South Asia in 2011 would be in world focus, with the Afghan war that is also within Pakistan and Pakistan – India wrangling on cross border terrorism, taking centre stage between the two big powers. There are also other issues that have South Asian countries dragged into common conflicts and bi lateral negotiations. Some are reflected in news reports that appeared over the past few days.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to remove a former warlord from atop the energy and water ministry despite US pressure to oust the minister because they considered him corrupt and ineffective. Secret diplomatic records showed the minister privately termed “the worst” by US officials kept his perch at an agency that controls USD 2 billion in US and allied projects.
Afghan envoys head to Pakistan for peace talks
Afghan efforts to broker peace with the Taliban enter a new phase this week with the first scheduled visit of envoys to Islamabad, part of a growing recognition that the process hinges on Pakistan. Afghanistan’s ex-president Burhanuddin Rabbani is set to lead a delegation from President Hamid Karzai’s High Council for Peace in talks with officials from neighbouring Pakistan.
– The Himalayan Times
Taliban Leader Was Killed, Afghans Say
Coalition forces killed the top-ranking Taliban official in restive Kunduz Province during an overnight raid, according to the Afghan police and a local governor. The officials said that Mullah Bahador, the Taliban’s shadow governor in the province, was killed late Thursday night.
– NYT / Michael Kamber
Climate change has emerged as the most important aspect of Maldivian foreign policy, writes Anand Kumar for the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.
“Therefore, it is hardly surprising that President Nasheed has been trying to highlight the issue at all global fora. Most recently, while speaking to students in Oxford University, he urged them not to work for oil and coal companies which were responsible for major carbon emissions into the environment.
– Minivan News
2010: Not the common man, Raja, Ambanis, Tata & Radia hog SC space
Legal battles involving corporate czars like the Ambanis and Tatas figured prominently in the Supreme Court in 2010, but it was the Niira Radia controversy that threw the light on the corporate prowess in certain quarters of the government, already under fire over a telecom scam. However, there was hardly any issue promoting the interest of the common man that came before the SC.
– Indian Express / Agencies
India, Pak exchange list of nuclear installations
India and Pakistan today exchanged the lists of their nuclear installations for the 20th consecutive year under an agreement which prohibits any kind of attack on such facilities. The lists were exchanged through diplomatic channels simultaneously at New Delhi and Islamabad…
– Indian Express / Agencies
On course to set up a training facility on the edge of the Maoist-dominated Abujhmad forests with the purpose of showing military presence in this area of Chhattisgarh, the Army is now learnt to have asked the government for the rules of engagement in case its troops come under attack.
– Indian Express / Pranab Dhal Samanta
Sri Lanka to scrap visa on arrival
Sri Lanka has revived plans to scrap the visa on arrival for foreigners, except Maldivians and Singaporeans, and will launch an on-line visa application system, officials said Friday.
At the UN at the end of 2010 confusion reigned, not only on Cote d’Ivoire but also concerning Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s panel on accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka. Rather than answer if the Panel or its staff would travel to the country and under what conditions, Ban’s Spokesman on December 31 told Inner City Press “We are aware of your keen interest. If and when there is something to add we will let you know. We have checked again and there is nothing further to say for now… It may be that you do not get answers to every question.”
– InnerCityPress / Matthew Russell Lee
Mobile phone saves 5 abductees in Vanni from being taken to South
A 20-year-old student, Gajeevan Puvanendran, who was being abducted by men in green uniform in a vehicle Saturday morning around 5:30 in Ki’linochchi, alerted his parents and relatives through SMS and phone conversation that he was being taken away on A9 highway towards South. Later, Mr. Gajeevan was saved with at least four others in Vavuniyaa. The Sri Lankan Police has not revealed the details of the abductors or other abductees.
– TamilNet Newswire
No War Crimes Investigations by UN, Sri Lanka Reiterates
The Sri Lankan government will be strictly monitoring any potential visit by the panel of experts appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and reiterated that there will be no permission granted for it to conduct an investigation into alleged war crimes.
– AllVoices / Anuradha K. Herath
Paudel seeks a disarmed UCPN-M
Nepali Congress Parliamentary Party leader Ram Chandra Paudel today said he will not quit the prime ministerial race unless and until the UCPN-Maoist detaches itself from its combatants and weapons. Addressing an NC-organised interaction in Biratnagar today, Paudel, the lone candidate in the prime ministerial race, claimed that his candidacy is a must for completion of peace and statute-making processes.
– The Himlayan Times
Bhutanese refugees today wrote the government saying that they cannot go to Bhutan in the light of harsh and objectionable conditions, unilaterally announced by Bhutanese JVT officials on December 22 at Khudunabari camp. This was mentioned in the letter written by Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee (BRRRC) to Nepal’s Ambassador-at-large Dr Bhekh Bahadur Thapa.
– Nepal News
Bangladesh – 2010 witnesses 133 deaths
At least 133 persons were killed in ‘shootouts’ with the law enforcers and in their custody, while another 128 died of mob beatings in the country last year, said a human rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK). It was disclosed in ASK’s Human Rights Report 2010, released at a function at the Dhaka Reporters’ Unity office yesterday.
– The Daily Star
Bangladesh: UN to continue providing food security efforts
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has decided to extend its country programme in Bangladesh until the end of 2011 to provide support to 2.1 million hungry, vulnerable and malnourished people in the South Asian …
– BangladeshNews Net
Dhaka may hand over 50 ULFA leaders to India
Bangladesh may hand over around 30 to 50 top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), including general secretary Anup Chetia, to Delhi in a major development on the diplomatic front as India has initiated a move for a negotiated end to the dreaded insurgency. Home Minister Sahara Khatun told the agency that no decision in this regard had so far been taken. “We received a list of 35 Ulfa members from India and held meeting on it but did not take any decision to hand over them,” said the minister.
– Daily Sun
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday took a swipe at critics of the government who advocate a tit-for-tat reply to US drone attacks, explaining “we are trying to convince Washington that these strikes will eventually prove counter-productive”.
“Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state which cannot take any irresponsible step to stop US Predator attacks.
Political dynasties have to come to an end: Altaf Hussain
MQM leader Altaf Hussain said on Sunday that if the political dynasties do not come to an end, Pakistan’s existence could come in danger. Hussain said that the survival and future of Pakistan depended on the 98 per cent of Pakistanis comprising the poverty-stricken and working-class people. He said that civil and military rulers of Pakistan had made this country dependent on foreign aid and loans. He said the country can not progress until the monopoly of a few families does not finish.
India-Myanmar discuss intelligence sharing
Action against insurgent groups along the international border, tightening of intelligence sharing mechanism, arms smuggling and drugs trafficking were high on the agenda at the 16th Home Secretary level talks between India and Myanmar in New Delhi on Thursday.
AUNG SAN Suu Kyi, Burma’s (also known as Myanmar) pro-democracy leader, has criticised India for conducting business with her country’s military junta which jailed her for almost 15 years. She called for talks with New Delhi at the earliest opportunity. “I am saddened with India. I would like to have thought that India would be standing behind us…..” she said over a telephone interview.
– Irish Times / Rahul Bedi