Friday, October 22, 2010

Other updates (October 22, 2010)

1) Nepal: Gurkhas in UK army Linky

Britain has officially dismissed reports that it is planning to discontinue the age-old Gorkha soldiers’ brigade. “The British government has no plan at all to discontinue the Gorkha soldier unit of the British Army,” a British Embassy spokesman told PTI. The remarks came in response to media reports quoting a British Parliament member about the possibility of closure of the Gorkha brigade by the British Army as a result of budget cut downs. The parliamentarian also reasoned that the Gorkhas had been expensive due to equal pay, pensions and rights with regular British soldiers. The statement comes in the wake of the British Government making public new security strategy and strategic defence and security review.

At present there are around 3,500 Gorkha soldiers serving in the British Army. Gorkha brigade is regarded as one of the most trusted units of the British Army and the Gorkhas are regarded as very brave and obedient soldiers. The British Army has very old and cordial relations with the Nepal Army. The British Army had expressed commitment to continue its assistance to Nepal during Nepal Army chief Chhatraman Singh’s official visit to UK at the invitation of British Army chief G Peter Wall.

Here is another development: Linky

Nearly a dozen ‘commanders’ of their People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and lawmakers are on a nine-day visit to China. These include two former deputy chiefs of the PLA, Barsha Man Pun Ananta and Janardan Sharma Prabhakar. Both are sitting Maoist MPs while Sharma is also the former Maoist peace and reconstruction minister. Ananta’s wife Onsari Ghartimagar, also a Maoist lawmaker, is member of the team that includes PLA spokesman Chandra Prakash Khanal Baldev. The Nagarik daily, which broke the news on Thursday, said that though the Maoist party said the 11 were on a personal visit, they had met officials of the Communist Party of China as well as Chinese army officials in Beijing and Shanghai. Both Ananta and Prabhakar are members of the special committee that was formed to facilitate the disbanding of the PLA. With the two Maoist MPs on ‘vacation’, the special committee has not met even though time is running out for Nepal.

Nepal News adds this bit: Linky

UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal left for Shanghai, China, on Friday on a 4-day official visit to participate in the closing ceremony of Shanghai Expo 2010. Speaking to media-persons at the Tribhuvan International Airport before departing for China on a China Air flight, he said his visit is solely focused on participating in the Shanghai Expo 2010 and that he has no such plans as of now to engage in high-level political parleys with Chinese leaders and government officials. He, however, didn't deny the possibility of such meetings taking place.
...
Dahal is accompanied by party's foreign department chief Krishna Bahadur Mahara, and his top aides. Top party leaders including vice vhairmen Mohan Baidya and Dr Baburam Bhattarai and senior leader Ram Bahadur Thapa were at the TIA to bid Dahal farewell. "There will be bilateral talks during the meeting," Maoist politburo member Agni Sapkota, who is also accompanying Dahal during the trip, said without revealing if Dahal will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Dahal is heading to China a day after an eleven-member team of the UCPN (Maoist) party, most of them military commanders, returned from China after a nine-day long "private trip". During their trip, the Maoist commanders are known to have met leaders of the Chinese Communist Party along with those overseeing the military affairs. They went to Beijing via Lhasa.

More unending trips: Linky

Chinese ambassador to Nepal Qiu Gohang called on President Dr Ram Baran Yadav at the latter's office, Shital Niwas, on Thursday. The Chinese ambassador met the President in connection with the latter's China trip later this month.
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Vice President Paramananda Jha has left for Beijing, China on Thursday to attend the Western China Economic Fair in Chengdu of Sichuan province. Vice President Jha is scheduled to deliver a speech during the inaugural of the Fair on Friday, it is learnt. Jha is accompanied by his wife and six officials from his office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Elsewhere, SATP reports:

Leaders of the three major parties – Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) - met President Ram Baran Yadav at Shitwal Niwas in Kathmandu on October 19 (today) to discuss the current political stalemate and its possible solution, reports Nepal News. Caretaker Prime Minister and leader of the CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal, UCPN-M Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, NC president Sushil Koirala and CPN-UML chairman Jhala Nath Khanal went to Shital Niwas (President’s Office) to meet the President.

Meanwhile, the UCPN-M Standing Committee member Dev Gurung said that the caretaker Government does not have the right to bring in the full budget under any circumstances, warning that if it does so then that will be construed as a violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Speaking at an interaction in Kathmandu on October 18, Gurung also said that if the current Government brings in the budget then such a move will be against the "interim constitution".

Separately, Constituent Assembly (CA) Chairman Subas Nemwang said amendment to the constitution and the CA Regulations might be necessary to elect the new Prime Minister (PM) as the current election process has not produced results despite a dozen rounds of voting in the legislature Parliament. Nemwang mentioned this during his meeting with President Ram Baran Yadav at the latter's office, Shital Niwas, on October 15. The meeting dwelled mainly on the successive failure of the PM election and ways to end the stalemate.

DNA adds this: Linky

During the meeting today, Prachanda and Khanal asked Nepali Congress to withdraw 65-year-old Ram Chandra Poudyal from the prime ministerial race as he has failed to garner a majority even after 12 rounds of election in a row. However, Koirala told the leaders and the president that his party will not withdraw his party's candidate until there is a complete understanding on key political issues, including who will be the next prime minister.

Meanwhile, political parties have managed to find a common ground on nine of 11 contentious issues being discussed by the Constituent Assembly Committee on System of Governance. The meeting has resolved nine of the 11 major disputes on drafting a new Constitution, according to minister for law and justice Prem Bahadur Singh. The taskforce of top political leaders, however, are yet agree on the new electoral system and whether to adopt the presidential or the Westminster model. "We will enter into the issues of system of governance and electoral system in the next meeting," Singh said. Maoists are pitching for an executive presidential system and unicameral parliament while Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML and other parties are for an executive prime ministerial system with ceremonial role for the head-of-state.

And as china builds its rail network to Nepal, this is what happens on the other side: Linky

India has urged Nepal to make necessary security arrangement across the survey portion of ongoing Jayanagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas railway link. Survey work of the longest rail link between the two countries has remained halted since mid-October following protests by Maoist cadres. Nepal and India had signed a memorandum of understanding in February on the development of a railway infrastructure through five border points along Nepal-India border. “We want continue the work but due to the continuous obstruction form Maoists we are forced to halt it,” said an Indian Embassy official requesting anonymity.

Last year, a local group had taken away equipment used in the survey, prompting to halt work. “We have hoped to complete the construction of the railway link by 2015, but reoccurring obstructions will dealt a blow to the targeted timeline,” the official added. The 68-km railway service will link Nepal’s Bardibas with India’s Jayanagar, where almost half (34 km) sketch lies on Nepali side. Indian government has prioritised Jayanagar to Bijalpura Gauge Conversion and its extension up to Bardibas.

2) BD: Border haat agreement Linky

India and Bangladesh are set to sign pacts which would clear the decks for setting up of border haats between Meghalaya and the neighbouring country. Led by Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, Faruk Khan, a 21-member delegation arrived here late in the evening. The two countries are slated to sign an agreement to set up border haats, a traditional commodity market. Initially border haats are going to be started at two places along the international border at Sunamganj and Kurigram districts. The trading will be held once a week in both the sides and an individual will not be able to trade above US $50 at the border haats. New Delhi has agreed not impose local tax on trading at the border. The trading would be conducted in local currencies of the two nations. Farm and home made items produced within 10 Km radius of border haats would be traded at the markets to be set up within five Km of the international border. The commodities to be traded in these haats include locally produced agriculture and horticulture products, spices, and minor forest products excluding timber, fresh and dry fish, dairy, fishery and poultry products, cottage industries items, wooden furniture and cane goods, handloom and handicraft items.

The star adds this: Linky

Bangladesh will demand a separate quota for raw cotton from India to ensure the item's adequate supply for the readymade garment sector, the prime foreign exchange earner. The cotton price has reached its all-time high of $1.19 a pound on the international market this month, which troubles Bangladesh and China -- the two countries that depend on cotton imports for their textile industries. Industry insiders pointed out that crop damage by floods in Pakistan, the world's fourth largest cotton producing country, and a ban India has imposed on cotton exports have led to the price spiral.

"We'll demand a separate quota for raw cotton during the bilateral trade talks with India," said Commerce Minister Faruk Khan yesterday, before leaving for New Delhi to lead a 23-member business delegation. Khan said Bangladesh wants to settle the cotton supply problem with India so that the country remains immune to any Indian ban on the item's export. Delhi enforced the ban in April in an effort to ensure supply to its own textile mills. Apparel makers of the neighbouring country also opposed the export of 5.5 million bales of raw cotton pointing to a possible deficit. Ashish Bagrodia, chairman of North Indian Textile Mills Association, has been quoted by Indian newspapers as saying: "Cotton exports beyond 5.5 million bales should not be allowed at any cost, since domestic industry consumption as per projections by the Cotton Advisory Board is going to be more than 26.6 million bales."

Bangladesh is expected to sign four memoranda of understanding on border haats and standard operating procedures of trucks with India. Primarily, two border haats -- one at Kurigram and the other at Sunamganj -- will be operational as soon as possible, Faruk Khan said. Easing business terms for bilateral trade expansion, zero-tariff for 61 Bangladesh products, removing non-tariff barriers to jute export and duty-free export of RMG products to India will be high on agenda.

India has pruned its list of products that cannot be exported to India from 700 to 480. However, Bangladeshi traders have been complaining that the cuts did not help much as garments and footwear, where Bangladesh could easily gain a market in India, were still on the banned list. In 2008, India had allowed import of eight million pieces of Bangladeshi garments but Dhaka points out that Bangladeshi has already exported 70 percent of its allowed quota in five months of this calendar year and the quota needs to be expanded besides withdrawing duty on 61 product lines.

Meanwhile, BD population is ticking at 16.44 crore

The country's present population is 16.44 crore with a 1.4 percent growth rate and 2.25 total fertility rate, according to the United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) annual report - state of world population 2010. This year report styled 'From Conflict and Crisis to Renewal: Generations of Change' said presently average life expectancy of the country's male is 65.4 years while 68.1 years for the female. Only 18 percent of pregnant mothers of the country get skilled birth attendant while giving birth to a child, the report said. Food and Disaster Management Minister Dr Abdur Razzak spoke as the chief guest while UNFPA's Bangladesh country representative Arthur Erken formally released the report at a city hotel here. UNFPA simultaneously published the report at all capital cities around the globe today.

The arms drop case plods along: Linky

Former NSI chief Rezzaqul Haider has told CID that former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar assigned him to handover the 10-truck arms to United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) on Sherpur border. Rezzaqul, however, clamed that he couldn't play any role regarding the 10-truck arms smuggling bid as the arms were caught at the Chittagong port, said CID sources. He made the statements yesterday, the third day of his six-day fresh remand. Rezzaqul added he agreed to carryout the assignment just as a government employee and he was not responsible for the smuggling. Rezzaqul was taken to the CID headquarters on Monday as the department was set to interrogate him in the sensational 10-truck arms haul case in Chittagong.

While GoI's intervention sees Lafarge go through: Linky

The traditional council of Nongtrai village in the Indian state of Meghalaya, where Lafarge's limestone mining project is located, has extended no objection to the French cement giant. In a court affidavit filed at the court on October 5, the head of Nongtrai village Durbar BL Lyngdoh said the arrival of Lafarge in their area has opened up employment opportunities along with many other benefits and assistance, according to a press release. He said some vested groups comprising exporters, whose business interests have been affected by the Lafarge project, filed the application to the Supreme Court opposing Lafarge operations.

The affidavit countered the claims of Shella Action Committee, the organisation whose primal objection spawned the whole affair. The affidavit states that the opposing party consists of limestone exporters who used to export limestone to Bangladesh without sharing any benefits with the locals. Lafarge pays a royalty fee which resulted a total amount of 3.15 crore Indian Rupee for the whole village and 1.4 lakh for each household, till December 2009.

3) Burma: Burma has a new flag

Military-ruled Myanmar unveiled a new national flag yesterday, just two weeks before an election that the government calls a major step in a transition to democracy. Government offices replaced the old standard with the new one at exactly 3 p.m. At a fire station in central Yangon, blue-uniformed officers lined up at attention during the replacement ceremony. The new flag has horizontal stripes of yellow, green and red with a big white star in the middle. The announcement of the new flag was made on state television just prior to the ceremonies, which were supposed to take place simultaneously all over the country. "We received the instruction to bring down the old flag and to fly the new flag at 3 p.m.," said an education officer in Pathein township in Irrawaddy Division, who added that shortly before the ceremony his office still had not received its replacement.

The 2008 constitution pushed through by the military called for fresh national symbols, including a new flag whose colors of yellow, green and red would stand for solidarity, peace and tranquility, and courage and decisiveness. Still, the abrupt release of the new flag came as surprise. A yellow, green and red flag was used during the Japanese occupation in 1943-1945, though the emblem in the center then was a dancing peacock. A fighting peacock is a symbol used by the country's democratic opposition, including Suu Kyi's now-disbanded party.

More from here
4) Maldives: Here is Md. Nasheed's interview to Asian Tribune when he came to India for the CWG Linky
And SAAG's take on it: Linky

There are two other issues which Nasheed pointed that need introspection and deep thought in India. First, he called upon India to drag neighbouring countries in the development efforts as other wise it would give rise to “deep resentment” in the region. Given the present trend of India moving higher and further away economically from other countries in the south Asian region and given the trust deficit in some of the countries, it needs to be examined how other countries in the region could be helped to partake in the prosperity and the economic opportunities which India has.

The second issue about India that President Nasheed has rightly pointed out is in describing the Indian Oceans as India’s “soft belly” posing increasingly serious concern. He favoured a framework agreement with India to take care of the security and other issues. The strategic community in India itself has to change its mind set and think of India not as a regional power alone but as an Indian ocean power. If this is done, India’s relationship not only with Sri Lanka but with other Indian ocean countries will also be have to be suitably restructured to meet the growing security concerns of the region.

It is in this connection that Maldives should be fully supported in its dispute with United Kingdom Foreign office over its claim of 160,000 square kilometers of British Indian Ocean territory (BIOT) that impedes on the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone that UK claims extends from the island of Diego Garcia. Also, connected to that is the declaration of UK of the Chagos Archipelago as a BIOT marine reserve extending over an area bigger than France. Chagos is said to have been bought from the Mauritius Government in the year 1965 by the United Kingdom.

5) More on Koro and the ongoing academic dishonesty: Linky

Having discovered the endangered Koro language in Arunachal Pradesh, a team of linguistic researchers that includes a teacher of Ranchi University is now busy preparing “revitalisation kits” to save the vernacular tongue. The kit, containing audio and video records of Koro with phonetics, will be distributed among people in the region, where a small group currently speaks the language. “We are preparing revitalisation kits for the endangered Koro to popularise the language and ensure its propagation,” said Ganesh Murmu, a teacher and researcher in the tribal and regional language department of Ranchi University (RU).

Murmu was among three members of the linguistic team that recently discovered the endangered tribal language hitherto unknown to the world. The other members were David Harrison of Swarthmore University, UK, and G. Anderson of Oregon University, US. Their discovery was announced on October 6 in National Geographic magazine, which financially supported the research. The team had stumbled upon Koro in 2008.

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