|Asia News Digest
India-Russia-China Cooperation a "Useful Format"
The three-way interaction of India with Russia and China is "a useful format for exchange of views among the three countries and for pursuing trilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest," Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in an interview with Russian media on the 60th anniversary, April 13, of Russian-Republic of India diplomatic relations. "The trilateral interaction is a manifestation of mutual understanding and trust among the three countries. Trilateral consultations are aimed at discussing issues of shared interest to promote the development objectives of the three countries as well as peace, security and stability in the region and the world," Mukherjee said. "Our trilateral cooperation is not directed against the interests of any country and is, on the contrary, intended to promote international harmony and understanding and find common ground amidst divergent interests."
India, he said, "remains committed to a multipolar world order based on the principles of rule of law, sovereign equality, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of States."
India's To Proceed With Commercial Nuclear Development
Bhabha Atomic Research Center Director S. Banerjee, speaking to reporters in Mumbai April 10, said India has no choice but to push ahead with commercial heavy-water reactors, and will not wait for commercial thorium reactors to come online. As a result, India will have to double its uranium production in the coming days, and exhaust whatever uranium reserves it has at this point in time. India does not enrich, but uses natural uranium, which consists of 99.3% of non-fissile U-238 with 0.7% fissile U-235 in its heavy-water moderated reactors.
Banerjee told reporters that within the next two years, India will start construction of 12 reactors, so that by 2012, India could add 10,000 MW of power capacity in its nuclear power generation sector. The plan includes beginning construction of eight 700 MW pressurized heavy-water reactors (PHWRs) and setting up one light-water reactor and three fast breeders.
Of the three fast breeders, two 500 MW reactors will be located at the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)'s campus at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, where the breeder reactor development has been done. The other will be the advanced heavy-water reactor (AHWR)a 300 MW thorium fast-breeder reactor. Where this one will be located has not been said, but the work for the 300 MW reactor has already begun, Banerjee noted.
Banerjee said the FBRs are being designed to have a life of 60 years, "but we want to ensure that it gives us power for the next 100 years."
Myanmar-China Hydropower Deal Signed
Myanmar authorities signed a 2,500 MW hydropower development project in a joint venture with China, the Myanmar Times reported April 11. The project will be located on the Salween River in northern Myanmar. Myanmar's Hydropower Implementation Department signed the deal with China's Farsighted Investment Group and Gold Water Resources. The deal is the fourth hydropower agreement signed with China, just days after Thailand began work on a $6 billion dam on the Salween to generate electricity which will be sold to Thailand.
According to Myanmar's Ministry of Electric Power, Myanmar is in the process of shifting its power-generating source away from natural gas. Currently, 48.5% of Mynamar's electricity is generated from gas, and 38.5% from hydropower. By 2030, the Ministry of Electric Power claims almost 100% of Myanmar's power will come from hydropower.
India Looks at Rail Connections to Nepal
India is considering options for building rail connections to five cities of the Himalayan state of Nepal, bordering India, according to reports in the Indian Express and other regional press of April 7. China has completed the incredible task of building a railroad to Lhasa, Tibet, and that line is now being extended to Xigaze, a city some 100 km to the southwest, and nearer both to Nepal, and Sikkim, an Indian state. Over the next decade, China plans to extend the Tibet rail line even farther, to the town of Chomo, or Yadong, which is 315 km southwest of Lhasa and close to the strategic Nathu La pass to India.
Five new routes are being considered, which would link cities in Uttar Pradesh, India, to Nepalgunj and/or Bhairawaha in Nepal; Jogbani in Bihar to Nepal's Viratnagar; New Jalpaiguri to Kakrabitta; and/or Jaynagar and Birdibas. All routes are "technically feasible"; the financial side is yet to be worked out. As India-China cooperation increases, and the geopolitical heritage of the British Raj is overcome, such a project on India's part could complete a section of the Eurasian Landbridge which would also be a technological wonder of the world.
Pakistan May Build First Rail Link to Afghanistan
Pakistan wants to build an 11-km rail link to Afghanistan, which would be the first rail connection to that landlocked country, which has no railways at all. The Pakistani plan is to build the short line from its city of Chaman to the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak. Once work beginsalthough recent reports said that Kabul had not yet given official approvalthe Pakistani railway would begin work immediately, and also extend it to Kandahar, another 100 km inside Afghanistan, Pakistan Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in mid-March.
On April 7, a Russian Railway Company delegation visited Islamabad, where Minister Rashid Ahmed called for improved Russian-Pakistani economic relations. The minister described the policy of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to make Pakistan the economic bridge between Asia and Europe via sea, road, and rail networks. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov will be visiting Pakistan in the near future. One agenda issue will be Pakistan's plan to develop rail and road infrastructure up to Russia and other Central Asian states through Afghanistan. Minister Rashid Ahmed said that work on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Quetta-Kandahar route and Iran-Pakistan Taftan-Zahidan rail lines is underway. He also noted the feasibility study for developing a rail link between China and Pakistan along the route of the Karakoram Highway.
China To Expand High-Tech Imports; Reduce Trade Surplus
China will increase its imports of high-technology equipment as one effort to reduce its trade surplus, said Vice Minister of Commerce Wei Jinguo at an economic conference in Ningbo, Zhejiang province on April 9. China has to improve its own exports, to self-developed, high value-added products, Wei said, and needs the technology for this. Most domestic industries do not have advanced technological equipment, Wei said. With its $1 trillion-plus forex reserves, China has a "solid foundation" to import more, Wei said. Key imports will be integrated circuit manufacturing equipment, high-end chemical fiber equipment, and high performance numerical control machine tools, according to Commerce official Wang Qinhua. China also wants energy-saving equipment and technologies, and will reduce the threshold to import mechanical and electronic products. She said that Chinese companies should buy technologies and equipment from countries including the United States and Russia.