|Asia News Digest
Dow-Jones-Controlled Paper Caught in Attempted Overthrow of Thai Premier
The Nation of Bangkok (partially owned by Dow Jones) on March 21 published a false report that Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had been replaced by the head of the Privy Council to run the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the King's reign. This charge is extremely serious, since the King is being called on by the (Dow Jones-supported) demonstrators camped out at the Prime Minister's office, to order Thaksin's resignation and appoint a new Prime Minister. The head of the Privy Council, Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, denied the report, and the government has demanded an apology by The Nation, and may bring legal action. The Nation has served as command center for the so-called democracy movement, which is demanding Thaksin's resignation, and has refused to participate in the snap election which Thaksin called for April 2.
Thaksin, essentially locked out of his office by the protesters, is refusing to order them removed. However, in his speeches outside of Bangkok, where he enjoys nearly total support, he is getting feisty. In Chiang Mai, his home town, he told a crowd of 50,000 that he would leave the demonstrators alone until the April 2 election, but then, if he wins (which is certain), "if they don't budge, I'll ask all of you to send me to Government House." He told them the "Campaign for Popular Democracy is now campaigning for no democracy," and swore to protect Thai democracy with his life.
China, Russia To Speed Up Tripartite Mechanism with India
One of the important developments of Russian President Vladimir Putin's talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao March 21-22 is an agreement for an early establishment of a mechanism of trilateral cooperation in the Russia-China-India format. This is necessary, they pointed out, in the context of a fuller realization of their potentials for economic development, and will strengthen international efforts to stand up to new threats and challenges. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qui Gang, commenting on this development, said: "India, China, and Russia are big countries and they share much common interest in safeguarding regional security, stability, and development."
During Putin's visit to India last year, a joint statement was issued in which trilateral cooperation between India, Russia, and China was also mentioned as a "useful mechanism in promoting understanding between the three nations."
One of the first results of the visit is Beijing's announcement that China would adopt an "earnestly responsible" stand on the India-U.S. nuclear deal now pending approval by the U.S. Congress. President Hu is scheduled to visit Washington on April 20.
Indian President Talks Democracy in Yangon
During his three-day visit to Myanmar March 10-12, Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had raised with the junta leaders the issue of returning to democracy in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Reports indicate the Indian President used a "tone of gentleness and persuasion," advising that democracy is demanded the world over. In plain words, President Kalam warned of a push for "regime change," if Myanmar did not move under its own steam to bring democratic rule in the country. He also pointed out that democracy would be good for Myanmar and ensure military and economic security.
Kalam also touched upon the mutual benefit for both countries of piping gas from Myanmar to India via Bangladesh. Myanmar had earlier agreed to such a plan, but later sold the gas to China. During their discussions with the Indian President, the Myanmar authorities, however, assured New Delhi that India would get a portion of the hydrocarbons in new, yet-to-be-developed fields. India has so far invested $2 billion in Myanmar, and the country is the cornerstone of India's ambitious "Look East" policy.
Pakistan Grants China Land Access to Persian Gulf
Islamabad has announced that China and Pakistan will open four new passenger and cargo road links in the first half of this year, including one to the strategic Gwadar Port bordering Iran, just a stone's throw from the Strait of Hormuz. Two roads, to be opened on May 1, will be for passenger cars, while the other two, scheduled for opening on June 1, will be for transporting cargo.
The two cargo routes will run from Kashi in China's southern Xinjiang province, to Pakistan's ports of Karachi, Qasim, and Gwadar. The passenger lines are from Kashi and Taxkorgan, also in southern Xinjiang, to Pakistan's northern Gilgit and Sost Pass, respectively. China has, since 2002, heavily financed the building of the Gwadar Port in southwestern Balochistan.
The announcement will send a ripple of unease through Washington. The presence of a formidable China in the Persian Gulf, using the roadways built by Washington's ally, Islamabad, is certain to raise hackles among the unipolar-world buffs in that capital.
Madrassas Are Sprouting All Around India-Nepal Borders
About 1,900 Islamic seminariesmadrassashave spring up along the troubled India-Nepal border, according to Tilak Kak, Director of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), India's paramilitary forces in charge of patrolling the border. "There has been an exponential increase of madrassas on both sides of Indo-Nepal border in the recent past of which 1100 are in India, while the rest are in Nepal," Kak told the Zee News March 24. Kak, however, did not provide any valid reason why this is taking place.
India's madrassas, of which there are thousands across the country, have produced nary an extremist nor terrorist, despite all kinds of accusations hurled by the huge contingent of Muslim-baiters worldwide. But what is intriguing is that Nepal, the only Hindu nation in the world, has allowed Islamic seminaries to be set up along its borders. On the Indian side of the border, particularly the side that borders the Indian state of Bihar, there is a large Muslim population.
Indian intelligence has pointed out, on a number of occasions, the growing entente between the Pakistani ISI and the Nepali authorities, who are intimidated by India's growing power. That means, if the madrassas have been set up to create a contingent of extreme anti-Indian Islamists, it could throw the area into serious turmoil in the days ahead.
Pakistan-Afghanistan Tension Grows
In a dramatic statement at a rally in Lahore, Punjabon March 23, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said, "Those foreign terrorists are not only spreading terrorism in Pakistan, but in the rest of the world. I want to warn them, that they should leave Pakistan. Go away or we will finish them off." Meanwhile, reports coming out from a section of Pakistani military indicate that the Taliban, and the foreign extremists, have virtually taken over Pakistan's tribal areas of North and South Waziristan. The reports say that it is not just a takeover, it is more like a revolution.
Meanwhile, relations between Islamabad and Kabul have worsened further. Islamabad claimed that a group of 15 Pakistani nationals killed by the Afghan security forces on March 22 were innocent Pakistani civilians. An Afghan security official claimed his forces killed 15 Taliban militia members coming across the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
In Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has carried out a Cabinet shuffle, removing his Tajik-Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, and appointing his international policy advisor, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, as Abdullah's replacement. Spanta's appointment has drawn criticism from Pakistan. Islamabad claimed Spanta is even more anti-Pakistan than his predecessor. Spanta had left Afghanistan for Germany in the mid-1990s, following the Taliban takeover, returning to Kabul at the same time as Karzai, in 2002.
Kissinger Puts His Two Cents in U.S.-India Nuclear Deal Hat
For what it is worth, Henry Kissinger, one of the least trusted U.S. diplomats in India, pitched in his support for the Bush Administration-initiated U.S.-India nuclear deal, in a Washington Post op-ed March 20. The commentary is an attempt by the man who was Richard Nixon's Secretary of State to redeem himself with the pro-India lobby and emerge as a supporter of nuclear-related policies that could help India.
The problem with Kissinger on any given issue is that all he can offer is self-serving lies. For instance, India's role as the leader of the Non-Aligned Movementa bête noire of Kissinger et al.was attributed to India's attempt to placate the Muslims. And, in describing India's problems with Pakistan, Kissinger claims they are all a result of partition. While there is no doubt that no Indian enjoyed the partition, and were angry with the Pakistani leaders for dancing to the British tune, Kissinger conveniently fails to mention how his policy helped to create a Pakistan which was ready to play every dirty game on behalf of the Cold War-obsessed Brits and Americans. Nor did he mention that he himself did nothing to prevent the genocide carried out by the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, and its role in the formation of Bangladesh. And when the Indian government under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi intervened, as millions of East Pakistanis crossed into India, Nixon, under the spell of Kissinger, sent the Seventh Fleet to intimidate India.
Nonetheless, those who matter in New Delhi have not forgotten his reference to Mrs. Gandhi as "that bitch," overheard by Indian Ambassador T.N. Kaul during the White House dinner to honor her in 1971.