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Saturday, 13 September 2008

From Today's Papers - 13 Sep


















Pak army to retaliate if US conducts raids
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

The Pakistan Army has been ordered to retaliate against any action by foreign troops inside the country, army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said on Friday.

General Abbas' statement came as top brass of the Pakistan Army in their meeting on second day fully endorsed their chief's warning that no country would be allowed to violate Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

A press release issued after the 111th Corps Commanders Conference quoted General Ashfaq Kayani as saying that “all elements of the National Power under the new democratic leadership will safeguard the territorial integrity of Pakistan with full support and backing of the people of Pakistan.”

General Kayani's statement on Wednesday regarding army's resolve to defend borders at all costs against the backdrop of repeated US threats of cross-border raids inside Pakistan territory bordering Afghanistan has been widely acclaimed in the country. It has refurbished army's image that had touched rock bottom because of its involvement in internal politics under Pervez Musharraf.

Political leaders and the media, while welcoming Kayani's bold stand, made an embarrassing comparison to relatively feeble response from democratic government. Officials here said Kayani's expression," under the new democratic leadership" was designed to dispel the impression that the army was competing with the government in winning popular acclaim.

It was not clear how the army would retaliate to American raids but in an earlier statement chief of Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmad, had claimed that the PAF has the capability to intercept air strikes inside Pakistan territory. In a related development, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, parliamentary leader of the PML-N Thursday urged the government to convene a joint session of Parliament to discuss the American threats. He said the joint session would strengthen government's response to foreign pressure and help devise a national policy on war on terrorism.


Two COs in dock for assaulting juniors
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
Two colonels commanding different units are in the dock for allegedly assaulting their subordinates. While the Army has ordered trial by general court martial of one of the commanding officers (CO), it is looking into the complaint submitted against the other officer.

Army sources revealed that the trial of a colonel who was commanding an armoured regiment based at Patiala is scheduled to commence on September 16 at Ambala.

A subaltern in the same regiment, Lt Vineet Bindal had alleged that his CO had manhandled him after he had had an altercation with a scooterist who had a brush with tank transporters. The incident had occurred about two years ago when elements of the unit were returning from an exercise.

Acting upon the lieutenant’s complaint, the Army ordered a court of inquiry (COI), which was presided over by Brig C.K. Bajaj, commander of an artillery brigade at Ambala. The officer is now facing a single charge under Section 47 of the Army Act for ill-treating a subordinate. Brig Rahul Gupta, commander of an air defence brigade, is the GCM’s presiding officer.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, a JCO serving with an air defence regiment under the Western Command has submitted a written complaint that he was assaulted by the commanding officer a few weeks ago.

Sources said the complaint had gone up the chain of command and the Army was yet to decide upon a course of action.

Last year, a GCM had awarded a severe reprimand to Col Sharad Shukla of 171 Field Regiment for allegedly hitting Lt V.P. Singh of his own unit. A policy letter from the Discipline and Vigilance Directorate at Army Headquarters states that cases under the Army Act, Section 47, cannot be disposed of administratively and if a COI holds an accused blameworthy, he is to face disciplinary action.

Fewer militants-Army encounters in J&K
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
This morning when the Army engaged militants in Kashmir and killed five of them following a gun battle, it was yet another shooting in the strife-torn state. The only difference was that this year the number of skirmishes between the militants and the Army in the valley have seen a visible drop.

Not only these, even the incidents like explosions triggered by militants have declined in this year.

Despite this noticeable drop, the Army had killed more than 225 militants this year alone (till September 3). This includes 45 militants, who were killed while trying to infiltrate into India. Last year and the year before that the numbers of killings were much more. In 2007, more than 470 militants were killed while more than 550 were killed in 2006. And about 100-odd militants were killed in each of the years, when the Army foiled attempts of infiltration.


Kayani’s outburst
When Pakistan’s duplicity is exposed

PAKISTAN Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s strongly worded statement asking foreign troops to keep off is aimed as much at the US as it is at the new government. Coming soon after reports that a secret understanding had been reached between the government and the Bush administration for US troops to carry out attacks on Pakistani territory, the General has sent a chilling message to the government not to get too close to the US. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has had to clarify that the Army chief’s statement “was reflective of government policy”. In Pakistan, it is the army which rules the roost, whether there is an elected government in the saddle or not, and the army is said to be fuming at the increase in the incidents of unilateral attacks by the US and coalition forces inside Pakistan. Significantly, General Kayani fired his salvo at the corps commanders’ meeting, showing that he has the full support of his men.

Pakistan’s problem is that it has been a namesake partner in America’s war on terror. There is growing realisation all over the world that while it grabs as much money and arms and ammunition as it can in return for its support, it clandestinely backs the militants. That is one of a piece with its policy in India also where its patronage of terrorists has been long and consistent.

The New York Times recently carried a report saying that President Bush had in July approved orders allowing American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of Islamabad. According to the paper, the Pakistani government had privately consented to the general concept of limited ground assault. US officials now admit that this is the only way to start winning the war in Afghanistan considering that the ties between the ISI and the militants are strong in the tribal areas. Not only that, the paper has said that analysts at the CIA believe that the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul was aided by the ISI, and was in the knowledge of the topmost military officials, including General Kayani. But then, the US reacts only when its own interests are hit.

US using predator aircraft in Pakistan
by Greg Miller and Julian E. Barnes

As part of an escalating offensive against extremist targets in Pakistan, the United States is deploying Predator aircraft equipped with sophisticated new surveillance systems that were instrumental in crippling the insurgency in Iraq, according to US military and intelligence officials.

The use of the specially equipped drones comes amid a fundamental shift in US strategy in the area. After years of deferring to Pakistani authorities, the Bush administration is turning toward unilateral US military operations — a gambit that could increase pressure on Islamic militants but risks alienating a country that has been a key counter-terrorism ally.

In an indication of the priority being given to the Pakistan campaign, US officials said that the specially equipped aircraft are being pulled from other theaters to augment aerial patrols above the tribal belt along Afghanistan’s eastern border.

Pakistan’s government has found itself caught between Washington’s demands for action and the unpopularity of the US campaign, which has included half a dozen Predator strikes and a ground raid in the last few weeks. In addition to militants, Pakistanis complain that civilians frequently die in the raids.

Pakistani forces also are carrying out their own campaign against the militants and say they have killed hundreds in the past month, making the US raids unnecessary.

US officials requested that details of the new technology not be disclosed out of concern that doing so might enable enemy operatives to evade US detection. But officials said the previously unacknowledged devices have become a powerful part of the American arsenal, allowing the tracking of human targets even when they are inside buildings or otherwise hidden from Predator surveillance cameras.

Equally important, officials said, the technology gives remote pilots a means beyond images from the Predator’s lens of confirming a target’s identity and precise location.

A military official familiar with the systems said they had a profound effect, both militarily and psychologically, on the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

“It is like they are living with a red dot on their head,” said a former U.S. military official familiar with the technology who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity because it has been secret. “With the quietness of the Predator, you never knew when a Hellfire (missile) would come through your window.”

The new Predator capabilities are a key ingredient in an emerging US military offensive against Taliban strongholds and al-Qaida safe havens in Pakistan.

Previously, the United States’ main focus in Pakistan’s tribal territory was gathering intelligence that could be used to direct raids by the Pakistani military, or occasional missile strikes from CIA-operated Predator planes.

Intelligence activities will increasingly be geared toward enabling US special forces units — backed by AC-130 gun ships and other aircraft — to carry out operations on Taliban and al-Qaida operatives, officials said.

The change in strategy reflects mounting frustration within the Bush administration over Pakistan’s failure to root out insurgent groups or disrupt the flow of militants who launch attacks in Afghanistan and then retreat to sanctuaries in Pakistan.

The New York Times reported Thursday that President Bush signed an order in July authorizing US special operations forces to conduct missions inside Pakistan without asking for permission.

A former senior CIA official said similar proposals had been in circulation as early as 2003. A Pentagon proposal to make wider use of special operations forces in Pakistan, forwarded to the White House earlier this year, was debated for months by the National Security Council, according to a government official.

But until this summer, President Bush was reluctant to authorize the action in part out of loyalty to former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who was forced from office last month.

At the same time, rising numbers of American soldiers being killed in Afghanistan caused a shift of thinking among many in the Pentagon. There have been 113 US soldiers killed in the country so far this year.

In response, the United States, has stepped up the number of Predator strikes. But the clearest signal of a new strategy came when about 20 people were killed in a raid on the village of Musa Nika by US special operations forces flown by helicopter from a base in Afghanistan.

That operation, and the turn in Bush administration policy, have been condemned by senior Pakistani officials including the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.

Kayani’s statement was his first public criticism of the US military, and his stance on the raids was regarded in Pakistan as a watershed because he had made a point of steering clear of politics during his nine months on the job.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani issued a statement Thursday saying that government policy forbids American military incursions into Pakistan.

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post


US Ground Assaults in Pakistan
a Double-edged Sword

By Mayank Chhaya

Chicago
The timing of the leak that the Bush administration authorized its Special Forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without Islamabad's prior approval could not have been more unsettling for new President Asif Ali Zardari, who will find it practically impossible to balance between Washington and his country's lawless tribal areas in the northwest.

The New York Times, which broke the story on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, called it a "watershed" for the Bush administration after it failed to effectively combat the rising influence of Al Qaeda and Taliban operating from Pakistani soil.

The secret presidential authorization issued in July also underscores the low level of trust that the Bush administration has in the Pakistani government when it comes to combating Al Qaeda and Taliban. Although the order was issued while Pervez Musharraf was still Pakistan's president, its disclosure has coincided uncomfortably close to Zardari's rise. It is also as explicit a violation of a country's sovereignty as possible without expressly calling it so.

It would have been interesting to speculate how far the Bush administration would have gone had it chosen to issue the order much earlier in its tenure. Less than two months before the Nov 4 presidential election in the US, the order has its natural limits.

Considering that the Democratic Party's presidential nominee Barack Obama has taken a particularly hawkish position on Pakistan, it would be hard for him to reverse the order immediately in the event he is elected president. His Republican Party rival John McCain has been known to agree with almost everything Bush has done since announcing his war on terror in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

The Bush order is bound to put Pakistan's military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in an untenable situation. His comment that "no external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan," seem superfluous considering the US is likely to be already engaged in such operations. Kayani said the military would defend his country's sovereignty "at all costs" but that conviction is hard to follow through on given that President Zardari is likely to be under as much American influence as Musharraf.

It is quite a start for Zardari's presidential career to have to confront what is being perceived by his own military chief as an attack on Pakistan's sovereignty as it is expected to be exploited by the Al Qaeda/Taliban combine. In the last months of his presidency Bush could not have been particularly bothered about such perceptions when early on in his term he had already declared a doctrine of preemption as the centerpiece of his foreign policy. Now he has even less to lose politically and diplomatically because he would not be around to deal with the consequences of his policy.

In all likelihood, the Bush administration waited for its ally Musharraf's exit before allowing the order to come out. The logic appears to be quite simple. There is a new leader in Pakistan whom the administration may not have a great stake in or emotional attachment with. Before Nov 4 there is not just enough time for US-Pakistan relations to play out to in a manner that would affect Bush personally.

Most importantly, if in the process the administration ends up eliminating some very high profile Al Qaeda targets, including perhaps even Osama Bin Laden, it would give Bush a high note to conclude his presidency.

Bush's order presents Pakistan's new political establishment with a double-edged sword. On the one hand it can use the cover of Special Operations to neutralize the very forces which also threaten the country's stability. On the other it runs the risk of standing diminished in front of its own people with the world's only superpower carrying out ground assaults on its territory at will.

IANS | September 12, 2008


Army briefs PM on Pak

New Delhi, Sept. 12: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was today given a military assessment of the situation in the “neighbourhood”, a senior army officer said.

The timing of the meeting is important because it comes after the revelation yesterday that US President George W. Bush has authorised commando attacks in Pakistan by US forces without Islamabad’s explicit permission. But no detail of the army chief’s briefing was made public.

For India, the development means that America’s war against the Taliban in Afghanistan is no longer a country away but immediately next door. Along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army is already preparing for a “blowback” with the Afghan war spilling over Pakistan’s western border.

The US President’s authorisation was said to have come after evidence the US claims it has of Pakistan’s direct involvement in the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7 that killed the Indian defence attache and the media counsellor among others.

Since the ceasefire with India in November 2003, the Pakistan Army had moved some of its units to provinces along the Afghan border. But Bush’s authorisation of US commando attacks follows a conviction in the Pentagon that Pakistan’s army is incapable of or unwilling to pursue the Taliban.

The US has already been using drones (unmanned aircraft) to fire missiles at suspected militants in Pakistan but Islamabad has claimed that in two attacks this week, civilians and non combatants were killed.

Yesterday and today, Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfag Pervez Kayani, and its military spokespersons have railed against the US decision.

An Indian Army officer involved in analysing Pakistan’s military said there was a real possibility that elements of the Pakistan Army could rebel against unilateral US action unless Kayani and the civilian government in Islamabad responded strongly.


Is Nepal’s defence minister going to visit China?
Sep 12th, 2008 | By Sindh Today | Category: India, Olympics

Kathmandu, Sep 12 (IANS) After Nepal’s new Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda chose to break with tradition and made China his first destination abroad instead of India, now Nepal’s new Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’ could be heading for Beijing once again.

Badal, the Russia-educated military strategist of the Maoists’ guerrilla army during the decade-old armed insurgency, has been invited to visit China from Sep 22. Besides meeting officials, he has also been invited to inspect the Chinese army.

The defence minister’s office Friday confirmed the invitation to IANS but said no immediate decision has been taken on whether the minister would accept or not.

For a long time, Nepal did not have a defence minister as the prime minister himself held the crucial ministry.

Beijing would be eager to cultivate close relations with the defence minister since it is trying to sell indigenously manufactured arms and aircraft to the Nepal Army.

China had supported King Gyanendra’s army-backed coup in 2005 and in exchange, had been able to sell its aircraft to the army at marked up prices.

After the fall of the royal regime, the cash-strapped Nepal government asked Beijing to scrap the deal, but the Chinese authorities refused to oblige.

If Badal decides to accept the invitation, it is bound to stoke the India-China controversy here afresh.

When Prachanda chose to visit China within the first week of assuming office, it triggered speculation that Nepal was trying to cosy up to China and snub its biggest trade partner India.

To scuttle the rumours, Prachanda said the Beijing trip was intended only to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games and that his ‘political’ visits would start with India.

The prime minister is embarking on a five-day India trip Sunday.

Manmohan-Zardari parleys expected to restart India- Pakistan peace process
Nirupama Subramanian


ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan are looking to the expected meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s new President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at New York later this month to relaunch their stalled peace process, officials said.

The foreign secretaries of the two countries inaugurated the fifth round of the “composite dialogue” process in July, but it has not moved since then.

New Delhi has been silent on dates for the meetings of the various subjects that the process covers through secretary-level talks as an expression of its anger over the Indian Embassy blast at Kabul, in which four Indians, including a senior diplomat and the defence adviser, were among the 60 killed.

The New York Times, which said in July that the Pakistan Prime Minister had been shown evidence of the involvement of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence in the attack, reported again on Friday that it was carried out by militants aided by the ISI. It added that top military officials, including Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayanai, knew of it.

At a meeting between Dr. Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the July-end Colombo SAARC summit, India conveyed to Pakistan that it “cannot be business as usual,” and sought “assurances” that the Pakistan government would deal with “elements” it held responsible for the Kabul attack, as well as those behind the increasing violations in the ceasefire along the LoC. It also wanted the slack to banned militant groups cut.

Indian officials are unwilling to specify what assurance from Pakistan could satisfy New Delhi, but maintain that there must be “some response” from Pakistan to its concerns.

So far, there has been nothing from the Pakistan side. A senior Pakistan Foreign Ministry official told The Hindu that India’s position on the Kabul attack was “a big hoax”, and that the peace process could not be held hostage to it.

Islamabad has proposed several sets of dates for the composite dialogue process but New Delhi has so far responded with a stony silence, even though the two countries are otherwise engaged in efforts to open the Line of Control for intra-Kashmir trade.

At their meeting in July, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and his Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir began the fifth round with talks on “Kashmir and peace and security,” the subject in the composite dialogue process for which they have responsibility, but for talks on the other seven subjects, there is no calendar yet.

Even the Indian side is beginning to realise that its silence may become untenable if it continues indefinitely, and sees a Manmohan-Zardari meeting as providing an opportunity to restart the dialogue.

Mr. Zardari announced at his first press conference after being sworn in as President that he would be attending the UN Assembly. Indian officials here said a meeting between him and Dr. Singh was “natural”.

New Delhi is keen to see if Mr. Zardari’s emphasis on trade diplomacy with India, which he has talked about often, will translate into a change in policy on the ground. In an interview to the Jang newspaper group on Friday, the new President, who promised “good news on Kashmir immediately after his inauguration, said he was hopeful of a breakthrough “soon” on two issues – Siachen and Sir Creek – that Pakistan believes are relatively simple to resolve.

He also said that he did not believe in “secret diplomacy” – possibly a reference to the widely held view that “only five” people in the Musharraf regime were privy to the India-Pakistan talks – and promised that “all possible solutions to Kashmir will be discussed first by the parliamentary committee on Kashmir and then the final solution will be approved by Parliament.”

Separately, Prime Minister Gilani said on Friday that Kashmiris “should be an integral component” of the ongoing peace process, as they were “the primary stakeholders.”

Addressing the “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” council, the territory’s upper house, Mr. Gilani said the recent unrest and violence in Kashmir was “a matter of great concern” for Pakistan.

“The government of Pakistan has condemned the excessive use of force by the Indian security forces against the people of Kashmir which led to the shahadat (martyrdom) of several Kashmiris,” he said, making a reference to the killing of Sheikh Abdul Aziz, a separatist leader.

Mr. Gilani said it was “regrettable” that the UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir had never been implemented.

“For its part, Pakistan continues to firmly support their inalienable right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people and seeks a solution to this dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir,” he said, adding that the Kashmir dispute remained “close to the heart of every Pakistani.”

“The future of both Pakistan and Kashmir is intertwined with shared destinies,” he said.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


European aerospace industry exploring tie-ups with India Dinesh Varma

CHENNAI: The European aerospace industry is exploring a slew of partnerships with Indian industry in the areas of civil and military aircraft manufacturing, Martin Kraus, vice- president (Defence Electronics), EADS Defence and Security, the Munich-based holding company of Airbus said here on Friday.

A combination of tough competition, cost pressures and high oil prices in the civil aviation sector and shrinking Defence budgets in European nations and relaxation of export regulations could see a new ballgame emerging in aircraft development partnerships with India, Mr. Kaus told The Hindu on the sidelines of the “Connect 2008”.

“Our defence strategy is very much to build cooperation with India and facilitate manufacturing tie-ups with engineering companies here,” said Mr. Kraus.

Discussions were in progress on this front with potential partners in industry as well as top officials in Delhi, he said.

The agreements could essentially span specialised areas such as structural design such as airframes, sub-assembly of aircraft, software engineering and testing. The scope of collaboration could also involve development of early warning air-borne systems and multi-role combat aircraft.

“We are positive of firming up quite a few contracts this year,” Mr. Kraus said.

He pointed out that India, Europe and Germany in particular, had a long history of collaboration in development of military aircraft and helicopters.

Key market

India had the potential of emerging as a key market for the European aerospace industry which was on a cost reduction regime. Though outsourcing aerospace projects to India was hardly a recent phenomenon, Mr. Kraus pointed out that the traditional outsourcing model had undergone a critical change.

The blueprint-based production outsourcing has given way to a business model where outsourcing involved high-end functions and capabilities—such as structural engineering tasks and cockpit designing of the A-350—that required the partner to share part of the risk for contingencies such as a waning US dollar or cost escalation of mid-project design changes, he said.

“The industrial landscape in Europe is in a process of radical restructuring.” India had a lot to gain from striking aerospace partnerships for projects that demanded cost-cuts and reduced engineering time cycles, Mr. Kraus said.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu




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