|Asia News Digest
Indian Holy City Bombing Seen as Fallout from Bush Trip
Three bombs exploded almost simultaneously March 7 in crowded areas in the ancient holy city of Varanasi, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The first two bombs went off at the Varanasi railroad station, and the third one at the Sankatmochan Temple, located next to the ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple, when thousands of devotees were milling around. The bombs took at least 12 lives, and wounded many others.
The bomb explosions have been identified with President Bush's trip to India and the agreement reached between the White House and New Delhi on nuclear-related issues. Following the trip, a section of the Muslim community, which has been deeply upset by the Bush Administration's policies toward Islamic states in general, was instigated by some political forces within Uttar Pradesh. These political forces are "at war" with the Congress Party, as well as with the Congress Party-led Manmohan Singh government. These political forces also have the support of the Muslim community within the state.
There are also reasons to believe that Islamabad, smarting over the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, would take measures that would pose serious problems for New Delhi. In Uttar Pradesh, the Muslim population is close to 40 million and the Pakistani ISI (intelligence service) has planted a lot of assets among them.
Indian Defense Minister Postpones Visit to China
Considered as an immediate consequences of the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee has postponed his visit to China, scheduled for later this month; now reports indicate he won't be going until May.
As soon as the Bush-Manmohan Singh nuclear agreement was reached and made public in New Delhi in early March, Beijing expressed its view that the deal would do more harm than good. Reports suggest that China has contacted a number of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) member-nations to convey its unhappiness over the deal.
At the same time, Pranab Mukherjee, who was India's Foreign Minister and had negotiated with the Chinese during Narasimha Rao's Premiership, to bring "peace and tranquility" along the India-China borders, has been instrumental in shifting India's defense relationship with the United States.
U.S. Expects a Violent Afghan Spring
Testifying before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia March 10, Navy Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, U.S. CENTCOM Director for plans and policy, said: "We anticipate that we are going to see a fairly violent spring and summer and then an improvement in overall conditions." He also said an upsurge of violence could stem from U.S. and NATO forces extending their reach into parts of Afghanistan where the insurgents presence is greater. To make everyone in the room feel good, Moeller also said: "The overall trend line, though, is positive despite the fact that the data is what the data is with regard to U.S. forces who have been killed in the recent past compared to the first couple of years."
As has become the norm, Moeller was less than truthful, and tried to hide facts under such vague terms as "fairly violent" and "trend line." The Rear Admiral is obviously protecting the Bush Administration's rear.
On the other hand, facts are pouring in that are somewhat more cogent than the "data" Moeller presented. Reports from Pakistan's South Waziristan region, which is closed to foreign journalists, indicate that the local leaders, who identify themselves as "Taliban," are setting up offices, recruiting followers and, in some places, acting as local judges.
Abizaid in Islamabad Hears Tirade from Musharraf
U.S. CENTCOM chief John Abizaid spent one and half hours with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf at the Army House in Islamabad March 8 listening to the President's tirade against the American puppet in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai. Abizaid's mission is to calm down Islamabad before it openly starts supporting the Taliban against Kabul and Washington.
The war of words between Musharraf and Karzai has reached a fever pitch. Karzai, while visiting Islamabad last month, handed over a list of Taliban leaders who are treated as "guests" in Pakistan and wanted them arrested. Subsequently, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah announced that Musharraf has paid no heed to the list.
President Musharraf is aware of the fact that Karzai has given voice to an open secret, but the Afghan President has the approval of Washington in taking the undiplomatic actions he has adopted. Musharraf, who is under tremendous pressure within, and without, and is growing weaker by the day, lashed out against Karzai. Washington is afraid that this spring, when the Taliban are expected to challenge the U.S. and NATO forces, Islamabad may lend a so-called helping hand to the Taliban by providing them with arms and necessary shelter.
What could be even more dangerous, is what could happen if Karzai, who seems to be toying with the idea of helping the ongoing violent Baloch uprising in the southwestern corner of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, gets the U.S. green light, New Delhi is itching to "help out" Karzai to weaken Pakistan.
Japanese Spokesmen Warn: 'War with Iran Is Unacceptable'
"Japan can't afford to rock the international monetary boat because we're too worried about the strategic military picture," a Japanese official told EIR at a public meeting in Washington addressed by Tokyo's leading liberal journalist Dr. Yoichi Funabashi Feb. 27. "War with Iran is simply unacceptable for Japan," the diplomat said, repeating previous such statements. "Japan can no longer be blackmailed by oil crises, because we've reduced our dependence on oil from 75% of our total energy use to under 13%," he warned, "but Iran is still our major source for oil. We are competing with China for a giant oil and gas development contract in Iran right now, and we don't want anything to disturb that."
The diplomat also stressed that Japan has been burning plutonium in breeder reactors since September 2005, is working with France on breeder technology, and intends to go for full nuclear self-sufficiency in power supplies.
Funabashi, Chief Diplomatic Correspondent for the Asahi Shimbun, opened his speech with a gloss on how U.S.-Japan relations have never been better. Having lulled the audience, he proceeded to list the many deal breakers pending. He attacked Washington for pushing Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni War Shrine and said U.S. mishandling of bases in Okinawa could rupture the alliance. He warned that if Washington policy allows North Korea to simply "go nuclear, as seems likely," then "the U.S.-Japan alliance will be the first casualty."
Top Korea hand Selig Harrison rose in the question period and asked Funabashi to "spell out" this point. "If North Korea declares nuclear-power status, which is where things are headed, then it will be obvious to everyone that the U.S. cannot defend Japan," Funabashi replied openly. "Even mainstream Japanese politicians will then argue for the nuclear rearmament of Japan, which would be the end of the U.S. alliance, and would destabilize the entire region."
Korea Hand: N. Korea Problem Can Be Solved if Addington Sidelined
Asked if there is "light at the end of the tunnel" in the North Korea nuclear impasse, Korea expert Selig Harrison told EIR, "Sure, if we can get [Vice President Dick Cheney's Legal Counsel] David Addington out of the way." Harrison said this just before the opening of a public meeting in Washington (see above), in the hearing of numerous think-tank chiefs and Japanese officials, indicating how broad a layer is looking to the LaRouche movement. EIR responded, "They're already shooting each other." Harrison referred to the recent New Yorker magazine cover depicting Cheney with his shotgun (the second man in the pictureevidently worried about being shotPresident Bush). If Addington and Cheney are not removed, Harrison said, the North Korea impasse will continue ad infinitum. If they go, it can be solved.
Harrison said the impasse has been entirely brought about by the U.S. needlessly slapping financial sanctions on North Korea, days before the September 2005 Six Power Talks, which sanctions have stalemated the talks. He noted former U.S. Korean Ambassador Donald Gregg's Jan. 15 complaint at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting in New York that, "North Korea has been counterfeiting dollars and running drugs for decades. We've known this." But the Bush Administration has slapped sanctions now "because they don't want a successful diplomatic process. They're after regime change, and they are hoping that these issues will make it more difficult for Kim Jong-il to sustain himself. But they're also making it impossible to make real progress on the nuclear issue."