Afghanistan Did Not Commit to Release 5,000 Taliban, Ghani Says

Daily Outlook Afghanistan (Reuters) | 2nd March
The government of Afghanistan has made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners as stated in a pact signed between the United States and Taliban Islamic militants, President Ashraf Ghani said.
The Taliban demand for the release of its prisoners from Afghan jails cannot be a pre-condition to direct talks with the hardline group, Ghani told a news briefing in the capital, Kabul.
Saturday’s accord between the United States and the Taliban said both were committed to work expeditiously to release combat and political prisoners as a confidence-building measure, with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides.

Dhaka-Delhi ties are of friendship, not of slavery: Obaidul Quader
 
Bangladesh Post | 5th March
Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said Bangladesh’s relations with India are of friendship, not of slavery, reports BSS. “We don’t forget our national interest in keeping relations with India.
 India was a genuine friend in our liberation war,” he said while handing over the party’s membership forms and copies of the party constitution to the AL leaders of Kurigram and Cumilla districts at the Awami League president’s Dhanmondi political office in the capital.

Myanmar Will Benefit From Deeper Ties With India
 
The Irrawaddy | 3rd March
If Myanmar wants to counterbalance China, it will need to develop stronger ties with India, its other giant neighbor—and the world’s largest democracy.
During President U Win Myint’s recent visit to India, the two countries signed 10 agreements with a focus on socioeconomic development in Myanmar.
Myanmar, which shares a land border with northeastern India stretching for some 1,624 kilometers, is geopolitically significant to New Delhi’s “Act East” policy, which aims to boost economic integration with Southeast and East Asia.

 

AFGHANISTAN

 
Real Negotiations Will Start Now, India’s FM Says After US-Taliban Deal
Daily Outlook Afghanistan | 3rd March
Real negotiations will start now, Indian foreign minister said, referring to intra-Afghan talks following the US-Taliban deal.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar noted that a lot has changed in Afghanistan since 2001 when Taliban were ousted from power, adding gains must be protected.
“To US and West our message has been that it’s in global interest that the achievements of the last 18 years are secured, protected and not jeopardized,” Jaishankar said speaking at the Centre for Policy Research’s Dialogue 2020. “To my mind the real negotiations will start now and then we have to see the assumptions that we had, how cohesive are various players and what are their demands.”

Taliban releases details of 35-minute phone discussion between Trump, Mullah Baradar
The Khaama Press | 4th March
 
The Taliban group released the details of a 35-minute phone discussion between President Donald Trump and the group’s deputy political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the political office of Taliban in Qatar in a statement said Mullah Baradar spoke with President Trump over the phone for 35 minutes.
Shaheen further added that Mullah Baradar assured positive bilateral relations with the United States if Washington acted based on the bilateral agreement signed between the two sides.
 
Women’s rights must not be sacrificed in Taliban peace deal
Afghanistan Times | 2nd March
For the first time since the collapse of Taliban regime, the ongoing peace process with the group seemed producing fruits, especially after peace deal with the US — but Afghan women despite favoring a dignify peace have expressed their anxiety with fear of losing their voice in the talks with them.
In a gathering in Kabul, women and civil activists said that women rights must not be sacrificed during peace deal with the Taliban.
 
Kabul Condemns Pakistan FM’s ‘Irresponsible’ Remarks on ‘Internal Matters’
Daily Outlook Afghanistan (1 TV News) | 5th March
Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry said it strongly condemns Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's "irresponsible" remarks on its "internal matters,"
The ministry didn’t made it clear which statement by Qureshi it was referring to. In his latest statement, Qureshi called on the Afghan government to abide by a prisoner swap clause in the US-Taliban deal.
"The US-Taliban agreement says that there will be an exchange of prisoners," said Qureshi. "President Ghani should ask the US for an explanation of the agreement."
 
 

BANGLADESH

 
Shringla: NRC, CAA won’t affect Bangladesh
Dhaka Tribune | 2nd March
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has reiterated the NRC and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will have no impact on Bangladesh.
He highlighted the "most extensive and integrated" relationship between the two countries.
"These are purely internal to India," he said while delivering the keynote speech at a seminar on "Bangladesh and India: A Promising Future" at Dhaka's Sonargaon Hotel.
Bangladesh Institute for International Studies (BISS) hosted the event, reports UNB.
 
Bangladesh eyes blue economy cooperation with Norway
Prothom Alo | 3rd March
Bangladesh and Norway have agreed to work together on achieving ocean-related targets including fighting marine litter and to collaborate in maritime sector through sustainable development of ocean resources, reports UNB.
The countries will also take initiatives to significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
Bangladesh proposed a MoU on cooperation in the blue economy sector and shared a draft with the Norwegian side in this regard.
 
ECNEC okays 8 projects involving Tk 10,468cr
Bangladesh Post | 3rd March
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has approved eight projects which will be implemented at an estimated cost of Tk 10,468.24 crore (104.68 billion).
Of the projects, six are new and two are revised projects, including the one for constructing Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge over the River Jamuna with an additional cost of Taka 7,046.88 crore.
The approval came at a meeting held at NEC conference room in the city’s Agargaon area with ECNEC Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair. 
 
  

BHUTAN

 
New ports explored to ease third country export
Kuensel | 3rd March
The government is exploring an additional port, Jogighopa in Assam to improve the water transport system and help Bhutanese in the boulder business.
Economic Minister, Loknath Sharma said discussions with counterparts are ongoing for the additional port.
The minister also informed that a few additional ports between Chilmari and Narayanganj in Bangladesh were identified and that the ministry is waiting for an approval from the Bangladeshi government. “We will also start another port from Guwahati to benefit the exporters from Samdrupjongkhar,” said Lyonpo adding that approvals for third country export from Bangladesh via Chittagong and Mongla would be starting soon.
 
NC session concludes
Kuensel | 6th March
The 24th session of the National Council (NC) concluded yesterday after deliberating five legislative and eight money bills, among other issues.
In his closing remarks, Chairperson Tashi Dorji said that the session was one of the longest and expressed his appreciation to members.
“I would like to request the committees to work with the same spirit,” he said.
The session was frustrating for the House when it came to the Impeachment Procedure Bill and the Minister and Minister’s entitlement Bill. The House failed to convince the National Assembly to deliberate the bills, which were passed in the 23rd session.
 
 

MALDIVES

 
 President Solih forms ‘Child and Family Protection Services’
The Edition | 2nd March
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih constituted the ‘Child and Family Protection Services’, an agency established under the newly introduced Child Rights Protection Act.
The agency will assume responsibility for cases previously undertaken by the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services in protecting the rights of children.
The Child Rights Protection Act outlines the rights and responsibilities for children, duties of the state, community and parents to protect such rights, and it seek to reduce disparities between the previous law and international child protection laws and standards.
 
No concerns over EU sanctions’: Fisheries Minister
Maldives Times | 2nd March
Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture, Dr Zaha Waheed, during the Parliamentary session, assured that any “fear” of European Union (EU) sanctions on fish exportation were “eliminated”.
Responding to a question posed by Henveiru West MP Hassan Latheef, Minister Zaha stated that measures were taken to curb illegal fisheries.
“…over the course of the past 12 days, we have addressed all concerns of the European Union and eliminated the fear of possible sanctions”, said Minister Zaha.
 
Emergency motion to stock up staple foods, fuel over COVID-19
The Edition | 3rd March
An opposition lawmaker filed an emergency motion at the parliament, calling on the state to ensure that there would not be a scarcity of staple foods and fuel in Maldives in the event of a COVID-19 breakout.
The motion was filed by Maduvvari MP Adam Shareef, the vice president of People's National Congress (PNC) and former Minister of Defence in the previous administration.
The lawmaker urged the government to import sufficient amount of staple foods and fuel in advance, in case of possible transport and travel restrictions should the novel coronavirus be detected in the archipelago.
 
7.5 percent of Maldives' energy needs met by solar': President Solih
The Edition | 4th March
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the State Electric Company Ltd (STELCO), revealed that 7.5 percent of Maldives' energy production is generated through solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Speaking at the ceremony held at convention centre Dharubaaruge, President Solih noted that many efforts were made to further install solar systems during the administration's first year.

  

MYANMAR

 
Foreign insurers added more than $120M to industry in Myanmar
Myanmar Times | 3rd March
Investors have channeled some US$120 million and K60 billion into the Myanmar insurance sector since its liberalisation last year, according to the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC).
In 2019, the Ministry of Planning, Finance, and Industry granted permission to five wholly foreign life insurance companies and six joint venture life insurance and non-life insurance companies to operate in the domestic insurance market. 
During the period, the five wholly foreign life insurance companies - AIA, Chubb, Dai-ichi, Manulife and Prudential - invested a sum totaling $65 million, according to the MIC.
 
UN seeks $877M for Rakhine refugees in Bangladesh
Myanmar Times | 5th March
UN agencies and its NGO partners will seek US$877 million for Muslim refugees from Rakhine State living in camps in Bangladesh, as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees blasted Myanmar for not doing enough to ensure their safe return.
More than 855,000 Rakhine Muslims and over 444,000 people in local communities in Bangladesh are expected to benefit from the 2020 Joint Response Plan, now in its third year.
 
Myanmar Parliament to Vote on Proposed Constitutional Amendments Next Week
The Irrawaddy | 4th March
Myanmar’s Union Parliament will begin deciding whether to accept proposed changes to the undemocratic provisions of the Constitution on March 10, Speaker T Khun Myat announced.
The announcement was made on the sixth day of often-heated parliamentary debate over the constitutional amendment proposals.
Since Feb. 25, dozens of parliamentarians have been discussing amendment proposals submitted by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic parties, as well as those submitted by the unelected military lawmakers and their allied Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lawmakers.
 
 

NEPAL

 
Govt told to halt flights to high-risk countries
The Himalayan Times | 2nd March
The Supreme Court issued an interim order telling the government to halt flights from and to the countries that pose high risk of coronavirus infection, including China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Bahrain, till the disease was brought under control.
The order was issued by a single bench of Justice Tej Bahadur KC in response to public interest litigation filed by Advocate Purna Rajbanshi.
 
Nepali economy starts to feel the pinch as coronavirus spreads
The Kathmandu Post | 4th March
It is tourist season and the occupancy rate at Durbarmarg’s Hotel Annapurna is just 40-45 percent, down from 70 percent before the Covid-19 outbreak in China. Chinese tourists, who contributed around 20 percent to the hotel’s occupancy, have dwindled and visitors from other countries have also cut short their plans in the wake of the outbreak.
“With international travel badly affected by the coronavirus outbreak, occupancy rates have decreased drastically,” said Atma Khanal, a sales executive at the hotel.
 
18 new members of National Assembly sworn in today
The Himalayan Times | 4th March
Newly elected 18 members in the National Assembly, the Upper House in the Federal Parliament, took oath of office and secrecy today.
NA chairman Ganesh Prasad Timilsina administered oath of office and secrecy to the new members amidst a programme at the Federal Parliament Building, in New Baneshwor.
The elected NA members will have a six-year term. Among them, 16 are from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and two are from the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N).
 
 

PAKISTAN

 
Saudi Arabia pledges full support to Pak efforts for regional peace
The Nation | 3rd March
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed his gratitude to Saudi Arabia for acknowledging Pakistan Army’s achievements in the war against terrorism, sacrifices and contributions for regional peace and stability.
According to ISPR, the army chief expressed these views while talking to the visiting Deputy Minister of Defence, Saudi Arabia , Prince Khalid Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who called on him at the GHQ, Rawalpindi.
 
Pakistan’s trade deficit contracts 27% to $15.7b
The Express Tribune | 3rd March
Pakistan booked a trade deficit of $15.7 billion in first eight months of current fiscal year, down 27% due to suppression of imports, amid rekindled hopes for the revival of exports that bounced back after contracting for three months in a row.
In February, export receipts showed an increase of 13.6% and amounted to $2.13 billion, giving a reason for celebration to members of the government’s economic team, who immediately started sending congratulatory tweets.
 
In Pakistan: World Bank okays $300m for human development
The Express Tribune | 5th March
The World Bank has approved a $300-million financial package for human development in Pakistan, including a loan of $200 million to improve social and health indicators in about a dozen poorest districts of Punjab.
The loan has been approved under the Punjab Human Capital Investment Project that will strengthen health services and social protection for the poor and vulnerable households in select districts in Punjab.
 
 

SRI LANKA


EU supports Sri Lanka’s innovation and startup ecosystem
Colombo Page | 3rd March
The European Union and the Sri Lankan innovation and startup community are organizing a series of interactive sessions as part of an EU-funded pilot project kicking off this week.
Members of the EU and Sri Lankan innovation and startup ecosystem are meeting in Colombo from March 2-5 to discuss ways to connect research to markets and foster partnerships between the EU and Sri Lanka.
 
President shares his vision of overcoming challenges of impaired development through people-centered economic model
Colombo Page | 4th March
Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says that the main challenge facing Sri Lanka at present is the rapid economic development and many of the security concerns the country faced in the past were due to the economic exploitation of underprivileged people.
Participating in a dialogue with leaders of IT/BPO sector at the Presidential Secretariat Wednesday, the President said he believes that if there is equal economic opportunity for all, regardless of race, religion, language or region, these divisions will not arise again in Sri Lanka and the people-centric model he proposed has taken this factor into consideration.
 
Huawei signs MOU with University of Moratuwa to strengthen digital transformation
Colombo Page | 6th March
Huawei Sri Lanka and University of Moratuwa (UOM) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enable the educated and talented youth in Sri Lanka to further enhance their skills in the ICT domain and to be competitive in the ever growing ICT industry, as part of Huawei’s long-term digital inclusion initiative – TECH4ALL, to support Sri Lanka to fulfil the “Smart Nation” vision of the country.

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