VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: 17th April, 2018
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PAKISTAN
Miftah Ismail heads to Washington amidst strained ties: Dawn
April 17, 2018

Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail will arrive in Washington on Wednesday to attend spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group but is also likely to hold bilateral meeting with American officials. The visit comes a few days before the last federal budget of the PML-N government to be unveiled on April 27 and is causing speculation in Pakistan that he may seek some last-minute reprieve from international donors and the US government. But Ismail has already said that the government is not seeking another package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which begins its spring meetings in Washington from April 18. In 2013, the IMF provided a $6.6 billion loan package to Pakistan to help deal with “slow growth, declining reserves and increasing fiscal deficit.” Pakistan successfully completed the 36-month package and earned IMF’s praise for displaying fiscal discipline during this period. Click here to read....

AGHANISTAN
Taliban Rejects Ghani’s Call For Them To Take Part In Elections: Tolo News
April 16, 2018

The Taliban has rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s call for the group to take part in the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections. In a statement issued by the group on Sunday night, they reiterated their stance that Afghanistan is an occupied country. This comes after Ghani on Saturday officially launched the voter registration process and signed up to vote in the upcoming elections. Speaking at the event, Ghani reiterated the peace offer made in February to the Taliban and said they must end the war and register as a political group. He also said the Taliban should prepare themselves to take part in the elections adding that elections were a means to end disagreements. But the Taliban said in their statement that Afghanistan is occupied, with thousands of foreign troops in the country and that major political and military decisions are “taken by the occupiers”. Click here to read....

NEPAL
Explosion outside Indian Embassy in Nepal: The Indian Express
April 17, 2018

A small-scale explosion was reported outside the Indian Embassy Consulate in Nepal’s Biratnagar on Monday night. No staff was present inside the consulate building at the time of the blast. The blast took place at around 8.20 pm. The explosion, however, left a hole of around 1×1.5 feet in the complex’s compound wall. The consulate is a temporary office which had been set up during the floods in Nepal and North Bihar. It, however, continued to function from Biratnagar ever since then. The Nepal police is investigating the cause of the blast. More details are awaited. Click here to read....

Budhigandaki not on China visit agenda, says Gyawali: Kathmandu Post
April 17, 20178

Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali has said that he is not going to discuss the 1,200 megawatt Budhigandaki hydroelectricity project with Chinese officials during his official visit to Beijing that begins on Tuesday. “We’re looking into the decisions taken by the erstwhile Sher Bahadur Deuba government, and have not taken any decision on what we should do with the project,” he told reporters at the Foreign Ministry hours before embarking on a six-day visit to China at the invitation of his counterpart, Wang Yi. The Chinese side has repeatedly expressed concern over the fate of the project, including recently by Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong during her meeting with Energy Minister Barsha Man Pun. The then Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government had awarded the contract to China’s Gezhouba Group Corporation to construct the project located in Dhading and Gorkha districts. Though it was enlisted as a component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the China-led plan that envisages greater trade and connectivity and supports construction of infrastructure projects, its fate now hangs in the balance. Click here to read....

MYANMAR
UN disputes Myanmar Rohingya repatriation claim: CNN
April 16, 2018

The United Nations and Bangladesh have questioned Myanmar's claim of repatriating the first Rohingya refugees as concerns mount for the safety of returnees. More than 670,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017, bringing with them stories of murder, rape and the destruction of villages at the hands of the military. Under an agreement signed by Yangon and Dhaka, Rohingya refugees should have started to return to Myanmar in January. But the UN and rights groups say the move is dangerously premature. Click here to read....

Maldives rejects U.N. body's call to let ex-president fight election: Reuters
April 16, 2018

The Maldives rejected a demand by a U.N. human rights watchdog on Monday that former president Mohamed Nasheed be allowed to stand for office, including in a presidential election later this year. The U.N. Human Rights Committee, a panel of independent experts overseeing states’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges was based on vague laws, contained serious flaws and violated his right to a fair trial. “Political rights can be suspended or restricted only in exceptional circumstances and under certain conditions. And judicial proceedings that violate the right to fair trial can render the resulting restriction of political rights arbitrary,” committee member Sarah Cleveland said in a statement. Click here to read....

CHINA
China's Q1 GDP grows 6.8 percent year on year: People's Daily
April 17, 2018

China's GDP expanded 6.8 percent year on year at comparable prices in the first quarter of 2018, unchanged from the growth rate in the previous quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Click here to read....

Xi meets WEF executive chairman, vows greater opening up: People's Daily
April 17, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that China would cooperate with the international community in opening up and seek win-win results through cooperation. Xi made the remarks while meeting with Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Click here to read....

Beijing, Tokyo voice support for free trade amid high-level talks: China Daily
April 17, 2018

China and Japan voiced their support for free trade based on the World Trade Organization and warned against protectionism on Monday. In a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said both countries should strengthen communication and coordination, stand against protectionism, safeguard the global free trade system with the WTO as the core and build an open world economy. Click here to read....

US slaps China’s ZTE with 7-year components ban for breaching terms of sanctions settlement: South China Morning Post
April 16, 2018

The US government has banned sales by American companies to China’s ZTE Corp to punish the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker after it allegedly made false statements during an investigation into sales of its equipment to Iran. Click here to read....

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