From Volume 7, Issue 32 of EIR Online, Published August 5, 2008
Asia News Digest

Indian, Pakistani Troops Clash on Kashmiri Border

July 28 (EIRNS)—The British-led gameplan, painstakingly implemented by British MI6 and Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to further dismember Pakistan and India to create an independent Kashmir, led to a clash between Indian and Pakistani troops along the disputed Kashmir borders today.

Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted an Indian Army spokesman that a group of Pakistani troops crossed into Indian-occupied Kashmir on July 28, and shot dead an Indian soldier, sparking a gun battle. Between 10 and 12 Pakistani soldiers crossed the Line of Control and entered the Kupwara sector, and after a verbal confrontation, they killed an Indian soldier, Indian Army spokesman Anil Kumar Mathur said. He said the killing triggered an exchange of small arms fire, which was continuing into the evening. According to the spokesman, Pakistani soldiers crossed 200 meters into Indian territory to object to the setting up of a post by Indian soldiers.

Indian and Pakistani forces have exchanged periodic gunfire since May, but the July 28 clashes appear to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the ongoing peace process between the two nations. The two had announced a ceasefire all along their borders in November 2003, and the ceasefire had held until recently. The conflict over Kashmir has been at the root of two wars between India and Pakistan.

The exchange of fire followed bomb blasts in two important Indian cities—Bangalore and Ahmedabad—last week. Pakistan's western frontier bordering Afghanistan has become ungovernable, and the MI6-ISI-led insurgency west of the Indus River, funded by Afghan opium, is threatening a violent secessionist movement to carve out of Pakistan an independent nation sandwiched between the Indus and Afghanistan.

Thailand To Sell Rice to Food-Short Nigeria and Iran

Aug. 1 (EIRNS)—Thailand, the world's largest rice exporter, is discussing selling at least 850,000 tons of rice to Iran and Nigeria, after government stocks swelled this Summer, helping to dispel any lingering concern over food security for Thailand itself. Nigeria is looking to buy 250,000 tons and Iran 600,000 tons, the same quantity it has bought from Thailand in previous years, Thai government spokeswoman Suparat Nakboonnam told Reuters. "We need to spend a couple of months working on the details. It will not take longer than that," she said. The first release of state-held stocks since November 2006 comes after inventories rose by more than a fifth to 2.57 million tons since January.

Thailand's Finance Minister, Surapong Suebwonglee, who chaired a National Rice Committee meeting on July 31, said the government would continue to sell off bits of the stockpile after the Iranian and Nigerian deals were completed. "We will sell gradually, as we don't want the sales to hurt Thai rice prices," he told reporters after the meeting.

Thailand is expecting to harvest 7.6 million tons of paddy during the August-September period, up from around 4 million in the same period of last year, according to Agriculture Ministry data.

Rising Violence in Afghanistan Threatens All Relief Work

Aug. 1 (EIRNS)—The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) said today that unrest has spread in the countryside, and welfare agencies are being forced to reduce aid delivery, even though drought and price rises were having a severe impact on the poor in Afghanistan. A statement issued by 100 non-governmental aid agencies released today pointed to a 50% rise in insurgent attacks in 2008 compared to last year. The aid agencies criticized the rising number of civilian deaths, which they said were caused mainly by insurgents, but also by international forces' air strikes. There were 463 Taliban attacks in May and 569 in June, ACBAR said, citing figures from a range of sources including the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office.

As ACBAR was issuing the statement, bomb blasts killed five NATO soldiers in Afghanistan today, the alliance force said, without giving out the nationalities of the troops. Five Afghan policemen were also killed in an overnight bomb attack that was similar to scores carried out by the Taliban.

This latest spate of violence against U.S. and NATO troops has encouraged a section of U.S. policymakers, and the military, to demand more troop deployment in Afghanistan. The obvious constraint is the lack of U.S. troops and the unwillingness of other NATO countries to deploy theirs. Also, unless the U.S. Army goes for total eradication of the vast opium crop, the opium lords, and the narco-cartel that dominates the Afghan scene, all other policies are doomed to failure, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged at a Pentagon news conference on July 31 that the number of troops raised so far is not significant: "At most, a couple of hundred, maybe."

Obama Sends Letter to Nazi-Loving Dalai Lama

July 28 (EIRNS)—Not wanting to be upstaged by John McCain's anti-China diatribes, Barack Obama sent a letter to the Nazi-loving Dalai Lama, right after McCain went to Aspen, Colorado for a personal meeting. Obama said that although he was unable to meet the "man of peace" because of his extended photo-op in Europe and Southwest Asia, he wanted to "reassure you of my highest respect and support for you, your mission and your people at this critical time." He praised McCain for meeting with the Dalai Lama, showing that support for Tibet "transcends the divisions of our political contest."

Sources informed EIR that the Dalai Lama told his audiences at an Aspen Institute event and at a Brookings Institution seminar in Colorado that he was pessimistic about the talks between Beijing and his spokespersons. His speeches were typically shallow, and he allowed no questions at the Brookings event.

The letter from Obama was delivered by Jeff Bader, head of the China Center at Brookings, and a foreign policy advisor to Obama on Asian affairs.

China's 'People's Daily' Hits Speculators for Oil Prices

July 28 (EIRNS)—"The skyrocketing oil prices cannot actually reflect the basic relations between supply and demand; instead, they make up a bubble catalyzed by international speculative capital," reports today's People's Daily, the paper of the Chinese Communist Party, with 3-4 million circulation worldwide.

The article continues: "Since July 2007, when the sub-prime loan crisis broke out in the U.S, international speculative capital such as hedge funds began to heavily invest into futures markets in a bid to reduce and avert risks by turning to oil, agricultural products, and metal futures for profits (hedging) in a backdrop of a depreciating U.S. dollar, surging global inflation and fluctuation of primary financial markets in the world at large. Statistics show that, compared with 2003, speculative capital currently storming into the international futures market has grown nearly 20 times to $260 billion, of which more than half has been invested in oil futures transactions....

"Since 2003, the U.S. dollar has been weakening, with a parity rate to the world's main currencies now devalued by over 25%. On the other hand, the global demand for oil has risen 8%. Meanwhile, international oil prices have shot up by 300% or more. It is evident that the untamed surge in oil prices stems from speculative activities in the oil futures market."

The article notes that U.S. regulators are investigating the extent of speculation in the price spike, and warns that eventually there will be a meltdown.

Mortgage Crisis Hits South Korean Homebuilders

July 28 (EIRNS)—The mortgage bubble collapse is also hitting South Korea. Because of the structure of the South Korean real estate markets, the distress is seen particularly among homebuilders. Concern is mounting about a possible "chain of bankruptcies," due to the large number of unsold new homes on the market. There is an official count of 129,800 unsold homes, but the figure could be much higher. The value "locked up" in unsold homes is estimated at 45 trillion won (approximately $45 billion).

Some 180 construction companies went bankrupt during the first half of this year, averaging out to one per day. There are rumors that a large-scale chain of bankruptcies among local builders will happen in September.

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