|Asia News Digest
Worsening Developments in Afghanistan
Following their recent trip to Afghanistan, where Canadian troops are stationed to fight the Afghan insurgents, 11 Canadian Senators have produced a report saying, in essence: We are in trouble in Afghanistan and we need help. The report, covered by AP Feb. 13, claims that the situation is extremely bleak for the following reasons: rampant corruption inside the Karzai government, the Afghan army, and the police; porous borders with Pakistan that leak weapons and militants; recalcitrant NATO allies who refuse to put their troops on the front line; and an Afghan society that is neither prepared for, nor interested in, building a modern nation. The report concludes by suggesting that if NATO does not step up to the plate soon, Ottawa must consider a "cut and run" option.
There are reasons for the Senators to express such dire concern. Reports indicate that a large number of insurgents, which include 700 foreign fighters from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan are now operating in Afghanistan's drug haven, the Helmand province. This was reported by none other than Helmand Gov. Asadullah Wafa. Wafa said a large number of Helamndis are fleeing the province anticipating a major battle between the British troops and the converging militants, and an eventual takeover of the province by these foreign insurgent-led militants.
China, India, Russia Plan Long-Term Global Security
The foreign ministers of three giants of Asian landmassChina, India, and Russiamet at New Delhi on Feb. 14 to advance an old proposal for a Trilateral Global Alliance (TGA) that would effectively exclude the West from a position of domination in Asia, said an Indian contact.
The objective of the TGA is aimed at promoting business, trade, and energy security among the three at the first phase, and then, eventually to most of the world. According to discussions that took place in New Delhi, in the next stage, identified as TGA Phase II, Iran and Indonesia would enter as partners followed by peacefully unified Korean peninsula. Naming Iran as a future partner at this juncture is interesting, particularly since the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was in Iran in early February, said India considers Iran as a stabilizing factor not only for the Middle East, but for the region as a whole.
In the Phase III, the TGA will be further expanded to include selected countries in Ibero-America such as Brazil, and in Africa, such as Nigeria and South Africa. While the list for future entrants to the TGA is by no means final, it is important to note that the objective of the TGA is seemingly to bring in those nations who have the size and population to provide leadership on their respective continents.
Based on reports of the discussions that took place, within the next three years, a framework agreement could be signed by the three Eurasian heads of state that would codify the principles and objectives of the partnership. (For more on these developments, see Indepth, "Eurasian Triangle Leaders: Cooperation, Not Confrontation, Should Govern," by Mary Burdman.)
Neo-Con Abrams Blasts North Korea Deal
Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams responded to the deal with North Korea by sending off scathing e-mails denouncing it, the Washington Post reported Feb. 15. Sometimes called the "last neo-con standing" in the Administration, Abrams expressed "bewilderment over the agreement, and demanded to know why North Korea would not have to first prove it had stopped sponsoring terrorism before being rewarded with removal from the list," said the Post, quoting officials who saw the e-mail, who wanted to make known the depth of disagreement within the Administration.
As EIR has reported (although unreported elsewhere), several leading State Department officials who had participated in forging agreements with North Korea to end their nuclear program, went public last year with the fact that the Bush-Cheney White House repeatedly sabotaged its own foreign-policy officers and scuttled the deals. Those who scuttled them are clearly not happy with this deal, either. Former U.S. Acting Ambassador to the UN John Bolton is screaming, but he's out of office, unlike Abrams. The White House is claiming that Abrams has accepted an explanation about the deal, but the fight is not over.
Russian Minister Calls for Russia-India-China Rail Line
"It would be great to have a railway corridor between Russia [the Pacific] and India [Indian Ocean] via China," Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said in an interview with the Indian Financial Express published Feb. 12, at the opening of a Russian-Indian economic forum in New Delhi.
Asked about the lack of an efficient shipment route between the two nations, Gref said this is "a very serious issue." He said that this rail corridor project "was coordinated by our three countries and Myanmar. It was designed in the mid 1950s as a South Asian-Pacific transportation system. But for a number of objective reasons, political rather than economic, it was frozen in the early 1960s. Now that relations between India, China, and Russia have improved and their economies are actively cooperating, we have all the prerequisites for reviving the transportation project.
"During President Putin's recent visit to India, Vladimir Yakunin, CEO of Russian Railways, had his own program. Among other issues, he discussed modernization of the country's railways, one of the longest and multiple in the world," Gref said. "Russia's participation in the Southern railway corridor, which will stretch from Russia to the Indian Ocean, has already been estimated. I believe that it is a very promising and viable project."
China Finds 'Vast' Metal Reserves on Tibet-Qinghai Plateau
China has found "vast" metal reserves on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in the first full-scale geological survey of the region, Xinhua reported Feb. 13. "The survey represents an historical step in our understanding of the geology of China," said Zhang Hongtao, deputy director of the China Geological Survey (CGS). "We will speed up the surveying process to more accurately locate these minerals," said Zhang. "Once mines are developed they will greatly relieve the strain on China's existing resources."
However, it will be a big challenge, since many of the materials lie deep under the surface.
The survey took seven years, but conditions are so extreme in Tibet that more than half of its 2.6 million square kilometers still has to be surveyed. Most of the plateau lies some 4,300 meters above sea level (that's well over 12,000 feet, and that's just the plateau, not the mountains!)
The survey found more than 600 potential sites for new mines, with estimated reserves of 30-40 million tons of copper, 40 million tons of lead and zinc, and several billion tons of iron ore. Up to 500 million tons of rich iron ore were found in the area of Nixiong, near the plateau's center, which offer reserves of up to 500 million tons. If the find is substantiated, this would be China's first substantial rich iron ore supply.
Zhang called for "a gradual development, with natural restoration plans drawn up before industrial exploitation begins," because of the delicate and unique nature of the Tibet plateau. The survey has also demonstrated that the plateau was once undersea, since thousands of fossilized sea creatures were found. Current views are that the plateau was a seabed over 100 million years ago. "It is likely that a major theory geo-science breakthrough will come from finds on the plateau," said Li Tingdong, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
China Looks To Build Observatory in Tibet
China is looking for a spot on the Tibet-Oinghai plateau to build a world-class observatory, according to the Times of India Feb. 14. Construction of such an observatory could begin within the next five years, said Xue Suijian, an official with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Two sites are currently being considered for such an observatory: Karasu on the Pamir Plateau in Xinjiang; and Oma in southwest Tibet. Xue said that scientists had set up some observatory equipment to determine which of the two might be appropriate for the establishment of a "world class" observatory.
"When the location is chosen, we hope to set up the world's most advanced optical science facilities through international cooperation," Xue said.
China To Build First Its Inland Nuclear Power Plant
China is planning to build its first inland nuclear power plant, in south-central Hunan province. Several Chinese energy corporations have agreed to build the project, Xinhua reported Feb. 15.
China's government decided in 2006 to increase its combined nuclear power capacity to 40,000 megawatts by 2020, which will require about two 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plants to be built each year for the next 15 years. All of China's current six nuclear plants are located on the east and southeast coasts.