the mood of Parliament in conferring retrospective effect to the new law, if 'reformed', would be of greater relevance to the present situation. It is another matter if any or all the provisions of the new law would come to be contested in the courts for their constitutional validity is another question, the like of which has always agitated law-makers, practitioners and jurists in other democracies.

Comprehensible parallels

The MDP's anxieties about law and judicial reforms are understandable. More comprehensible than this should be the parallels that have to be drawn in the exercise of Executive power under the Maldivian scheme. Among other things, present-day Government parties have charged the Nasheed presidency with with-holding assent for the Finance Act until the GMR Agreement had been inked. The said law, passed by Parliament and returned by President Nasheed in equal hurry before being cleared a second time under the law, provides for the Government seeking legislative approval for transferring 'national assets' to foreigners. In this case, the 'GMR deal' provided for the Indian infrastructure major being given possession of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male for development and maintenance for 25 years.

It is not that the present-day Government of President Waheed Hassan has not been charged similarly, for not approaching Parliament when it should have been. The Government has been accused of taking a $ 300-million loan from Bank of Maldives, a public sector undertaking. In this connection, Auditor-General Niyaz Ibrahim has also said aid that efforts were under way to conduct a 'public debt audit', to determine Government expenditure over the past five years. Be it as may, the fact was that the Government did not have cash in the till, and bypassed the brain/mind, namely Parliament, while the right hand borrowed money from the right. There would have been no option anyway, but the Government possibly did not want to be embarrassed - or, worse still, defeated -- in a Parliament where the MDP was the single largest party and the political situation in the country was nebulous still at the time.

Independent of Executive decisions or indecisions, political parties have also begun queering the pitch for the next presidential polls by flagging existing or new charges against one another. There is a call for investigating the' $ 800-m oil import scam' relating to former President Maumoon Gayoom's tenure. The name of Gayoom's PPM's parliamentary group leader and half-brother, Yameen Abdulla, himself a presidential hopeful, is involved. As the single largest group in the People's Majlis or Parliament, the MDP has also moved no-confidence motions against incumbent President Mohammed Waheed and Home Minister Dr Mohammed Jameel Ahmed. The numbers are weighed against it, yet, in a tactical move for which the party is known better, the MDP has also moved an amendment to Parliament's rules of procedure to facilitate secret voting on the no-confidence motion.

National priorities, national interests

Where does it all leave Maldives in? Independent of parliamentary majorities, functions of the Government and the functioning of the Government need to be looked at in a broader perspective. National priorities and national interests have to be kept in mind when political leaderships decide on issues and concerns. They have to put the nation before the self. It is a difficult task to achieve in an infant democracy with inherent competition inherited from a historic past. At inauguration, President Nasheed attempted it by granting general amnesty to predecessor Gayoom, but it stopped there. The daily chores of governance and the periodicity of elections meant that a futuristic approach gave way to immediate expediency of a more political kind.

Yet, there does not seem to be any option. A single party or coalition would have to win the presidential and parliamentary polls on a common candidate and common policy - and also stick to the coalition if there has to be continuity. Independent of the present alignment, any political accommodation even within a ruling coalition as the present one involves a give-and-take negotiated approach. If it can be done once, with one set of political parties, it could be done with others, otherwise, too. Rather, it would have to be so if the dynamics of Maldivian democracy at inception is appreciated. So should the dynamism of the same.

In all this, parties and leaderships should learn from their collective or divisive part, to understand that outside of them is the trigger for change, and trigger for accommodation. No one designed the 'Evan Naseem' episode, nor did anyone provide for it. He was neither a pious soul, nor a political activist. Yet, when the guy punished for drug-peddling was beaten to death by prison-guards for rioting (though not part of the rioters, he did attack security personnel who came to take him away along with others), it became the voice of democracy in September 2003. There was no going back since. None likewise thought that the events and episodes leading up to the 'December 23 protests' last year would culminate in the change of Government and all that the nation has witnessed since the February 7 resignation of President Nasheed. The rest, as they say, is history - rather, a part of an evolving history of the times.

Time may not be running out on Maldives, as some may want to believe. Yet, the time that has already run out could have been put to better and more productive use in the cause of nation-building. For instance, no one has contested the need for institutional reforms in the country. No one has contested the precarious nature of the nation's economy. It could remain so for some more time to come. Both need answers. Even between now and next year's presidential polls, and now and the year after's parliamentary polls, there is a lot of time left to put through the reforms through the collective conscience of the nation's divided polity. The Dialogue Process, initiated at the instance of this Government and given up after a time - for which again, each one would blame the other(s) - need to be revived and taken forward to their logical goals. For a nation still in transition, there is no time to lose - and no time if better than the other, either.

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

Country Reports

Maldives

Chinese aid for development projects

Officials of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Maldives have signed two different agreements, under which the Chinese Government would provide assistance and cooperation to two different development projects currently being conducted in the Maldives.

Li Changchun, member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, signed the agreements on behalf of his Government. He is currently on a visit to the Maldives. The agreements were signed after official discussions between Li and Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

Under the first of the two agreements signed today, the Chinese Government would lend assistance and support for a project to build a road connecting Gan and Fonadhoo in Laamu Atoll. The road would finally connect all the islands in the southern atoll of the country, which is considered as one of the most prospective population centers in the Maldives, having comparatively larger islands which can be effectively connected via a network of over-the-water roads and bridges. The first phase of the project, which is the subject of today's agreement, is about preliminary studies for the project.

Under the second agreement signed today, the Chinese Government would extend cooperation and assistance to the Maldivian Government in the area of observation of climate change and taking measures to avoid and manage negative impacts of such change.

Signing ceremonies were held at the President's Office. The first project was signed by Maldivian Housing Minister Dr. Mohamed Muizz and Chinese Deputy Minister of Commerce Jiang Zhengwei, for their respective Governments. Maldivian State Minister for Environment Abdul Matheen Mohamed and Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives Yu Hongyao signed the second agreement.

President Waheed as well as Li Changchun spoke in the ceremony, and both of them highlighted the importance of strengthening the 40-year old political relationship between the Maldives and China. They also noted that the close, friendly ties with the two nations are an example of how friendship between large and small countries should be conducted.

President Waheed also recalled the assistance of the Chinese Government in the development of the Maldives, in various areas, and expressed his deep gratitude for that. He also noted the importance of strengthening the relationship between the two countries by utilizing foreign investment opportunities available in the Maldives for Chinese investors.

Source: SunOnline, October 20, 2012

Nasheed returns from Abu Dhabi

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has returned to Malé after his visit to Abu Dhabi to participate in the Zayed Future Energy Prize ceremony, organised by the Government of Abu Dhabi. Nasheed departed on an official trip to Abu Dhabi on October 16.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize is an annual award that represents the vision of former leader of Abu Dhabi, the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It is an award that celebrates persons who have contributed to developments in the renewable energy sector.

Nasheed has been included in this year's five-people panel that will decide the winner of the prize. Nasheed told reporters prior to his departure to Abu Dhabi that he decided to travel to Abu Dhabi because he had been invited by the Government of Abdu Dhabi, and because he had been included in the judges' bench constituted to assess the award.

The Hulhumale court, trying President Nasheed in a criminal case, released his passport from 16 to 20 October following his request to travel to Abu Dhabi.

Source: SunOnline, October 19, 2012

Myanmar

Suu Kyi to visit India

Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to visit India in November, a country where she has studied and where her mother had served as an Ambassador.She will deliver the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial lecture, which honours independent India's first Prime Minister, on his birth anniversary, November 14, in New Delhi.

A spokesman for India's Foreign Ministry said they were still working out the rest of the itinerary for Suu Kyi, which is expected to involve meetings with Indian political leaders.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had invited 67-year-old Suu Kyi to deliver the lecture during his ice-breaking visit to Yangon in May, which was the first trip by an Indian premier to Myanmar in 25 years.Suu Kyi last visited India in 1987 when she travelled to Shimla to join her husband Michael Aris, who was pursuing Himalayan studies there.

The icon of democracy was a product of the Convent of Jesus and Mary school and graduated with a degree in politics from the Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi.

Source: channelnewsasia.com, October 19, 2012

US may invite Tatmadaw for military exercise

The US plans to invite Myanmar to a major regional military exercise next year, reflecting a dramatic easing of tensions between the former foes. The move would see Myanmar's military join the annual Cobra Gold drills as an observer.

"Myanmar is on the list of observers but it's not finalised yet," Thai Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Thanathip Sawangsang said, adding that the participants would discuss the idea at a meeting later this month.

'Cobra Gold' is the United States' largest multilateral exercise in the Asia-Pacific region, bringing together thousands of troops from the United States, Thailand and other countries for field training. Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Malaysia are expected to participate next year along with 13 observer nations, Thai officials said.

The proposal to invite Myanmar was Washington's initiative, according to a senior Thai military official who did not want to be named.

Source: channelnewsasia.com, October 19, 2012

Nepal

Prachanda plays another card

United CPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda has proposed that a new presidential vote should be conducted if the Constituent Assembly (CA) is to be elected again.This new position of the ruling party came after top leaders of the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN-UML jointly turned down Dahal's proposal to promulgate a new constitution by reviving the CA, disbanded on May 27.

"The old President will not exist when we elect a new CA," Prime Minister's political advisor Devendra Poudel quoted Dahal as saying. "If we are really going for elections, it should be for a new CA, a new parliament and a new president."

Dahal's position came amid a widening rift between President Ram Baran Yadav and PM Baburam Bhattarai. Earlier, President Yadav had strongly urged the political parties to decide on a date for elections and a candidate to lead the national consensus government as he is of the view that the CA cannot be revived.However, NC leaders have strongly condemned Dahal's call for a new presidential election, claiming it was only a bargaining strategy to retain the status quo.

Article 36 (C) of the Interim Constitution states that the president will continue in office until the CA promulgates a new constitution.

Source: ekantipur.com, October 19, 2012

Boom in illegal arms sale

The Al Jazeera has reported that gun smugglers are doing brisk business in Nepal. The turbulent political situation in Nepal is causing a rise in demand for firearms. In May, the Constitution Assembly cum parliament was dissolved but the political parties cannot agree to how to hold new elections, so the elections keep being postponed. The weak law and order situation has given rise to sell of firearms.

According to the TV channel, semi-automatic handguns are selling for $350 and rifles for $50.

Source: Al Jazeera, October 17, 2012

Metro development to cost $3.88 b

The construction of Kathmandu Metro Railway (KMR) is set to cost Nepali Rs 330 billion (around $3.88 billion) and the project can be developed in 10 years, a preliminary finding of feasibility study report said.

A consortium of five Korean and two local companies that carried out the feasibility has tagged government's involvement in the KMR as mandatory if it seriously wishes to successfully develop and operate the KMR.

The preliminary findings of the study has further outlined that it would cost Rs 20 to Rs 30 per commuter to travel in the Metro. But the report did not shed light on recovery of investment.

Source: myrepublica.com, October 17, 2012

Japan, WB to support hydro projects

Japan, the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) have committed to support Nepal on the development of hydropower sector. Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun revealed that the Japanese government would soon provide $150 million for developing Tanahu hydropower development project.

Pun, who returned from the 67th annual meeting of IMF and World Bank group in Tokyo last week, also said that the World Bank and IFC too have shown keen interest to invest in development of transmission lines in Nepal-India border area. He further added that the World Bank was ready to speed up the work of Kabeli Hydroelectric project.

Source: myrepublica.com, October 18, 2012

USAID-NFRP packs up

USAID's Nepal Flood Recovery Programme (USAID-NFRP) has wrapped up its four-year project after running to successfully improve incomes and food security for rural households in the Tarai and Hill districts.

The programme, implemented by Fintrac as part of the US Government's Feed the Future Initiative, began as a disaster recovery effort in the aftermath of the devastating 2007 and 2008 floods, helping flood-affected communities "build back better."

Since the programme's beginning, it has enabled more than 12,000 Nepali farmers to increase their net sales by 800 per cent, more than tripling household incomes. It has also supported the establishment of 4,500 home gardens that produce fruits and vegetables for home consumption, and trained more than 6,000 people, primarily women, on health and nutrition, a statement issued by the US Embassy in Kathmandu said.

Under its programme, USAID-NFRP completed 119 small-scale infrastructure projects that directly benefited more than 830,000 people and injected more than $330,000 into local economies.

Source: thehimalayantimes.com, October 18, 2012

Pakistan

No plans for North Waziristan operation

The Government, in an attempt to clear the confusion regarding the fate of the North Waziristan operation, declared that it had no plans of launching a military operation in the Agency. However, the Government also announced that the decision to undertake the operation was still open to discussion. Earlier, it had announced a bounty of $1million for Ehsanullah Ehsan, the central spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban.

The Opposition parties continue to oppose the Government's plan of seeking Parliament's approval for a military operation in North Waziristan. The PML-N, while condemning the Taliban attack on child-activist Malala Yousafzai, declared that the military operation was just a ploy on the part of the government to delay the elections.

Source: The Express Tribune, Dawn, October 16-18, 2012

Taliban faces local opposition

Following the attack on child-activist Malala Yousafzai, a local jirga in the Swat Valley declared war on the Taliban until the militancy is completely eliminated from the valley.

The chairperson of the Nepkikhel Aman Jirga, Saifullah Khan condemned the attack on Malala as a cowardly act and urged the entire nation to stand up against terrorists.

Source: The Express Tribune, October 14, 2012

Improving trade ties with China

President Asif Ali Zardari is keen to strengthen the Sino-Pakistan trade relations, along with investment and defence ties, to the maximum extent possible.

Zardari claimed these were the keen principles guiding Pakistan's foreign policy during a one-to-one and delegation level meeting with Li Changchen, Member of the Standing Committee of Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee.

Source: Dawn, October 18, 2012

Kids deprived of polio drops

In the recent polio eradication drive, at least a million children were unable to receive the vaccination due to lack of accessibility and law and order problems.

Source: The News, October 18, 2012

Sri Lanka

Differing views on 13-A within ruling coalition

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa's suggestion that the 13thAmendment to the Constitution (13A) be immediately abolished, supported by some constituents of the UPFA, remains in limbo with widely differing viewpoints on the subject within the ruling UPFA coalition and no Government decision on the subject yet.

Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunewardena has that there was no Government decision on the views of some UPFA constituents calling for the abolition of 13-A.Expressing his own view, Gunewardena who is the leader of the MEP said: "Speaking for myself personally, I would say that 13A is a failure and a colossal waste of public funds."If the need arises, we could introduce new amendments that could be so framed that the Provincial Councils could better serve the masses in a more effective way and with more effective safeguards for the country.

Western Province Minister Udaya Gammanpila of the Jathika Hela Urumaya said that in the recent past the TNA had been attempting to strengthen the Provincial Council system in furtherance of their separatist agenda through judicial interpretation."Nobody can blame the Supreme Court for interpretation of the Statute. That is their constitutional obligation. However, there are a lot of loopholes in 13-A which the TNA is trying to exploit for its advantage," Gamanpila said.

"For instance there is a provincial subject called 'Rural Development.' Providing funds for education, healthcare, electricity, roads, employment and welfare schemes in the rural sector could be construed as rural development, and therefore Parliament has to refer all Bills with regard to such subjects to Provincial Councils to obtain their consent before such legislation is passed in Parliament."Gamanpila argued that this situation clearly eroded parliamentary supremacy and he warned that the TNA would exploit 13-A to pursue their separatist agenda.That is why the JHU is agitating for the abolition of 13-A in its entirety," Gamanpila who is a JHU senior and Western Provincial Council Minister said.

Senior Minister Dew Gunasekera, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka said he was one who voted in favour of 13A in parliament and this amendment is now in the Constitution."If one were to call for the abolition or change of 13-A, then one should put forward a solution that is constructive and not destructive," he said. "The removal of 13-A without a substitute at this juncture will embarrass the government and send wrong signals to the international community at a time the government is preparing for the Geneva talks that will commence shortly."Gunasekera also warned that getting rid of 13A without a substitute at the present moment will be inviting terrorism.

Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara, leader of the Democratic Left Front, said that the two parties calling for the abolition of 13A are those who were against devolution. They were also parties with an ideology of Sinhala domination as in the case of JHU whose ideology calls for Sinhala Buddhist domination."These two parties carry a legacy of Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism and will be overrun by history if nothing else," he said.

Left-leaning Sinhala-nationalist National Freedom Front (NFF) leader, Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa, MP, in a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa urged the Government to hold a referendum to decide on 13-A. Weerawansa also sought an urgent meeting with President Rajapaksa to make a detailed presentation. Weerawansa warned the Government not to ignore the circumstances leading to several parties moving the Supreme Court against the Divi Neguma Bill. Petitioners have sought Supreme Court's intervention alleging that the Bill violated the 13-A.

Pointing out that the Government had assured that election for the Northern Provincial Council would be held in September 2013, the NFF warned that the country could face an unprecedented crisis in the event of TNA victory. The NFF said that the government couldn't ignore the possibility of the Northern PC moving the Supreme Court to secure full police and land powers.The breakaway JVP faction said that the failure on the part of the parliament to go ahead with the Divineguma Bill unless approved by all PCs highlighted erosion of the power and authority of the House. The NFF said that the PCs should be replaced by an administrative structure on the basis of district as a unit. The NFF requested the President to take constitutional measures to safeguard the unitary status of the country, thereby thwart efforts to undermine political stability.

Source: The Island, October 18-20, 2012

Govtinitiates dialogue with Tamil diaspora

The Government is making headway in its dialogue with the Tamil Diaspora, Cabinet spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has claimed. He told the weekly Cabinet news briefing that the North Eastern Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NERDO) chief Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP was acting as the intermediary in this dialogue.

The Minister said it was a Government strategy to use KP to convince the Tamil Diaspora to end the disinformation and misinformation war against Sri Lanka. "We must take a positive view on the KP factor and use him for a constructive dialogue with the Tamil Diaspora and other detractors. We must compare the merits and demerits of using him as a tool to put an end to the proxy war against Sri Lanka by LTTE remnants. I am sure it will do a load of good to the country, the Tamils in particular and himself. Do not forget that former LTTE and JVP leaders

He made these comments when a journalist asked him about the government's stand on the statement made by Mr. Hulugalla that no charges would be framed against the former LTTE arms have rehabilitated themselves just like KP," the minister said.Though separatism has been eradicated from Sri Lanka's soil, yet terrorist and separatist sentiments are active outside Sri Lanka. It will be a plus factor for Sri Lanka if it can end this proxy war using KP's experience and skills.

The Government has been flexible in handling KP because there was no evidence or complaints against him."Perhaps it may have been a misinterpretation," the Minister said, the handling of KP by not giving him full freedom but giving him some kind of leverage to serve his own people in an appropriate manner."Do not forget that some 30 LTTE cadres were freed by courts. The sole objective of the government is to prevent seeds of terrorism being sowed on Sri Lanka's soil again," the minister said.He said the government has speeded up the reconciliation process and that was why the new initiative to reach a compromise with the Tamil Diaspora has shown encouraging results.

Source: Daily Mirror Online, October 20, 2012

TNA leaders meet Chinese officials

Political leaders of Sri Lanka's major Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance have sought China's assistance to find solutions to their grievances. Aiming to reach out to China, a group of TNA parliamentarians have met officials of the Chinese Embassy in Colombo and explained them the issues the Tamils are facing in North and East.

TNA parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah has told Indian daily The Hindu that they met the Chinese officials on Monday. "We met Chinese Embassy officials on Monday and explained to them our concerns over Chinese help to the Sri Lankan Army in the north," Senathirajah has been quoted as saying.

The TNA representatives have pointed out to the Embassy officials that Chinese funded infrastructure projects of the government are being constructed in the lands owned by the Tamil people. "The Chinese were helping to build massive structures that would house the Army and their families in the north. The TNA briefed them on their view point, and requested the Chinese to take into consideration the people's needs too," the TNA leader said.

The Tamil party constantly accuses the Government of land grabbing to promote Sinhala colonization. Jaffna parliamentarian and Minister, Douglas Devananda, has said that the Army was gradually releasing areas that were under military earlier as high security zones, to the people.

Source: The Hindu, October 18, 2012

Joint naval exercises to skip South India

With political parties in Tamil Nadu vehemently opposing military ties with Sri Lanka, the Indian Defence ministry has asked the Indian Navy to hold joint exercises with the island-nation in future away from four southern States.The navy has so far held two exercises under code name 'SLINEX' and the last edition was held along the coast of Trincomalee in September, 2011 after the first in 2005.

"The Defence Ministry has advised us to hold the SLINEX-series exercises with our Sri Lankan counterparts away from the coasts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka," a Navy official said in New Delhi. The Defence Ministry has issued the advisory probably keeping in mind the sensitivities involved in the whole episode, he said.The Navy is planning to hold this edition of the 'SLINEX' in the near future and it would be held in Indian waters this time, sources said.

Political parties in Tamil Nadu have been protesting against having any defence ties with Sri Lanka. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately halt the training of Sri Lankan officers in Tamil Nadu and send them back.In July, nine Sri Lankan defence personnel were removed from a training institution in Tambaram to Bengaluru after opposition from political parties in the State.However, despite the opposition from Tamil Nadu political parties, defence ministry has decided that it will continue to train Sri Lankan defence personnel at its facilities and have military ties with it.

Source: rediff.com, October 18, 2012

Afghanistan

No foreigners on poll panel

President Hamid Karzai has declared that he would not accept any foreigners in the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) as it undermined the sovereignty of Afghanistan. The President's spokesman said that the government was capable of ensuring a free and fair election without international presence the on the electoral commission. Foreigners, however, were still welcome as election monitors.

This has raised concerns about the credibility of the electoral process, and rights groups have warned that the ECC would be weakened by the loss of members best able to ignore internal political pressure. Previous elections, held in 2009 and 2010, were marred by fraudulent voting and corruption.

Source: The Guardian, October 18, 2012

EU to withhold aid

EU decided to withhold millions of euros in aid because of the failure of the Afghan government to depoliticise the judiciary - a commitment that the Afghan government had made during the Tokyo Summit held earlier in the year.

The decision was meant as a warning of future aid cuts should the Afghan government keep stalling reforms that it promised at Tokyo.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2012

Transit allowed to the Wagha Port

Pakistan has permitted Afghan vehicles to travel to Pakistan's Wagha Port, thereby implementing the terms of the Afghan-Pakistan Trade Transit Agreement of 2010.

Previously, Afghan transit vehicles would unload their goods in Peshawar, which were then transported to Wagha Port by Pakistani vehicles. However, some problems and issues still need to be ironed out before these terms can be fully implemented.

Source: Tolo News, October 14, 2012

Ready to take control of security

As speculation for the early withdrawal of the NATO troops grows, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declared that the nation's Army and Police were ready to take full control and responsibility for security in the country if the foreign troops were to leave early.

A NATO diplomat, however, denied that there were any plans of withdrawing before the 2014 deadline.

Source: The Washington Post, October 18, 2012

Bangladesh

Khaleda's China visit

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia visited China this week in the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party. During her visit she met many leaders of that country including Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. During the meeting Jiechi assured BNP Zia of his country's continued support for economic and infrastructural development of Bangladesh. Jiechi said that his country considers Bangladesh as a special friend and hence Chinese assistance in various fields would continue in the future.

The areas of cooperation could be infrastructure development like building bridges, roads and railways, and the energy sector, river training and flood control, Jiechi observed. He also expressed his government's willingness to participate in the construction of a deep sea port in the Bay of Bengal. Responding to Jiechi's remarks, Zia expressed her gratitude on behalf of the people of Bangladesh for the assurances given by the foreign minister. She also appreciated China's policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of others.

Source: The Daily Star, October 17, 2012

Home Secretaries meeting with India

The Home Secretaries of India and Bangladesh meet this week in Dhaka. It was 13th in the series of meetings between Home Secretaries of the two countries. During the meeting the two sides discussed issues of security which are of mutual concern. Some of the important outcome of the visit are- the two Home Secretaries visited to Agartala - Akhaura ICP to review the existing infrastructure.

The two sides agreed to intensify cooperation in different areas like trafficking of drugs, INTERPOL, etc. Both sides agreed to extend cooperation for apprehension of wanted criminals and fugitives and in this regard, Bangladesh Home Secretary once again urged for immediate tracking, arresting, and handing over the killers of the father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The Indian Home Secretary assured that all possible assistance would be extended in this regard. Both sides agreed to hold a meeting at an early date to discuss liberalization of visa procedures to facilitate people-to-people contact and movement of people on both sides. India has offered and Bangladesh has agreed to avail of training courses for Bangladesh Police Personnel in Indian Institutions.

Source: www.hcidhaka.org, October 17, 2012

$600m loan sought for oil mport

To meet import costs for petroleum fuel required for this year and early next year, the government decided to take a loan from the International Islamic Trade and Finance Corporation (ITFC), at a margin rate of five percent. The decision was taken at a meeting of government's Hard Term Loan Committee, chaired by Finance Minister AMA Muhith.

Bangladesh needed around Tk. 5 billion in June this year, to procure petroleum products. Additional Tk. 2 to 3 billion would be required for the first quarter of 2013, an energy ministry official informed. According to the energy ministry, the ITFC will provide one-third as loan and the rest will be collected from government subsidy and other loan sources.

The ITFC is an autonomous entity of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). ITFC earlier had approved a loan of $ 2 billion.

Source: The Independent, October 19, 2012

Bhutan

ADB puts growth at 8.4 pc

The Asian Developmental Bank (ADB) will be opening an office in the nation in early 2013. To understand Bhutan's needs, and the development challenges it faces, ADB needs an on-the-ground presence," Juan Miranda, director general of ADB's South Asia department said in a statement.

ADB said Bhutan is estimated to have grown 7.9 percent in the year to June 2012 and 8.4 percent growth is forecast for the current year, and the Government was targeting 9.0 percent annual growth.

According to the Bank, Bhutan has done well in achieving many Millennium Development Goals, but pockets of poverty still remain among its 720,000 people. Bhutan joined ADB in 1982 and the lender has approved facilities of $381.3 million in loans and $50.5 million in technical assistance.

ADB has given 100 million US dollars for Bhutan's Dagachhu hydropower and 65 million US dollars in to roads and id focusing on the energy, transport and urban development sectors.

Source: lankabusinessonline.com, October 16, 2012

Loses vote for UNSC member

The United Nations General Assembly voted for the Republic of Korea with 149 votes over Bhutan and Cambodia for the Asia Pacific seat to serve as non-permanent members on the Security Council for two-year terms beginning January 1, 2013.

Source: kuenselonline.com, October 19, 2012

Civil Servant to enter politics

Tshewang Tashi has become the first civil servant to politics and is expected to stand the test of the upcoming polls. She will represent Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam party from north Thimphu constituency for the 2013 parliamentary elections.

Source: zeenews.india.com, October 18, 2012

India

Poor demand pushes diesel export

India's diesel exports for October are expected to increase by 20-30 percent from previous months as domestic demand remains poor due to the delayed monsoon season and a weak economy, industry sources said on Friday.

The country's biggest diesel exporter Reliance Industries is expected to increase its monthly diesel exports from its usual 1.4 to 1.5 million tonnes a month to nearly 1.7 million tonnes in October, according to estimates given by several traders.

Private refiner Essar Oil is also shipping out about 300,000 tonnes of diesel in October, its first exports in two years, the traders added.

Source: www.reuters.com, October 12, 202

Factory output beats estimates

Indian industrial production rose more than estimated in August, climbing for the first time in three months ahead of a policy revamp to revive the economy.

Output at factories, utilities and mines rose 2.7 percent from a year earlier after a revised 0.2 percent fall in July, the Central Statistical Office said in a statement in New Delhi. The median of 36 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 1.1 percent gain.

Indian factory production has been subdued for most of this year as Europe's debt crisis saps exports and elevated inflation curbs scope for interest-rate cuts to bolster spending at home. The government overhauled policies in September to lure more foreign investment, limit its budget deficit and steady the nation's currency.

Source:www.bloomerg.com, October 12, 2012

IAC wants Khursheed to quit

India Against Corruption (IAC) activists have upped the ante in demanding the immediate resignation of Union Law and Justice Minister Salman Khursheed over allegations of him being involved in siphoning off funds allocated for the welfare of specially-abled people.

Staging nationwide demonstrations over the weekend, they showcased their solidarity with their leader and noted anti-graft crusader Arvind Kejriwal for the expulsion of Khursheed over the misuse of government grants.

Kejriwal and his supporters have already spent a night in the Bawana Jail on the outskirts of Delhi for leading a protest march to the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over a demand for Khursheed's dismissal.

Source: www.newstrack.com, October 14, 2012

Nitish to visit Pakistan

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will lead a delegation of ministers, party Mps and officials from his state to Pakistan next month on a week-long visit that the Centre hopes will further dialogue process between the two countries.

Source: The Indian Express, October 16, 2012

Biodiversity funding talks in crucial stage

Negotiations from over 190 countries sat late in to the night on Thursday, trying to end the stalemate in funding talks as the Convention on Biological Diversity draws to a close.

It is hoped that a combination of rising pressure poor countries and lowered expectations from India and the UN may help to wring some monetary support from richer countries to help protect the world's vanishing plants, animals and habitats.

Source: The Hindu, October 19, 2012

RBI told to probe FDI violation by Walmart

Walmart, the American multi-national retail giant is being reportedly investigated by the Commerce Ministry for allegedly "clandestinely and illegally" investing $ 100 million in an Indian chain of convenience stores two years ago in violation of a ban on foreign direct investment in the retail sector that existed at that time.

Source: The Hindu, October 19, 2012

Contributors:

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