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Deep sea port in Sonadia environment

Sadeq Khan

In separate meetings with the Bangladesh Finance Minister AMA Muhith, who is often said to be privately excused for fanix pas by his unhappy colleagues, American Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat and Chinese Ambassador Ma Mingqiang on April 12 made fresh offers to increase economic cooperation and assistance to Bangladesh. The Finance Minister revealed to the press that met separately with Bernicat offered assistance for Bangladesh from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to finance regional connectivity projects.

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Sadeq Khan

In separate meetings with the Bangladesh Finance Minister AMA Muhith, who is often said to be privately excused for fanix pas by his unhappy colleagues, American Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat and Chinese Ambassador Ma Mingqiang on April 12 made fresh offers to increase economic cooperation and assistance to Bangladesh. The Finance Minister revealed to the press that met separately with Bernicat offered assistance for Bangladesh from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to finance regional connectivity projects.

Terms yet to be met
MCA is a special fund of the USA. Bangladesh had previously failed to get funds from the MCA, as it could not meet the attached terms and conditions. Bangladesh can now apply for funds from the MCA, and it is likely to be granted, Muhith hoped. But; the finance minister boasted, he told Bernicat that Bangladesh has decided against applying for the fund this time.
After the meeting, the US envoy told reporters that she had assured the minister of her country’s assistance for Bangladesh’s economic development, and discussed options of further cooperation between the two countries.
About the meeting with the Chinese envoy, Muhith said China also expressed interest to offer more soft loans to Bangladesh. The rate of interest on the soft loans will be below 2 percent and the repayment period will be 15 years, with a good grace period. However, issues like down-payment for the soft loans and financial agreement have to be preceded by a commercial agreement. Ambassador Ma Mingqiang assured Muhith of communicating Bangladesh’s requirement to his country.
However, Ma said, China is no more interested in building the Sonadia deep-sea port as the Japanese have already moved to assist Bangladesh in building a similar port: “We do not want unnecessary competition on the deep sea port issue.”
Evidently, Mr. Muhith is fanning the correct impression that both USA and China are ready to provide financial assistance for the development dynamics of Bangladesh, but is expressly diffident about the terms and conditions attached and his government’s capacity to turn their “offers” into reality of project performance. In effect, Bangladesh is missing assistance from USA’s Millennium Challenge Account, and has also missed China’s Long-standing offer of building a deep-sea port at Sonadia, by dailly-dallying and toying with “spoiler” letters of interest by rival bidders from countries presumably encouraged by US “pivot” in Asia.

String of Pearls theory
Indeed both India and USA has been suspicious of growing Chinese access to the Bay of Bengal and expanding Chinese business interest in Bangladesh. Strategically, India considers the Bay of Bengal, with India’s major naval port Visakhapatnam on one side and the naval command base in the Andaman island on the other, as its own lake. American Seventh Fleet with its overwhelming presence in the Indian Ocean also has its eye on the Bay of Bengal as part of its Asia watch. Indian and American suspicion, articulated by the “string of pearls” theory (vide map hereunder) appears to have abated considerably since the comprehensive US-China dialogue in Beijing led by the-then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in 2012, and continuing India-China engagements after change of guards in Delhi under “Modi-wave”. Of late, through ups and downs, alignments, re-alignments and non-alignments, and driven by the dynamics of regional and global cooperation instruments, a big power consensus appears to have been arrived at by 2015 that “inclusive growth, stability and connectivity” through Asia extending to the rest of the world is imperative for propping up the troubled global order, along with an universally agreed roadmap for facing the challenge to human survival in shared earth from climate change and looming water crisis worldwide.

Asia Pacific dream
Addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, November 9, 2014 in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for efforts to create and fulfill an Asia-Pacific dream saying China’s economy will bring huge opportunities and benefits to the region and to the world. The Asia-Pacific has a strong impetus for development and a bright future, with a rising standing in the world, but the region now stands “at a crossroads”, Xi said. He explained that the dream is about acting in the spirit of the Asia-Pacific community and out of a sense of shared destinies, following the trend of peace, development and mutually beneficial cooperation, and jointly working for the prosperity and progress of the region; that the dream is about staying ahead of global development and making greater contribution to the well-being of mankind; the dream is also about having more economic vibrancy, free trade and investment facilitation, better roads, and closer people-to-people exchanges. Moreover, the dream is about ensuring greater security and prosperity for the people and giving children a better environment to grow, work and live. To realize the Asia-Pacific dream, the region should redouble efforts to forge a partnership of mutual trust, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation and jointly build an open economy. In addition, the region’s economies need to explore new drivers for growth and draw a blueprint for comprehensive connectivity.

US acquiescence
In response President of the United States, Barack Obama told the APEC summit: “In the 21st century, the pursuit of economic growth, job creation and trade is not a zero-sum game.  One country’s prosperity doesn’t have to come at the expense of another. “The United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China.  I want to repeat that. We welcome the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China. In fact, over recent decades the United States has worked to help integrate China into the global economy—not only because it’s in China’s best interest, but because it’s in America’s best interest, and the world’s best interest.  We want China to do well.  We compete for business, but we also seek to cooperate on a broad range of shared challenges and shared opportunities.  Whether it’s stopping the spread of Ebola, or preventing nuclear proliferation, or deepening our clean energy partnership, combating climate change, a leadership role that, as the world’s two largest economies and two largest carbon emitters, we have a special responsibility to embrace. If China and the United States can work together, the world benefits.”
The 2014 summit of Asia-Pacific leaders endorsed President Xi Jinping’s concept for negotiating a vast free trade area in the region, and approved the roadmap for APEC to promote and realize the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). President Xi said that the support “symbolizes the official launch of the process towards the FTAAP, and called it a “historic” step reflecting the “confidence and commitment of APEC members to promote the integration of the regional economy”.

US-India Joint Vision
On January 25, 2015 during US President Barack Obama’s India visit on the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region was issued, which inter alia read as follows:
“India and the United States are important drivers of regional and global growth.  From Africa to East Asia, we will build on our partnership to support sustainable, inclusive development, and increased regional connectivity by collaborating with other interested partners to address poverty and support broad-based prosperity. To support regional economic integration, we will promote accelerated infrastructure connectivity and economic development in a manner that links South, Southeast and Central Asia, including by enhancing energy transmission and encouraging free trade and greater people-to-people linkages.” On March 11, 2015 in Kolkata, India, at the “Building Pan-Asian Connectivity” Conference, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma elaborated on that US-India Joint Strategic Vision as briefly quoted below:

Financial inclusion
“In his recent visit here, President Obama commended Prime Minister Modi’s Jan Dhan (people’s capital) Financial Inclusion initiative. Prime Minister Modi noted that financial untouchability is a scourge on the poor, and that full participation in today’s economy requires savings and access to loans and insurance. Financial exclusion in any form prevents us from reaching our full economic potential.  For the farmer, financial inclusion enhances the ability to address cyclical risks.  Inclusive policies can help the farmer address cyclical risks and can help urban migrants start or grow small businesses.  At the institutional level, inclusive policies can directly affect economic growth rates and improve financial stability and institutional integrity.   
“The Government of India and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are finalizing an agreement to establish a public private partnership with key U.S., Indian, and international organizations to support the Government of India’s efforts to create an inclusive digital economy.  Those of you from Kolkata will surely know the impressive work Bandhan Microfinance has done over the past 14 years to promote financial inclusion based on models pioneered in neighboring Bangladesh.  Bandhan and the Government of India’s efforts to bring financial services to those at the bottom of the pyramid not only increase financial inclusivity, they are also examples of the kind of good governance we’ll need to consider to increase regional connectivity. 

Political roadblocks
“For India, Bangladesh, and other countries in South Asia, domestic political sensitivities, corruption, and bilateral irritants all present roadblocks for better regional connectivity.  “Inclusive, open and transparent political systems, with a strong commitment for the rule of law and civic engagement, will help bolster connectivity. As we talk about financial inclusion we cannot lose sight of the need for political inclusion and to hear from those who may feel excluded or alienated from the political process. Similarly, good economic governance, simpler and more transparent trade and economic policies are also key to expanding trade in the region. “(Finally), South Asia will not only be one of the regions hit hardest by climate change, it will also have to confront significant migration away from drought impacted regions, away from conflict zones and away from the disruptions caused by severe weather.  Higher temperatures, rising sea levels, more intense and frequent cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal, coupled with high population density levels will create enormous challenges.”
Thus, inclusive growth has become the keynote of development thinking in dimensions vertical (by empowerment of the poor) and horizontal (by geographical extension of trade and traffic). Infrastructure building, both physical and institutional, has been going on for the former by various country models developed through the last three decades of the 20th century and accelerated under the impetus of UN millennium development goals. For the latter, China has now taken the lead by its One Belt One Road initiative, and specifically for Asia by founding Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Bangladesh features in the vertical dimension of inclusive growth by its Grameen Bank model, and in the horizontal dimension physically by its participation in Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC) route of One Belt One Road development and institutionally by its involvement as a founder-member of AIIB.
In this context, the reluctance expressed by China’s Ambassador to Bangladesh, Ma Mingqiang about “unnecessary competition on the deep sea port issue” is understandable. The Matarbari Coal Transhipment Terminal Project, as originally planned, has been recast by Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation as a Private-Public Partnership for a “Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Area Development Comprehensive Support” project including further deep sea port study in Matarbari expansion and Sonadia environment, around the coal transhipment terminal. But reportedly the Ministry of Shipping and Ports of the Government of Bangladesh is opposed to any Private Sector participation in the deep sea port project. In that case, the Japanese proposal for Matarbari deep sea port may be in jeopardy.
We cannot afford to be losers on all sides. Whether it is at Matarbari or at Sonadia, we need at least one deep sea port in Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar area to connect with “One Belt One Road” map of Asian connectivity pursued by China, and also to serve the landlocked sub-Himalayan States of Nepal and Bhutan as well as Indian Seven Sister states in its north-east for shortest access to sea under the Indian initiative for a Bangladesh-India-Bhutan-Nepal (BIBN) transport corridor. Study and connectivity works must therefore go on for a singular or a dual deep-sea port in Sonadia environment.


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Khaleda ask for silent vote revolution

BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia at the Pahela Baishakh celebration programme in front of the party’s central office at Naya Paltan in Dhaka on Tuesday.

Special Correspondent

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, on Tuesday urged city dwellers to carry out a silent revolution through casting votes for Mirza Abbas and Tabith Awal in Dhaka south and north city mayoral polls.
She made the call at a programme organised by BNP-backed cultural organisation Jatiyatabadi Samajik Sangskritik Sangstha in front of the party’s Nayapaltan headquarters marking Pahela Baishakh, the Bangla New Year celebrations.
The programme turned into a polls campaign as BNP-backed mayoral candidate Tabith Awal, Mirza Abbas’s wife Afroza Abbas and Adarsha Dhaka Andolon convener Emajuddin Ahamed made appeals to cast votes for the BNP-backed candidates in the city polls slated for April 28.

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BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia at the Pahela Baishakh celebration programme in front of the party’s central office at Naya Paltan in Dhaka on Tuesday.

Special Correspondent

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, on Tuesday urged city dwellers to carry out a silent revolution through casting votes for Mirza Abbas and Tabith Awal in Dhaka south and north city mayoral polls.
She made the call at a programme organised by BNP-backed cultural organisation Jatiyatabadi Samajik Sangskritik Sangstha in front of the party’s Nayapaltan headquarters marking Pahela Baishakh, the Bangla New Year celebrations.
The programme turned into a polls campaign as BNP-backed mayoral candidate Tabith Awal, Mirza Abbas’s wife Afroza Abbas and Adarsha Dhaka Andolon convener Emajuddin Ahamed made appeals to cast votes for the BNP-backed candidates in the city polls slated for April 28.

Hundreds of BNP supporters started thronging the party office since 2:00pm while the programme formally started at about 3:00pm. Afroza Abbas and Tabith Awal greeted Khaleda at the function. They later posed with Khaleda showing ‘Mug’, the symbol of Abbas for Dhaka south city polls. ‘The illegal government-backed people [candidates] are doing everything violating the election code of conduct, but they [government] are not allowing us to do any electioneering,’ said Khaleda.
She said, ‘I would call the people to carry out a silent revolution through casting votes for Mirza Abbas and Tabith Awal in Dhaka south and north city mayoral polls and for Manzur Alam in Chittagong city polls.’ She said that the BNP was contesting the city polls as it contested all previous local government elections, but BNP’s demand for general elections still sustained. ‘The illegal government announced the city polls at a time when killings and disappearance were going unabated…They
[government] thought that the BNP would not contest the elections as it was in movement,’ said Khaleda. ‘People’s mandates in previous city polls have already proved that they want change and they don’t want to see the repressive government anymore,’ she said. ‘The Dhaka city is not liveable…It is the second worst city of the world…Vote for Abbas and Tabith to make a liveable city for all sections of people,’ Khaleda said. Khaleda reached the party office at about 5:00pm, when BNP cultural affairs secretary Gazi Mazharul Anwar, Jatiyatabadi Samajik Sangskritik Sangstha president MA Malek and general secretary Monir Khan received her.
The BNP chief criticised the government for not allowing JSSS to install stage and set up loudspeaker for the function. ‘Today [Pahela Baishakh] is a good day for all of us — the nation, Bangladesh and people. But the illegal government did not allow us to hold a cultural function even,’ she said. ‘We are living in a country where there is no right for people,’ she said. Paltan police station officer-in-charge Golam Morshed said that Jatiyatabadi Samajik Sangskritik Sangstha obtained permission to arrange the programme on 14 conditions including installation of no stage, using no loudspeaker and holding the programme indoor.

Adarsha Dhaka Andolan announces 17-point manifesto
Meanwhile, Adarsha Dhaka Andolan on Wednesday announced a 17-point manifesto with key objective to build up capital Dhaka as a safe, inhabitable and clean city for all.
The newly formed platform of pro-BNP professionals is backing the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-backed candidates in the elections to Dhaka north and south city corporations slated for April 28.
Its member-secretary Shawkat Mahmud flanked by its convener Emajuddin Ahamed and other leaders announced the manifesto at National Press Club.
The 17 points include establishment of proper city governance and disaster management, ensuring proper city planning, housing for all, smooth roads and transports system, education service, health service, city marketing system, human rights, women rights, social security, games and entertainment, prevention of diseases, protection of environment, keeping law and order, curbing narcotics and remedy and rehabilitation of drug addicts, and facilitating flourish of industry and information technology.
On city governance, the manifesto said that all recruitments, promotions and postings should be done on the basis of merit and qualification. No kind of politicisation, nepotism and special quota should be allowed.
In reply to a question, Shawkat said that the candidates would announce their individual manifestoes and it was the manifesto of Adarsha Dhaka Andalon.
When asked, Emajuddin said that solutions to various problems had been proposed in the manifesto briefly.
He reiterated the demand of deployment of military at least seven days before the city polls.
He also emphasised that adequate power should be given to military so that they might deal with miscreants.


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City polls handicapped by multiple prosecutions

Faruque Ahmed

BNP backed mayoral candidate to Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mirza Abbas is close to joining the campaign trail, but for three criminal cases out of sixty spun  around his neck that prevent him from public appearance without fear of police arrest.
People tend to believe that all such cases are essentially politically motivated to keep the BNP leaders on the run. Government strategists are pheased with the advantage they are reaping from implicating the opposition leaders in such cases. Abbas is now failing to join his mayoral campaign in person.

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Faruque Ahmed

BNP backed mayoral candidate to Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mirza Abbas is close to joining the campaign trail, but for three criminal cases out of sixty spun  around his neck that prevent him from public appearance without fear of police arrest.
People tend to believe that all such cases are essentially politically motivated to keep the BNP leaders on the run. Government strategists are pheased with the advantage they are reaping from implicating the opposition leaders in such cases. Abbas is now failing to join his mayoral campaign in person.

Future would tell whether or not they were real accused or were framed. For now, it helps the ruling party to be free from formidable challenges of the major opposition in mayoral polls. 
Most BNP leaders are also in the jail or keeping out of public sight, being implicated in  police cases, leaving the mayoral election campaigns almost totally to the monopoly of the ruling party backed mayoral and councillor candidates.
Mirza Abbas and his party BNP has only one dependable campaigner in Dhaka South now. It is in the person of Mirza’s wife Afroza Abbas who is running from door to door in city lanes seeking votes for her husband in the mayoral post. Mirza Abbas was able to secure bail in 57 cases. But his last three cases appeared to be the biggest blockade to his joining the campaign frays.
Police said they would arrest anybody having police cases if he or she is unable to obtain bail from the court; election cannot be an excuse for accused to get waiver. Abbas was trying to secure bail in his last three cases from the High Court but a split order of the two-Judge bench on Wednesday dashed out his early chance to join the campaign once again.
It looks quite strange that the government says it wants to hold the mayoral and councillor elections freely, but police would not allow mayoral candidate of the major opposition to join the campaign without prior bail. Most noticeable in this regard is the silence of the Election Commission (EC). It could ask police not to arrest Abbas or such other candidates during or prior to the election time to make the election competitive, free and fair. As election candidate the accusal are also not likely to run away. They are entitled to the same liberty as accorded to parliament members during sessions. Bail in any case is a civic right subject to adquate bond against attempt to evade justice. The EC is the judge more than the trial courts about the bail ability of candidates holding control over the law enforcers and other administrative machinery during electioneering.
It appears that the EC is not acting to create a level playing field and is visibly allowing the ruling party backed candidates to sweep the city polls. 
Dhaka North is already under firm grip of the ruling party backed candidates following the exclusion of BNP backed mayoral candidate Abdul Awal Mintoo on technical ground. His son Tabith Awal is now trailing the BNP campaign, although party hopefuls say the silent majority may be deciding the fate of the mayoral poll in favour of Tabith Awal as opposition candidate, if it were allowed to go free and fair.  
In Dhaka South, BNP is perceived to have a better chance in Mirza Abbas against Syed Khokon, notwithstanding his absence in the campaign trail, on account of his previous Mayoral performance and as a popular public representative over the years.
Most people watching the mayoral elections were frustrated by the split verdict of the High Court on Wednesday. The Chief Justice will assign a new bench this time to decide the fate of the bail petition of Mirza Abbas but this undue delay is only allowing the ruling party endorsed candidate to gain more ground.
The High Court has said until his bail case is finalized, he cannot join the campaigns and police also cannot arrest him during this time. But the attorney general on Wednesday said following the split order police may arrest him, thus posing handicap for Abbas directly contradicting the High Court order.
News report said a total of 172 mayor and councillor aspirants in two Dhaka city zones are facing lawsuits, including 34 for murder. Moreover, among the 464 councillor hopefuls in Dhaka South City Corporation (DNCC), 96 are implicated in gang cases including murder, mugging, etc. and police cases.
In Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), 72 councillor candidates out of the total of 356 are facing such charges. In Dhaka North, only one out of the 16 mayoral hopefuls is facing a murder charge. In Dhaka South, three mayoral aspirants out of 20 are accused in murder cases.
If the government wanted free, fair and participatory mayoral election, it allow all candidates to take part in the polls on bail in cases most of which appear to have been framed and courts have not accepted final report of charges, but refusal bail on police request.
It seems the decision makers chose the present volatile political situation as most appropriate time to win control over the city governments, by keeping opposition candidates on the run.
But most observers remain apprehensive that such election tricks would not be helpful to restore law and order. Nor would it help to bring stability, badly needed for the country’s economic growth.


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Planning Minister contradicts WB growth forecast

Special Correspondent

In an upbeat growth disclosure, planning minister said economic growth this fiscal year will be at least 6.5 per cent contradicting World Bank’s forecast of 5.6 per cent in the ongoing political climate.
The World Bank made the disclosure on Monday in its global economic update. The World Bank update said developing East Asia should grow at 6.7 per cent, easing from 6.9 percent in 2014. Under the bank’s definition, Developing East Asia includes 14 countries.

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Special Correspondent

In an upbeat growth disclosure, planning minister said economic growth this fiscal year will be at least 6.5 per cent contradicting World Bank’s forecast of 5.6 per cent in the ongoing political climate.
The World Bank made the disclosure on Monday in its global economic update. The World Bank update said developing East Asia should grow at 6.7 per cent, easing from 6.9 percent in 2014. Under the bank’s definition, Developing East Asia includes 14 countries.

On Bangladesh, the multilateral agency said due to the political turmoil the country suffered losses of $2.2 billion, of which the service sector alone counted for 68 percent, industries 25 percent and agriculture 7 percent. The WB in its development update scaled down the growth projection by around one percentage point from 6.5 to 5.6 and said had there been no political troubles, GDP growth would have been 6.5 percent.
Planning Minister Mostafa Kamal speaking in the backdrop of the WB disclosure said “the GDP growth in the current fiscal year will be between 6.5 to 7 percent and in no way go below 6.5 percent.”
Reneging the impact of the last three months political turmoil on the economy he said it has left no significant impact to substantially retard the growth. He made the disclosure at a press briefing in the city on Wednesday. Citing Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) figures, he said the GDP growth in the first nine months of the current fiscal year was 6.5 percent.
This time period also covers the three month crisis period from January to March when the economy was severely hit by violence and non-stop blockades and frequent hartals sending the wheels of growth to a grinding halt.
Major roads and highways were almost closed when transports did not move between cities and factory production, export shipments and rural economy suffered the worst as the movement of passengers and merchandise was off the streets.
He said the economy has suffered losses for the turmoil but the damages were “slight”; it would cost the economy roughly 0.1 percent of the GDP as against CPD’s estimate of losses to be staggering 10 times, i.e. over 1.0 percent of the GDP.
The minister said even amidst the strikes and blockades, production in agriculture, industries and factories went on; exporters continued their export activities. Production of aus paddy in the current fiscal year was 23.28 lakh tonnes and that of aman 131.90 lakh tonnes. Jute production was 13.61 lakh tonne. In the same period last fiscal year, 23.26 lakh tonnes of aus paddy, 130.23 lakh tonnes of aman and 13.49 lakh tonnes of jute were produced.
He said this year’s boro and wheat production is expected to cross last year’s output level. Gas production in the first seven months has increased by 6.26 percent, in contrast to only 1.53 percent rise in the same period last fiscal year.
In the first six months, production in large and medium industries went up by 9.38 percent and that in small industries was reported at 10.66 percent. The increase at this time last fiscal year was 9.23 percent and 3.71 percent respectively.
The other sectors of the economy also registered satisfactory growth, Kamal said. As a result, GDP growth will not go below 6.5 percent and may run closer to 7 percent, he maintained.
He said the pace of growth will be much faster from next year. The nation will see visible progress on a good number of mega projects, something which never happened before.
The projects are: Padma bridge, Dhaka Metro Rail, deep-sea port, coal-based power plant, nuclear power plant and LNG terminal. Kamal also said the government has great plans to turn the southern region into an economic hub. It includes construction of a modern airport to be built in Khulna. Paira deep-sea port will be built, and two more mega power plants will be set up at Rampal and Paira.
Besides, several special economic zones will be built in Khulna and Barisal, where both the local and foreign investors can set up factories, he said suggesting these will contribute to accelerated growth.


Excerpts from the New York Times story on Turmoil in Bangladesh by Ellen Barry,  April 12, 2015

“There are few in Bangladesh who do not sound exhausted this spring. The country was thrust into disarray in January, when the opposition leader Khaleda Zia declared an indefinite campaign of strikes and transport blockades, hoping to pressure her rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, into holding new national elections. Yet if Mrs. Zia was expecting compromise, none came. Political tension relaxed in recent weeks, and life has largely returned to normal on Dhaka’s streets, but there is no long-term solution in sight.
“A World Bank report released on Sunday showed that Bangladesh’s economy lost $2.2 billion, or around 1 percent of gross domestic product, as a result of 62 days of political unrest this year. The report said the country’s economic growth rate would be 5.6 percent this fiscal year — compared with 6.6 percent the bank had predicted before the strikes began.
“The violence can be traced to nationwide elections in January 2014. “Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or B.N.P., leads a 20-party opposition alliance, threatened to boycott the polls, suggesting that they would be rigged in the government’s favor. Mrs. Hasina ... held an election that excluded the alliance, issuing vague promises of repeat elections in the coming months. This January, after a year of waiting, Mrs. Zia declared an indefinite protest campaign.
“The campaign hurt the entire country. “But no sector matters as much as the garment industry, which accounts for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s exports and faces stiff competition from factories in Cambodia and Vietnam.
“Government officials, and some economists, say the economy is resilient enough to weather moderate political strife, and note that the biggest garment businesses managed to move their cargo to port in a timely fashion through the worst violence, in January and February.
Still, the disruptions have compounded problems. If the turmoil resumes in the second quarter, forecasters with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association say, exports could fall 25 to 30 percent starting in May.
Khurrum Siddique, director of Simco Dresses Ltd., a manufacturer based in a suburb north of Dhaka, described the political uncertainty as ‘a disaster, a man-made disaster.’ He said his company was reconsidering plans for investment this year. ‘We have no ethnic, linguistic or sectarian problems in Bangladesh, especially compared to Pakistan or India,’ Mr. Siddique said. ‘I don’t understand why this issue can’t be solved over a cup of tea.’ For garment workers, a large number of them women, the stakes are also high. “Mahmuda Khatun, 55, said she had no doubt who would be to blame if the industry entered a downturn. ‘The government is responsible for all these things,’ Ms. Khatun said, a fist planted on her hip. ‘I will tell them: You are responsible. I will blame them. I will say it is because of you that all of this is happening.’


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Ominous demand by Shiv Sena: Muslims must not have voting rights

Mohammad Ali Sattar

Ever since Narendra Singh Modi swept to power the shadow of hinduvta in secular India has been getting darker. The fear of the largest democracy turning into a dogmatic Hindu state is now a real concern.
It is not that religion didn’t play any part in the Indian political history. The RSS and its political front BJP rode on Ram Rajya ethics. The imposing slogan of Ram janam bhumi and the likes has been reverberating across India for a long time now.
The Congress, though, did not allow the Hinduvta programs to turn official; it however gave in to Hinduvta force in many states. Finally the party had to succumb to its poor political programs due to continuous inefficient leadership, both in the local and state levels.

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Mohammad Ali Sattar

Ever since Narendra Singh Modi swept to power the shadow of hinduvta in secular India has been getting darker. The fear of the largest democracy turning into a dogmatic Hindu state is now a real concern.
It is not that religion didn’t play any part in the Indian political history. The RSS and its political front BJP rode on Ram Rajya ethics. The imposing slogan of Ram janam bhumi and the likes has been reverberating across India for a long time now.
The Congress, though, did not allow the Hinduvta programs to turn official; it however gave in to Hinduvta force in many states. Finally the party had to succumb to its poor political programs due to continuous inefficient leadership, both in the local and state levels.

Congress under the garb of secularism tried its best to keep things normal so far the minority issues were concerned. Muslim population did never enjoy the best it deserved. Although the Muslims of India had been a loyal race all through the post partition period however till now it has been victims of various ethnic polemics.
The Modi government and the hardline BJP stalwarts preferred to come out in the open to declare their will and whims. They bounced back with Ghar Wapsi program by consenting on mass conversation drives.
A large section of the minorities were reportedly forced to convert into Hinduism. The Gar Wapsi program (Returning to the fold) meant the converted Christians of certain areas were forced to return to their native religious fold. The party leaders claim that these non-Hindus were forcefully made to take up the other faith.
Starting from frippery local conflicts to bigger violent actions the Muslims were the natural suspects. In most cases it was later proved that the alleged accused were not involved in many of these acts of violence.
Amidst all these, a very serious controversy has been raised by the Shiv Sena last week. They demanded that voting rights of Muslims should be revoked as the community has often been used to play vote bank politics. The Sena also compared All India Majlis-e-Ittihadul- Muslimeen (MIM) and Owaisi brothers with “poisonous snakes” who spew venom to “exploit” the minority community.
There is the underlying meaning to the claims made by the Shiv Sena when they declared that vote bank politics is being played in the name of fighting against the injustice meted out to Muslims.
Their educational and health status is being used politically. This politics was once played by the Congress and now every other person calls himself secular.
Congress indeed played the minority card. It also banked on the emotion of the Muslim populace but never provided a real comfort zone for them. May be, the Shiv Sena is right.
But if the Congress has played foul with the Muslim vote, what fault have the minuscule Muslims population commit? Why should their voting rights be scuttled?
The Shiv Sena declared “if Muslims are only being used this way to play politics, then they can never develop. Muslims will have no future till they are used to play vote bank politics and thus Balasaheb had once said to withdraw Muslims voting rights. What he said is right,” an editorial in Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ said last Sunday.
The “secular masks” of all the so-called secular political parties will be worn out, once their voting rights are withdrawn, it said.
Taking a dig at AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi for challenging Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to come to Hyderabad, the editorial said, “Owaisi dares us to come to Hyderabad. But we want to ask him if Hyderabad is in India or in Lahore, Karachi or Peshawar. The pride of Marathis is known in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kandahar as well.”
“By saving the hiding place of snakes, you cannot kill them. Owaisi and his party are like a snake which, if fed, will do no good to the nation. AIMIM is an old snake,” it said.
The thought professed by Nehru and others were actually not based on pragmatic grounds. Even the founding father of India Karamchand Gandhi is now being challenged by the hardcore followers of Nathuram Godsey, the man who assassinated Gandhi.
This far Godsey was almost a non-descript figure and out of political curriculum. But things have changed. The anti-Gandhi group attempts to justify the act of Godsey. There has also been an endeavor to raise a statue of Godsey.
Secularism has been only a wishful thinking, so say the anti-schools. The Congress was for the time being able to keep the hardline Hindu Raj proponents at bay, but they were never out.
The hardcore believers of Hinduism, with imposing figures and influence of countless saffron clad priests across India were there ever ready to strike once they were allowed to. Now is the right time because they have the explicit backing of the government in the center.
With Modi and his men it might be easier now to take over the mantle of secularism and change the largest democracy into a traditional Hindu state.
One point comes out clear that the secular card and the minority game played by the Congress for a long time stood on a fragile surface.
Muslims may not lose their voting rights for now but things are bound to take many a twist for the minority. Shiv Sena demand for rescinding the voting rights of the Muslims bears a dangerous premonition. Indian politics will receive a jolt for sure. Its domestic politics will go through a huge transformation.
It will have a far reaching affect in the subcontinent and the region.


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India’s relations with neighbours

Shamsuddin Ahmed

India has adopted a foreign policy of neutrality and non-interference, non-involvement in internal affairs of other countries, wrote Mamta Aggrawal in History Discussion website under the heading: India’s relationship with her neighbours. But the reality is different.  Presently, Indian government is headed by leaders of BJP, a political party that in principle believes in Hindutva and literally wants to integrate the small neighbours in the region, pschylogically first and perhaps physically later. Its avowed policy is Akhand Bharat (one India) bordering Afghanistan in the west and Myanmar in the east.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

India has adopted a foreign policy of neutrality and non-interference, non-involvement in internal affairs of other countries, wrote Mamta Aggrawal in History Discussion website under the heading: India’s relationship with her neighbours. But the reality is different.  Presently, Indian government is headed by leaders of BJP, a political party that in principle believes in Hindutva and literally wants to integrate the small neighbours in the region, pschylogically first and perhaps physically later. Its avowed policy is Akhand Bharat (one India) bordering Afghanistan in the west and Myanmar in the east.

Let us have a cursory look at India’s approach towards its neighbours. To begin with Maldives, a tiny country comprising with dotted islands in the Indian Ocean, it was widely reported in the media that India’s spy agency RAW overtly and covertly interfered in the last year’s presidential election in a bid to install its favoured candidate former president Mohammad Nasheed. He won. But his opponent moved the Supreme Court with documentary evidence of election engineering. The court cancelled the results and ordered for fresh election in which Abdulla Yameen won defeating Nasheed. As he tried to create unrest and destabilize the situation Nasheed was prosecuted on charge of unlawful criminal justice during his rule,  and refusal to obey court order to release a judge he detained.  Before arrest Nasheed openly requested India to interfere and protect him. Expressing concern, Delhi asked Male to release Nasheed. Showing extraordinary courage President Yameen, blessed by Beijing and Islamabad, declared he would not accept external interference in internal affairs of his country. Nasheed was convicted of the charges, debarring his participation in future election and sent to jail to the annoyance of Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled his visit to Male scheduled for March. Diplomat, a prestigious magazine of India went on to suggest ‘a serious and measured response to Maldives for defying India, including economic sanctions.’
Next comes Sri Lanka. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksha continued the war with LTTE till the last ignoring India’s move for a ceasefire to give respite to the loosing LTTE. Rajapaksa defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009 with moral and material support from China and Pakistan. As the war ended, Rajapaksa came closer to China. Beijing poured in billions of dollars in infrastructure development of Sri Lanka.  China’s nuclear submarines were allowed to dock in its port raising fears in Delhi. India planned the fall of Rajapaksa. It was widely reported in the Indian media and abroad how RAW had worked in mobilizing support for the opposition candidate causing surprise defeat of strongman Rajapaksa in January 8 presidential elections. Opposition candidate Sirisena was brought to power with the hope that Chinese influence would be reduced. But Sirisena, who was in charge of Defence Minister at the far end of the war with LTTE, visited China late last month and assured of continuation of running Chinese projects and also sought more investment.
Meanwhile, Rajapaksa has returned to parliamentary politics and decided to contest for the post of prime minister in the parliamentary elections to be held in June next. Rallies in his support in different parts of the country are drawing massive crowds. Sirisena’s popularity is waning. ‘Sirisena is a good man but a weak leader’, observed a local newsman. In all likelihood Rajapaksa may return to power as prime minister frustrating Delhi. What he will need is to closely guard that RAW cannot engineer the polls again.
Politics and economy of Nepal are continuing to be controlled by Delhi under a divide and rule policy. Greedy politicians are so divided that they could not write the constitution of the country in a decade after abolition of the monarchy. Dirgha Raj Prasai wrote in the Indian weekly Blitz (25 March 2015) that  Devyani Rana, an Indian beauty was planted to play the role of love with prince Deependra that ended in palace massacre on June 1, 2001 when the-then King Birendra tilted towards China. Thousands of Indians visitng Terai plains of Nepal were bestowed with Nepali citizenship at the behest of Delhi.  Mahdeshis were instigated to agitate for a separate state to disintegrate Nepal. India occupied around 75 thousand hectares of land at 54 different points along the 1808km border.
Delhi prevented Bhutan from establishing diplomatic relations with China.  Former Prime Minister Jigme Thinley made an attempt in warming up relations with Beijing by settling border disputes. Delhi responded by withdrawing subsidy on fuel oil supplied by India. Delhi engineered Thinley’s unexpected defeat in election. In April last year Beijing sent veteran diplomat Zhou Gangor with a blunt message: If you want to settle the boundary dispute with us, allow us to open our mission here. Worried at Chinese move, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee flew to Bhutan with ‘stick and carrot’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first visit abroad to Bhutan after taking over power. Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay obliged India by not settling the border issue with China.
Former Indian foreign secretary Sujata Singh visited Bangladesh before the January 5/2014 general election. Many believed she carried election engineering blueprint for the Awami League. “Awami League would return to power at any cost,” she said. This implies interference in internal politics of Bangladesh. Of late, India’s foreign office spokesman Syed Akbaruddin has been repeatedly saying: India’s relationship with Bangladesh (under Awami League government) today is amongst the best it has been. Most people in Bangladesh feel that while the relationship under the Awami League regime has been “best” for India, Bangladesh obtained little or no accommodation so far on disputed bilateral issues.


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Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
OIC Secretary General at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council
PALESTINE AND KASHMIR IN FOCUS OIC on decades of “denial of self-determination” UN resolutions
NAGORNO-KARABAKH, ROHINGYA PEOPLE, ETC. Abridged text of other issues of concern to OIC H.E. Iyad Ameen Madani
PROGRAMME OF ACTION FOR THE NEXT DECADE Draft tabled by OIC Experts Group
 OIC Diary, March 2015 February Assessment of OIC Islamophobia Observatory Increase of hostility in the US and decline in Europe
OIC Diary, March 2015 OIC Delegation in China
OIC Diary, March 2015 OIC hail Preliminary Agreement on peace and reconciliation in Mali
OIC Diary, March 2015 OIC advocacy at the United Nations, in Geneva
 OIC Diary, March 2015 High-level Segment of the UN Human Rights Council, 28th Session OIC Secretary General’s address
OIC Diary, March 2015 Senior Officials’ Meeting, Preparatory to the Tenth Session of COMIAC
 OIC Diary, March 2015 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY IPHRC calls upon all stakeholders to translate women empowerment goals into reality
 OIC Diary, March 2015 Yemeni president’s call for national dialogue in Riyadh
 OIC Diary, March 2015 Terrorist Attacks in Mali Condemned
 OIC Diary, March 2015 President Museveni receives OIC Secretary General
 OIC Diary, March 2015 OIC reservations about Sweden’s foreign minister remarks
 OIC Diary, March 2015 Ambassador of South Africa to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia visits OIC
OIC Diary, March 2015 Deputy Chairman of the council of the Russian Federation visits OIC
 OIC Diary, March 2015 Draft Programme of Action of OIC for the next decade tabled
OIC Diary, March 2015 Terrorist Attack at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis condemned
 OIC Diary, March 2015 CAUTION AGAINST YEMEN SLIDING INTO CIVIL WAR OIC calls for resumption of national dialogue
 OIC Diary, March 2015 22nd session of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy
 OIC Diary, March 2015 Visiting Al-Quds is Recommended (mandoob): Shar’i
 OIC Diary, March 2015 Terrorist attack on hotel in Mogadishu condemned
 OIC Diary, March 2015 OIC Humanitarian Delegation Calls for Close Cooperation in Pakistan Relief Work Two OIC housing projects for flood-affected people completed
 OIC Diary, March 2015 Arab Summit at Sharm el-Sheikh
 OIC Diary, March 2015 OIC Secretary General Congratulates Uzbek President on Re-election
OIC Diary, March 2015 President Macky Sall of Senegal receives the OIC Secretary General
OIC Diary, March 2015 38th Session of the Islamic Commission for Economic,
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