|Asia News Digest
India Strengthens Its Border with China
Oct. 3 (EIRNS)There are indications that India-China relations have worsened. On Oct. 2, the Indian Air Force (IAF) announced that it has started building an avionics lab and tech-flight hangar in Bareilly in the north. In its statement, the IAF said Bareilly is strategically located and that it is in the process of being converted into a hub for Su-30MKIs. One senior officer was quoted saying that, after the Chinese aggression in 1962, India realized that the area was left without any credible air defense capability.
India-China relations have been deteriorating for some time now, but took a steep downward turn following India's participation in the quadrilateral alliance-led naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal in early September. The participants were, beside India, the U.S.A., Japan, Australia, and Singapore.
Rise of al-Qaeda Unabated in Pakistan
Oct. 3 (EIRNS)Even as the powers-that-be in Islamabad, and tinkerers abroad, put together the "desired" leadership package for Pakistan, the country itself is slipping steadily into the hands of the lawbreakers, andno solace to Washington
particularly into the hands of al-Qaeda militants.
As a result, violence has become endemic.
On Oct. 3, the Pakistani military clashed with militants in the al-Qaeda and Taliban-infested tribal agencies, losing two soldiers and killing ten of the militants, according to reports. Another roadside bomb went off in the North Waziristan tribal area killing 14 people.
According to a Pakistani terrorism expert, these are not isolated incidents. Al-Qaeda has moved from a hitherto fringe existence in Sudan and Afghanistan, to a substantial one in Pakistan. It may be referred to by a number of namesthe Taliban, the jihadis, or the militantsbut the goals of all are identical. Conditions have never been so favorable for the promotion of the militants' objectives. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are perceived today as failed attempts by Western powers to curb al-Qaeda's progress, the analyst said.
Similar statements have been issued by U.S. Major Tim Williams, a future operations intelligence planner. Williams told reporters at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan that he expects al-Qaeda to continue its re-emergence in sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas. Sanctuary was provided to al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels after Islamabad signed a peace deal with militants, in a desperate attempt to quell the unrest in its tribal areas in September 2006, Williams said.
Simultaneous Attack on Iran and Pakistan Forecast
Oct. 3 (EIRNS)American forces will try to hit Iran and Pakistan simultaneously in an upcoming war, according to both Pakistani and Indian analysts.
The possibility of a U.S. attack on Iran has risen sharply, according to the Pakistani news journal Weekly Pulse. This became evident from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kushner's statement, in an interview last month, that France should prepare for a war against Iran, in case negotiations fail.
Weekly Pulse points out that, besides Iran, Pakistan is also one of the "problematic" states, which Washington insiders believe could be saved by invading the western parts of the country where the Islamic militants have congregated. Both Republican and Democratic Presidential hopefuls have reiterated their opinion that the imbroglio in Afghanistan cannot be solved without first taming Pakistan. The nuclear capability of Pakistan and its suspect role in nuclear proliferation cases is also a matter of concern in Washington.
Indian military analysts agree that the Americans will not carry out two separate military operations, but will try to hit both Iran and the western part of Pakistan simultaneously. When in September, the Pentagon raised the number of U.S. attack targets in Iran from 1,000 to 2,000, Indian experts pointed out that the new targets were mostly in western Pakistan.
The Pakistani weekly also notes that a report, released last month by the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War, employs the term "proxy war," and claims that with the Sunni insurgency and al-Qaeda in Iraq "increasingly under control," Iranian intervention is the "next major problem the coalition must tackle." The dual attack on Iran and Pakistan could come as early as November 2007, they say.
U.S. Puts Ducks in a Row in Pakistan, But...
Oct. 5 (EIRNS)Those who in Washington believe that setting up the chessboard is all that is necessary to win the game, think that they have their pieces in place in Pakistan. However, this "masterly act" will not help, even an iota, the chaotic process in Pakistan that was set in place by the advent of the Taliban in 1995, and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to eliminate them.
The Bush Administration is nonetheless happy. President Pervez Musharraf, a secular friend of the United States, will remain as President but not simultaneously as Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Stripping him of the COAS post is intended to show Washington's commitment to a "democratic" form of government and opposition to military dictators.
Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, the former head of the powerful intelligence agency ISI, will take over as army chief once Musharraf steps down. Once that happens, the army as an institution, will become the contractor of the U.S. interests in the region, one Pakistani analyst pointed out.
Once Musharraf steps down on Oct. 8, a new team will be leading the strategic and political affairs of the country. The team will be led by Musharraf (who will then be a retired general) and would include Kiani, Gen. Tariq Majeed, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (previously the 10th Corps Commander Rawalpindi), and the new head of the ISI and former head of military intelligence, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj.
In addition, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who is shuttling between London and Washington to become one of the ducks in the row, has been trying to work out a power-sharing agreement with Musharraf, in order to return to power. On Oct. 5, an amnesty agreement was reached between the two, and Bhutto will arrive in Pakistan from London on Oct. 18.
Myanmar Junta, Suu Kyi Move Toward Talks
Oct. 5 (EIRNS)Gen. Than Shwe, the head of the Myanmar military government, announced that he would be willing to hold talks with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, if she would drop her support for international sanctions against their country, and stopped urging confrontation against the government. Suu Kyi, still under house arrest, is reported by AFP to be considering the offer positively, according to her party's spokesman.
This unexpected turn follows the visit of UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who reported today to the UN Security Council on the potential for opening up discussions. Gambari called on Myanmar's government to release the approximately 1,200 people arrested during last week's demonstrations, but he also thanked the junta leaders for their cooperation during his trip, calling this an "historic opportunity." While in Myanmar, Gambari was allowed to visit Suu Kyi, both before and after his meeting with Gen. Than Shwe, and it is likely that he delivered the general's offer of talks to her on the second visit.
The dissident groups, both in Myanmar and around the world, have been less and less supportive of Suu Kyi's hard-line support for the failed policy of sanctions from the West, a policy fostered by the British and the Project Democracy networks in the United States.
While the United States officially demands UN sanctions and other measures against Myanmar, Washington knows that China and Russia will veto any such breach of Myanmar's sovereignty, or any effort to declare Myanmar a "threat to international peace and security," the threshold for UN Security Council action. Chinese Ambassador to the UN Wang Guangya insisted that "no internationally imposed solution can help the situation." The U.S. State Department circles which brought about the recent progress in Korea, despite screaming and yelling from the neo-cons, are also suggesting a more sensible policy of engagement with Myanmar.
UN Report: Most Violent Year Since U.S. Invasion
Oct. 2 (EIRNS)Contrary to the glowing reports from New York last week, by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, a newly published report by the UN indicates that Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the U.S.-led intervention in 2001. According to the report, "The security situation in Afghanistan is assessed by most analysts as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007." During the first half of this year, there were 525 security incidentsattacks by the Taliban and other violent groups, bombings, terrorism of other kinds, and abductionson average every month, up significantly from 425 incidents per month in 2006.
According to coverage by the McClatchy newspaper chain, the nature of the attacks has also changed. Representing the desperation of the occupied country, the report notes, "Guerrillas have been staging fewer conventional attacks on U.S.-led NATO forces and Afghan troops and [are] relying more heavily on suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices, assassinations, intimidation and abductions."