|Asia News Digest
Deja Vu in Pakistan: Another 'Viceroy' in Action
Dec. 4 (EIRNS)According to a senior Pakistani correspondent close to the Army, Syed Saleem Shahzad, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, made a direct appearance on Pakistan's political stage on Dec. 3, with a call for all political parties to participate in the national elections scheduled for Jan. 8. She met with several politicians, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and insisted that he take part in the polls. This is direct interference in another sovereign nation's affairsor is it that Patterson was told by the powers-that-be to ignore the fact that Pakistan is indeed a sovereign nation?
This open intervention by a senior U.S. diplomat follows prolonged backroom efforts by the Bush Administration to dictate Pakistan's strategic and domestic political issues, as well as matters related to foreign policy, such as Kashmir, to bring Islamabad in line with the U.S.-led "war on terror" and its regional policy on Iran and Afghanistan, for the remaining year of Bush's term.
In fact, the trend goes back over the years. In 1989, during the "Daddy" Bush Presidency, after Pakistani military ruler Gen. Zia ul-Haq died in a "mysterious" plane explosion, along with the U.S. Ambassador, a three-star American general, and a host of Pakistani generals, and the India representative of Der Spiegel, saw during his visit to Pakistan the U.S. ambassador (better known to the Pakistanis as "Viceroy") Robert Oakley, personally checking out the ballot boxes to be used in the upcoming elections. At the time, with Zia ul-Haq out of the way and the defeated Soviet Army hightailing it out of Afghanistan, Washington was keen to take the military uniform off the Pakistani rulers and bring back democracy.
Some things do not change.
China, India Want Greater Say in World Financial Bodies
Dec. 5 (EIRNS)With international financial institutions in deep trouble, both sides at the second China-India Financial Dialogue, held in Beijing, sought a greater role in the management of those institutions, including the World Bank, the IMF, and the Asian Development Bank. "We must have a greater say in the management of these institutions, both to our position at the board level and to our position at the executive management level," said Indian Finance Secretary B. Subba Rao, who led the Indian side. The Chinese team was led by Li Yong, Vice Minister in the Ministry of Finance.
In the statement signed at the meeting, the two countries vowed to boost exchanges and cooperation to develop bond markets and expand channels for direct financing, gradually open domestic capital markets, and boost financial supervision to guard against risks brought about by short-term, cross-border capital flows. The two countries also pledged to improve macro-economic controls, promote renewable and clean energy development, and usher in more sustainable, resources-saving, and environment-friendly production and consumption models.
U.S. Pressures India Against Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline
Dec. 5 (EIRNS)Notwithstanding the latest National Intelligence Estimate's exposure of the fraud perpetrated by the Cheney-led neocons, who claim that Iran's nuclear power program is for building nuclear weapons, Washington is still hell-bent to pressure countries interested in doing business with Iran. One such country is India.
On Dec. 5, Tehran reported that India is continuing with its plans to import natural gas through a pipeline via Pakistan. The government-run Indian news agency, Press Trust of India (PTI), cited a U.S. government official saying that during his upcoming visit to India, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson will try to prevail upon India's Manmohan Singh government to abandon the project. Paulson's visit will start in Kolkata on Dec. 9.
This is not the first time that the U.S. made known its opposition to the pipeline, which would benefit India, Pakistan, and Iran. In April 2007, a number of senior U.S. lawmakers, headed by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), sent a joint letter to the Indian premier, calling on India to curtail its military and economic ties with Tehran. The letter declared, "Regarding Iran, we are deeply concerned by India's increasing cooperation with that country, including the exchange of visits between high-level officials, enhanced military ties, and negotiations of agreements to establish closer economic relations."
A number of Indian political leaders over the years made it known to the Bush Administration that India's relations with Iran are unrelated to New Delhi's relations with Washington, and are non-negotiable. India has a dire need of natural gas, and Iran has the surplus gas to supply. Beside a strong economic and trade relationship, India also assists Iran's military through training, maintenance, and the provision of equipment.
China: Low-wage Era Must End
Dec. 3 (EIRNS)"China's economy cannot continue to grow in the unbalanced condition," in which already low workers' wages rise more slowly than the overall economy, states a signed commentary in the Beijing News, the China Securities Journal reported today. The article appeared as the Chinese government launched its most important annual economic policy meeting, the Central Economic Work Conference, in Beijing today. Inflation, now at 4.5%, is a key issue on the conference agenda, and Xinhua today quoted Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao saying that "prices have been on the rise these days and I'm aware that even a one-yuan [13 U.S. cents] increase in prices will affect people's lives."
The Beijing News article says that China is going to enter an era of "wage increase and tax reduction." This year, "government taxes and enterprise profits both grew faster than the growth rate of GDP, while the growth rate of workers' wages is lower than that of GDP. We can probably say that the large growth of enterprise profits and financial revenues is happening at the expense of workers' low wages." The governments of both Shanghai, China's largest industrial city, and Guangdong Province have recently announced that they will take on the problem of low wages. In Guangdong, which had been the center of China's low-cost exports, the government will initiate laws next year, to force enterprises to increase wages. Policies initiated in Guangdong and Shanghai have "exemplary meaning" for the rest of China, the Beijing News states. "What Guangdong and Shanghai did is just to answer the call of ... President Hu Jintao" at the recent Communist Party National Congress, when Hu said that the government had to ensure rising wages for the workforce.
"The building of a long-term system to raise wages should be deemed as a crucial reform to effectively stimulate domestic needs, remedy the imbalance of China's economic development and the national income distribution, and boost the sustainable development of the national economy," the Beijing News wrote.
China Supports Russian Election Results
Dec. 4 (EIRNS)The Chinese government has made it clear that it supports the outcome of the Dec. 2 Russian national Duma elections. The new Duma "was the choice of the Russian people," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a news conference in Beijing today. "The election was held smoothly," Qin Gang said. "China believes this was the choice of the Russian people. We believe the new term of the Russian parliament will make an important contribution to the development of China-Russia relations."
At the same event, Qin Gang said that the Chinese government had expressed its "grave concern" that the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and its fleet had gone through the Taiwan Strait on its return to its base in Japan, after the Chinese side had refused the ship permission to dock in Hong Kong on Nov. 21. Since mainland China considers Taiwan part of the Chinese nation, passing through the Taiwan Strait is considered traversing national territory.
The U.S. Navy had informed the Chinese side that the route was chosen due to stormy weather, and that there was no misunderstanding with Washington about the matter. However, Beijing had asked the U.S. side to act with discretion in this highly sensitive area.
Indonesia Nuclear Chief: 'Let's Get It Going!'
Dec. 7 (EIRNS)The Indonesian National Nuclear Energy Agency head, Hudi Hastowo, declared that it's time for Indonesia to live up to its new law mandating the construction of a nuclear power plant. "We've been waiting for the construction of the plant to begin for years," Hastowo told the Jakarta Post Dec. 6. "I hope the government can issue a decree saying 'yes, the construction can start."
Indonesia passed a law earlier this year on long-term development, which called for a nuclear power plant by 2017. There are three nuclear research facilities already, and significant experience with technical and safety issues. Resistance from environmentalists is holding up the construction at the designated site in Central Java, which Hastowo said was based on fear mongering, not fact, and that the government must proceed by issuing a Presidential decree.