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International

Austria-Bhutan sign three agreements

Thinley Namgay  —

The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and the Austrian Coordination Office (ACO) signed three grant contract agreements at GNHC office yesterday for financial assistance of Euro 5.3 million.

The grant is a part of ACO’s assistance to the 12th five year plan (FYP) and it will be implemented by Justice Sectors, Royal Audit Authority (RAA) and Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC).

GNHC DG Rinchen Wangdi and ACO Resident Coordinator Johannes Binder exchange the agreements yesterday

Assistance will address access to a free and fair justice and enhance the capacity of justice sector institutions under Justice Sector Programme, enabling RAA’s capacity and accountability in diverse and emerging specialised auditing fields and to enhance the domestic capacity in hydropower sectors.

From the total financial assistance of Euro 5.3 million, Euro 4.5 million is allocated for the Justice Sector Programme in achieving 12th FYP and in particular for the National Key Result Area (NKRA) 16 (i.e. justice services) and NKRA 12 (i.e. reducing corruption).

GNHC’s Director General, Rinchen Wangdi said that signing the Justice Sector Programme grant agreement would results in better access to free and fair justice.  “The capacities of all legal institutions will be strengthened.”

Justice Sector Programme has three main objectives: to make justice competent and motivated, justice sector services accessible and inclusive, and the infrastructure adequate to deliver justice services more efficiently.

Improving access to justice services and improving access to information are intended for second goal. Action areas for the final objective includes, enhancement of forensic capability and enhanced justice services through infrastructure development.

Justice Sector Programme will support the justice service providers comprising the Royal Court of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Anti-Corruption Commission, Royal Bhutan Police, Bhutan National Legal Institute, National Commission of Women and Children, Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law, Bar Council and Alternate Dispute Resolution Centre.

RAA and DGPC will receive Euro 0.2 million and Euro 0.6 million respectively for the capacity development.

“Assistance rendered will have immense benefit as both RAA and DGPC has shifted their focus in line with the requirement of international auditing standards and construction of hydropower,” said Director General, Rinchen Wangdi.

Human Rights, International

Myanmar Rejects ICC Probe Over its Alleged Crimes in Rohingya

Myanmar struck back Friday after a surge of global legal pressure over its alleged crimes against the Rohingya, branding an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) “not in accordance with international law”.

On Thursday the ICC approved a full probe into Myanmar’s 2017 bloody military crackdown against the minority Muslim group.

The decision came after rights groups filed a separate lawsuit in Argentina —- in which former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was personally named —- and a further submission of a genocide case at the UN’s top court.

Two years ago some 740,000 Rohingya fled over the border into sprawling camps in Bangladesh in violence UN investigators branded as genocide.

Myanmar has repeatedly defended the crackdown as necessary to stamp out militants and has long refused to recognise the authority of the ICC — a position it reiterated Friday.

“The investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” said government spokesman Zaw Htay at a press conference Friday.

Even though the country has not signed up to the court, the ICC ruled last year it has jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya because Bangladesh, where they are now refugees, is a member.

Zaw Htay repeated that Myanmar’s own committees would investigate any abuses and ensure accountability if needed.

“Myanmar and the government are neither in denial nor closing our eyes,” he said.

Critics deride the domestic panels of whitewashing atrocities.

– Myanmar accused of genocide –

The ICC decision came after West African nation The Gambia on Monday launched a separate case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s top court, also based in The Hague.

The Gambia, acting on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), accuses Myanmar of genocide. The first hearings are scheduled for December.

The ICJ normally deals with more legalistic disputes between states but also rules on alleged breaches of UN conventions.

Myanmar, which has signed the Genocide Convention, would respond “in accordance with international legal means,” said Zaw Htay.

In the case filed Wednesday in Argentina, Suu Kyi was among top Myanmar officials named for crimes against the Rohingya, the first time the Nobel Laureate has been legally targeted over the crisis.

Human rights groups submitted the lawsuit under “universal jurisdiction”, a legal principle that some crimes are so horrific, they can be tried anywhere.

The lawsuit demands top leaders — including army chief Min Aung Hlaing and civilian leader Suu Kyi — face justice over the “existential threat” faced by the Rohingya.

Argentine courts have taken up other such cases in relation to ex-dictator Francisco Franco’s rule in Spain and the Falun Gong movement in China.

Myanmar’s government spokesman offered no comment on the lawsuit.            ( Agencies)

International

Jeanine Anez declares herself Bolivia interim president

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Clashes broke out in the streets of Bolivia’s capital Tuesday evening when an opposition leader in the Senate declared herself the country’s interim president after Evo Morales fled to Mexico following his surprise weekend resignation.

Jeanine Añez claimed the post of Senate leader late in the day, a position next in line for the presidency, even though she lacked a quorum because of a boycott by Morales’ Movement for Socialism party. Without being sworn in by anyone, she then appeared on a balcony of the old presidential palace wearing the presidential sash and holding a Bible in her hand.

“My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country,” she said. “They can never again steal our vote.”

It was uncertain how much support Añez could count on from other power centers in her bid to replace Morales, who stepped down Sunday under pressure from Bolivia’s military following weeks of violent protests fed by allegations of electoral fraud in the Oct. 20 presidential election.

Some Bolivians quickly took to the streets cheering and waving national flags in opposition strongholds like the cities of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, but angry Morales’ supporters tried to reach the Congress building in La Paz screaming, “She must quit!” Police and soldiers fired tear gas trying to disperse the crowd and detained some demonstrators.

Morales, who sought to transform Bolivia as its first indigenous president, had faced weeks of widespread outrage over his claim to have won the election outright. He stepped down soon after an Organization of American States audit reported widespread irregularities in the vote count.

He arrived in Mexico on Tuesday under a grant of asylum. But his resignation still needed to be approved by both houses of Congress, and lawmakers could not assemble the numbers needed for formal sessions.

Añez, a 52-year-old lawmaker, women’s rights activist and television presenter, forged ahead anyway, arguing that Bolivia could not wait and be left in a power vacuum. After Morales quit, resignations by allies left vacancies in the only posts listed by the constitution as presidential successors — the vice president, the head of the Senate and the leader of the lower house.

Añez was a second-tier opposition figure until Morales resigned Sunday after nearly 14 years in power, the longest presidential reign ever in Bolivia.

From the start, she tried to set differences with the socialist leader. She greeted supporters at an old palace instead of the nearby modern 26-story presidential palace with a heliport that was built by Morales and that his foes had criticized as one of his excesses. She also carried a Bible, which had been banned by Morales from the presidential palace.

Morales said on Twitter from Mexico that Añez’s “self-proclamation” was an affront to constitutional government. “Bolivia is suffering an assault on the power of the people,” he wrote.

Even before Añez acted, thousands of his supporters were in the streets of the capital in peaceful demonstrations clamoring for his return. Military fighter jets flew repeatedly over La Paz in a show of force that infuriated Morales loyalists who were blocked by police and soldiers from marching to the main square.

“We’re not afraid!” shouted demonstrators, who believe Morales’ departure was a coup d’etat and an act of discrimination against Bolivia’s indigenous communities.

“Evo was like a father to me. We had a voice, we had rights,” said Maria Apasa, who like Morales is a member of the Aymara indigenous group.

Morales’ detractors accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian and rigging the election.

Morales was met at Mexico City’s airport by Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard after a flight from Bolivia on a Mexican government plane and repeated his allegations he had been forced to resign by a coup.

“The president of Mexico saved my life,” Morales said, thanking President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for granting him asylum. He vowed to “continue the struggle.”

Ebrard said Mexican diplomats had to scramble to arrange a flight path for the plane because some nations initially closed airspace to it. The plane stopped in Paraguay to refuel.

Morales’ departure was a dramatic fall for the one-time llama shepherd from the Bolivian highlands and former coca growers’ union leader who as president helped lift millions out poverty, increased social rights and presided over nearly 14 years of stability and high economic growth in South America’s poorest country.

In the end, his downfall was prompted by his insistence on holding onto power. He ran for a fourth term after refusing to accept the results of a referendum that upheld term limits for the president — restrictions thrown out by a top court that critics contend was stacked in his favor.

Gen. Williams Kaliman, chief of the armed forces, announced a joint police-military operation in a television address Monday seeking to calm street fighting. He said the hope was to “avoid bloodshed and mourning of the Bolivian family,” and he urged Bolivians to help restore peace.

Ronald Arias said he had left his home in El Alto and walked for three hours to his job in downtown La Paz because the cable car connecting the cities was suspended for security reasons and barricades blocked access to public transportation.

Arias, a native Aymara, said that thanks to Morales, his parents in the countryside gained access for the first time to running water and gas for cooking.

“I was so saddened by his resignation,” he said. “A lot of people in El Alto shed tears for the president.”

___

Associated Press writers Paola Flores in La Paz and Christopher Torchia in Mexico City contributed to this report.

Economy, International

RCEP abandons year-end goal for deal

Leaders from 16 Asia-Pacific nations including Japan, China and India have effectively given up on achieving the goal of finalising their free trade deal by the end of this year, according to a joint statement issued on Monday.

In the statement released after their summit, the leaders of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pledged to sign an agreement on creating the world’s largest free trade area in 2020, indicating the countries will continue their negotiations.

“We noted 15 RCEP Participating Countries have concluded text-based negotiations for all 20 chapters and essentially all their market access issues; and tasked legal scrubbing by them to commence for signing in 2020,” the statement said.

But “India has significant outstanding issues, which remain unsolved,” it added, suggesting that the South Asian nation and other RCEP members failed to reach agreement in key fields such as tariffs.

India is believed to be reluctant to lower its trade barriers, as the country claims that it has suffered massive and chronic trade deficits with China for many years.

If the free trade area — which would cover half of the world’s population — is put into practice, trade and investment activities among RCEP nations would intensify on the back of measures like the elimination and reduction of tariffs.

In India, however, there is concern that the deal would result in an influx of cheap agricultural and industrial products, including smartphones, from China, further increasing the trade surplus of the world’s second-biggest economy, sources said.

Covering a third of the world economy, RCEP has a history of missed deadlines with varying degrees of ambition among the 16 members. Talks began in 2013 with the initial goal of wrapping them up in 2015.

RCEP brings together Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, as well as the Asean states — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

ASEAN CIVIL groups and representatives of people’s organisations will once again be denied an interface meeting with leaders during the 34th summit in Bangkok this weekend, as they failed to convene a parallel meeting, Asean officials and organisers said.

The Asean Civil Society and People Forum (ACSC/APF) was supposed to hold their meeting in the middle of this month to finalise issues and demands to be exchanged with leaders during the summit. The meeting was delayed until September.

Though they will not be permitted to discuss issues with leaders of Asean nations, the groups may be allowed to meet with senior officials of Asean, Foreign Ministry director-general of Asean Affairs, Suriya Chindawongse, said.

Representatives of three groups – Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), Asean Youth, and Asean Business Advisory Council (ABAC) – will meet with leaders on June 22.

The ACSC/APF has not managed to have an interface dialogue with leaders for three consecutive years. The last meeting between the civil society groups and Asean leaders took place during Malaysia’s chairmanship in 2015. At last year’s Asean meeting with Singapore as chair, a meeting with the People Forum was restricted financially and isolated from the leaders’ summit.

As the host country, Thailand is tasked with initiating the interface meetings between the civil society sector and leaders. It would try its best to arrange such a meeting during another summit in November, a Thai Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

Members of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad install a bomb detector gate at the venue of the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, 19 June 2019. // EPA-EFE PHOTO

Chalida Tajaroensak, director of the People Empower Foundation (PEF), one of the 2019 ACSC/APF steering committee members, said the failure this time reflected the “controlled partnership” preferences of leaders, in which they decided to instead meet with self-appointed representatives and business groups.

Regarding the summit’s refusal to meet with the group, Chalida said their organising committee had submitted the names of representatives to the Senior Officials Meeting for the Asean Socio-Cultural Community.

She said the member states failed to reach a consensus to meet with the civil society organisations (CSOs). Only the delegates of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia supported the proposed interface, while two countries rejected it and the rest were silent.

Still, with another opportunity still possible at the second summit in November, Chalida said the CSOs need to rethink their engagement strategy

“The CSOs must review how to be a partner with the states, whether street protests to pressure, or [alternatively] diplomacy, would work to effectively convey the people’s demands to the governments,” Chalida said. “In order to bridge the barrier, they must shift to people’s diplomacy.”

There are different degrees of support and confrontation between the states and CSOs in the many Asean countries, she said. Regional cross-cutting talks among the CSOs are needed in order to craft a strategy to deal with the states on the Asean stage.

There is a wide spectrum among Asean CSOs in terms of their agenda, stance and affiliations. Each state has its own way of dealing with the civil sector, including implementing registration to establish its own civil groups, known as government-organised non-governmental organisation.

The national flag of Myanmar in front of a large poster welcoming ASEAN leaders to the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, 19 June 2019. // EPA-EFE PHOTORepresentatives of three groups – Debby Stohard from the Alternative Asean Network for Burma, an NGO working on democracy issues in Myanmar, criticised the state’s exclusion of its citizens. She noted that people in Cambodia, Vietnam and other countries are judicially and physically harassed when they speak out about unsustainable development or express opinions on the internet.

“We ask Asean governments and leaders: please check the dictionary for the meaning of ‘partnership’ – because they have not been behaving in partnership with the citizens of this region”, said Stohard in a public panel.

Rachel Arinii Judhistari, Asean programme manager of Forum-Asia, one of the ACSC/APF steering committee members, called for Asean nations to truly respect the rights of people in responding to its “people-centred” principle.

“This year the AICHR [Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights] will turn 10. Use this anniversary to advance a ‘people-centred’ Asean, where the rights of the people of Southeast Asia will be respected. “Asean aspires to be people-centred, as it has stated in its Asean 2025 blueprint. However, in reality, many CSOs are facing curtailment of civic space in their countries, which is contributing to the silencing of dissenting voices.”

International

NE India will be gateway to SE Asia: PM Modi in Bangkok

Modi hailed India’s ties with Thailand and talked about the similarities between the two cultures as he addressed thousands of people of Indian origin in Bangkok’s Nimibutr Stadium at the ‘Sawasdee PM Modi’ event.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday India wants to strengthen its “deep friendly and historical relationship” with Thailand by transforming its northeastern region as a gateway to Southeast Asia.

Modi hailed India’s ties with Thailand and talked about the similarities between the two cultures as he addressed thousands of people of Indian origin in Bangkok’s Nimibutr Stadium at the ‘Sawasdee PM Modi’ event.

The Prime Minister said one of the key elements of his government is to strengthen the ties with ASEAN countries.

“For that, we’ve formed the Act East Policy… For the first time last year, leaders from all 10 ASEAN countries came to India to participate in India’s Republic Day Celebrations,” Modi pointed out.

He said India wants to further strengthen the ties between India and Thailand by transforming its northeastern region as a gateway to Southeast Asia.

“This part of India will give strength to both our Act East Policy and Thailand’s Act West Policy,” he said.

“Once the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway is opened, then there will be seamless connectivity between northeast India and Thailand. This will increase trade in this region as well as tourism and tradition,” he said.

Modi also talked about how India and Thailand have come together to build a relationship, including he said the flights between the two countries, especially his parliamentary constituency Varanasi.

“India and Thailand are progressing at a rapid pace, together. At least 300 flights fly between the two countries weekly. At least 18 destinations in Thailand are connected to India, and the average flight time is between two to four hours,” he said.

“A direct flight has been started from Varanasi, my constituency and the world’s oldest cultural hub, to Thailand. It has also garnered a lot of fame,” he added.

The Prime Minister also emphasised the similarities between Thailand and India.

“You are of Indian origin also because you can find familiarity in every particle of Thailand. There is a glimpse of Indianness in the way people talk, its food, in its traditions, faith and architecture,” he said amid chants of Modi, Modi.

‘Sawasdee PM Modi’ is being organised by Thai Indians along with the Indian embassy in Bangkok. “Sawasdee”, derived from Sanskrit svasti or well being, is the word Thai people use for greetings and goodbye.

“The ties between India and Thailand is not just between the two governments. Every moment and event in history has developed and broadened our relationship and taken it to new heights. These relationships are of the heart, soul, faith and spirituality,” he said.

“Thousands of years ago, ties with South East Asia developed through sea routes and our sailors then travelled thousands of miles on the waves of the sea to build bridges of prosperity and culture that still exist,” he said.

The Prime Minister talked about the massive mandate his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) received “for the first time in 60 years” in the Lok Sabha elections held in April-May to form the government for a second term.

“The transformation that India is undergoing at the moment is exactly why the people of the country chose me to become their prime servant for the second time in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. They blessed me with more votes than they did last time,” he said.

He had to stop his speech several times as people at the Nimibutr Stadium cheered him on while he spoke about his government’s scheme and policies, including Ayushman Bharat, which he said have benefitted millions of people in India.

“When a decision is right and is taken with the right mentality, it resonates with the entire world. Today, I can hear it in Thailand. This standing ovation from you is for the Parliament of India,” Modi said.

Before his address in Hindi, the Prime Minister also released a commemorative coin marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev and the Thai translation of Tamil classic ‘Tirukkural’ written by Thiruvalluvar.

Saturday’s event comes after the mega ‘Howdy, Modi!’ outreach programme in the US’ Houston on September 23 attended by more than 50,000 people. US president Donald Trump was also present at the event.

Modi is in Thailand on a three-day visit to take part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summits.

Prime Minister Modi will co-chair the 16th ASEAN-India summit alongside Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Sunday.

In a statement before his departure, the Prime Minister said that during the visit, he will also hold bilateral meetings with a number of other world leaders present in the Thailand capital for related summit meetings.

“The ASEAN-related summits are an integral part of our diplomatic calendar, and an important element in our Act East Policy. Our partnership with ASEAN is built around the key pillars of connectivity, capacity-building, commerce and culture,” he had said. (HT)

International

India, Nepal, Bhutan plan trans-border conservation area

India, Nepal and Bhutan have drafted a memorandum of understanding to create a a trans-boundary wildlife conservation ‘peace park’, Soumitra Dasgupta, inspector-general of forests (wildlife) under the environment, forest and climate change ministry told Down to Earth, the premier environment and development magazine.

“The process is in its final stage. The MoU is currently going back and forth among the countries for final changes,” he said.

The proposed Park will include biodiversity-rich landscapes in adjoining areas of the three countries, Director General of Forest Siddhanta Das told Down to Earth.

“The trans-boundary parks present a fundamental shift in which wildlife conservation is done. From a species focused approach, we are moving to a landscape based approach,” he said.

There is already one trans-boundary Protected Area in India and Bhutan, which includes the Manas landscape of Assam, and the new tripartite park will be an extension of this, Das said.

“This initiative was taken by India keeping in view the migratory wildlife species such as elephant,” Das said. 

Last month a meeting was held in Bhutan where the country shared its final views with India, which were under consideration, Das said.

The process started this year, with the idea that wildlife species, their movement and conservation should not be interrupted by political boundaries.

“This project will maintain the natural connectivity of wildlife species, undisturbed by political boundaries. The project will also help the local communities through ecotourism. It will also maintain the traditional and cultural continuity of villages that share similar traditions from time immemorial, but have been separated by the political boundary. In this sense this park will be a harbinger of peace in the area,” Dasgupta said. 

The process, although started by the MoEF&CC, has to involve the Ministry of External Affairs, given the multinational nature of the project. 

International

Army attacks terror launch pads in PoK with artillery guns, Pakistan army accuses India of targeting civilians to ‘justify false claims

  • Targeting innocent civilians by Indian Army is an attempt to justify their false claims of targeting alleged camps. Injured civilians evacuated to District hospitals, the Pakistan Army official Twitter handle said
  • It further added that the Indian Army shall always get ‘befitting response’ to ceasefire violations. ‘Pakistan Army shall protect innocent civilians along LOC & inflict unbearable cost to Indian Army’
  • Heavy cross-border shelling was reported early on Sunday near Jammu and Kashmir’s Tanghar and Nowgam sectors. At least, two Indian soldiers and a civilian were killed

Soon after the Indian Army said that they have retaliated fiercely to Pakistan’s ceasefire violation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Tangdhar sector in Kupwara, the Pakistan Armed Forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted a jibe at the army and said, “Indian Army struggling to pick dead bodies and evacuate injured soldiers. Indian Army raising white flag. This they should think before initiating unprovoked CFVs and respect military norms by avoiding to target innocent civilians.”

The official Twitter handle of Pakistan Army’s spokesperson also alleged that it was Indian Army who violated the ceasefire and in the process “targetted civilians.” “9 Indian soldiers killed several injured. 2 Indian bunkers destroyed. During exchange of fire 1 soldier & 3 civilians shaheed, 2 soldiers & 5 civilians injured.”

In a series of tweets, the spokesperson further added, “Indian Army shall always get befitting response to CFVs. Pakistan Army shall protect innocent civilians along LOC & inflict unbearable cost to Indian Army. Indian lies to justify their false claims & preparations for a false flag operation will continue to be exposed with truth.”

According to latest reports, terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir’s Jura, Athmuqam and Kundalsahi were targeted by Indian Army artillery guns on Saturday night after credible inputs came of significant number of terrorists operating there.

Heavy cross-border shelling was reported early on Sunday near Jammu and Kashmir’s Tanghar and Nowgam sectors. At least, two Indian soldiers and a civilian were killed as Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire in Tanghar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday, police said. Five Pakistani army men were killed in retaliatory firing by the Indian Army in Tangdhar sector along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, official army sources confirmed on Sunday.

According to sources in the Indian Army, two Indian soldiers were killed in ceasefire violation, along the Line of Control in Tangdhar sector in Jammu and Kashmir when Pakistan Army was pushing infiltrators into Indian territory. Indian Army is retaliating strongly in the entire sector, the statement further said.

Indian Army confirmed that they launched attacks on terrorist camps situated inside Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) opposite the Tanghar sector. This is in retaliation to the support provided by Pakistan Army to push terrorists into Indian territory, Indian Army spokesperson was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Indian army has used artillery guns to target the terrorist camps which have been actively trying to push terrorists into Indian territory, ANI reported. A 27-year-old woman was killed on Tuesday due to unprovoked mortar shelling from the Pakistani side. The number of ceasefire violations by Pakistan has seen a spike this year, The Indian Express reported. The months of July, August, and September saw more combined violations than in the same months in the last two years.

With inputs from agencies

International

With Xi’s visit, Pokhara entrepreneurs hopeful business will grow

Businessmen in Pokhara say they are hopeful the number of Chinese tourists visiting the lake city will increase following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit.

Bikal Tulachan, chairman of the Western Regional Hotel Association in Pokhara, said that with the visit, he hopes Nepal-China relations will strengthen and Chinese investments will come in for the development of the tourism sector in Pokhara. “It is obvious that the number of Chinese tourists will increase more now, following Xi Jinping’s visit,” said Tulachan.

Tulachan’s assumptions are not baseless. According to the data of the Tourism Board, there has been a steady increase in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Nepal in recent years. In 2018, around 154,000 Chinese tourists arrived in Nepal. The number was 124,000 in 2014.

It is not just Nepali entrepreneurs who are hopeful. Chinese entrepreneurs, who have been running their businesses under an umbrella organisation called Overseas Chinese Association, are also quite optimistic.

According to Tulachan, Chinese entrepreneurs have invested around Rs 500 million in hotels and restaurants in Pokhara, and currently run 17 of them. Some of the entrepreneurs have also invested in the agriculture sector. He said, “It is necessary to invite the Chinese government’s investments in mega projects for the development of Pokhara. Many Chinese entrepreneurs come to Pokhara with interest in starting four- and five-star hotels.”

Chinese entrepreneur Zhan Jiang Song, chairman of the association, claimed that the tourism sector will be developed in Nepal following Xi Jinping’s Nepal visit. He said, “Chinese people will be more informed about Nepal and this will aid in increasing the number of Chinese tourists here.”

Liao Ji Bing, a Chinese national who has been operating a restaurant in Lakeside, said “Pokhara is a beautiful city with good weather. Chinese people are attracted to visit this friendly city.” He, however, added that in order to draw more Chinese tourists, the country’s roads (such as the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway and the Pokhara-Lumbini roadway) need to be upgraded.

Gandaki Province and Hainan Province of China have already established sister relations to co-operate bilaterally in education, tourism, trade, culture energy among other sectors. Pokhara City has also established sister relations with Kunming, of China, to promote cultural relations through connectivity, tourism, exchanges of high-level visits, and researches.

by Deepak Pariyar

Deepak Pariyar is the Kaski correspondent for Kantipur Publications.

International

Nepal and China sign and exchange 20 agreements

Nepal and China signed 18 memorandums of understanding and two letters of exchange on Sunday on the concluding day of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit.

fficials from Nepal and China signed the agreements on various issues in the presence of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Xi on Sunday morning.

The instruments are related to the partnership between government bodies including the ministries of home; foreign affairs; physical infrastructure and transport; agriculture and livestock development and industry, commerce and supply.

Foreign ministers from Nepal and China as well as finance, home and foreign secretaries and secretaries at related ministries and the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yaunqi signed and exchanged the memorandums of understanding and letters of exchange.

The instruments are related to the partnership between government bodies including the ministries of home; foreign affairs; physical infrastructure and transport; agriculture and livestock development and industry, commerce and supply.

Foreign ministers from Nepal and China as well as finance, home and foreign secretaries and secretaries at related ministries and the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yaunqi signed and exchanged the memorandums of understanding and letters of exchange.

Kathmandu Post

International

Bangladeshi oganisation raises to make bilateral agreements public

Left Democratic Alliance yesterday demanded that the government make public the bilateral documents it signed with India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to the neighbouring country.

Reportedly, Bangladesh’s interests have been overlooked and India’s interests were given priority in the agreements, the alliance leaders said at a press conference in the capital’s Mukti Bhaban.

In protest, LDA will stage a rally at Jatiya Press Club on Sunday afternoon, they said.

On Saturday, Bangladesh and India signed seven bilateral documents, aiming to further strengthen the relations between the two countries, according to media reports.

The bilateral documents are: MoU for providing a coastal surveillance system; the standard operating procedure on the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India; MoU on withdrawal of 1.82 cusec water from the Feni river by India for a drinking water supply scheme in Sabroom town of Tripura; agreement on implementation of the lines of credit committed by India to Bangladesh; MoU between the University of Hyderabad and the University of Dhaka; MoU on cooperation in youth affairs and renewal of a cultural exchange programme.

The government has agreed to India’s use of Bangladesh’s sea ports but it did not disclose the agreement’s terms and conditions before the countrymen, said Communist Party of Bangladesh President Mujahidul Islam Selim.

Nothing has been said about whether there are any “protective measures” in the agreement, he said.

Selim also said the present government came to power through a “farcical election”. As a result, it agreed to whatever demands were made by India because its aim was to “survive” in power.

“This government has to step down if Bangladesh’s interests are to be upheld,” he added.

On the killing of Buet student Abrar Fahad, the left-leaning politician said such incidents would not have happened at a renowned educational institution if students there had the chance to practice and engage in ideology-based political activities.

Reading out a written statement, LDA central leader Abdus Sattar said countrymen are aggrieved and frustrated over PM’s consent to the withdrawal of water from the river Feni, as Bangladesh’s demand for logical distribution of water of common rivers, including the Teesta, still remains unresolved.

“This is similar to betraying the country and its citizens after sacrificing Bangladesh’s interest,” he said.

Saiful Haque, general secretary of Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh, said Bangladesh as a sovereign country has failed diplomatically during PM’s recent visit to India and that the countrymen also rejected the government’s recent deals.

Withdrawal of Feni River Water: Experts see little impact here

India is going to draw around 51.54 litres of water per second from the Feni river once the deal between Bangladesh and India is implemented, but doubts remain as to how much impact it would have on Bangladesh.  

The Feni water-sharing agreement was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi on October 6.

Some experts say the drawing of water will have little impact on the downstream of the Feni river. 

Yet, the deal regarding withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water by India, to be used as drinking water for the people of Sabroom town in Tripura, triggered sharp criticism in Bangladesh.  

The condemnation comes due to India dillydallying on signing the Teesta deal for last eight years even after finalisation of the deal and suspicions regarding the nature of the deal. 

“I think withdrawal of 1.82 cusecs of water will have very little impact in the downstream. After a series of discussions, we have agreed to provide them the water for drinking purpose. There is no shortage of water during the monsoon and during the lean period, the river has a minimum flow of the water around 110 cusecs,” said KM Anwar Hossain, member, Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), Bangladesh.

He explained the quantity of water in one cusec water was equivalent to 28.32 litres of water flow per second. So, 1.82 cusec will be equivalent to 51.54 litres water per second. 

When asked when the water-sharing would start, Anwar said it would start soon as the MoU was already signed.  

While there is optimism on a government level, questions remain regarding how much water is to be withdrawn and how it would be monitored. 

Professor Saiful Islam of the Institute of Water and Flood management, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said the discharge of Feni river was around 750 cusecs during the monsoon, while it was over 100 cusecs in winter. 

“That means they are going to withdraw around two to three percent of water from the river during the lean period, which would not be a problem. 

“But if they withdraw more than 1.82 cusecs, it may affect Muhuri-Feni irrigation project based on the water from Feni river,” he said. 

Around 230.076 hectares land area is under the Muhuri-Feni irrigation project.

He, however, said it was necessary to sign deals on sharing of the water of all transboundary rivers. 

Locals living by the Feni river in Khagrachhari said India had been withdrawing water from the Feni river “unofficially”, by setting up small pumps at zero point. 

Regarding the deal, many said there was confusion whether it was to draw 1.82 cusec of water or more.  

“If they withdraw 1.82 cusec of water, it will not have much impact downstream. But, if they withdraw 1.82 cumec instead, it will be a disaster for us because 1.82 cumec is 35 times higher than 1.82 cusec. So, the government should make it clear about the signed MoU,” said M Inamul Haque, Chairman, Institute of Water & Environment. 

According to the joint statement of Hasina’s official visit to India, it is mentioned that 1.82 cusec of water will be withdrawn. A copy of the MoU, however, is yet to be made available on public domains.

In regards to monitoring, JRC member Anwar said, “Now India will invite Bangladesh to oversee the withdrawal activities jointly with them. They will set up water pumps to withdraw the water, while officials of Bangladesh and India will jointly monitor the activities,” he said. 

“The officials will monitor some issues like whether the withdrawal activities cause any harm to the river, so it does not cause any erosion on the river bank,” he said.

Source: The Star Daily