Drone Strikes Return to Pakistan, India & Malaysia Enter Free Trade Pact

Hard to keep up with the plethora of news that does the daily rounds? Never fear, Divanee is here! Allow us to recap what you missed this past week in politics and global issues.

Drones Strikes Return Following Weeks-Long Hiatus

Photo courtesy of The News

Until today, the last reported U.S. drone strike to hit Pakistan occurred on January 23. Some analysts believed the pause may have been related to the detention of alleged U.S. diplomat Raymond Davis, who is imprisoned in a Lahore jail in connection with the killing of two Pakistanis on January 27. Davis, who the New York Times reported today worked with the C.I.A., is scheduled to appear in court on March 14 for an immunity hearing. Many consider the delayed hearing a cause for concern, as local citizens protest for Davis to be hanged. While some analysts say the halt in drone strikes was related to bad weather, others speculate that it was an attempt to prevent stoking the flames of anti-American sentiment, as tempers are already running high in response to the Davis shooting. That changed this morning, though, when four missiles struck the western border of Pakistan in South Waziristan. Aimed at a suspected militant training center, initial reports that several foreigners were among the seven killed. According to a retired Pakistani general and military analyst, “the United States may have resumed the raids in a recognition that the case may drag out for some time.” (via Reuters South Asia)

Bangladesh Ministers Calls for Muhammad Yunus’ Resignation

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Bangladesh’s finance minister said on February 16 that it is time for Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank, to step down. The bank, which lends microloans to individuals to help them escape poverty and set up small businesses, has doled out some $10 billion in loans. A 2010 Norwegian television documentary that claimed Grameen “had for tax purposes shifted funds provided by Norway’s aid agency in the 1990s from one legal entity to another,” according to Reuters South Asia. Last month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused Yunus of evading taxes, even though an investigation following the documentary by the Norwegian government turned up no evidence of foul play. Yunus’ supporters consider the attacks against him political. While the Bangladesh government has a 25 percent stake in Grameen, it is also calling for stricter regulations and perhaps even a transition of power. Yunus told Reuters than any such transition must take place in a friendly environment in order to ensure commitment to preserving the goals of serving the poor in Bangladesh. (via Reuters South Asia)

India and Malaysia Enter Free Trade Pact

Mustapa, left, shakes hands with Anand, right. Photo courtesy of The Sun

On the heels of a free trade agreement with Japan, India signed another pact with Malaysia on Friday, February 18, called the Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (MICECA). This agreement with allow trade between India and Malaysia, currently at $9 billion, to reach $15 billion by 2015. Building on an agreement between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last January, MICECA will cover much more territory. Notably, it will become easier for professionals like engineers, accountants and technology experts to obtain temporary entry for contract work to either country. The Indian and Malaysian Commerce Ministers, Anand Sharma and Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, signed the pact, which should cut tariffs for 90 percent of Indian goods and 92 percent of Malaysian goods. Sharma said, “It is projected that in the next 15 to 20 years, of the five major economies of the world, three will be from Asia. Those three will be China, India and Japan so we will have to work together.” (via Associated Press)

Get your daily fix on South Asian news and entertainment by following @divanee on Twitter.