|Asia News Digest
China and India To Cooperate in Rail Development
Nov. 18 (EIRNS)An eight-member government delegation from India, consisting of managers, economists, financiers, and engineers, arrived in China on Oct. 24, to study the process followed in China for long-term planning and financing of the rail sector; development of specific projects; and engineering design and construction. China's medium- and long-term plan for railways aims to expand its railway network between 2005 and 2020, from 65,000 route-km to 120,000 route-km. As India is also planning for a significant expansion of its rail network, this topic sparked a lively discussion. India Railways and China Railways together employ nearly 4 million employees, operate tens of thousands of kilometers of railways, and can move millions of people each day.
Both governments are aggressively promoting the expansion and modernization of the railways, since both countries know that railways play a critical role in the economic growth of these continental-size developing countries, and do so with reduced environmental impact and resource consumption compared to other options.
The group visited the new and futuristic railway stations recently opened at Beijing South and Tianjin, and traveled on the high-speed train between these two cities at a speed that reached 330 km/h. Then, the group moved to heavy-haul freight transport, including a visit to the Datong-Qinhuangdao (DaQin) dedicated coal railway that is at present alone transporting 400 million tons of coal per year. Indian Railways is expected to adopt some of the technical and operational features of the DaQin line on the dedicated freight corridors that are being planned and are under construction in India.
Finally, the delegation visited transportation hubs, where several modes converge, and handling, and storage are concentrated. Both China and India are establishing such hubs.
Telecom Scandal Rocks Indian Government
Nov. 20 (EIRNS)A major financial scandal, which involves selling second-generation spectrum telecom licenses to business houses, has burst open in India and is rocking the Manmohan Singh government. The timing is of particular importance, since Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, and Wen Jiabao of China will all be in India within less than a month.
The scandal has been in the air for more than a year. The Telecommunications Minister has resigned, and there are serious charges from the opposition, and also from the party leadership within the government, that the Prime Minister did not act and allowed the scam to get bigger. Yesterday, Singh, whose political acumen is a few notches lower than that of the Obama-Pelosi duo in the United States, sought the help of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, both of whom announced support for the premier.
The case has been placed before the Supreme Court, with a claim that Singh and his gang deprived the country's Treasury of at least $40 billion by handing out sweetheart deals to the top business houses. The Court has received an affidavit from Singh about the deals. If the Prime Minister is found to be lying in that affidavit, he will have to leave office.
Mahathir Denounces Currency Speculation, Demands Bretton Woods
Nov. 16 (EIRNS)Bloomberg reports that, in an interview, "former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said currency trading is 'silly' and the world should return to the Bretton Woods System of fixed exchange rates."
"What we should do is stop this silly thing called currency trading," which would remove one source of "instability," Mahathir said. "This idea that the market should fix the exchange rate is a new thing. A currency war is not something that is going to overcome the present crisis. The result is a very unstable exchange rate system in the world."
Mahathir said that Malaysia's ringgit should be re-pegged, and criticized current Prime Minister Najib Razak's September proposal to allow off-shore ringgit trading, which would remove the nation's remaining control, imposed during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. "I think the government came up with this idea at the wrong time," Mahathir said. "I think that the government may have second thoughts now, because if everyone else is controlling their currencies and you allow your currency to be manipulated by the market you will suffer."