|Asia News Digest
More Problems for Obama's Af-Pak Policy
Dec. 18 (EIRNS)Pakistan Supreme Court's decision to repeal the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) on Dec. 16 has jeopardized not only Pakistan's internal political stability, but also all the plans outlined in President Obama's speech at West Point on Dec. 1. Although the full impact of the decision is expected to be felt in the coming weeks, it is for certain that the U.S.-backed Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, will be fighting to keep his job, with his back against the wall.
Meanwhile, a number of senior ministers of the Zardari Cabinet, including Interior and Defense, will have to quit. Today, at the Islamabad airport, Defense Minister Mokhtar was stopped from boarding the plane that would have taken him to Beijing on an official visit.
For all practical purposes, the control of Pakistan's government is back again in the hands of the military, with Prime Minister Gilani, a friend of the Army, acting as its proxy.
The shift will most certainly affect Washington's half-baked plans vis-à-vis Pakistan. With Zardari in power, Islamabad had given Washington a carte blanche to work inside Pakistan. Islamabad's security is now virtually in the hands of the Americans, most of whom are private contractors. The Pakistani military strongly resents that, and this is going to change.
Moreover, Zardari, under directives from Washington, had also used his authority to cajole and direct the Pakistani Army and intelligence to go after all terrorists, not just selected ones. This is going to change, too. The Pakistani military has realized that Obama's Af-Pak policy will fall flat on its face, and control of Afghanistan could be regained. Therefore, the Pakistani Army is not willing to eliminate all insurgents, some of whom could be of use in the future in helping to re-secure Afghanistan.
China and India 'Cement Ties' at Copenhagen
Dec. 18 (EIRNS)In the past few weeks, China and India, the world's two most populous nations, have built a level of international policy cooperation not seen since their 1962 border war, in their determination not to yield national sovereignty at the just-collapsed Copenhagen Climate summit. The two nations' delegations closely coordinated policy, both before and during the conference, to the very end.
"The single biggest achievement of Copenhagen has been BASIC," Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu today. The BASIC nations are China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, which Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao called together in Beijing Nov. 29, to formulate and sign a policy agreement for their strategy at Copenhagen. The nations had agreed then, to walk out of Copenhagen if the developed countries tried to undermine their national interests and non-negotiable policies. In the end, the developed nations had to cave in on the non-negotiables, including that there would be no yielding to international inspections.
Most important is the breakthrough in Chinese-Indian relations. Tensions continue over border issuesa direct legacy of the British Raj in India and its reach into Tibetand China's close relations with Pakistan. However, joint trade has been growing rapidly in the past decade, and China is now India's largest trading partner. Copenhagen could lay the basis for a new strategic level of joint political and economic relations.
Before the summit began, Wen Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a 30-minute bilateral meeting, which made it clear to both that their nations share a "common perception" on the outcome of the meeting, Singh's special envoy Shyam Saran told the press. "The meeting was very important," Saran said. Not only were both committed to blocking any secret agreement among the Europeans and U.S., but also determined that final agreements must be based on "transparency" and an "inclusive process."
More important in bilateral terms, Wen assured Singh during the meeting, that a joint statement he had issued with visiting President Obama in November, which referred to peace in South Asia, was "not directed at India," and that "China did not have any intention to interfere in [India's] region," foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told the press.
Later, China and India staged a walk-out of the Heads of State summit itself, over their objections to a paragraph of the draft then being debated. Earlier in the week, the two nation's delegates had lambasted U.S. special envoy Todd Stern for his targetting of China.
Most revealing was an article in India's Business Standard Dec. 16, based on its exclusive access to a bilateral meeting between China's chief climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and Ramesh. Xie, vice chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, told Ramesh about the latest "Danish text" being circulated, and that he had information about the rich countries' intentions to use the draft, including a "surprise attack" by Australia and the EU. Ramesh told the Business Standard, that the two sides were meeting up to six times a day at Copenhagen, and then stated to the Times of India that he is "very happy that one of the positive outcomes of Copenhagen is the cementing of ties between India and China."
South Korea Introduces Commercial Maglev
Dec. 15 (EIRNS)Hyundai Rotem Co., a South Korean train-maker, today unveiled a maglev train set for commercial release in 2013, the company said. According to the statement, after trial operations, the maglev train will run a 3.8-mile line between Incheon International Airport and a subway station near Seoul. The unmanned two-car train will carry 180 passengers and run at a top speed of 70 miles per hour.
Although this is a very modest application of maglev potentialities, it is extremely important that another major engineering operation will be getting practical, operational experience with the technology.
Hyundai Rotem began developing a trial version of a maglev train in 1988, and operated a trial version at an international exposition in the city of Daejeon, Korea in 1993. It was the designation of a maglev train as a government project in 2007, that set a way for Hyundai Rotem to develop a commercial version of the train.