THE ROVING DIPLOMAT
POLITICAL TENSIONS IN ASIA
From unstable politics in South Asia to China’s stand against the US
Bangladesh continues to be in the throes of a political crisis with the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed coming under pressure from the opposition party.
The opposition has conducted a campaign of obstruction that includes national strikes to force an early general election, which is not due until 2001.
Hasina has invited her rival Khaleda Zia to a public debate at which the issues could be discussed but her invitation has been rejected by the opposition.
In the Asia-Pacific sphere of current affairs, China is in the news with an angry reaction to references to its human rights record in the Annual World Human Rights Report of the United States Department of State.
The report states that China’s human rights record deteriorated markedly in 1999 through the suppression of religions, imprisonment of dissidents and political purges in Tibet. It also refers to thousands of Chinese being jailed for expressing their political, social and religious views, and this amounts to a violation of the international convention.
China’s foreign policy spokesman has responded to the allegations by stating that the human rights enjoyed by the Chinese people are at an unprecedented level and that the US should look into its own human rights violations instead of interfering in the internal affairs of other nations.
Another serious issue concerning China is Taiwan. Tension has arisen following statements from Taipei claiming independence. The US has shown an inclination to support this stand. Besides, the United States has provided arms to Taiwan that has encouraged the latter in its stand against China.
The issue was discussed recently on the occasion of the visit to China by the Commander-in-Chief of the US forces in the Pacific.
China’s Minister of Defense took the opportunity to reiterate Beijing’s position on Taiwan, which is that it follows the ‘One China’ principle of which the reunification of China is the objective. The minister requested the US to deal with the Taiwan issue in accordance with recent understanding between the two nations that includes the ceasing of arms sales to Taiwan and helping to promote the peaceful reunification process.
At the same time, China has strengthened its position through an understanding it’s reached with Russia on this matter. This was the result of a recent visit by China’s Foreign Minister to Moscow to hold talks with his Russian counterpart.
These talks have resulted in a number of agreements being reached towards achieving a strategic partnership, which is also a warning to Washington against interference over President Bill Clinton’s desire to resolve the Taiwan issue.
It is interesting to note that at this meeting, China expressed its support for Russia’s military operations in Chechnya. It’s clear from these talks that Russia and China are joining forces, and working together in support of Beijing’s position on Taiwan to oppose any efforts by the US to assist the latter.
In Southeast Asia, a crisis appears to be developing in Indonesia, centring on relations between President Abdurrahman Wahid and former army commander General Wiranto who is now the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.
The president has requested Wiranto to resign in the light of charges made in a United Nations (UN) and Indonesian human rights report that accuses the military of atrocities in East Timor. Furthermore, Indonesia is beset by other uprisings in places such as Aceh, Ambon and the Spice Islands where serious clashes have occurred between Muslims and Christians.
However, there is a mystery about the question of Wiranto’s resignation because it would seem that there’s hesitation on the part of Wahid on the issue. In fact, Wahid is gaining a reputation for unpredictability because of his apparent uncertainty on the subject of Wiranto’s resignation.
Such a reputation is not in the best interests of Indonesia at this juncture as it faces twin problems – i.e. the instability of its government and rampaging violence throughout the country.