VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: 14 March 2018
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PAKISTAN

Wider cooperation in West Asia key to regional peace, Bajwa tells Zarif: Dawn
March 14, 2018

Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in a meeting with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday underscored the need for cooperation in ‘West Asia’ to tackle security challenges threatening the region. “Regional peace is dependent upon wider cooperation within West Asia. We all need to cooperate to root out transnational security/crimes threat,” Gen Bajwa, according to army’s media wing, told the visiting foreign minister who called on him at the General Headquarters on the last day of his three-day visit. Pakistan and Iran are on the opposite sides in Middle Eastern politics. Pakistan has in the past tried to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Iran, but could not convince Riyadh to accept its good offices. Click here to read...

AFGHANISTAN

Iranian FM Accuses US Of Supporting Daesh: Tolo News
March 13, 2018

In an address to the Institute of Security Studies in Islamabad, Zarif said Iran has intelligence on US using helicopters to ferry Daesh fighters. Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused the United States of supporting Daesh in Afghanistan to fuel regional terrorism and threaten neighboring countries. Speaking in Islamabad while on a three-day visit to Pakistan, Zarif said US helicopters have been transporting Daesh fighters from Haska Meena district in Nangarhar to unknown locations. In his address to the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) in Islamabad, Zarif said: "We see intelligence, as well as eyewitness accounts, that Daesh fighters, terrorists, were airlifted from battle zones, rescued from battle zones, including recently from the prison of Haska [Meyna]." Click here to read...

NEPAL

President Bhandari is re-elected: Kathmandu Post
March 14, 2018

Incumbent President Bidya Devi Bhandari has been re-elected as the head of state for the second time, securing nearly three-fourths of the total vote strength of the Electoral College.

Elected as the first woman president of the country in 2015, she had presented her candidacy for the second time with the backing of the left alliance—CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre)— which holds a comfortable majority in the Federal Parliament and provincial assemblies. President Bhandari garnered over 74 percent of the votes to be re-elected. Her rival Nepali Congress’s Kumari Laxmi Rai hardly drew 25 percent of the votes. Out of 52,501 votes by weightage President Bhandari secured 39,275 votes while Rai got 11,730 votes. The Electoral College comprising the members of Federal Parliament and provincial assemblies voted in the presidential election. Click here to read...

SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka actively participates in OBOR: Minister: Daily Mirror
March 14, 2018

Sri Lanka firmly adheres to the ‘One China’ policy and actively participates in the joint construction of One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative, Foreign Affairs Minister Thilak Marapana has said when he met Chinese Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan on March 8. Issuing a statement, the Chinese Embassy said Minister Marapana briefed the Ambassador on the current situation in Sri Lanka and thanked China for its steady position. The Minister had praised the long-standing friendship between the two countries and thanked China for its long-term support to Sri Lanka's economic and social development as well as to Sri Lanka's efforts to safeguard national unity and stability. Meanwhile, Ambassador Cheng has said they were following the current situation in Sri Lanka and believe that the Sri Lankan government and its people are capable of handling the current situation upholding Sri Lanka's social stability and ethnic solidarity. Click here to read...

Parliament passes anti-defection bill, amendments to Judicature Act: Haveeru
March 13, 2018

The Anti-Defection Bill passed with 36 votes in favour, and the amendments to the Judicature Act passed with 38 votes in favour. The opposition had boycotted the sitting. The Parliament Committee on Independent Institutions, which is dominated by pro-government MPs, had reviewed and approved the bill and the amendments at the committee meeting held late Monday night. The Anti-Defection Bill states that if a lawmaker defects or was expelled from the political party they were registered to at the time of election, they will automatically lose their seat in the parliament. Further, the parliamentary committee in its review stated that the Anti-Defection Bill would be put into effect retroactively from July 13, 2017. That was when the Supreme Court first issued its contentious ruling on parliament floor crossing and unseated several MPs. Click here to read...

CHINA

Xinjiang official vows to continue ‘intense’ campaign against separatists: South China Morning Post
March 14, 2018

Xinjiang deputy party secretary Zhu Hailun on Tuesday said the government would continue its campaign against separatists, and that the troubled far western region was “stable” thanks to its efforts. Click here to read...

State Council reshuffle proposed: China Daily
March 14, 2018

China unveiled a plan for its biggest Cabinet reshuffling in years on Tuesday as part of an effort to improve the government's structure, efficiency and service orientation. The institutional reform plan of the State Council, China's Cabinet, says the body will have 26 ministries and commissions after it is reshuffled. The State Council's ministerial-level entities will be reduced by eight and vice-ministerial-level entities will fall by seven. Click here to read...

‘Too big and too powerful’: why Xi Jinping is reining in China’s economic planning agency: South China Morning Post
March 14, 2018

China’s economic planning agency, a legacy of the command economy days that gained new power during the era of rapid state-led growth, will be significantly weaker under a government reshuffle announced on Tuesday. Click here to read...

China puts an end to its notorious one-child policy enforcer: South China Morning Post
March 14, 2018

China’s family planning commission, which for nearly four decades enforced the country’s notorious one-child policy, will be absorbed by a new agency as the government stops trying to clamp down on births. Click here to read...

China boosts environmental watchdog’s powers as next step in battle against pollution: South China Morning Post
March 14, 2018

China has moved to strengthen the role of its environmental watchdog as it continues its uphill battle to tackle widespread ecological degradation and pollution. The move to set up a new ministry of ecological environment – a decade after the first full environmental ministry was established – was hailed by state media as a significant step to boost the power of the largely rubber-stamp watchdog and cut regulatory overlap after President Xi Jinping identified the battle against pollution as one of his priorities. Click here to read...

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