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Saturday, 12 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 12 Jul

Our security muddle

By Babar Sattar


The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He is a Rhodes scholar and has an LL.M from Harvard Law School

Pakistan's defence and security policy appears to be a labyrinth of contradictions and confusion. What is our security policy and how do Afghanistan (our strategic hinterland), the United States (our war-on-terror ally) and the Taliban (our divorced friends) fit into it? Who is in charge of this policy and what political, economic and military strategies have been devised to bring it to fruition?

On paper Pakistan has a three-pronged policy that has military, political and socio-economic components: generate negotiation leverage by use of military muscle; negotiate from a position of strength with Taliban groups and militants willing to renounce violence; and undertake socio-economic development in the tribal areas to raise the standards of living of the tribes and give them a stake in maintaining peace. This story would make for a perfect Power-Point presentation in a simulation session. But this is a real-life situation.

The tribal areas remain amongst the most underdeveloped regions of Pakistan, and having lived with death of near ones and destruction of personal properties, residents who remain have nothing more to lose except their own lives. While fancy ideas abound, the socio-economic development on the ground amounts to naught. For example, the architects of our indigenous "three-pronged policy" are yet to exhibit their power of persuasion that would convince local industry to move its business units to export promotion zones in the tribal areas where even Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan doesn't get safe passage.

The military and political components of our security policy are not poised either. Our stated defence and security policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan is to have friendly relations with our neighbour and fight along with coalition forces to weed out Al Qaeda and the Taliban from the region and deny them sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas. But our traditional security doctrine views Afghanistan as a vital hinterland capable of providing Pakistan strategic depth in a conflict dispute with India. And there seems to have been no reconsideration of the policy itself and the strategies devised to realise the policy amid transformed regional realities. Afghanistan is no longer a discarded Cold War battlefield of the 1990s or a regional backyard used by India and Pakistan to undermine each other's interests. But let's beware. Now the big boys are here to play as well.

9/11 and the refusal of the Taliban government to hand over Al Qaeda operatives provided the US with an opportunity and a reason to occupy Afghanistan. The country has nothing appealing to offer the world at present except its geo-strategic location. Having set up a watch post in this vital Asian energy corridor with the added ability to monitor Iran and China up close, the

US would find a reason to stick around even if bin Laden called it quits tomorrow and handed himself over. In this backdrop Pakistan can ill-afford to continue with a policy whereby on the one hand we are openly allied with the US in fighting a war that is extremely unpopular and enrages the entire populace, and on the other go soft on the Taliban to protect our conventionally perceived strategic interests. Such a conflicted policy undermines the efficacy, morale and credibility of our military instruments and weakens the state by encouraging extremists of all hues, from tribal outposts to Dera, Hangu and Lal Masjid, to create their respective fiefdoms, while subjecting our sovereignty and national honour to an ally that not only continues to threaten us with military action but also attacks our soldiers at will.

On June 9, the RAND Corporation issued a report funded by the US Department of Defence entitled "Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan," which asserted that, "the Taliban and other groups are getting help from individuals within the Pakistan government, and until that ends, the region's long-term security is in jeopardy." On June 10, the US launched laser-guided strikes on an FC border check-post in Goraparai that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers. While the US regretted the incident, it also insisted that the bombs hit their designated targets, meaning thereby that the strike on the check-post was deliberate. This is also in line with the US military's rules of engagement in Afghanistan, which authorise the US military to take out anyone perceived to be shooting at US military assets. And US forces assert that they fired at the check-post because coalition forces were receiving fire from the post. While a tripartite commission comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan and coalition forces has been constituted to investigate the incident, its report can only be a window-dressing measure that won't say much.

For if the commission finds that the US strike was "unprovoked and cowardly" as the Pakistani army has claimed, the US will need to lay the blame on the shoulders of a field commander that will adversely affect the morale of US troops. In any event, the US has no history of undertaking military accountability even in face of graver disasters during its war on terror. And if the commission finds that Pakistani soldiers were actually firing at the coalition forces alongside the Taliban, it will establish that in the fight between the coalition forces and the Taliban, Pakistan's military actively sides with the latter. Notwithstanding the commission report and its expected lame findings, the incident itself highlights the precariousness of the Pakistan-US alliance. First, how effective can their joint effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban be if there is no real-time information-sharing between them capable of preventing them from killing each other? And second, what is the nature of this alliance if the US soldiers are legally mandated to fire at Pakistani forces?

But blaming the US alone for its madness and bravado doesn't help, because it is the Pakistani army that is responsible for protecting the lives of its own and it is this army that has chosen to ally itself with the US war effort. Our failing military operations raise serious questions about our military strategy as well. We reportedly have 85,000 troops patrolling the Pakistani-Afghan border. Does the military have the capacity to back up each post comprising 15-16 soldiers even against attacks from the Taliban in our backyard? Why were there no reinforcements available to back up the FC post attacked by the US and surrounded by the Taliban and why did local civilians need to rescue and recover the bodies of the soldiers? The rules of engagement for coalition forces are unambiguous. What are the rules of engagement for Pakistani soldiers? In fighting the war and the insurgency and risking their lives, are they authorised to attack those who attack them? If our soldiers are authorised to act in self-defence, how does one explain the shameful incident of September 2007 when some 30 militants abducted 300 armed soldiers without a single gunshot being fired?

There is a need for Pakistan to recalibrate its defence and security policy and ground it a political roadmap for the future of the tribal areas. On the political front we need to set a timeline for making the federally administered tribal areas an intrinsic part of the country and endow its residents with all the rights and responsibilities provided under the Constitution. Unless we move towards clarifying the legal status of Pakistan's tribal areas and implementing constitutional rule with all its benefits, sustainable peace will remain a forlorn hope and mischief-rewarding peace deals will continue to blow up in the face of the state. And on the military front we need to reconsider the strategic depth doctrine in this age of digital warfare, and completely abandon the tactic of appeasing and keeping in store militarily trained, ideologically motivated zealots to help pursue the strategic goals of the state.

Even if the lessons from our involvement in the Afghan war against the Soviet Union are lost on us, let us understand that the death of 1,100 soldiers since 2002, the killing of thousands of civilians in suicide bombings and terror attacks, as well as the loss of security of life and liberty of citizens across Pakistan is not an acceptable cost for pursuing misconceived strategic goals of the state. The jihadi project must be dumped once and for all and government agencies purged of its supporters and sympathisers. There can be nothing more dangerous for the future of this country than its decision makers remaining stuck in old, outdated and failed ideas.

Nag anti-tank missile back in reckoning

12 Jul 2008, 0356 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit,TNN

NEW DELHI: Eighteen years after it was first tested, the meandering saga of the indigenous Nag anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) is finally entering the climax phase after an expenditure of over Rs 300 crore.

Or so it seems, with Defence Research and Development Organisation planning the "final developmental flight trials" of Nag at Pokhran on July 27-28, which will be followed by the "user-trials" in mid-September, say sources.

Having placed an order for 443 Nag missiles and 13 Namicas (Nag missile tracked carriers) for induction over three years, the Army is keeping its fingers firmly crossed.

The urgent need for ATGMs can be gauged from the fact that after ordering 4,000 Konkurs-M missiles, the Army is now looking for 4,100 "advanced" ATGMs with tandem warheads for "better kill probability" of enemy tanks.

The Army, in fact, has agreed to reframe its GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) for the 4,100 new missiles - by reducing its "essential" strike range from 2,000 metres to 1,850 metres - to enable defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) to participate in the programme.

BDL, incidentally, manufactures variants of the second-generation 2-km-range "Milan" and 4-km-range "Konkurs" ATGMs, under licence from French and Russian companies, at around Rs 4.50 lakh per unit.

The third-generation Nag missile, with a four-km strike range, will also be manufactured by BDL. But there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

Over 60 developmental trials of Nag have been conducted over the years but recurring problems in the guidance systems, especially in the "imaging infra-red (IIR) sensor-based seeker", has meant the missile is still to become fully operational. DRDO, however, is quite confident now, holding that Nag will be among the world's most advanced ATGMs, better than other contemporary missiles like Israeli 2.5-km Gill and four-km Spike missiles.

"The Army has already accepted the Nag, which has fire-and-forget, day-and-night and top-attack (the missile pops up and hits the tank's vulnerable upper portion like the gun-turret) capabilities," said a DRDO official. "There have been delays due to import embargoes, problems in development of the IIR seeker, change in NAMICA configurations and the like. But Nag, which also has high immunity to counter-measures, is fully-ready now," he added.

Apart from the NAMICA platform, that can carry 12 missiles, Nag will also have an airborne version named "Helina" to be fitted on the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter, which will be configured to carry eight missiles in two launchers.

Incidentally, Nag was one of the "core missile systems" of the country's original Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), launched as far back as in 1983. Announcing the IGMDP's "virtual closure" earlier this year, DRDO declared that development work on all other missiles - Agni, Prithvi, Akash and Trishul - had been completed.

Though work on "strategic" long-range nuclear-capable missiles like Agni-III (3,500-km range) and Agni-V (over 5,000-km) will still be "undertaken in-house", India will also look at foreign collaboration in other armament projects to cut down on delays.

DRDO tries to ram Arjun tanks down Army throat

12 Jul 2008, 0051 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit,TNN

NEW DELHI: A war has erupted in the Indian defence establishment over the indigenous Arjun main-battle tank (MBT), once again. After Army made it quite clear it did not want more than the 124 Arjuns already ordered, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has fired a retaliatory salvo.

Seeking the government's intervention to ensure "indigenous efforts" are "appropriately rewarded", DRDO says Army should order a minimum of 500 Arjuns to stabilise production lines and pave the way for the development of a "futuristic" MBT.

"We are working on the development of a futuristic Mark-II MBT with suitable technological upgrades, which can be introduced later after the completion of production of at least 500 Arjuns of the present version," said a DRDO official.

Nothing doing, responds Army. "Our requirement for 1,781 MBTs to replace the older T-55 and T-72 tanks will be met through the progressive induction of 1,657 Russian-origin T-90S tanks and 124 Arjuns," said a senior officer.

After getting 310 T-90S tanks for over Rs 3,625 crore under a February 2001 contract, India signed a Rs 4,900 crore deal with Russia last November to import another 347 T-90S tanks. The Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory, in turn, has also begun the licensed manufacture of another 1,000 T-90S tanks.

Moreover, the ongoing upgradation of 692 T-72 tanks to "combat-improved Ajeya standards", of which 415 have already been delivered, will add more punch to India's armoured might.

"So, we have already catered for adequate numbers. We are now looking 20 years ahead and want DRDO to come up with a next-generation MBT. We are not against indigenous efforts...let DRDO make something better," said the officer.

DRDO, however, is crying foul over moves to demand "higher performance" from the 58.5-tonne Arjuns, which are "superior" to even the 46.5-tonne T-90s in some respects like its "excellent weight-to-power ratio and very accurate firepower on the move".

With 64 of the 124 Arjuns already ready for delivery, DRDO holds that the Army is shying away from "comparative trials" between them and the T-90S tanks, which interestingly enough have been christened "Bhishma".

While acknowledging that the Arjun project was sanctioned as far back as in 1974 at a cost of Rs 15.50 crore, which zoomed up to Rs 300 crore by 1995, DRDO says one of the main reasons for the delay was the frequently changing "qualitative requirements" of the Army.

"Development of tanks of similar capabilities in a foreign country will cost 10 times the development cost we have incurred in India. The present cost of one Arjun is Rs 16.80 crore, while it is around Rs 12 crore for the T-90S. Arjun's cost compares favourably with contemporary western MBTs, which cost Rs 17 crore to Rs 24 crore," said a DRDO official.

Admitting there are "teething problems in productionization", DRDO says the process will "mature and stabilize" only after 200 to 300 tanks have actually been produced. "Consequently, we need patronage in terms of more orders for Arjuns. Since it's an indigenous tank, it will be all the more easier to bring upgrades and use it as a viable platform for futuristic development," he said.


India lodges protest with Pak army over border firing

Press Trust of India

Friday, July 11, 2008 (Jammu)

Taking serious view of the violation of the ceasefire, Indian Army on Friday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over ''unprovoked and indiscriminate firing'' on Indian post along Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

''We have lodged a strong protest with Pakistan army authorities,'' defence sources said at a flag meeting at a forward post. The incident took place on Thursday when Pakistani troops opened indiscriminate firing on a forward post in Krishangati belt in Poonch district.

''We gave them proof of the firing from across the border,'' They said, adding that they were also told about the ceasefire violation. No one was injured in the firing yesterday, the spokesman said.

An Indian forward post on the LoC came under a barrage of fire from the opposite Pakistani position, Madarpur post in Mandla forest belt in Poonch, around 1530 hours on Thursday.

Army sources said the firing on the Indian post came when Indian forces were engaged in foiling an infiltration bid by about 20 militants nearby.

Militants were forced to retreat back to Pakistani territory, the Army spokesperson said. Pakistani troops have violated the ceasefire four times in Samba, Thangda and in Poonch sector since April 25. A jawan was killed in firing in Krishangati area in June.

National war memorial should be near India Gate: Army chief

New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) In limbo for the last five decades, the proposal to build a national war memorial near India Gate got welcome support from Indian Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor who Friday said the memorial’s proximity to the national landmark would attract civilians. The memorial, designed by noted architect Charles Correa, would be the first to commemorate the sacrifice of thousands of Indian soldiers in World War II and the wars that India has fought since independence. However, the proposal to build a memorial close to India Gate has been gathering dust since the urban development ministry objected to it.“If the war memorial is at India Gate, it will become a rallying point for the civil society by attracting young people and an expression of their national spirit,” said Kapoor.The army chief was speaking on “Motivating the Youth to Join Armed Forces” at the Col. Ajay Mushran Memorial Lecture organised by the Madhya Pradesh Foundation. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was also present at the function and unveiled plans to build a war memorial in his state.The urban development ministry and the Delhi Urban Art Commission have been objecting to the memorial, saying it would spoil the ambience at the India Gate. However, the defence ministry says the monument would only be a little higher than the ground.Most portions of the marble slabs on which the 50,000 names would be etched would actually be below ground level. They would be in a circular fashion around the canopy next to the India Gate. People can walk along the slabs, pay their respects and move to India Gate.Kapoor also said: “Let the names of the civilians sacrificing their life for the nation be there on the war memorial.”The India Gate was built by the British in memory of the Indians who laid down their lives during World War I and the Afghan wars.The proposal to build a national war memorial was first mooted in the early 1960s but was shelved following India’s humiliating defeat against China in 1962. The proposal gained momentum following the Kargil conflict in 1999.The lack of a national war memorial has been a sore point among army personnel.“It’s insulting as well as embarrassing that India is virtually the only country without a dedicated national war memorial. It is as if the 1947-48 Jammu and Kashmir operation, the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars and the 1999 Kargil conflict do not matter at all,” said an army officer.

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