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Thursday, 12 June 2008

From Today's Papers - 12 Jun















Antony trip

New Delhi, June 11: Defence minister A.K. Antony will prune the size of a delegation accompanying him to Japan later this month, taking the lead from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on austerity measures.

War on foreign military art

New Delhi, June 11: From Mahabharat to Star Wars, India’s armed forces are poised for a great doctrinal churning, trying to find an indigenous — swadeshi — way to fight wars.

A two-day conference of senior commanders to search for “the Indian Way of Warfighting” ended here this afternoon with the top brass concluding that the hunt must be intensified, a senior participant told The Telegraph.

So, the Generals, Admirals, Air Marshals and military scientists have decided to reconvene for two special sessions. The first is on June 16, when India’s top missile technologist will give a presentation on shooting down a missile before it enters Indian airspace and ways to bring down an enemy satellite. Last year, China demonstrated such a capability by destroying an old satellite.

On June 19 and 20, the armed forces’ chiefs, bureaucrats and scientists will meet again, this time to weed out foreign influences that threaten home-grown military ideas.

A preparatory note for the session says the deliberations are necessary “because western thought and military jargon are poised to make deep inroads into the minds of the practitioners of military art in India”.

The foreign influences are gaining ground, says the note, “despite the Ramayana and the Mahabharata containing many doctrinal, strategic and operational aspects that appear to be relevant to modern times, too”.

The agenda for the deliberations has been drawn up by the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), a joint institution of the army, the navy and the air force that is still trying to find its feet since it was set up in 2002.

The IDS itself is an idea imported from a study of recent wars by the US and western forces. Its head, the chief of integrated defence command, Lt General Hardev Lidder, tried to adopt lessons from the US’s 2003 invasion of Iraq during counter-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

The brainstorming has been convened even as each of the three armed forces have adopted individual doctrines but are still not comfortable with the idea of unified theatre commands and the post of a Chief of Defence Staff.

Defence minister A.K. Antony said on the sidelines of the conference that he had written to political parties seeking their views on the Kargil review committee’s recommendations that the Chief of Defence Staff serve as a single-point military adviser.

The unified commands, apart from the IDS, comprise the Andaman and Nicobar Command, a Strategic Forces Command and the Defence Intelligence Agency.

At the conference, emphasis was laid on building “duality of use” — a jargon for procuring equipment that can be used by the three armed forces — in the force structure, a release said.

Top

First spend, then ask
Make defence money count

THOUGH the defence budget crossed the Rs 1 lakh-crore mark this year, there were murmurs of protest that as a percentage of GDP, this was only around 2 per cent, or even less. There was a big jump in the capital allocation around the time the NDA handed over power to the UPA. However, the subsequent increases in the budget have served to keep the allocation at a fairly high mark. India’s economy has been booming and thus the allocation, as a percentage of GDP, has been on the decline in recent years.

When you consider the fact that the forces are crying out for modernisation, arguments for more money make sense. But defence minister A.K. Antony has taken umbrage at such whining, pointing out that the forces need to spend the money they are allocated in the first place, before asking for more. This is valid, as for almost a decade now, the ministry has been returning a few thousand crores every year from the budget, unspent. The reason cited: slow procurement procedures. This, unfortunately, is valid as well, and the defence minister is at least as responsible as the service headquarters in ensuring faster procurement — especially when the Kargil Committee recommendations to devolve more spending power to service chiefs have not been implemented fully.

One parliamentary standing committee on defence recommended spending 3 per cent of the GDP on defence, as it would be quite in order for a large country like India, with its security environment. But given the fiscal pressures on the government it is unlikely that such an allocation will be made in the near future. In the meantime, both Mr Antony and the forces should do everything possible to speed up the modernisation and defence procurement process, which is nowhere near as smooth and transparent as the minister claims. The fear of corruption in big-ticket deals cannot act as a brake on modernisation. It should only serve to increase vigilance and punitive retribution against violators. It is the country’s security which is at stake.

Commanders stress joint preparedness for border security
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 11
The conference of unified commanders ended today with senior officers making it clear that short-term challenges and long-term planning has to be done to ensure adequate preparedness on the borders with Pakistan and China.

The conference, which focused on the areas of cooperation and integration amongst the three services, deliberated on the future of joint headquarters, joint commands and tri-service institutions. An overview given by Headquarters, Andaman and Nicobar Command, the only tri-services command, emphasised the unique manner in which integration had been achieved for a joint services approach to meet any threat.

Tri-services training institutions like the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, College of Defence Management, Secunderabad, and the National Defence Academy, Pune, also highlighted the changes being brought about in the curriculum to meet the evolved mandate of joint operations.

Conference discusses joint services’ approach
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 11
The conference of unified commanders ended today with senior officers making it clear that short-term challenges and long-term planning has to be done to ensure adequate preparedness on the borders with Pakistan and China.

The conference, which focused on the areas of cooperation and integration amongst the three services, deliberated on the future of joint headquarters, joint commands and tri-service institutions. An overview given by Headquarters, Andaman and Nicobar Command, the only tri-services command, emphasised the unique manner in which integration had been achieved for a joint services approach to meet any threat.

Tri-services training institutions like the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, College of Defence Management, Secunderabad, and the National Defence Academy, Pune, also highlighted the changes being brought about in the curriculum to meet the evolved mandate of joint operations.


Pakistan Says U.S. Airstrike Killed 11 of Its Soldiers

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — American air and artillery strikes killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers during a clash with insurgents on the Afghan border on Tuesday night, a development that raised concerns about the already strained American relationship with Pakistan.

The strikes on Tuesday night underscored the often faulty communications involving American, Pakistani and Afghan forces along the border, and the ability of Taliban fighters and other insurgents to use havens in Pakistan to carry out attacks into neighboring Afghanistan.

The attack comes at a time of rising tension between the United States and the new government in Pakistan, which has granted wide latitude to militants in its border areas under a new series of peace deals, drawing criticism from the United States. NATO and American commanders say cross-border attacks in Afghanistan by insurgents have risen sharply since talks for those peace deals began in March.

Although Pakistani government officials softened their response through the day, the Pakistani military released an early statement calling the airstrikes “unprovoked and cowardly.”

Shaken by the initial Pakistani reaction, administration officials braced for at least a short-term rough patch in relations with Islamabad.

“It won’t be good,” said a Pentagon official who followed developments closely throughout the day. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The precise circumstances surrounding the reported deaths remained unclear, and American officials said an American-Pakistani investigation was expected to begin immediately.

But according to accounts from American officials, the incident started when Taliban fighters from Pakistan crossed about 200 yards into Kunar Province, on the Afghan side of the border, and attacked American-led forces with small-caliber weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

After coalition forces returned fire, driving the insurgents back into Pakistan, two United States Air Force F-15E fighter-bombers and one B-1 bomber dropped about a dozen bombs — mostly 500-pound munitions — on the attackers. An Air Force statement said the militants were struck “in the open and in buildings in the vicinity of Asadabad.”

A spokesman for the Taliban said their forces had attacked an American and Afghan position near the border, and said eight of their fighters had been killed and nine wounded in the fighting.

Before the airstrike, a Pentagon official said, American forces alerted a Pakistani military liaison officer, trying to ensure that friendly troops were out of harm’s way. But the Pakistani officer was either unaware that Pakistani paramilitary forces had moved into the area near the insurgents, or the Pakistani forces never got the word to get out of the way, American officials said.

“They got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said the Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan denounced the attack in Parliament and said he had instructed the Foreign Ministry to make a formal protest to the American ambassador, Anne Patterson.

But the Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, told reporters in Washington that “every indication we have at this stage is that it was a legitimate strike in self-defense.” American rules of engagement bar American forces from crossing or firing into Pakistan except to protect themselves.

By Tuesday afternoon, Pakistan’s new ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, had softened his government’s reaction, telling Reuters, “We do look upon it as not an act that should cause us to reconsider our partnership but rather to find ways of improving that partnership.”

Seth Jones, an analyst with the RAND Corporation who was conducting research in Kunar Province last week, said: “It’s almost surprising more of this hasn’t happened given the vast amount of traffic across the border. This creates a real serious impetus for the U.S. to coordinate more closely with Pakistan forces.”

American officials in Pakistan and in Washington, while expressing regret for the Pakistani deaths, said the episode underscored the need to improve the equipping of and coordination with Pakistani security forces operating near the border, including the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from ethnic groups on the border.

American and Pakistani officials say the Frontier Corps, which is drawn from Pashtun tribesmen who know the language and culture of the tribal areas, is the most suitable force to combat an insurgency over the long term in the border region, where the regular Pakistani military often is not welcomed.

It was unclear whether the Pakistan liaison officer involved in the airstrike on Tuesday was from the Pakistani Army or the Frontier Corps, an important distinction because the two security forces have not always worked together smoothly, American officials said.

Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman in Washington, said, “This is a reminder that better cross-border communications between forces is vital.”

The Pentagon has spent about $25 million so far to equip the Frontier Corps with new body armor, vehicles, radios and surveillance equipment, and plans to spend $75 million more in the next year. Over all, administration officials have said the United States could spend more than $400 million in the next several years to enhance the Frontier Corps, including building a training base near Peshawar.

Until recently, the Frontier Corps had not received American military financing because the corps technically falls under the Pakistani Interior Ministry, a nonmilitary agency that the Pentagon ordinarily does not deal with.

Gen. David D. McKiernan, the new NATO commander in Afghanistan, said last week that one of his first trips as commander would be to meet with the Pakistani Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to try to resurrect a commission created by NATO and the Afghan and Pakistani militaries to address border issues. In recent months, Pakistan has not taken part in the commission.

The United States, which has about 34,000 military personnel in Afghanistan, part of an international presence totaling about 60,000, is also in the midst of building six border coordination posts that will be operated by Pakistani, American and other allied forces.

At the Pentagon, Mr. Morrell said, “It is incumbent upon both of us not to let an incident like this or any other interfere with that fundamental shared goal of making sure the F.A.T.A. is not a refuge for terrorists.” He was referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the contested border area.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to discuss the event with her Pakistani counterpart on Thursday at the Afghan donors conference in Paris, American officials said.

There have been several American strikes recently on insurgents inside Pakistani territory. In March, three bombs, apparently dropped by an American aircraft, killed nine people and wounded nine others in the tribal area of South Waziristan that officials say provides sanctuary to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In late January, one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants, Abu Laith al-Libi, was killed by two Hellfire missiles launched from a Predator surveillance aircraft.

The latest clash on Tuesday occurred at a border post called Chopara on the frontier with the Afghan province of Kunar, where American and Afghan forces have battled insurgents for several years. The insurgents have been using Mohmand and the adjacent area of Bajaur as a base for attacks into Afghanistan.

Fighting has been reported on the Afghan side of the border between insurgents and Afghan and American forces. According to one news report, one militant was killed and three wounded in a firefight on Monday.

The dead on the Pakistani side included a major and were all from the Mohmand Rifles, a paramilitary detachment of the Frontier Corps, the force deployed in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a security official said, speaking in return for customary anonymity.

Officers in the Frontier Corps are generally assigned from the Pakistani Army. The bodies of the dead were being flown to Peshawar on Wednesday morning, the government official said. Among five wounded were three civilians, he said.

Local tribesmen with rocket launchers and Kalashnikov rifles gathered Wednesday near the checkpoint to show their outrage after the attack, Agence France-Presse reported.

Earlier this month, the American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said that Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan were fleeing to the Pakistani border after being routed in recent operations by the United States Marines.

Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who stepped down last week as NATO commander in Afghanistan, seemed to warn Pakistan to contain the threat emanating from its land, and said the Taliban and drug traffickers had long used refugee camps across the border as a sanctuary from American firepower.

He said that if the Taliban and foreign insurgents continued to enjoy free sanctuary outside Afghanistan, their numbers would continue to grow.

The new Pakistani government sought peace deals with the militants after many Pakistanis saw a drastic increase in suicide bombings in Pakistan as being in retaliation for American strikes.

Carlotta Gall reported from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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