|Asia News Digest
China, India Form 'Strategic Partnership'
China and Indonesia announced a "strategic partnership" during Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Jakarta April 25-26. The dramatic development, which had not been reported ahead of the two-day state visit (following the Asian-Africa Summit), established both an economic and a military agreement. Economic deals aim to increase trade by 40% over three years, to $20 billion, while $700 million in concessional loans for infrastructure projects were signed, and as much as $10 billion in investments over the coming years, are on the table.
The military agreements include arms sales by China, and bilateral military cooperation. Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono has recently concluded trips to both the U.S. and China. An Indonesian source said that Juwono, although close to the U.S., learned on his trip that Indonesia could not rely on the U.S., both because the U.S. placed conditions on agreements that are unacceptable to Indonesia, and because of negative sentiment within Indonesia against the regime in Washington. China is able and willing to fill some of the gap, with cooperation on friendly terms.
Philippines, China Sign Multi-Billion-Dollar Loan Deal
Immediately following Chinese President Hu Jintao's conclusion of a "strategic partnership" with Indonesia April 26, Hu and Filipino President Gloria Arroyo-Macapagal witnessed the signing in Manila of 14 business agreements in loans and investments, ten of them involving government-to-government deals, among them a $950-million investment by Jinchuan/Shanghai Baosteel Co. and China Development Bank to re-develop a nickel mining company in the Philippines.
The largest loan, $500 million, will be used to extend a rail system to light industrial centers north of Manila.
Hu also signed an agreement to provide $27 million in equipment to Philippine telecommunications company, Digitel.
China National Offshore Oil Co. signed a framework agreement for as much as $10 million in prospective investment in oil and gas exploration off the coast of the western Philippine island of Palawan.
Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said other investments, such as a pharmaceutical manufacturing concern and a glass factory, to be set up in the northern Philippines light industrial zone, but have not yet been signed.
Purisima said that with expanding relations, Sino-Philippines trade will likely rise to $30 billion by 2010, from the current level of about $10 billion a year.
India To Set Up Strategic Aerospace Command
Speaking to the media April 27, India's Air Force chief, Air Marshal S.P. Tyagi, said an Aerospace Command has to be established in order to lay the groundwork for developing capabilities to degrade space weapons. This will be developed with the help of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Opium Blooms Again in Afghanistan
Afghanistan's number-one cash crop is now under harvest. In the southern part of Afghanistan, where summer comes early, farmers are busy collecting resin from the poppy pods, despite claims by Afghan President Hamid Karzai (who had earlier declared "jihad" against opium production) that drug cultivation was down sharply.
Besides Karzai, the British and the United Nations chimed in as well, claiming a drop of 30%-40% in cultivation since the mighty harvest of 2004. But the story is not that straight. UN drug experts have told AP that poppy cultivation had been less in traditional areas, but in remote areas, poppies are blooming more vigorously than ever.
Production of opium has boomed since the fall of the Taliban militia in the winter of 2001. Last year, cultivation reached a record of 323,700 acres, yielding nearly 80% of the world's opium and 95% of the heroin consumed in Europe.
The failure of the U.S/British policy to reduce opium production is evident from the fact that the Karzai Administration is openly seeking support of the most powerful opium warlords in Afghanistan, and not a single top-of-the-list warlord has been put behind the bars for producing hundreds of tons of opium.
India Asked by South Africa for Help in Joining G-4
The Group of Four (G-4)Japan, Brazil, India, and Germanyis now pushing for permanent seats on the UN Security Council, with veto power, although UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, during his recent visit to India, told New Delhi to rule out the possibility of earning veto power.
Annan did not respond positively to New Delhi's next demand, to abolish the concept of veto at the United Nations Security Council in the present post-Cold War era. Annan advised New Delhi to become a permanent member without veto power during his tenure, and then fight for veto power once in. He indicated that Germany, and possibly Japan, are agreeable to this formulation.
With Japan's Premier Junichiro Koizumi in New Delhi, the UN reform subject is under discussion. Considering it an opportune time, South Africa has approached New Delhi to help Pretoria enter the Group to make it G-5, arguing that South Africa is the best representative of African interests, and pointing out that it is a "former nuclear weapons state." South Africa also indicated that it would be able to garner the support of a vast majority of African nations for UN reform if Pretoria is included in the G-5.
Thai Commission Issues Report on Atrocities
The Thai National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) has issued its initial reports on two of the worst atrocities committed in three southern provinces in the past year, a year in which over 600 people have been killed in those provinces.
The two incidents are the April 2004 military assault against Thai Muslim gunmen who, after a raid on a police station, had taken refuge in the 400-year-old Krue Se Mosque32 were killed; and the horrific deaths in October of some 78 Thai Muslims who died from suffocation and dehydration in Tak Bai, after they were loaded on top of each other like carcasses in the back of a truck for transport to a distant jail.
The report holds five Army generals responsible for "ignorance and negligence" in allowing troops under their command to load people on the trucks, and for "disproportionate use of force" at the Krue Se Mosque.