|Asia News Digest
Pakistan Army Faces More Trouble
Oct. 13 (EIRNS)According to intelligence emanating from Pakistan, its Army is under criticism from its own rank and file. The target of the criticism is the Chief of the Armed Services Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, a key collaborator of the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, in Washington's confused and murderous Afghanistan campaign.
The critics of General Kayani within the Army are reacting to the poor relief work that followed the recent devastating floods in Pakistan. The floods were particularly severe in the areas from where both the Army and the jihadis recruit. The floods had washed away crops and homes of many Pakistani soldiers, and they find to their dismay that their families were not provided the relief they needed at the time. Moreover, these soldiers were denied leave from the military at the time the floods were destroying their lands and families. This failure of Islamabad and the military has helped the jihadis to step up recruitment from areas devastated by the floods.
One sign of such weakness of Pakistan's military brass became visible when Kayani stopped the U.S./NATO supply line going into Afghanistan, after NATO helicopters came into Pakistan and killed three Pakistani soldiers on Sept. 30. The halting of the convoy was an attempt by Kayani to convey to the rank and file that he cares about them. The five-day halting of the convoy did nothing, however, to change the policies of the U.S. and NATO authorities. On Oct. 13, NATO helicopters went into Pakistan again, but, this time, without causing any serious harm.
The weakening of Pakistan's Army, which guides an extremely dysfunctional civilian rule in Islamabad, speaks well, neither for Pakistan nor for Washington, which depends heavily on Pakistan to support its 150,000 troops across the border in Afghanistan.
Karzai Sets Up Council To Negotiate with Taliban
Oct. 15 (EIRNS)A 70-member High Peace Council has been set up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to prepare the ground for reconciliation between his Administration and the Taliban. The council will be headed by an ethnic-Tajik and former President of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani. The council's specific powers and duties have not yet been defined. It is unclear whether it will act as an advisory body, or whether its decisions will be binding and subject to oversight. It will develop its own rules and procedures, Presidential spokesman Waheed Omer said during a Sept. 28 news conference, referring to the body's powers of enforcement.
Like Rabbani, many of the council members played prominent roles in the 1992-96 factional fighting that followed the collapse of Afghanistan's Moscow-backed Communist regime. Meanwhile, NATO is willing to offer practical assistance to help President Karzai pursue reconciliation with the Taliban.
The setting up of the High Peace Council is a tactical move by Karzai, primarily aimed at preventing outside forces (such as the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and the United States) from gaining control over the reconciliation process, by setting up a team and thrusting that upon the President. Karzai was careful in picking Rabbani as the leader, since Rabbani, a Tajik, is the head of Pushtun-dominated Jamiat-e-Islami group engaged against U.S. and NATO troops in northeastern Afghanistan. Pakistan-controlled Pushtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also considers Rabbani as his leader.
Cambodia: 'We're Not Part of the British Empire!'
Oct. 11 (EIRNS)An official at the Cambodian Embassy in London told a British labor activist to "go to the Moon" after he inquired about unrest in the garment industry. The Daily Telegraph reported that when an official at the Brent Trade Union Councils complained to the Embassy about labor relations in Cambodia, he received the e-mail response: "It is none of your business! Please report to your clown boss to stop this childish game and stop this circus at once. Thank you."
When the trade union official protested, the Embassy reply was: "Please go to the Moon and stay there until you get an answer. Cambodia is not part of the British Empire."
In fact, Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and the Cambodian courts had already given conditional support to garment laborers in their request for higher wages and improved conditions, and restored dismissed union leaders to their jobs.
China Cancels Ministerial Meetings with Norwegian Official
Oct. 12 (EIRNS)In a further expression of Chinese outrage over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese "dissident" Liu Xiaobo, China yesterday canceled a planned meeting between Norwegian Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen and her Chinese counterpart, in which the two sides were to discuss the sale of Norwegian salmon on the Chinese market. And today the Chinese government canceled another meeting, between Berg-Hansen and the vice-minister in charge of food exports, in which they were to discuss a possible bilateral free-trade agreement. As a result, Berg-Hansen has decided to cancel entirely her trip to Beijing and to Shanghai, where she was to attend the Norwegian expo at the Shanghai Exhibition.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said that the decision to award Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Prize showed disrespect for China's legal system and represented an attempt to get China to change its political course forward. "They have made an obvious mistake," he told reporters today. Norwegian authorities have expressed regret over the cancellation of the meeting, but claim that the effect of a failure to get a free-trade agreement will be marginal, given that China is a member of the WTO, and must adhere to its trade regulations.
U.S. and China Defense Chiefs Repair Relations
Oct. 11 (EIRNS)U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie today on the sidelines of the ASEAN+8 meeting of defense ministers in Hanoi, announcing afterwards that restoring military-to-military relations between the two powers was essential in "understanding each other, and preventing mistrust, miscalculations and mistakes." Gates said that military relations lag far behind the nations' diplomatic and economic ties, especially since China cut military ties over the announcement earlier this year that the United States would sell $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan. Gates told reporters: "I have felt for a long time that the dialogue between the two militaries ought to be sustainable regardless of the ups and downs in the relationship," adding that the arms sale to Taiwan was a political decision, not a military one, and should not affect military relations.
Liang invited Gates to China, and Gates agreed to visit sometime next year.