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Kerry ups the ante on war against terror

DEMOCRATIC Presidential nominee and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry asserted that if elected, he would fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. 


US Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry yells out to supporters from his bus in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. Kerry is on a two-week, cross country "Believe in America" tour after officially accepting the party's nomination on Friday. — Reuters photo

US Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry yells out to supporters

BANGKOK DIARY
Thai PM urges phone diplomacy among Bimstec leaders
T
HAI Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today told BIMSTEC leaders that they should not any longer contact each other through the bureaucracy. Instead, he suggested, they should have hotlines and said: “Call it telephone diplomacy”. Shinawatra made this comment at the Retreat during the summit.



A Bangladeshi carries vegetables through a flooded street in Dhaka
A Bangladeshi carries vegetables through a flooded street in Dhaka on Saturday. Rivers in many parts of flood-ravaged Bangladesh slowly receded for the second day on Friday, but at least 2.5 million persons in the capital remained stranded by flood waters. — Reuters

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TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Joint working group to fight terrorism
Bangkok, July 31
Concerned over continuing threat from international terrorism and transnational crimes, India and six other Asian countries today decided to set up a Joint Working Group on counter terrorism, a decision described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an “important step” to combat the menace.

Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepal's Prime Minister, smiles after arriving for the First BIMST-EC Summit in Bangkok
Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepal's Prime Minister, smiles after arriving for the First BIMST-EC Summit in Bangkok on Saturday. Leaders from seven Asian countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand) gathered to build closer links in transport, tourism and trade during the two-day summit. — Reuters photo


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Kerry ups the ante on war against terror
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

DEMOCRATIC Presidential nominee and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry asserted that if elected, he would fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. “We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower.”

Stating that America is in “a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have ever known before,” Mr Kerry challenged Mr Bush’s credibility and charged that the Republican incumbent presents a pose of strength, but not the reality.

In saying this, Mr Kerry formally accepted what for many of his supporters was a forgone conclusion. He will be the Democratic Party’s candidate to formally challenge President George W. Bush in the November presidential elections.

“We are proud of what America is and what it can become,” a beaming Mr Kerry told the Democratic National Convention in Boston’s Fleet Center. “My fellow Americans: We are here tonight united in one simple purpose — to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.”

A Vietnam War veteran, Mr Kerry has not been shy of touting his military experience to project himself the better choice for America. After being introduced by former Senator Max Cleland, who was badly injured in Vietnam, Mr Kerry embraced former Navy Swift boat comrades lining the stage. “I am John Kerry, and I am reporting for duty,” he declared with a salute.

“In these dangerous days, there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words,” Mr Kerry said. “After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power, and I know the power of our ideals.”

Mr Kerry’s acceptance speech was dominated by national security issues.

Lashing out at Mr Bush, Mr Kerry said his brand of leadership “starts by telling the truth to the American people. That is my first pledge to you tonight: As President, I will restore trust and credibility.”

Mindful of his critics, he observed: “Now I know that there are those who criticise me for seeing complexities… And I do, because some issues just aren’t all that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn’t make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn’t make it so. And proclaiming ‘mission accomplished’ certainly doesn’t make it so.”

“As President, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war,” Mr Kerry declared.

He assured Democrats gathered in his hometown that he would lead a strong military that would never allow another nation or international institution to block US national-security action. “Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required,” he said.

Toward the end of his speech, Mr Kerry directed his words to Mr Bush. “I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush: In the weeks ahead, let’s be optimists, not just opponents. Let’s build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let’s honour this nation’s diversity, let’s respect one another, and let’s never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.”

Highlights of Mr Kerry’s acceptance speech:

Presidential goals

  • “Make America stronger and respected in the world.”
  • “Restore trust and credibility to the White House.”

War in Iraq

  • Bring in more allies to share burden.

Foreign policy

  • “Never hesitate to use force when it is required.”
  • Meet any attack “with a swift and certain response.”
  • “Never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security.”
  • Lead global effort against nuclear proliferation.

Military policy

  • Double special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations.
  • Go to war only “because we have to.”
  • Never fight “a war without a plan to win the peace.”

Economic plan

  • Close tax loopholes that “reward companies for shipping our jobs overseas.”
  • Reward companies that “create and keep good-paying jobs” at home.
  • “Fair playing field” for American workers to compete in global economy.

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BANGKOK DIARY
Thai PM urges phone diplomacy among Bimstec leaders
Rajeev Sharma

THAI Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today told BIMSTEC leaders that they should not any longer contact each other through the bureaucracy. Instead, he suggested, they should have hotlines and said: “Call it telephone diplomacy”. Shinawatra made this comment at the Retreat during the summit. The Retreat takes place in a hall where each BIMSTEC country leader is assisted by his or her top aides and they chat among themsleves. Their conversations can be heard and monitored by other senior officials of the member countries who are not physically present there but are watching the goings-on with the help of a closed circuit TV. External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and National Security Adviser J.N. Dixit gave company to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Retreat. Incidentally, Shinawatra also happens to be the name of a major Thai telecom company and Prime Minister Shinawatra is its promoter and share-holder.

Bimstec trade negotiations

Leaders from the seven South and Southeast Asian nations in their first summit of Bimstec today endorsed a plan to start free-trade negotiations in September. The aim is to achieve regional free trade by 2017. Trade among the seven member countries having a combined population of 1.3 billion is currently just more than $ 7 billion a year. India had vigorously pushed for free-trade talks while Bangladesh decided to come on board only after initial fears that it might lose out under a regional free trade pact. The Bimstec free-trade area would relax tariffs and give less developed countries (LDCs)a grace period during which they could protect their most vital industries.

New name for Bimstec?

The inclusion of Nepal and Bhutan in Bimstec this February has posed a problem: the organisation’s name does not reflect the presence of its newest members. At the summit meeting, the leaders discussed renaming the group to better reflect its new initiatives and composition. One name that was proposed was “Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea Cooperation”. But the Thais are not very comfortable with the word “Bengal” as it would suggest the body is India-centric. So, the name controversy may finally be given a deep burial. After all wasn’t it Shakespeare who had said: “What’s there in a name?”

Summit held on Thai holiday

It is not just India which has the knack of transacting official business with foreign countries and receiving foreign dignitaries on holidays and major festivals. Thailand is no different. Today happens to be a major Buddhist holiday Khao Pansa and tomorrow the Thai monsoon is scheduled to start. The Bangkokians poured out on the roads to pay obeisance in temples. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra decided to go ahead with the summit on a holiday, signalling the importance his country attaches to the Bimstec summit.

Thai bid for top UN post

The Thai Prime Minister has called upon the visiting Bimstec leaders to support Thailand’s bid to field Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai as a candidate for Secretary-General of the United Nations. Myanmar’s U. Thant is the only Asian to have held the post since the inception of the UN. He was the UN Secretary General from 1961 to 1971. The General Assembly appoints a UN Secretary General on the recommendation of the 15-member Security Council for a five-year term. Incumbent UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s second term expires in December 2006. Thaksin said: “Thailand has a good chance as long as it is clear that this time it is Asia’s turn (to head the UN).”

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Joint working group to fight terrorism
K.R. Sudhaman

Bangkok, July 31
Concerned over continuing threat from international terrorism and transnational crimes, India and six other Asian countries today decided to set up a Joint Working Group on counter terrorism, a decision described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an “important step” to combat the menace.

At the first summit of BIMSTEC, leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal, representing 1.3 billion, also agreed on a slew of measures, including timely completion of the Free Trade Area negotiations to boost economic cooperation.

Giving details of the outcome of the summit, Singh told a news conference here that “the setting up of a BIMSTEC JWG on counter terrorism is an important step. We agreed to hold the first meeting of this group in New Delhi later this year”.

He said there was unanimity on joining hands in combating international terrorism. The member countries pledged not to allow use of their territory by terrorist groups launching attacks on friendly governments.

There was willingness to share information and capacity building by sharing training programmes in intelligence gathering operations, the Prime Minister said before leaving for home after a three-day visit to Thailand.

He said the countries felt that the security and state of law and order was very important to create basic conditions for economic development and in this context forging cooperation to combat the menace of terrorism was an important one.

The four-page Summit Declaration said the leaders agreed, on an urgent priority, to coordinate their efforts to combat terrorism. This includes exchange of information among concerned agencies.

The leaders decided on initiating a year-long plan of action on tourism and establishment of BIMSTEC Chamber of Commerce. — PTI

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