Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Northeast and south east asia

Many reports today...

1) India eyes BP Vietnam stake Linky

India is pitching to buy British energy giant BP Plc’s stake in the $1.3-billion Nam Con Son gas project in Vietnam. Oil minister Murli Deora today flew to the Vietnamese capital with the heads of Indian oil firms to lay a claim on BP’s stake in two offshore gasfields, a pipeline and power project — together called Nam Con Son. “This is a great opportunity for us. The gasfields were originally allocated to us but because of the foreign exchange crisis of 1990s, we had to farm out (give away) some stake to BP. We will like to get that back,” Deora said ahead of his meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and government-run PetroVietnam.

BP is considering the sale of fields in Colombia, Venezuela and Vietnam to meet the $20-billion clean-up bill of the worst US spill. It had in June announced a $10-billion asset sale programme to pay the costs of compensating victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused by the blowout of the Macondo well in April. China’s CNOOC and Sinopec, as well as Thailand’s PTTEP may also be interested in BP’s stake in Vietnam’s largest gas project. ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, already has a 45 per cent stake in the offshore gasfields where BP has 35 per cent. The balance is with PetroVietnam.

2) NRC update in Assam Linky

Dispur has told the Centre that it would not be possible to define who is an “Assamese” without completing the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951. The Union home ministry had yesterday asked the Assam government to expedite the process of the definition to ensure a decision on 100 per cent reservation of seats in the Assembly, Parliament and other local bodies for the state’s indigenous people.
“The very process of updating the NRC has not yet been able to progress properly due to division of opinions. While the minority groups want the update on the basis of the voters’ list of 1971, many non-minority organisations have demanded that the NRC be updated on the basis of the voters’ list published in 1952. The AASU, in its report submitted to the GOM, clearly stated that the NRC 1951 or the voters’ list of 1952 be taken as the benchmark to define the concept of indigenous Assamese people. So the government feels that it would be a politically immature step to take the final decision on the issue without waiting for the completion of the NRC update,” the source said.
AASU adviser Sammujjal Bhattacharyya termed the government step as an attempt to woo illegal Bangladeshis for votes. He said the AASU does not understand the logic of the NRC update to define who is an Assamese. He said considering the gravity of socio-economic aggression by illegal foreigners, the AASU also wants creation of a provision under the clause 7 of the Assam Accord to enable the people to assert an exclusive right over land and other natural resources in the state. He said since flood and erosion were fast eating up huge quantum of lands, Assam must come out with a proper land policy to protect the interest of indigenous people. “The AASU’s demand is being given due consideration,” a source said.


At least four persons were killed and more than 50 injured in clashes between activists of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union and police as well as residents here today. The Barpeta administration clamped Section 144 in the entire district while the AAMSU called a 12-hour Assam bandh — supported by the AIUDF — from 6am tomorrow. Police said hundreds of AAMSU activists and supporters gathered in front of the deputy commissioner’s office at 11am to take part in a scheduled dharna staged to oppose the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The protesters shouted slogans against chief minister Tarun Gogoi and All Assam Students Union (AASU) adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya and threw stones at the security personnel, injuring 10 police personnel, including two CRPF jawans. About 20 vehicles parked on the premises of the deputy commissioner’s office were also damaged.
The AAMSU has been demanding cancellation of the process of upgrading the NRC undertaken in Barpeta district and Chaigaon in Kamrup district as pilot projects in Assam. As part of the project, the citizens have been asked to attach some documents as proof of their Indian citizenship with the standard government form. These documents include the list of NRC 1951 and the electoral rolls of 1966 and 1971. The purpose of the NRC is to identify and enlist Indian citizens in the state. AASU alleged the incident was instigated by a pro-Bangladeshi lobby to throttle the process of NRC update. The AASU adviser told reporters there was no justification in AAMSU agitating on the issue since the NRC would be updated on the basis of the voters’ list of 1971.

“There are enough reasons to believe that migrants across the border who came to the state after 1971 are threatened by the NRC update. The lobby of these illegal migrants backed by organisations like AAMSU is now trying to create a communal divide in the state in the name of NRC update. The AASU will not allow the issue to take a communal colour,” Bhattacharyya said. Condemning the incident, the AGP said it was a complete failure on part of the district administration to control the situation. In a statement issued by the party’s Barpeta unit secretary, Liaquit Ali Khan, the AGP condoled the deaths and demanded a high-level inquiry into the incident.

3) ULFA vs. PC Haldar, NSCN vs. RS Pandey

Former director of Intelligence Bureau, P.C. Haldar, who was appointed an interlocutor for talks with the banned Ulfa, arrived here today on a three-day visit aimed at preparing the ground for negotiations with the outfit. According to sources, the basic objective of his visit is to asses the ground realities. “He will take opinion of a cross-section of people on initiating peace talks with Ulfa. He will also weigh the pros and cons of entering into a dialogue with the outfit without Paresh Barua,” a source said.

National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) ‘general secretary’ Thuingaleng Muivah wants more powers for Centre's interlocutor R.S. Pandey to accelerate the 13-year-old Naga peace talks, reports Nagaland Page. The Naga leader, who arrived New Delhi on July 15 with at least eight deputies for the next round of peace talks, would like to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram to convey this request, among others, before the official dialogue begins. Sources said the peace talks between the Centre's representatives R.S. Pandey, home ministry officials and a nine-member delegation of the outfit could be held next week.

4) Baptists vs. Catholics Linky

The minority Catholic community in a Nagaland village is allegedly facing persecution, with the predominant Baptists imposing fines and seizing property of people from the rival denomination for practising their faith — a rights violation deeply condemned by the Nagaland Baptist Church Council. Village authorities and a students’ union of Anatongre in Kiphire passed a resolution on March 18 stating that there shall be only Baptist Christian denomination in the village. They warned that Rs 50,000 would be imposed against those who bring in other religion/denomination to the village, their moveable and immovable properties seized and the defaulters expelled from the village. The Catholic Association of Nagaland highlighted this denial of right to religion in a memorandum submitted to the governor, after a Catholic Church was dismantled at Anatongre village on July 9.

5) Dima Hasao Linky

A 15-member delegation of the Indigenous Peoples Forum met Assam chief secretary N.K. Das today to press for the demand to bifurcate Dima Hasao (formerly NC Hills) district. The team, headed by the forum’s president A. Langthang, submitted a three-point memorandum to Das and demanded immediate and fruitful solutions to their problems. The demands include bifurcation of Dima Hasao district into autonomous council districts and Sixth Schedule status to both, renaming of the separate district as North Cachar Hills, steps to cancel the proposed wildlife sanctuary covering Boraille hill as it is the habitation of the indigenous people, and finally formation of a high-powered committee to look into the demands. Dima Hasao district is home to 18 different communities.

6) Burma issues and Than Shwe visit, thanks Al for posting that.

Intelligence agencies are worried about the increasing presence of Chinese-origin businessmen in Myanmar, the concern being voiced ahead of next week’s trip by the head of the country’s military junta. The anxiety is expected to figure in the talks between General Than Shwe and the Indian side during his five-day state visit starting July 25, though he is also expected to invite Indian investment in a big way. The warning on the Chinese traders’ rising presence and influence — in the border areas as well as in the hinterland — assumes significance also because of the conclusion that their expansion has come at the cost of Tamils. The trend has been pronounced in the trade hubs of Mandalay and Tamu. “An intelligence report says within five years, Myanmar will be a Chinese colony,” a home ministry official told The Telegraph. The Tamil families have been there for over a century. Visitors couldn’t miss the aroma of idlis and sambar in Tamu, close to Manipur’s Moreh. “We would joke that the best south Indian food is found in Moreh,” said Pradip Phanjoubam, the editor of Imphal Free Press. That is changing now as Chinese businessmen overtake their Tamil rivals, many of whom are now said to be looking at greener pastures in Moreh.

The Indian worries have a parallel. In the villages of Arunachal Pradesh’s Kibitho — close to the Tibet-India-Myanmar tri-junction — local sources said the population of the Hans, the dominant ethnic Chinese group, had doubled over the past year. The sources even claimed that many of the new settlers were ex-Chinese servicemen. The Arunachal situation mirrors the tensions in Tibet where riots in 2008 traced their roots to Beijing’s policy of encouraging the Han majority to migrate to the region dominated by native Tibetans. The Dalai Lama, whom China had accused of having plotted the violence, had cited the Han migrations as a cause. Last year’s Uighur uprising in China’s Xinjiang was also blamed on discontent over Han settlers.

Myanmar is strategically important for New Delhi. Militants from Manipur and other states in the Northeast find shelter in the jungles of the country’s north. Myanmar is also a route for gunrunning and drug-smuggling. General Shwe could bring a bag of goodies when he comes calling next week, mainly investment opportunities in his country, including in hydro-power, oil and natural gas projects for an energy-hungry India. But religion, not business, will be the 77-year-old leader’s trump card as he tries to win over Indian hearts. Shwe — dubbed the “world’s third-worst dictator” behind North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe by the Foreign Policy magazine — will start his Indian sojourn with a visit to Bodh Gaya and seek India’s assistance to help to restore a famous Buddhist pagoda, Ananda Temple, in Myanmar.

Myanmar wants the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to restore the over 900-year-old structure. The temple whose architecture is similar to temples in Bengal and Orissa is located in Myanmar’s Bagan region. Shwe is scheduled to meet President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders during the July 25-29 visit. On his business itinerary will be meetings with barons, including one with Ratan Tata possibly to set up a vehicle plant. Myanmar produces only Jeeps and there is a huge demand of four-wheeler trucks and cars. A visit to infotech and pharmaceutical companies in Hyderabad is also on the cards.

Shwe’s visit is being viewed as yet another sign of India shedding its “moralistic” approach to foreign policy for a “pragmatic” one that requires it to deal with neighbours the way they are, not how they ought to be. Delhi had supported the movement for democracy led by icon Aung San Suu Kyi before it started engaging with the junta. “It (the ties with Myanmar) is a relationship that needs to be nurtured,” said a top foreign ministry official.

India and Myanmar have been working towards closer strategic and economic ties. General Shwe had visited India earlier in 2004. Then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam went to Myanmar two years later. Maung Aye, Myanmar’s No. 2 general, came to India in 2008. Vice-President Hamid Ansari went there last year, as did the army chief. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and home secretary G.K. Pillai made trips earlier this year. Trade between the nations is over $1 billion (Rs 4,700 crore). But India does not have big investments in Myanmar. The only notable deal — by the Essar group which put in Rs 535 crore since 2007 — is in the upcoming Sittwe port, known as the Kaladan river project. The project, which includes making the Kaladan river navigable all the way up to a point close to Mizoram, is scheduled to start by 2013. This will complement Bangladesh’s Chittagong and Khulna ports that Dhaka has already offered India to cater to the Northeast.

I never realized Khulna was offered as a port by BD, I assumed only Chittagong was offered. This is news to me.

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At July 22, 2010 at 9:59 AM , Anonymous Al said...

"Dispur has told the Centre that it would not be possible to define who is an “Assamese” without completing the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951."

Isn't it absolutely pathetic that the INC, that supposedly runs the country, cannot get its own partyman Gogoi to complete the NRC, instead of buckling down to illegal BD immigrants who seem to be taking over Indian territory covertly, with the willing connivance of political parties at the center it would appear.

India is just a glorified Banana republic where the "leaders" of the people can't quite understand the concept of territorial integrity, and even if they do, they place their party's electoral interests ahead of that of the public at large.

At July 22, 2010 at 11:02 AM , Blogger Pax-Indica said...

Hi Al,
There is more to meet the eye on the illegal immigration issue. Quite a fraction of the illegal immigrants are Hindu Bengalis from Bangladesh who have taken refuge in WB, Assam and Tripura due to religious persecution in BD. We only see the Muslim Bengali illegal immigrant frothing by the AASU and AGP-likes. There are no "records", people just melt once inside the border, etc. But it is just hard to explain the Hindu Bangladeshis % going down as dramatically as it did by just forcible conversions and killings. That does not take away from the repeal of IMDT and putting the onus on the state to prove that a person is illegal. The onus should be on the said individual. Not just INC government, while in power, even Prafulla Kumar Mahanta was complicit by doing essentially nothing. AASU is just a rag-tag speakathon-esque bunch of buffoons. Once the ULFA was "converted" to go silent, AASU has ceremonially yakked a statement or two and walked off. We need MORE data, let me see if I can pick some past IDSA issues on this.


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