|Asia News Digest
India and Iran Hold Strategic Talks on Energy
Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is visiting Iran, held talks with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki on a number of issues, the Tehran Times reported Jan. 7. Following the talks, the Indian Minister announced that India, Pakistan, and Iran have now agreed to the pricing formula for the export of Iranian gas to India through Pakistan via a proposed $7 billion pipeline. Simultaneously, Tehran proposed a trilateral summit (Iran, India, and Pakistan) to resolve the remaining differences in the pipeline project, and assured New Delhi of help to meet its growing energy demand.
In addition, Mukherjee said he has asked Tehran to expedite implementation of the LNG deal which was signed in 2005 but could not become operational because of non-ratification by the Iranian Parliament. The deal involves supply of $22 billion worth of LNG to India over a period of time.
China Comments on U.S.-Indian Relations
"The United States has been itching to channel India into its global strategic track," states an article on the Bush Administration's policy towards India in the third quarterly issue of International Strategic Studies, the journal of a leading military think-tank in Beijing, the China Institute for International Strategic Studies.
The key element in the Bush Administration policy towards India is the U.S.-India nuclear cooperation accord, but the underlying issues are geostrategic. "The U.S. deems that South Asia is of extremely important geostrategic value," and Washington considers India indispensable for regional security, counterterrorism, "driving a wedge in the traditional Russia-India relations, [and] putting a check to the rise of China." India also wants U.S. support in increasing its role in the Asia/Pacific region. However, while Bush Administration policy is that "support rendered to India by the U.S. is premised, limited and preconditioned," that India cannot challenge U.S. hegemony. This can certainly mean problems, because India pursues its own independent foreign policy, and has made it clear, "that it would not allow any agreement signed with the U.S. to undermine the national security of India."
China Urged To Stick to Peaceful Development Policy
China must take responsibility to ensure that its national re-emergence sticks to its policy of truly peaceful development, wrote Lau Nai-keung, a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in the China Daily on Feb. 2. Lau wrote that China's peaceful relations with its neighbors is "of direct relevance of our national security." With growing world consensus of the importance of a peaceful China, "It is now up to us to prove them right.... If the 'gentle giant' got mad just once, ... this once might be a disaster too big for the world to afford."
While Lau made special note of relations with India, and presented the Chinese view of the 1962 border clash, he did not go through the real background, including the legacy of the British imperial "forward school" policy, and the effect of Bertrand Russell and Nikita Khrushchev on Indian and Chinese policy at this time, which was the exact time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He did note, however, that after the Chinese had defeated the Indian army in 1962, China immediately announced its unilateral ceasefire and "unconditional withdrawal to 20 kilometers behind the disputed McMahon Line." China has stuck with this policy, and "China and India are now on friendly terms with growing economic ties, and they are closer than ever to a cordial agreement on their borders."
Indian Admiral: We Do Not Consider China as an Adversary
"We do not consider China as an adversary at any point of time," said Indian chief of Naval staff Adm. Suresh Mehta in an interview with The Hindu in Abu Dhabi published Feb. 9. "We would like to have cooperative relations with [China] as we do with other countries. In fact, in two months our ships would call on Chinese ports, and even conduct a preliminary exercise there."
Mehta said that China had not shown any "particular sensitivity" towards India's concerns about free traffic in the Strait of Malacca. Because the Indian Navy demonstrated after the tsunami that it could provide humanitarian relief beyond Indian shores, Mehta said, "there might have been a perception in the United States that India could be involved in cooperative ventures which are regional in character."
But when asked whether India was being drawn into a U.S.-led alliance with Japan, Mehta said that India's "polity does not allow for participation in an alliance system."
China Accelerating Development of Nuclear Power
China is moving from "appropriate" to "accelerated development" of its nuclear power industry, China Daily Feb. 6 quoted Han Wenke, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission. China is looking more to nuclear power to balance its energy generation.
China is now the third-biggest nuclear energy producer in Asia, after Japan and South Korea, a 2006 BP Statistical Review of World Energy reports, with nuclear power following coal and hydropower in importance. However, with nine operating plants, nuclear provides just 2.3% of power. By 2020, that will be 4%.
Kang Rixin, general manager of the state nuclear conglomerate, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), said that CNNC has signed agreements in four provinces and six cities for new nuclear projects. He said that nuclear power is important because it will lessen dependence on geographically-limited coal or hydropower. "Coal, the main energy source in China, is mostly produced in the northern parts of the country and hydropower is mostly found in the Southwest, but power consumption is concentrated in the coastal regions in the east and south. As a clean energy, nuclear power is a good alternative for China," Kang said.
While eight of the China's existing 11 plants were imported from France, Canada, and Russia, and China has signed an agreement with U.S. Westinghouse to build four plants, the country is developing its own technology. CNNC's CNP 1000 technology will be used to build two 1,000-megawatt reactors in Fangjiashan in Zhejiang Province.
China Huaneng Group power company is building the first nuclear plant using high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, in Rongcheng, Shandong Province. Huaneng will operate the plant with Tsinghua University and China Nuclear Engineering & Construction (Group) Corp, and 70% of the technology is being developed in China.
India and China: Millions Still Live in Poverty
India and China are facing worsening income gaps, with millions of people still impoverished, Asian Development Bank president Haruhiko Kuroda told a conference on international development in Hanoi Feb. 8. Kuroda told the BBC that China and India in particular were experiencing income gaps which are still widening, despite fast-growing economies which have lifted millions of people out of poverty.
Growth on its own is not sufficient to solve Asian poverty, Kuroda said. "Rapidly growing economies like China and India have shown that although absolute poverty has been reduced substantially, the income gap between the poor and the rich has widened. That means that in coming years many Asian economies must be mindful of this big problem." Kuroda said governments have to spend more on health and education and improve conditions in rural areas to address the gaps between rich and poor.
Aussie/Japan Defense Pact 'Not Aimed at China'
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer announced an Australian-Japanese defense pact, which, he said, "is not directed at China," Mainichi reported Feb. 5. Downer said the pact will be signed next month. This will be Japan's second such defense pact; its other is with the U.S. But, Downer said, if "we're to have joint exercises, they'd probably focus very much on things like disaster relief rather than the more aggressive type of military exercises we might have with the Americans."
And in regards to China, Downer said, "We certainly have always said we have no policy of containment or isolation for China. Quite the contrary. There is no need for them to be upset." But some observers note that the U.S. "deputy sheriff" in Asia seems less than convincing.
Mahathir: Blair, Bush Are 'War Criminals'
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad condemned British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George Bush as "child killers" and "war criminals," as he opened a conference on war crimes in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, AFP reported Feb. 5. "History should remember Blair and Bush as the killer of children, or the lying Prime Minister and President. What Bush and Blair have done is worse than what Saddam had done." Australian Prime Minister John Howard is the "pocket Bush of the bushlands of Australia," he added. The conference will be attended by some 17 Palestinians, Iraqis, and Lebanese. Mahathir will also form a new war crimes commission, to be located in Kuala Lumpur.
Dr. Mahathir was recently nominated by Bosnian civil society groups for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for helping the country after its civil war.