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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

From Today's Papers - 20 Aug

Military genius Musharraf's civilian manoeuvre Natteri Adigal 19 August 2008, Tuesday

ABHIMANYU, THE legendary son of Arjuna in the epic Mahabharata, was an expert in military manoeuvres. He was the only one in the Pandava army other than his father, who knew the technique of penetrating the formidable ’chakra vyuh’ formation of rivals Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war. The warrior’s weakness was that he was unable to get out of the tangle after accomplishing the mission. And, he was slain in the process.

General Pervez Musharraf found himself in almost the same predicament in the beginning of the year. The 65-year-old former General had ruled Pakistan with iron grip for over eight years. As the ’President in Uniform’, he kept the country’s politicians – in no way less reprobate, untrustworthy or cunning than their Indian counterparts – at bay. Finding the position shaky due to advancing age, he had got himself into the ’chakra vyuh’ of Pakistan’s murky politics. Also to be dreaded was meeting the fate of his predecessor-dictator Zia-ul-Haq, believed to have been eliminated by the army. So, the General shed the uniform and became civilian president, acquiring vast powers.

He must have found the extent of peril inside the ’chakra vyuh’ when his party got the drubbing in the February 18 national elections at the hands of the parties of his arch enemies in politics. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) decided to come together to humble the defectors’ party he had created for himself, Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q). Shortly after, the ‘Long March’ that culminated in a rally of tens of thousands of protectors in the capital must have come as a rude jolt to him. It was organised by lawyers owing allegiance to PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, baying for his blood.

The government had to mobilise over 6000 paramilitary policemen at the site to dissuade the crowd from getting violent. Sharif thundered at the rally: "These dictators should also be held responsible for the crimes they have committed." He reminded the mob of former PPP chief Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was charged with corruption and hanged by General Zia in 1979. The former prime minister himself was under threat of being hanged by Musharraf on similar charges. He had been forced to flee Pakistan and take exile for eight long years. Telling the rally that hanging should not be only for elected leaders, he asked the frenzied crowd, "Do the people of Pakistan want you (Musharraf) to be held accountable?" and a chilling echo, "Hang Musharraf" rented the air.

To be let off the hook, after ‘voluntarily’ standing down, ostensibly for the sake of upholding ‘democratic image’ and prestige of Pakistan, is far removed from the public mood just two months back. To give more credence to his claim that his sole will was to "upgrade the democracy in Pakistan," he emotionally appealed to Pakistanis, "I leave my future in the hands of people!" The ‘paragon of democracy’ added, "I don’t want army to be dragged into this controversy!" Preparations for the final scene had started on August 14, when addressed the nation on Independence Day, the General had said, "Political stability, in my view, can only be brought about through a reconciliation approach as opposed to confrontation!"

On August 18, Musharraf received some of the most important figures in Pakistan’s power structure -- chief justice Abdul Hamid Dogar, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chairman of the chiefs of staff committee General Tariq Majid and air force chief Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed.

India, Russia Resolve Hurdles
in Production of T-90 Tank

New Delhi
An India-Russia working group Tuesday resolved the issues related to the delivery of various products required for the indigenous production of T-90 main battle tanks.
“The main area of concern of our side was the product support required for indigenous production of T-90 tanks. The main issues were related to the delivery of ventilation, torsion bar, gun barrels and anti aircraft gun mounts,” said a defence official here, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The discussions figured during the eighth meeting here of the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission's working group on "ship building, aviation and land systems".
Additional Secretary (defence production) Ajoy Acharya and Director of Department for Defence Industry Complex Development of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Karavaev Igor Evgeniyevich presided over the meeting.
“The Russian side agreed that the delivery schedule mutually accepted in the sub group meeting of land systems in June 2008 will be maintained. The Indian side stressed the urgent requirement of specification of T-90 gun barrels. The Russian side agreed to deliver the document by December 2008,” the official said.
Delays in the manufacturing of the indigenous Arjun main battle tank and Pakistan's decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine prompted India to order 310 T-90s in 2001. Of these, 186 were assembled from kits at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi, near Chennai.
An agreement was also signed for the licensed production of another 1,000 T-90s. This, however, is yet to commence due to Russia's reluctance to transfer technology, prompting India to purchase another 300 tanks from Russia last year.
“The working group also discussed about MRTA (multi-role transport aircraft), that will be jointly developed by India and Russia. Another meeting to further discuss the modalities would take place next month,” the official added.
An Inter Governmental Agreement for the co-development of MRTA was concluded during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Russia in November 2007.
“Besides, it was decided at the working group that the draft general agreement on the co-development of fifth generation fighter aircraft will be prepared by the Russian side and will be handed over to the Indian side by the end of next month,” said the official.

IAF commandos shine in US
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
The special force commandos of the Indian Air Force (IAF) - The Garuds - came out with their heads held high during the ongoing Red Flag exercise in the US.

The IAF team emerged winner in the simulated exercise as they neutralised an enemy radar site, captured an airfield and carried out combat search and rescue operations. The exercise was conducted in the deserts of Nevada in USA.

The enemy airfield called the Red Forces was simulated some 60 km from the border and was considered strategically important for the friendly forces in which the IAF team was participating. An intelligence report was made available that identified the location of the airfield in the desert terrain suggesting medium threat environment and adequate defensive measures.

The commandoes were to complete the task in two hours.

After the intelligence inputs, mission commander Flight Lieutenant Jagvinder Singh carried out a detailed analysis of the terrain and topography and worked out an operational plan. The plan included helicopter-borne insertion of the force.

The commando unit was established in 2005 with 60 commandos initially following the Kargil conflict and terrorist attacks on IAF airfields in the insurgency-affected areas. The commandoes are trained to protect airfields from enemy and terrorist attacks and carry out hostage rescue operations. They also carry out the combat search and rescue missions (CSAR).

Quoting Capt Burry of the US Air Force, an IAF spokesperson said: “The Garuds have executed all the assigned missions and overcome all the exercise limitations. They are highly trained, motivated and mission-oriented.

Delhi arms reminder to Russia


A T-90S tank bought from Russia. The Indianised version, called Bhishma, is being assembled at the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi, Tamil Nadu. (Photo courtesy: Bharat-Rakshak)

New Delhi, Aug. 19: India today asked Russia to stick to delivery schedules of contracted military equipment at a review of defence pacts that highlighted more glitches than achievements.

Delhi’s pending military projects with Moscow is estimated to be worth more than $14 billion.

Four important defence agreements were discussed at a two-day meeting of the Indo-Russian Working Group on Shipbuilding, Aviation and Land Systems.

The two sides were led by Ajoy Acharya, additional secretary, department of defence production, and Karavaev Igor Evgeniyevich, the director of Russia’s Department of Defence Industry Complex.

Strangely, an official brief on the meeting given in the afternoon was cancelled in the evening and replaced by a note from the defence ministry.

The note said: “The talks were held in a highly professional manner in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual understanding. The sides exchanged views on implementation of current projects like T-90 tanks, missile systems, various shipbuilding activities and aviation sector projects like the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and multi-role transport aircraft. They also agreed to take steps for ensuring their successful implementation.”

After the meeting, defence ministry sources told reporters Russia said it would abide by schedules it had agreed to on the T-90 tanks that are now taking over in the frontline of the Indian Army’s armoured corps.

“Both sides agreed to ensure efficient and well-timed execution of important projects,” defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.

But the staement could barely conceal areas of discord in the Russia-India military co-operation programme.

Russia is by far India’s largest supplier of military equipment — accounting for nearly 65 per cent of the imported hardware — and the two countries are now engaged in complex talks to resolve a dispute on the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. Russia has demanded about $2 billion more than the contracted price for the vessel.

But this afternoon’s meeting dwelt on other military contracts, each of them important for India’s armed forces that have embarked on a rapid modernisation programme.

The Indian side asked for a commitment from Russia on product support for indigenous production of T-90 tanks.

The T-90 is the army’s main battle tank now and 310 tanks were first contracted in 2001 after the home-grown Arjun did not meet the standards.

India intends to buy a total of 1,000 T-90s, for an unstated price — though industry sources put the figure between Rs 12 crore and Rs 14 crore each.

The defence ministry sources said several issues — like the tank’s anti-aircraft gun mount, ventilation system, torsion bar and gun barrels — were sought to be resolved at the meeting.

Antony set for American debut


New Delhi, Aug. 19: A.K. Antony will be visiting the US for the first time since taking over as defence minister, a trip he has been putting off repeatedly but now finds politically convenient to make after the withdrawal of the Left’s support to the UPA government.

The tentative schedule for Antony’s visit is from September 7 to 10, ironically at the same time that the India-US civilian nuclear deal — the 123 Agreement — is slated to come up for an up-down vote in the US Congress.

Defence ministry sources said the visit was not planned to coincide with the US Congress’s taking up the 123 Agreement, but it is a development the Left will note.

Prakash Karat has been alleging that the deal is part of a larger project of the US to bind India into a strategic-military relationship.

In 2005, the previous Indian defence minister — Pranab Mukherjee — visited the US and signed a 10-year Framework Cooperation Agreement for the India-US Defence Relationship, a pact the Left said took India closer to a military embrace with the US.

US defence secretary Robert Gates visited Delhi in February to bolster the military relationship and to lobby for US firms vying to win major contracts to supply hardware to the Indian armed forces. Antony’s visit is reciprocal, the ministry sources said.

The agenda for Antony’s visit is yet to be cleared by the cabinet committee on security where three important pacts have been pending even after being cleared by the services’ headquarters.

Top priority for the US among these is a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) that will allow for reciprocal arrangements for Indian military personnel and equipment.

The two other agreements that are pending are a Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and an End-User Verification Agreement.

The CISMOA is an understanding that the US military insists upon to facilitate transfer of certain types of military technology.

The End-Use Verification Agreement is a somewhat controversial agreement in India that the defence ministry under Antony has been chary of signing so far. It will allow the US to verify that military equipment that it has transferred to India is being used for the purpose it is meant. The US insists upon it to ensure that its equipment is not used against US forces or against US interests.

But the Indian defence ministry had pointed out to the US in talks earlier that physical verification of equipment may not be possible. However, Indian and US officials were trying to work around such a requirement with India agreeing to furnish lists of equipment accompanied by an explanation of their use.

A new Indian defence procurement policy that is friendlier to suppliers comes into effect from September 1.

Neighbors Worry about Pakistan's Stability

By Paul Beckett and Alan Cullison

Officials in India and Afghanistan have realized for months that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf wasn't in charge of their fractious neighbor. But his resignation raises new fears that a rudderless Pakistan will exacerbate tensions with its neighbors and increase terrorism.

Those concerns were heightened by reports Tuesday of a Taliban ambush of French paratroopers in Afghanistan that left 10 soldiers dead, as well as an attack on a U.S. base not far from the Pakistan border early Tuesday.

Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani -- who is now viewed as a key player in relations with Pakistan's neighbors and allies ...

Pakistani military chief in Afghanistan

KABUL (AFP) — Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani travelled to Kabul on Tuesday for talks with Afghan and NATO officials on cooperation against Islamic militants, a Pakistani military statement said.

The meeting of the so-called tripartite commission between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO came amid tensions over Islamabad's alleged failure to crack down on Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels in its tribal border regions.

Ten French NATO soldiers were killed in a Taliban ambush near Kabul overnight.

Kayani met with US General David D. McKiernan, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and General Bismillah Khan, the Afghan army's chief of general staff.

"The meeting reviewed the security situation in areas along the Pak-Afghan border," the statement said.

"They showed satisfaction at the existing level of cooperation and reiterated their resolve and commitment to contribute towards peace and security in this volatile region," it added.

The meeting also came a day after the resignation of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led "war on terror" who handed over the reins of the army to Kayani in November.

A security official said Kayani's visit to Kabul was "already planned" before Musharraf stepped down.

Kabul recently accused Pakistan's military-run intelligence service of masterminding the July bombing of the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital, in which around 60 people were killed.

Pakistan denied the accusations, which were also made by India.

The two countries have been at loggerheads for the last two years over Islamabad's alleged failure to tackle Taliban militants based in its tribal border regions.

Indian Army places $2 billion order for BrahMos missiles: Dr Sivathanu Pillai news

Moscow: The Indian Army has placed a $2 billion order for supersonic cruise missiles from the Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace according to a report from the Interfax news agency. The agency quoted firm chief executive, Sivathanu Pillai, as saying, "The order by the Indian armed forces comes to $2 billion."

BrahMos Aerospace is a joint Indo-Russian venture established in 1998 to design, develop, produce and market a unique supersonic cruise missile.

Sivathanu Pillai, speaking in Moscow, also said the total order book for the supersonic cruise missile, including supplies to other countries, could eventually reach $10 billion.

A senior Indian defence official in New Delhi was quoted as saying that the deal was part of a long-term agreement between BrahMos Aerospace and the Indian armed forces.

The BrahMos has a range of up to 290 km and can travel at speeds of up to 2.8 times the speed of sound.

An Indian defence spokesman also said that India and Russia signed agreements on Tuesday to upgrade tanks and fighter jets that India has bought from Russia over the years.

IAF chief last voted 10 years ago

August 19th, 2008 - 12:08 pm ICT by IANS - Email This Post Email This Post

New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major has not been able to vote for the last 10 years because, like most people in the armed forces, he has not been home at election time. He has now sought streamlining of the voting system for the armed forces.”The last I voted was 10 years ago when I was at my home on vacation. In total I have voted only four times,” Major told IANS.

Born in 1947, Major joined the IAF in 1967. The fact that the IAF chief has voted only four times during his 41 years of service underscores the failure of successive government to give effective voting rights to the armed forces.

A majority of Indian armed forces personnel have never voted during their service tenure. With the Lok Sabha elections due next year, armed forces personnel hope the issue will be resolved as soon as possible.

“Though there are proxy voting system and postal ballot system in place, things have not materialised as they were desired,” said Major, who is the first helicopter pilot to have been appointed IAF chief.

Theoretically, soldiers can vote through postal ballots or by proxy - but there are deficiencies in both systems.

The postal ballot system has proved inadequate and inefficient due to the long delays involved in sending out voting sheets to the different places where defence personnel are posted.

“I have never voted during my 16 years of service. During the last general election, I received my postal ballot well after the new government was formed,” an air force officer said on condition of anonymity.

Acknowledging this problem, the IAF chief said: “We are aware there are problems but the decision has to be taken by the government. Another possible solution to the problem can be that a soldier is allowed to vote wherever he is posted at the time of elections.”

In the case of Indian army border posts, the delays in postal ballots are even more acute.

The voting sheets have to be filled in and sent back to the respective returning officers before the counting process begins - but this rarely happens on time.

India’s defence ministry has time and again stressed that it is seized of the matter, but the situation has not improved.

In June this year, Minister of State for Defence M. Pallam Raju told IANS: “We have been getting a lot of complaints from soldiers as they have been unable to cast their votes. We will soon hold a meeting with the Election Commission in this regard.”

But a 1.1-million strong army, around 140,000-strong air force and a nearly 60,000-strong navy are yet to be granted voting rights.

According to sources in the Army Postal Service, in the Southern Command, the biggest in the army and one that has eight states and three union territories under its jurisdiction, only 23,000 serving personnel of the three services exercised their franchise through the postal ballot in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

In September 2003, parliament had approved the proxy voting system for armed forces personnel whereby they could authorise a family member - usually a parent or a sibling or a spouse - to cast their vote by proxy.

This system draws heavily from that prevailing in Britain but has proved to be ineffective because soldiers do not even know the provision exists.

“The matter will be looked into during the meeting with Election Commission officials. A decision (on streamlining the system) will be taken well before the next elections,” Raju said.

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