VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: 21st May, 2018

Pakistan goes to World Bank today to protect water right: Dawn
May 21, 2018

Pakistan will raise its concerns over the inauguration of the Kishanganga hydropower plant with the World Bank on Monday (today), arguing that the dam violates the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. A high-level Pakistani delegation arrived in Washing­ton on Sunday for the three-day talks, which would cover four key points: the height of the Kishan­ganga dam, its capacity to hold water, Pakistan’s demand for setting up a court of arbitration to settle the dispute, and India’s counter-demand for an international expert. On Saturday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the dam, ignoring Pakistan’s objections and the World Bank’s efforts to find a solution acceptable to both India and Pakistan. Islamabad argues that the dam violates the conditions that the treaty places on the construction of a structure that can hinder the flow of a river. The treaty, which distributes the water of the six Indus valley rivers between India and Pakistan, fixes the height and the storage capacity for all such dams. Click here to read...

Pakistan, Afghanistan Ulema Agree to Hold Joint Peace Talks: Tolo News
May 20, 2018

Pakistan and Afghanistan’s religious scholars (Ulema) have reportedly agreed to hold conferences in both countries to explore ways for peace and to encourage the Taliban to join the reconciliation process, according to Pakistan’s Daily Times report. According to the report, Syed Ehsan Tahiri, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), said Pakistani and Afghan clerics had agreed to hold joint meetings to discuss peace in Afghanistan in accordance with Islamic teachings. The Daily Times reported that Tahiri told Mashal Radio in Kabul that Pakistan had agreed to organise the meetings in Islamabad and also join similar meetings in Kabul that would be attended by hundreds of scholars from both sides. The comments came after Afghan, Indonesian, Pakistani and Indonesian Ulema met in Indonesia on May 11 and “appreciated and supported” President Ashraf Ghani’s peace offer to the Taliban in February. Click here to read...

Nepal to shut India's field office, says Prime Minister Oli: PTI
May 20, 2018

Nepal will close the Indian Embassy's field office in the near future as it has "outlived its purpose", Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has said. India was permitted to set up the temporary field office in 2008 to issue passes to vehicles for plying on Indian roads in the bordering regions after Koshi floods severely damaged a 17-km stretch of the east-west highway. Initially set up in the eastern Sunsari district, it was later shifted to the nearby Biratnagar city, about 375 kms from here, along the Koshi Highway. Speaking at the first parliamentary party meeting of the newly-formed Nepal Communist Party here, party's co-chairman Oli said The office would be removed as it had "outlived its purpose". After repair of the damaged portion of the highway, Nepal had asked India to shut down the camp office but the Indian side did not comply. Click here to read...

Sheikh Hasina in India: Bangladesh PM likely to bring up Rohingya crisis, Teesta water sharing with Narendra Modi: Firstpost
May 21, 2018

In these days of "informal summits", Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina in an informal bilateral meeting at Banga Bhavan in Shantiniketan this week. It will be the third informal summit Modi will be attending in the past few weeks, after the Wuhan summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping in April and another meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Monday. Sheikh Hasina is expected to arrive in Kolkata on 25 May for a two-day visit that will lay emphasis on the close cultural ties between the two countries, but her visit is also likely to lead to more substantive talks between the two leaders. The informal summit will take place at the newly inaugurated Banga Bhaban (Bangladesh Bhavan) in Shantiniketan. The Bangladesh prime minister will later meet Mamata Banerjee after the convocation ceremony at the Nazrul Islam University in Asansol. Click here to read...

Sri Lanka warns of looming foreign debt crisis: Business Times
MAY 21, 2018

Sri Lanka is headed for a debt crisis, the finance ministry warned on Sunday, blaming a series of costly projects commissioned by the previous government for record-high repayments. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said payments of capital and interest would reach US$2.84 billion this year, mostly to repay loans for extravagant projects under former president Mahinda Rajapakse. "The crisis will further worsen next year," Mr Samaraweera said in a statement, adding repayments are expected to soar to US$4.28 in 2019. "Repayments will go to pay the debts that were obtained during the Rajapakse regime for the waste, fraud and corruption committed by the oligarchies of the Rajapakses," he added. Foreign reserves totalled US$9.9 billion at the end of April, the central bank says. Mr Samaraweera said the Rajapakse administration secured two high-interest loans worth US$1.5 billion in the final year of its decade-long rule. Click here to read...

China introduces measures to motivate officials: China Daily
May 21, 2018

The General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Sunday published a guideline to promote competent officials, encourage their initiative, and improve their welfare. The central leadership pledged to promote loyal, responsible, and competent officials, the guideline said. It instructed Party institutions and governments to clarify their standards for assessing officials' performance, particularly on how they deliver the policies made by the CPC Central Committee. Click here to read...

Xi vows tough battle against pollution to boost ecological advancement: People’s Daily
May 21, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country will fight a good battle against pollution and push ecological civilization to a new level during a tone-setting meeting on environmental protection ending Saturday. China will push for coordination between economic and social development and ecological civilization, Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said when addressing the two-day national conference. Click here to read...

Talks in US ward off trade war: People’s Daily
May 21, 2018

The consensus that there will be "no trade war" — reached during the latest round of trade talks between the world's top two economies — means a lot, not only for the Sino-US economic relationship, but also for the global economy as a whole, according to officials and analysts from both countries. A delegation led by Vice-Premier Liu He, President Xi Jinping's special envoy, had "positive, pragmatic, constructive and fruitful" talks on Thursday and Friday with the US team headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, following their first round of talks in Beijing early this month. Click here to read...

Iran’s top envoy to China calls on Beijing to help safeguard nuclear deal: South China Morning Post
May 21, 2018

Iran has called on China to help safeguard the nuclear deal it reached with other major world powers, saying Tehran will resort to “other options” if its interests are threatened by US sanctions. Click here to read...

China's self-developed plane engine completes test run: China Daily
May 21, 2018

China's self-developed demonstrator aircraft engine CJ-1000AX has completed a successful test run in Shanghai, the engine maker said Sunday. AECC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co Ltd (ACAE) designed CJ-1000AX for China's homemade large C919 passenger jet, developed to rival global leading airliners such as Airbus A320 and Boeing B737. Click here to read...

China denies rumors of offer to cut trade surplus with US: China Daily
May 18, 2018

On Friday, China rebutted rumors that the country had offered to cut its trade surplus with the United States by $200 billion, saying that trade talks with the US so far have been constructive and are still in process. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the goal of the ongoing consultations between the two countries is to understand both sides' concerns, and the talks are carried out in a process with mutual understanding and accommodation to move the bilateral economic and trade relationship toward a win-win direction. Click here to read...

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