‘India, China clash off Somalia’

‘India, China clash off Somalia’
Wed, 04 Feb 2009 16:03:00 GMT

The two Chinese warships and an Indian submarine have reportedly faced off during an anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia.

The incident occurred on Jan. 15 in the waters near the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, Qingdao Chenbao, a Chinese daily reported Wednesday.

The Indian submarine ‘stalked’ the Chinese warships and they were “locked in a tense standoff for at least half an hour,” the daily noted.

The standoff reportedly ended when the Indian vessel left without further confrontation.

However, an Indian Navy spokesperson told reporters in New Delhi that “no Indian submarine surfaced in the area”. Chinese authorities have not officially commented on the incident.

The Gulf of Aden has turned into an extremely hazardous place for commercial ships thanks to frequent attacks on the vessels by Somalia-based pirates.

India and China fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962. Relations between the two countries have remained tense since the conflict.

The two are among several countries that have deployed warships to patrol the sea lanes in the area.


Missiles ‘kill seven’ in Pakistan

US drone

US missile strikes have been criticised by Pakistan’s political parties

Missiles said to have been fired by US unmanned aircraft have killed seven people close to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, Pakistani sources say.

Two missiles reportedly struck a house in Sararogha, in South Waziristan, and the dead are believed to include suspected militants.

The region is a stronghold of Pakistani Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

US drones have targeted the area with missiles before, in attacks criticised by Pakistani politicians.

Local people said Taleban militants had been operating from the house which was attacked.

‘Taleban sanctuary’

A villager, named by Reuters news agency as Hakeemullah, said that people were searching the rubble for more casualties.

There was no immediate US military comment on the attack.

“It was a Taleban sanctuary, which was destroyed in the attack,” an unnamed Pakistani security official told AFP news agency.


“Some foreigners were possibly among those killed.”

Previous US missile attacks have been aimed at militant groups such as al-Qaeda, which have used the region as a base for attacks inside Afghanistan.

More than 20 such attacks have been carried out on targets in north-western Pakistan in recent months.

The US and Pakistan have had serious disagreements over the Afghan border zone, with Washington unhappy at Pakistani efforts to tackle militants and Islamabad condemning the US drone attacks.

Pakistani leaders had expressed hope that the new US administration would halt the controversial air strikes, saying they fuelled public anger and complicated Pakistan’s own counter-insurgency efforts.

But the drone attacks have continued since Barack Obama was inaugurated as US president last month.

Solar Panel Prices to Fall by up to 40 Per Cent by Year End

Solar Panel Prices to Fall by up to 40 Per Cent by Year End

Article Photo

The long-awaited drop in prices for solar photovoltaics (PV) appears to be close at hand. Soaring demand for PV and high prices for silicon have kept PV prices up for the past several years, but had two beneficial impacts:

  • Producers ramped up polysilicon production
  • PV companies pursued designs with less silicon.
  • The result is that Business Green reports:

    The price of solar panels could fall by as much as 40 per cent by the end of the year as huge increases in polysilicon supplies lead to a sizable fall in production costs for solar panel manufacturers.

    Analysts have been predicting this price drop for a while [– I had heard this prediction at a climate solutions summit in January 2008].

    If this drop does materialize, it is quite a big deal and will help keep demand on its staggering growth rate with PV becoming one of the largest job-creating industries of the century, projected to grow from a $20 billion two years ago to a $74 billion industry by 2017 (see “Sharp to boost thin film solar capacity 6-fold to 6000 MW by 2014, U.S. hits snooze button“).

    Here’s the rest of the story:

    That is the view of industry analyst New Energy Finance, which is predicting solar module prices could fall by between 30 and 40 per cent as a result of recent investments globally to increase production of silicon.

    Polysilicon prices hit a peak of $400 per kilogram last summer, but as investments to increase capacity have come online, prices have fallen to between $30 and $40 per kilogram and experts are agreed they are likely to continue dropping.

    “A massive increase in silicon supplies is coming through at the moment that will lead to a fall in solar module prices,” predicted Angus McCrone, chief editor at New Energy Finance. “In one way it’s bad news for solar companies because it will put pressure on margins as prices fall, but in another way it will trigger lots more demand from both large solar project developers and consumers as well as from businesses installing rooftop panels.”

    The predictions come as a consortium of China-based solar firms called on the Chinese government to lower the allowance it offers by 75 per cent. The companies said that with the industry benefiting from falling polysilicon and production costs the government should cut the incentives it offers in an attempt to encourage officials to authorise more large-scale solar projects.

    Underlining this bullish outlook, China-based solar panel manufacturer Suntech Power Holdings announced an upbeat outlook for the year, estimating that demand from the US could reach 700MW during 2009 as a result of President Obama’s new stimulus package, and confirmed it was on track to begin shipping thin film panels in the second half of the year.

    The company’s confidence that demand throughout 2009 would continue to expand was echoed by a raft of other developers last week as Sun Well Solar announced it completed its first 40MW thin film solar cell production line ahead of schedule, and T-Solar confirmed it had begun volume production of what it claims is the world’s largest PV panels at its factory in Spain.

    Moreover, US solar panel installation specialist Borrego Solar Systems announced it was to expand its commercial and government sales and installation business in a move that has also seen it sell its residential arm to Vermont-based groSolar.

    However, the outlook for the industry is not entirely rosy with Suntech’s share price slipping two per cent following the release of results showing it posted a net loss of $65.9m during the fourth quarter, while seeing revenue climb just four per cent year-on-year to $414.4m.

    Analyst ThinkEquity Partners downgraded the company’s stock, citing fears that tightening capital conditions and weak demand from Europe would impact overall demand, while any boost from Obama’s stimulus package would take time to be felt.

    McCrone said that SunTech and other solar firms were being impacted by wider stock market concerns. “There are concerns about financing and falling margins for some solar companies, but you also have to remember we are in a bear market, so companies are not getting much reward even when they come up with pretty good results.”

    There were also the first signs that falling polysilicon prices will eventually level off after Chinese polysilicon wafer manufacturer LDK Solar announced it was delaying plans for a new factory until 2010, as a result of plummeting prices.

    This piece originally appeared on Joe Romm’s blog, Climate Progress

    Army wants regulation of cross-border movement of tribesmen: FC IG

    Army wants regulation of cross-border movement of tribesmen: FC IG

    * Gen Tariq Khan calls for judicial reforms in Tribal Areas

    By Iqbal Khattak

    PESHAWAR: The army has urged the federal government to reconsider the right of the tribesmen to move freely across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in order to stop terrorists from entering Pakistan, Frontier Corps (FC) chief Major General Tariq Khan told Daily Times in an interview.

    “We have told Interior Adviser Rehman Malik that Pakistan should reconsider the Appeasement Right to help control movement on border, and work on this is on,” the FC inspector general (IG) said.

    Pakistan continues with the British colonial policy of allowing tribesmen living on both sides of the border to move freely, and thousands of people cross the border every day.

    The demand to regulate cross-border movement comes soon after the military “got close to victory” against Taliban in Bajaur. Gen Tariq Khan said paperwork was under way for the implementation of the suggestion. The commander said 11,000 people cross into Pakistan through the Torkham border crossing without any travel documents every day. “As long as we do not regulate movement on the border, our war against terror will not be effective,” he argued.

    Judicial reforms: The FC IG also recommended judicial reforms in the Tribal Areas to help prosecute people having been charged for heinous crimes.

    “We need judicial reforms to prosecute prisoners who have killed people and if this prosecution is taking place under the present FCR laws then the killers may escape long imprisonment,” the commander said.

    The authorities will not allow unregistered families coming back to their areas in Bajaur for resettlement, political authorities in Khar said on Saturday.

    “Every returning family will have to register with the authorities filling a form pledging allegiance to the state against Taliban,” said the administration officials wishing not to be named.

    Around half a million men, women and children left homes in Bajaur last year to escape the military’s action against Taliban.

    The form the returning families will have to fill spells out certain terms. The returning families would not live in homes close to roads or checkposts, according to one of the terms.


    Democracy is a sin, infidelity, says Sufi Muhammad

    * Swat cleric says his movement is limited to Malakand division

    Daily Times Monitor

    LAHORE: Democracy is a sin and nothing more than infidelity, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi chief Sufi Muhammad has said in an interview with Outlook India.

    But to questioning, he also said it was not a ‘Taliban system’. “This is a system of justice that would be in vogue in the courts only,” he said. “The rest of the social issues would be automatically resolved once courts start functioning under sharia.” He said he was making a “peaceful struggle for Islamising the society”. “We had promised the government to help in the restoration of peace if the Nizam-e-Adl regulation … was promulgated,” he said. “And you have seen there’s peace in Swat now.”

    Asked how he would help defuse the situation in Swat, he mentioned his appeal to the Taliban to disarm and wind up the checkpoints they have established in the valley. “The Taliban’s response is positive,” he said. “Now I am mediating between the two sides to ensure release of the arrested militants and captured personnel of the security forces.” Sufi said although he condemned the suppression of Muslims in Indian-held Kashmir, his movement was limited to Malakand. “Cruelty is cruelty, but our movement is limited to Malakand division only,” he said.

    NWFP govt reverses weapon distribution decision in Swat

    NWFP govt reverses weapon distribution decision in Swat

    * Information minister says distribution of weapons among villagers would create more problems in some areas

    Staff Report

    PESHAWAR: The NWFP government on Saturday annulled its decision about distributing weapons among villagers to tackle the Taliban, saying it could create problems in some areas.

    The decision was taken during a meeting of the NWFP cabinet with Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti in the chair.

    The inspector general of police, the Special Branch deputy inspector general and the home secretary briefed the meeting about the security situation in the province and the return of peace in the restive Swat valley.

    Briefing reporters about the decisions taken during the meeting, NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain said the provincial cabinet had discussed the proposal regarding the distribution of weapons among villagers and had decided to reverse the decision, saying it would create more problems.

    Iftikhar told reporters that the insurgency had caused damages worth Rs 32.21 billion to state-owned and private properties in Swat district. The minister said the losses to the public sector amounted to Rs 2.21 billion while those to the private infrastructure were worth Rs 32 billion.

    He said 188 schools in the area were damaged during the violence in Swat. Of them, 122 schools were completely destroyed while another 66 were partially damaged.

    Iftikhar said the provincial government would implement Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in Malakand division as per the promise made to the people of the area.

    Regarding abductions for ransom in the province, particularly in Peshawar, the minister said the cabinet had directed the authorities to take immediate steps to tackle the situation.

    Responding to a statement by Azam Khan Hoti, father of NWFP chief minister, pointing to risk attached with governor’s rule in the NWFP, Iftikhar said no one needed to comment after the clear-cut policy statement on the situation by Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali.