|Asia News Digest
Trouble Along Iran-Pakistan Borders
July 21 (EIRNS)Fierce clashes between Pakistani forces and separatist insurgents in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province, bordering Afghanistan and Iran, have left 6 paramilitary troops and 30 rebels dead, officials said. Impoverished Balochistan is a major territory for transshipment of heroin and opium from Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Pakistani officials have previously accused India of sponsoring the separatist rebels from its consulates in southern and eastern Afghanistan, a charge that New Delhi denies. Besides the British assets within Balochistan, Washington has developed a group called Jundullah, to trouble the Tehran regime.
Military Action Mooted in Pakistan's Tribal Areas
July 22 (EIRNS)In a disturbing report presented to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, days before he travels to the United States, the latest estimate of foreign fighters present in the tribal areas of Pakistan is more than 8,000, but the government is reluctant to officially confirm this number. The fighters are from Morocco, Algeria, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, and from Western countries; they like to stay in the eastern Afghanistan provinces of Kunar, Nuristan, Paktia, Paktika, and Khost, and in Pakistani tribal areas bordering these provinces. Some of these foreigners have married into the tribes of Kunar, Nuristan, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan. German-born Turkish fighter Saad Abu Furqan is known in the Pakistani tribal areas for attracting young Turks to organize Jihad against what he calls the Crusaders in Afghanistan.
There is growing pressure from the NATO countries, and a section of Islamabad's power structure, to engage in military action in the tribal areas, to ease pressure on the Karzai government in Kabul. Reports from Islamabad indicate that at a special cabinet briefing on July 20, attended by Pakistan People's Party leader and Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari, and Rehman Malik, an advisor to the Interior Ministry, all agreed that the government will have to use force if the dialogue does not produce results. Their view was opposed by the minister from Pakistan's tribal areas, Hamidullah Jan.
On July 22, the New York Times reported comments by a senior Pakistan government official familiar with the recent meetings between U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Michael Mullen and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. Mullen was told that unilateral action by the United States would be "counterproductive" and would result in "chaos," said the unnamed official.
What is not openly said, but perhaps is the most immediate concern of the U.S./NATO troops, is the increasing threat that the insurgents in Pakistan pose to the supply line that feeds and arms the foreign troops in Afghanistan. As both the United States and NATO are planning to increase their troop strength, the supply route between Karachi and the Khyber Pass that brings in 70% of all supplies to Afghanistan, is becoming increasingly unsafe.
Pakistani Prime Minister Faces a Tough Washington
July 25 (EIRNS)Scheduled to visit Washington next week, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is gearing up to face a very tough stand in the Bush Administration, demanding troop action within Pakistan's tribal areas and Northern areas to eliminate the militants operating inside Afghanistan, who are based in these areas. The urgency on the U.S. side was reflected in statements issued from Perth, Australia, by the visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "There's an uptick in the terrorism, not just against forces but against the Afghan people. And in that regard, everybody needs to do more. But Pakistan does need to do more. We understand that it's difficult, we understand the North West Frontier area is difficult. But militants cannot be allowed to organize there and to plan there and to engage across the borders."
Sources report that Gilani will try to buy time. Beleaguered Pakistan is weak and has developed four weak power centers: the Pakistan People's Party-led coalition government, President Musharraf, Army Chief of Staff Kiyani, and the Punjab-based former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. There is no consensus among these four groups on any of the important issues that involve the nation's well-being. At the same time, Islamabad cannot act without a consensus, particularly on such an important issue as deploying troops in the tribal areas to eliminate militants on behalf of Washington and Brussels.
It is anticipated that the Pakistani prime minister will seek President Bush's help in reaching a consensus among the four power groups, as a precondition for carrying out operations which the United States and NATO want.
Bangladesh Meets with Success in Chinese Hybrid Rice
July 23 (EIRNS)A.W. Julfiquar, director of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute under the Agriculture Ministry, told Xinhua on July 22, that the yield of Chinese hybrid rice field in Bangladesh is 1,000 kg more than the conventional rice field. "So promoting the plantation of hybrid rice is very necessary," he said. Julfiquar pointed out that the Bangladeshi government supported the hybrid rice project in the research and encouragement of importing some hybrid rice seeds.
Bangladesh had carried out a comparative study to evaluate four imported hybrid rice cultivars (one from China and three from India), with a high-yielding variety (BRRI Dhan-29) as a control, in 33 locations in Bangladesh. Yield and yield-contributing characteristics, physicochemical properties, and cost-return benefits of hybrid rice were analyzed. The Chinese cultivar Sonarbangla-1 performed best on all the parameters considered. The other three Indian cultivars (Amarsiri-1, Aalok and Loknath) had lower performance than the control. Sonarbangla-1 produced a 20% higher rice yield (7.55 tons per hectare) than the control variety (6.26 tons/hectare).
Despite the higher yield provided by the hybrid, farmers are unwilling to use it, since they would have to depend on seeds imported from abroad. Julfiquar said they are breeding the local hybrid rice seeds; if they are successful, the farmers will be able to reduce their dependency on imported seeds.
Thai Prime Minister Counters Dictatorship Threats
July 21 (EIRNS)The British "ring of chaos around China" was given an unexpected setback today, as Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej launched an attack on the extrajudicial power of special courts set up under the previous military junta, while a prominent commentator exposed the dictatorial intentions of the "democratic" opposition which is trying to bring down the government. Samak, speaking on his weekly TV show yesterday, accused the Constitutional Court, the Election Commission, and the National Counter Corruption Commission of conspiring to bring down his government. There have been a number of decisions by these bodies recently which are intended to dismantle the government. These courts are like a Star Chamber, with judges appointed by the military junta, and they allow no appeal of their decisions.
Samak also accused the "democratic" opposition, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), of trying to provoke the military to stage another coup. PAD provided the "warm bodies" on the streets in the demonstrations to bring down Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which brought on the military junta in 2006; they are now doing a re-run against Samak. PAD is run by Sonthi Linmongkul, the media mogul who founded the Asia Times, and by a fundamentalist Buddhist cult leader, former general Chamlong Srimuang. PAD is also sending people to the Thai-Cambodia border to try to stir up a war over contested territory around an Ankor-era temple.
At the same time, a columnist who uses the pseudonym Changnoi (Little Elephant), who is very knowledgeable, published an article in The Nation, which came close to declaring the PAD to be a front for a fascist force connected to the military and the monarchyan extremely unusual action in Thailand, where lèse majesté is asserted at the drop of a hat. Changnoi accused PAD of intending to "disenfranchise the rural poor" (by ignoring the popular election of Thaksin and Samak), and of putting the military in a position of permanent power "to protect the monarchy." He concludes that this "democratic" opposition is actually "anti-democratic, supported by high investment and shadowy protection that exploits the fears of the privileged and a deliberately anti-rational nationalism, and flirts with militarism and violence."
Vietnam Puts Stiff Export Taxes on Rice and Fertilizer
July 23 (EIRNS)Vietnam is imposing, for the first time, an export tax on rice and fertilizer. The reason is the mass export of these items over the past few months. Some Vietnamese fertilizer enterprises are exporting fertilizer to take advantage of the much higher prices overseas, leading to domestic shortages and price increases.
Vietnam, earlier this year, had slapped export controls on rice to protect the domestic supply, and became the brunt of attacks by free-traders, accusing the government of causing the crisis. Even with the export controls, Vietnam exported more than 2.5 million tons of rice during the first six months of the year, an increase of 5.8% over the same period of 2007.