|Asia News Digest
Afghan President Ridiculed by His Own Advisor
June 4 (EIRNS)Washington's man-in-Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has been identified by his senior security advisor Mohammad Qasim Fahim as a weak, foreign-influenced leader, whose government would not last even a week if Western troops left the country, reported the Payame Mujahid weekly. Fahim was previously one of the Vice Presidents, as well as Defense Minister, in President Karzai's Cabinet.
Karzai has been leading Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces and local Afghan militias, including one under Fahim, removed the Taliban from power in 2001. Under his leadership, Washington had Presidential and parliamentary elections held, and gave the world a false image that Afghanistan has a functional democracy, and is not an occupied country.
Blaming Karzai for the present crisis in Afghanistan, Fahim said: "If today the foreigners desert Afghanistan ... then it will be seen for how many days the national army of Mr. Karzai will resist. Nothing will remain stable even for a week."
Ungovernability Spreads in Afghanistan
June 6 (EIRNS)Despite assurances issued from the Pentagon and NATO commanders in Afghanistan, it is evident that more and more territory in Afghanistan is becoming dangerous. A year ago, a section of Afghanistan's North, Northeast, and the entire West was peaceful, but no more, say aide workers there.
A series of UN "security accessibility maps" obtained by the London Independent paint the same picture, showing areas considered to be in the top danger category spreading across the country in the past year. In June 2006, few places fell into this category. The change since then is stark. According to the May 2007 map, almost all of Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, and Uruzgan are regarded as extreme risk/hostile environments. Huge sections of the eastern border with Pakistan also fall into this category. Two extreme-risk areas now sit on the fringes of Kabul province, and a high-risk area even exists inside the boundaries of the capital city.
Acbar, the agency that acts as a link between 94 NGOs and the Afghan government, is worried about the impact that insecurity is having, particularly in the South. Acbar's director, Anja de Beer, told the Independent: "The radius of activities is shrinking. It's more difficult to go out to further away districts, because travelling there is more dangerous." A similar view was expressed by Gyan Bahadur Adhikari, the country director of the NGO, ActionAid, whose four Afghan associatesincluding three womenwere shot dead last year in the northern province of Jowzjan. Asked if the situation were getting worse, he replied: "Yes, that is obvious. In the north I used to hear nothing about suicide bombing, now it has started.... I cannot particularly calculate what is going to happen tomorrowthat makes me worry," he added.
U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Talks Hit a Dead End
June 5 (EIRNS)What was billed as a visit to New Delhi to finalize the U.S.-India nuclear cooperation talks, by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, turned out to be a no-show, when he failed to appear for a joint press conference. A source in the Indian nuclear industry observed, "Burns burnt his fingers in the Indian heat."
What was at stake were the not-so-subtle attempts by the Bush Administration to cap India's nuclear capabilities, by denying reprocessing rights, and insisting that New Delhi yield on harnessing of thoriuma relatively cheap source of nuclear energyfor its three-stage program to generate electricity. Washington also wanted a carte blanche statement from New Delhi that India would never test nuclear explosives again.
Reprocessing is needed to separate plutonium 239, a by-product from the first stage of India's program, which is pretty much in place, and use it with thorium to fuel fast breeder reactors (FBRs), which is the second stage, and has begun to take shape. The FBRs breed more fuel than they consume. In the third stage, which is now under way, uranium 233 (extracted via reprocessing) will fuel the FBRs to generate electricity. The three-stage program was designed to overcome the scarcity of uranium in India by relying on its abundant reserves of thorium, thereby avoiding fuel dependency.
Some Indian States Defy New Delhi Diktat on Ethanol
June 5 (EIRNS)Despite the directive issued by India's Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas to the oil companies in India, to sell 5% ethanol-blended petroleum (EBP), some state governments have virtually blocked the order by not issuing permits to the oil companies to buy ethanol, or by imposing an exorbitant tax on ethanol, particularly in non-ethanol-producing states. The reason cited by the state officials for their defiance, is that the high cost of ethanol does not make it cost-effective for oil firms. Landed cost of ethanol is mostly higher than the benchmark price of landed cost of gasoline at a particular location, including transportation costs and all taxes and duties. (Landed cost is the sum of all costs associated with making and delivering products to the point where they produce revenue.)
Ethanol-blended petrol was touted as the beginning of a new, environmentally friendly era of "green" transport fuels, something that would bring about a major change in the country's energy sector.
China Building the World's Longest Cross-Ocean Bridge
June 4 (EIRNS)China is now completing the longest cross-ocean bridge in the world, the Hangzhou Bay Bridge. The bridge, to open in about one year, will be 36 km long, seven times longer than the Denmark-Sweden Oeresund Bridge, and long enough to span the English Channel at Dover. The cable-stayed bridge will cross the Hangzhou Bay in Zhejiang province, on China's east coast, from Ningbo to the port of Zhapu, south of Shanghai. Ningbo, with a population of 5.3 million, is one of China's four big deepwater ports; Shanghai, with 18.6 million people, is China's most populous and biggest industrial city. Overall, some 100 million people live in the Yangtze River Delta region.
When finished, the bridge, which was begun in June 2003, will cut some 120 km off the travel distance between Shanghai and Ningbo, cutting travel time in half and significantly lowering transport costs. The bridge will carry six lanes of traffic each way, with a rest area built on piles in the middle of the span. It is a big engineering feat not only because of the length: Hangzhou Bay is famous for its very high tides, and waves that can reach eight meters. The bridge will be the final link to connect the highway from Beijing to Shenzhen and Hong Kong in the South.
Musharraf Under Pressure from Washington
June 8 (EIRNS)Facing a surge of demonstrators demanding that he face re-election by Pakistan's parliamentary system, rather than through dictatorial edict, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf clamped down on a number of private media June 4, to prevent further incitements against him. However, on June 7, under pressure from Washington and elsewhere, Musharraf decided to suspend the implementation of the June 4 ordinance. The withdrawal is considered by the demonstrators as their victory.
Today, an unnamed senior U.S. official told Reuters that the Bush Administration was not aware of any plans by Musharraf to declare emergency rule, but "if he did that, it would be a significant step backward and ... of course we would not want it to happen," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
China Rejects Climate Dictates, Demands Human Progress
June 4 (EIRNS)"The first and overriding priorities of developing nations are sustainable development and poverty reduction," stated Ma Kai, Minister of China's National Reform and Development Commission (NRDC), at a press conference today in Beijing, as he released the government's General Work Plan for Energy Conservation and Pollutant Discharge Reduction. "The ramifications of limiting the development of developing countries would be even more serious than those from climate change." China is committed to limiting pollution, Ma Kai said, reported Xinhua. "To protect the environment and mitigate against the effects of climate change, we have taken it upon ourselves to take action. But it is neither fair nor acceptable to us to impose too early, too abruptly, measures which one would ask of developed countries." Ma Kai was also dismissive of the allegations that China, on top of being a "military threat" and an "oil-consuming threat," now is also the latest "greenhouse gas threat," and might soon "overtake" the United States as the world's biggest carbon emitter. "This talk of China being a threat baffles me. The level of our emissions per capita is a fraction of that of the United States. These kinds of accusations are groundless and unfair," the minister said.
"In the development history of human beings, there is no precedent where a high per-capita GDP is achieved with low per-capita energy consumption," states the NRDC's just-published China National Climate Change Program. China's program is to improve energy efficiency through technological improvements, while moving to shut down and replace outdated and inefficient industries.