From Volume 7, Issue 18 of EIR Online, Published Apr. 29, 2008
Asia News Digest

Balochistan Tense over Food Shortage

April 21 (EIRNS)—A steep rise in the price of flour, the staple cereal of the people of Balochistan, and the difficulty of obtaining it any price, have angered the Baloch tribes in this southwestern province of Pakistan. The northern part of Balochistan borders Afghanistan's Kandahar province and has sheltered many Taliban leaders since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and ousting of the Taliban from power in the Winter of 2001. The southern part of Balochistan borders Iran, and reports indicate that U.S.-sponsored insurgency movements have been instigating turmoil in the adjacent Iranian province of Balochistan-Sistan.

The flour crisis was first reported in early January and it is evident that Islamabad has ignored it and let it get worse. Now, the government has stopped providing flour in the "fair price" shops, and has raised the ex-mill (wholesale) flour price to about 380 rupees for a 20 kilo bag—a rise of about Rs.60.

However, since the fair price shops are not distributing flour, Rs.380 is an "imaginary" price, and the Balochis have to buy it in the open market, for upwards of Rs.520. What has made the situation even worse is that even at this high price, flour is not available at any time of the day.

India Seeks Saudi Investment in Infrastructure for Food

April 21 (EIRNS)—Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee called on Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz within a few hours of his arrival in Riyadh on April 19. The prime objective of the visit, New Delhi officials said, is to develop a long-term strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The immediate concern of India is to invite Saudi Arabia to invest heavily in India's dilapidated infrastructure. In return, India is to assure supply of food to Saudi Arabia and its neighboring allies.

Speaking at a press conference, Mukherjee pointed out that he had apprised Abdullah of India's requirement of a massive investment of $500-600 billion to develop its infrastructure. At present, Saudi Arabia fulfills nearly 26% of India's oil requirements.

India has already invited Saudi students to India for higher studies, under the King Abdullah Scholarships Program (KASP). The government has identified the Educational Consultants India Ltd. as a single window coordinating agency for placement of the students.

India: Iran's Nuclear Status Is IAEA's Business, Not U.S.A.'s

April 23 (EIRNS)—In a tersely worded statement to the press in New Delhi today, India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, "We tell the U.S., do not take on yourself the responsibility whether Iran was manufacturing weapons or not. Leave it to the IAEA, the designated authority." When the press asked him about his views on Iran's program, Mukherjee replied: "It is not for me or for Iran to certify.... It is for the IAEA to convince themselves whether [Tehran's program] is peaceful."

On the same day in Vienna, the IAEA said Iran has agreed to cooperate in clarifying whether it has tried to develop nuclear weapons. The IAEA considered the statement a positive step.

India-Sri Lanka Electricity Link-Up Plan

April 25 (EIRNS)—India's state-owned PowerGrid transmission utility has prepared a report proposing to lay power transmission cable on the bed of the Gulf of Mannar, which separates the southern peninsular of India from Sri Lanka. The width of the Gulf varies from 12 to 20 miles.

On the Indian side, the underwater cable will be connected to the southern Indian power grid at the Tamil Nadu city of Madurai, through an overhead transmission line. On the Sri Lanka side, the underwater cable will be linked to that country's network at the city of Anuradhapura through an overhead line. The report prepared by PowerGrid said the power supply scenario between India and Sri Lanka will allow them to exchange about 500 megawatts of electricity by 2009-10.

Both India and Sri Lanka are power-short nations. Sri Lanka, which has a generating capacity of about 1,500 MW, depends heavily on hydropower and petroleum. In recent years, rapacious financial vultures, waving environmental hocus-pocus, are trying to sell the Sri Lankan authorities on solar.

On the Indian side, it is becoming evident that the southern part of the country will be installing a number of large Russia-supplied nuclear power plants. This could create surplus power locally. Instead of lugging the surplus electricity up north, and losing a significant amount of power in the process, it makes sense to send it to Sri Lanka and protect that small nation from the greenie vultures.

South Korean President Plans Asian Development Alliances

April 21 (EIRNS)—South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who was elected last December, and whose Grand National Party swept the Congressional vote earlier this month, completed a visit to the United States on April 19, and went on to a meeting with Prime Minister Fukuda today in Japan. According to a leading member of the President's delegation, Lee will be improving South Korea's relations with several allies, relations which suffered under the previous government of Roh Moo-hyun. These allies include the United States, Japan, Russia, and the Southeast Asian nations, with a primary focus on Korea's contribution to large-scale development in the region.

Lee has deployed two delegations to Russia over the past year, to discuss his well-known proposal to use South Korean technology and North Korean labor in the development of eastern Russia. South Korea's highly developed nuclear capacity could be used for building nuclear plants abroad—Seoul has already offered to help the Philippines. In fact, South Korea is talking to the Saudis and other Southwest and Central Asian nations about exporting entire cities—with industries, housing, transportation, and so forth, in a single package.

Japan, China, South Korea Plan an Annual Meeting

April 21 (EIRNS)—The three countries which became known as the "Plus-3," for their cooperation with Southeast Asia in the "ASEAN-Plus 3," will now meet annually on their own, according to Yomiuri in Japan. The plan will be discussed by Japanese Prime Minster Yasuo Fukuda and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in their meeting today, and when Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Japan in early May.

In the meeting between Lee and Fukuda, both emphasized that historical issues must be faced, but should not interfere with cooperation on mutual development issues. The "shuttle diplomacy" between the two nations, which stalled under mutual recriminations between the Roh Administration in South Korea and the Koizumi Administration in Japan, is to be reestablished.

Chinese Leaders Call for Calm as Protests Escalate

April 21 (EIRNS)—Thousands of people attended rallies protesting the Western media coverage of China all around the world yesterday, and inside China, demonstrations particularly aimed at France, continued. The Chinese Internet search engine Baidu turns up about 211,000 entries supporting a boycott of the French retail company Carrefour. There were several thousand people at demonstrations in both Paris and London, where people protested at the Parliament and the BBC. France is a particular target because of the violent mobbing of a wheelchair-bound Chinese woman athlete during the Olympic torch parade in Paris.

Yesterday, the People's Daily published a front-page editorial calling on the Chinese population to respond rationally to the international pressure on China. The editorial called on people to "cherish patriotism while expressing it in a rational way.... As citizens, we have the responsibility to express our patriotic enthusiasm calmly and rationally, and express patriotic aspiration in an orderly and legal manner," the commentary said. "The more complicated the international situation is, the more calm, wisdom, and unity need to be shown by the Chinese people."

China Has Only 12 Days of Coal Reserves; Needs Nuclear!

April 24 (EIRNS)—China's national coal stockpile has fallen to just 12 days' worth, and in some provinces it is down to less than one week, Wang Yeping, the vice chairman of the China Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), announced at a news conference April 22. Domestic production costs and import costs are rising fast.

China's power stations are also in trouble. As costs rise, 70% of the power plants are suffering heavy losses, Assets Supervision and Administration Commission official Liu Nanchang said on April 11. This week, Beijing reported that the producer price of raw coal was up 27.4% in January. Over the past year, coal prices were up 10%, imposing another 30 billion yuan in costs on power companies. The big five power generators have been able to sign contracts for less than 50% of the coal they need.

Overall, demand for coal has been "rocketing," People's Daily reported April 23, due to the needs of the iron, steel, and chemical engineering industries. Further, China does not have enough rail lines to move these enormous amounts of coal around the country.

China was increasing coal-fired power plant capacity at the rate of 100 gigawatts a year, as of 2006, the New Scientist reported today. This would mean China is building two new plants a week, since a typical plant is one gigawatt.

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