|Asia News Digest
Singapore Minister: Do Not Shortchange Indian Farmers
Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister George Yong-Boon Yeo, addressing a seminar titled, Partnership Summit, organized by India's Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), pointed out, in the presence of India's Minister of Commerce, that while Indian cities are booming, India's countryside is suffering, the Hindu reported Jan. 19. Calling this a global phenomenon, the Foreign Minister said that Indian farmers should not be short-changed. "If we are not concerned about the stresses of globalization, ideological counter-currents will emerge. Globalization is not a bed of roses. There is a need to be watchful, always," said Yong-Boon Yeo.
Speaking in the same vein, Francois Loos, the French Minister Delegate for Industry, he said the problem with globalization is a leadership vacuum. "Today there is no clear leadership. Visionwho has that?" he asked.
India, still a food-surplus nation, thanks to the contribution made by late Premier Indira Gandhi, with the help of Norman Borlaug and a few other giants in the agricultural sector, is moving towards a major crisis. With the spread of globalization, food grain availability has fallen and regional disparities have been increased. Since 1992, when globalization was embraced by the Congress Party-led government, hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have committed suicide.
Musharraf Worried About U.S.-Pakistan Anti-Terror Efforts
Being on the receiving end of Washington's criticism for not "doing enough" to help the United States against the rising Taliban tide within Afghanistan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, reviewing the situation along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, charged that "baseless allegations" made by senior U.S. commanders could seriously harm U.S.-Pakistan relations. Musharraf rejected as "baseless" a recent statement made by U.S. Maj. Gene Benjamin Freakley, who claimed that the legendary Taliban commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was operating from inside Pakistan to foment violence inside Afghanistan.
Authorities were also concerned about statements issued in early January by the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, during his annual review of security threats. Negroponte had said that al-Qaeda was regrouping from a "secure hideout in Pakistan." Islamabad took this statement as a pretext for launching a pre-emptive strike inside Pakistan by U.S. troops and NATO forces, who are battling a large and determined militant force inside Afghanistan.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told reporters that any attempt by the foreign forces to launch a pre-emptive strike within Pakistan would be "unacceptable.... Pakistan will not tolerate this," she insisted.
Gates Faces Hostile NATO on Afghan Quagmire
An Indian military contact told EIR on Jan. 18, that NATO is incurring heavy losses in Afghanistan and is ready to lay down a timetable to quit. In Brussels, the NATO headquarters, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had a difficult time. NATO countries, unlike the White House in particular, have virtually run out of patience with Pakistan. Gates faced a very hostile NATO at Brussels which demanded stern action against Pakistan for harboring, sheltering, training, and arming the insurgents against NATO troops.
In Afghanistan, Gates faced a similarly hostile President Hamid Karzai. As a result of the pressure exerted on him, Gates has agreed to send more U.S. troops, but refused to antagonize Islamabad any further by joining voices with the NATO commanders.
NATO complains that the Bush Administration has treated Islamabad with velvet gloves in order to help win the "war on terror." Of course, Pakistan is an important element in this war, but Washington must realize that Islamabad is not responding to NATO's requirements.
At the same time that Gates was in Kabul, a U.S. Congressional delegation, including Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) was also there. Without directly calling for a troop increase in Afghanistan, Clinton said the Bush Administration must defeat the Taliban before sending more troops to Iraq. New Delhi considers this statement a backhanded endorsement of more US troops in Afghanistan.
Interestingly, the Indian contact pointed out that Washington has once again asked India to join the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. In early 2002, Washington had asked New Delhi to join the fight, but withdrew the request because Islamabad made clear that it would create serious problems in U.S.-Pakistan relations. It seems the Bush Administration is now caught between the NATO rock and the Pakistani hard place.
ASEAN Nations Agree To Boost 'Alternative Fuels'
The ASEAN nations and their six dialogue partners agreed to boost "alternative fuels" and the development of "civilian nuclear power for interested parties," the Philippines Inquirer reported Jan. 15. The ten nations of ASEAN, joined by China, Korea, India, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, meeting in Cebu, Philippines, concurred that to lessen dependence on fossil fuels, "renewable energy and nuclear power will represent an increasing share of global supply." At this point, Indonesia plans to have a nuclear plant on line by 2016, Malaysia by 2020, and Thailand is drafting its plans. The Philippines has yet to get over the psychological damage from the 1986 shutdown of the completed nuclear plant built under President Ferdinand Marcos as the first act of those who overthrew him, on behalf of George Shultz.
China To Speed Up Construction of Rail Line
China will speed up construction of the its part of the Kunming-Singapore rail line, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said at the 10th ASEAN-China summit in Cebu, the Philippines Jan. 15. China is going to build three separate rail lines from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, to link the city with Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos. These rail lines will then connect to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. The total length will be 5,000 km.
China has already started building the eastern link, from Kunming to the Vietnamese border. The whole rail line should be completed by 2015.
Construction will also start this coming July, of the extension of the Qinghai-Tibet rail line, from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to Xigaze. Xigaze is 250 km to the southwest of Lhasa, and thus nearer Sikkim state, India, as well as Nepal and Bhutan. This opens up much more potential for trade across the Chinese-Indian border.
China Prioritizes Cutting Trade Surplus
"Cutting the huge trade surplus is the priority task for 2007," stated Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai Jan. 14., as official figures, published in China Daily, confirmed that China's trade surplus jumped 74% in 2006, to a record $177.5. If this rate of growth of the trade surplus continues, Bo Xilai said, it would reach $300 billion, which "is likely to transform an economic problem into a political one. The yawning trade surplus with the United States and EU has strained China's foreign trade environment, triggering more frequent trade friction."
This overly large trade surplus is not good for China's sustained economic growth, and the government will "decisively" move to reduce China's low-value-added, high-energy-consuming products. China's processing trade is about half its exports, but the nation as a whole profits little from this trade. To prevent a big growth in unemployment, manufacturers for the processing trade will be encouraged to produce for the domestic market, Bo said. The effort is clearly aimed at cutting eastern China's export driven region, since they point out that "the central government would continue to encourage exports from central and western China."
Economist Fan Gang said it would take two years to cut the structural trade surplus. Meanwhile, the government is trying to increase imports, including in the energy sector, resources, and key technologies and equipment.
Philippine Commentators on Bush's Madness
Ding Lichauco, a nationalist economist, wrote in the Philippines Tribune Jan. 15 that President George W. Bush has turned Saddam Hussein into the "Jose Rizal" of the Arab world (Rizal, the father of the revolution against Spanish power, was "stupidly" executed by the colonialists, unleashing the successful revolt against Spain.) Lichauco refers to the "political imbecile at the White House," who, "if he has a single grain of sanity left," would recognize that he "just may have created the legend and the rage that would unite all the Arabs against America." Lichauco concludes: "You see, in Bush, America and the world are dealing with a pure psycho, who also happens to be feeble-minded. American democracy which placed such a psycho in the White House should be reexamined."
Also, Randy David, a regular political commentator in the Philippines, writing in the Inquirer under the headline, "Bush's Surge of Madness," asks why the war in Iraq is only looked at from the American perspective. "We do not hear the voice of the Iraqi people in this war, neither do we feel their pain.... Bush tapped into a vein of American paranoia when he issued the order to invade Iraq in March 2003. The line he peddled to the American people was that the Iraqi government was a threat to all Americans and to their way of life.... How do you deal with a thoughtless man like this?"