From Volume 7, Issue 23 of EIR Online, Published June 3, 2008
Asia News Digest

Indian Minister: Keep Politics Out of Myanmar Aid

May 25 (EIRNS)—Speaking at the International Pledging Conference in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, India's Minister of Commerce and Power, Jairam Ramesh, who led a delegation there, urged the international community to keep politics out of the aid process to Myanmar.

Ramesh met Prime Minister U Thein Sein, who expressed gratitude for India's prompt and generous assistance and commitment to assist in rehabilitation efforts, according to an Indian government statement. Ramesh also had a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Myanmar to spearhead aid efforts. India has sent two ships and six aircraft carrying food, tents, and medical supplies. Another Indian aircraft is expected to reach Myanmar next week with more relief material. Two Indian medical teams, comprising 47 personnel, are currently in Pyapon and Bogale, towns in the affected areas.

Ramesh pointed out that his statement should be read in the context of the controversy that has broken out after Cyclone Nargis hit the Irrawady Delta, when the military junta barred international aid agencies and foreign countries from directly distributing relief materials or sending in foreign rescue workers.

First Batch of Russian Nuclear Fuel Arrives in India

May 27 (EIRNS)—Enriched uranium fuel for use in the Russian-supplied reactor for the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project has arrived in India. The plant KNPP-1 will go into operation later this year. Two Russian reactors, designated VVER-1000, are being built at Koodankulam. Each reactor will generate 1,000 MW of electricity. KNPP-2 will be commissioned six months later, Indian authorities said.

India currently cannot freely purchase fuel or any equipment for production of nuclear energy, because it is not a member of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Koodankulam is an exception, since its construction deal was signed with the Soviet Union 20 years ago, when Russia was not a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

In February 2008, the two countries signed a new agreement to construct four more reactors for Koodankulam. In accordance with the agreement, Russia is obliged to supply nuclear fuel for the reactors and the re-export of used uranium. However, to receive the fuel under the new agreement, India will have to receive consensus support from the 45 member-nation NSG.

Asked when the first reactor would be commissioned, S.K. Jain, chairman and managing director, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), said: "This is the first of its kind. A lot of checks and tests are required. We do not want to hazard a guess.... We are on course for the commissioning of the first unit."

The KNPP reactors will use enriched uranium as fuel, and light water as both moderator and coolant. While Russia is supplying the design and all the equipment for the two reactors, it is the NPCIL which is building the units. Russia will supply the enriched uranium fuel for the KNPP reactors for their lifetime.

India and Pakistan Propose Stronger Cooperation

May 27 (EIRNS)—The six-decade-old India-Pakistan hostilities are now being revisited by both the nations, in the light of a changing regional relationship brought about by the closer collaboration among Russia, India, and China. Following the May 15 meeting of the foreign ministers of the three nations at Yekaterinberg, Russia, where the troika got closer in discussing regional security and stability, a number of positive developments have taken place. One of those was Indian External Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Pakistan and his meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Gillani's party chief, Asif Ali Zardari.

Four days after meeting Pakistan's new civilian leadership, Mukherjee said on May 26 in New Delhi that the two sides had discussed new ideas for building confidence, and responded positively to a suggestion to create a special economic zone along the border.

"A lot of new ideas to build confidence between the two countries were discussed when I met Asif Ali Zardari [co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, which leads the ruling coalition] and Nawaz Sharif [leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N)]," Mukherjee said. "We have to find out how to implement these ideas."

Meanwhile, Zardari has called for a grand reconciliation with India. This would include reduction of troops along the Line of Actual Control in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, and creation of economic zones, populated by Indian and Pakistani entrepreneurs. Zardari said his model for India-Pakistan relations is to create economic zones along the border, use Pakistan's coal reserves in Thar to generate power that could be exported to India, and even acquire gas from friendly Muslim states that could be supplied to India. "Pakistan could act as a force multiplier for the Indian economy through increased cooperation in key sectors like energy," Zardari said.

Indian Press Notes Shift on SCO at Yekaterinburg

May 29 (EIRNS)—At the May 13 trilateral meeting in Yekaterinburg, Russia, while the Indian shift to side with Russia and China on the issues of Kosovo and Iran was most useful, "the most remarkable shift in India's position came on the issue of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)," wrote The Hindu's Russia correspondent Vladimir Radyuhin today. Radyuhin wrote that India, less than a year ago, was indicating that it wanted to "steer clear" of "aligning with the SCO in military, strategic and political terms," although it has official Observer status and wants to increase trade and economic cooperation. "However, in Yekaterinburg [Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab] Mukherjee for the first time went on record to say that India aspired to full membership in the group.

Korea's Lee and Taiwan's KMT Head Wu Visit China

May 29 (EIRNS)—In the wake of the Russia-India-China meeting in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in mid-May, the government of China continues to engage in breakout diplomacy in the region.

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak and Chinese President Hu Jintao met in Beijing and announced an upgrading of the relationship between the two countries to "Strategic Partnership," and agreed on political and economic cooperation in a number of fields. Lee invited Hu to visit South Korea, and the invitation was accepted for the second half of the year. The warm reception given to Lee in China belies rumors of China-Korea discord.

Lee has now met with U.S. President George Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, and is scheduled to meet Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. Korean diplomacy is also active in building ties to Central Asia and to Southwest Asian Arab countries.

A trip by Wu Poh-hsiung, chairman of Taiwan's KMT party, to the Mainland, is precedent-breaking, since no high-level official of the KMT has been on the Mainland since 1949. The KMT has just taken over Taiwan's leadership, in the person of Ma Ying-jeou.

Wu's extended trip started in Nanking, included Beijing, and will end at Shanghai. Wu met with Hu Jintao, in the latter's capacity as head of the Chinese Communist Party. Hu expressed deep gratitude for the aid which Taiwan has offered to deal with the earthquake, and which China has accepted. Hu's invitation to Wu to attend the Olympic games was accepted.

Both sides made it clear that peaceful cooperation in development and trade offered the most to both parties. Taiwan has skills and capital that China can use, while Taiwan's own growth has slowed and is threatened by developments in the West. A follow-on meeting to discuss mostly technical issues of communications and transportation, such as landing rights and visas for travel, is scheduled to start in two weeks.

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