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Friday, 30 May 2008

From Today's Papers - 30 May

The Queen to open new home of the royal artillery

29 May 2008, Thursday
THE QUEEN, captain-general of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, will formally open the new regimental home of the artillery during a visit to the Royal Artillery Barracks, Larkhill, on June 12.

The Queen will arrive near the barracks by a helicopter, where she will be welcomed by the lord lieutenant of Wiltshire and the director, Royal Artillery. Her Majesty will then proceed by car to the main entrance of the barracks where she will be welcomed by the master gunner, St James.

The Kings Troop Royal Horse artillery will fire a royal salute as her Majesty arrives. The Queen will then be invited to inspect a guard of honour, consisting of personnel from first Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. Her Majesty will then unveil a new entrance stone bearing the name of the Royal Artillery Barracks to formally open the new regimental home.

Then, the Queen would enter the barracks by car where she will travel to the Gun Park to view a display of operational equipment, and meet with soldiers who have had recent operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with those who have been on deployment in other parts of the world.

She will then have lunch in the Royal Artillery mess with all ranks. Following lunch, Her Majesty will have a private meeting with the next of kin of those killed in action since 2000.

A regimental group photograph will be taken with the Queen outside the Royal Artillery mess before Her Majesty attends a garden party in front of the mess. During the garden party, the Queen will meet Dr Ben Parkinson who was severely wounded while serving with seventh Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery in Afghanistan.

At the end of the garden party, the Queen will be presented with a posy and gift to commemorate Her Majesty’s visit.

May 30, 2008

NATO Chief in Afghanistan Says Pakistan’s Tack on Militants Is Not as Expected

KABUL, Afghanistan — The departing American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, raised concerns on Thursday that Pakistan had not followed through on promises to tackle militancy on its side of the border, and in recent months had even stopped its cooperation with NATO and Afghan counterparts on border issues.

General McNeill said Pakistan’s failure to act against militants in its tribal areas and its decision to hold talks with the militants without putting pressure on them had led to an increase in insurgent attacks against United States and NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan.

“We have not seen the actions that we had expected late last year; we have seen a different approach,” he said before a news briefing in Kabul. “That is different from what most of us thought last year we were going to get.”

Militancy rose last year in Pakistan, where officials indicated that tougher measures against the militants were planned. Instead, the government has sued for peace, a policy tried in 2005 and 2006 that led directly to a rise in attacks across the border, as is happening now.

“Over time, when there has been dialogue, or peace deals, the incidents have gone up,” General McNeill told journalists in Kabul and others in Brussels listening via videoconferencing. “What you see right now is the effects of no pressure on the extremists and insurgents on the other side of the border.”

As if to underscore his point, a suicide car bomb exploded Thursday near a convoy of international forces on the eastern side of Kabul, killing four civilian bystanders and wounding 14 others, police officials said.

The attack was the first in the capital in weeks, but came amid a new rash of attacks around Afghanistan. On Tuesday, 24 people, including 13 policemen, were killed in suicide attacks and roadside bombings. Two suicide attacks on Wednesday in Khost and Kandahar killed one person and wounded several others.

General McNeill said that Pakistan had stopped the high-level meetings among Pakistani, Afghan and NATO counterparts that were the main conduit for resolving border issues and coordinating operations to combat cross-border infiltration.

The meetings are usually attended by the top generals on all sides, but Pakistan has postponed the last three, he said.

“We have had some difficulty here,” he said, adding that he did not expect to hold another meeting before handing over command in early June. But General McNeill expressed hope that his successor, Gen. David D. McKiernan of the United States, would be able to resume the meetings.

General McNeill called the problem a “dysfunction” that he attributed to political changes in Pakistan since the election of a new government in February.

General McNeill said last year was “a very difficult year” for Pakistan and cited episodes of militancy including “a huge spike in suicide bombers, the Red Mosque events, some 250 Pakistani soldiers captured by about 20 militants, some forts laid siege to.” His reference to the Red Mosque was to a raid last summer by Pakistani forces after militants holed up inside.

“My connection is military to military,” the general said, “and I think they know in the Pakistani military this is an issue they have to take on, and they have to do it in a way that is consistent with counterinsurgency doctrine.

“But they have also just gone through some rather huge changes within their government and, I think, are still trying to find their way to get something coalesced, to get it congealed to where there is a forward movement in the business of governance,” he said.

Pakistan’s government has made clear it wants to break with the tactics Mr. Musharraf has used against militants and instead try dialogue, political engagement and economic development of the tribal regions.

Yet there has been increasingly urgent criticism from Afghan and NATO officials here since attacks rose 50 percent in April over last year in eastern Afghanistan, where American forces were claiming success against insurgents.

The Defense Ministry claimed that Afghan forces had killed dozens of insurgents in an operation in the southwestern province of Farah on Wednesday. The United States military, which was also involved in the fighting, confirmed only that several insurgents were killed after several hours of fighting and airstrikes.

The suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday occurred on the main road leading east toward Jalalabad Province, where there are several military bases. The bomber targeted two sport utility vehicles carrying soldiers from the American-led coalition. None were seriously hurt, a United States military spokesman said.

Allah Mohammad, police chief of the district, said four civilians were killed and 14 others wounded. Most of the victims were schoolchildren, he said.

Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting.

To ban or not to ban, the cluster bomb
by Kevin Sullivan and Josh White

LONDON – More than 100 countries reached an agreement on Wednesday to ban cluster bombs, controversial weapons that human rights groups deplore but the United States, which did not join the ban, calls an integral, legitimate part of its arsenal.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose personal intervention led to final agreement among representatives of 111 countries gathered in Dublin, called the ban a “big step forward to make the world a safer place.”

In addition to the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan – all of them major producers or users of the weapons – did not sign the agreement or participate in the talks.

The weapons consist of canisters packed with small bombs, or “bomblets,” that spread over a large area when dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. While the devices are designed to explode on impact, they frequently do not. Civilians, particularly children, are often maimed or killed when they pick up unexploded bombs, sometimes years later.

In staying away from Dublin, US officials argued that the talks were not the right forum in which to address the issue and that cluster bombs remain an important part of the country’s weaponry. “While the United States shares the humanitarian concerns of those in Dublin,” said Navy Commander Bob Mehal, a Pentagon spokesman, “cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility, and their elimination from US stockpiles would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk.”

The US military says that it keeps the weapons in its arsenal as a defence against advancing armies, a strategy closely linked to conventional Cold War approaches to conflict, and that it has not used the bombs since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

US officials argue that technological advances will ensure that future cluster bombs reliably explode or quickly disable themselves, so they will not become a hazard to civilians later.

Israeli forces carried out the largest recent use of cluster bombs, dropping large numbers on southern Lebanon in their 2006 war with the Hezbollah militiamen. Many of the bombs did not explode immediately and have left a lasting humanitarian hazard.

Advocates of the ban said they hoped that the agreement, which was supported by rich nations and poor from Scandinavia to Africa, will have the same effect as the 1997 ban on land mines, reducing use of the weapons even among non-signatory countries.

Simon Conway, co-chair of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, said that Myanmar is the only nation still using land mines and that the United States has not fired a single one since the ban went into effect.

Already, controversy over cluster bombs has led the United States to stop exporting them for now – a law that went into force this year bars the foreign sale of cluster bombs that have less than a 99 percent detonation or disabling rate, conditions that current versions of the weapons do not meet.

And as a matter of policy, the NATO alliance does not use cluster munitions in Afghanistan.

The Dublin meetings were part of a process begun in February 2007 in Oslo. The nations met again in Lima, Peru, in May 2007; Vienna in December; and Wellington, New Zealand, in January.

“We decided not to go to Oslo,” Stephen Mull, acting assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told reporters last week, “because we don’t want to give weight to a process that we think is ultimately flawed, because we don’t think that any international effort is going to succeed unless you get the major producers and the users of these weapons at the table.”

The United States argues that the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is a more appropriate forum in which to talk about cluster munitions with major world powers at the table, Mull said.

Rachel Stohl, senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, said the Pentagon gets “nervous” over discussions on restricting use of a weapons system it has in its arsenal and has used in previous conflicts.

She said the fact that in the past five years no situation has arisen in which US forces have needed cluster bombs should be evidence that they are not critical to modern warfare.

“The fact that these 100-plus countries have been able to come together and develop a convention text signifies that the rest of the world is ready to move forward with international agreements that are pro-humanity,” Stohl said. “In the end, the victims of cluster munitions have won.”

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post
NCC training in institutions: Deliberations required

NCC training should be given a greater importance in the academic institutions all over India. Nowadays, Army, Navy and Air Force require intelligent young men and women. The training can offer greater job opportunities..
CJ: Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee ,

NCC TRAINING must be compulsory in academic institutions all over India, as all the three wings of defence ministry require intelligent and educated young men and women.

The National Cadet Corps ( NCC) came into existence on July 15, 1948. The origin of NCC can be traced back to the University Corps, which was created under the Indian Defence Act 1917 with the object to make up the shortage of the defence services. But with the passage of time, NCC has become a tri-services organisation comprising the Army, Navy and Air Force engaged in grooming the youth of the country in to disciplined and patriotic citizens.

But in West Bengal, very little care is taken of the NCC cadets and officers. Students do not get any extra advantage during their admissions while such facilities exist in other states of India. In West Bengal, NCC had been a compulsory training for the students in schools and colleges. But with too much emphasis on democratic norms and values, and especially with the crisis being over, NCC training is no more compulsory.

The Spartans were physically strong and Athens was always defeated by them. The Spartans were given compulsory military training for the whole youthful stage. In modern India, such rigorous training is not necessary. But a sound mind in a sound body. In these days of valueless politicking, cell addiction and other allurements for the youth, NCC training is almost a must. It makes the young mind healthy and engaged in good habits.

There are so many opportunities for the NCC cadets. They can go for trekking and satisfy their wander thirst. They can have the mountaineering training, which is really an adventuresome for the youth. Girls can join NCC for learning values of life. They can learn good leadership qualities. Job opportunities are there. In Border Security Forces (BSF), coastal services, Navy or in Army recruitment, NCC ‘C’ certificate holders are given preference and they are exempted from written test. NCC training keeps a student mentally alert and fit for all kinds of jobs. Nowadays, students waste time in gossiping and develop a lethargic outlook. NCC training makes them all smart for mixing with people. Social service is one of the mottoes of NCC cadets. Camps are organised to enhance awareness about national integration.

It is really thrilling that a young man of 16 or 17 is given the military training with real rifles or machine guns. They learn map-reading. In this way, a young mind is developed. In academic institutions students nowadays lead unhealthy canteen-life at their leisure periods. But only two/three hours training a week can change a young mind completely. Unity and discipline, which an NCC cadet learns from his training, help them face the issues of life and society in a much better way. Boldness and courage are taught in the easiest way through NCC training. Wearing of the uniform instills a rare sort of confidence in the young minds. Brilliant students of science have good scope for jobs in the Army or Air Force or Navy. Today militarism is based on intelligence. Our attitude to military training should change. Earlier only poor and less educated ones used to join the Army. Nowadays many intelligent students are showing interest in the military career.

NCC training can be made compulsory for at least six months in the academic institutions. This may be done by introducing defence studies in the colleges and universities. The Central and the state governments should make some deliberations on broad-based NCC training. It may give us better citizens for future India.

India strengthening defence along Chinese border

Pakistan Observer

New Delhi—Though much is being publicized about expanding trade relations between India and China, the tension between the two countries continues to maintain its edge and India is stepping up its military infrastructure along the Indo-China border to flex its military muscle.

The statement by Minister of State for Defence M. M. Palam Raju bears testimony to the fact that Indian army would continue to increase its troops’ concentration in Sikkim. “The country will not accept any Chinese claim over Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh and Indian army will continue to build-up forces in Sikkim areas till this threat perception is obliterated”, Mr Raju was quoted as saying.

Defence analysts are of the view that the Indian army is bolstering its military capability along its disputed border with China. The build-up is planned to take place in length and width of the Ladakh Sector in the north- Uttarkhand region and the eastern border in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

According to reports, the Indian army has also decided to raise two new mountain divisions of around 15,000 troops each, for deployment along the 4,05km of disputed Sino-India border. Senior Defence Ministry planners are working on building infrastructure, increasing troops, building additional air fields and upgrading roads along the China border.

“The current upsurge of economic activities between the two countries can be just an eyewash as India continues to harden its stance concerning the disputed Sino-India border”, observer the analysts.—APP

A new engagement with military

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi May 29, 2008, 23:14 IST

The success, last December, of the Defence R&D Organisation's Akash missile, which proved its ability to shoot down an enemy fighter 25 kilometres away, is a happy ending to a dismal tale. The Akash development programme, like others from the 1980s and 1990s, is a decades-long story of managerial and technological blunders, from which the DRDO is now drawing valuable lessons.

Under fire from the military and the media, and under scrutiny from a Review Panel set up by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the DRDO has instituted fundamental changes in the way it will now approach equipment development. In a series of exclusive interviews with Business Standard, top DRDO officials — the Chief Controllers, who head its various divisions — have outlined their new approach.

The most far-reaching change is an institutionalised forum — called the Services Interaction Group — in which the DRDO will work hand-in-hand with the military to identify the technologies, and weapons systems, which the DRDO laboratories must develop. The Services Interaction Group has already created its first "technology roadmap", which lists out the equipment the DRDO will develop over the 11th and 12th Defence Plan period, ie from 2007-2017.

That roadmap took more than a year to finalise; the process began at the beginning of 2007. A DRDO sub-committee called the G-FAST (Group for Forecasting and Analysis of Systems and Technologies) began consulting with almost 50 DRDO laboratories across the country, to make a draft technology roadmap.

Meanwhile, the three services, working together in the headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), produced their technology wishlist. Then, through several sittings in the DRDO's headquarters, the DRDO and the IDS agreed upon a final technology roadmap, which the DRDO would implement.

Such cooperation is routine in countries where defence is planned systematically. In India, however, the DRDO has long been at loggerheads with the services, which have complained about not being consulted about equipment that they must eventually use.

This communication gap was glaringly evident in the Akash missile programme; after the DRDO developed all the Akash launchers, radars, and command systems, the Army demanded higher mobility by fitting them into T-72 tanks.

The DRDO, having framed the Akash requirements unilaterally, was taken by surprise. Dr Prahlada, the DRDO's Chief Controller (R&D) explains, "It's not a joke to put the missile radar on a tank. It was a double challenge: having developed a cutting-edge radar, we then had to squeeze it into a tank, with all the problems of space, ruggedness, and high temperatures.

You can't even put an air conditioner, like in a wheeled vehicle… So instead of 12-15 years (to develop the Akash), we took 20 years; just to make sure the Army gets it on a tank."

But now, there's a joint process. The DRDO and the IDS have divided 100 of the most important technologies they need into three different categories:

  • Category 1. Technologies that the DRDO will develop in-house. These are strategic technologies and systems, such as missiles, hypersonics, and unmanned fighter aircraft, which no country usually provides to another.

  • Category 2. Technologies that the DRDO will develop in partnership with academic institutions. The CSIR, IITs, and universities will assist the DRDO with fundamental research, to overcome the DRDO's shortages of manpower and facilities.

  • Category 3. Technologies that the DRDO will develop with foreign partners, since they are beyond the capabilities of the country's existing scientific base.

    This is the first time that such rigour has been applied to the procedure for identifying projects and deadlines. In committing itself in this manner, the DRDO is displaying a new confidence.

    Senior DRDO scientists admit that they had traditionally avoided a joint roadmap because there was little certainty of being able to deliver on a project. If the project was successful, it would be brought to the user when it was nearly ready; if it failed, it could be quietly buried without any fuss.

    Now, however, there will be transparency and accountability, and regular reviews of how long-gestation projects are progressing. Says Dr VK Saraswat, Chief Controller of Missiles and Strategic Systems, "This is a consultative process and it doesn't stop. It is a continuous process. Every year we update it."

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