From Volume 6, Issue 30 of EIR Online, Published July 24, 2007
Asia News Digest

Bangladesh Military Makes Moves To Take Over

July 16 (EIRNS)—The military-backed interim government in Bangladesh arrested former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed in the early hours in the capital, Dhaka, following a raid on her home. The Bangladeshi Daily Star reported that a court in the capital rejected her petition for bail, and sent her to prison in connection with an extortion case.

Hours later, the government summoned Sheikh Hasina's bitter rival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, to appear in court next month to answer tax evasion allegations. Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, dubbed the "battling begums" (a begum is a Muslim woman of rank), ruled alternately from 1991 to 2006 and stand accused of misrule that brought the country to the brink of anarchy earlier this year.

Bangladesh's army-backed interim government has been cracking down on corruption, arresting more than 150 senior politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen, since taking control in January. The government says elections will be held before the end of 2008.

Washington Considers an Attack on Pakistan

July 20 (EIRNS)—It is no longer a matter of speculation: Washington is putting in place contingency plans to attack Pakistan's tribal agencies to take out the Islamic extremists, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Frances Townsend, Homeland Security advisor to President George W. Bush, said on July 18 that the United States would be willing to send troops into Pakistan to root out al-Qaeda, noting that "no option is off the table if that is what is required"—just in case Islamabad, or al-Qaeda, missed the significance of Townsend's statement.

Soon afterward, White House press secretary Tony Snow said, "there's no doubt that more aggressive steps need to be taken" against al-Qaeda sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Al-Qaeda's ability to maintain a safe haven in Pakistan is "something that's absolutely going to have to be addressed," he said, without discussing what the next steps might be. "We never take options off the table, and if we find actionable targets, we're going to hit them," Snow said.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, one of the leaders of the Sept. 11 Commission and a White House intelligence advisor, agreed, saying on July 17, that al-Qaeda's threat to the United States has reached the point where U.S. forces should "go after" terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan.

Indian Navy Continues To Extend its Geostrategic Reach

July 20 (EIRNS)—The Indian Navy, emerging in the Indian Ocean as the key power, has activated its first listening post on foreign soil, which will keep an eye on ship movements in the Indian Ocean. A crucial monitoring station in northern Madagascar (an island nation off the eastern coast of the African continent), complete with radars and surveillance gear to intercept maritime communication, was quietly made operational earlier this month as part of the Indian navy's strategy to protect the country's sea lanes of commerce.

The monitoring station, under construction since last year when India took on a lease from the Madagascar government, will link up with similar naval facilities in Kochi and Mumbai, on India's west coast, to gather intelligence on foreign navies operating in the region. "A naval asset with limited anchoring facilities has been activated. It will facilitate possible maneuvers by the navy in the region," an Indian official said.

The Indian Ocean is gaining importance due to increasing oil traffic around the Cape of Good Hope and the Mozambique Channel route preferred by supertankers. The United States already has a permanent military base with aerial assets and monitoring facilities in Diego Garcia, 1,400 nautical miles northeast of the Madagascar facility.

With berthing rights in Oman, and monitoring stations in Madagascar, Mauritius, Kochi, and Mumbai, the Indian Navy will effectively box in the region to protect sea lanes all the way from Mozambique and the Cape of Good Hope to the Gulf of Oman, an official said.

In September, the Indian Navy, along with the U.S., Japanese, Australian, and Singapore navies, will carry out exercises in the Bay of Bengal—an entry point to the Indian Ocean. (See InDepth, "The Geostrategic Import of the Coming Bay of Bengal Naval Exercise.")

ElBaradei and LaRouche Ally Inspire Optimism in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 (EIRNS)—The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, gave a passionate defense of the world's poor in a lecture—"Nuclear Power: Looking to the Future"—organized by the Academy of Sciences of Malaysia. He stressed that the development and electricity needs of the world's poor cannot be met without nuclear energy, initially from the plentiful supplies of uranium, needed for fission power, and then, from nuclear fusion when it comes onstream later in the century.

During the question-and-answer session following the speech, a supporter of Lyndon LaRouche thanked the speaker for bringing alive the optimism of the 1950s-'60s "Atoms for Peace" program. However, the questioner pointed out that its noble aims to eliminate world poverty and green the deserts with abundant desalinated water—concepts which had inspired the world's youth—did not happen, and that the nuclear scientists and engineers who responded to the call are now fast approaching retirement. To make up for lost ground, according to American nuclear engineer James Muckerheide, would require 6,000 nuclear power plants by 2050. Would the United Nations, through the worldwide credibility that Dr. ElBardei has earned in his ten years and three terms as director general of the IAEA, endorse the call for half a million full scholarships in developing countries, especially Africa, to study nuclear science and engineering?

Dr. ElBardei responded warmly to the suggestion, but pointed out the harsh economic problems of the United Nations.

Chinese Warn: Russia No Longer Showing Forbearance

July 17 (EIRNS)—Russia's security concerns are multiplying, "and this fact should be fully understood," wrote Wang Baofu, deputy director of China's Institute of Strategic Studies at the Chinese National Defense University, in a commentary published in People's Daily today. Wang wrote that "Russia is no longer showing forbearance." Just two weeks after the "Lobster Summit" in Kennebunkport, Maine, between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George Bush, Putin has suspended participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which "has evoked violent responses in the United States and Europe." Wang Baofu's assessment is that on the eve of the summit, Putin "remained hopeful for some compromise" on the U.S. plan to deploy ABM systems in Eastern Europe, "but no breakthrough was scored, as had been expected." Russia was reacting both to the failure of its Western counterparts to finally ratify the CFE, and to the continued discussion of the ABM plan, Wang wrote.

"This move of Russia's indicates firstly its reluctance to make any additional unilateral compromises on the major issue of national security in the wake of the increase of its overall national strength, and secondly, its unwillingness to sit idle and remain indifferent as the U.S. is attempting to deploy an anti-missile system in the Eastern Europe, in a bid to seriously affect the Russia-U.S. strategic balance, since military might represents a core pillar for Russia to prop itself up as a major global power," Wang wrote. He called the U.S.-EU-Russian relationship a "vital, crucial factor that has a bearing on peace and stability in Europe…. Since Russia is obviously in a weak position strategically, its security concerns will naturally multiply, and this fact should be understood fully. With a grave disequilibrium of its strategic striking contrast of strength with the U.S., which has bent on seizing or using Europe to beef up its strategic superiority over Russia. Hence, it stands to reason that Russia has responded excessively." Wang called for giving new "vitality" to arms control, but more, "to increase the strategic mutual trust between nations, completely renounce the Cold War thinking and accomplish common security." For more on this, see this week's Russia/C.I.S. Digest; and InDepth, "'Something Is Rotten in the U.K.': Great Britain Escalates Crisis With Russia," by Helga Zepp-LaRouche.

In Memoriam: Philippines' Ronnie Velasco, 1927-2007

July 18 (EIRNS)—Geronimo "Ronnie" Velasco, who built the Philippines' power system, including Southeast Asia's first nuclear power plant, while serving as the Minister of Energy and CEO of the Philippines National Oil Company during the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos from 1972 to 1986, died on July 17 at the age of 80 in San Francisco, of a heart attack. Velasco, a close friend of EIR and the international LaRouche movement, was not only a trailblazer for his nation and for the developing sector generally, in the development of nuclear energy, but he also had re-emerged as a critical player in the current fight to revive nuclear energy in the Philippines. He will be missed by his nation and by his many friends around the world.

Velasco was unceremoniously dumped from his position as "energy czar" in 1986, when George Shultz and Paul Wolfowitz orchestrated a "regime change" military coup against the Marcos regime. The immediate consequence of that imperial act was privatization of the state energy companies and mothballing of the completed nuclear plant, thus destroying in one shot the potential for the Philippines to emerge as a modern industrial nation, as envisioned by the Marcos plan for 11 major industrial projects. Twenty years later, in 2006, Velasco released a book, Trailblazing: The Quest for Energy Self-Reliance, which revealed both the dynamic development policies of those years, and the lies and foreign manipulation which led to the 1986 destruction of the Philippines' potential.

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