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South Asia roundup July 17, 2009

Posted by katesullivan in : Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan, South Asia - General, Sullivan, Kate , trackback

Kate Sullivan

Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group, India‘s largest conglomerate, will hand over the keys to the first Nano owner at the Tata Motors showroom in central Mumbai today. Dubbed the world’s cheapest car, the Nano has had a tricky journey from its conception in 2003 to its unveiling last year, facing rising commodity prices and political controversy. Set to bring car ownership into the reach of tens of millions of people, the Nano has been the subject of an avalanche of press commentary over the past few months, with even Top Gear seeing fit to provide an online profile.

nano

Photo sourced from Flickr and used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License

On the sidelines of the 15th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Egypt yesterday, India and Pakistan convened for what was their third high-level meeting since the Mumbai attacks last November. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released an overwhelmingly positive joint statement in which they agreed to “create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence”. The statement’s most groundbreaking element – “Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process” – was, however, its most ambiguous. In a later press conference address, Prime Minister Singh stated that “the composite dialogue process cannot resume unless and until terrorist acts, like the one which shook Mumbai, are properly accounted for and perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to book.” Meanwhile Prime Minister Gilani told reporters of India’s readiness “to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues… everything is to be debated, whatever is pending in the composite dialogue.” The Composite Dialogue, which commenced in February 2004 as a key part of the ongoing Pakistan-India peace process, is aimed at normalisation of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan

An independent United Nations commission arrived in Pakistan yesterday to open its probe into the December 2008 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. The visit began with a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto and leader of Pakistan’s civilian government, which requested the investigation.

This week, thousands of ‘internally displaced peoples’ who were displaced by fighting in north-west Pakistan, have begun returning to their home towns and villages in the Swat and Buner districts under the Pakistani government’s repatriation plan.

Mohamed Aslam, the Maldives Minister for Housing, Transport and Environment addressed a 6,000-strong crowd at a music festival in Cornwall, England on the issue of climate change last week, emphasising the risks the Maldives faces from future rises in sea-levels. In conversation with The Guardian, Aslam indicated that ‘green’ tourism taxes are up for discussion by the new government in preparation for the Copenhagen climate change summit this December. He explained that the Maldives is seeking partners in its quest to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country and plans to direct revenue from the green levy into the development of new sources of renewable energy. Tourism is the Maldives’ largest industry, accounting for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of foreign exchange receipts.

Bhutan’s National Council lifted a ban on the sale of tobacco and tobacco products last Friday and laid bare plans to control the sale of tobacco through taxation and price controls. The ban, undermined by a thriving black market, was originally put in place in December 2004.

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