China Is The First Country To Offer Assistance To Nepal With Election Equipment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

As Nepal steps up efforts to hold polls to local government bodies on May 14 in the face of opposition from the Madhesi Morcha, China has become the first country to offer assistance for the elections.India, which has been pushing for all stakeholders to join the electoral process, is still silent on offering any kind of assistance despite several requests from the Nepalese side.

Besides monetary support of nine million Yuan announced during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s recent visit to China, a tranche of election-related materials arrived in Kathmandu from Beijing on Monday.

Chinese ambassador Yu Hong handed over election-related materials, including pens, stamp pads, rubber stamps, calculators, scales, punching machines and table watches, during a function in Kathmandu.

Nepal has also purchased 30,000 ballot boxes from China that are set to arrive in Kathmandu in a day or two, the Election Commission of Nepal said.

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The Election Commission said it requires 67 types of election-related materials to conduct the polls. It identified India, China and the UNDP as major sources for these items.

“Nepal had requested for around 1,000 vehicles of various types from India but we are not sure whether we are getting them or not,” said a senior Nepal government official who did not want to be named.

According to officials, the election commission had requested India to provide vehicles and the special ink used to mark the fingers of voters after they cast their ballots. It had sought 11 cars, 35 double cabin pick-up vans, a mini bus, a micro bus, 30 motorcycles and seven scooters.

Officials of the election commission and the home ministry said there had been no confirmation from India on whether it would provide the assistance sought by Nepal.

During the second Constituent Assembly elections in 2013, India had provided 750 vehicles and other election-related materials.

Nepal Government Trying To Curb Alcohol Abuse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

The Nepal government has approved a stringent policy to regulate the sale of alcohol, including mandatory pictorial health warnings and an age bar for buying liquor, sparking a debate in the country.The National Policy on Regulation and Control of Alcohol 2017, cleared by the cabinet on February 20, will now be sent to Parliament for its endorsement. Under it, Nepal will adopt a zero-tolerance policy against drinking alcohol in public functions, weddings and other social and cultural events.

The policy requires producers to mandatory display a pictorial warning depicting liver cirrhosis and effects on other organs that will have to cover 75% of the packaging of alcoholic beverages.

Nepal will be first country to introduce such a warning for alcohol.

People below the age of 21 and pregnant women will be restricted from purchasing and consuming alcohol. Alcohol will no longer be served at government-sponsored events and it will not be sold at public places such as heritage sites and sports complexes. There will also be a total ban on alcohol advertisements.

The policy will also decrease the availability of alcohol by restricting sales to specially licensed shops for certain hours. Sales will be prohibited from 5 am to 7 pm, and every person will be able to buy only one litre a day.

The health ministry said it was forced to impose such restrictions because of health problems caused by excessive drinking, but there have been calls that the social and religious aspects of consuming alcohol should not be overlooked.

Selling alcohol is not perceived as a mere business in Nepal, as liquor forms an intrinsic part of religious functions for many ethnic communities.

Though the policy has been cautiously welcomed by various stakeholders, some have questioned how it will be implemented, given the country’s weak administrative structure, and how the market will respond. Others have noted the policy is silent on controlling moonshine, the sale of which is rampant in the countryside.

The health ministry has proposed a new mechanism to monitor the policy’s implementation and to take legal action against violators.

The multi-billion rupee liquor industry is in a dilemma as it cannot be seen as opposing a “noble cause” taken up by the government, a senior industrialist told Hindustan Times. The industry will wait till the policy is fully implemented before coming up a reaction, he said.

The tourism industry will back the move, said Biplav Poudel, who runs luxury hotels in Pokhara and Chitwan. He told Hindustan Times that the measures would not affect tourism as almost all tourists drink inside their hotels and not in public places.

The policy also includes income generation programmes and alternative employment opportunities to discourage the production and sale of domestic liquor.

But Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, a prominent rights activist, gave the example of Andhra Pradesh in India, which lifted a ban on alcohol in 1997 after enforcing prohibition for two years. “Such measures are not successful due to leakages within the state and from across borders and this is a lesson for Nepal,” he said.

Unlike in India, selling and consuming alcohol is not restricted in Nepal and experts say this has contributed to health problems. A WHO report of 2014 said around 50 people die of alcohol abuse in Nepal, while the health ministry has estimated 17.8% of the population of nearly 27 million drink every day.

Nepal banned drink-driving in 2012 to reduce road accidents and the move was widely successful.

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After 1962 war, CIA feared China could attack India through Nepal, Myanmar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

After 1962 war, CIA feared China could attack India through Nepal, Myanmar

INDIA Updated: Jan 26, 2017 23:01 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

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File photo of Indian and Chinese soldiers during the 1962 War.(Archives)

Months after the brief but bloody India-China border war of 1962, American intelligence were worried about the possibility of further strikes by Chinese troops through Tibet, Myanmar and even Nepal and Bhutan.After a string of skirmishes along the disputed frontier led to a spike in tensions, Chinese troops mounted an offensive in October 1962 and advanced into Ladakh and the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA, now the state of Arunachal Pradesh). A month later, China announced a unilateral truce and withdrew its troops.

By January 1963, wary US intelligence officials began studying the possibility of China “giving the Indians another black eye”, according to declassified documents recently posted on the Central Intelligence Agency’s website.

The CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and United States Intelligence Board conducted several assessments over a period of months, including possible attacks through neighbouring countries. They estimated the Chinese could mobilise a little more than 120,000 troops for such attacks and also assessed the air threat to India.

A DIA document, titled “The Chinese Communist ground threat to India”, drawn up less than six months after the 1962 war, concluded China had the capability to carry out attacks in Ladakh, through border passes between Ladakh and Nepal, across eastern Bhutan and NEFA into Assam.

“It is estimated that the Chinese could support indefinitely operations in Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan and eastern NEFA,” the document stated.

Among the military objectives of such attacks would be extending Chinese control to the town of Leh, seizing the territorial claim north of Joshimath, the “eventual occupation” of Nepal to forestall Indian intervention and the “effective occupation” of NEFA and the part of Assam north of the Brahmaputra river. The occupation of Assam, the DIA estimated, would require a “strong and permanent lodgement” in the Guwahati area.

Both the CIA and DIA concluded that Chinese advances would be impeded by Beijing’s lack of logistics capabilities and the weather.

A May 1963 top secret memorandum from the CIA and USIB concluded the “government of Burma (now Myanmar) would not resist the movement of Chinese troops” for a possible attack on India and would even “acquiesce” in the use of Burmese transportation facilities and airfields.

Both the CIA and DIA believed a possible Chinese attack through Burma would be mounted through two routes – the Kunming-Dibrugarh road via Ledo and the Kunming-Tezpur road via Mandalay and Imphal.

However, the CIA concluded that China posed only a “limited air threat” to India because of the weakness in “equipment and combat proficiency” of the air force and the lack of adequate bases in the Himalayan region.

Almost a year after the 1962 war, CIA deputy director Ray Cline informed McGeorge Bundy, special assistant to President John F Kennedy, that there were “several reasons to be concerned about the possibility of a Chinese Communist attack on the Sino-Indian border”.

China had about 120,000 troops in Tibet “capable of launching an attack on the scale of last fall with little or no warning” and Beijing “may have a political or psychological urge to demonstrate…their lack of fear of their enemies by giving the Indians another black eye right in front of both the Russians and Americans”, Bundy wrote.

To read more stories on the CIA files, click here

U.S. Court Proves If U.S. Company Is Many Worth Billions: Human Trafficking Is Okay?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY

KBR defeats appeal in U.S. over Nepal, Iraq trafficking claims

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday refused to hold KBR Inc (KBR.N) liable for alleged human trafficking, in connection with the 2004 kidnapping and murder by insurgents of 12 Nepali men being transported in Iraq to work for a subcontractor at a U.S. military base.

By a 2-1 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a lower court judge’s 2014 dismissal of civil claims against KBR, an engineering firm and military contractor sometimes known as Kellogg Brown & Root, by surviving family members and a Nepali worker who was not captured.

Circuit Judge Edward Prado said dismissal was proper because KBR’s alleged misconduct lacked a sufficient connection with the United States to justify letting the lawsuit proceed there.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In their 2008 lawsuit, the plaintiffs accused Houston-based KBR and its Jordanian subcontractor Daoud & Partners of recruiting victims in Nepal by promising them jobs at a luxury hotel in Amman, only to send them to Iraq instead.

The surviving worker said he was forced to work at the Al Asad base north of Ramadi, Iraq for 15 months before getting his passport back.

Daoud eventually settled.

Prado rejected claims that KBR’s alleged misconduct could be deemed “domestic” under the federal Alien Tort Statute, which is often invoked in human rights cases, because Al Asad fell under U.S. control, KBR conducted financial transactions through U.S. banks, and U.S.-based workers may have known of alleged abuses.

“All the conduct comprising the alleged international law violations occurred in a foreign country,” wrote Prado, who also rejected claims under a federal anti-trafficking law.

Circuit Judge James Graves dissented. He found “much to support” the conclusion that claims over whether KBR engaged in human trafficking to fulfill its U.S. government contract to provide labor at Al Asad “touch and concern” the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the reach of the Alien Tort Statute in 2013.

Geoffrey Harrison, a partner at Susman Godfrey representing KBR, said he was pleased with Tuesday’s decision, and that “the court of appeals got it right.”

The case is Adhikari et al v. Kellogg Brown & Root Inc et al, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-20225.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

5.5 EARTHQUAKE SHAKES NEPAL

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS PAPER)

The epicentre was located at Solukhumbu district near the Mount Everest region, around 150 km east of Kathmandu. (USGS)

A moderate intensity earthquake of 5.5 magnitude shook Nepal early on Monday morning.

According to the National Centre for Seismology under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the quake occurred at 5.05 am at a depth of 10 km.

Earthquake of Magnitude:5.5, Occurred on:28-11-2016, 05:05:21 IST, Lat:27.7 N & Long: 86.4 E, Depth: 10 Km, Region: Nepal

The epicentre was located at Solukhumbu district near the Mount Everest region, around 150 km east of Kathmandu, Nepal’s National Seismological Center said. It recorded the intensity of the quake at 5.6.

This was the 475th aftershock, of magnitude 4 and above, of the devastating April 2015 temblor in the quake-prone Himalayan country.

There was no immediate report of any damage or casualty.

The earthquake was also felt in Kathmandu and other parts of central and Eastern Nepal.

India’s Black Money Scandal: Nepal Bans India’s New 500 And 2,000 Rupee Bank Notes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS PAPER)

Nepal bans new Indian Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes, waits for RBI notification

    • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu

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  • Updated: Nov 24, 2016 20:29 IST
Indian currency is widely accepted in Nepal, where many people have been facing problems in exchanging the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. (Karun Sharma/ HT Photo)

At a time when Nepalese citizens are facing problems in exchanging withdrawn Indian notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination, the country’s central bank on Thursday banned the exchange of India’s new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 currency notes.

The Nepal Rastra Bank said the new Indian notes cannot be exchanged until the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issues a new notification under the Foreign Exchange Management Act. Such a notification allows citizens of foreign countries to hold a certain amount in Indian currency, officials said.

Ramu Poudel, the Nepal Rastra Bank’s chief for the eastern region, told members of the business community in Biratnagar that the new Indian rupees are considered “ illegal” and cannot be exchanged until new arrangements are made by the Indian side.

“As of now, our understanding with the Reserve Bank of India is that a Nepali citizen can hold up to Indian Rs 25,000 (in the) old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Even the fate of those old notes is uncertain, how can these new Indian notes coming into the market be considered as legal?” Poudel said.

Indian currency is widely accepted in Nepal, where many people have been facing problems in exchanging the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Due to the open border between the two countries, the new Indian notes too have entered areas along the border with India.

Nepal and India are yet to reach an agreement on modalities for the exchange of the withdrawn notes held by Nepalese citizens. Poudel said the two central banks are in close contacts to address this issue but no way out has been found as yet.

The Nepal Rastra Bank set up a task force to prepare guidelines for exchanging the withdrawn Indian currency notes. It handed over some guidelines to the Indian side through the Indian embassy of Kathmandu. Officials said the Nepalese side had suggested that authorities could collect the withdrawn Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from Nepalese citizens and send them to the RBI for verification and exchange into Nepali currency.

Nepal’s central bank has also made it clear it will not provide over-the-counter exchange facilities to Nepalese citizens holding the withdrawn Indian currency because it lacks the expertise and technology to identify counterfeit currency.

Experts said India is cautious about providing exchange facilities to citizens of a foreign country as it fears it could be misused as “ a clearing house” to convert counterfeit currency.

The Nepali side also suggested that Nepalese citizens would have to open accounts at banks and financial institutions and deposit the demonetised Indian currency to receive the equivalent amount directly in their accounts.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and finance minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara have already urged their Indian counterparts to arrange exchange  facilities for Nepalese citizens.

The Nepal Rastra Bank has said the country’s financial system holds Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes worth Indian Rs 33.6 million. This amount includes cash in bank vaults, financial institutions and the central bank. However, the actual amount is believed to be much higher.

Chinese president arrives in India’s Goa for BRICS summit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Chinese president arrives in India’s Goa for BRICS summit

CHINESE President Xi Jinping arrived in the western Indian state of Goa Saturday for a summit of the emerging-market bloc of BRICS that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Leaders of the five countries are expected to discuss BRICS cooperation and other issues of common concern at the Oct. 15-16 summit, themed with “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions.”

A Goa declaration will be issued when the summit concludes Sunday.

Along with Xi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Jacob Zuma will be attending the summit, the eighth of its kind.

The five leaders will hold dialogues with representatives of the BRICS Business Council and state leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries at the summit.

The BIMSTEC, initiated to connect South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

President Xi will also hold bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries on the sidelines of the summit.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the BRICS cooperation mechanism, which gathers the world’s five major emerging economies.

The bloc members have seen their cooperation growing over the past decade, especially the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) in 2014.

Despite economic headwinds in the BRICS countries and external skepticism about whether the block is losing its power over recent years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said earlier this month in its latest issue of World Economic Outlook that in emerging market and developing economies, the 2016 growth will accelerate for the first time in six years.

China and India, in particular, will continue their relatively fast pace in growth this year and next, according to the IMF projections. Meanwhile, the IMF cut its 2016 growth prospects for advanced economies following a slowdown in the United States and Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union.

The five BRICS leaders just met last month in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou when China hosted the 11th summit of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies.

At their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, President Xi said that BRICS members should enhance coordination to make emerging-market economies and developing countries play a bigger role in international affairs.

BRICS nations are leaders among emerging-market economies and developing countries, and also important members of the G20, Xi said, noting that they should reinforce coordination to build, maintain and develop the BRICS and G20 platforms.

China has been a staunch supporter for and an active participant in BRICS cooperation, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong told reporters earlier this week.

“We hope the Goa summit can send out a positive signal of confidence, solidarity and cooperation, help deepen our practical cooperation and promote the cooperation level, enhance communication and coordination on major international issues to safeguard our shared interests, and strengthen dialogue and cooperation with other countries in the region,” Li said at a press conference ahead of Xi’s trip.

India is the final stop of Xi’s Southeast Asia and South Asia tour, which has already taken him to Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Before leaving Bangladesh on Saturday morning, Xi laid a wreath at the national martyr monument in Dhaka.