From Volume 6, Issue 46 of EIR Online, Published Nov. 13, 2007
Asia News Digest

Vital Europe-Asia Transit Route To Be Built

Nov. 9 (EIRNS)—On Nov. 3, ministers of eight countries, meeting in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, agreed to an $18.7 billion investment to improve Central Asia's network of roads, railroads, airports, and seaports to make the region a vital transit route for trade between Europe and Asia. The countries participating were Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People's Republic of China, Kazakstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The agreement was supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and five other multilateral institutions that were present at the meeting. The plan calls for six new transport corridors, mainly roads and rail links, over the next decade.

Although the financial commitment, and the overall objective of developing the trade routes, fell far short of what is required and what EIR has been proposing for almost a decade, the decision by the eight countries to look at the potential and importance of the project at this time of international financial crisis, shows courage and foresight.

"Central Asia is becoming a pivotal region in Eurasia, a vital land-bridge linking Europe, Russian Federation, People's Republic of China, South Asia, and the Middle East," the ministers said in a joint declaration at the end of the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program.

Even though Central Asia lies at the center of the Eurasian continent, less than 1% of all trade between Europe and Asia currently goes through the region. Inadequate transport infrastructure and cumbersome border processes have resulted in nearly all trade going by sea.

India's Push on Electric Power Brings in China and Japan

Nov. 9 (EIRNS)—Having set itself an ambitious target of providing another 78,000 megawatts of electrical power for India by 2012, New Delhi is in the process of developing cooperation with foreign power companies.

India's largest engineering and construction company, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), has signed a joint venture agreement with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Tokyo, to set up a manufacturing plant to supply super-critical steam turbines and generators for power plants with a capacity of 500 MW to 1,000 MW. Manufacturing operations at the $215 million facility will start in 2009. Both companies will invest $73 million in the project and the balance will be raised as a loan. The probable site for the project is at Hazira in Gujarat. Mitsubishi will hold 49% of the project.

The Essar Group, with a current construction schedule of the three power stations rated at 1,200 MW each, has placed an order with China's Harbin Power for equipment for two of the projects. Harbin has a production capacity of 30,000 MW per year. Essar will import four boiler turbo generator packages and other materials for the its projects at Jamnagar in Gujarat and Mahan in Madhya Pradesh. The order has an estimated value of $1 billion. The total investment in each power station will be about $1.2 billion.

Based on the progress visualized by government planners for the nation during the next two decades, the country's power-generating capacity needs to increase to 400,000 MW by 2030, from the existing 130,000 MW.

Pro-Globalizers of India: Watch Out!

Nov. 9 (EIRNS)—A report posted by Washington Post correspondent Rama Lakshmi from Gurgaon, a few kilometers east of Delhi, shows the growing vulnerability of the domestic employers, and employees, following the mindless liberalization and globalization policies adopted, since 2000, by the last two Indian governments. Having adopted an export-based growth model, thus jeopardizing the future of millions of poor employees in order to earn foreign exchange and generate GDP growth, the collapse of the U.S. dollar has set a cat among the pigeons in India's new-growth sectors. According to Rama Lakshmi, already 4 million poor Indians, who were living from hand to mouth by working in the cut-throat garment industry, have already lost their livelihood, and the report indicates that another 4 million are on the chopping block.

In recent months, the Indian currency, the rupee, gained significantly against the hapless dollar. On Jan. 1, the dollar was worth 46 Indian rupees, and now it is 39 Indian rupees to a dollar. The collapse of the dollar has hit the poor in India two ways. First, the reduction of purchasing power of the Americans, who were the target for sales of the Indian employers, has reduced demand. Second, the higher value of rupee has made the Made in India garments more expensive than the garments of those poor nations, such as Vietnam, whose currency is linked fully to the dollar.

The 4 million new unemployment in the garment industry caused by the weakening dollar is at least twice as many jobs as India's much-vaunted Information Technology directly provides.

China Announces Long-Term Nuclear Power Plan

Nov. 9 (EIRNS)—The National Development and Reform Commission's (NDRC) plans on national nuclear power development (2005-20) has been approved by the State Council, the NDRC's website says.

According to the plans, the installed capacity of nuclear power in operation will reach 40 gigawatts (GWe) in 2020, with about 18 GWe of nuclear power projects under construction. China has 11 nuclear power reactors in commercial operation, 5 under construction, and several more about to start construction. The proportion of nuclear power in the total installed capacity in China will increase from less than the current 2% to 4%, and the annual output of nuclear power will reach 260-280 billion kilowatt-hours in 2020. Construction of these projects requires an estimated total investment of more than $60 billion.

According to the plans, based on the import, assimilation, and absorption of new generations of nuclear power stations with 1,000 MW pressurized water reactors, China will independently design and manufacture advanced pressurized-water-reactor technology and be capable of building a large quantity of nuclear power stations in 2020.

China's total installed power generation capacity presently is about 508 GWe (15% growth in 2005). In 2006 some 102 GWe of generating capacity was added—a 20% growth—and this rate of growth increased slightly to 20.8% through June 2007. About three-quarters of the power is used in industry.

Major Setback for War on Terror in Afghanistan

Nov. 6 (EIRNS)—At least 90 individuals, including five members of the Afghan Parliament, were killed on Nov. 6 in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan, when a suicide bomber walked into a sugar factory where a parliamentary delegation was carrying out an economic fact-finding mission. Opposition spokesman and former Commerce Minister Mostafa Kazemi, and four other parliamentary deputies, were among the dead.

The attack is by far the most devastating by any suicide bomber in Afghanistan so far. In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, expressing his grief over the incident, said that more than 700 Afghan police have been killed in attacks and fighting this year.

In the early hours of Nov. 6, sixty Afghan militants (identified by foreign military spokesman as "Taliban"), on motorbikes and pickup trucks, overran a district center in central Afghanistan, firing on the town from a mountain outlook, pushing out the police and cutting off the town's main road, officials said. The district, in Day Kundi province, is the third that the militants have overrun in the last week. Two districts in the western province of Farah, bordering Iran, are also in Taliban hands.

Major Charles Anthony, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said Taliban militants last Fall carried out similar tactics of briefly overrunning district centers before "hightailing it into the hills."

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