|Asia News Digest
Tamil Tiger Air Force Hits Sri Lankan Air Base
Despite a news blackout by Colombo, ground reports indicate that the Tiger Air Force's attack on the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) base at Katunayake, outside the capital, under the cover of night, in the early hours of March 26, had a debilitating effect, according to Tamil Net March 27. The operation, a daring one, was very well planned, since it did not cause any civilian casualties, but did severely damage, if not destroy, at least half of the aircraft of the SLAF.
The attack could be a one-time incident, but when an insurgent or terrorist organization acquires an independent air-strike capability, the task of countering it becomes much more difficult. As it is, Colombo's ability to infiltrate the Tigers is virtually non-existent.
On the other hand, Colombo, boosted by providing a virtual naval base to the United States and access of another port to the Chinese, has become extremely ruthless in dealing with the Tamils. In recent months, since the ceasefire talks collapsed, Colombo has unleashed its army on the areas where the Tamils are in the majority and where Tigers are ensconced. The result has been slaughtering of Tamils, whom Colombo always identifies as "Tamil Tigers."
Mukherjee, in Japan, Calls NPT a 'Fraud' Pact
Addressing a seminar at the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo on March 27, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was in Tokyo seeking Japanese support for the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, told the audience: "India has an impeccable record on non-proliferation. We have also been consistently a leading advocate of the elimination of all nuclear weapons.... If India did not sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT as a fraud treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment," as reported by the Evening Post of Tokyo March 27.
India Welcomes Iran in Southeast Asia Group
India has welcomed Iran as an observer in the South Asian Association on Regional Cooperation (SAARC). SAARC consists of seven South Asian nationsBangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lankaand was set up at the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's initiative in 1987.
According to India Defence March 20, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, in welcoming Iran to observer status, noted that Iran's application has been circulated among the SAARC member countries, and will be formalized through a series of meetings in the coming days. As chairman of the SAARC, Menon pointed out, "India likes the idea of more involvement in SAARC by our friend [Iran]." Menon indicated that the SAARC countries are now considering including Afghanistan as a full member-nation, the eighth, in the upcoming summit.
Iran's inclusion as observer in the present situation sends a message, one analyst pointed out. It shows that the South Asian nations, of which India and Pakistan are the most dominant, have taken note of the threat to Iran's sovereignty posed by UN Security Council's resolutions and the hostile postures of Britain and the United States. The announcement to make Iran a part of the SAARC would necessarily mean the South Asian nations' intent to intercede in the present situation.
South Korea Pension Fund To Dive Into Choppy Waters
South Korea's largest public institutional pension fund plans to triple its equity by taking more risks, modelling itself after Calpers in California. Minister of Health and Welfare Rhyu Si Min announced that the pension fund he supervises will be focussing more on overseas assets and stocks, Bloomberg reported March 29. "Domestic bond yields appear to be stabilizing lower, so we must take more risk to increase returns," Rhyu said, adding that the pension fund has not ruled out investing in hedge funds and derivatives.