|Asia News Digest
Final Phase of Indonesian/Rebel Peace Underway
Indonesian soldiers completed the final phase of a troop reduction in tsunami-ravaged Aceh province Dec. 29a key step in an accord with separatist rebels marking the end to a 29-year war. The last of 24,000 troops pulled out on five Indonesian Navy ships and a Hercules air carrier, just days after Free Aceh Movement rebels completed the handover of their weapons and disbanded their military wing.
Peace efforts picked up pace after last year's tsunami that swept away 156,000 lives in the province, and left a half-million others homeless.
The rebels and the government decided they did not want to add to people's suffering, and reached a landmark agreement seven months after last December's disaster. The move was credited with helping to smooth efforts to bring relief to tsunami survivors.
Hundreds of people turned up at the port in northern Aceh on Dec. 30 to wave off nearly 3,800 soldiersthe last batch slated to leave under the deal, including Free Aceh Movement representative Irwandi Yusuf, and Pieter Feith, head of the 240-strong EU peace monitoring mission.
The rebels agreed to hand over all of their self-declared 840 weapons and gave up their long-held demand for independence. The government agreed to withdraw more than half of its nearly 50,000 garrison from Aceh and to give the region limited self-government and control over much of the oil- and gas-rich province's mineral wealth.
Aceh's military commander, Maj. Gen. Supiadin guaranteed the security of all returning rebels, singling out the group's top exiled leader in Sweden, Hasan Tiro. "We'd consider his presence in Aceh as a commitment for peace."
Russia, France Show Interest in India Nuclear Program
Although last July's deal between President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, indicating the White House's approval to supply India with civilian nuclear power plants and enriched uranium, is still very much stuck in the U.S. Congress, it is evident that both Paris and Moscow are moving in tandem to support the White House position. Recent reports indicate that French and Russian atomic-energy people were in India, figuring out how many reactors they could sell there, and where they would be located. Reports indicate that the United States is planning to sell six reactors and locate them in northern India. Two French reactors will be based in Andhra Pradesh, and Russia would like to add two more (they have already sold two, which are now in the process of being set up in Tamil Nadu) in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The Manmohan Singh government claims the nuclear deal with the United States will be settled prior to President Bush's scheduled visit to India early in the new year. The French deal will be penned formally when President Chirac visits in India in February 2006.
Both Paris and Moscow have apparently conveyed to New Delhi that they believe the Bush Administration is serious about the India-U.S. nuclear deal.
Siemens Producing High-Speed Rail Cars for China
The Siemens rail-car plant in Uerdingen, Germany is now turning out one high-speed rail car every day or two. The rate will soon rise to two cars per day, when fulfillment of an $804 million Chinese order for 60 high-speed trains begins, according to the New York Times Dec. 30.
The technology includes electric motors on the axles of every second rail car, allowing faster acceleration and braking, and eddy current brakes which use the principle of electromagnetic induction. High-speed rail is classed as having a top cruising speed of 150 mph; very high speed is 210 mph. The most advanced U.S. trains in general use, the Acela cars used on the U.S. Northeast corridor, have a top cruising speed of 125 mph.