VIF Neighbourhood News Digest - 23 Feb 2018
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PAKISTAN
Pakistan maintaining delicate balance in its ties with Iran, Saudi Arabia: minister

Pakistan is maintaining a delicate balance in its ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran, and is cautious of being drawn into Middle East’s sectarian power struggles, said the defence minister on Thursday. Khurram Dastagir explained the principles driving Pakistan’s Middle East policy after inaugurating an international seminar on ‘Contemporary Relations between Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia: Present Challenges’ organised by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), an Islamabad based think tank. Dastagir said that the government’s Middle East policy was “undergirded by its longstanding close relations with Saudi Arabia and by the focus on limiting the domestic fallout of sectarian tensions stemming from the Saudi Arabia–Iran rivalry.” He said that Pakistan has an “ideological affinity and deep military, economic, and leadership” ties with the kingdom, whereas it is building “economic cooperation and counter-terrorism links” with Iran. “An opening” has been achieved with Iran, he added. Click here to read

AFGHANISTAN
Work On Afghanistan TAPI Section to Kick Off Friday: Tolo News
23 Feb, 2018

Work on the Afghanistan section of the key Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, that will feed natural gas to the three countries from Turkmenistan, will kick off in Herat on Friday Ministry of Mines and Petroleum says the project will provide $500 million USD annually in transit duties to Afghanistan. He said Afghanistan will also get 500 million cubic meters of gas for the first ten years and one billion cubic meters for another 20 years.“TAPI is not only a gas project but it has the same importance as an economic corridor,” Abdulqadeer Mutfi, spokesman for the ministry, told TOLOnews. President Ashraf Ghani, who arrived in Herat on Thursday night, will attend Friday’s ceremony.Click here to read

Dostum Makes Suggestions To Govt Despite Being In Exile: Tolo News
22 Feb, 2018

The First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has been in exile in Turkey for the past six months, said on Thursday that peace with the Taliban is impossible to attain without his participation in the process. Dostum said he is closely following issues in Afghanistan from Turkey. “We should make peace between each other first, if we want peace in Afghanistan… There are some issues which should be resolved,” he said. Enayatullah, the head of Dostum’s office, said the international community and the people of Afghanistan want Dostum to return to the country but according to him, the president and a certain group are preventing this from happening. “Unfortunately, some circles inside the ARG (Presidential Palace) are still showing resistance and no doubt their reasons are rooted in personnel hate and their personal interests,” he said. Click here to read

NEPAL
Joint panel reviews status of India-funded projects: Kathmandu Post
23 Feb, 2018

The current status of two India-funded projects—Tarai Roads Project and construction of Integrated Check Posts (ICP) in Nepal—was discussed and reviewed in Kathmandu and New Delhi. The first meeting of the Joint Project Monitoring Committee (JPMC) of the Tarai Roads Project was held Wednesday at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, in Kathmandu where the progress made in the Tarai roads projects was discussed and other problems faced by the projects, according to the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. Ahead of the meeting in Kathmandu, the JPMC undertook joint inspection of the progress of different roads in Biratnagar and Janakpur. Both the sides are implementing these projects as per mutually agreed “government of India-funded and government of Nepal-implemented” modalities. According to an Indian Embassy statement, during the meeting and the joint inspection, the consultant for the Project National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) briefed the delegates about the progress achieved in the Tarai Roads project so far. Click here to read

MYANMAR
EU turns screw on Myanmar over rights abuses: Financial Times
22 Feb, 2018

European countries will threaten sanctions over both Myanmar’s anti-Rohingya crackdown and Cambodia’s opposition purge ahead of elections this year. The EU is expected to draw up a list of Myanmar military officers to target, while possible measures against Cambodia include a rollback of trade preferences for an economy that supplies leading multinationals. The action, set to be endorsed by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Monday, comes after months of turmoil in the two strategically located south-east Asian countries. A top UN official has branded the Myanmar military’s clampdown against the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing. Cambodia’s opposition leader has been jailed and his party abolished. Click here to read

MYANMAR
Maldives foreign secretary meets Indian ambassador again: Haveeru
22 Feb, 2018

Indian Ambassador Akhilesh Mishra met with the Maldives’ Foreign Secretary Ahmed Sareer again on Wednesday, after India reiterated its call on the Maldivian government to comply with the Supreme Court ruling of February 1. This is the second meeting in a week; both diplomats had met last Thursday.

The foreign ministry announced the meeting in a tweet, stating that Sareer and Mishra had discussed ongoing political developments. The foreign secretary had also reiterated the Maldivian government’s commitment to work with international partners including India.

India had issued a stern statement on Tuesday following the government’s decision to seek parliament approval for the extension of the State of Emergency, which was first issued following the apex court ruling on February 1.

In the statement issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs, India had called on the Maldivian government not to extend the state of emergency “so that the political process in Maldives can resume with immediate effect” and urged the government to implement the apex court ruling of February 1, “in letter and spirit.” Click here to read

BANGLADESH
Khaleda's appeal accepted by High Court: Daily Star

The High Court yesterday accepted BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's appeal challenging the lower court verdict that convicted and jailed her for five years in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. The HC also stayed the lower court order that fined her and asked the court to forward the case records to it within 15 days. It fixed Sunday for hearing a bail petition filed by the BNP chief. The bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim came up with the order and fixed the date after hearing arguments on the acceptance of her appeal and on the bail petition. The appeal was filed on Tuesday and the bail petition yesterday. Click here to read

CHINA
23 February 2018

CPC leaders stress high-quality construction of Xiongan New Area: Xinhuanet
22 Feb, 2018

Senior leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday stressed efforts to build Xiongan New Area into a "high-quality modern socialist city." Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the meeting attended by members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The area, established in April 2017, is a new economic zone about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing in Hebei Province. It is the third new area of national significance after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area. CPC leaders agreed that building the new area is a "historic project" after hearing a report about the progress on a development plan for Xiongan. Click here to read

China can achieve sustainable growth through reform: World Bank: People's Daily
23 Feb, 2018

China can achieve more inclusive and sustainable development with coordinated reforms that maximize development impact and address its development challenges, according to a report from the World Bank Group. China's growth has been slowing to a "new normal" and economic rebalancing is underway. Managing this transition in a sustainable manner will be critical to achieving the country's development goals, the report "Towards a More Inclusive and Sustainable Development" said. Click here to read

Idle and abandoned: the hidden truth of China’s economic ambitions: South China Morning Post
23 Feb, 2018

Business is slow in Tianjin’s Binhai New Area, says taxi driver Yang Xiang, with visitors claiming tax perks the most reliable sources of fares. The southern part of the free-trade zone, including an area once touted as China’s “new Manhattan”, is block after block of mostly empty commercial buildings. Roads in the northern part, which is crowded with high-rise flats, are congested during rush hours but empty at other times. Click here to read

China’s reunification dream will remain out of reach as long as Taiwanese feel they don’t belong: South China Morning Post
22 Feb, 2018

In early January, the US House of Representatives passed the Taiwan Travel Act “to encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels”. Though the bill has yet to be signed into law, the Chinese spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lu Kang, was quick to criticise it. Lu claims the bill, which is more symbolic than substantive, would violate the “one-China” policy and encourage Taiwan independence. Click here to read

India’s abuse of trade remedies against Chinese products will end up entrapping itself: Global Times
22 Feb, 2018

The first two months of 2018 have turned out to be a peak period for India to pursue trade remedy actions against China, its top trading partner, as the South Asian nation continues moving in a backward direction that'll only end up hobbling its ambitions to rival China. India has decided to launch a sunset or expiry review of the existing anti-dumping duty imposed on its flat base steel wheel imports from China, the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said in a statement on its website on February 13. Click here to read

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