|Asia News Digest
India-U.S. Nuclear Agreement Is Falling Apart
A few days ahead of talks on an agreement to make the U.S.-India nuclear deal operable, India's Atomic Energy Commission chairman, Anil Kakodkar, has made it clear that unless the agreement allows India to reprocess spent fuel, the agreement is off. "We want reprocessing rights up front. Reprocessing is a non-negotiable right," Kakodakar told the news daily The Hindu March 18.
Indian and U.S. negotiators are planning to meet soon to discuss the 123 Agreement, known as the Hyde Act, required by the U.S. Congress. If the 123 Agreement does not go through, India has other options, "but this will definitely be a setback for the nuclear business community, which is aggressively pushing for the deal," Kakodkar said.
Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is not allowed by the Hyde Act, which is dictated by the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1974. The Atomic Energy Act does not allow reprocessing by any nation that did not sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty( NPT), such as India.
On the other hand, India's thorium-fuel-based nuclear program, in the immediate future, depends on plutonium as a trigger to set off a nuclear reaction inside the reactors. Plutonium, which does not exist in nature, is a product of nuclear reactions in the nuclear fuel assembly, and is later separated out from the spent fuel.
Hu: China-Russia Partnership Key to World Peace
Chinese President Hu Jintao said that the China-Russia strategic partnership is key to world peace and stability, in an interview with Russian journalists in Beijing March 20, in preparation for his trip to Russia March 26-28. Hu also emphasized that trilateral cooperation among China, Russia, and India is "beneficial for the development of these three nations and that of the world at large."
Hu said that relations between Russia and China now "are at their highest." Beijing and Moscow are "closely cooperating in crucial international problems such as the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula and the Iranian nuclear problem, which certainly plays a serious role in maintaining peace and stability around the world," he said.
Hu said the two countries should "intensify their practical cooperation in the economy, the energy sector, science, technologies and other areas in the spirit of mutual benefit." This year marks the beginning of the second decade of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership.
Increased World Role for China, Russia, India
China, Russia, and India are playing an increasingly important role in the world, Chinese President Hu Jintao told the Russian press March 20. He stressed that their trilateral cooperation "is not aimed against any third party." They share interests and outlook, including advocating "a multi-polar world;
they want international issues and inter-state disputes to be settled on the basis of universally accepted norms of international law and seek a consolidated role for the United Nations."
Hu stressed the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in this trilateral cooperation, although India is as yet only an observer. He said that there is "an enormous potential for cooperation" in the SCO. The organization is now preparing a legal document to admit new members, and added that "some countries have already expressed the wish to join the SCO," which will be "comprehensively considered only after work on the document is completed."
China's Nuclear Fusion Research Highlighted
The Peoples Daily March 21 featured China's nuclear fusion research. This includes at the Hefei Institute of Plasma Physics, where scientists have built the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), a superconducting non-circular section nuclear fusion experiment device. In addition, Chinese scientists are working to build another tokamak at the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SIP) in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Here, the scientists were able to generate 55 million degrees centigrade, the highest temperatures in Chinese history.
Chinese fusion research began in 1965, at the Heilongjiang Province Institute of Nuclear Physics, which was then relocated to Sichuan. China is part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, which plans to build a demo test reactor around 2035. The Chinese scientists are now working to achieve this also in Chengdu by 2030.
Move To Link India-Myanmar, India-Russia by Railroad
Speaking at a meeting of the Asian Regional Authority of the International Union of Railways on March 21, chairman of the Indian Railway Board, J.P. Batra said: "Construction of rail links to China and Myanmar will help tap the economic potential of the region as well as promote peace in the region." What Batra was referring to is the "missing" rail links in the Trans Asian Railway Network (TARN)an agenda of creating global rail linkages.
Under the agreement, India has already approved 150 kms of the 315 kms of "missing" link between the Indian and Myanmar railroads at a cost of about $250 million. Batra said discussions are on between the Indian and Myanmar foreign offices for the completion of the balance 165 kms of railroads. Once that link-up is accomplished, India, China, and Myanmar will be connected by railroads. "Myanmar has shown considerable interest and I am sure very shortly we will reach an agreement on the funding pattern." China, too, is planning a freight corridor to Myanmar covering a distance of about 660 km, which would be linked to the India-Myanmar rail link.
In addition to this rail link-up, Batra, who was the first non-European to head the International Union of Railways, pointed out that the India-Russia rail link would be via Iran, and include a shipping link through the Caspian Sea. This project, called the North-South Corridor, is yet to be sanctioned by respective governments.
Unprovoked Killings by Police in West Bengal
The Communist Party-led West Bengal government fears that the entire state may become engulfed in fresh violence following the unprovoked killing of 14 farmers and villagers by police in Nandigram on March 14, the Times of India reported March 20. Anticipating violence, police camps have been set up now throughout the state. Meanwhile, following the Calcutta High Court's order for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the police shooting, the ruling Communist government, pretending to act fairly, has ordered an executive inquiry by the local police commissioner.
There is little doubt that the killing has touched a raw nerve within the population in West Bengal, whose opposition political parties have come out charging that the government has adopted "Chinese fascist capitalism" by killing off farmers and grabbing their lands.
So far, the Manmohan Singh government in Delhi, which depends on the support of West Bengal, has kept quiet. But analysts point out that the land-grab from the farmers to make Special Economic Zones is the policy dictated by New Delhi, and adopted ruthlessly by the Bengal communists.