|Asia News Digest
U.S.-India Nuclear Deal Faces Hurdles in Congress
The U.S.-India nuclear deal, now in the House Committee on International Relations, faces new problems. The top Democrat on the Committee, Tom Lantos (Calif), has told the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran that he is concerned about India's training of Iranian Navy personnel. "Congressman Lantos pointed out that episodes of conflict in relations between U.S. and India, such as India's early wavering in its commitment to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, and more recent concerns raised about Iranian troops receiving training from India will only undermine Congressional support for the deal," said Lynne Weil, Lantos's spokeswoman.
Reacting to the concerns, New Delhi said two Iranian naval ships with about 200 personnel were on a six-day "informal" visit to the southern Indian naval base in Kochi in March as a part of training sortie in the Arabian Sea.
The International Relations Committee is chock-full of pro-Israel Congressman. India, having vigorously courted Israel and its powerful lobby in the U.S., is now getting cut by the other edge of the sword. Politically, it is not possible for New Delhi to abandon Iran. It has abandoned Palestine as the price for "friendship" with Israel, but it would be lot more difficult to abandon Iran altogether.
Australia Moves To Supply Uranium to China
Prior to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's arrival in Australia on April 1, Prime Minister John Howard, during his joint press conference with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Canberra, said, "We are making good progress. It is possible that the discussions could be satisfactorily concluded so that something could be said or signed when the Chinese Premier visits Australia next week."
Howard said Australia is negotiating on the basis that China is a signatory to the NPT, the India Daily reported March 28. "And, in that respect, China is different from India," said Howard. He also said there will be no policy change regarding sales of uranium to India, which he ruled out, because India is not a signatory to the NPT.
U.S. Planning Bases Across Southwest and Central Asia
According to William Arkin, a former U.S. Army Intelligence analyst who writes on military matters, the United States is planning to build at least six bases across Southwest and Central Asia in the next ten years, for "deep storage" of munitions and equipment to prepare for regional war contingencies.
Arkin says the plan came to his attention through contracting documents that called for continued storage of everything from packaged meals ready-to-eat (MREs), to missiles in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, as well as the establishment of two new storage hubs, one in a classified Southwest Asian country "west of Saudi Arabia" and the other in an as-yet-to-be-decided "Central Asian state."
Arkin said: "Central to the U.S. military presence in the Middle East to fight both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been the use of pre-positioned war material and the quick establishment of expeditionary bases. At the height of operations in both countries in 2003, the Air Force, for instance, operated from 36 bases in and around the region. That number has since shrunk to 14 today, including four main operating bases in Iraq...."
Trouble Worsens Along Afghan-Pakistani Border
A series of violent events inside Afghanistan, and in Pakistan's bordering North West Frontier Province (NWFP), indicate that the security situation in both nations is deteriorating fast and furiously. A bomb went off in a crowded bazaar in Peshawar, the capitol of the NWFP, close to the U.S. consulate, which had been closed before the bombing, due to a "specific and credible threat."
The incident in Peshawar is a relatively new development and very well could be the beginning of an uprising by the Pushtuns on the Pakistani side, demanding Greater Pakhtoonistan, joining with the Pushtuns of Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, bitter over Pakistani protection of his nemesis, the Taliban militia, is encouraging this development.
Meanwhile, the Russian daily Pravda published an article on March 26 which said that al-Qaeda has pretty much vanished from the scene, but that U.S. foreign policy has created "fresh opportunities for the Islamic propaganda machine." As a result, it says, President Karzai has to fight not only the fanatics inspired by Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, but new forces that have emerged. The drug traffickers have actually become a major independent force waging war against Kabul, and the clans in the eastern part of the country bordering Pakistan are also fighting for creation of a new state that would engulf the tribal regions of Pakistan. Such a new state will be ruled by local warlords, and Kabul will have no authority over them.
Is Pakistan Supplying Nukes to Saudi Arabia?
According to the latest issue of the German magazine Cicero, Saudi Arabia is working secretly and closely on a nuclear program with Pakistan. The magazine said that during the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca in 2003 through 2005, Pakistani sicentists posed as pilgrims to come to Saudi Arabia.
Between October 2004 and January 2005, some of these Pakistani scientists managed to get "disappeared" from their hotel rooms for as long as three weeks. Cicero also quoted a CIA analyst, John Pike, as saying that Saudi "bar codes" could be found on half of Pakistan's nuclear weapons "because it is Saudi Arabia which ultimately co-financed the Pakistani atomic nuclear program." Cicero also said satellite images prove that Saudi Arabia has set up a secret underground city and dozens of underground silos in al-Sulaiyil, south of Riyadh.
In the late 1990s, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, while he was in Pakistan, visited the nuclear facility at Kahuta. This became an issue since Pakistani Prime MinistersBenazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, among otherswere never allowed to visit Kahuta, the main Pakistani nuclear facility.
Attempted Coup vs. Thai PM Thaksin Thwarted
The attempted "People's Power" coup against Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been foiled, for now. Thaksin wisely accused the opposition of trying to provoke violencethe truth of which has been extensively documented in EIR articles over the past two monthsthus forcing those who provoked the violence in 1992, and who are in the leadership of the current movement, to defend the "peaceful" nature of the demonstrations. Also, The Nation, owned by Dow Jones, identified in EIR for functioning as the command center for the coup attempt, has itself become the focus of demonstrations by the rural and poor backers of Thaksin. As a result, a Thai-language paper owned by The Nation was forced to issue a formal request for forgiveness from the King for printing an interview with Sondhi Limthongkul, the leader of the anti-Thaksin movement, in which Sondhi made statements considered "lèse-majesté" (an offense against the king). The editor and the journalist involved resigned, and the paper closed for five days, while Sondhi now faces lèse-majesté charges himself.
The population of Bangkok has become increasingly disgusted with the middle class mobs stopping up business and traffic across Bangkok. The last scheduled demonstrations before the April 2 elections moved to a popular mall, where they intended to stay for three days. However, the leaders threw in the towel, cancelling the second and third day of demonstrations. Even though the opposition parties refused to run in the snap election, Thaksin has called on his supporters to give a vote of confidence, promising that he will step down if he does not win a majority.