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Wednesday, 9 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 09 Jul

ISI blamed for Kabul suicide attack


08 July 2008, Tuesday

SOME AFGHAN political experts charge the Pakistan intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), with involvement in the suicide attack against the heavily-fortified Indian Embassy on the interior ministry in Kabul on Monday (July 7), which claimed 41 innocent lives, including that of four Indian nationals, and injured 149 others. The political experts say that since Pakistan government feels threatened due to the growing friendly relations between Afghanistan and India, it has decided to terrorise Indian citizens by portraying Afghanistan as an unsafe country.
Afghan parliamentarian Mir Ahmad Joinda says that Pakistan wants to deteriorate the friendly relations between Afghanistan and India. In his view, the new Pakistan government does want to have better relations with India but it is opposed by the ISI.
The Afghan interior ministry believes that the attack on the Indian embassy was carried out ’in co-ordination and consultation with an active intelligence service in the region’. It is clearly alluding to Pakistani agents, who have been blamed for a number of attacks in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has openly accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai of towing India. Islamabad has also said that the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad are funnelling arms and money to insurgents in Pakistan’s troubled Balochistan region.
After the attack, the Afghan president met with Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad and expressed his deep sympathies with the government and people of India over the deaths of the Indian embassy staff.
Karzai said, "This abominable act of terrorism is the work of enemies of Afghanistan’s friendship with India and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. The enemies of peace and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan attempted to hamper further expansion of relationship between Afghanistan and countries of the world, especially India."
The Indian ambassador said such dastardly attacks would fail to hurt the robust Kabul-Delhi relationship. He added that terrorist acts would not force India to back out of its commitment to Afghanistan.
Later in the day, Karzai also spoke to the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh over the telephone. As the Afghan president voiced profound shock at the terrorist act, Singh assured him of continued Indian support for the war-ravaged country.
The United States, the UN mission in Kabul and Pakistan, slamming the assault, called for bringing the perpetrators to justice. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "We condemn this needless act of violence, and offer our sincere condolences to those injured and especially to those families who lost loved ones."
Terming the attack as cowardly and heinous crime the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for Afghanistan Kai Edie said, "I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. In no culture, no country, and no religion is there any excuse or justification for such acts."
Also in Islamabad, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed his profound condolence to the bereaved families and said Pakistan slated terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
The massive suicide attack occurred when an explosive-laden car rammed into the embassy

Brig Mehta cremated with military honours
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
Bhavya Mehta, stood consoling her mother, Sunita Mehta, who clutched the Tricolour and her husband Brig Ravi Datt Mehta’s Army cap as the body of Mehta — who had died in line of duty at Kabul yesterday — was cremated with full military honours today.
The Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor led the mourners as family of Mehta, his friends were moved as a 21-gun salute was fired and the “last post” bugle call was sounded at the cremation ground at the Delhi Cantt here this afternoon.
The bodies of Mehta, IFS officer V.V. Rao and two ITBP jawans Ajay Pathania and Roop Singh were brought to Delhi on board a special IAF aircraft last night. The cremation of Rao was also conducted this afternoon with full military honours.
The minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma led the mourners. Almost all senior IFS officers posted in Delhi attended the cremation. The family of Rao had flown in from Hyderabad while his wife, Malti, teaches in Delhi itself.
The bodies of the two ITBP jawans were sent to their respective hometowns. Pathania’s body was sent to Hoshiarpur where as Roop Singh’s to Mandi.
Brig Mehta, whose work in Afghanistan had earned praise from his peers and seniors, was the first to be cremated. General Kapoor laid floral wreaths on the mortal remains. Wreaths were also laid on behalf of the President of India, Prime Minister, The Defence minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
The Defence attache of Afghanistan in India laid a wreath on behalf of the Government of Afghanistan. Senior Navy and Air Force officers paid floral tributes on behalf of their respective chiefs.
Brig Mehta’s son, Flight Lieutenant Udit Mehta, lighted the funeral pyre. He is himself an Indian Air Force Fighter Pilot. Later while speaking to the media, Flight Lt Udit said he was very proud of his gallant father, who had always been a source of inspiration to him. The way he lived his brave soldierly life was worth emulating, he added.
Meanwhile, President Pratibha Patil expressed 'deep sorrow' on the deaths of the four personnel.

Indian Navy Ship to be Immortalized as Artificial Reef
By Ritu Sharma

New Delhi
A decommissioned Indian Navy ship has become part of an environmental project to showcase the country's marine life - offering adventure tourists opportunities for underwater tours of the vessel.
The ship, which has been sunk off the Karnataka coast in the Arabian sea, will serve as an artificial reef and over time become a natural home to weeds, sea plants, fishes and other creatures of the sea.
The ship, Seaward Defence Boat T-54, had guarded the country's maritime borders for 23 years from the time it was commissioned in September 1982.
The 162-tonne vessel, also known as 'The Ever Vigilant', was sunk off Karwar Port Jan 30. Prior to this, it was brought for "final preparations" to Karwar, where the Indian Navy is developing a major base.
The electrical wiring and the communication system were removed from the ship and traces of oil cleaned from the fuel tanks. The ship was then towed out, mines were fitted on the vessel and detonated, causing it to sink.
"The mines exploded and sea water rushed into the compartmets. After two blasts, the ship started sinking slowly - stern first and then the bow," an official said.
A survey conducted by a diver revealed the vessel was nestled on the seabed.
The area has initially been opened to professional divers as the underwater visibility has to improve to about six metres before it is possible to view the ship from glass-bottomed boats. The ship will also promote scuba diving as a sport.
Being a first of its kind of project for the Indian Navy, a lot of deliberation had gone into the identification of the site, and the planning and execution of the project.
"The weapon systems and most of the ship's machinery were removed after it was decommissioned. For the project, relevant parts of the ship which had to be cut away to give access were carefully photographed and demarcated," an official said describing the preparations before the ship was sunk.
"Moreover, in view of the strict naval guidelines for dismantling and cleaning the ship, all potential contaminants that could adversely effect marine life were removed to make T-54 as environmentally safe as possible," the official added.

Tank tussle hots up
Induct 500 Arjuns: DRDO
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
The ongoing tussle over inducting Arjun tank in the Indian Army has become a hot topic of discussion in the past few days. After the director general Mechanised Infantry, Lt-Gen Dalip Bharadwaj, was quoted in the media saying that the Army would not buy more than 124 Arjun tanks, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has reportedly told defence minister A.K. Antony that at least 500 such tanks should be manufactured and inducted.
Senior functionaries of the DRDO have briefed the minister that capacity exists to manufacturing 500 tanks at the Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi. The Army is to decide on it next set of requirements. The balance is tilted in favour of the Russian tank T-90.
Rather the DRDO has informed that 70 tanks are ready for delivery at the Avadi plant and the Army contracted number of 124 tanks would be met in the next six months. Hundreds of crores of rupees have been invested in building capacities at the Avadi plant and more tanks should be purchased. Since the tanks have shaped up very well in the just concluded summer trials there is no reason why more should not be inducted, the DRDO is learnt to have told Antony in the past few days.
Notably, the DRDO’s claim that Arjun was a good tank has been buffered by a personal letter, written by the retired Lieutenant General to the defence minister. The Chandigarh-based former Army officer has alleged that the Army was opposing the Arjun tank, as most of the top brass of the Army did not have much experience in a tank battles.
Sources said the DRDO had reacted sharply to the Army officers assertion in the media on the status of the Arjun tank and briefed the defence minister. Rather a note is being put up by the DRDO on how the tanks fared in the just concluded trials and how new systems and technologies have been incorporated. Five discrepancies had been pointed out during the winter trials in 2007 that were about the gearbox, the firing accuracy and quality control over some equipment.
It may be mentioned that the DRDO has been gunning for comparative trial between the Arjun and the Russian made T-90 tanks.
The defence minister and the ministry of defence officials are keen that such comparison be conducted. The DRDO has also reportedly informed the minister that Arjun is a contemporary tank and is far superior to T-54, T-55 and T-72 tanks used by the Army in the past.

Manekshaw funeral: NRIs post angry mails
7 Jul 2008, 1351 hrs IST,IANS

Indians living abroad have been quick to express their angst over the response, rather its absence, of the top Indian leadership to the final farewell for Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.

Within hours of the Indian media reporting on their websites that top national leaders had been absent at the state funeral, NRIs across the globe started hammering away at their keyboards to express their anger about this faux pas.

Issuing tributes was not enough for India's most distinguished soldier because the politicians were too busy to attend as they were battling inflation or trying to sign the nuclear deal when they knew well in advance that Sam was on his last lap.

None of the top leaders made the trip to Ooty. So a scathing comment appeared in a newspaper that somebody should have told the geniuses in Delhi that Sam, the Bahadur, passed away in Wellington, Ooty, not Wellington, New Zealand. The nearest civil airport is Coimbatore, just 80 kilometres away.

A Kiwi Indian from down under wrote that whenever "a digger" (an Australian) dies in Iraq, the top government leaders or officers attend his funeral but when the first Field Marshal of India dies, not even the defence minister can be bothered to attend.

From Britain, Aline Dobbie wrote: "In Sam, we had our own Horatio Nelson (the British Admiral who won the Battle of Trafalgar - the most decisive sea battle for Pax Britannica). Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw presided over the most decisive military victories our country has seen ever... Just compare the way the British acknowledge Nelson even today and compare it with how we have started after the departure of Sam. No wonder our defence forces in the present times are struggling to attract the right talent for enrolment, in defence of the nation."

A number of Indians in the US compiled a collection of acerbic comments on this sorry episode and started to mass mail them to everyone they knew.

The e-mail started off with a list of why the president, the vice president, the prime minister, the head of the Congress party, the leader of the opposition, the chief minister and the governor of the state he lived in for 35 years were all absent.

The reasons given were acidic. It ended by declaring: "Our VIPs and VVIPs have time for dead and dying celebrities, charlatans, fixers. Not for a field marshal?"

Defence procurement policy set to be revised
9 Jul 2008, 0224 hrs IST,TNN

NEW DELHI: With India projected to spend a whopping $30 billion for acquisition of military hardware and software from abroad during the 11th Plan period (2007-2012), the defence ministry is now finally all set to revise its defence procurement policy (DPP).

The new DPP, which will try to cut down on procurement delays, bring in more transparency, rework the "offsets" clause and provide for "offset banking", is slated to be approved by the Defence Acquisitions Council headed by defence minister A K Antony on Wednesday.

Introduced for the first time in the 2005 DPP, the "offsets" clause mandates that a foreign vendor who bags a deal over Rs 300 crore must plough back at least 30% of the contract value back into India or source defence products or services from the country of that value.

There is likelihood of the defence ministry actually increasing the offsets obligation to 50% in the new DPP. The RFP (request for proposal) issued last year for the mother of all defence deals, the Rs 42,000-crore project to acquire 126 multi-role fighter jets for IAF, in fact, lays down a 50% offset provision.

While offsets are the norm internationally, armament manufacturers and others have petitioned the defence ministry that its policy of allowing only "direct" offsets — that is, only in the defence arena - is restrictive and needs to be re-examined. "The offsets policy will be fine-tuned but allowing of 'indirect offsets' is unlikely since the ministry is extremely keen to build the indigenous defence sector," said an official.

The ministry, in fact, feels India's "high" purchasing power should be leveraged to boost the fledgling domestic defence industry, and the best way to do it is through the successful implementation of the offsets policy.

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