|Asia News Digest
Sino-Indian Trade To Surpass $20 Billion in 2006
The chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, Wan Jifel, said Sino-Indian bilateral trade is expected to exceed $20 billion this year and may even reach $100 billion in six years, Rediff.com reported April 17. Striking a highly optimistic tone, he said, "Last year, bilateral two-way trade rose to $18.7 billion, up 37.5% over 2004. If this trend continues, according to our estimate, in 2006, the two-way trade will surpass that in 2005 to $20 billion." President of the Federations of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Saroj K. Poddar said he remained bullish about the prospect of a bilateral trade. "India-China collaboration will be at the heart of this rise in Asia," he said, noting that the synergy between the two nations, comprising one-third of humanity, will provide a new direction to the world at large.
By contrast, India-Russia trade has remained stagnant, at about $2 billion annually.
U.S.-India Nuclear Deal About To Collapse
New Delhi told Washington on April 17 that it would make no explicit commitment to the United States that it would not conduct fresh nuclear tests as part of a landmark civilian atomic cooperation agreement. According to New Delhi, "in preliminary discussions on these elements, India has already conveyed to the U.S. that such a provision has no place in the proposed bilateral agreement." And, yet, the draft of the deal framed since President Bush visited India suggested that the pact would be discontinued if India tested a nuclear device, the Indian Foreign Ministry said.
At this time, it is difficult to fathom who is lying, and who is not. But the fact remains that New Delhi had told India's political opposition that the deal would not prevent modernization of India's nuclear weapons. It is on the basis of such an assurance that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government got support from the opposition, led by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. But now it has become evident to all and sundry in New Delhi that the deal has footnotes and clauses which, if accepted, would spell electoral death. The Manmohan Singh government would also try to extricate itself by blaming Washington. Whether it would succeed, or not, is another story.
Indian Gamesmanship in Dealing with Nepal
The arrival of Karan Singh, India's special envoy to Nepal, on April 19 in Kathmandu coincided with Chinese President Hu Jintao's arrival in Washington. The Nepal crisis, which has been brewing since February 2005, reached a crescendo during the first three weeks of April. New Delhi was under intense domestic pressure to act, but the Indian government waited for President Hu to reach Washington before acting. In the case of Nepal, India, China, and the United States are the three major nations who have the greatest influence. India and the United States had made clear to the Nepali King Gyanendra that they want democracy restored. (On Friday, April 21, the King made a televised address to the nation, in which he promised to restore democracy, and hand over executive power to a Prime Minister.)
The sending of Karan Singh, the scion of the now-defunct princely state of Kashmir's royal household, is also significant. Karan Singh was once India's Foreign Minister and later, Indian Ambassador to the United States. Moreover, because of the incestuous nature of royalties, he has blood relations with the Nepali royal household. Moreover, Nepal is the only Hindu country in the world, and Karan Singh was once the head of the Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha, the World Hindu Institute.
Was India Lured by a 'Bait and Switch' Operation?
Now that the U.S.-India nuclear deal has hit a formidable roadblock, some in New Delhi believe that India was suckered into a clever "bait and switch" operation, whereby the United States will move in to make $15-17 billion in arms sales under the lure of the nuclear deal. The deal, if it ever goes through, will recognize India as a nuclear-weapons state. But sources told EIR April 20 that keeping the deal hanging would help the Pentagon to sell arms to India.
These sources pointed out that at least six American arms delegations are now sitting in Delhi making presentations of their wares. Lockheed Martin has already become the frontrunner in the scramble for $1 billion in sales of naval planes that the Indian Navy plans to buy. A Boeing team is working hard to get Indians to place orders for the P-8A Maritime Multimission Aircraft (MMA), a futuristic reconnaissance and oceanic warfare jet to be rolled out by 2013 for the U.S. Navy. Boeing is offering New Delhi technical partnership for the P-8A projectan unprecedented proposal that would have remained a pipedream for the Indian Navy, sources claim.
Turkey Eyes Its First Nuclear Power Plant
Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Guler told reporters on April 18 that the country must look to nuclear power to meet its growing energy demand, and is eyeing the Black Sea city of Sinop to build its first nuclear-power plant, the UPI Energy Watch reported April 20. "The nuclear energy issue is not only a preference, it is a must," said Guler, after his meeting on nuclear power with 150 scientists from Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK).
"We have made a preliminary study in Sinop. We haven't yet decided on the exact place where the nuclear power plant will be built. The Inceburun region of Sinop is appropriate in geotechnical aspects," said Okay Cakiroglu, chairman of the TAEK. "We will make our decision within a year."
Earlier, Turkey had decided to build a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu, but abandoned the location in 2000 because of its heavy tourist activity.
U.S. Ambassador Slams KBR's Tsunami Repairs
The U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, Lynn Pascoe, blasted Halliburton's KBR for disgracing the U.S. in its contracted work on tsunami repairs, the Washington Post reported April 17. Pascoe wrote a letter to Rear Adm. Gary Engle, head of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command for the Pacific, denouncing KBR for its shoddy work on a project rebuilding schools and bridges in Nais (the island off Sumatra which was destroyed by the tsunami and a subsequent earthquake). "KBR sold itself as having the ability to work in austere environments providing materials and sub-contract support. Time and again however ... KBR clearly showed a lack of this ability." He said, "KBR caused considerable embarrassment to [the U.S. government] and left negative impressions on" the Indonesian military and public. He called for a re-bidding of any other contracts with KBR in Indonesia.
Philippines President Commutes All Death Sentences
In commemoration of Easter, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced that all death-row convicts would be spared and the maximum penalty commuted to life imprisonment, the Philippines Inquirer reported April 16. "Anyone who falls and makes mistakes has a chance to stand up and correct the wrong he has committed," she said. The new policy will benefit roughly 1,000 death row inmates.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has repeatedly called on the government to repeal the death penalty, claiming that capital punishment had not been an effective deterrent to crime. Arroyo can only commute sentences; the abolition of the death penalty requires an act of Congress.
China and Russia To Construct Floating Nuclear Plants
According to Vitaly Ryabov, a department head at Russia's Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, Alexander's Oil and Gas reported April 21. China has conveyed to Russia that it is ready to join efforts to construct floating nuclear-power plants.
The official's comments echo a source in a Russian delegation that visited Beijing in the fall of 2005 who said that China was considering extending a loan for the construction of one such unit in northern Russia.
With China set to up its nuclear energy generation capacity dramatically by 2020, Russia's nuclear agency is showcasing the country's achievements in this field at the Nuclear Industry China 2006 exhibition, which brings together producers and suppliers of equipment and technology for nuclear-power plants. Ryabov said Russia considers China a promising partner in the sphere of peaceful use of nuclear energy, and that the two countries were conducting joint research on fast breeder reactors.