Archive | November, 2012

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Beijing dismisses fighter jet plagiarism allegations

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

China yesterday dismissed claims that its carrier-based fighter jets plagiarised foreign models and would make Beijing more assertive in tackling maritime disputes with neighbours.

It is at least unprofessional, if not an intentional attack, to claim China copied foreign aircraft carrier technology through a simple comparison since the laws for military development are objective, and the principles of building military equipment, the command and safeguard methods are similar, Ministry of National Defence spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a regular news conference.

Geng made the remarks in response to reports that the carrier-borne J-15 fighter jet, which made its debut in a landing and take-off exercise on China’s first aircraft carrier the Liaoning on Saturday, is a Chinese adaptation of the naval version of Russia’s Su-33.

“China adheres to self-dependent scientific innovation. We have sufficient know-how and capability to build and develop our own aircraft carrier,” Geng said.

It is true that China used to rely heavily on imported Russian military equipment to modernise its troops, but people should not use that as an excuse to criticise Chinese people who have made tough endeavours and even sacrifices in developing the J-15′s engine, fire-control system, electronics system and other key components, said the Xinhua News Agency.

Guo Xiaobing, deputy chief of the Institute of Security and Arms Control Studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the “crime of plagiarism” is a severe insult to Chinese researchers including Luo Yang, head of the production phase of the J-15 who died on Sunday of a heart attack during the carrier’s voyage return to base after the planes’ landing exercise.

Geng said the J-15, which is still conducting related experiments and training, would equip the army in accordance with the military’s schedule. Experts said it will be a while before the Liaoning can be put into operation.

But its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and Beijing’s newly proposed “maritime power” strategy have been detected as threats by Washington and its Asian allies. Tokyo and Manila were especially concerned amid their territorial disputes with Beijing over the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said earlier that the United States was continuing to carefully monitor Chinese military developments. She urged Beijing to be as transparent as possible about its military capabilities and intentions and to use military power, including the aircraft carrier, in a way that is conducive for regional peace and stability.

“China is always open to military transparency and frankly speaking, the J-15 experiment is quite transparent,” said Geng, adding that the Chinese media has had abundant and timely coverage and commentary about the plane since Sunday.

Wu Shengli, China’s navy chief on Tuesday also briefed the US secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on the J-15 and test trials of the Liaoning.

Pan Zheng, a scholar on US military studies with the People’s Liberation Army National Defence University, said the US should also ask itself how transparent it has been to China.

Washington on Monday released two pictures of a US-Japan joint drill that concluded on November 16. The closed-door exercise is one of many that have taken place between the two countries this year. Geng said China opposes parties that intentionally highlight military agendas and frequently flare up regional tensions.

China’s development of the aircraft carrier is not targeted at any third party or part of an arms race, Geng said.

Its development is based on national security and military construction needs and China’s ability to invest in such a project, Geng said.

“We hope related parties view China’s aircraft carrier construction in an objective and rational way,” he added.

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Tokyo race gets under way

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

Campaigning for the Tokyo gubernatorial election officially started yesterday with nine candidates in the race to select a successor to Shintaro Ishihara.

The main issue in the election will be whether the new governor carries on Ishihara’s policies or takes a different approach. Ishihara resigned as Tokyo governor last month less than halfway through his fourth term to return to national politics.

Voting and ballot counting will take place December 16, the same day as the House of Representatives election. This is the first time a Tokyo gubernatorial election will be held on the same day as a national poll.

With only five days until the official start of lower house election campaigning, party leaders consider the Tokyo race to be a barometre for the national election. Many party leaders and executives delivered speeches for candidates they support on the first day of the campaign.

The leading candidates are tipped to be former Kanagawa Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa; former Liberal Democratic Party General Council Chairman Takashi Sasagawa; former Japan Federation of Bar Associations President Kenji Utsunomiya; and former Tokyo Vice Governor Naoki Inose.

Among major political parties, the LDP backs Inose, and New Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) also announced they will back him. Nippon Mirai no To (Japan future party), the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) have lined up behind Utsunomiya.

The candidates spoke about key issues from Ishihara’s tenure, such as Shinginko Tokyo bank, which is under corporate reconstruction with financial support from the metropolitan government; Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games; and the planned relocation of Tsukiji wholesale market in Chuo Ward.

Matsuzawa, who advocates moving the Metropolitan Expressway underground, made his first campaign speech in the Nihonbashi district in Chuo Ward. He emphasised his accomplishments as Kanagawa governor, including administrative reforms.

Sasagawa kicked off his campaign in front of Kaminarimon gate of Sensoji temple in Asakusa, Taito Ward, an area where he spent his childhood.

“I’d like to turn Tokyo into a place where people can grow old without anxiety,” Sasagawa said.

Utsunomiya launched his campaign in front of Yurakucho Mullion commercial complex in Chiyoda Ward, and trumpeted his slogans of the elimination of poverty and ending the use of nuclear power. Utsunomiya called for rolling back policies promoted by Ishihara.

Inose, on the other hand, stressed the experience he had built up while working with Ishihara as vice governor.

“My mission is to implement the reforms initiated by former Governor Ishihara one by one,” Inose said.

Eager to soak up some of the limelight of the Tokyo race ahead of the lower house election, big names from several national parties turned up to stump for their favoured candidates.

Ishihara, who now heads Nippon Ishin no Kai, showed up to support Inose, whom he endorsed as his successor as governor, with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, the party’s acting leader. Senior members of the Tokyo chapters of the LDP and New Komeito also encouraged voters to elect Inose.

Political parties calling for an end to nuclear power got together to back Utsunomiya.

In addition to JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii and SDP Chairwoman Mizuho Fukushima, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party of Japan delivered campaign speeches for Utsunomiya. The DPJ decided to allow its members to vote at their discretion in the Tokyo race.

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S. Korea scales down troop deployment to Afghanistan

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

South Korea has scaled down its troop deployment to Afghanistan as its civilian reconstruction team is to end its mission in the war-torn country next month, the Army said Thursday.

The number has decreased to ȝ from 350, it said.

The military held a send-off ceremony for the sixth batch of troops at the International Peace Supporting Standby Force headquarters in Incheon Thursday. They are to leave for Afghanistan early next month.

“The sixth batch will work at a job training center and hospital within the Bagram Air Base (north of the capital of Kabul). They will also have the mission of guarding a Korean mission in Kabul,” said an official, declining to be named.

First dispatched in July 2010, the Korean contingent, named â��Ashena,” has operated out of the base in Charikar City in the northern province of Parwan. Ashena means “friend” in a local language.

Its mission is to protect Korean civilians working as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team to help rebuild the country.

The primary PRT task was to help bolster the administrative capabilities of the Afghan provincial government and stabilize the region. It also offered medical services, assistance for agricultural development, and vocational and police training.

A series of rocket attacks near the Korean troops’ base have raised concern over their security, prompting calls for enhanced safety measures or their withdrawal.

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Diplomacy picks up pace amid N. Korea’s missile signs

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

South Korea, the US and China are ramping up diplomatic efforts amid growing signs of North Korea preparing for a long-range missile test.

Lim Sung-nam, the Foreign Ministry’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, arrived in Beijing on Thursday to meet with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei and other officials for two days. Lim is chief negotiator to a six-party forum on denuclearising the North and expected to swap views over the situation on the peninsula.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun is in Washington for discussions with officials including Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young also held a two-day strategic dialogue with his Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun in Beijing early this week.

The series of high-level meetings coincide with a four-day visit by Liu Qibao, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Publicity Department, to North Korea, Laos and Vietnam. In Pyongyang, he is speculated to deliver Beijing’s messages urging it to refrain from any missile liftoff.

Seoul officials played down the significance of their trips saying they are part of regular exchanges between partners.

“They may appear to be carefully calibrated consultations on their common agenda but you could end up over-interpreting the whole situation,” a senior official at the Foreign Ministry told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.

“Now that the US has completed its presidential election and China’s new leadership has begun, we should naturally exchange opinions with each other, especially with the missile issue emerging.”

DigitalGlobe Inc., a US-based commercial satellite operator, has released new images taken on November 23 showing increased activity at the North’s launch site in the western town of Dongchang.

The North “could possibly conduct its fifth satellite launch event during the next three weeks”, the company said Monday, saying that the type of work is consistent with preparations detected at the same place before its botched rocket liftoff in April.

Pyongyang insists on its right to the peaceful use of space technology by sending a satellite into orbit. But the international community has blasted it as a cloaked test for a ballistic missile and a violation of UN bans on any nuclear or missile activity by the communist state.

US officials have reportedly informed their South Korean and Japanese counterparts that its satellite spotted North Koreans transferring missile components from a Pyongyang plant to the Dongchang facility.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State declined to discuss intelligence issues.

Hong Lei, the Chinese Foreign Ministry�s spokesperson, said he has acknowledged the news reports.

“It’s the common responsibility and shared interest of all parties concerned to maintain the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula,��� he told a Tuesday briefing.

Meanwhile, speculation is rising that senior US officials made a covert four-day trip to Pyongyang starting on August 17.

Donga Ilbo newspaper cited diplomatic sources as saying that a US Air Force jet departed from Guam, possibly carrying Daniel Russel, the White House’s senior director for Asian affairs, and Sydney Seiler, chief of North Korea policy at the presidential office’s National Security Council.

The report followed earlier rumors that Seiler and Joseph DeTrani, a North Korea expert and director of the National Counterproliferation Center, had visited the North Korean capital a week before the April 13 launch in an apparent attempt to discourage the plan.

A White House spokesperson told Yonhap News in Washington that it has “no information to provide.“

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry “viewed the report but has no knowledge” related to the visit, spokesman Cho Tai-young told a briefing on Thursday.

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Chinese company seeks wind-farm hearing against Obama

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

Ralls Corp, owned by executives of Chinese industrial giant Sany Group Co Ltd, has asked a federal judge in Washington to hear its case against US President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap the purchase of four wind-farm projects near a US navy facility in Oregon.

But some experts say the chances of Sany winning the case against Obama are slim.

Lawyers for Delaware-based Ralls told US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson at a two-hour hearing on Wednesday that the company’s rights were violated by the September 28 decision to bar the wind-farm deals due to an unspecified national security risk. The company also argues that it has not been given a chance to address the Obama administration’s concerns.

Ralls argued that Obama’s move could cost the company at least the US$20 million it has spent on design and construction since acquiring the Oregon sites.

“Bringing this to the court is really the last thing we want to do, as we all know going to court is a big deal in any country, either in China or the United States,” Wu Jialiang, a Sany deputy general manager and co-owner of Ralls, told China Daily after the hearing.

“Had we been given fair treatment and the opportunity to discuss this decision, we wouldn’t have come this far,” he said.

Tim Cullen, partner with US law firm Jones Day, who specialises in global trade disputes, said the case is “virtually unprecedented, because Sany and Ralls are challenging both the action of the CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) and discretion of the president”.

He said the government may argue that the judge should not become involved because it is a matter of national security.

The case was “appealing” as it showed strong needs for a review, but the chances for it proceeding still hinged on presidential discretion, Cullen said.

Many legal commentators and academics think the US government has a favourable chance in the case.

Clif Burns, a lawyer with Washington firm Bryan Cave LLP who specialises in export controls and economic sanctions, said: “The Exon-Florio amendment specifically exempts presidential decisions such as this from judicial review, so Ralls’ lawsuit has virtually no chance of being successful.”

He was referring to a federal law enacted in 1988 that provides for scrutiny of foreign investments.

Burns said: “I don’t think that Obama’s decision to block (the wind-farm deals) will have much effect on future Chinese investment in the US because of the unique security concerns posed by this investment.”

But Cullen said the case could have various consequences, one being that the committee on foreign investment may have to adopt more regular procedures and more transparency in dealing with such cases.

Cullen also said China has been a promising source of capital for investment worldwide. Although there have been incidences where investment has stopped, this was only on a small scale, and the US market would eventually get used to Chinese investment.

He compared the trend to the expansion of Japanese investors from the 1980s onwards. “There was a lot of concern over the dramatically increasing Japanese share of the car market, but over a period of time people just get used to the ideas that they would make Hondas and Toyotas and this is perfectly good for the country.

“The aggressive adaptation by China and Chinese enterprises to the rule of law is one of the greatest legal stories of my career,” Cullen said.

Ann Lee, a New York University economics professor, said the case is not likely to have an impact on other Chinese investments, especially smaller transactions that do not involve technology or natural resources.

“The case will be a near impossibility to win, since rarely do private interests have the resources or political capital to go against a government which makes all the rules,” Lee said.

“But it will be a good way for the Chinese to get experience in working the US legal system, even if they lose.”

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Crystal Cruises Wants You to Dine with the Hobbit

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

Crystal_Symphony_Sydney.jpg

Listen up, guys. Crystal Cruises is currently offering one of the coolest movie-related shore excursions ever: dinner on the “Hobbiton” set in Tauranga, New Zealand. The set was used for the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the upcoming prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The movie makes its debut in the United States on December Ǯ.

Tauranga, on North Island, is a popular cruise port on the Bay of Plenty. Visitors head here for the beaches, Maori cultural tours, art galleries, museums, and fine dining paired with New Zealand wines.

Crystal Cruises passengers will have the unique chance to play make-believe in the fantasy world created by J.R.R. Tolkien and brought to life in Tauranga by The Hobbit‘s movie crew. These offbeat excursions are offered on the December 20 “Southern Summer Holiday” and the January 29 “Asia Pacific Adventure” voyages aboard Crystal Symphony.

The event will include a private, after-hours guided tour of the village movie set. Guides re-tell a captivating narrative that explains how the movie was filmed and the massive undertaking of building “Middle Earth” in New Zealand.

An old-fashioned “kiwi” barbeque, featuring local wines and beer, caps off the tour. The wait staff will even don Lord of the Rings costumes to put everyone in the spirit.

Crystal’s vice president of Land Port Operations, John Stoll, is proud to bring Middle Earth to travelers: “This is an extraordinarily timely opportunity for Crystal guest to be transported to place that many fantasy-fiction genre fans, movie buffs, as well as wine and foodies, and off-the-beaten path travelers from around the globe can only dream of visiting.”

The Hobbiton dinner and village exploration tour costs $265 per person. Cruise fares for the December 20 cruise start at Ű,505 per person. Fares for the January 29 cruise begin at $4,480.

Photo credit: Crystal Cruises

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Expert Tips for Your Next Vacation Rental

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

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Vacation rentals are hot right now, thanks largely to accompanying perks that meet traveler’s demands: affordability, convenience, and amenities like kitchens, more space (for both small and large groups), and accessibility. The value of a vacation rental versus a hotel room is significant: rather than paying for two hotel rooms at a steep rate, a family of four can stay in a multi-bedroom rental that not only reduces the cost per guest but gives the family greater control over spending and amenities. They can cook their own breakfast, do their own laundry, and, depending on location and season, have their own swimming pool.

“The best part,” says Bob Milne, President of Wyndham Vacation Rentals, North America, “is that travelers still have many of the hotel-like services with the convenience of a rental. Since our rentals are professionally managed, we have 24/7 customer service, and many properties have on-site offices and concierge programs.”

While vacation rentals have been dominant in Europe, their popularity is beginning to rise in the US. To maximize your winter (and spring and summer) getaways, we compiled some expert tips on getting the best vacation rental.

How to Book a Vacation Rental

Just like booking engines for hotels, plenty of web sites offer the convenience of booking their vacation rental online. Sites include VRBO.com managed by HomeAway.com and FlipKey.com owned by TripAdvisor.com, though Wyndham Vacation Rentals has the motherload, offering more than 95,000 vacation properties in over 500 destinations. Wyndham is unique as the company works closely with property owners so you don’t have to. AirBnB.com offers diverse accommodations and allows renters and visitors to work directly with each other on rentals (though they do charge a fee per booking).

When you finally arrive at your rental, make sure you know beforehand how to receive keys. Most rentals will handle keys in a pre-arranged location, whether a drop box, management office, or in-person.

What to Look For

Every site allows visitors to filter through searches. It’s best to decide your destination and date, then let the web sites do the grunt work for you. All the sites offer a breakdown of vacation rental options with detailed amenities, traveler reviews, and, often, the option to compare with another rental.

After you’ve chosen your destination and date, then you can have fun narrowing down your wants while keeping in mind your needs. If you have a small child in a stroller, you’ll want to make sure that condo has an elevator, or if you’ll need to check in on work at least once on your trip you’ll want to make sure that cute beach bungalow has WiFi. Likewise, take a look at nearby services—your chosen rental has a great kitchen but the nearest grocery story is…how far away?

What You Can Expect to Pay

The prices of vacation rentals depend on the size, location, and amenities offered. For instance, a rental with a private pool or hot tub will likely be more costly than one without. The more amenities offered, including the rental’s location to shops, restaurants, and attractions, the higher the cost. But those are obvious. The real key is to look into the market and season.

Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s busiest national park, has more vacation rentals than it does hotels (Wyndham alone offers more than 400 cabins and condos) but the destination is perfect year-round, so prices reflect that. Vail is popular during ski months, so expect to pay a little more than during summer. There’s high demand in Charleston, consistently voted one of the top destinations in the US, so expect higher prices than, say, Sun Valley, Idaho.

Many sites offer deals and special offers for popular destinations, whether for non-peak seasons or popular destinations where rentals have yet to be booked.

When to Book

Like hotels, prices of vacation rentals will increase with demand and reflect seasonal and holiday rates. It’s best to book as early as you know your dates of travel, often months in advance. Ski season is upon us in Vail, Park City, and Stowe, while sun-worshippers are already counting the days until their Florida trips. Those are the places you’ll pay a premium for now, but book ahead for spring now and you’ll save.

Jimmy Im is a freelance travel writer based in NYC. He’s hosted programs on the Travel Channel and LOGO, and makes regular appearances on morning news shows as a “travel expert.” He teaches travel writing courses and is also cofounder of OutEscapes.com.

Photo credit: Winter cabin via Shutterstock

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Pakistan to remain aligned with Afghan Pashtuns

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

As the endgame in Afghanistan draws near, strategists in Islamabad have decided in principle to remain closely aligned with the Afghan Pashtuns instead of seeking new allies.

“Retaining ties with the Pashtuns is a crucial security imperative for us,” a senior Pakistani official claimed in a background interview with Dawn a day before Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul is to travel to Islamabad for discussing various possibilities with his Pakistani interlocutors on furthering the political process in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Rassoul, besides holding talks with his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, will meet a number of other Pakistani leaders.

Other proposals being pushed by Pakistan include a ceasefire as a confidence-building measure for the desired political process and holding the 2014 presidential elections as part of reconciliation. Islamabad cast its first card in the Afghan reconciliation game earlier this month by releasing a batch of almost a dozen mid-ranking Taliban detainees during Afghan High Peace Council’s visit to Pakistan.

“It appears as if everyone’s rushing to the exit and, therefore, we need to play our cards wisely to protect our own interests and pre-empt the 19ȹ-like situation,” the official said.

Among various scenarios being projected by Pakistani think-tanks about the post-2014 Afghanistan, the only one that suits Pakistan is a successful reconciliation process.

It is feared that Pakistan would have to bear the fallout of instability in Afghanistan, if not addressed, including a likely influx of refugees, continued violence in the country, particularly in tribal areas, and aggravation of economic conditions.

“The cost of non-settlement of Afghan problem and the resultant chaos there would be too high a price for us,” the official observed.

Islamabad had for a couple of years tried to reach out to elements of the erstwhile Northern Alliance, but with limited success because of deep-seated mistrust on both sides.

“They (non-Pashtun elements, who have traditionally been Pakistan’s political rivals in Afghanistan) are not forthcoming, they aren’t flexible,” the official claimed in reply to a question about the outcome of Pakistan’s efforts to mend fences with them.

The insistence by non-Pashtuns on conditions about acceptance of the Afghan Constitution and renunciation of violence, among others, is being seen by Islamabad as an attempt to keep Taliban, who are opposed to pre-conditions, out of the reconciliation process.

Former Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar had earlier this month told Senate�™s defence committee that the best bet for Pakistan was to allow people of Afghanistan to decide their future by themselves.

He had advised against continuing with the old approach of hoping for a friendly government in Kabul.

Former Ambassador to the US Maleeha Lodhi, at the same meeting, had also counselled for an Afghan solution instead of seeking a Pashtun solution.

Strategic dialogue

While Pakistan still hopes for a strategic partnership agreement with Kabul, hopes for any progress on that count were low.

“The Afghans aren’t enthusiastic about it,” the official claimed, dispelling the impression that the two sides were on the verge of beginning negotiations on the agreement.

Trilogue

Senior officials from Pakistan, China and Afghanistan on Thursday held second meeting of their trilateral dialogue.

A statement issued at the conclusion of the meeting said: “The three countries agreed that close and consistent cooperation among regional countries is essential to overcome trends of violence. They reiterated their commitment to cooperate in fight against terrorism, extremism and separatism.â��

The three countries also saw an important role for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in dealing with the emerging security, political and economic challenges.

Article source: http://asianewsnetwork.feedsportal.com/c/33359/f/566602/s/261d6896/l/0L0Sasianewsnet0Bnet0Chome0Cnews0Bphp0Did0F3960A4/story01.htm

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Pakistan to remain aligned with Afghan Pashtuns

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

As the endgame in Afghanistan draws near, strategists in Islamabad have decided in principle to remain closely aligned with the Afghan Pashtuns instead of seeking new allies.

“Retaining ties with the Pashtuns is a crucial security imperative for us,” a senior Pakistani official claimed in a background interview with Dawn a day before Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul is to travel to Islamabad for discussing various possibilities with his Pakistani interlocutors on furthering the political process in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Rassoul, besides holding talks with his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, will meet a number of other Pakistani leaders.

Other proposals being pushed by Pakistan include a ceasefire as a confidence-building measure for the desired political process and holding the 2014 presidential elections as part of reconciliation. Islamabad cast its first card in the Afghan reconciliation game earlier this month by releasing a batch of almost a dozen mid-ranking Taliban detainees during Afghan High Peace Council’s visit to Pakistan.

“It appears as if everyone’s rushing to the exit and, therefore, we need to play our cards wisely to protect our own interests and pre-empt the 19ȹ-like situation,” the official said.

Among various scenarios being projected by Pakistani think-tanks about the post-2014 Afghanistan, the only one that suits Pakistan is a successful reconciliation process.

It is feared that Pakistan would have to bear the fallout of instability in Afghanistan, if not addressed, including a likely influx of refugees, continued violence in the country, particularly in tribal areas, and aggravation of economic conditions.

“The cost of non-settlement of Afghan problem and the resultant chaos there would be too high a price for us,” the official observed.

Islamabad had for a couple of years tried to reach out to elements of the erstwhile Northern Alliance, but with limited success because of deep-seated mistrust on both sides.

“They (non-Pashtun elements, who have traditionally been Pakistan’s political rivals in Afghanistan) are not forthcoming, they aren’t flexible,” the official claimed in reply to a question about the outcome of Pakistan’s efforts to mend fences with them.

The insistence by non-Pashtuns on conditions about acceptance of the Afghan Constitution and renunciation of violence, among others, is being seen by Islamabad as an attempt to keep Taliban, who are opposed to pre-conditions, out of the reconciliation process.

Former Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar had earlier this month told Senate�™s defence committee that the best bet for Pakistan was to allow people of Afghanistan to decide their future by themselves.

He had advised against continuing with the old approach of hoping for a friendly government in Kabul.

Former Ambassador to the US Maleeha Lodhi, at the same meeting, had also counselled for an Afghan solution instead of seeking a Pashtun solution.

Strategic dialogue

While Pakistan still hopes for a strategic partnership agreement with Kabul, hopes for any progress on that count were low.

“The Afghans aren’t enthusiastic about it,” the official claimed, dispelling the impression that the two sides were on the verge of beginning negotiations on the agreement.

Trilogue

Senior officials from Pakistan, China and Afghanistan on Thursday held second meeting of their trilateral dialogue.

A statement issued at the conclusion of the meeting said: “The three countries agreed that close and consistent cooperation among regional countries is essential to overcome trends of violence. They reiterated their commitment to cooperate in fight against terrorism, extremism and separatism.â��

The three countries also saw an important role for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in dealing with the emerging security, political and economic challenges.

Article source: http://asianewsnetwork.feedsportal.com/c/33359/f/566602/s/261d6896/l/0L0Sasianewsnet0Bnet0Chome0Cnews0Bphp0Did0F3960A4/story01.htm

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Indian govt agrees to FDI debate in parliament

Posted on 30 November 2012 by admin

The deadlock gripping the Lok Sabha (Lower House) as well as the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) over the FDI in multi-brand retail was broken yesterday with the government conceding to the Opposition’s unrelenting demand for a debate on the issue in both Houses of Parliament under rules that entail voting.

The Lok Sabha will take up this debate-with-voting on Decemberń to 5 under rule 184 while it is likely to be held soon afterwards next week in the Rajya Sabha under rule 168.

While the Congress-government camp is confident of sailing through the vote in the Lok Sabha “smoothly,” the Opposition, particularly the BJP (Indian People’s Party), is hopeful of dealing a defeat to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the Upper House where the latter has been in a clear minority anyway. 

The four-day-long logjam in the Lok Sabha came to an end yesterday when the Speaker Meira Kumar told the House that she has admitted the motion moved by the Opposition under rule 184 against the government’s FDI-retail move. The notices for this motion have been tabled, among others, by the BJP and the Left parties.

The BJP, however, feels that the Opposition could beat the government in the Upper House. The party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said that parliamentary accountability would demand that if the government does not get a majority support in either of the two Houses, then it should quash its executive FDI-retail decision. 

The Opposition could get another opportunity to show its strength when the government later brings RBI’s amendments to Fema in the form of Fema (Third Amendment) Regulations, 2012 notification for the approval of both Houses to facilitate FDI-retail’s implementation. “We will use all parliamentary instruments to get the Fema regulation notification annulled,�€Â�Prasad said.

In a similar vein, the Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said: �€œWe will utilise all available options under the Rules of Business to ensure that this (FDI-retail) is not implemented.” With the direct or indirect support of the SP (Socialist Party) and the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party), a united UPA is expected to clear the simple majority mark in the 545-member Lok Sabha.

But, in the Upper House with an effective strength of 244 MPs, the UPA reportedly accounts for about 94 members. It will have to bank heavily on the backing of one-and-half-dozen nominated members and Independents besides the support of the SP and the BSP to clear the vote hurdle.

With the BSP fiercely pressing for the passage of the Constitutional Bill on promotion quota in government jobs, which is being opposed by the SP with equal vehemence, the challenge for the Congress managers to do a balancing act while playing ball with them would be formidable.

 

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