Tuesday, February 14, 2012

President Obama hosts China Vice-President Xi Jinping

US President Barack Obama has pressed China's leader-in-waiting on the issues of bilateral trade and human rights, as he welcomed him to the White House.

Meeting Vice-President Xi Jinping in the Oval Office, Mr Obama also said it was "vital" that Washington maintained a strong relationship with Beijing.

Mr Xi said he hoped his visit would deepen mutual understanding and friendship between the two powers.

The US and China have been at odds over trade, currency and human rights.

Mr Xi, 58, is widely expected to succeed President Hu Jintao, who must retire as head of the Communist Party later this year and from the presidency in 2013.
'Sound and stable'

Mr Obama received the Chinese vice-president at the White House on Tuesday ahead of a luncheon at the state department.Mr Xi is making the week-long trip as a guest of US Vice-President Joe Biden, who made a high-profile visit to China late last year.

Earlier in the day, Mr Xi met Mr Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the White House's Roosevelt Room.

Mr Biden said that while "we are not always going to see eye to eye", both nations would speak "candidly" about their differences.

"We have very important economic and political concerns that warrant that we work together," he added.

Mr Xi also will meet Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. On Wednesday, he will travel to Iowa to meet his hosts from his first visit to the US in 1985 when he was a county official.

He is also scheduled to visit a farm in Iowa on Thursday before flying to Los Angeles, California, to meet business leaders there.

Correspondents say the US-China relationship has become an increasingly delicate one over a series of security and economic issues.

Washington has been putting pressure on Beijing over the value of its currency and turning the heat up on what it has called unfair trade practices.

His visit comes a year after Mr Hu's trip to Washington, which he referred to in his comments provided by the Chinese government to The Washington Post.

In his remarks to the newspaper, Mr Xi also sounded a note of warning to the US over its military stance in the Pacific. He said scaling up military activity was not what the region wanted to see.
'Frictions and differences'

China and the US, Mr Xi said, had ''converging interests'' in the region and there was ''ample space'' for both in the Pacific Ocean."We also hope that the United States will fully respect and accommodate the major interest and legitimate concerns of Asia-Pacific countries," he wrote.

Washington has been putting pressure on Beijing over the value of its currency and turning the heat up on what it has called unfair trade practices.

In his remarks to the newspaper, Mr Xi emphasised that China had taken ''active steps'' to address these concerns.

''Frictions and differences are hardly avoidable in our economic and trade interactions,'' he said.

''We must not allow frictions and differences to undermine the larger interests of our business co-operation.''

Mr Xi's trip also comes amid increased tension over protests and tightened security in Tibet.

Human rights activists staged a protest outside the White House, carrying banners that read "Tibet will be free".

Mr Xi is also scheduled to visit Ireland and Turkey, following the US trip

Valentine’s Day Wines

Bahrain unrest, one year on

Russia keeps up opposition to Syria peace plan


Russia yesterday made clear that it would not support a new proposal for a joint Arab-United Nations peacekeeping mission to Syria unless the violence were to end first, making the chances for the plan look unlikely as Moscow continues to hamper international efforts for a resolution.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated that international pressure to end the bloodshed should focus on the opposition as well as on Bashar al-Assad's regime. He said that peacekeeping troops could not be considered until there was an end to attacks, including what he described as opposition by armed groups.

China, which this month joined Russia in vetoing a UN Security Council call for Assad to step down, has refused to be drawn on its position on the plan. The cool reception from Damascus' two allies for the proposal made by the Arab League is likely to see those backing the plan hamstrung.

Syria is a major arms client of Russia, accounting for 7 per cent of Moscow's US$10 billion ($12 billion) arms sales in 2010, and hosts a key Middle Eastern base for the Russian navy near the port of Tartus. Navi Pillay, the UN's high commissioner for human rights, yesterday said that the inability to put out any kind resolution had increased the bloodshed."The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have emboldened the Syrian Government to launch an all-out assault in an effort to crush dissent with overwhelming force," she said.

The diplomatic sparring came as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an attempt by regime tanks to retake the town of Rastan in Homs province was repelled by anti-Assad forces. It said that three soldiers had been killed in the assault. The bombardment of the rebel-held Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs city, which has been under siege for more than a week, continued, it said.

William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, said yesterday that an Arab-UN mission could have an "important role in saving lives", and that Britain would be discussing the proposal with the Arab League and "international partners" ahead of a Friends of Syria summit scheduled for February 25 in Tunisia.

Xi’s visit offers chance to renew consensus

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping started his visit to the US today, aimed at realizing the consensus reached by the heads of the two countries last year. The special position of Xi in the upcoming leadership change also signals the special meaning the visit holds for the Sino-US relationship.

In the 1990s, Chinese diplomatic circles believed the Sino-US relationship would become neither too good nor too bad. During this period, the world has changed greatly.

Among the series of variables between China and the US, the most fundamental is the balance of power between the two nations.

In 2011, China's GDP accounted for 45 percent of that of the US, but China's trade and manufacturing volume have surpassed the US'. Never in history has a second largest economy surpassed the US in trade and manufacturing. The US has never met a competitor like China before.

The US is now encountering difficulties in its development. The sense of insecurity Americans feel toward China's rise has become an outlet for them to express their anxiety at this time.

The environment in which China makes policies for the US is also changing.

In the past, elitism played a dominant role, and the top leaders set the tone of Chinese policy. Now, public opinion can influence foreign diplomacy.

In recent years, specific Sino-US frictions have occurred more often, which, despite the more frequent meetings between high-level officials from the two countries, have diluted the two countries' emphasis on each other's strategic importance.

Agreements previously reached by the two countries are gradually disintegrating and new consensuses are yet to form. In this period, it is very important for the two countries to travel smoothly through the process.

At present, there are impulses from both countries to counter each other. Neither country is confident it can keep such emotions in check.

But obviously, this job will prove more difficult for the US.

The rise of public opinion brings new complexities to Chinese diplomacy. The US has to face not only a stronger China but also a more complex China.

Even if this is the case, in the era of globalization, neither country wants to be the other's enemy while they are so interdependent.

No one can solve the structural contradiction between China and the US, so whether they like it or not, they have to let the result of natural competition make the decision.

It is hoped Xi's visit to the US will become a good opportunity for the two countries to ponder deeply on the bilateral relations strategically. They both need to be clear who they are and how they can enhance their relations.

Who Is Xi Jinping? Future Chinese Leader Makes U.S. Debut

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping arrived in Washington Monday afternoon, kicking off his official visit to the United States.

China's vice president and future leader Xi Jinping will meet with President Obama today, nearly 40 years to the day after President Nixon arrived in Beijing to radically reshape relations between the two nations. Xi is in the U.S. for a week's worth of meetings in Washington, Muscatine, Iowa, and Los Angeles.

Xi and Obama have some things in common. Xi's daughter, Xi Mingxe, is a sophomore at Harvard, Obama's alma mater. Obama is a basketball fan, and word is Xi hopes to catch a Clippers game Friday in L.A., but it is not yet on his official schedule.

Xi is also a fan of American movies, particularly World War II epics such as "Saving Private Ryan" and the gangster film "The Departed."

Nevertheless, no one expects this visit to be a real game changer. Instead, this is Xi's debut as a world leader, and an indication of how China increasingly sees itself on the world stage, according to experts on China-U.S. relations.

The timing - and just about everything else about Xi's visit - is being carefully orchestrated. It comes just before China undergoes a massive, once-a-decade leadership change. Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, made a similar trip in 2002, just before he took over. Xi Jinping (prounounced Shee Jin Ping) is scheduled to replace Hu Jintao as general secretary of the Communist Party this spring and as president of the People's Republic in 2013.

As for the U.S.? The administration has a long list of topics to discuss with Xi, everything from trade, to the military, to human rights, according to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

There is also the issue of two American citizens currently detained in China. Dr. Xue Feng is a geologist serving an eight year prison sentence for purportedly selling state secrets. Hu Zhicheng, a businessman, is blocked from leaving China under similar accusations. Obama raised the issue of Feng's imprisonment when he came to China in 2009 to no avail.

On this trip, China is not expected to agree to a single request. That's expected to be frustrating for the U.S., but symbolic of an increasingly confident China, say long time political observers in China.

Xi embodies both that confidence and a shift; the world hasn't seen a leader like him in China before.

At 58, Xi is of a generation that came of age at a time when China was no longer receiving major aid from the U.S. His predecessors grew up during an era, going back to World War II, in which many Chinese could not imagine life without U.S. assistance. But Xi was just 24 in 1978, the dawn of China's transformation from a closed, communist economy to the international powerhouse that it is today. Many Chinese in his generation hold respect for the U.S. but no longer feel as indebted nor, perhaps, as grateful.

Perhaps the most sensitive subject expected to be discussed during Xi's official visit is the so-called "pivot," the administration's intention to bolster security in the Asia-Pacific. The region is a top priority in Obama's new defense strategy. The shift comes amidst growing concern over China's strategic goals and potential effort to reduce U.S. capabilities in the Far East. But many Chinese see it as nothing more than an effort to contain China.

Still, China is not looking for a fight. Domestic stability, and the flow of American dollars (to keep purchasing Chinese goods), are key to maintaining China's economic growth.

The trip marks a return to familiar territory and fond memories for Xi. He will spend time in Muscatine, Iowa (the "pearl of the Mississippi" and former home to Mark Twain). In 1985, he traveled to Muscatine to study advanced hog raising techniques and spent two nights with an Iowa family.

While it may be his official "U.S. debut," what we do know about Xi plays well in China. He grew up the son of an influential politician. His family enjoyed the privileges of the elite until his father had a falling out with Chairman Mao and went to prison. As a result, at the formative age of 15, Xi left his life of urban comfort and was sent to the countryside for re-education as part of the Cultural Revolution.

He spent seven years living in a cave and working the land. Many Xi observers in China say this lead to a personal transformation. During this time he learned to work well with the local community, despite radically different backgrounds and, at times, ideologies. This would prove to be an enduring, and valuable, trait put to use during his early career in the military and subsequent shift to politics.

Although a U.S. Embassy memo, made public via Wikileaks, referred to him as "redder than red," within China he's known as more of a centrist than a fervent Maoist.

His visit comes following U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to China last summer, and ahead of Secretary Hillary Clinton's visit this spring. By then, Xi will be the head of the Communist Party.

Outside of his professional biography, what is known of his personal life is rather colorful as compared to leaders past. Xi is married to the famous folk singer Peng Liyuan (although while the two were dating he reportedly told her he didn't know any of her songs because he doesn't watch much TV).

Islamabad Allows NATO Food Shipments To Afghanistan

Radio Free Europe

Pakistan's defense minister has admitted that the government temporarily has allowed NATO to ship food items to its troops in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Mukhtar said on February 14 that NATO would only be allowed to ship perishable items for a limited time.

He did not indicate when the approval was given.

The U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, Cameron Munter, last week said that NATO had continued to fly supplies into Afghanistan despite Pakistan's closure of the border to coalition trucks and oil tankers.

Islamabad took this decision in November in retaliation for American air strikes that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Bahraini regime forces attack protesters in Manama, elsewhere

Saudi-Backed Bahraini forces attack anti-government protesters in the capital, Manama, and several villages as demonstrators try to march towards the site of the iconic Pearl Square.

Bahraini security forces fired teargas at the protesters on the eve of the first anniversary of the country’s revolution, arresting dozens of people.

The Bahraini forces also laid siege to several villages across the country, including Bilad al-Qadim near Manama, where heavy clashes erupted between the regime forces and the protesters.

On Monday, Bahraini forces attacked the anti-government protesters who marched from the outskirts of Manama towards the capital, blocking a main highway to the city as the protesters were moving towards the Pearl Square.

Bahraini authorities have warned about participating in opposition-organized demonstrations to mark the first anniversary of the uprising and that security forces will not hesitate to attack the protesters.

Al-Wefaq, the main opposition bloc in Bahrain, has called for anti-regime protests across the country, saying that although Pearl Square has "become a symbol" for protest, it is not the only venue.

Pearl Square was razed last year as part of Manama's crackdown on the protests. It is now called Martyr's Square.

Bahrainis have been calling for an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty since February last year.

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others have been arrested in Manama's brutal crackdown on protesters.

A Responsible Budget


President Obama’s 2013 budget was greeted on Monday with Republican catcalls that it is simply a campaign document, but election-year budgets are supposed to explain priorities to voters. This one offers a clear and welcome contrast to the slashing austerity — and protect-the-wealthy priorities — favored by Republican Congressional leaders and the party’s presidential candidates.

The president’s budget calls for long-term deficit reduction, but its immediate priority is to encourage the fledgling economic recovery. Instead of trying to stabilize the budget on the backs of the poor, it would raise taxes on the wealthy and on big banks and eliminate many corporate tax loopholes.

To put Americans back to work, it would invest $350 billion in constructing roads, rail lines and schools, and encourage manufacturing through tax incentives and research spending. It would maintain the Pell grant program for low-income college students and add new spending for teacher improvement and education reform.

Republicans, on the other hand, would cut taxes for the rich and cut almost all of that spending, heedless of the pain that it would inflict on the economy and the millions of Americans still reeling from the downturn’s effects. In poll after poll, the public has made clear that it prefers the president’s approach of rebuilding the economy now and tackling the deficit when the fundamentals are stronger. While Republicans have counted on voters blaming Mr. Obama for the hard times, some are beginning to worry that they will be blamed for their obstructionism. That was clear on Monday when House leaders announced that they would agree to Mr. Obama’s proposal to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of this year without insisting on drastic cuts elsewhere to pay for it.

Although the House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan, said the budget proposal would leave the country “drowning in debt,” there are still plenty of painful cuts included. Much of that is because of the debt-ceiling agreement that Republicans engineered last year, which forced $8.5 billion in discretionary savings in next year’s budget alone. That means substantial cuts to the Justice Department, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Clean-water programs would lose out, as would low-income heating assistance, community development block grants and space exploration programs. The White House could have found more savings in the Defense Department, which declines by $5 billion, or just 1 percent.

Unlike Republicans, Mr. Obama would trim only slightly from growth in Medicare and Medicaid. His proposed $8 billion investment in community colleges is sound. Still, it suggests that a lack of skills is at the heart of the jobs crisis. The big problems right now are a lack of jobs and a lack of demand.

If Congress were not dysfunctional — if it cared more about economic stabilization than scoring political points — it would sign on to a budget like this. As it is, the proposal will go nowhere, largely because of the Republican refusal to raise taxes on the wealthy and to spend money on vital programs. Senate Democrats, who don’t want to make hard political choices, also share the blame. They have already said that they do not intend to pass the president’s or their own budget, deferring their responsibility for a third year. At a time when honest economic planning needs all the support it can get, that’s a serious mistake.

SHABAZ LISTEN:One more falls prey to PIC drugs, toll hits 144

Deaths due to PIC medicines reaction are continuing as one more patient die of spurious drugs.Despite of precautionary measures, more and more heart patients are dying due to reaction of medicines provided by Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore.Today, 41-year-old Muhammad Siddiq lost his life in Services Hospital Lahore. The death toll of PIC medicine reaction has surged to 144.

PML-N is lonely

The PML-N is politically stranded, as it has not learnt from history, PPP Vice-President Senator Dr Babar Awan said on Monday.
Holding a press conference at Punjab Opposition Leader Raja Riaz’s residence, Awan said that those people who attacked the Supreme Court (SC) were now trying to dictate the PPP. He said that all cases against President Asif Ali Zardari were politically motivated and had nothing to do with reality, adding that PML-N President Nawaz Sharif made cases against the PPP leadership and Zardari. “The cases against President Zardari are politically motivated,” he said adding that the Punjab government had failed to serve the masses and could not govern the province. “Earlier, it was dengue and now spurious drugs of the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) are killing innocent people while managers of the province are least bothered for such issues,” the PPP leader said adding that the media was threatened when it tried to highlight these issues.

PIC scandal to bring more problems for government

The havoc caused by the spurious medicines of the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) might be over for the institute’s patients but its ramifications for Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif are unlikely to abate soon.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday adjourned till February 22 hearing of a petition seeking disqualification of the CM and his son, MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, over the loss of precious lives first by dengue and now by the PIC medicines.
The petition was filed by Muhammad Fakhir Razzaq. The petitioner’s counsel Khurram Latif Khosa, son of the Punjab governor, pleaded that the CM had failed to prove himself to be trustworthy, a prerequisite for all the representatives according to Article 62 of the constitution, while his son was supporting owners of the spurious medicines of PIC, Al-Falah Pharma.
He also alleged that the CM held the portfolio of health minister without even having the basic knowledge of the medical field, thus playing with countless precious lives, a loss never to be undone.
The counsel requested the court that the respondents be declared murderers of patients and hence permanently disqualified. He also requested that to save lives of people the CM be restrained from holding office.
In yet another development, the Defective Drugs Enquiry Commission kicked off its proceedings on Monday by summoning former Punjab health secretary Jahanzeb Khan and former PIC chief executive Dr Muhammad Azhar on February 14 to probe into the PIC deaths. Both the officials are said to have a hand in delivery of the defective medicines.
The commission comprises LHC judge Justice Ijazul Ahsan and District and Sessions Judge Irfan Saeed is working as registrar.
The commission will complete its enquiry within 30 days and submit a report to the Punjab government. It will determine elements responsible for the negligence and also suggest measures to stop such incidents in future.
LHC SEEKS GOVT’S REPORT ON ‘CHANGE’ IN MEDICINE PROCURING POLICY: The LHC on Monday sought a report till February 22 from the Punjab government about steps taken to change “policy of procuring medicines” for hospitals in the wake of deaths in Punjab Institute of Cardiology by spurious medicines
The court also directed the investigation team, probing the deaths and the spurious drugs, to submit a detailed report on those responsible for purchasing and selling spurious medicines to PIC. Justice Umar Ata Bandial passed the order on a petition filed by Judicial Activism Panel, a public interest litigation firm, through Muhammad Azhar Siddique.

Bangladesh teens commit suicide on Valentine's Day

A 16-year-old girl and her 17-year-old lover committed suicide in southern Bangladesh on Valentine's Day after the girl was forced to marry another man, police said Tuesday.

The bodies of Mitu Molla and Soud Sheikh were found with "each of their hands tied together with a scarf" after they jumped from a mobile phone tower in Gopalganj district, police inspector Sarojit Biswas said.

"They died on the way to a clinic. It appears that the teenagers, who are from two neighbouring villages, had a love affair and they chose Valentine's Day to kill themselves," Biswas told AFP.

He said Molla's family took her to a town 200 kilometres (120 miles) from her village two months ago and married her off to a man twice her age against her will after the affair with Sheikh became public.

Sheikh, a high school student in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, secretly returned to the village on Monday night to meet the girl, who had also gone back to visit her parents' home, Biswas said.

"Most probably the boy and the girl talked over mobile phones to decide on the suicide pact," he added.

Pakistan releases U.S. man after "bullets found in baggage"

A U.S. embassy employee was released after being held for questioning in Pakistan on Tuesday when airport security officials discovered bullets in his luggage, police said.

The American was about to fly from the northwestern city of Peshawar to the capital Islamabad when he was taken into police custody, said Tahir Ayub, a senior police superintendent.

He was released after four hours when officials from the U.S. consulate in Peshawar produced documents to show the man worked at the consulate.

"He's been released to the consulate," a U.S. official in Islamabad said. "He's at the consulate now."

The American is an embassy employee usually based in Islamabad but was temporarily assigned to the Peshawar consulate, the official said.

Police officers had earlier said they would hold the man until his identity had been verified by the foreign office in Islamabad and a U.S. official in the capital had said the embassy was looking into the details of the reports.

"He has diplomatic status," the official said. "We're in contact with Pakistani authorities on the details on the case."

Ayub said a pistol and 12 magazine rounds had been recovered from the man's luggage, while another police officer said security officials had only found bullets.

The detention was likely to revive memories of Raymond Davis, an American CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistanis in the eastern city of Lahore in January 2011.

A third Pakistani died when he was hit by an embassy vehicle racing to extract Davis from the scene where an angry mob had gathered.

After initial confusion, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad said Davis had diplomatic immunity, which Pakistan refused to recognize. Davis spent almost two months in jail before being released after the payment of compensation to the families of the two men killed.

The incident was a major blow to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror.

Ties were just beginning to thaw when U.S. commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani military town on May 2 in a secret raid which infuriated Islamabad.

Afghan carpet profits threadbare

China's leader-in-waiting to meet with Obama

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the man set to become the country's next paramount leader, is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama and other officials on Tuesday during a U.S. visit that is likely to help burnish Xi's statesmanly credentials at home and abroad.

Chinese VP starts U.S. tour while world watches

As the world is watching, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping started his five-day official visit to the United States Monday.

Xi arrived in the afternoon at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington as a guest of his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden.

He was greeted by senior U.S. officials, including Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns and U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke.

In a written statement issued upon his arrival at the airport, Xi said the purpose of his visit is to implement the important consensus reached by President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama during Hu's visit to the United States in January last year and to advance the Sino-U.S. cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

"I have brought with me the sincere greetings of President Hu Jintao and the Chinese people to the American people," he said.

Forty years ago, Xi continued, thanks to the joint efforts of the older generation of Chinese and American leaders, exchanges between the two countries were taken up again, marked by then U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to China and the issuance of the Shanghai Communique.

In a somewhat symbolic gesture, Xi met in the evening with several former senior U.S. officials, including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft and Sandy Berger, and former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.

During the meeting, Xi's first major event on his first day in Washington, the Chinese vice president spoke highly of their contributions to boosting Sino-U.S. relations.

Among others, Kissinger's first tour to China in July 1971 paved the way for a groundbreaking 1972 summit meeting in Beijing between then U.S. President Nixon and China's late Chairman Mao Zedong.Kissinger's visit, which opened the door for the development of Sino-U.S. relations, led to the official establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries on Jan. 1, 1979.

Xi said as the international situation is witnessing complex and profound changes, cooperation and coordination between China and the United States have become all the more crucial and vital.

Building a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and interest is a strategic decision made by both Chinese and U.S. presidents, and it is vital to substantially implement the decision so as to guarantee a stable and sustained expansion of bilateral relations, Xi added.

The vice president called on the U.S. side to ensure that the upcoming U.S. presidential election won't negatively affect the smooth development of bilateral ties.

The presidential vote are due to be held in November.

Xi put forward a four-point proposal on boosting the Sino-U.S.cooperative partnership, namely, to learn the lessons history has taught by adopting a long-term perspective, respecting each other, building mutual trust and striving for a mutually beneficial, win-win situation.

Trade volume between the United States and China, the world's two largest economies, hit 440 billion U.S. dollars last year.

As Kissinger and other U.S. celebrities put it, bilateral relations are at a new historic turning point, and advancing the U.S.-China cooperative partnership is not only beneficial to both countries, but also to the world at large.

Xi's visit has attracted worldwide attention, with local and international press eager to cover the event.

U.S. media said that Xi is enjoying "near-summit treatment" during his visit.

The Washington Post ran a story on Xi's tour on its front page Monday, titled "A Key Visit for China, U.S.," while CNN aired Xi's arrival on its primetime session and presented an in-depth analysis of the visit.

"This visit is an investment in the future of the Chinese-American relationship," Tony Blinken, Biden's national security adviser, was quoted as saying by local press.

Sources said besides attending a series of high-level talks and meetings in Washington, Xi will travel to the farm state of Iowa in the Midwest and Los Angeles on the West Coast.

Obama, China's Xi to tread cautiously in White House talks

President Barack Obama and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will hold talks on Tuesday that could help boost the international stature of China's leader-in-waiting while testing Obama's ability to balance U.S.-China diplomacy with election-year pressures.

Taking his biggest step on to the world stage at a time of growing economic and military rivalry between the two nations, Xi will have a chance to show he is capable of steering his country's crucial relationship with Washington.

Chinese officials have carefully choreographed Xi's U.S. visit as a rite of passage in China's once-in-a-decade leadership transition. He is expected to become head of the ruling Communist Party later this year before taking over the presidency in March 2013.

While Obama will treat Xi to Oval Office talks -- an honor usually reserved for closest allies -- the U.S. president will tread a cautious line in their first meeting.

He will be mindful of the importance of making a smooth start with China's heir apparent but also of the political need to be firm with Beijing as he seeks re-election in November. Republican presidential contenders have accused Obama of being intimidated by China on trade and currency issues.

Xi, 58, arrived in Washington on Monday and held a get-to-know-you dinner with U.S. foreign policy veterans, including former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Xi is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the White House since Obama launched a new U.S. "pivot" toward Asia in November to counterbalance China's increasing assertiveness in the region.

Even as he welcomes Xi, Obama is quietly overhauling U.S. economic policy toward Beijing, looking for new ways to extract results on issues such as market access and currency practices that have bedeviled him and his predecessors.


Like Obama, Xi will not want to come across as a pushover -- in the face of U.S. pressure on trade imbalances, human rights, the violence in Syria and other points of friction. He has to play to a powerful Communist Party apparatus and nationalist sentiment at home.

However, in the build-up to Xi's visit, he and other Chinese officials have played down tensions, citing hopes for improved cooperation as long as Washington heeds Beijing's concerns.

Chinese state-run media also played on Xi's theme that China and the United States can keep tensions in check.

"Overall, the two countries' common interests outweigh their disputes, and cooperation is the dominant current in relations," said a Tuesday commentary in China's top official newspaper, the People's Daily.

"Differences and disputes should not become an impediment to the growth of Sino-U.S. relations. Only by confronting these differences and disputes more candidly and correctly dealing with them can we constantly raise the level of cooperation."

Xi's tour will take him from Washington to a farm in Iowa to Los Angeles as he looks to assuage Americans' worries about China's strength and intentions. He is a Communist Party "princeling" -- the son of a revolutionary leader -- but also fond of small-town America and Hollywood war dramas.

Obama's aides see the visit yielding few, if any, formal agreements. Rather, they expect the leaders to size each other up.

"In Asia, generally, but in China, certainly, relationships matter and high-level relationships particularly matter," Danny Russel, Obama's top China adviser, told reporters.

But Obama may also want to keep Xi somewhat at arm's length. Many Americans blame China's trade and currency policies for job losses in the U.S. manufacturing sector that have hit important election battleground states such as Ohio especially hard.

A full-page newspaper advertisement by the U.S. Business and Industry Council -- headlined "From China, with Love," referring to Tuesday's Valentine's Day holiday -- urged Obama to "back up your tough words with tough action."

A U.S. industry official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said he was pessimistic Xi's visit would yield much progress on issues such as Chinese theft of U.S. trade secrets or forced technology transfer.

"Whether any outcomes on those issues really can be meaningful is an open question," he said.

At an Asia-Pacific summit in Honolulu in November, Obama demanded that China start behaving like a "grown up" economy.

Obama has repeatedly insisted that China allow its currency to rise faster in value, saying it was being kept artificially low, helping its export-led economy, and aides made clear he would press the point with Xi.

Obama, on the eve of his talks with Xi, proposed $26 million in new trade-enforcement funding to make sure China and other countries play by the rules of international trade.

But U.S. leverage over Beijing is limited, not least because China is America's largest foreign creditor.

For his part, Xi took a swipe at Washington's efforts to beef up its military presence in the Pacific to counter China's own build-up.

"At a time when people long for peace, stability and development, to deliberately give prominence to the military security agenda, scale up military deployment and strengthen military alliances is not really what most countries in the region hope to see," he told the Washington Post.

Tribal students demand college, varsity

Waziristan Students Society, University of Peshawar here Monday staged a protest demonstration demanding the establishment of new college, university and medical college in Waziristan.

The demonstration started from Qayyum Stadium and after marching on roads in Cantonment area turned into a public meeting at Peshawar Press Club.

On this occasion the representatives of student society, Falak Naz, Zafarullah, Asmatullah, Malik Siddique, Nasim Dawar demanded establishment of college, university and medical college for students of Waziristan Agnecy.

They said that the prevailing crisis and militancy had badly affected education of students, saying the establishment of new colleges and university will facilitate them in provision of education facilities at door step.

Mansoor Ijaz embarrasses ISI DG, SC with fresh claims

Daily Times

The instigator of the memo case, Musawwer Mansoor Ijaz, has claimed that he has been in contact with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha in connection with “logistics and security arrangements” for his testimony before the inquiry commission created by the Supreme Court.
Talking to a private television channel last Friday, Ijaz said that he had been in touch with the ISI chief after his first meeting in London on October 22, 2011. Ijaz’s claim, if true, creates doubts about his being a disinterested party only seeking to reveal the truth and raises questions about why he maintains relations with the spy agency that he has described as “a cancer” in past writings.
Mansoor Ijaz also quoted text messages and emails he exchanged with General Pasha in the letter he sent to Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on January 30, which was sealed by the chief justice in the custody of the Supreme Court Registrar.
According to sources familiar with the contents of the letter, Ijaz claimed in it that he had been informed by the ISI chief that neither the Pakistani nor the US government wanted him to travel to Pakistan to testify about the memo. Ijaz also repeated his previous claims about feeling threatened by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the civilian government. He insisted in the letter that the Supreme Court should allow former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani to travel abroad so that a case could be made for Mansoor Ijaz being allowed to testify overseas.
Although the chief justice sealed the letter that Mansoor Ijaz had asked to be kept secret, its contents were revealed the same day to a private television channel along with comments that Mansoor Ijaz professed that Husain Haqqani was allowed to travel abroad at Ijaz’s request. This effectively constituted an embarrassing suggestion that the Supreme Court was acting on Mansoor Ijaz’s request even though no such request was made in open court.
In his letter to the chief justice, Mansoor Ijaz also claimed that he could not travel to Pakistan for “family, business and citizenship” reasons. He said that his family did not trust security arrangements in Pakistan, which according to a text message he attributed to Gen Pasha were going to be in “other” (meaning civilian) hands. Ijaz said that his business partners, too, were pressuring him not to testify, according to the letter and the United States government was also not on his side.
The Memo Commission has now accommodated Mansoor Ijaz’s request by making the unprecedented decision of allowing him to testify by VideoLink to assist in a fact-finding exercise that does not involve a criminal trial. In the past, Pakistani courts have not used VideoLink even in serious criminal cases, such as those involving terrorism, where a witness might be a foreigner located in another country and unwilling to travel to Pakistan to give evidence.
It is significant that neither the Supreme Court nor the Memo Commission insisted on asking Mansoor Ijaz for any evidence about him feeling threatened and deemed a letter from him to the chief justice as well as arguments by his lawyer before the commission to be sufficient. Legal analysts say there is no precedent in legal history of such accommodation ever being made for a witness even after his credibility has been so widely assailed in the national and international media. In its open hearing on January 24, the Memo Commission had listed very detailed security arrangements for Mansoor Ijaz and had hinted that if he does not come to testify on February 9, then it would consider moving forward without his testimony. The head of the commission, Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, gave no explanation for changing its mind.
Sources familiar with Mansoor Ijaz’s secret letter to the Supreme Court have pointed out that while testifying by VideoLink from London deals with Mansoor Ijaz’s security concerns, it does not address his claims about likely threats to his business interests and the alleged opposition to his testifying by the United States government. If giving evidence about the memo in Islamabad would have caused political risks for his business partners because of adverse publicity and controversy, that risk will not in anyway be mitigated if Mansoor Ijaz appears before the commission by VideoLink.
Similarly, it is unlikely that any real or perceived harm to Mansoor Ijaz’s status as an American citizen within the US government will diminish just because he speaks to the Memo Commission from London rather than Islamabad. If Mansoor Ijaz testifies from London, his declarations about threats to his business and from the US authorities would be proved false.
US officials say they have had no contact with Mansoor Ijaz leading his critics to point out that his claims in this regard are just reflective of a pattern of fabrication and exaggeration aimed at feeling and acting important. The US government has consistently maintained that the memo issue is an internal matter for Pakistan even though Mansoor Ijaz is a US citizen and all the persons he dealt with in conveying the memo are Americans. The only Pakistani Mansoor Ijaz says he was in contact with about the memo, Husain Haqqani, denies any connection with the memo and so far Ijaz has produced no concrete evidence of Haqqani’s direct involvement except handwritten notes of alleged telephone conversations and BBM chat messages that do not directly discuss the memo.
Mansoor Ijaz’s statement about regular contacts with the ISI director general and his claim that the Supreme Court allowed Husain Haqqani to travel abroad only because of his suggestion are likely to increase the belief that he is an unreliable individual whose penchant for publicity and media attention overrides any concern about embarrassing institutions of state of his country (the United States) or of Pakistan.
By avoiding personal appearance before the commission in Islamabad, Mansoor Ijaz has avoided the prospect of severe cross-examination by government lawyers as well as counsel for Husain Haqqani. As the commission has declared that lawyers wishing to be present in London for cross-examination would have to do so at their own expense, the decision heavily favours Mansoor Ijaz. Cross-examination by VideoLink would not have the same effect as in-person cross-examination and would be more like a TV interview, something to which Ijaz is accustomed.
Mansoor Ijaz is required to hand over his electronic devices and any documentary evidence to the secretary of the commission who would be present in London when he testifies. But it is possible that Mansoor Ijaz might make such handover conditional because many people in the High Commission as well as the inquiry commission’s secretary could be accused of close ties to the civilian government, which he now paints as his enemy.
Mansoor Ijaz has already refused to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which could serve legal notices on him when he comes to the Pakistan High Commission to record his evidence.
In any case, based on his affidavit before the Supreme Court, it is clear that the BlackBerry devices only contain numbers and durations of phone calls as well as innocuous BBM messages, mostly from Ijaz to Haqqani, with no direct reference to the memo. They do not constitute evidence on their own except in conjunction with explanations by Mansoor Ijaz, which Husain Haqqani is likely to deny and which may also be rebutted in VideoLink testimony by US General James Jones (through whom Mansoor Ijaz transmitted his memo) and Admiral Michael Mullen, who received the memo and dismissed it as lacking credibility.
Having granted Mansoor Ijaz the right to testify by VideoLink, it would be difficult for the inquiry commission to deny the same right to any number of foreign witnesses. This could include US officials, journalists and personal acquaintances who would address the issue of Mansoor Ijaz’s credibility, including his former spouses and persons with whom he has been involved in business disputes or litigation.

Balochistan needs serious efforts


BALOCHISTAN is among the chronic issues faced by the Pakistan. The importance of this issue can be gauged by the fact that both the US and Iran have raised it, but within the country, except for statements and debates, nothing concrete has been done to find a solution. The reality is that an undeclared war is going on, with the Baloch militants in the mountains. A few weeks back, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif met senior Baloch leader Sardar Ataullah Mengal who categorically said the matter was no longer in the hands of the elders and that talks should now be held with the angry Baloch youth in the mountains. On the other hand, government efforts are limited only to the issuing of statements and trying to shift responsibility on to the external forces. Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the Senate on Friday that it was not the army or the Frontier Constabulary but some third force that was making the situation worse. …Responding to the minister’s remarks Baloch senators Shahid Bugti and Abdul Malik said that conditions could have been a bit better if the Balochistan rights package had been properly implemented.

…The operation in Balochistan has been going on for years. There have been changes of government, but the policy on Balochistan has remained unchanged. Today, if the Baloch have taken an extreme line, it is due to our policies. …It is not only Balochistan but the other smaller provinces too where this sense of deprivation exists. Instead of addressing the deprivation and injustices, muscles are flexed further. Until Baloch families stop receiving the bodies of their youth, there will be no hope for any improvement. If at all the government thinks some third force wants to weaken Pakistan, it should take serious note of it.