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Thursday, 18 September 2008

From Today's Papers - 18 Sep

US missiles kill six in Pak village

Peshawar, September 17
A suspected US missile attack by drone aircraft today hit a village in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan, killing six persons where a militant camp was located, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The missiles targeted Baghar, a village in the mountains 55 km west of Wana, the main town in the region, they said. Baghar is close to Angor Adda, the border village that was raided by US commandos on September 3 and where another helicopter-borne raid was aborted on Monday after Pakistani troops and villagers opened fire.

A Pakistani military spokesman said there had been explosions in the area, but could not confirm the cause. — Reuters

India, China boundary talks from today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 17
The special representatives (SRs) of India and China will hold the 12th round of talks on the vexed boundary issue in Beijing tomorrow, amid strains in ties between the two countries in the wake of a determined attempt by Beijing to block a consensus on the India-specific waiver at the NSG meet in Vienna earlier this month.

National security adviser M.K. Narayanan, who also acts as India’s SR, will meet Chinese state counsellor Dai Bingguo, who is the SR on the Chinese side, over the next two days.

The two countries had appointed SRs to look at the boundary issue from the political perspective during then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Beijing in June 2003.

Though officials on both sides claim they are making progress, not much seems to have been achieved by the two sides in the 11 rounds held so far. Strategic experts say mutual suspicion between the two sides is so intense that it would be a Herculean task for them to arrive at an understanding.

The NSG episode has only added to the problems between the two sides. China, which had all along given an impression to New Delhi that it would not come in the way of NSG amending its rules to allow India to undertake nuclear commerce, openly sided with those countries which argued against the 45-member cartel giving a clean waiver to New Delhi.

Beijing’s stand at the NSG came as a rude shock to India, which conveyed its unhappiness to the Chinese side when Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited New Delhi last week.

Pakistan Threatens India
to Take Chenab Dispute to World Bank

New Delhi/Islamabad
A fresh dispute is brewing between India and Pakistan over the issue of reduced water flow in the Chenab river as Islamabad Wednesday threatened to seek the World Bank's intervention on the plea that New Delhi had not responded to its "repeated complaints" on the issue.

India on its part argued that Pakistan had started to complain even before the agreed schedule between the two sides for filling up the low water level on the Chenab could begin.

"Pakistan knows it very well that the water level of the Chenab falls during the month of September. This is not a recent occurrence but has been happening for many, many years," an Indian government official told IANS.

He added: "Pakistan's problem is not with the water level on the Chenab, but it is part of its frustration over the Baglihar dam, the construction of which it could not stop despite seeking the intervention of the World Bank."

The World Bank is the mediator and signatory of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan.

In 2005 Pakistan had sought the World Bank's intervention to stop construction of the Baglihar dam and hydro-electricity power project that India had been constructing on the Chenab in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir.

An expert appointed by the World Bank had allowed India to go ahead with the project after a few minor modifications.

Jamat Ali Shah, Pakistan's commissioner on the Indus Water Treaty, said the shortage of water in the Chenab river occurred due to filling up the Baglihar dam at the initial stages. He alleged that despite repeated pleas from Pakistan, India did nothing to address the problem.

"We have demanded the Indian commissioner for a visit of the site and a detailed report regarding the filling of the dam. Yet the Indian commissioner has not given any positive response yet," he said in an interview with BBC radio.

He said they would again seek the World Bank intervention if no resolution was found.

"Regarding the issue we will demand an equal distribution of water from India and if it is not possible then India will have to pay for our loss," Shah said.

"And if India does not fulfil our demands then any commissioner of the Treaty has the right to put the matter to any impartial expert."

He also added that Pakistan had demanded that India call for an emergency session as per the Indus Water Treaty and India had promised to hold a session in New Delhi. But no communication on this has yet been made by India.

The 1960 river treaty between the two countries provides India exclusive control of three eastern rivers, while it provides Pakistan similar control on three western rivers, including the Chenab river.

According to Shah, Pakistan has also demanded establishment of a Joint Observation Team to oversee the concerns but India has not yet responded to it.

Though the World Bank had addressed some of the objections Pakistan had about the Baglihar dam, the government in Islamabad still complains that the post-completion ramifications of the project are affecting the country's irrigation system.

Congressmen on Tuesday questioned the rationale for a Bush administration proposal to divert $252 million in anti-terror funds to upgrade Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets and expressed doubts about Islamabad’s commitment to fight terror.

The administration says the updates will make the planes more suited for close air support to the campaign against al-Qaeda and its allies in the area bordering Afghanistan. The F-16s have also become a symbol of Pakistani pride and of the Pakistan-US relationship, State and Defence department officials said at a hearing of the House foreign affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

But members did not seem convinced. “Let’s be grown-up about this,” said subcommittee chairman Gary Ackerman, Democrat of New York. “Do you think the average Pakistani thinks the symbolism has something to do with fighting terrorism or confronting India? I think we are trying to build the confidence of an ally that is not so allied with us sometimes.”

Donald Camp, deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said the F-16s would not affect the balance of power with India.

He said the Pakistani government is now committed to the war on terror. “We want the new civilian government to succeed.”

Camp denied reports that Pakistani troops had fired on American helicopters that had crossed the border.

Vice-Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, director of the Defence Security Cooperation Agency, said precision munitions for the F-16s would reduce civilian casualties. The updates would also allow the F-16s to be used at night, adding an element of surprise to attacks on militants, another official said.

Reuters quoted Richard Boucher, assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, as saying the State Department believes it has the authority to shift counterterrorism aid to the fighter programme if Congress balks.

Mullen meets Gilani, Kayani

US military chief Admiral Michael Mullen on Wednesday held talks with Pakistan’s top army official and prime minister amid tensions after recent cross-border raids by US forces based in Afghanistan.

Mullen, who flew in to Islamabad on Tuesday, met General Ashfaq Kayani to discuss US and Pakistani military operations against militants in the region bordering Afghanistan, officials said.

Mullen also met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. “The ongoing war against terrorism and the situation on the Afghan border came under discussion,” an official said, without giving further details.

Kalam asks for unified intelligence agency to fight terrorism


New Delhi

Wed, 17 Sep 2008:

New Delhi, Sept 17 (ANI): Former president APJ Abdul Kalam has called for setting up a unified intelligence agency in India to fight terrorism in the wake of rising terror attacks in the country, the latest being last week's Delhi blasts that left more than 20 people dead.

Speaking to reporters on the ocsion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in New Delhi on Wednesday, Kalam said that there is a need for making the citizens of the country a part of the fight against terrorism instead of merely being 'watched'.

Referring to the series of terror attacks across India, he said that the fight against terrorism would be successful only if the laws are stringent and there is a faster justice delivering system in place.

Kalam also proposed a national campaign involving people to eradicate terrorism.

"I believe you have to remove the terrorism. For that, nation has to have a vision to remove it, that people cannot be watched, people have to be part of it with the government. So, I have suggested what is called national campaign for removal of terrorism, this agency should see that single intelligence agency with people's participation and also very fast decision making process and detecting the terrorist and giving judiciary fast judgements," said Kalam.

Kalam who was in New Delhi to address a gathering of renowned scientists on 'Future Roadmap for Scientific and Technical Recruitment Reforms in India' said that there is a growing need for the people to stand up and fight the terror from within.

Five bombs exploded in quick succession in crowded markets and busy streets in the Indian capital on Saturday killing at least 22 people and injuring nearly 100 others.

Police have named two Muslim suspects and released sketches of three men.

The Indian Mujahideen militant group claiming responsibility for several major bombings in recent months says it is avenging atrocities against Muslims in India.

The last major attack to hit the capital was in 2005, when 66 people were killed as three bombs exploded in busy markets, just ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali. (ANI)

US pushes Pakistan towards the brink
By Tariq Ali

The decision to make public a presidential order of July authorizing American strikes inside Pakistan without seeking the approval of the Pakistani government ends a long debate within, and on the periphery of, the George W Bush administration.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, aware of this ongoing debate during his own long battle with Senator Hillary Clinton, tried to outflank her by supporting a policy of US strikes into Pakistan. Republican Senator John McCain and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have now echoed this view and so it has become, by consensus, official US policy.

Its effects on Pakistan could be catastrophic, creating a severe crisis within the army and in the country at large. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are opposed to the US presence in the region, viewing it as the most serious threat to peace.

Why, then, has the US decided to destabilize a crucial ally? Within Pakistan, some analysts argue that this is a carefully coordinated move to weaken the Pakistani state yet further by creating a crisis that extends way beyond the badlands on the frontier with Afghanistan.

Its ultimate aim, they claim, would be the extraction of the Pakistani military's nuclear fangs. If this were the case, it would imply that Washington was indeed determined to break up the Pakistani state, since the country would very simply not survive a disaster on that scale.

In my view, however, the expansion of the war relates far more to the Bush administration's disastrous occupation in Afghanistan. It is hardly a secret that the regime of President Hamid Karzai is becoming more isolated with each passing day, as Taliban guerrillas move ever closer to Kabul.

When in doubt, escalate the war - this is an old imperial motto. The strikes against Pakistan represent - like the decisions of president Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger to bomb and then invade Cambodia (acts that, in the end, empowered Pol Pot and his monsters) - a desperate bid to salvage a war that was never good, but has now gone badly wrong.

It is true that those resisting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) occupation cross the Pakistan-Afghan border with ease. However, the US has often engaged in quiet negotiations with them. Several feelers have been put out to the Taliban in Pakistan, while US intelligence experts regularly check into the Serena Hotel in Swat to discuss possibilities with Mullah Fazlullah, a local pro-Taliban leader. The same is true inside Afghanistan.

After the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, a whole layer of the Taliban's middle-level leadership crossed the border into Pakistan to regroup and plan for what lay ahead. By 2003, their guerrilla factions were starting to harass the occupying forces in Afghanistan and, during 2004, they began to be joined by a new generation of local recruits, by no means all jihadis, who were being radicalized by the occupation itself.

Although, in the world of the Western media, the Taliban have been entirely conflated with al-Qaeda, most of their supporters are, in fact, driven by quite local concerns. If NATO and the US were to leave Afghanistan, their political evolution would most likely parallel that of Pakistan's domesticated Islamists.

The neo-Taliban now control at least 20 Afghan districts in Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces. It is hardly a secret that many officials in these zones are closet supporters of the guerrilla fighters. Though often characterized as a rural jacquerie they have won significant support in southern towns and they even led a Tet-style offensive in Kandahar in 2006.

Elsewhere, mullahs who had initially supported Karzai's allies are now railing against the foreigners and the government in Kabul. For the first time, calls for jihad against the occupation are even being heard in the non-Pashtun northeast border provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.

The neo-Taliban have said that they will not join any government until "the foreigners" have left their country, which raises the question of the strategic aims of the United States. Is it the case, as NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer suggested to an audience at the Brookings Institution this year, that the war in Afghanistan has little to do with spreading good governance in Afghanistan or even destroying the remnants of al-Qaeda? Is it part of a master plan, as outlined by a strategist in NATO Review in the Winter of 2005, to expand the focus of NATO from the Euro-Atlantic zone, because "in the 21st century NATO must become an alliance ... designed to project systemic stability beyond its borders"?

As that strategist went on to write:

The center of gravity of power on this planet is moving inexorably eastward. As it does, the nature of power itself is changing. The Asia-Pacific region brings much that is dynamic and positive to this world, but as yet the rapid change therein is neither stable nor embedded in stable institutions. Until this is achieved, it is the strategic responsibility of Europeans and North Americans, and the institutions they have built, to lead the way ... [S]ecurity effectiveness in such a world is impossible without both legitimacy and capability.

Such a strategy implies a permanent military presence on the borders of both China and Iran. Given that this is unacceptable to most Pakistanis and Afghans, it will only create a state of permanent mayhem in the region, resulting in ever more violence and terror, as well as heightened support for jihadi extremism, which, in turn, will but further stretch an already over-extended empire.

Globalizers often speak as though US hegemony and the spread of capitalism were the same thing. This was certainly the case during the Cold War, but the twin aims of yesteryear now stand in something closer to an inverse relationship. For, in certain ways, it is the very spread of capitalism that is gradually eroding US hegemony in the world. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's triumph in Georgia was a dramatic signal of this fact. The American push into the Greater Middle East in recent years, designed to demonstrate Washington's primacy over the Eurasian powers, has descended into remarkable chaos, necessitating support from the very powers it was meant to put on notice.

Pakistan's new, indirectly elected president, Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto and a Pakistani "godfather" of the first order, indicated his support for US strategy by inviting Afghanistan's Karzai to attend his inauguration, the only foreign leader to do so. Twinning himself with a discredited satrap in Kabul may have impressed some in Washington, but it only further decreased support for the widower Bhutto in his own country.

The key in Pakistan, as always, is the army. If the already heightened US raids inside the country continue to escalate, the much-vaunted unity of the military high command might come under real strain. At a meeting of corps commanders in Rawalpindi on September 12, Pakistani Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kiani received unanimous support for his relatively mild public denunciation of the recent US strikes inside Pakistan in which he said the country's borders and sovereignty would be defended "at all cost".

Pakistani security officials claimed on Monday that firing by Pakistani troops and tribesmen had forced two US military helicopters to turn back to Afghanistan after they crossed into Pakistani territory. A Pakistani army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said the military high command had instructed its field commanders to prevent any similar raids.

Saying, however, that the army will safeguard the country's sovereignty is different from doing so in practice. This is the heart of the contradiction. Perhaps the attacks will cease on November 4. Perhaps pigs (with or without lipstick) will fly. What is really required in the region is an American-NATO exit strategy from Afghanistan, which should entail a regional solution involving Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia. These four states could guarantee a national government and massive social reconstruction in that country. No matter what, NATO and the Americans have failed abysmally.

Tariq Ali, writer, journalist, filmmaker, contributes regularly to a range of publications including the Guardian, the Nation and the London Review of Books. His most recent book, just published, is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (Scribner, 2008).

(Copyright 2008 Tariq Ali.)

Israel may train Indian soldiers to fight for Kashmir

An agreement has been proposed by the Indian government whereby the Israel Defense Forces will train Indian soldiers in counter-terror tactics, urban warfare and fighting in guerrilla settings as part of India's war in Kashmir.

The Israeli daily Moario reported that commander of the Zionist regime’s ground forces general Avi Mizrahi arrived in Srinagar on a three-day visit to the Kashmir and met commanders of the Indian ground, air and naval forces. According to the report, he has traveled to the Indian-held Kashmir at the invitation of commander of the Indian air force.

During the three-day visit of the Israeli commander, the two sides agreed that commandoes of the Israeli Army would train India's anti-terrorism forces for fighting the Kashmiri Muslim combatants.

The Jerusalem Post website has reported that General Avi Mizrahi also signed an agreement for military cooperation with India regarding fighting the Kashmir Muslim combatants.

The Post added that the Indian government did not publish the news of Israeli commander's visit fearing of its negative impact, but press in India and Pakistan have carried reports of the visit.

Islamist and nationalist groups in the Kashmir have expressed anger over the visit of the Israeli commander. Farooq Ahmed Dar, one of the prominent leaders of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front said the visit of the Israeli commander to Kashmir is part of India's plan to suppress the Intefada Movement of the Kashmiri people and to change the demography of this region.

Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority state and is a major source of contention with neighboring Pakistan.

India is the largest importer of arms from Israel and since 2002 has bought more than $5 billion worth of equipment.

Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau has encouraged Israelis to avoid visiting the Kashmir region. An estimated 68,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

(Source: Agencies)

Israeli Awacs to miss deadline
18 Sep 2008, 0016 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit,TNN

NEW DELHI: The delivery of the much-awaited three Israeli Phalcon Awacs (airborne warning and control systems), which will be major force-multipliers for IAF, has been delayed once again.

Defence ministry sources said the first of the three Awacs, initially slated to be delivered in November 2007 under the $1.1-billion deal signed in March 2004, will now land in India only around January-February 2009.

In the huge project, three Phalcon early-warning radars are being mounted on Russian heavy-lift IL-76 military aircraft under a tripartite agreement among India, Israel and Russia.

"There have been technical hitches in the integration work. But we are pushing the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) to deliver the first Awacs before the end of this year," said a source.

Technical glitches are not the only problem with the project. As reported by TOI earlier, there are allegations of kickbacks swirling around the deal, with reports holding India has been steeply overcharged for the Awacs.

The government, however, has not given much credence to such reports, even though CBI is already investigating kickbacks in the original Rs 1,160-crore Israeli Barak-I anti-missile defence system contract, in which former defence minister George Fernandes, arms dealer Suresh Nanda and others have been named as the accused. This, of course, does not detract from the fact that IAF desperately needs the Phalcon Awacs, much like the Barak system was a crucial requirement for Navy.

Awacs, or "eyes in the sky", will help IAF detect incoming hostile cruise missiles and aircraft much before ground-based radars, apart from directing air defence fighters during combat operations with enemy jets. For instance, an Awacs flying over Amritsar will be able to detect a Pakistani F-16 fighter as soon as it takes off from its Sargodha airbase.

India, incidentally, signed a $210-million deal with Brazilian firm Embraer for three aircraft in July for its own indigenous miniature Awacs project.

The indigenous AEW&C systems being developed by DRDO will be mounted on the three Embraer-145 jets, with the delivery of the first one slated for 2011-2012. The project is worth around Rs 1,800 crore. India, incidentally, is also on course to acquire four more Israeli Aerostat radars, at a cost of around $300 million, to bolster its ability to detect hostile low-flying aircraft, helicopters, spy drones and missiles.

The IAF's case for the new Aerostat radars as a "follow-on" order to the two such EL/M-2083 radars, inducted from Israel in 2004-2005 for $145 million, has finally been cleared by the Defence Acquisitions Council, headed by defence minister A K Antony, now.

After being in a limbo for some time due to the Barak kickbacks case, the defence ministry has decided to go full steam ahead with procurements and projects with Israel, which has notched up arms sales worth around $8 billion to India since the 1999 Kargil conflict. The ministry will, however, take a final clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security and the "competent financial authority" before the new procurement deals are actually inked.

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