|Asia News Digest
Taliban Capture Two Southern Helmand Towns
A revived Taliban militia have captured two towns in Helmand, in southern AfghanistanNaway-i-Barakzayi and Garmser, India Daily reported from Kandahar July 18. The U.S.-led coalition forces are now preparing to take back Garmser.
The Taliban success did not surprise all the observers. It became evident to some that since the onset of spring, the Taliban, who never really left the southern provinces of Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion and ouster of the Taliban regime from Kabul in the winter of 2001, were gathering strength and had gained virtual control of the countryside of Helmand, Kandahar, Khost, and Farah provinces, among others. However, their objective until now was to hurt and terrorize the coalition troops. It is only recently that the Taliban have begun to occupy territories. Ground reports indicate the Taliban, operating 25 miles from the capital city of Kabul, are now distributing written death threats at night to those who help the U.S.-backed Karzai government.
Some Afghans recall that similar death threats were circulated in 1992-1993 when Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of the Soviet military and waning of U.S. interest, was in the midst of civil war instigated by various mujahideens created by the United States and Pakistan to resist the Soviets. At that time, too, death threats were issued by the Taliban, who emerged as the sole power in Afghanistan in 1996.
India Backs Out of Nuclear Pact with U.S.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, under pressure, has stated July 20 that India has ended its commitment to the United States on the proposed bilateral U.S.-Indian nuclear agreement. Talking to the reporters travelling with him during the flight back to New Delhi from the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Prime Minister said that he told the U.S. President during the summit: "We said the July 18 Joint Statement [the day in 2005 that the Joint Statement was issued by the two heads of states at Washington] and the separation plan should be the guiding factors for the legislation. We cannot take any more commitments that are not explicitly stated in the statement. The broad parameters are clearly spelled out in the agreement."
Manmohan Singh is under pressure on the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal from various forces inside India. Indian atomic scientists are up in arms, calling the deal a virtual sabotage of India's thorium reactor work. Others are accusing the government of a total surrender to the United States on other aspects of nuclear energy and weapons programs. It is likely that the Parliament will vote him out on this issue alone.
On the other hand, the Manmohan Singh government has only one agendathat is, to bring India closer to the United States both economically and strategically.
Putin: Invite China, India, Brazil To Join G-8
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that China, India, and Brazil should be invited to join the G-8, but older members of the group than Russia should initiate the invitation, according to the Hindu July 17. Putin also stated his support for the summit meeting on economic cooperation of the leaders of the strategic triangle of Russia, China, and India, scheduled to take place during the G-8 meeting.
Putin was speaking at a press conference in St. Petersburg July 16, when the G-8 began. "It is hard to imagine how economic, financial, [and] energy problems can be solved without the involvement of such fast-growing economies as China and India," Putin said. "And, of course Brazil, which is the powerhouse of the American continent.... If our [G-8] partners decide to put this issue on the agenda we will certainly support it."
On the strategic triangle meeting, Putin said that, "China, as also India, are our neighbors and traditional partners. You know well that we have long-standing and very close relations of partnership with India. And I think that prospects for [trilateral] cooperation are very good indeed." He supported the "high level of political interaction" of the Russia-India-China triangle, but said that economic cooperation is less. "That is why our meeting in this format will be devoted above all to promoting economic ties among our three nations."
There will be "most intensive interactions" among the leaders of Russia, India and China on the sidelines of the G-8 summit, Hindu Moscow correspondent Vladimir Radyuhin wrote on July 16.
India Postpones Talks with Pakistan, Confronts UK
Acting according to profile, India has postponed peace talks with Pakistan, allegedly because it suspects that the Mumbai bombings were organized by elements based in Pakistan, al-Jazeera reported July 16. A Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that India had told Pakistan that "the environment is not conducive" to talks due to be held in New Delhi on July 20 and 21. There was no immediate reaction from Pakistan on the cancellation of talks.
Pakistan has denied any connection with the Mumbai bombings and has called Indian allegations propaganda or speculation.
At the G-8 meeting, however, Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, charged Tony Blair's Britain with responsibility for fostering the fundraising and logistics of the group's suspected in the Mumbai bombings. Singh raised the terror link with Tony Blair in St. Petersburg, reminding him that India handed over a detailed dossier three years ago, identifying 14 "businessmen" living in Britain, and was assured then that the suspects would be investigated. India is accusing Britain of failing to act against a number of wealthy businessmen, who it claims are using bogus charities to funnel up to 8 million pounds a year to Kashmiri militants groups.