VIF Neighbourhood News Digest - 8 March 2018
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PAKISTAN
IMF concerned at Pakistan’s weakening economy: Dawn
March 08, 2018

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday expressed concern over Pakistan’s weakening macroeconomic situation, including widening external and fiscal imbalances, reduction in foreign exchange reserves and emerging risks to economic and financial outlook. The IMF executive board asked the government to immediately refocus on near-term policies to preserve macroeconomic stability and get back to fiscal discipline shown under the three-year $6.64 billion multi-tranche Extended Fund Facility (EFF) to minimise risks and economic distortions. In its first post-programme monitoring (PPM) after the completion of fund programme in September last year, the IMF board also raised questions over the medium-term debt sustainability and called for additional revenue measures and containing expenditures.Click here to read...

Pakistan, India exchange humanitarian proposals: Dawn
08 March, 2018

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday approved on humanitarian grounds an Indian proposal to exchange prisoners, including women — mentally challenged or with special needs and those above 70 years of age. According to sources in the interior ministry, at least 40 such Pakistani citizens are imprisoned in Indian jails. “Revival of the judicial committee mechanism and facilitating the visit of medical experts (from both sides) to meet and examine the mentally challenged prisoners for their repatriation has also been proposed,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office. Besides, the foreign minister has proposed exchange of prisoners above 60 years of age and exchange of child inmates below 18 years of age and expressed the hope that India would positively reciprocate Pakistan’s proposals in the same spirit they had been made.Click here to read...

AFGHANISTAN
US Intelligence Agencies Warn Against More Taliban Attacks: Tolo News
March 07, 2018

US intelligence agencies have warned that the Taliban and their affiliate groups could launch more deadly attacks on Afghanistan from Pakistan this year. According to US intelligence agencies, although the Afghan security forces will continue to control cities they warned that the Taliban could launch major attacks against these cities, particularly Kabul. US Senator Jack Reed expressed concern over what he said was Russia’s possible cooperation with the Taliban and other enemies of Washington in Afghanistan. “In Afghanistan, the coalition continues to confront a variety of threats from the Taliban-led insurgency as well as a variety of militant groups that call South Asia home,” said Reed. Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, meanwhile said in his testimony before the US Senate Committee that there were concerns over a possible deterioration of security in Afghanistan in the coming months and that the Taliban and other terrorist groups could launch complex attacks on Afghanistan from Pakistan.Click here to read...

NEPAL
Bhandari set to be re-elected as president: My Republica
March 08, 2018

Reelection of President Bidya Devi Bhanadri for a second term has become certain after the ruling left alliance filed her candidacy Wednesday, under the new federal setup. Given their clear majority in the electoral college for president, which includes members of parliament and the seven provincial assemblies, Bhandari, the nominee of the left alliance for head of state is now poised to remain president for the next five years. Bhandari will face Kumari Laxmi Rai of the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) as her contender in the presidential election scheduled for March 13 in the capital. But Rai's chances of getting elected to the post are very slim as the NC and other parties have less than a majority of voters in the electoral college.Click here to read...

MYANMAR
Japan to build schools in conflict zones: Myanmar Times
March 08, 2018

The Nippon Foundation has vowed to support education in troubled states in Myanmar as part of the Japanese government’s effort to help resolve the decades-old armed conflicts in the country. Earlier this month, the foundation completed the construction of 300 school buildings in Shan State and 100 school buildings in Rakhine State, which have both had more than 70 years of armed strife between government forces and armed ethnic groups. In Shan, a post-primary school was constructed in collaboration with the Ministry of Border Affairs. The Nippon Foundation provided a grant of US$13.17 million (K17.61 billion) for the construction of the buildings in Shan, which was channeled through its implementing partner, the Saetanar Foundation.Click here to read...

SRI LANKA
Security forces put on alert to face any eventuality – PM: Daily Mirror
March 08, 2018

Security forces have been put on alert to face any situation in the wake of occurrences in Kandy, Prime Minister and Minister of Law and Order Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday. The Prime Minister said this in a special statement made last evening. He said Area Commander Central Province Major General Rukman Dias has been put in charge to coordinate defence activities in the province. “Reinforcements have also been sent to these areas,” he said. The Prime Minister stressed that the government was compelled to block social media platforms temporarily as hate speeches were continuously being posted on them. “Let me stress that the rest of the country is relatively calm and I request the people not to get mislead by false information, I appeal to people of all ethnic groups to cooperate with the forces to ensure law and order in the country,” he added.Click here to read...

CHINA
Xi calls upgrading economy crucial: China Daily
March 08, 2018

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, stressed on Wednesday the importance of improving the economy’s structure and developing the real economy as the country is in a crucial period of upgrading the driving force of its economic growth. Xi made the remark while speaking at a panel discussion with deputies to the National People’s Congress from Guangdong province. Click here to read...

Changes to Constitution in line with people’s will, leaders agree: China Daily
March 08, 2018

The draft amendment to China’s Constitution effectively promotes democracy, gathers wisdom from all walks of life and shows the common will of the Communist Party of China and the people, said Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. Xi said he fully agrees with the draft amendment as he joined a panel discussion with the deputies to the 13th National People’s Congress from Guangdong province on Wednesday in Beijing.Click here to read...

China calls for US-North Korea talks to defuse nuclear crisis: South China Morning Post
March 08, 2018

China called for direct dialogue between North Korea and the United States to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula and warned there was still the potential for chaos amid the stand-off over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.Click here to read...

Chinese leader Xi Jinping to speak at key regional forum: South China Morning Post
March 08, 2018

President Xi Jinping will speak at the Boao Forum for Asia on the tropical island of Hainan next month to deliver the message that a powerful China will be good for the region and the world, two sources said. Click here to read...

China’s top economic adviser Liu He still doesn’t know who to talk to in US about trade: South China Morning Post
March 08, 2018

A key mission for China’s top economic adviser when he visited the United States last week was figuring out who to talk to in the US administration about a looming trade war, but sources said chaotic changes in the White House hampered those efforts.Click here to read...

China denies trying to supplant US role in global affairs: South China Morning Post
March 08, 2018

China has rejected suggestions that it is trying to supplant the United States’ role in global affairs. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Thursday there was competition between China and the US, but the two nations should treat themselves as partners rather than rivals.Click here to read...

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