From Volume 37, Issue 42 of EIR Online, Published Oct. 29, 2010
Asia News Digest

Obama's Going to India on PR Mission

Oct. 21 (EIRNS)—A concerted effort has been launched in Washington to make something out of the Nov. 16-18 visit of President Obama to India. In a report, "Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of US-India Relations," the Center for New American Society, a Washington-based think tank, called for "a bold leap forward" in ties between the two nations. Authored by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns, among others, the report suggests that progress in forging partnership is "falling short of its promise."

The report asserts that India's "rise to global power is in America's interest," and that Washington should not only seek a closer relationship with Delhi, "but actively assist its further emergence as a great power." Both countries have a "vital interest" in maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia, according to the report. "Neither seeks containment of China, but the likelihood of a peaceful Chinese rise increases if it ascends in a region where the great democratic powers are also strong," it said. The report put special emphasis on what it called "an expanded U.S.-India military partnership" and expressed disappointment that "bureaucratic inertia in both countries" has hampered growth in the defense sector.

In Washington, on Oct. 20, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters: "We have made no secret of the fact that we've told Pakistan clearly that we believe that the existential threat to Pakistan is not India; the existential threat to Pakistan involves extremism within its own borders."

What we are observing is a pathetic effort by the Obama Administration to woo India by trying to distance itself from Pakistan.

Key International Links in Eurasian Land-Bridge

Oct. 18 (EIRNS)—Essential "missing links" in the Eurasian Land-Bridge of railroad connections are now being worked out by China, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Armenia, and Myanmar, and—if the world dumps the current bankrupt financial system—transport on the world's biggest landmass could be revolutionized in the coming years.

One project with greatest potential, would be the extension of the Chinese railroad in Tibet. Construction has already begun to extend the existing line to Lhasa, Tibet's capital, to its second city, Xigaze, nearer the border of Nepal and the Chumbi Valley, the easiest access to Tibet from the Indian subcontinent. Another extension is being planned to the town of Nyingchi, close to the "Great Bend" in the Yarlung-Tsangpo Brahmaputra River, where it drops 2,500 meters in the deepest canyon in the world, as the river spills over the edge of the Tibetan plateau into India and Bangladesh.

Chinese authorities are working on plans for a hydroelectric project at this site, which could generate an incredible 38,000 MW of power—equivalent to 8% of the entire U.S. power generation. This project could be an enormous resource not only for China, but also South and Southeast Asia. This project will not be built overnight, but the railroad will be an essential first step to making it possible. PNEs could be used to open tunnels in the canyon wall for the hydropower project.

There is more potential in West Asia. Turkey is now almost finished constructing a 76 km railway tunnel under the Bosphorus, which will allow two-minute transport between the European continent and West Asia, at Istanbul. The country is planning several transport projects at the cost of $100 billion, to be finished by 2023, the centennial of the Republic of Turkey. Plans include building the second longest bridge in the world, 1,700 meters, over the Gulf of Izmit on the Mamara Sea. Turkey will also double its national rail network, including by building a 7,000 km double-tracked high-speed (400 km/hr) system from Edirne on the Bulgarian border to Kars, on the eastern border with Armenia. China will invest some $30 billion in this system, as was agreed when Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited Turkey Oct. 7-8, and Russia also wants to invest in Turkish transport infrastructure, Zaman reported.

More rail projects are being worked on in West Asia. Iran's rail line to its eastern city of Zahedan has been finished, for the first time in history linking the Indian Subcontinent to the rest of Eurasia, since Zahedan connects to Quetta, Pakistan. Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi announced Sept. 27 that Iran's rail system will soon be connected to that of Turkey, China, and Europe, IRNA reported. "In the near future, contracts will be signed with four different countries so as to link our country with them via railroads," Rahimi said. An agreement to build a railroad from Iran to Armenia, with possible participation by Russian Railways, has already been signed. China and Iran are also working out a rail project to connect Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

On the eastern front, more rail connections are being planned to connect Southwest China to Southeast Asia, now its second-largest trading partner. Myanmar, which has a very limited rail system dating back to the British Empire, is now planning a railroad to connect the deep-sea port, Kyaukphyu, to Kunming, China. The railroad will bring Myanmar's Mandalay and Magway into the modern economy.

Xinhua: Only U.S. Policy Poses Danger of a 'Currency War'

Oct. 16 (EIRNS)—Rejecting the claims that China is "manipulating" its currency for trade advantages, an editorial by the Xinhua news agency yesterday notes that the real cause of the problem was the U.S. money-printing operation.

"Firstly, the United States is facing a sluggish economic recovery and high unemployment, and the economy has been a major issue of the Nov. 2 midterm elections," Xinhua wrote. "Many U.S. politicians have the impulse to use the RMB [renminbi] exchange rate issue as a scapegoat for the weakness of U.S. economy. They highlighted the question of the yuan's exchange rate and intensified the dispute, making the RMB seem the eye of the storm."

But, Xinhua noted, "The root cause is the Federal Reserve's massive printing of money in response to the financial crisis. The Fed adopted expansionary fiscal and monetary policies and infused massive liquidity into the market, which caused depreciation of its currency. The result is that other related countries, such as those in South Korea, Brazil and Singapore, will face pressure to appreciate their own currencies versus the U.S. dollar, posing challenges to their export and financial security," Xinhua wrote.

South Korea, Turkey To Sign Nuclear Deal at G-20

Oct. 19 (EIRNS)—On his return from a four-country tour of East Europe and Turkey, Korean Minister of Knowledge and Economy Choi Kyong-hwan announced, "We made unexpected headway with the negotiation with Turkey, and are now anticipating to make an IGA [intergovernmental] agreement, including the prices, during the G-20 Seoul Summit." He added that although approval from the National Assembly should come first, breaking the deadlocked negotiation was the biggest fruit of this visit.

The two reactors are to be built in the Sinope area of north Turkey on the Black Sea, and are to be worth an estimated $10 billion in contracts.

The Minister indicated that Japan, which has recently significantly upgraded its nuclear export efforts, including increased cooperation between government and industry, is a major competitor for the deal. "Japan went to Turkey willing to wage all-out war with joined forces of both private sectors and the public sectors. We have decided to leave our negotiators stationed at Turkey until the agreement is sealed."

There are still important details to be arranged regarding the financing and operation of the plant, but the Korea Times comments, "That the IGA has been mentioned by the Minister himself in the middle of the working-level negotiation means there are substantive results between the two governments."

Cambodian Railroad Link Shows Signs of Life

Oct. 22 (EIRNS)—The first freight train to travel between the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and Touk Meas near the Vietnamese border, arrived at its destination today, opening a line which had been shut down in 2009. Rail travel had been largely at a standstill in Cambodia since the U.S.-backed coup in the country decades ago, followed by the killing fields of dictator Pol Pot. The construction of the line had been farmed out to an Australian company, Toll Holdings, with financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and from Malaysia.

The new line fills an important gap in the envisioned rail connection between Singapore and Kunming. "We are on the cusp of a contiguous Iron Silk Road stretching from Singapore to Scotland," said Kunio Senga, Director General of ADB's Southeast Asia Department. "This possibility has been talked about for decades, but today the dream has finally taken a big step toward becoming reality." Cambodia and Vietnam have signed an agreement to link their railroads, with plans to build a line between Phnom Penh and Hanoi.

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