From Volume 6, Issue 44 of EIR Online, Published Oct. 30, 2007
Asia News Digest

Former President: India Must Have Nuclear Self-Sufficiency

Oct. 24 (EIRNS)—India must seek to achieve self-sufficiency in nuclear power through its development of thorium reactors, former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, said in an interview in London on Oct. 23.

Kalam, widely acknowledged as the father of India's rocket program, noted that India has a shortage of uranium, but one of the largest reserves of thorium in the world, abundant in the gray sands of India's southwestern beaches.

Thorium is also a fuel, but it is not a fissile material, Kalam explained. "You have to convert it into a fissile material through the fast breeder reactor, which we are building. Our scientists are busy developing this," Kalam said, "and in the next five to seven years, thorium-fuel-based nuclear reactor will be a reality."

Although the interviewer in London could not persuade Kalam to comment on the U.S.-India nuclear deal, which has run into difficulties, in early September, during his interview "Walk the Talk" with the NDTV, he had said the "Indo-U.S. nuclear deal is not about India's strategic interests, but aimed at adding 1,000 megawatts of power every year to take it to a level of 20,000 MW by 2020."

"I feel it is about energy. After all, we have got a vision. The nuclear scientists have got a vision. Every year they want to add a thousand MW of power. So the whole mission is how do you get 1,000 MW per year." Then he went on to point out that thorium reactors will be for India's self-sufficiency. Since thorium is found in abundance in India, Kalam told the NDTV, "our nuclear scientists started working on thorium-based reactor. It is a very tough area in research and development." But, he said he believes that India would have thorium-based nuclear reactors for power generation in the "next five to seven years." (See InDepth for "Why the India-U.S. Nuclear Deal Hit a Brick Wall, and What To Do About It," by Ramtanu Maitra.)

Warmer Weather Increases Rice Productivity in China

Oct. 24 (EIRNS)—Warmer weather that has prevailed in recent years in northern China has led to increased rice productivity, according to the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

IRRI has tracked a northward shift in rice-growing areas in China, which is home to a fifth of humanity and produces 35% of the world's rice.

Writing for the IRRI journal, Rice Today, geographer Robert Hijmans said: "While economic development, the shift to high-value vegetables and land conversion steered farmers away from rice farming in southern China," another factor that may have contributed is warmer weather.

He pointed out that northern states of China, Liaoning, Jilin, Nei Mongol, and Heilongjiang, now account for 11.5% of China's rice-growing areas, up from 2.7% in 1979.

The four northern provinces mentioned also saw "relatively strong increases in yield" over the period, Hijmans said. Warming in high latitudes such as northern China, where a 2.5 degree-Celsius rise in minimum temperature in Heilongjiang was monitored over the past 40 years, has been above the global average of 0.03 degrees Celsius rise per year, he said.

Despite this rise in productivity, China will continue to feel rice shortage. According to Li Changjiang, director of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, China, the world's largest rice consumer, is in talks with Japan, and is preparing to import more rice from this near neighbor.

China Has Softened on Border Dispute with India

Oct. 26 (EIRNS)—According to Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was in Harbin, China earlier this week, attending the triangular talks among the foreign ministers of Russia, China, and India, India and China have established a working group to prepare a framework for enhanced cooperation. He also pointed out that Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told him that China is willing to settle border disputes with India on the basis of "adjustments and mutual concessions." This is surely a shift in China's position on the border dispute that exists between the two nations.

A number of events, and initiatives may have influenced Beijing's position, including India's decision to put on ice the nuclear deal with the United States, which undoubtedly pleased China.

In addition, India's Congress Party president, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, is presently in China on a week-long visit. She will have meetings with Premier Wen Jiabao and politburo member Liu Qi, as well as call on former Foreign Minister Huang Hua, who played a major role in fostering bilateral ties in the early stages of Sino-Indian relations, in which Mrs. Gandhi's husband, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, assassinated in 1991, had played a very important role. Beijing points out that Mrs. Gandhi will be the first leader of a foreign political party to meet with Hu and Wen, both re-elected to the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee at the first plenum of the 17th National Congress of the Party.

Paulson Strong-Arms India's Financial Sector

Oct. 26 (EIRNS)—U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will press India in a visit there next week not to restrict its capital flows, his top deputy for international affairs said on Oct. 26. "We will encourage the Indian government to work closely with the private sector to ensure that any regulations they put in place are streamlined and really don't inhibit the flow of capital," said David McCormick, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.

Early this week, India's central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), reiterated its earlier stance of a complete ban on participatory notes (P-notes). P-notes are the financial instruments used by investors, or hedge funds, that are not registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), to invest in Indian securities. India-based brokerages buy India-based securities and then issue participatory notes to foreign investors.

Any dividends or capital gains collected from the underlying securities go back to the investors. The RBI believes that the SEBI and Finance Ministry will not curb the inflow of funds through tight monitoring of P-notes.

China Central Bank Head: Liquidity Crisis Not Over

Oct. 21 (EIRNS)—People's Bank of China deputy governor Wu Xiaoling warned that central banks' liquidity pumping has done nothing to solve the world liquidity crisis, at the 16th meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee in Washington yesterday. Wu had earlier made clear to Western economists, that China was not going to upvalue its currency, the renminbi. The situation in the "major advanced economies" is "posing significant downside risks to global growth," she said. "It is all the more urgent a priority to strengthen surveillance of the systematically important advanced economies in order to safeguard global financial stability and economic prosperity. This round of adjustment has not yet come to an end. Despite the major central banks' liquidity injection, credit conditions are unlikely to be restored within a short period of time."

Wu said that is necessary to "thoroughly analyze" the roots of the financial turmoil, re-examine the role of financial innovation and the development of derivatives, as well as the associated risks, Xinhua reported today.

First China-Russia Intermodal Container Railway Transport

Oct. 22 (EIRNS)—China's Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) and the state-owned China Railway Container company are cooperating to create the first intermodal container railway transport service along the "Euro-Asian Continental Bridge" railroad from China's Yellow Sea port of Lianyungang, via Xinjiang, western China, to Kazakhstan and Russia. This route was first opened in 1992, when the last rail link was opened between China and Kazakhstan, but container traffic has not been growing as rapidly as planned. Using the "Continental Bridge" cuts transport time from eastern China to Russia and Europe by 50%, to just 26 days. China Shipping, the sixth-largest container shipping line in the world, began the first intermodal container transport service between China and Russia on Oct. 8, Marshall Cavendish Business Information of Hong Kong reported today. The company will expand its shipping, since Russian imports of Chinese and Japanese products has risen 37% and 54% each in the first half of 2007. Domestic shipping, from Shanghai to the northeastern cities of Dalian, Harbin, and Hefei have grown 70% this year. China's containerized rail cargo, at 3 million TEUs, is still only 3% of national rail cargo, in contrast to 20% in the U.S. and 30% in Europe.

On Oct. 20, a delegation from the border city of Tumen, in China's northeastern Jilin Province, went to Partizansk, Primorye, Far Eastern Russia, to sign a cooperation agreement on joint investment in coal and lumber production, the Vladivostok Times reported. The Chinese delegation then went to Khabarovsk, Russia, to discuss with the Far Eastern Railway authorities, the potential for opening a direct rail connection from Tumen to Khasan, Russia—both are stations, east and west, on the North Korean border. A potential rail link across North Korea, would cut 200-300 km from southern Primorye, on the Pacific Coast, and China, from the current border link Suifenhe-Grodekovo. The new rail link would create new economic potential for the seaports of southern Primorye. Freight traffic has been increasing by 1 million tons a year at the Suifenhe-Grodenkovo border crossing.

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