|Asia News Digest
India-U.S. Deal on Nuclear Power Has a Long Way To Go
Although U.S. President George W. Bush wanted something to show for his visit to India March 1-3, the revised deal with India over nuclear power and enrichment still has numerous hurdles to overcome. All that the announcement signifies, is that the agreement on nuclear technology transfer to India from the United States, first announced on July 18, 2005 and tied up in the Congress ever since, is not totally dead.
What happened on March 2, during President Bush's visit to India?
India gave the Bush Administration a list, saying which nuclear reactors would be placed in civilian hands and which would be placed in the hands of the military. On the list of the 22 reactors that India has, 14 were given civilian control which could come under IAEA inspections. The list stated that eight reactors, including the breeder reactors, would stay in military hands. A similar list was given the Bush Administration months ago, and the list was trashed. Now, the revised the list has been received but neither rejected or accepted at this time. Which means more talks have to take place. The Indians have set up the deal as a lockstep process, in which the Indians take a step and the U.S. takes a step in turn. India is not ready to do everything asked and then trust the Bush Administration at its word. It is designed to take a long time.
Some of the sticking points, such as the inspections, will have to be worked out, since they lie outside the NPT and will have to be done another way. Other sticking points are the question of the lifting of existing sanctions, imposed after India's 1974 and 1998 nuclear tests, and assurances that it can conduct further tests, and India's need for plutonium for its reactors. Given the weakness of the Bush Administration on Capitol Hill, sources view the likelihood of Congress approving such a controversial deal requires a lot of efforts by the White House.
China Opposes U.S.-India Nuke Deal
China has made clear that it opposes the nuclear agreement reached between the United States and India during President Bush's visit there March 1-3. China said it would give India an added advantage in the field of dual-use technology which could ultimately change the balance of power in Asia. China also concluded that the deal may destroy non-proliferation efforts worldwide and urged India to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
China has reportedly contacted countries including Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan expressing its reservations about the deal.
China also fears that if India uses the agreement as a license to expand its weapons program, Pakistan would be compelled to do the same.
U.S. Wants To Strengthen Military Relations With India
The strengthening of military relations with India is one of the unstated objectives of President Bush's just-concluded trip to India, the Pentagon said, according to Voice of America March 3. Already, the United States has offered India advanced fighter aircraft as the next step in the rapidly growing defense cooperation between the two nations.
"We have indicated our intention to offer both the F-16 and F-18/A, both combat-proven aircraft. As additional capabilities enter our force, we will work with the government of India to make them available. Our proposal will also address India's interest in technology transfer and indigenous co-production," the Pentagon said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Peter Rodman, in an interview with the VOA, said: "We see India as a strategic partner in the 21st Century.... The strategic environment of the new era is really pulling all of this together, and the President's trip to India is a way, I think, to bring this to a new stage."
The new stage includes defense and military relations, including joint exercises at Indian Army facilities in the jungle in Mizoram near the Myanmar border, and at high altitude in Kashmir, and joint exercises between two of the world's leading air forces.
Bush in KabulA Surprise Visit
U.S. President George W. Bush made a surprise four-hour stop in Kabul on his way to New Delhi March 1. Bush extended support to Afghan President Hamid Karzai as the situation within Afghanistan had begun spinning out of control. Observers point out that at the advent of spring in early April, the Taliban is expected to make a decisive push to gain control of large swaths of Afghanistan. In southern Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have withdrawn, handing over the area to the Canadians, it is evident that the Taliban and anti-American forces are gaining ground rapidly.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Forces Committee, DIA director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, said: "Despite significant progress on the political front, the Taliban-dominated insurgency remains a capable and resilient threat." Maples said attacks within Afghanistan were up 20% between 2004 and 2005, suicide bombings increased "almost fourfold" and use of makeshift bombs, similar to those used in Iraq, had "more than doubled."
While President Bush was with the Afghan President, a prison uprising, allegedly organized by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, was continuing in the outskirts of Kabul in Pul-i-Charkhi prison.
U.S. Diplomat Killed by Car Bomb in Karachi
A car bomb went off near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing David Foy, 52, a U.S. State Department employee and Foreign Service Officer on March 2. The killing occurred about 36 hours before President Bush and his retinue were scheduled to arrive in the country for about 30 hours' stay.
Since Bush's trip was announced, Washington has insisted that the President not to spend the night of March 3 in Islamabad, for security reasons. Islamabad, of course, assured his safety and insisted that for the sake of U.S.-Pakistan relations, the U.S. President must stay overnight. In order to reassure the Americans that the Musharraf government would keep the extremists on the run, the Pakistani military carried out a major armed operation in the tribal agency areas bordering Afghanistan and allegedly killed 45 extremists.
It is likely that that military sweep in the tribal agency expedited the car bomb attack in Karachi that led to Foy's death. Pakistan is now an extremely divided country with an abundance of violent individuals armed with explosives and other weapons. Those who oppose the United States' presence in the neighborhood include Islamic extremists, Pakistani military, a section of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and even some who are pro-Iran and anti-U.S. policy towards Iraq elements. It is difficult to nail down who triggered the hit, but it is almost a certainty that the ISI knows and would protect them.
Indonesian President in Breakthrough Visit to Myanmar
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono completed a two-day visit to Myanmar March 2, the first visit by a head of state allowed by Myanmar in many years, and the first government official of any sort in several years. Yudhoyono was joined by former Foreign Minister and senior statesman Ali Alatas, who has been instrumental in quietly working with Myanmar, including arranging this trip. Asked if they were to see Aung San Suu Kyi, the prominent dissident who remains under house arrest, Alatas simply said: "Our stay here is very short and we have no time for it."
After meetings with Gen. Than Shwe, the head of the junta, Alatas said that President Yudhoyono had discussed Myanmar's "roadmap to democracy," based on Indonesia's experience of moving from a military government to an elected governmentbut without lecturing them.
Mullah Omar Operating Freely in Pakistan
Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, not a friend of Pakistan, has hit back at Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's dismissal of an intelligence report about Taliban and al-Qaeda militants operating in Pakistani territory. He said: "We would not give them anything had we not been sure about its credibility," Abdullah said referring to the handing over the list of Taliban and al-Qaeda members' whereabouts to Musharraf by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during his recent visit to Islamabad.
Abdullah said Afghanistan believed that most of the "Taliban leaders that are actively instigating terror in Afghanistan" were in Pakistan, with Omar known to have spent time in the border city of Peshawar and in Balochistan. "We have provided evidence of him being outside of Afghanistan, in Quetta in Balochistan, the Afghan Foreign Minister said.
Abdullah's statement was issued the very day that President Bush arrived in Pakistan for a one-day stay in Islamabad amidst heightened security.