VIF Neighbourhood News Digest - 28 Feb 2018
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PAKISTAN

India, Pakistan foreign secretaries may meet in Kabul: Dawn
27 Feb, 2018

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale will come face to face with his Pakistani counterpart, Tehmina Janjua, in Kabul this week for the Kabul conference, the Hindustan Times said on Tuesday. Mr Gokhale will attend the conference on Wednesday in which 25 countries will be participating. Though an official one-to-one meeting between the foreign secretaries hasn’t been confirmed by either of the two countries, if it takes place, the paper said, it would be the first such meeting between India and Pakistan since National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met his Pakistan counterpart in December 2017 in Bangkok. The speculated meeting of the top diplomats at the Kabul conference comes in the backdrop of recent attacks on an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Sunjwan, which India blames on Pakistan. The attack claimed the lives of five soldiers and one civilian, India claims. Click here to read...

Senior Trump aide calls for ‘new relationship’ with Pakistan: Dawn
28 Feb, 2018

Repeating allegations about Haqqani network sanctuaries and shortcomings in Pakistani efforts to check illicit financing, senior US National Security official Lisa Curtis said on Tuesday the Trump administration wanted a “new relationship” with Islamabad. “Ms Curtis urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory, and reiterated the international community’s long-standing concern about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money laundering/counterterrorism finance regime,” the US Embassy said in a statement on her trip. Click here to read...

PML-N elects Nawaz as 'Quaid for life', Shahbaz as interim party president: Dawn
27 Feb, 2018

PML-N bigwigs on Tuesday, during a meeting called to choose an interim party president, elected Nawaz Sharif as "[the party's] Quaid (leader) for life". Maryam Nawaz confirmed the development in a tweet as the PML-N Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting was underway at the Sharif family's Model Town residence in Lahore. PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq proposed Nawaz's elevation as 'quaid for life', saying, "Mian Nawaz Sharif was, is and Inshallah will remain the leader of the PML-N". Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was elected unopposed as the acting president of PML-N after Nawaz proposed his name to loud applause. Click here to read...

AFGHANISTAN

Technical Teams To Meet Soon Over Lapis Lazuli Route: Tolo News
27 Feb, 2018

The Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) said on Tuesday technical committees from the five nations involved in the Lapis Lazuli Route will meet soon to discuss challenges faced by each country in terms of rolling out the project. The Lapis Lazuli Route agreement was signed in October last year between Afghanistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia and once implemented will become a key international trade and transport corridor that will directly connect Afghanistan to Europe. Since the signing of the agreement, each country has now formed its technical task team. These task teams will come together soon to discuss the challenges each country is facing, the MoCI said. “The technical committees can work on these issues (technical issues) to implement this agreement and connect Afghanistan to Europe in the closest way,” MoCI spokesman Musafir Quqandi said. Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) meanwhile said the Lapis Lazuli Route will connect Afghanistan to European markets which will then have a positive impact on Afghanistan’s economy. Click here to read...

NEPAL

Govt close to two-thirds majority: My Republica
28 Feb, 2018
The Oli government is inching closer to bringing the Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) into the ruling coalition, through a commitment to openness for a constitutional amendment in consensus. A deal with the Madhes-based party, which will give the government a two-thirds majority, is likely on Wednesday, said leaders involved in the negotiations.

The ruling alliance of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) is short of only 11 seats for a two-thirds majority in the 275-member House of Representatives. If the FSFN, which has 16 members in the lower house, joins the government, the ruling coalition will have 190 seats. A meeting between the ruling left alliance and FSFN has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.Click here to read...

BANGLADESH

Bangladeshi group added in US sanction list for global terrorism: Daily Observer
28 Feb, 2018

The US Treasury Department has added two individuals and seven organisations in Africa and Asia connected to Islamic State to its sanctions list for global terrorism, it said on Tuesday.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said on its website it had added Abu Musab Al-Barnawi of Nigeria and Mahad Moalim of Somalia, and seven groups from Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Somalia, Nigeria and Tunisia to its sanctions list.

The additions include ISIS-Bangladesh, ISIS-Egypt, ISIS-Philippines, ISIS-Somalia, ISIS-West Africa, Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia, also known as ISIS-Tunisia, and the Philippines-based Maute Group, also known as Islamic State of Lanao, OFAC said. Click here to read...

SRILANKA

Sri Lanka: Won’t make ties that compromise India’s security
28 Feb, 2018

Amid growing military ties between Sri Lanka and China in the recent years, Sri Lankan Chief of Defence Staff Admiral RC Wijegunaratna on Tuesday said his country will not take any action that will jeopardise India’s security concerns. Participating in a seminar here, the visiting Navy chief said, “Our political leadership lead by President Sirisena and Prime Minister R Wickremesinghe clearly stated that the Government will not enter into military alliance with any country for making our bases available to them.” He also said there had been widespread claim about Hambantota port in Sri Lanka being earmarked to be used as a military base. “I can assure that no action will be taken in our harbours and waters which would jeopardise India’s security concerns.” The Lankan Navy chief also said his leaders had assured security of the strategically important port will be the responsibility of the Sri Lankan Army and Navy. His statement came in the backdrop of Chinese companies last year taking over Hambantota port on long-term lease. Click here to read...

CHINA

China growth rate to 'stay above 6.5 percent' mark: People’s Daily
28 Feb, 2018

China will likely maintain a steady growth rate of above 6.5 percent in two years, with economic deleveraging and preventing financial risks top priorities for the government, a report said on Tuesday. The report, jointly released by Xiamen University and business newspaper Economic Information Daily, forecast that China will achieve a growth rate of 6.73 percent this year and will see slightly slower growth of 6.6 percent in 2019. Click here to read...

Chinese sailors allowed landing at Indian port in a decade: People's Daily
27 Feb, 2018

Some 10 Chinese sailors from cargo vessel "Houston" received a warm welcome on Sunday afternoon at the Port of Mumbai, which was the first time for Chinese seamen to arrive at an Indian port for a rest since the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai. Click here to read...

Anti-graft system up for major changes in measures before NPC: China Daily
28 Feb, 2018

China's anti-graft system will see a fundamental change as the top legislature is scheduled to review a draft amendment to the Constitution and the country's first law on supervision to give legal footing to a new national supervisory commission. Click here to read...

China's manufacturing activity expands slower in February: Xinhuanet
28 Feb, 2018

China's manufacturing sector expanded at a slower pace in February, official data showed Wednesday. The country's manufacturing purchasing managers' index came in at 50.3 this month, decelerating from 51.3 in January, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below reflects contraction. Click here to read...

China’s military throws weight behind controversial move to scrap term limits: South China Morning Post
27 Feb, 2018

China’s armed forces have voiced support for the ruling Communist Party’s controversial proposal to end the two-term limit on the presidency that could see Xi Jinping stay in power indefinitely. Click here to read...

Chinese marine observatory in Maldives not for military: analysts: Global times
27 Feb, 2018

China's marine cooperation with the Maldives carries no military purpose and the Indian media's exaggerated reports stem from jealousy of Chinese cooperation with South Asian countries, analysts said. The joint ocean observation station China will build in the Maldives could challenge security for the Indian government as the observatory will have a military application including even a submarine base, The Times of India reported on Monday. Click here to read...

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