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Friday, 31 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 31 Oct

Army allows cops to quiz its officer in Malegaon blast

Agencies Posted: Oct 30, 2008 at 1812 hrs

New Delhi, October 30: A serving lieutenant colonel has come under the scanner for his alleged role in last month's Malegaon blasts and the army has allowed police to question him.

With media speculating on the role of the officer in the blasts during Ramzan that killed six Muslims, the army in a press release today announced "full cooperation" to the police and facilitate his questioning.

The army decision comes on a request from the Anti- Terrorism Squad of the Maharashtra Police which has already arrested Ramesh Upadhaya, a retired army major from Pune in connection with the blast.

Interestingly, earlier in the day, Deputy Army Chief Lt Gen S P S Dhillon told reporters that the army headquarters had not received any official communication on the issue and promised to "come clean" by the evening.

"While no formal application has been received from the police authorities, the Army HQ has decided to extend full cooperation and facilitate interaction of the officer with the investigating officials of the police," the army release said.

Accordingly the officer has been moved to Mumbai to facilitate interaction at a mutually convenient place, it said. The officer was posted at the Army Education Corps School in Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh.

The army said further action would be taken as necessitated based upon the outcome of interaction and clarification as planned.

"The Army headquarters will continue to provide all assistance to the investigating agency, as and when required by them," it said.

The release recalled that in the course of probe by police in the Malegaon blasts some inputs of possible linkages of a serving army officer with suspects have come to light.

Accordingly the police sought to interact with the officer concerned and seek clarifications from him so as to proceed with further investigations.

Pakistan tells US envoy to halt missile strikes

PTI | October 29, 2008 | 15:57 IST

Pakistan on Wednesday asked the US to immediately stop missile attacks by drones in its tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, saying they amounted to a violation of the country's sovereignty.

US Ambassador Anne Patterson was summoned to the Pakistan foreign office and a strong protest was lodged against the "continued missile attacks by US drones inside Pakistani territory," an official statement said.

"It was underscored to the ambassador that the government of Pakistan strongly condemns the missile attacks which resulted in the loss of precious lives and property," said the statement issued by the Pakistan foreign office.

"It was emphasised that such attacks were a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and should be stopped immediately. The attacks also undermine public support for the government's counter-terrorism efforts," it said.

A copy of a resolution condemning the missile strikes adopted by the Senate or upper house of parliament on October 27, was handed over to the US envoy.

According to statistics provided in the Senate, 70 cross-border strikes were carried out in the tribal areas over the past two years and 34 of them occurred in the past seven months. These attacks have killed hundreds of people and injured scores, the government said.

The resolution adopted unanimously by the Senate strongly condemned the missile attacks by US drones. Pakistan People's Party leader Raza Rabbani, the leader of the house in the Senate, moved the resolution.

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Indian Army begins talks on security

* Army to discuss tunnelling technology to store war assets

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: Top commanders of the Indian Army and the Air Force on Thursday began their four-day bi-annual conferences separately, to discuss national security and review the preparedness of the Indian forces. A conference of navy commanders begins on Saturday to discuss similar issues, with a daylong joint meeting of commanders also scheduled to be held during the event.

Army chief General Deepak Kapoor and Air Chief Marshal Fali H Major presided over the meetings of their forces on Thursday.

Lieutenant General SPS Dhillon – the deputy chief of army staff and also the spokesman for the army conference – said the army commanders would take stock of the operational capabilities of their force. “We will address matters of national security, both at the strategic and operational levels ... it will be an intellectual exercise. Deliberations will include progress on decisions taken by previous conferences,” he said.

An army spokesman in Delhi said the four-day meeting would review the national security environment, with the aim to appropriately align efforts and plans. “The scope of exploiting the tunnelling technology to store critical equipment and other war assets will also be taken up at the talks, in addition to an audit and the effective management of defence land,” said the spokesman. Other issues on the menu of the army include the responsiveness of the Military Engineering Service, the optimisation of the human resource capital to improve specialist service needs and capabilities, improvement in content and conduct of basic and advanced military and the training of recruits to meet the challenges of a battlefield environment. The conference will also discuss modalities for the implementation of the AV Singh Committee report that was approved by the cabinet recently and deals with creating more senior-level posts in the three services.

At the Air Force commanders’ meeting, Chief of the Air Staff Fali H Major said the operational plans of the force would now become a lot more effective because of the introduction of new assets. An Indian Air Force spokesman said that the commanders’ meeting would review the ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Desert Eagle’ exercises and a future road map for the Garud Force.

IAF to seek support from satellite system
To guide fighter, transport aircraft
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 30
The Indian Air force (IAF) will seek support from a satellite-based information system to guide its fighter and transport aircraft during war and peacetime deployments in the future.

Sources said the lack of aerospace technology to meet the needs of the IAF and the Arm Forces was more pronounced after the IAF pilots shared information and experiences after participating in two major exercises with Air Force teams from across the world. All countries under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have real-time network centric battlefield information that is provided to pilots and back-up staff.

The matter was discussed at the IAF commanders’ conference here today. The conference discussed that at present India had the bare minimum network ability and the need was to be totally network centric. This means conveying battlefield information in real time thorough satellites and air borne radars augmented by ground based radars.

India already has stated policy that it will not weaponise the space it will only use the same for communication navigation and surveillance.

Meanwhile in his inaugural address the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major put forward his vision of the shape of the IAF, in the years to come, and chartered out the future course of action.

In view of the enhanced capabilities being acquired through the induction of new assets, he said the IAF’s operational plans would now become much more effective. He emphasised the need to develop state-of-the-art maintenance practices and facilities.

During the conference, operational challenges before the IAF are discussed. Apart from this flight safety, maintenance, administrative and logistical issues, which impinge on the operational effectiveness of the Air Force, are also taken up for discussions.

Separately, the Army Commanders conference also got under way today. It will take stock of the national security environment with the view to appropriately align its own efforts and initiative, where required.

It will study the following: Scope of exploiting tunnelling technology for developing hardened shelters for storage of critical equipment and other war-fighting assets; audit and effective management of the Defence land; measures for maximising responsiveness of the Military Engineering Service (MES); optimising of human resource capital to enhance specialist service needs and capabilities and improvements in content and the Military training of jawans to meet the challenges of emerging battlefield environment.

Tejas to test fire laser-guided bombs
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
Close on the heels of achieving weaponised status by launching an air-to-air missile, the indigenously developed Tejas light combat aircraft is set to test its capability to hit ground targets.

“We are scheduled to conduct tests to launch ground attack ordnance within four to six weeks,” P.S Subramanyam, director of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) told The Tribune here today.

“Precision weapons as well as free-fall bombs are planned to be used for these tests,” he added.

While the Tejas’s radar has completed ground tests and is set to be integrated with the aircraft, a multi-mode Litening sensor pod, which includes laser ranging, video and infra-red imaging, would be used for target acquisition and precision weapon guidance.

In October last year, the Tejas had successfully launched a R-73 close combat infra-red homing missile during trials off the Goa coast, thereby crossing the critical milestone of multi-organisational and multi-dimensional integration and firing a missile from an airborne platform.

The ADA chief said the IAF had also suggested a change in the Tejas’ engine. The DRDO is still facing problems with developing the Kaveri engine and the General Electric F-404 engine, presently powering the Tejas prototypes as an interim measure, are not powerful enough to meet the operational requirements. “We have short-listed the EJ-200 that powers the European Typhoon and the F-414 that powers the US F-18 as alternatives,” Subramanyam said. “These engines are expected to increase the performance of different flight parameters by 5-15 per cent,” he added.

The naval version of the LCA, also under development, is expected to fly by the middle of the next year. The prototype, which is structurally a little different from the Tejas, has been built and ground runs are scheduled to commence in the first quarter of 2009. The Navy has selected Israeli Derby beyond visual range missiles for its variant.

Malegaon Blasts
Top Army officer under scanner
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, October 30
A serving Lt-Col in the Army is under the scanner for providing RDX to the bombers who carried out blasts in Malegaon late last month. According to police sources here, the Army officer is based in Jabalpur and is suspected to have sourced RDX from the ordnance factory there.

Investigators from the anti-terrorist squad (ATS) are in Jabalpur to question the Army official.

Reports from Jabalpur say the questioning of the Lt-Col in the presence of senior Army officials have already begun. The Army Headquarters have, however, refused to confirm the development though a statement is expected later in the day.

The police sought to question the Army official after uncovering his links with Ramesh Upadhyay, a retired major in the Indian army, who has already been arrested in the blast case.

Parity in pension a must

The Sixth Central Pay Commission had given a raw deal to the old pensioners. Why are the civil pensioners not given parity in pension as on January 1, 2006?

The Fifth Pay Commission had given full parity to all old pensioners up to January 1, 1986. Its successor had ignored all the recommendations of its predecessors. These include 1 per cent increase in pension for those who rendered over 33 years of service; restoration of commutation amount after 12 instead of 15 years. Why did it leave the decision on increasing medical allowance to the government? It should be increased to Rs 500 a month.

Moreover, as the average lift span of an Indian is 63 years, pension raise at 80 years is a cruel joke. Pension hike of at least 10 per cent should be granted at the age of 70 or 75 years and another 10 per cent at 80, 85, 90, 95 or 100 years to help pensioners.

SHER SINGH, Ludhiana

Unjust comparison

Arundhati Ghose’s article “Services’ contempt of civil authority is not casual” (Oct 22) has raised issues of profound interest relating to civil-military relations in India.

Her comparison of the Indian Army with the Pakistan Army and ISI is totally unjust. Non-implementation of the Cabinet decision of a cut-off date cannot be considered defiance of the government directive which, nonetheless, reflected the Services’ inability to implement the decision post haste.

Army instructions and orders are by no means time bound. When the Services are engaged with anti-terrorist and anti-subversive forces, a little delay cannot be misconstrued as defiance of government authority. The issuance of an unclassified note, which did not involve tactical or strategic issues, was perhaps the only legitimate way of telling the troops the progress of the pay commission’s recommendations. In fact, it is the onerous duty of all commanders to keep their men informed of the matter.

If timely action is not taken to correct the bureaucratic approach, the incident will always be quoted in future as confrontation of the Services and the civil government which has its inherent dangers.

Brig M. P. SINGH, Chandigarh

Editorial: Tora Tora Tora

Business Standard / New Delhi October 31, 2008, 0:53 IST

This country is not unused to huge delays in many things to do with the government. Still, the latest performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on the air force and navy must come as a shock, because the delays in procuring defence equipment are serious enough to compromise India’s defence security. In the past, various ministers have tended to label CAG reports on their areas of responsibility as incomplete and incompetent but, in this case, Defence Minister AK Antony has been honest enough to admit that the CAG’s observations are mostly on the ball. So how about some corrective action?

A summary of the observations is quite chilling — there is a 53 per cent shortage in the number of medium power radars that are required for ground control, and this goes up to as high as 76 per cent when it comes to low-level transportable radars. The root problem is huge delays in the procurement of new radars. None of the air force’s plans for new radars prepared after 1971 (or nearly four decades!) have been approved, so there is ad hoc procurement and deployment; and a very large proportion of even these radars are ready for phasing out. The air force is managing the only way it can under the circumstances — it has cut back on the number of hours that it surveys various locations. Meanwhile, the project to link stand-alone radars so as to detect low-flying aircraft (of the kind that dropped bombs in Purulia) and placing them under one Control and Reporting Centre has not happened nearly two decades after it was conceived. Ditto for the Integrated Air Command and Control System which was approved in 1999, while the shortage of trained pilots varies has varied from 15 per cent to 31 per cent.

As for the navy, the report points to huge slippages in induction plans, so that more than half the submarine fleet has completed more than 75 per cent of its operational life. When the first new submarine is inducted in 2012, 63 per cent of the existing fleet will have completed its prescribed life. As a result of the shortage and the need for refitting, the average operational availability of submarines, the CAG says, is as low as 48 per cent. In which case, the big defence scandal is not pay-offs like Bofors, but the gaping holes in the country’s security cover.

Military Has Key Role to Play in Tackling Climate Change

Last update: 11:18 a.m. EDT Oct. 30, 2008

WASHINGTON, Oct 30, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- World Military Leaders and Climate Experts Meet in Paris

Military leaders and climate experts from around the world will convene next week in Paris, France for "The Importance of Military Organizations in Protecting the Climate: 2008," on 3-5 November 2008.

This workshop intends to provide a forum for leadership announcements and updates; apply lessons from ozone layer protection to climate protection; highlight challenges and progress made by developed and developing countries; summarize emerging and available climate protection technologies suitable for military and civilian applications; and present case studies of military and commercial leadership to protect the climate.

"Military organizations have been instrumental in our fight to protect the ozone layer over the past 20 years," said Durwood Zaelke, Director of the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement. "With climate change threatening to disrupt many aspects of society in the near future, including national security, it is imperative we enlist their help to overcome this global problem." Mr. Zaelke will be speaking on "Anticipating & Responding to the Growing Risk of Abrupt Climate Changes."

Other speakers include Marco Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Montreal Protocol; Rear Admiral Niels C. Wang, Kongelige Danske Marine (Royal Danish Navy); Marta Bonifert, Director, Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC); Major General Rajeev Datt, Director General, Land Works and Environment, Indian Army; Dr. Guus Velders, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency; K. Madhava Sarma, former Executive Secretary of the Montreal Protocol; and Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, Director of Strategic Climate Projects at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Military cooperation to protect climate and stratospheric ozone layer is a centerpiece of environmental security," said Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, also Co-Chair of the Montreal Protocol Technology and Economic Assessment Panel and EPA liaison to the Department of Defense on Climate Change.

This conference is being sponsored by the EU Member States Defense Environmental Network, U.S. Department of Defense, United Nations Environment Programme, Institute for Environmental Security, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Institute for Defense Analysis, and Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC). It is the fifth in an international series that began in 1991.

INECE links the environmental compliance and enforcement efforts of more than 4,000 practitioners - inspectors, prosecutors, regulators, parliamentarians, judges, and NGOs - from 150 countries, through training and capacity building programs, raising awareness, and enhancing enforcement cooperation.

Storage of Indian Military Equipment Criticized

By vivek raghuvanshi

Published: 30 Oct 11:02 EDT (15:02 GMT)

NEW DELHI - The Indian Army's storage of weapons, equipment and spares is badly mismanaged, costing millions of dollars in waste and underused equipment, Indian Defence Ministry sources said. The supply chain management needs to be shored up with modernized systems, a senior Defence Ministry official conceded.

The latest report of India's autonomous auditing agency, "Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India" for the year ended March 2007, tabled in the Indian Parliament on Oct. 24, says, "The supply chain management of general stores and clothing in the Army suffered from several systemic deficiencies including lack of coordination between central provisioning authorities and the lower echelons."

The report says the present system is highly centralized, which can make storage and procurement very expensive, according to an Army officer. Some of the clothing and essentials could be purchased at much lower prices, the officer said.

Spares are not being stored properly leading to deterioration, the officer said. The failure of Russian Krasnopol artillery shells, procured in 1999, to perform properly a few years ago was mainly due to poor storage, the officer said.

Army sources said millions of dollars worth of spares are stored in the open and that there is no adequate method to track the inventory, leaving some equipment in storage too long.

The CAG report notes, "The various problems associated with management of the huge inventory of general stores and clothing items at multiple echelons viz, non-availability of stock held at lower echelons, prolonged provisioning and procurement cycles, inadequate needs analysis."

All dressed up, nowhere to go

Harsh V. Pant Posted online: Oct 29, 2008 at 2249 hrs

What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about” then US ambassador to the UN Madeline Albright told the cautious Army Chief of Staff Colin Powell, “if we can’t use it”? She could well have said this to the Indian government, which took more than a month to grant the Indian navy permission to patrol the Gulf of Aden. That finally Indian naval forces will be operating in this crucial waterway is less a testament to Indian government’s strategic assessment than it is to lack of choice. It has become India’s signature that it does not make a decision until no other way is left out to fudge the issue. The hijacking of the Stolt Valor with 18 Indians abroad underlined the need for a proactive stance by the Indian Navy in protecting India’s sea-borne trade as well as deterring piracy, alongside other navies deployed in this crucial region. But until recently, the defence minister explicitly ruled out hot pursuit of pirates “as a policy”, because “it has wider implications.”

There is a broader issue at stake here. A rapidly growing economy has given India the ability to spend on its defence readiness like never before. India has emerged as one of the largest arms buyers in the global market. In line with India’s broadening strategic horizons, its military acquisitions are seeing a marked shift from conventional land-based systems to means of power projection such as airborne refuelling systems and long-range missiles. But it remains unclear under what conditions India would be willing to use force in defending its interests.

If at all some suggestions are being made, they have verged on being facile. For example, ruling out sending of troops to Afghanistan, the Indian army chief said some time back that “India takes part only in UN approved/ sanctioned military operations and the UN has not mandated this action in Afghanistan so there is no question of India participating in it.” The army chief’s statement was not only factually inaccurate but also demonstrated a fundamental misreading of Indian security policy. Like other nations, India has tended to accept or ignore the UN as per national interest. The Indian armed forces remain obsessed with China and Pakistan while the civilian leadership lacks a substantive and sophisticated understanding of the role of force in foreign policy.

Military power remains central to the course of international politics as force retains its role as the

final arbiter among states in an anarchical international system. A state’s diplomatic posture will lack effectiveness if it is not backed by a credible military posture. In the words of Thomas Schelling, “like the threat of a strike in industrial relations, the threat of divorce in a family dispute, or the threat of bolting the party at a political convention, the threat of violence continuously circumscribes international politics.” Few nations face the kind of security challenges that confront India. Yet, since independence, the military was never seen as a central instrument in the achievement of national priorities. Even though policy-makers themselves had little knowledge of critical defence issues, the defence forces had little or no role in the formulation of defence policy till 1962, when even Nehru was forced to concede that “military weakness has been a temptation, and a little military strength may be a deterrent.” A state’s legitimacy is tied to its ability to operate effectively in an international strategic environment. India lacked this clarity.

A lot of attention is being paid to the fact that India will be spending around $40 billion on military modernisation in the next five years and is buying hardware useful for projecting power beyond its shores, such as C-130 transport planes, airborne refuelling tankers, and aircraft carriers. But such purchases in and of themselves do not imply a clear sense of purpose. The armed forces are today operating in a strategic void and under weak leadership, unable to fully comprehend the changing strategic and operational milieu. At a time when Indian interests are becoming global in nature, India must update its approach. It is up to the civilian leadership to come up with a credible policy on the use of armed forces and it is up to the military leadership to provide them with sound guidance. India has always been a nation of great ambition. But it is not clear if the Indian elites understand the implications of their nation’s rise. India can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines of unfolding global events that impinge directly on vital Indian interests. What is the point of building muscle, if we shy away from a fight.

The writer teaches at King’s College, London

Army concerned at attacks on Indian peacekeepers in Congo

October 30th, 2008 - 7:54 pm ICT by IANS -

New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS) Concerned over two separate attacks on Indian peacekeepers in the Congo in which an officer was injured, the Indian Army has urged the UN to ensure that corrective measures were taken.“The attack on our soldiers in Congo has been taken note of at the highest level. We have informed the United Nations Security Council as well. We are awaiting a decision from the UN. This is their mission and we cannot influence our soldiers,” the Indian Army’s deputy chief, Lt. Gen. S.S. Dhillon, told reporters here Thursday.

Both incidents occurred in the past week, sources in the Army Headquarters here said.

Their genesis lay in the fighting that had broken out in the eastern North Kivu province that led to the Uruguayan troops deployed there pulling out. Senegalese troops were then asked to proceed to the area but refused to move in. The Indian troops were then sent to the area and the local residents, angered over the pull out of the Uruguayan troops, began pelting stones at them as they arrived.

A lieutenant colonel received slight injuries in the stone pelting but did not require hospitalisation.

Four days ago, rebels fired at two armoured personnel carriers of the Indian contingent while they were providing security cover to the civilians in the area but there were no casualties.

The firing occurred during a battle between government troops and the rebels.

The Indian Army, with 4,500 personnel, is the largest contributor to the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo.

With rebel forces led by Tutsi warlord Laurent Nkunda now headed for North Kivu’s capital Goma after overrunning Rutshuru town on Tuesday, there is danger of the Indian peacekeepers getting sucked directly into the conflict.

The UN deployment in the Congo is termed a chapter seven mission under which the Blue Berets can initiate fire if this is warranted. Most other UN deployments around the world are termed chapter six missions, which means the troops can only fire back in self-defence.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 30 Oct

Central concern

The core of Arundhati Ghose's article, "Services' contempt for civil authority is not casual" (Oct 22), veers around a central concern — the need for the Service Chiefs to explain their stand on why they chose to ignore a government direction to submit their respective bills by the desired dateline.

The stand is really not all that complex for the respected former Ambassador and one-time contender for the top slot in the Indian Foreign Service to fathom: the Chiefs command over a million soldiers lives on trust. They owe them something in return for this extraordinary faith.

They owe them the belief that they can, with due dignity, represent their grievances to the government of the day in unfashionable, even if seemingly unfathomable, terms: unfathomable, that is, for those to whom the equation of holding lives on trust and a response thereto is something passe, something tiresome, since bureaucracy has no equivalent relationship of this kind to worry about.

Maj-Gen RAJ MEHTA (retd), Mohali

LTTE Aircraft Attack Sri Lankan Capital
By P. Karunakharan

Tamil Tiger rebels carried out air strikes Tuesday night targeting a power plant in the Sri Lankan capital and military detachments in northwestern Mannar district, defence sources here said Wednesday.

After receiving reports of a suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) aircraft being spotted, the defence authorities switched off electricity in and around Colombo for nearly one hour from 11 p.m. They also activated the anti-aircraft defence system and fired at random in the air from various points for nearly half an hour, in addition to flashing search lights in the skies.

Residents in Colombo north said that the skies in their areas were virtually illuminated due to the barrage of anti-aircraft gunfire and the activation air defence system for about 20 minutes.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that a light-wing aircraft of the rebels first entered the air space of Mannar district in the country's northwest from the rebel-held Wanni region around 10.30 p.m. Tuesday and "dropped two bombs near military detachments at Thalladi in Mannar, wounding one soldier".

"Around 11.30 p.m. the LTTE craft dropped a bomb targeting the Kelanitissa power plant station in Colombo north. There was a small fire after the explosion, causing minor damage to one of the generators at the power plant," Nanayakkara told IANS shortly after midnight Tuesday.

Defence sources quoting Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) officials said that a cooler connected to the gas turbine power generator caught fire and was immediately extinguished by the Colombo fire brigade.

"A CEB employee sustained minor injuries and was admitted to the General Hospital at Colombo," the source said.

Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said Wednesday that air force identified the LTTE aircraft around 10.15 p.m. Tuesday while coming along the western coastal belt, towards north of Kelaniya river-mouth in the western province.

"We concentrated on our air-defence power and forced the LTTE aircraft to vacate. But before fleeing the air space, it dropped one bomb at the Kelanitissa power plant station premises around 11.15 pm, causing minor damages," the Air Force spokesman said.

He said that the air force "deployed interceptor jets to pursue the LTTE aircraft, but the target could not be taken", and added that the LTTE's attempt to enter the airspace of Colombo was successfully thwarted with the timely activation of anti-aircraft system.

It is not immediately known whether the LTTE aircraft suffered any damage during the attacks.

Although there was no immediate word from the Tamil Tigers in this regard, the pro-LTTE website quoting LTTE sources reported Wednesday that the rebel aircraft had returned safely to their hideout in the rebel-held Wanni areas, after carrying out raids in Mannar and Colombo.

The LTTE is believed to possess an unknown number of Czech-built Zlin - Z-143 light air craft.

This is the seventh LTTE air attack against Sri Lanka's military and economic targets and the second attack in Colombo during the past two years, although the damages caused by these attacks were said to be minimal.

In early September, a couple of LTTE aircraft carried out an air strike targeting a military base in the northern Vavuniya town, 250 km north of here. The Air Force then claimed that it had thwarted the LTTE attack and destroyed one LTTE lower-flying aircraft in the skies of Mullaitivu.

The LTTE later denied the air force's claims.

The fresh air raids by LTTE have come at a time when fierce fighting is raging in the Wanni region in the north between the advancing government troops and the rebels. The military says that the troops were just two kilometers outside the rebels' 'administrative capital' of Kilinochchi in the north.

'In future, we will see more Indian faces of terror'

Vicky Nanjappa | October 29, 2008 | 15:11 IST

With the arrest of a Sadhvi and her alleged accomplices for their alleged involvement in the Malegaon blast, the term Hindu terrorism has got new meaning.

Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former joint director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau, has studied terrorism in-depth for many years. He has written several books on Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence and Bangladesh sponsored terrorism. Dhar took time off to speak with's Vicky Nanjappa about the new trends in terrorism and also about the spate of incidents that have rocked this country in the past couple of years.

What are your views on the eye for an eye attitude of some Hindu outfits?

Newton's third law (for every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction) has started taking effect. We need to find out the extent to which the Hindu mind is being influenced especially when everyone is flashing what the minorities have had to say. Yes I would say that the mentality is growing and it sure is scary. I think it is time to look beyond the Bharatiya Janata Party and other saffron outfits and think of Hindus as a whole, and see up to what extent they are being influenced.

Sir do you endorse these views?

Definitely not. I have always been saying that people should have faith in the system and try and rectify problems in a democratic manner. I am trying to moderate the system. It is very important to have the Muslims with us. We need to moderate their views too.

What are your views on the Malegaon incident in which a Sadhvi was arrested?

No one is saying anything clearly. What is happening is that the Muslims allege that they are being maligned. Now parties which depend on the Muslim vote are finding it difficult to secure those votes. Another fact is that the BJP and its allies seem to be on a better footing to face the forthcoming elections. Hence it seems as though this is an attempt to reflect terror on the BJP. Let the noise regarding this case settle down and then the truth will come out.

There are allegations that former IB and military officials trained some Hindu activists to carry out blasts. What do you have to say about this?

This is blatant falsehood and bunkum. The IB has no expertise in bomb making. Some military personnel may have knowledge regarding this. But tell me is it necessary for someone to train when all the information is so easily available on the internet. These are just allegations which have not been proven.

You have written and spoken about the presence of ISI cells in India. Despite both the IB and the police claiming to be making inroads how is it that such cells continue to function and carry out blasts at will.

The ISI cells and its modules cannot be fully unearthed. There are several reasons for this. Whenever the IB or the police go for action, a hue and cry is raised by human rights groups and the so-called secularists. Political parties are weak and they end up falling back on the support of the minorities. Electoral considerations are another reason for not being able to unearth all the cells. In our country the police are under the ruling party and unless a free hand is given there is very little chance of making headway completely. Although the IB is an old and efficient organisation, their strength in terms of man power is not sufficient. We also need is an IB which will not go by the orders of the political parties.

What about the participation of the people while gathering intelligence?

Yes that is very important. Collaboration between the people and security agencies is required and this should include the Muslim community too. The Muslim community needs to know that being inspired by Pakistan is bad for them.

What are your views on the latest instances of terrorism and the birth of the Indian Mujahideen?

It is a new name that's it. The Students Islamic Movement of India could not possibly function under its own name once it was banned and hence it became the Indian Mujahideen. Basically the IM has the people from the same resource pool.

What do you have to say about the new age terrorist who is educated and tech savvy?

As I said before, the IM has the people from the same resource pool of SIMI. SIMI always had a pool of educated people.

Do you think that the Mumbai and Gujarat police have cracked the entire IM module?

They are making headway for sure. But getting leads is one thing and connecting it is another. Once the leads are connected, one could say that they have succeeded completely. As of now what I see is just newspaper investigation and PR work by the police to show that they are doing some work.

There is a hue and cry about the Jamia Nagar encounter, but the Delhi police maintain that this incident helped them crack the case. What are your views on the same?

Whenever such an act takes place there is bound to be a hue and cry. I would say that the operation is genuine but would also like to add that it should have been done in a better way. Encounter is a science and should be undertaken in such a manner that none can raise a finger.

We see that Jihad is becoming more home-bred. Why do you think this has happened?

It is not exactly correct to say this. It is only now that we are getting to see a more Indian face to this. It just shows that both Pakistan and Bangladesh have succeeded in creating modules in India. In the coming years we will get to see more Indian faces. The need of the hour is to eliminate these modules.

Terror has travelled south. Karnataka and Kerala have become hotbeds for recruitment and training. Did the IB see this coming?

I have shouted and screamed about this in the past. I had given a talk at the Indian Institute of Science two years back where I mentioned that several areas in both Karnataka and Kerala had several modules. But at that time no one believed me. However now everyone seems to be waking up to the problem.

Lastly please rate the states which have coped best with terror.

Well, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat have dealt best with the problem. Kerala has just woken up, Tamil Nadu is yet to wake up, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are waking up.

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In a first, IAF's aerobatic team to perform in China

New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) Providing impetus to the growing India-China defence ties, the Indian Air Force's (IAF) Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) that has enthralled audiences worldwide with its intricate manoeuvres in the skies, reached China Wednesday to perform in that country for the first time.

The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major, will be visiting China to witness the SKAT's maiden aerobatic display at the Nov 4-9 Zhuhai Air Show near Shanghai.

“The IAF had received an invitation last year to participate in the Zhuhai Air Show. Defence Minister (A.K. Antony) has approved the participation of the Surya Kirans, an IAF official said.

India and China fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962. since the late 1980s, they have taken a series of steps to ramp up their relations, including the strengthening of military ties.

'This will be a goodwill trip. Any IAF exercise with China is likely to take place only after that,' the IAF official added.

The Surya Kiran team of 11 aircraft and their pilots have performed in several countries around the world and amazed audiences with its skills.

The Zhuhai Air Show is akin to Aero-India show held at Yelahanka Air Base in Bangalore every alternate year.

“IAF is the only air force which will be carrying out an air display in China. Thus, they are likely to be on the centre stage,� the official said.

On the return leg, SKAT would Nov 17 perform at Laotian capital Vientiane.

Wing Commander J.T. Kurien is the commanding officer of SKAT and the contingent is headed by Group Captain A. Saxena.

Discussions between India and China are also expected here soon to finalise the modalities and venue for joint army exercises to be held in India later this year.

During his visit to the border post of Longewala in February, Antony had stated that the next India-China joint army exercises would be held in India. This would be the second such exercise after the inaugural edition in China in December last year near the city of Kunming.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between India and China in May 2006 during a visit by the then defence minister (and current external affairs minister) Pranab Mukherjee that stipulated that the two countries would hold joint military exercises, join forces in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts and also cooperate in search and rescue operations.

Pakistani, Afghan Leaders Urge New Talks With Taliban Fighters

By James Rupert

Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistani and Afghan officials as well as tribal leaders vowed to redouble efforts to persuade Taliban guerrillas and other militants to stop fighting against the two nations' governments.

Fifty delegates from the two countries, meeting in Islamabad the past two days, decided to appoint ``contact groups'' to make direct appeals in the next two months to militants fighting along the border. The Taliban and their allies have rejected such entreaties in the past year, and the two delegations cited no new offers to persuade the militants.

``It's another opportunity,'' Abdullah Abdullah, head of the Afghan delegation and the country's former foreign minister, said at a press conference yesterday. ``Hopefully it will bring some results.''

With this year's escalation of warfare on both sides of the border, Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. officials have spoken of the need to pursue political and military solutions to the Taliban insurgencies.

The renewed effort at talks comes as Pakistan's army has stepped up its offensive against militants in the Swat Valley and the border region of Bajaur following Taliban takeovers in those areas.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Oct. 7 he favors talks with ``reconcilable'' guerrillas in Afghanistan who might be persuaded to lay down arms. Taliban in Afghanistan say they won't negotiate until the U.S.-led NATO troops backing the government are withdrawn.

Petraeus to Visit

``It remains to be seen if some of these extremist forces are going to be willing to renounce violence and become part of a peaceful, stable, productive Afghanistan,'' Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said yesterday during a briefing at the Pentagon.

The new U.S. military commander for the region, Army General David Petraeus, is due to visit both countries next week.

A classified White House assessment of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan includes a draft recommendation to engage some Taliban members, excluding top leaders, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing unidentified Bush administration officials.

Petraeus used a similar approach in Iraq, enlisting Sunni tribesmen in the fight against al-Qaeda.

Afghan Reconciliation

While the Afghan government would make decisions regarding talks and would lead them, the U.S. supports the country's efforts at reconciliation, said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. Afghan officials say militants would have to renounce violence and ties to al-Qaeda, and pledge allegiance to the Afghan constitution, he said.

``What's really important here is that the Afghans come together and reconcile,'' Wood told reporters in Washington yesterday. ``In the end, that's what's going to bring about a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.''

The department has said its strategy review will look at how to counter the narcotics trade and help rebuild infrastructure and institutions at the local level.

``We're looking at a wide range of aspects of our policy to try to improve our ability to battle extremism in Afghanistan and help the Afghans do their jobs as well,'' Wood said.

The Islamabad conference comes after a larger peace conference hosted in the Afghan capital last year by President Hamid Karzai. The follow-up gathering, meant to build momentum for discussions with militant groups, was postponed during 10 months of political turbulence in Pakistan that ended with last month's election of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Trading Blame

Since elections in February, Pakistan's parliament and cabinet, led by Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party, have said they are pursuing dialogue with Taliban groups in Pakistan.

Under the military rule of former president Pervez Musharraf, who resigned in August, Pakistan and Afghanistan traded blame for failing to secure their mountainous 2,430- kilometer (1,510-mile) border.

Tensions rose after Afghan lawmakers said Pakistani intelligence agencies sponsored an attempt to kill Karzai during a military parade in Kabul in April and helped insurgents plan the bombing of the Indian Embassy in July. Pakistan denied the allegations.

Karzai attended Zardari's inauguration last month, and the two pledged to work together to curb militancy. Public accusations between the two governments have declined.

``There is no way but for both countries to work together,'' Abdullah said at a press conference after the meeting. ``Both peoples have been victims'' of terrorism, he said.

The conference included government officials, representatives of political parties and tribal leaders from the ethnic Pashtun group, whose homeland straddles the border. The Taliban are an ethnic Pashtun movement, while the group's ally, al-Qaeda, is dominated by Arabs and other foreigners.

Pakistan declared as a war Zone

Wed, 2008-10-29 05:38

By Asif Haroon Raja

In the 9/11 terrorist attacks on twin towers in New York in which about 3000 persons died, no Afghan or Pakistani was involved. All the 19 perpetrators of the crime were Arabs, mostly hailing from Saudi Arabia. Yet the wrath of USA fell on Afghanistan for a bizarre reason that the so-called master mind behind the attacks was Osama bin Laden based in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar kept requesting that proof of his complicity should be furnished to enable him to hand over his guest but none was provided.

Terrorism became a buzzword and the fuming sole super power pounced upon militarily extremely weak and economically impoverished Afghanistan with utmost ferocity and decimated it. The whole world including UNSC supported the ghoulish invasion and its occupation under the hope that it would help in eliminating global terrorism.

Iraq too was pulverised on a cooked up story of WMDs and linkage with Al-Qaeda. Both charges turned out to be totally fabricated. Saddam as well as UN inspectors kept saying till the last that there were no WMDs, but Bush and Blair ignored them as well as world protests and went ahead with the second invasion without UNSC blessing. After destroying the two countries, USA is now bent upon destroying one of its close allies Pakistan which had played a key role in ousting Taliban and in getting Karzai elected. Without Pakistan?s all out military support, it may not have been possible for US-NATO forces to stay in Afghanistan for that long.

In case of Afghanistan and Iraq, both Mullah Omar and Saddam Hussein refused to buckle under US repeated threats followed by troop mobilisation. Instead of submitting to US diktat they opted to fight the aggressor well knowing that they were non-nuclear states and their conventional means were no match to the military prowess of sole super power duly aided by all the advanced nations of the world. In our case, we had nuclear weapons and adequate conventional means to defend our homeland. However, our commando General who never tired of bragging about his boldness, turned into a kitten when he received a phone call from Washington. He hastily threw in his towel and provided US spy agencies and its military forces large-scale facilities to make easy USA task of achieving its long term objectives. He justified his cowardly act of ditching the friendly Taliban and befriending USA on the premise that had he not done so Pakistan for sure would have been destroyed.

He promised his mentors in USA that not only he would rid Pakistan of the menace of religious extremism, he would secularise the society through its enlightened moderation program. He agreed to blindly follow American dictates and develop close friendship with India by closing the chapter of Kashmir as well as other contentious issues. In other words he agreed to gradually weaken Pakistan from within by erasing the concept of Jihad and the warrior spirit from the minds of the people of Pakistan, follow the secularist path of his idol Kamal Atta Turk and accept Indian hegemony. Fortunately for Pakistan, he had to quit because of relentless lawyers movement and unexpected election results, but not before allowing CIA and RAW to make sufficient inroads into Pakistan?s tribal areas in Baluchistan and FATA, weakening the administrative and political structures, destroying the judiciary, creating a mirage of economic prosperity and giving a death blow to accountability and Kashmir cause.

By officially accepting charges of cross border terrorism, religious extremism, nuclear proliferation, he energised our detractors to launch a vicious propaganda campaign and paint Pakistan in black. While Karzai began to drum up the Indian tutored theme of cross border terrorism, western media pasted libellous stories about our nuclear program and Pakistan army to tarnish its image. Charges levied against Pakistan were never contested because of overall policy of appeasement. Having gained foolproof evidences of RAW and RAM involvement in our troubled spots, yet our leaders did not pick up courage to name them. This was in spite of Indian leaders? traditional policy of promptly throwing the blame of each and every terrorist act taking place in India at the doorsteps of ISI. Musharraf allowed US influence to permeate into each and every department and a stage came when no decision could be made without US involvement and blessing. The US spy drones fitted with cameras were allowed to operate in our territory at will to acquire intelligence.

Having entrenched itself fully within the decision making circles of Pakistan and blackmailed the new leadership through power sharing deal and NRO, Musharraf was eased out and replaced with even more loyal and acquiescent Zardari ready to do US bidding. This change had become necessary since Musharraf was not acquiescing on enfeebling ISI, handing over AQ Khan, allowing US troops to operate in FATA and abandoning Iran-Pakistan gas pipe project. Zardari has been mandated to remove remaining impediments and to open up areas where full penetration could not be made.

The major assault was made on the ISI with a view to defang it. In order to carryout offensive ground and aerial incursions inside Pakistan, it was alleged that the army and ISI were linked with the Taliban and as such the US could ill afford to share intelligence with ISI before striking the suspected targets. The purpose behind drone strikes is to target pro-government elements and to sever peace deals between militants and the army. RAW and other foreign agencies spies are stoking militancy so as create fear and lawlessness and make Pakistan ungovernable. It also hopes to strike high-value Al-Qaeda targets and thus swing the poll results in favour of Republicans.

Bogey of cross border terrorism has been sensationalised and magnified out of all proportions asserting that unless sanctuaries in FATA are destroyed Afghanistan could not be normalised. Pakistan has been declared as the biggest threat to world security, with nuclear weapons that could hit Israel and western nations. This wild charge has been made well knowing that Pakistani missiles cannot reach the stated targets. Bush and other leaders have categorically mentioned that any attack on US territory would emanate from Al-Qaeda leadership entrenched in mountains of FATA.

Pakistan has been declared as a war zone and the Pentagon authorised to carryout attacks as deemed feasible. Having heard the bellicose statements of the presidential hopefuls of the two parties, it is crystal clear that both regard Pakistan as the most dangerous threat to their homeland security. Obama as well as McCain strongly feel that the threat must be neutralised at the earliest with or without the support of Pakistan.

The eventual goal of Americans is to deprive Pakistan of its nuclear weapons. Axis of USA-Israel-India is keen to denuclearise Pakistan without having to wage a full-fledged war. They are constantly working upon our timid leadership to hand over nuclear assets voluntarily. For this purpose, Pakistan is being deliberately destabilised and the ongoing disinformation campaign is part of the sinister plan to create misgivings and sense of disillusionment among the Pakistanis and also conditioning the minds of the world that Pakistan is a threat to world security.

Pressure of all sorts is mounted on our leadership to convince them that it is neither in a position to govern Pakistan nor capable of preventing it from becoming a failed state or protecting its nuclear assets. They warn that before nuclear bombs are stolen by extremist forces they must be taken away and stored in a safe place by US troops or else UN should step in and take control. Instead of helping Pakistan to control militancy, USA is stoking it and continuously adding fuel to fire. The axis of evil based in Kabul is hell-bent to create anarchic conditions in Pakistan to attain their laid down objective.

Asif Haroon Raja is a defence and political analyst.

- ASian Tribune -

analysis: A safer world —Talat Masood

Nuclear weapons do not deter Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Nuclear weapons did not prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union. We too, frankly, have not felt very secure since overt nuclearisation in 1998, despite claims to the contrary

Last year, the Wall Street Journal published a groundbreaking article authored by George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn, in which they enunciated their joint vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. This took everyone by surprise, and reminded us all of the dangers of living in a nuclear world.

The significance of this declaration emanated from the fact that the authors had all held top positions during the Cold War, during which nuclear deterrence was the theology and main pillar of US security policy. In fact, Kissinger was considered the epitome of geostrategic and geopolitical thinking at the time. Such a significant U-turn by Kissinger had to be taken seriously.

Responses have appeared around the world since the publication of this article. Four former senior diplomats, including a former secretary general of NATO, joined the chorus. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown supported the cause openly and the British government publicly endorsed an international campaign for disarmament.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon lent his support through furthering the idea of multilateral disarmament. Britain has set up a nuclear disarmament laboratory, though details are not clear, including Norway's role in the project. Governments of countries like Italy have echoed similar feelings.

There is a growing acceptance in major militaries around the world that the political and strategic advantage of nuclear weapons could be offset if the non-proliferation regime unravels due to lack of success in disarmament. Nuclear powers are equally apprehensive of terrorists getting hold of nuclear material and technology, which could have catastrophic consequences.

In the US, reaction to these initiatives was mixed. Barack Obama and John McCain both talked of nuclear disarmament, and Obama emphasised that he was for ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But this could all be election rhetoric. The world will have to wait for the next American president to take office to see if there is any shift in policy.

The idea of a nuclear-free world is not new, and many world leaders and thinkers, including Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Nelson Mandela, Olaf Palme and Gandhi, had expressed their desire for such a world.

Not surprisingly, the statement of Kissinger et al evoked an equally strong negative response. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal published another op-ed that characterised Kissinger's idea as fantasy — totally unworkable and even counterproductive. It is likely that this view is shared by many in the US and among the strategic communities of nuclear weapon states.

Surely, new and aspiring nuclear powers might even consider this a conspiracy by major powers with strong conventional capabilities to deprive them of nuclear status. Discussion of such idealistic goals when the ground reality is so different makes one wonder if these visionary exercises are to be taken seriously.

It has been 63 years since the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the world continues to live with tens of thousands of nuclear warheads. No doubt, the number of warheads has been cut to half, but the US and Russia continue to share 93 percent of the world's arsenal. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty failed to prevent Israel, India and Pakistan from becoming nuclear powers, and a few more are working to join the club.

The US and Russia still have hundreds of nuclear weapons on alert. Washington has back-tracked from negative assurances to non-nuclear states and has blocked several initiatives at the Conference on Disarmament and the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament. Past attempts on the CTBT and Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty have been discouraging. The US has failed to ratify the CTBT and is unwilling to discuss verification of existing stocks of fissile material, thereby stalling FMCT negotiations. China too has not ratified the CTBT.

As of now, India and Pakistan are not interested in the CTBT and are engaged in building up their stocks of fissile material and warheads. India will also be taking full advantage of the Indo-US nuclear deal to step up production of fissile material. That would well lead to an arms race between China, India and Pakistan. The introduction of ballistic missile defence in India, with the assistance of the US and Israel, could be another potentially destabilising factor in the regional context.

Nonetheless, a new wave of expectation has led to the formation of the Canberra Commission, in which two former ministers of Australia and Japan are leading a team of experts from both nuclear and non-nuclear states to study and examine the challenges involved in moving towards disarmament. The International Institute of Strategic Studies in London has also published a comprehensive Adelphi Paper to move towards zero-level.

It would be unrealistic to expect the world to be ready for such a major transformation. Total disarmament is currently not feasible. In the event that it was to happen, if at all, it would require a new paradigm of international relations. Major disputes and areas of conflict between nuclear powers would have to be settled prior to denuclearisation.

A move from the inspirational approach to the pragmatic approach, combining realism with idealism, is required. The goal should be to substantially advance the implementation of Article VI of the NPT. The US and Russia could perhaps gradually reduce their nuclear arsenals to about a thousand warheads each in the next ten years, and down to 300 in the next twenty. Once the major nuclear powers reduce their arsenals, others should also make corresponding reductions.

The interests of non-nuclear states should be protected and their right to production of civil nuclear energy must be facilitated. This will draw them from the sidelines and give them a direct stake in the process.

The call for complete disarmament has brought the huge arsenals held by the US and Russia into sharp focus. It could provide an impetus to reduce their arsenals and commence negotiations on possible START II/III treaties. It should also be considered that the US is developing a new generation of warheads.

The other ironic feature of our times is that the US, despite its vast and superior nuclear arsenal, has become less secure over the years. Nuclear weapons are necessary to deter a nuclear attack, and has a certain political utility as a result, but its military usefulness is diminishing as the number of nuclear states is increasing.

The nature of the threat faced by the US and the world also requires a more comprehensive and cooperative approach towards security. Nuclear weapons do not deter Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Nuclear weapons did not prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union. We too, frankly, have not felt very secure since overt nuclearisation in 1998, despite claims to the contrary.

The weaponisation of space by the US and/or Russia would be another highly destabilising factor. If the US were to use a space-based national defence system, it would heighten insecurity in China and Russia, triggering a dangerous arms race.

All these potential threats demand that the world powers rethink their security and defence policies. And clearly, the United States has to take the lead.

The writer is a retired Lieutenant General of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at

Do the tribes really need more guns?

Arming tribal militias to fight the Taliban in Pakistan doesn't solve the underlying problem

It's back to the future with Pakistan's latest response to the Taliban insurgency. With endorsement and limited training from the US, and Chinese-manufactured weapons, Pakistan will arm tribal militias, or lashkars, to fight the Taliban. Led by tribal chiefs (or "maliks") marginalised by the Taliban, and with their knowledge of local conditions and mores, Pakistan hopes that the lashkars will be able to defeat the jihadi movement and win the battle for the hearts and minds of tribal communities.

The Taliban killed hundreds of maliks as it swept into Pakistan's tribal areas following the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. The maliks were often hated by tribal communities because of their harsh and despotic rule. As a result, many people initially greeted the Taliban as liberators replacing the malik feudalism with their ostensibly Islamic brand of social ordering.

But that goodwill soon ran out as tribal communities faced the full force of the Taliban's rigid social dictates. All of a sudden people were being brutally punished or killed for refusing to fight with the Taliban and schools and music shops were being bombed.

According to the noted Pakistani scientist and political commentator Prof Pervez Hoodbhoy of Qaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, the lashkar strategy is an attempt to "enable tribal people who now hate the Taliban for their fanatical excesses to fight for their survival under the leadership of their [maliks]."

Unfortunately, as Hoodbhoy sees it, there is very little else Pakistan can do because "the mantra of development and poverty reduction ... is impossible while the bullets are flying".

The depressing reality is that very little has changed in this part of the world over the intervening centuries.

"The British used lashkars when fighting tribal insurgents [in areas now known as the North-Western Frontier Province]. The Mughals [who ruled India before the British] did it too, so did other rulers," says Prof Anatol Lieven, a Pakistan observer from King's College, London.

The Taliban have already reacted to the lashkars swiftly and brutally – 80 members of a lashkar from Matt in the north-western mountains of Swat were abducted. Another 50-100 were killed by a suicide bomber while enlisting in Bajaur. Similar attacks in Orakzai and Khyber Agency last week claimed the lives of eight and 100 people respectively.

The strategy comes at a time when Pakistan's civilian government is desperate to show unified leadership to its population and the world. Those plans hit a snag last week when, spearheaded by the main religious and secular opposition parties, both houses of Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution calling for dialogue with the Taliban and an end to military operations in Pakistan's tribal areas.

"This amounts to de-facto acceptance of a horrifically brutal Taliban state [in many of Pakistan's tribal areas]," Hoodbhoy argues.

Yet calls for negotiating with the Taliban are also starting to emanate from across the border in Afghanistan as well.

As I mentioned in a previous article for Cif, high officials – from Britain's top soldier and diplomat in Afghanistan, the UN's special envoy and the French army chief – have already concluded that peace can only be secured in the country through dialogue with the Taliban.

Gen. David Petraeus – soon to be supreme commander of US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia – believes that

negotiations with the Taliban could, in part, reduce the violence in Afghanistan. His sentiments are shared by others in the US Defence establishment. "Ultimately," says US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, "there has to be... reconciliation as part of a political outcome to this."

These developments represent an indirect admission that the rush to invade Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks has not created greater international peace and security.

Despite this, the likelihood of an immediate, peaceful resolution of the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan remains low. Under intense pressure from the US, the Pakistan Army has launched major military operations in Bajaur and Swat, tribal areas with strong Taliban insurgencies. Every day Pakistan's Army boasts of killing more militants – it claims to have killed 1,500 militants in Bajaur since August alone.

The US too has accelerated its unilateral missile strikes in Waziristan, the tribal region on Pakistan's side of the Durand Line that is perhaps the Taliban's most robust stronghold. Just yesterday a suspected US missile strike killed 20 people in Dera Ismail Khan. The US strikes have led some to argue that the Bush administration is seeking an "October surprise".

Such military strikes, particularly those carried out by Pakistan, have had a devastating impact on tribal societies. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that around 310,000 people have been displaced by the conflict. Estimates of civilian casualties range from 300 to 1,500.

There is, sadly, no reason to presume that fiercely independent and opportunistic tribal lashkars will prevent this human disaster. As Rahimullah Yousufzai, perhaps the pre-eminent Pashtun journalist in Pakistan, told Reuters, "if these lashkars expel militants then it's OK but there's no guarantee the lashkars won't get out of control and become personal militias of tribal elders."

Another concern, voiced by Senator Mualana Saleh Shah from South Waziristan, is that the lashkar proposal could "further worsen the situation in the tribal areas" by pitting tribe against tribe.

Pakistan's tribal areas have a long history of regional hegemons, from the British to the Pakistanis, playing off one antagonist against another in a bid to vicariously control the entire region. Its people are well aware of this history.

According to a survey [Powerpoint] conducted by a Pakistani thinktank in the federally administered tribal areas in August, 77% of residents do not welcome the Pakistani army. Lashkars that are seen as abusing their power to lord over the population may be equally unwelcome, if not more so.

The Taliban was able to build safe havens in Pakistan's tribal areas because successive Pakistani and British administrations neglected the region's social and economic welfare. Even if the lashkars are successful in driving out the Taliban, they do nothing to assist in integrating Taliban-affected tribal areas with the rest of Pakistan.


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