Dec 18, 2010

Asian Giants China and India want win-win results

A joint communique signed between India and China, the Asian Giants in economy, population and power,    on December 16, 2010 said that they had agreed to expand co-operation in infrastructure, environment, information technology, telecommunications, and investment and finance.

It said that both Wen Jiabao and Manmohan Singh wanted "to draw on each other's strengths and pursue mutual benefit and win-win results".

Mr Wen hold talks with Indian PM Manmohan Singh on Thursday, December 16, 2010.

The two men discussed a number of sensitive issues, including a long-running border dispute.

Both sides said they need more time to sort out the border question.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says that the Chinese premier's visit amounted to a strong endorsement of the economic relationship between the two Asian giants, even though contentious issues remain.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrives in Delhi on 15 December 2010. Mr Wen's delegation in India was much larger than those headed by leaders of the US and UK.

These include China's military build-up on the border and India's support for the Dalai Lama.

The two countries signed some 50 deals in power, telecommunications, steel, wind energy, food and marine products worth $16 billion at the end of a business conference attended by Mr Wen in the capital, Delhi, on Wednesday (December 15, 2010) evening.

This overtakes the $10 billion of agreements signed between Indian and American businesspeople during the recent visit of US President Barack Obama.

"There is enough space in the world for the development of both China and India and there are enough areas for us to co-operate," Mr Wen told the business conference.

Mr Singh - speaking after his 11th meeting with Mr Wen in the last five years - said that a strong partnership between the two countries "will contribute to long-term peace, stability, prosperity and development in Asia and the world".

The communique said that the two sides had decided to establish a "mechanism of regular exchange of visits between heads of state and government".

"They welcomed the opening of the telephone hotline between the prime minister of India and the Chinese premier and agreed on regular consultations between the two leaders on issues of importance to both countries," it said.

"They also agreed to establish the mechanism of annual exchange of visits between the two foreign ministers."

China's premier also met India's External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and the ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Mr Wen travels to India's nuclear-armed neighbour and rival, Pakistan, for a two-day official visit on December 17, 2010 day after visiting India.

India and China set USD 100 billion trade target by 2015

The Asian giants India and China have agreed a new $100 billion bilateral trade target by 2015, up from $60 billion in 2010.

The two sides agreed to take measures to promote greater Indian exports to China, to reduce India's trade deficit between the two countries.

Companies have already signed business deals worth $16 billion on the opening day of Chinese PM Wen Jiabao's three-day official visit to India.

The latest of a number of world leaders to visit India, Mr Wen is accompanied by some 400 Chinese business leaders.
China is India's largest trading partner.

Bangladeshi national killed by Indian BSF on Friday

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) shot a Bangladeshi national dead on Balapara frontier in Dimla upazila of Nilphamari District of the country in the early hours on Friday (December 17, 2010), just one day after the country-wide colorful celebration of its Victory day, sources confirmed.

The victim was identified as Abdur Rashid, 35, son of Abu Chan Mia of Thakurganj village in the upazila. He was a cow trader, family sources of the deceased said.

Mentioned that, Mr. Rashid is the 3rd victim of Indian BSF after the killing of Chapainawabganj and Jessore in the last seven days.

According to Balapara Banladesh Rifles (BDR) sources, members of the BSF opened fire on the Bangladeshi nationals as they were waiting for cows near border pillar No 8.

However, other traders managed to escape from India border but Rashid got killed on the spot.

Killing of Bangladeshi nationals is rampant at the India-Bangladesh borders which is like routine work of Indian BSF. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an US based international human rights group revealed earlier in their report that BSF killed more than 900 Bangladesi at the India-Bangladesh border in the last decade.  There was not a single case where punishment was awarded to the responsible BSF members, the report observed.

The HRW report also criticized the Bangladesh government for its weakness to save the life of its nationals and urged the government to take immediate measure to save its national in the Indian border of the country.   

Dec 16, 2010

Assange now under Bail, may be freed tomorrow

The founder of whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has been granted conditional bail by a judge.

The 39-year-old was granted bail in London earlier this week but remained in jail after prosecutors objected.

The Australian is fighting extradition to Sweden over sex charges involving two women. He denies the allegations.

Mr Justice Ouseley granted conditional bail at the Royal Courts of Justice and supporters put up £240,000 in sureties. His release is expected on Thursday.

However, the BBC understands he may not be freed until Friday because those who provided the finances must complete paperwork at a police station.

Mr Assange's solicitor, Mark Stephens, said afterwards the bail appeal was part of a "continuing vendetta by the Swedes".

He said: "We have won costs today but they should be paid by Sweden not the hard-pressed Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)."

There has been dispute over who was motivated to appeal against Mr Assange's release, with Director of Public Prosecutions saying the CPS was merely acting as "agents" on behalf of the Swedish government. Nils Rekke, from the Swedish Prosecutor's Office, claimed it was "a purely British decision".

Mr Assange's mother, Christine, said she was "very, very happy" with the decision and thanked his supporters.

"I can't wait to see my son and to hold him close. I had faith that the British justice system would do the right thing and the judge would uphold the magistrates' decision, and that faith has been reaffirmed," she said.

Gemma Lindfield, representing the prosecution, had told the judge there was "a real risk" Mr Assange would abscond and pointed to his nomadic lifestyle.

She said he had "the means and ability" to go into hiding among Wikileaks' many supporters in this country and abroad.

But Mr Justice Ouseley pointed out Mr Assange had offered to meet the police in London when he heard the Swedish matter was still live and he said: "That is not the conduct of a person who is seeking to evade justice."

However, he did impose strict bail conditions including wearing an electronic tag, reporting to police every day and observing a curfew. Mr Assange also must stay at the Norfolk mansion of Wikileaks supporter Vaughan Smith.

Earlier, the judge made a ruling banning the use of Twitter to give a blow-by-blow account of Thursday's proceedings.

Mr Assange has received the backing of a number of high-profile supporters including human rights campaigners Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger, and film director Ken Loach.

Wikileaks has published hundreds of sensitive American diplomatic cables, details of which have appeared in the Guardian in the UK and several other newspapers around the world.

He has been criticised in the US where former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has said he should be hunted down like the al-Qaeda leadership.

Mr Assange argues the allegations against him are politically motivated and designed to take attention away from the material appearing on Wikileaks.

One of his supporters, writer Tariq Ali, said: "I'm relieved. He should never have been denied bail in the first place."

He said Mr Assange had suffered from some "vindictive and punitive" decisions and he claimed: "The Swedes are acting on behalf of a bigger power."

Mr Assange is accused of having unprotected sex with a woman, identified only as Miss A, when she insisted he use a condom.

He is also accused of having unprotected sex with another woman, Miss W, while she was asleep.

Castro was nearly died in 2006, Wikileaks says

Cuban leader Fidel Castro came close to death in 2006, according to the latest secret US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks.

Mr Castro almost died after suffering a perforated intestine during an internal flight, unnamed sources told US diplomats in Havana.

The illness led Mr Castro to hand power to his brother Raul, although he has since returned to public life.

The 84-year-old's health is considered a state secret in Cuba.

The Wikileaks cables, published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, reveal the intense efforts made by US diplomats in Havana to find out the nature of Fidel Castro's illness and his chances of recovery.

The names of the sources of information reported in the cables have been redacted by Wikileaks, but some apparently knew people who were close to the Cuban leader, or had access to his medical records.

The details of what they say cannot be independently verified.

One cable, sent in March 2007 by the then-head of the US interests section in Havana, Michael Parmly, quotes a report by an unnamed doctor on the moment Mr Castro fell seriously ill in July 2006.

"The illness began on the plane from Holguin to Havana," reports the cable.

As it was a short flight there was no doctor on board and they had to land urgently once they knew of Mr Castro's bleeding. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis of the colon.

The source said Mr Castro had a perforation of the large intestine and needed surgery.

But it says he "capriciously" refused to have a colostomy, with the result that his condition deteriorated over time and he required further surgery.

"This illness is not curable and will not, in her opinion, allow him to return to leading Cuba," the report concludes.

"He won't die immediately, but he will progressively lose his faculties and become ever more debilitated until he dies."

Further leaked cables quote other sources as saying Mr Castro was terminally ill, and examine statements by his medical team and reports of specialist drugs being brought into Cuba.

But the reports of his imminent death have proved to be exaggerated.

Mr Castro has since made an apparent recovery and earlier this year returned to making speeches and appearing in public, though he has not taken back the reins of power from his brother Raul.

The former Cuban leader recently praised Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, saying the leaks of thousands of diplomatic cables had brought the US "morally, to its knees".

"Julian Assange, a man who a few months ago hardly anyone in the world had heard of, is showing that the most powerful empire in history can be defied," he wrote in an article published by Cuban state media.

The US government and its intelligence agencies have been staunch enemies of Mr Castro and the communist government in Cuba for more than half a century.

So far, all their predictions of the imminent demise of communist party rule on the island have proved false.

Bangladesh celebrates 40th V-Day

Millions of people from all walks of life observed the 40th Victory Day of Bangladesh today. They came up to the streets of the country in a colorful decoration to celebrate the auspicious national occasion.

They turned up the streets with a great enthusiasm and aspiration of building a nation free from corruption, nepotism, deprivation and economic disparity for which they fought nine months against Pakistan in 1971.

On Thursday, the nation started their day saluting the valiant sons and daughters of the soil who made their supreme sacrifices for the cause of independence in 1971 with a dream of building a democratic state. They are gathering at various monuments to pay tributes to the national heroes.

Today is a public holiday and the national flag has been hoisted atop all government, semi-government and other important establishments.

People carrying banners of different political, social, cultural and professional organisations in the capital city along the whole country and singing patriotic songs.

The valiant people of the then east Pakistan under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and responding to the proclamation of Bir Uttam General Ziaur Rahman decided to see the then East Pakistan as an Independent Bangladesh.

The brave people with their very simple weapons fought against Pakistan to win against autocracy and for democracy only.
Till now, the unquestionable democracy where peoples mandate would be cent per cent visible without any conspiracy is a mere dream to the countrymen, Shahid Khan told this to this reporter while speaking this morning.        

President Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia have given separate statements marking the day.

The start of the day was marked by 31 cannon fires at the Old Airport premises in Tejgaon at the Heart of the Capital City in the very morning.

The president in his statement said, "One of the main objectives of our Liberation War was to achieve political sovereignty, economic self-sufficiency as well as to build a nation based on equality and equity."
"We could not yet attain that objective after four decades of independence. The anti-liberation force as well as the vested quarters created obstacle in the way of democracy and development by killing Father of the Nation."

"Our democratic advancement has been jeopardized afterwards in absence of a people's government. As a result, we lag far behind in anticipated development"

He went on to say that democracy has been re-established and expressed hope that the country will be able to fulfill the main objectives of the war.

The Prime Minister of the country said in her statement, "Thirty nine years have passed since independence but the desired dreams and aspirations of independence are yet to be achieved."

"The defeated forces of the 1971 snatched away the people's right through killing, coup and politics of conspiracy after the assassination of the Father of the Nation along with his 18 family members on August 15and the four national leaders inside the Dhaka Central jail on the November 3 in 1975."

"Through the killings, the defeated forces wanted to undo the greatest achievements of the War of Liberation-the constitution, democracy, humanity, culture and development."

"The nation which has earned its independence through bloodbath reestablished democracy and rights of the people through a long struggle and unfathomable sacrifice," she added.

The opposition leader said in her statement, "Even though our motherland was freed from enemies in 1971, their sharp eyes are still on us".

"An imperialist force is working to turn us into a subjugated race. We will have to unite nationally to fight it."

On this day in 1971, Pakistani occupation forces representative Martial Law Administrator Zone B and Commander Eastern Command (Pakistan) Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi along with 91,549 troops surrendered to the General Officer Commanding in Chief India and Bangladesh Forces in the Eastern Theater  Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora at 4.31 pm in the afternoon at Sahrawardi Udyan in Dhaka of Bangladesh.

Azerbaijan accuses BP of stealing $10bn of oil , Wikileaks latest whistle

Cables leaked on December 15, 2010 claim that the president of Azerbaijan accused BP of stealing $10bn of oil from his country and using "mild blackmail" to secure the rights to develop vast gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region.

The cables reveal that some of BP's partners in the gas field were upset that the company was so secretive about the incident that it even allegedly withheld information from them. They also say that BP was lucky that it was able to evacuate its 212 workers safely after the incident, which resulted in two fields being shut and output being cut by at least 500,000 barrels a day with production disrupted for months.

Embassy cables reveal energy firm 'fortunate' to have evacuated workers safely after blast similar to Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Striking resemblances between BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster and a little-reported giant gas leak in Azerbaijan experienced by the UK firm 18 months beforehand have emerged from leaked US embassy cables, The Guardian reports.

WikiLeaks also released cables claiming that:

• Senior figures in Thailand are concerned about the suitability of the crown prince to become king, citing rumours that he has lovers in several European capitals in addition to his wife and son in Thailand.

• American energy firm Chevron was in discussions with Tehran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield, despite US sanctions against Iran.

The leaks came as the whistleblower site's founder Julian Assange prepared for another night in jail ahead of tomorrow's high court challenge to the decision to grant him £200,000 bail. Swedish authorities, who want to question Assange on allegations of sexual assault, believe he should remain in custody as he is a flight risk.

On the Azerbaijan gas leak, a cable reports for the first time that BP suffered a blowout in September 2008, as it did in the Gulf with devastating consequences in April, as well as the gas leak that the firm acknowledged at the time.

"Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was 'a lot of mud' on the platform, which BP would analyze to help find the cause of the blowout and gas leak," the cable said.

Written a few weeks after the incident, the cable said Bill Schrader, BP's then head of Azerbaijan, admitted it was possible the company "would never know" the cause although it "is continuing to methodically investigate possible theories".

According to another cable, in January 2009 BP thought that a "bad cement job" was to blame for the gas leak in Azerbaijan. More recently, BP's former chief executive Tony Hayward also partly blamed a "bad cement job" by contractor Halliburton for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The blowout in the Gulf led to the deaths of 11 workers and the biggest accidental offshore oil spill in history.

BP was also criticised for not initially sharing all its information with the US authorities about the scale of the Gulf spill. The gas field in the Caspian Sea was in production when the leak and blow out occured, unlike the well in the Gulf which was being drilled to explore for oil.

BP declined to answer questions put by the Guardian about the cause of the Azerbaijan gas leak and who carried out the cement job, pointing to a general statement it had made about the cables.

The cable reveals that the company had a narrow escape. "Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. Schrader said although the story hadn't caught the press's attention, it had the full focus of the [government of Azerbaijan], which was losing '$40-50m each day'."

The leak happened at the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshi (ACG) field, Azerbaijan's largest producing oil field in the Caspian where vast undeveloped gas reserves also lie. BP is the operator and largest shareholder in the consortium, which includes US companies Chevron, ExxonMobil and Hess (formerly Amerada Hess), as well as Norwegian firm Statoil and Azerbaijani state owned oil company Socar.

BP comes in for criticism for allegedly limiting the information it made available about the incident. Another cable records shortly after the incident: "ACG operator BP has been exceptionally circumspect in disseminating information about the ACG gas leak, both to the public and to its ACG partners. However, after talking with BP and other sources, the embassy has pieced together the following picture."

It goes on to say the incident took place when bubbles appeared in the waters around the Central Azeri platform, signalling a nearby gas leak. "Shortly thereafter, a related gas-reinjection well for Central Azeri had a blowout, expelling water, mud and gas." BP's annual report last year referred to a "comprehensive review of the subsurface gas release" having taken place and remedial work being carried out.

The cable continues: "At least some of BP's ACG partners are similarly upset with BP's performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its ACG partners. Although it is too early to ascertain the cause, if in fact this production shutdown was due to BP technical error, and if it continues for months (as seems possible), BP's reputation in Azerbaijan will take a serious hit."

BP is in charge of Azerbaijan's key energy projects, and has a significant influence across the region. In late 2006 discussions were taking place about when Turkey would be able to link up its own network to a new pipeline operated by BP transporting gas across the Caucasus from BP's giant new Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan. The new pipeline was seen as crucial as reducing the region's dependence on unreliable gas supplies from Russia, particularly amidst rising gas prices.

According to one cable, BP's outgoing Azerbaijan president, David Woodward, said in November 2006 that BP thought it unlikely that Turkey would be able to complete its work before spring 2007. "However, he added that 'it was not inconceivable' that Botas [Turkey's state pipeline company] could 'rush finish' the job so that it would be ready to receive gas shortly, although the pipeline would not meet international standards," the cable said. In the end, BP said Turkey began receiving gas from Shah Deniz in July 2007.

The cables also reveal BP concerns on the lack of security at the time around its oil and gas installations, particularly in the Caspian Sea, which it believed made them vulnerable to terrorist attack. One cable from July 2007 records: "BP Azerbaijan president Bill Schrader has told US officials in private conversations, 'all it would take is one guy with a mortar or six guys in a boat' to wreak havoc in Azerbaijan's critical energy infrastructure."

BP officials also complained about a shortage of Navy and Coast Guard boats – mostly Soviet era and built in the 1960s and 1970s – to patrol the waters around the platforms. It was also not clear which government agency or branch of the military was in charge, meaning a "response to a crisis offshore could be problematic" , one cable in August 2008 recorded.

The oil firm said BP "enjoys the continued support and goodwill of the government and the people of Azerbaijan".

The oil firm said in a statement that: "BP continues to have a successful and mutually beneficial partnership with the government of Azerbaijan. This cooperation has produced and contunues to produce benefits to all parties involved and most importantly to the nation of Azerbaijan.

"The Government of Azerbaijan has entrusted us with the development of its major oil and gas development projects on the basis of Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) that are enacted as laws in Azerbaijan. The operatorship of PSAs of this scale and size require cooperation and alignment between contractors and the Government.

"BP in Azerbaijan enjoys the continued support and goodwill of the Government and the people of Azerbaijan to meet its obligations. As part of maintaining this successful partnership we meet and discuss business related matters with relevant parties including our partners, SOCAR, and the Government. These discussions are confidential and as such we will maintain that confidentiality and not comment on specifics."