International Affairs – March 2013
- South Africa hosted the fifth BRICS Summit from 26 to 28 March 2013 at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC). The central area of discussion was under the overarching theme, BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialization. BRICS is an acronym for the powerful grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The first BRIC Summit took place in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where the elected leaders of the four countries formally declared the membership of the BRIC economic bloc. South Africa joined the bloc in 2010, resulting in BRICS. The BRICS mechanism aims to achieve peace, security, development and cooperation. It also seeks to contribute significantly to the development of humanity and establish a more equitable and fair world
- Subsequent to the discussions that took place at the Business Forum Meeting, the industry leaders from the business communities of the five countries agreed on the following points:
BRICS and Africa will forge a closer partnership for development integration and industrialization.
BRICS countries will actively support infrastructure development and industrialization on the African continent in order to contribute to its development and to expand trade links between Africa and BRICS.
BRICS countries remain committed to the cause of promoting sustainable growth.
Greater economic cooperation amongst BRICS countries is imperative. This can help in addressing some of the domestic challenges each of us face as well as prove beneficial for global economic growth
China and Brazil have agreed to establish a currency swap line worth around 30 billion dollar in their respective currencies, which they say is designed to protect against future global financial crises.
- Key recommendations of the Summit
1) The BRICS Nations fully support the efforts of their respective governments at the G20 that has emerged as the premiere forum to address critical global economic and financial issues. We shall work collectively to carry forward the work agenda set by the G20 leaders for promoting stronger, sustainable and more equitable growth.2) They reiterate that the world economic order is changing and that the process of developing economic policy agenda at the global level should reflect this. While there is a realization even amongst the developed countries about the increasing economic weight of emerging economies, this is not fully reflected in the governance model of global institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. We shall continue to work alongside our governments to gradually usher in governance reforms at multi-lateral institutions.
3) The BRICS nation urges their respective governments to deepen their consultative engagements on economic policies to bring about stability and certainty in global financial markets.
4) The BRICS nations encourage their respective governments to take steps to deepen economic engagement amongst the BRICS countries. The establishment of the BRICS Business Council is, therefore, supported as a practical measure that will deepen economic engagement amongst BRICS countries. Trade and investment are the two pillars of economic engagement amongst BRICS countries. We should look to continue enhancing intra-BRICS trade to achieve at least US$ 500 billion by 2015 as per agreement from previous Business Forum in India. It is essential to improve the quality of trade by focusing on more value added trade in all the three sectors namely manufacturing, services and agriculture. Likewise, we should capitalize on opportunities in sectors such as but not limited to agriculture and agro-processing, energy, sustainable development, infrastructure, mining beneficiation, pharmaceutical and information and communication technology. There is agreement that support for industrialization projects on the African continent will contribute to the expansion of trade and investment links between BRICS and Africa.
5) The Countries are encouraged by the discussions that are taking place amongst our respective governments towards greater cooperation in the financial sector.The possibility of setting up of a development bank and investment fund and promoting trade within this group in local currencies are particularly encouraging and progress in finalizing these.
- The BRICS Summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), with about 12 African leaders and all the continent’s eight regional economic communities attending as interested parties, will announce the setting of an exclusive bank for themselves(BRICS Bank) and the developing world. BRICS officials say the bank will start functioning in two years after details such as capitalization, location and holding percentages are worked out. The Sherpas, or high officials nominated by the heads of government were eventually finalized the Durban Declaration (eThekwini Declaration, the African name for Durban).It emerges that the economic aspects will be given a firm push with the announcement of a stand-alone BRICS business council and two agreements that could serve as a precursor to the bank, pushed hard by China but looked at with reservations by the rest for fear that Beijing, having emerged as a bigger lender last year than the World Bank, would dominate the bank completely.
- Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi resigned on 26 March 2013 in the wake of a dispute with India over the 2012 killing of two Indian fishermen by two marines while they are on anti-piracy duty. Italy has agreed to send two Italian marines accused of the crime to India to face trial, after initially refusing to return them. The marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, are facing trial in India over the shooting dead of two fishermen off the southern state of Kerala in February 2012 when they were deputed to protect an Italian commercial tanker from pirates. The dispute began after Italy allowed the two suspects to return to Italy in February 2013 to vote in national elections. Italy’s initial refusal to send them back angered Indian government officials and Supreme Court justices, who noted that the Italian ambassador had given assurances to the court that the marines would come back to India after the elections. On 11 March 2013, the outgoing technocrat government of Mario Monti in Italy said it would not send the marines back because Indian courts did not have jurisdiction over the incident, which as per the Rome occurred in international waters.
- Iran, North Korea and Syria on 28 March, have blocked adoption of a UN arms treaty that would regulate the USD 70 billion conventional arms trade around the world, saying it fails to ban sales of weapons to groups that commit “acts of aggression”. The text of the first international treaty on arms trade needs support from all 193 UN member states for its approval. The draft text came up for approval on 28 March, after the UN members failed to adopt it in July last year even after month-long negotiations. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed disappointment on the failure of the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to reach an agreement on the text, which for the first time would have regulated the international arms trade. Iranian UN envoy Mohammad Khazaee told the conference his country could not accept the treaty in its current form. The current draft does not ban sales of weapons to armed groups but says all arms transfers should be subjected to rigorous risk and human rights assessments first. India and others had complained that the treaty favors the arms exporting nations and remains silent on the illicit trafficking of such weapons to non-state actors. Britain the main sponsor of the resolution said that though it is disappointed, it has not given up.
- Malala Yousafzai, the 15 years old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by Taliban in October 2012 for advocating girls’ education, signed a deal for around 3 million dollars in March 2013 to publish her memoir. The Book which is titled “I am Malala” is supposed to Publish later in this year. It is going to be published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson in the UK and Commonwealth and by Little, Brown in the rest of the world. The book is based on life story of Malala and as per Malala Yousafzai and it will be part of the campaign to give every boy and girl the right to go to school. It is their basic right. Malala Yousafzai started writing a blog on the BBC Urdu service under a pseudonym about life in the Swat Valley in 2009. She was shot after her real identity became known. Since the shooting, Malala has been awarded several peace prizes and is the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
- Brazil and China signed the currency swap agreement on 26 March 2013 in Durban, South Africa. The agreement is designed specifically for providing safety against the future global financial issues. The currency swap agreement was first announced in 2012. The agreement will enable the central banks of two countries to swap the local currencies worth 190bn Yuan or 60bn Reais, i.e. 30 billion US Dollar. The agreement will enable smooth bilateral trade irrespective of the financial conditions at the global level.
- The currency swap agreement between Brazil and China was signed on sidelines of 5th BRICS Summit which was held recently in Durban, South Africa. BRICS refers to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It is important to note that in order to push its currency (Yuan) for a greater international role, China has been continuously trying to promote Yuan as the alternative to US dollar as global reserve currency.
- Mir Hazar Khan Khoso was on 25 March sworn in as Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister by President Asif Ali Zardari during a ceremony held at the presidency. Former premiers Raja Pervez Ashraf and Yousuf Raza Gilani, leaders of political parties, top military officials, bureaucrats and diplomats attended the ceremony. The general election was scheduled for May 11. After the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition and a bipartisan parliamentary committee were unable to choose a caretaker premier after six days of deliberations, the matter was sent to the five-member Election Commission on 22 March. Following two days of discussions, Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim announced on Sunday that Mr. Khoso had been chosen for the slot.
- President Barack Obama on 26 March chose veteran agent Julia Pierson as Secret Service director, the first woman to lead the male-dominated agency, a year after its reputation was tarnished by a scandal involving agents and prostitutes in Colombia. Pierson will replace Mark Sullivan, who retired in February and was in charge during the Colombia scandal – one of the worst in the agency’s history. The Secret Service has been criticized for having an insular, male-dominated culture, and Pierson’s appointment also comes as Obama fends off criticism that his second-term picks for high-level posts have not included enough women and minority candidates. Pierson, a native of Florida, is currently chief of staff at the Secret Service and began her career as a special agent with the Miami field office in 1983. The director’s position does not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Starting in 1988, Pierson served four years with the Presidential Protective Division, and she became deputy assistant director of the Office of Protective Operations in 2005.
- An agreement, on the RadioAstron space satellite was signed between the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) on the Margins of BRICS Summit on 26 March 2013 in Durban. The agreement paved the way for the two countries to work together on the development of science and space technologies. In 2006 the South African and Russian governments signed an agreement to cooperate on the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. The agreement signed confirms a strategic role in the area of global space science and technology and provides an opportunity to use space science and technology to contribute towards socio-economic development. As per the agreement, Roscosmos will provide the hardware for upgrading the tracking station (antenna) for compatibility with RadioAstron, while SANSA will install and maintain the upgraded hardware and operate the tracking station.
- Dubai International Airport has been confirmed as the world’s second busiest for international passenger traffic, moving ahead of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport for the first time, it has been announced. Since the start of the year, Dubai International has moved up two positions in the global rankings and now has London Heathrow’s title as the world’s busiest international airport firmly within its sights. The rankings were confirmed by the latest figures published by Airports Council International, the Dubai Airports company said in a statement.
- Dubai Airports has maintained its impressive passenger growth in 2013, with passenger traffic at Dubai International rising 13% to 10,640,120 passengers in the first two months of this year, up from 9,413,286 for the same period in 2012.”It is extremely gratifying to see Dubai International leap up two places in the international passenger rankings in a single year. It is a clear signal that more people are choosing Dubai as their preferred hub for not only its extensive global network but the superb facilities on the ground too. Given our surging growth rate and London Heathrow’s capacity constraints we are well placed to overtake them as the world’s busiest airport for international traffic by 2015,” Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said.
- Following large-scale arms acquisition by Pakistan, China has become the fifth largest arms exporter in the world. According to the latest global arms transfer data released by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) at Observer Research Foundation on 18 March, China has pushed the UK to the sixth place. “This is the first time China has been in the top five arms exporters since the end of the cold war,” said Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher of SIPRI, releasing the new data at ORF. In the five-year period from 2008-12, the largest supplier of major conventional weapons continues to be the United States with a share of 30 percent of the global arms export. Russia is the second largest supplier with 26 percent of global share while Germany is placed at the third place with 7 percent global share and France the fourth with 6 percent global share. Wezeman said during 2008-12, Asia and Oceana accounted for almost half (47 percent) of the global arms imports of major conventional weapons, with India leading with 12 percent. The Chinese share in global imports was six percent, while Pakistan and South Korea accounted for five percent and Singapore four percent. Talking on China-Pak-India dynamics, ORF Distinguished Fellow Manoj Joshi pointed out that 70 percent of Chinese arms exports are going to the Indian neighborhood, raising security concerns. He also pointed out that Pakistan was able to move faster in arms and technology acquisition with the help of China while India’s cooperation with Russia was slower.
- Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned on 22 March, due to government infighting that threatens to leave a void in the state’s highest ranks at a time of rising tensions and sporadic violence enflamed by the civil war in neighboring Syria. Najib Mikati stepped down to protest the parliament’s inability to agree on a law to govern elections set for later this year, as well as for the Cabinet’s refusal to extend the tenure of the country’s police chief, who is about to retire. The dispute was mainly created by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah that dominates the Parliament of Lebanon. The resignation of the Government still awaits its acceptance by the President, Michel Suleiman. With the resignation of the Government, Lebanon has entered into the political crisis and it has been suffering from the protests in Syria. The Syrian conflict had affected Lebanon by the emigration of the refugees from Syria to Lebanon, which was also responsible in the slowdown of the country’s economy and a surge of 67 percent in its budget deficit in 2012.
- The Euro group President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on 25 March that the Euro zone finance ministers had approved a new bailout plan for Cyprus, putting an end to uncertainties over the fate of the Mediterranean island country in the euro area. “Euro group has reached political agreement with the Cypriot authorities on a financial assistance program,” Euro group President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said at a press conference after hours of tough negotiations. “The Euro group welcomes the plans for restructuring the financial sector as specified in the annex. These measures will form the basis for restoring the viability of the financial sector,” he said. The program will contain a “decisive approach to addressing financial sector imbalances,” and there will be “an appropriate downsizing of the financial sector,” with the domestic banking sector reaching the EU average by 2018. The deal came after days of uncertainties after the Cypriot parliament rejected a former bailout deal struck on March 16, under which depositors in Cypriot banks will be hit with a one-off tax on their savings. Under the new agreement, deposits below the EU deposit-guarantee ceiling of 100,000 euros will be all protected.
- The armies of Nepal and the United States on 24 March, launched a joint military exercise called “Ex-Shanti Prayas-II” at the Birendra Peace Operation Training Centre in Panchkhal, Kavre,Nepal. The exercise will conclude on April 7.Commander Colonel Ishwor Hamal of the Birendra Peace Operation Training Centre said the training is exclusively a peace support exercise. According to him, the Ex-Shanti Prayas II training will involve as many as 871 military personnel from 23 countries, including Nepal, United States, Bangladesh, India, Thailand Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, among others. Of them, 416 participants are from the Nepali Army. This multinational exercise is the latest in a continuing series of exercises in the Asia-Pacific region designed to promote regional peace and security and enhance the United Nations peacekeeping capabilities and capacity of nations participating in the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). The exercise has three separate events: senior training seminar (STS), staff exercise (STAFFEX) and field training exercise (FTE). The training model has been developed by the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations. Nepal and the US government will be bearing the financial costs of the exercise.
- The former President of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf returned back to Pakistan on 24 March 2013, ending four years self-imposed exile. He declared that he was going back for the political future of Pakistan, despite threats from Pakistani Taliban. He came back to Karachi from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is also known that general elections will be held in Pakistan on 11 May 2013. He belonged to the All Pakistan Muslim League party of Pakistan. Gen. Pervez Musharraf resigned from the post of President of Pakistan in August 2008 because of threat of impeachment. He left Pakistan on 19 April 2009. Though the court in Sindh province granted protective bail to him, but he has charges in cases of 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, 2006 death of Nawab Akbar Bugti as well as 2007 sacking of judges. The former President of Pakistan, Musharraf ruled in Pakistan from 2001 to 2008.
- Mir Hazar Khan Khosa (84), a retired judge, will be Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister till a new National Assembly is elected by mid-May. His name was finalized on 24 march by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after the political class failed to arrive on a consensus over caretaker premiership. The announcement was made by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim after the matter was put to vote. Mr. Khosa’s candidature was suggested by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its allies. Speaking to the media soon after his candidature was finalized, Mr. Khosa said he would invite all political parties for consultation to ensure a fair election. About the size of his Cabinet, he maintained it would be small, no more than a dozen-strong.
- The UN Human Rights Council on 21 March adopted a US-sponsored resolution on human rights violation in Sri Lanka with 25 countries, including India, voting in favor of the document in the 47-nation strong body. While 13 countries, including Pakistan, voted against, eight member-states abstained from voting on the contentious resolution that saw political tremors in India with DMK pulling out of the UPA alliance and the government. Gabon, a member-country had voting rights issue. The watered down resolution also sawIndia pushing for new elements through written amendments calling for an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violation and other accountability measures to be accepted by Sri Lanka, according to sources. During ‘Intervention in the United Nations Human Rights Council on the Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka’, India’s permanent representative Dilip Sinha said, “We reiterate our call for an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violations and loss of civilian lives”. Criticizing the resolution, Sri Lanka at the UNHRC said, “The resolution presented in Geneva today is clearly unacceptable to Sri Lanka.””The government of Sri Lanka totally rejects the attempts by the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and proponents of this resolution,” the Sri Lankan representative said. The resolution urged the government of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to address “continuing reports of violations of human rights” in the country, including threats to judicial independence and media intimidation. India said it believes that the report of the Lessons Learnt Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and its findings and recommendation provides a window of opportunity to forge a consensual way forward towards a lasting political settlement through genuine national reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all its citizens.
- The new leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping on 14 March 2013 was appointed as the President of China. It is also known that Xi Jinping, 59, was also chosen as the General Secretary of CPC in November 2012. He overtook the office from Hu Jintao. On 14 March 2013, Xi Jinping was approved by National People’s Congress (NPC), the Parliament of China, in the comprehensive election process at Great Hall of the People. Politburo member Li Yuanchao (63) was also chosen as the Vice President of Xi Jinping on the same day. Li Keqiang, 57, was appointed as the Premier of China. He replaced Wen Jiabao.
- The Euro zone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) signed a deal on 16 March 2013 in Brussels to aid Cyprus with a bailout package worth 10 billion Euros. It is important to note that Cyprus is the fifth country to go to Euro zone for the financial aid because of sovereign debt crisis that kicked off in 2010. Other countries that reached Euro zone for financial aid before Cyprus – Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.However, the Euro zone agreed for the bailout agreement of up to 10 billion Euros, while Cyprus in 2012 had asked for around 17 billion Euros. The Euro zone Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund agreed on the terms that included one-time tax of 9.9 percent on Cypriot bank deposits of over 130000 Dollars or 100000 Euros as well as the tax of 6.75 percent on smaller deposits. Actually, Cyprus had estimated its requirement for 17 billion Euros, which was the amount that it required for restoration of its economy. Of this, 10 billion Euros was required for recapitalizing the banks while 7 billion Euros was required for the servicing debt as well as the operations of the government.
- Britain and Argentina were on 12 March, embroiled in a renewed war of words after the residents of the disputed Falkland Islands voted overwhelmingly in favor of it staying as a British overseas territory.Argentina immediately rejected the outcome saying it did not recognize the referendum even as Prime Minister David Cameron described it as the “clearest possible” expression of the wishes of the islanders, and urged Argentina to respect their view. A whopping 99.8 per cent of the voters — all of British origin — said “yes” to the question: “Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?” Only three voted “no”. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, however, made clear that her country did not recognize the referendum, saying it had no legal validity. Argentina, which calls the islands Las Malvinas, insisted it belonged to them and called for a diplomatic solution.
- Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi was sworn-in as the new Prime Minister of Nepal on 14 March 2013. Khil Raj Regmi will be the head of interim government which will have its elections by 21 June 2013. He took over the office from Baburam Bhattarai. Regmi will be the head of 11-member electoral government. Khil Raj Regmi, 63, took oath of the office and secrecy fromthe President Ram Baran Yadav after the top leaders of four main parties- the United Democratic Madhesi Front, Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), reached the 11-point understanding. It is for the first time in the political history of Nepal that any sitting Chief Justice was named as Head of the Government.
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on 11 March 2013 launched a 7.5 billion dollar gas pipeline project that will link Iran’s gas pipeline to that of Pakistan. The inauguration ceremony of gas pipeline project was held in Iran’s Chabahar city. With the launch of pipeline, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted that west has no right to obstruct Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project that has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear issue. Both the presidents mentioned that the completion of the pipeline is in the interests of peace, security and progress of the two countries and is supposed to consolidate the economic, political and security ties of the two nations. Iran has constructed 900 km of the 1600-km pipeline on its soil. Both Iranian and Pakistani firms have undertaken the construction of the remaining part in Pakistan. The project will be completed by mid-2014, as scheduled; Iran will export 21.5 million cubic meters of natural gas to Pakistan on daily basis. The work on the Iranian side is almost complete and on 11 March 2013 and the construction work started on the Pakistani side. A total of 780km of pipeline is to be built in Pakistan by December 2014. The project provoked several warnings of sanctions from the US. Washington stated that the pipeline would enable Tehran to sell more gas, undermining efforts to step up pressure over its nuclear activities. As per US, if this deal is finalized for a proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran Sanctions Act.
- Mauritius celebrated its 45th Independence Day on 12 March 2013. The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest at the 45th Independence Day celebrations of Mauritius. It is important to note that 12 March 2013 is also iconic for India because it is the anniversary of Dandi March as well. Apart from being the Chief Guest at the 45th Independence Day of Mauritius,Pranab Mukherjee also visited the World Heritage Site, the Aapravasi Ghat, where Indian labourers first landed. India as well as Mauritius share a mutual interest in various sectors such as science and technology, renewable energy, investment, education, culture and trade. The Dutch first settled Mauritius in 1638. Later, the French overtook it in 1715. Even later, it was taken over by the British. Mauritius finally achieved its Independence on 12 March 1968.
- The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church chose Argentine Jorge Bergoglio on 13 March 2013 as the new Pope (266th pope). The new pope chose Francis as his Papal Name. He is the first non-European pope in almost 1300 years and first pontiff from the Americas. A Pope sits in the Vatican City. Before Jorge Bergoglio, no other Pope took the Papal Name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis of Assisi was the reformer of 13th Century, who lived in extreme poverty and preached his followers to preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words. After being elected as the Pope, Pope Francis waved his hands to the huge crowd gathered at St. Peter’s Square. Pope Benedict XVI, who was appointed pope in the year 2005 resigned from his position in February 2013 claiming that he was infirm to carry. He was the first pope in past 600 years to resign after Pope Gregory XII, who resigned from the position in 1415 to put an end to the Great Western Split among competing papal claimants.
- The UN Human Development Report 2013 was released on 14 March 2013, according to which India has poor Gender Inequality Index, apart from the overall poor Human Development Index (HDI). Apart from Afghanistan that got a rank of 147 in comparison to 132 of India, all the countries in the region of South Asia were ranked higher on Gender Inequality Index. China was also ranked very high on Gender Inequality Index. This Gender Inequality Index measures the inequality in terms of achievements between males and females in three main aspects namely, labour market, reproductive health and empowerment. Women representation in Parliament in India is only 10.9 percent. The only worse country than India is Iran with 3.1 percent. The country that has best representation of women in Parliament is Nepal with 33.2 percent. India ranks badly on the Maternal Mortality Ratio as well. Maternal Mortality Ratio measures the ratio of the number of maternal deaths to the number of live births in a given year. It is expressed per 100000 live births. In India, for every 100000 births, 200 women die during the childbirth or due to complications in childbearing. The only countries to have higher Maternal Mortality Ratio than India are Bangladesh (240), Pakistan (260) and Afghanistan (460). The countries with lowest Maternal Mortality Ratio are Sri Lanka (35) and Iran (21). The Human Development Index (HDI) is a combined index which measures the average achievements of the countries in three main human development dimensions. These dimensions are decent standard of living, knowledge and long and healthy life. In the 2013 Human Development Index (HDI) report, analysis of the 40 developing countries in South Asia was done.
- Police in the Maldives detained Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed on 5 March. Twenty masked policemen in riot gear arrested Mr. Nasheed (45) at his family home in the Capital Male. Authorities said Mr. Nasheed was taken into custody on a court order and would appear in magistrates’ court on 6 March to face abuse of power charges, stemming from his order to arrest a judge. “He is not under arrest, but he has been taken into custody on a court order issued after he repeatedly evaded summonses to appear in court,” presidential spokesman Masood Imad told. Skirmishes erupted between government supporters and opposition activists in the capital shortly after the arrest, but police quickly controlled the crowds. President Mohamed Waheed’s brother Ali Waheed was also roughed up by angry crowds, but police intervened to save him. Seeking to avoid arrest, Mr. Nasheed took refuge in the Indian high commission last month for 10 days and walked out only after an informal agreement was brokered by New Delhi under which he would be free to campaign. Presidential elections are due September 7.
- China unveiled a government restructuring plan on 10 March, cutting cabinet-level entities by two and dissolving its powerful railways ministry, as the country’s new leader’s look to boost efficiency and combat corruption. The reforms mark the biggest reduction in ministries since 1998 when then-premier Zhu Rongji oversaw the overhaul of the State Council, and coincides with growing public concern over transparency and overlapping bureaucracies. The government will join the Family Planning Commission, the agency that controls the controversial one-child policy with the health ministry, and strengthen the powers of the food and drug regulators. The railways ministry and Family Planning Commission have been particularly unpopular, and their restructuring was widely expected. The railways ministry has faced numerous problems over the past few years, including heavy debts from funding new high-speed lines, waste and fraud. Railways planning will be coordinated under the broader transport ministry. The government has pledged to open the rail industry to private investment on an unprecedented scale. Family planning officials, meanwhile, have been known to compel women to have abortions to meet birth-rate targets. High profile cases have sparked national fury, such as when a woman in inland Shaanxi province was forced to abort her 7-month pregnancy last year. The reports said family planning must continue “on the basis of stable and low birth rates”, but added that policies would be “improved”. China’s one-child policy is still generally enforced, although there are a number of family situations exempt from the rule.
- Venezuelan Vice- President Nicolas Maduro on 8 March 2013 was sworn in as Venezuela’s acting president, despite the Opposition resistance as it is being considered to the violation of the country’s constitution. Late President Hugo Chavez who died on 5 March 2013 after two year long fight against cancer named Maduro as his successor before undergoing the latest surgery in December 2012. He picked Nicolas Maduro as the presidential candidate of Chavez’s socialist party. As per the country’s 1999 constitution, the National Assembly speaker becomes interim president in the event of a president-elect’s death or inability to be sworn in. The constitution also says new elections should be called within 30 days. Leader of opposition Angel Medina boycotted the swearing-in ceremony, with the vast majority of opposition legislators who haven’t attended the ceremony.
- Pakistan’s parliament on 8 March has passed a bill for setting up a new organization that will integrate counter-terrorism efforts by different bodies in the wake of criticism of civilian law enforcement agencies by the powerful army. The bill for establishing the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was passed by the National Assembly or lower house of parliament after incorporating some amendments suggested by law makers. NACTA, to be headed by the Prime Minister, will “unify and orchestrate national counter-terrorism and counter-extremism measures” by several existing organizations. Besides the Prime Minister, the board of NACTA will include the Interior, Finance and Defence Ministers, the Chief Ministers of all provinces and the chiefs of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau , Military Intelligence and Federal Investigation Agency. The authority will be assisted by an executive committee headed by the Interior Minister, and a national coordinator and a deputy will execute the board’s policies and the government’s instructions NACTA will also be responsible for conducting scientific studies on extremism and terrorism. It will coordinate with law enforcement agencies for taking action against elements involved in terrorism and extremism and play a key role in preparing national counter- terrorism and extremism strategies. The bill is the latest in a series of anti-terrorism laws authored by the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government. It must be passed by the Senate or upper house of parliament to become law. NACTA will be established within 90 days of the bill receiving presidential assent. In recent weeks, civilian law enforcement agencies have been repeatedly criticized by the army for failing to control banned groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has carried out a string of attacks on the minority Shia sect that killed some 250 people.
- Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has won the country’s presidential elections by slight margin defeating Prime Minister Rohila Odinga. A win by Kenyatta could greatly affect Kenya’s relations with the West. Kenyatta faces charges at the International Criminal Court for his alleged role in directing some of Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence. The US has warned of “consequences” if Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father, wins, as have several European countries. Britain, which ruled Kenya up until the early 1960s, has said they would have only essential contact with the Kenyan government if Kenyatta is president. The election outcome is being closely watched by the US and Europe. The US Embassy in Kenya is larger than any American mission in Africa, underscoring Kenya’s strong role in US foreign policy. The US also has military forces stationed here near the border with Somalia. Kenya, the lynchpin of East Africa’s economy, plays a vital security role in the fight against Somali militants. Kenyatta’s International Criminal Court trial is set to begin in July and could take years, meaning that if he wins he may have to rule Kenya from The Hague, Netherlands, for much of his five-year term. Another option is, as president, to decide not to attend the trial. But that decision would trigger an international arrest warrant and spark even more damaging effects for Kenya’s standing with the West. Kenyatta has promised to report to The Hague, even if he wins the presidency. Odinga’s camp may have grounds to file legal challenges after myriad failures in the systems Kenya’s electoral commission set up.
- The US President, Barack Obama on 7 March 2013 signed into law, the Violence against Women Act Reauthorization 2013 in Washington. The Violence against Women Act was first passed in 1994. Reauthorized since then, the new Act offers support to the organizations which serve to the victims of domestic violence. Usually, the local authorities are responsible for criminal prosecutions of abusers, but now the Act made a stricter sentence for stalking under the federal law. The Violence against Women Act of 1994 is primarily a US Federal Law which was signed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. The Act established the Office on Violence against Women in the Department of Justice.The new Act creates as well as expands the federal programs for helping local communities for the purpose of law enforcement as well as helping the victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. The most important feature was offering protection to the transgender, bisexual and gay victims of the domestic abuse.
- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) sanctioned 42 firms and 38 individuals for engaging in corrupt practices while implementing projects financed by the Manila-based lender last year. ADB said it also barred 57 firms and 51 individuals from seeking ADB-financed contracts as part of a cross debarment agreement it forged with four other multilateral lending institutions, Xinhua reported. The Office of Anti-Corruption and Integrity (OAI) of the ADB reported that it received 240 complaints and opened 114 new investigations in 2012. The bulk of the complaints involved fraudulent misrepresentations about qualifications, experience, and technical capabilities of consulting firms, contractors, and individuals seeking work from ADB. The Manila-based lender said it has toughened measures to battle fraud and corruption as complaints reached a new annual high in 2012. ADB piloted project procurement-related spot reviews aimed at strengthening monitoring and compliance. The OAI also provides substantial support and advice to management and project teams on issues relating to integrity, money laundering, and financing of terrorism risks, particularly for its public and private sector projects.
- John Kerry was sworn-in as 68th Secretary of State of the United Stateson 1 March 2013. John Kerry preceded Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Secretary of State has the role of carrying out the foreign policies of the President through the State Department that encompasses Civil Service, Foreign Service and U.S. Agency for International Development. In 1984, he was elected to the United States Senate. He won re-election for four times since then. At present, John Kerry is the 10th most senior Senator in US as well as the second longest serving Senator in the office. He held senior positions in the Senate in Commerce, Finance as well as Small Business Committees. Back in 2002, he also announced that he would contest for the President of the United States and was nearly elected as the President.
- Citing Russian and American diplomatic sources a leading Russian media source said, Russia and the United States may resolve their standoff on the U.S. global missile defense with Washington providing security guarantees to Moscow that the system is not aimed at Russian nuclear deterrence forces.Under a compromise formula being discussed by the two sides, the U.S. and Russian Presidents will exchange political declarations, pledging to cooperate on missile defenses and not to use them against each other, U.S. assurances will come in the form of a so-called “presidential agreement” that does not require legislative approval. President Vladimir Putin for his part will sign a memorandum of understanding confirming the agreement. The documents are also expected to set out a mechanism for mutual notifications, sharing of information, joint exercises and threat assessment. The breakthrough agreement will be discussed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at their first meeting in Berlin on7 March. Mr. Obama last year promised outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to show “greater flexibility” on missile defense after his re-election for a second term.