|Asia News Digest
Karzai Visits India, Seeks To Outwit Jihadi Backers
Oct. 4 (EIRNS)For the second time this year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has landed in India. During his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi today, he signed a security agreement handing a greater role to India in training Afghan security forces, and two other deals on energy and mining. The agreement is the first such pact signed between Afghanistan and another country, and aims to boost trade, security, and cultural links.
Karzai's visit comes against a backdrop of deteriorating relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan President who had been appointed by Karzai to lead negotiations with the Taliban. Rabbani's assassination was plotted in Pakistan and carried out by a Pakistani, Kabul claimed. There is no question that Karzai's visit would put a further strain on the two countries' relations with Pakistan. Karzai, speaking at a press conference with Singh, stressed again that "terrorism and radicalism" were being used "as an instrument of policy against our citizens." It appeared to be a veiled reference to Pakistan.
Karzai's intention was not simply to strengthen his government's relations with India and India's physical presence inside Afghanistan. The Afghan President wants to thrust upon India a central role in bringing about a Moscow-Tehran-New Delhi axis, to thwart the jihadi takeover of Afghanistan. The failure of the United States and NATO, and the machinations of Britain, Saudi Arabia, and the Pakistani military in unleashing the jihadi movement in Afghanistan to undermine Central Asia and Russia, among other regional nations including India, is the cornerstone of Karzai's effort. India's close relations with both Iran and Russia were what prompted Karzai's visit to New Delhi.
Manmohan Singh is expected to visit Iran this month, although no date has been announced yet. The principal purpose of that visit will be to form an agreement with Iran over Afghanistan. Following the signing of the agreements between Karzai and Singh, Dr. Sreeram Chaulia, professor and vice dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in New Delhi, told Russia Today that India is being forced by regional circumstances to play a more proactive security role in Afghanistan. Dr. Chaulia underlined that Tehran is an indispensable power in stabilizing Afghanistan because of its animosity to the Taliban, which backs the most extreme form of Saudi-inspired Sunni insurgency in the southeast of Iran.
Despite the fact that Iran is America's supposed arch-enemy, there have been cases when the two powers have cooperated on issues of mutual interest, such as fighting the Taliban, Chaulia noted. He was alluding to the June 23, 2011 testimony by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she told Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who had suggested participation of India, Russia, Saudi Arabia in the resolution of Afghan conflict, "You cannot ignore Iran. Iran is a big player in the region and has a long border with Afghanistan and Pakistan." She concluded: "The only way we are going to get a political solution is through this kind of diplomatic outreach, and that is what we are engaged in." During her subsequent visit to India, Secretary Clinton seems to have proposed a dialogue among the U.S., India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Belated Recognition to Chinese Scientist Who Saved Millions of Lives
Oct. 5 (EIRNS)In an op-ed with India's news daily The Hindu, N. Gopal Raj wrote that the work carried out by Chinese scientists transformed malaria treatment from traditional knowledge to modern medical therapy.
More than 40 years ago, hundreds of Chinese scientists embarked on an ambitious effort to find a drug that would conquer drug-resistant malaria. The result was the discovery of artemisinin, a compound found in plants, which, with its derivatives, is now widely used around the world to treat the disease. However, the isolation of China during those years left the story of this life-saving work untold to the world.
Finally, this year, the prestigious Lasker Award went to Dr. Tu Youyou, an 81-year-old Chinese scientist who played a key part in that discovery. Professor Tu led a team that transformed an ancient Chinese healing method into the most powerful antimalarial medicine currently available, observed the U.S.-based Lasker Foundation when they recognized her work with the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Millions of lives, especially in the developing world, were saved as a result, they said.
China waged a desperate battle against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly of the malaria-causing parasites, which had become resistant to the drug chloroquine. The U.S. came up with another drug, mefloquine, to clear the parasite from the body. North Vietnam, in the midst of war with the United States, appealed to China for help in fighting this disease.
In response, on instructions from Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou En-Lai, the Chinese government organized a meeting in Beijing on May 23, 1967 to discuss the problem. A secret nationwide program, Project 523, was then launched, involving over 500 scientists from about 60 laboratories, write Louis H. Miller and Xinzhuan Su of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in a recent article in the journal Cell.
As the work was considered a military secret, no communication about the research to the outside world was allowed. Professor Tu was then a principal investigator at the Institute of Chinese Materia Medica of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing. She and her colleagues began by scouring the literature on traditional Chinese medicine, scrutinizing ancient texts and folk remedies. They investigated more than 2,000 Chinese herbal preparations, of which 640 appeared promising. Of these, some 380 extracts, involving about 200 herbs were chosen for testing in mice. Unfortunately, progress was not smooth, and no significant results emerged easily, she wrote.
The turning point came when an extract from a plant known to the Chinese as Qinghao (Artemisia annua or sweet wormwood) showed a promising degree of inhibition against parasite growth. Dr. Tu presented the work at a Project 523 meeting in Nanjing in March 1972. That same year, her group identified a colorless, crystalline substance as the active chemical compound. They called it Qinghaosu, which means "the basic element" in Qinghao. The world would come to know it as artemisinin.
When the plant extract was tested on patients with malaria in Hainan province, the results were dramatic. Those treated with the plant extracts quickly got better while those given chloroquine did not.