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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 07 Oct

Naval chief rubbishes censure reports
Hopes ministerial committee will give recommendations quickly
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 6
Naval chief Sureesh Mehta today said he expected the Pranab Mukherjee-led ministerial committee to give its recommendations within a fortnight.

The committee was formed by the Prime Minister to look into the anomalies that followed the Sixth Pay Commission notification.

Admiral Mehta rubbished reports in a section of media that defence minister A.K.Antony had censured him for his “defiance” over implementing the pay commission in the armed forces. I think the media is quoting things which never happened, and bringing out issues, which have no substantiation at all, he told reporters here when referred to a news report that he was pulled up by Antony for the third time for defiance over the pay commission recommendations.

Mehta reiterated that the grievances over the pay commission were "not about money", but about status equivalence and command and control issues.

The issues "missed out" were oversights and nobody could have done it wilfully, he told reporters here on the sidelines of the inauguration of a naval function at the India Habitat Centre.

Admiral Mehta said: "I said so the other day and I will say it again. The issue over here is not about money. The issue here is that there is a certain status equivalence -- there are certain functional requirements working at particular levels."

Pointing out that problem arose in the field areas, where paramilitary and forces were working together, he said: "If there is a command and control problem, there is a big issue there. And that is what is happening in the control rooms. You know that in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir we have got these kinds of set-ups."

Defensible, not defiance
V. P. Malik

There is little wisdom in writing for a newspaper on an issue on which the editorial and the editor in chief have already given a verdict (‘Chain of command, demand’). But I am motivated by two factors: “national interest” and the words of The Indian Express founder, “Be forthright, be frank, be fearless, whatever the odds. Never hesitate to take a stand if you believe in it. Never hesitate to speak out boldly against the wrongs.”

The issues being debated are: (a) should the services chiefs have represented to the defence minister on the cabinet decision (before implementation) relating to 6th Central Pay Commission (CPC), and (b) the manner in which they informed their command about efforts to get the anomalies resolved and advised them to be patient on the enhanced pay package. Does that construe “a dangerous precedent” and crossing the Laxman Rekha? It is unfortunate that no one has investigated why the chiefs were driven to take this step and who gave the spin of “defiance” to their actions.

Besides the blatant discrimination and injustice done in the constitution of the 6th CPC and in processing its report, despite pleas and caution conveyed by servicemen from inside and ex-servicemen from outside, there is no doubt that pent-up frustration from past experiences would have made the chiefs explain and write to the defence minister.

Many older ex-servicemen have written about the frustrations of the 3rd and the 4th CPC. Let me narrate my experience as vice chief and later as chief of army staff in the processing of the 5th CPC. On receipt of this report, the Government appointed a group of ministers to resolve the anomalies. Despite many unresolved anomalies, including one that had upset parity between the armed forces and police personnel below officer ranks (PBOR), the defence secretary had signed the financial order. I rang up the defence minister, who was in Calcutta that day, and said that these instructions, if released, would cause serious dissatisfaction amongst the rank and file. The minister stopped release of the financial order, discussed the issues with the chiefs next day, and then wrote a letter to the prime minister strongly recommending the desired changes. The new pay scales were held back for some months till major issues concerning PBOR were resolved.

In November ‘97, I wrote to the minister again pointing out the remaining unresolved anomalies, including relativity and functional problems due to upgradation of pay scales at additional DGP and DGP level. The government appointed a high-level committee under the defence secretary to resolve all remaining issues of the 5th CPC, which submitted its report in April 1998. This report was processed by yet another committee under the cabinet secretary for the next 18 months but did not resolve (or did not wish to resolve) all issues. Despite several reminders to the defence minister, many anomalies remain unresolved. Many retired officers took recourse to the courts and won their cases.

Three points are to be noted. One, the pay revision of all armed forces personnel was delayed till the defence minister got major issues resolved, quite similar to what is happening in the present case. Two, no one told us that we had set a bad precedent or crossed a Laxman Rekha. Three, the chiefs would certainly be aware of the frustration and demoralisation caused in the processing of the 5th CPC.

The pressure from the ex-servicemen lobby cannot be denied. Besides the institutional camaraderie, izzat and pensions are closely related to the final 6th CPC award. Ex-servicemen look up to their chiefs for amelioration of all their problems. Another factor is non-implementation of one rank, one pension, a demand that has been publicly accepted by political leaders in the past and present governments.

In processing the present report, I have yet to see any statement by the defence minister or the chiefs that would suggest “defiance”, or words remotely close to it. All three chiefs have repudiated any such suggestion. The letter written by the naval chief merely explains the anomalies issue and advises the rank and file to remain patient because its resolve may take time. My guess is that the “defiance” and “pull up” stories are being deliberately aired by babus responsible for distribution of “information” to journalists. Compared to these babus, the chiefs can offer very little newsy information.

It is surprising that my friend Shekhar Gupta, who not long ago said, “In no other major democracy are the armed forces given so insignificant a role in policy making as in India. In no other country do they accept it with the docility they do in India”, has opined that this show of “defiance” is bound to result in a civilian riposte to take away some autonomy of the future chiefs. That cannot be ruled out. But does it mean that the chiefs should never raise or question issues that are so obviously wrong, unjust and bound to have serious impact on the morale of their services? If that be the desirable trait amongst senior officers then I will go one step further and state that such armed forces will never be able to win wars.

Sometime ago, former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh wrote in his book Defending India, “A combative mentality has grown between the service headquarters and the ministry. Such an attitude has its own damaging consequences; the defence ministry, in effect, becomes the principal destroyer of the cutting edge of the military’s morale; ironic considering that the very reverse of it is their responsibility. The sword arm of the state gets blunted by the state itself. So marked is resistance to change here, and so deep the mutual suspicions, inertia and antipathy, that all efforts at reforming the system have always floundered against a rock of ossified thought.”

The problem is that on the pretext of establishing civilian political supremacy over the military, we have developed a system of bureaucratic control, the like of which does not exist in any other country. If the military loses confidence in such a system, or gets isolated from the policy planning and decision-making process, it would affect its psyche, ethos and capability to advise and perform.

Given today’s rapidly changing geo-strategic environment, it is imperative that we change our mindsets and attitudes, and look beyond narrow boundaries defined by turf and parochialism. A face-to-face dialogue and military advice are critical for the success of policies concerning military personnel and their missions.

The writer was chief of army staff

Letters to the Editor from Tribune

This is not defiance

I read the editorial, “Uncalled for defiance” on the
action of the Service Chiefs (Sept 30). There was
absolutely nothing wrong or defiant on the part of the
Service Chiefs in taking up the cause of their officers
and troops. While they took up the issue with the
Defence Minister, they withheld instructions for the
release of new pay and allowances.

It was essential for the troops and officers to know
that they would have to await the final response from
the government and quash any possible adverse
rumours. The point about security classification of
the Naval Headquarters letter is simply laughable.

While the Press is quick to make non-issues sensational,
it misses on the ramifications of larger issues. Take the
Services case on the dispensation of the Sixth Central
Pay Commission.

Ms Sushma Nath was a member of the Sixth Central Pay Commission which created the problem for the Services in the first place and then made a member of the Committee of Secretaries formed to look into the mischief of the Pay Commission. Could the Press not see the absurdity of the situation? The prosecutor turned into a judge in the same case!



It is so easy for anyone in this country to chide Service Chiefs — politicians, bureaucrats, judiciary and the Press. They all form the four pillars of Indian democracy. But they forget that India’s armed forces are the bedrock on which these pillars stand.

There is a definite need for our politicians, bureaucrats, judiciary and journalists to study and understand military ethics and what goes into serving in the military. Only then, they will realise the difference between acting in the larger interest of the service and willful defiance of orders.

After all, Hitler’s order to exterminate Jews too had the government stamp but generals and soldiers who executed that order, forgetting military ethics, were tried as criminals against humanity.

The Chief of Naval Staff has committed no offence. The Admiral has acted as per ethical-dictates of the military. If the government, in its wisdom, imposes punishment on this eminent soldier sailor, then so be it. After all, there is always a price to pay for upholding truth and duty. That is what soldiering is all about.

Maj-Gen K. KHORANA (retd), Panchkula

Zardari speak
Begin a new era in India-Pakistan relations

WHATEVER may have prompted Pakistan President Asif Zardari to tell some truths, they are indeed welcome. In an apparent turnaround of the Pakistani position, the civilian President has, for the first time, admitted that India has never been a threat to his country.

More interesting, he has described the Kashmiri militant groups operating from Pakistan as “terrorists”, instead of “freedom-fighters” as his predecessor General Pervez Musharraf had once described them.

He has also spoken strongly in favour of better trade relations with India and identified some items like cement and cotton, which can be exported to India. All this is music to the Indian ears used as they are to hearing threats of “thousand-year wars” and “jehads” from across the border.

To be fair to Mr Zardari, his statements ever since he emerged as a leader to reckon with, following his wife Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, have been friendly to India. He must have realised that Pakistan can no longer treat India as an equal with which it can compete politically, militarily or economically.

The rise of the middle class and the consistent 8-plus economic growth rate have enabled India to overtake Pakistan a long time ago. The proxy war it waged against India in the mistaken belief that it can bleed it to death seems to have become counter-productive as it has affected Pakistan’s well-being more than India’s.

The Pakistani rulers must have also realised that the terrorists using their territory against India could also turn their guns against the Pakistanis themselves. Zardari would never be able to forget that the bombs that destroyed Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel was actually targeted at him and his colleagues.

Having acknowledged the folly of treating India as an enemy, Mr Zardari has got an opportunity to bring the two countries closer. India’s growing infrastructure projects can consume every surplus cement bag that Pakistan produces.

All that India expects from Pakistan is good neighbourly relations which means it should stop all support to the militant groups operating there, hand over those wanted in India and ensure that there is better people-to-people contact. In doing so, Pakistan can become India’s partner in progress and peace.

Long haul But Asif Zardari has set India-Pakistan relations on the right track, says N.V.Subramanian.

6 October 2008: Pakistan's president, Asif Zardari, has set the cat among the pigeons by his gutsy interview to The Wall Street Journal. In that interview, among other things, he calls the Kashmiri terrorists terrorists, he says "India has never been a threat to Pakistan", he does not want the Kashmir issue to hold India-Pakistan relations hostage, and he wants future generations to resolve the issue. Predictably, there have been rumblings in Pakistan, and more angry reactions will follow in due course.

Why has Asif Zardari said all these very nice things? Well, obviously, he believes in them. It should also appear that being in America, he has been much moved by American wooing of India. That is possible, but Zardari does not look a man easily moved. Since the PPP-led coalition government came to power in February this year, Zardari has been warming to the theme of stronger commercial relations with India. Indeed, he flagged some of his economic vision for Pakistan in a free-wheeling interview to the Indian news agency, PTI, some months ago, where he jestingly turned attention to his own precarious existence under military rule. Zardari was outspoken then. This present outspokenness, therefore, builds on it, and is not an unexpected and unforeseen deviation.

The point to note is that, apart from the specifics of Zardari's comments, he is the first Pakistani politician in recent times to appear so confident about Pakistan, with not a trace of the inferiority complex that affects others in public life. To say "India has never been a threat to Pakistan" is to wash away six decades of military propaganda to the contrary. That takes some doing. But it also reveals the confidence that Zardari has in Pakistan's ability to secure itself. Obviously, Pakistan's deterrence is at the core of this assertion. But it is more. Zardari has made bold to proclaim India has no aggressive intent against Pakistan. That is true in fact, but it takes extraordinary courage for a Pakistani politician, in this case, the head of state, to go on record.

Is Zardari moving too fast? This may be a worry in India and in the United States, whose war against the Al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani tribal areas is floundering. Zardari's support base is thin, the PPP's support base, and Nawaz Sharief's PML is not wholly with him, and even less on his newest pronouncements. The fundamentalists and jihadis, or at least those backed and financed by the ISI, would be gunning for him. The ISI, or certainly the rogue sections within it, would be convinced of the need to silence Zardari before he gives the game away, and the Pakistan military would be itching to oust him, although this is easier said than done. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, it has become harder to target her husband. Public sympathy and goodwill are on his side.

But for India, the question remains: Can Zardari deliver? A lot has to be sorted out before Zardari can be half-way comfortable. The threat to Pakistani democracy from the jihadis in the tribal areas will take considerable persuasion and hard power to overcome. The situation is complicated by the fact that an ultra-radical Taliban government may form once again in Afghanistan, and the ISI and military will welcome this. Also, Zardari's government has to bring definite change in the lives of ordinary Pakistanis for them to be convinced about the democracy experiment. And the jihadi mindset which has pervaded with horrible intensity since the late-Seventies will require bold and imaginative uprooting, but this won't be possible so long the jihadis successfully portray Americans as occupiers and aggressors.

It is a very long haul for Zardari. But India should be pleased that he has begun right.

N.V.Subramanian is Editor, Har-Anand has published his new second novel, Courtesan of Storms.

Please visit N.V.Subramanian's blog

Editorial: Trade corridor: paradigm shift we’ve been waiting for?

An official of the World Bank in Islamabad says the Bank is ready to lend Pakistan $2.25 billion for a trade and energy corridor focusing mostly on Gwadar Port and its land link with China: “the trade and energy corridor that would serve as a gateway for commerce and transport between South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Gulf countries”. In this proposed scheme of things, Pakistan will set up a big oil terminal and refineries at Gwadar with Chinese help because most of the oil will be transported to China from there.

But the World Bank official has made other observations too: “Any land-based trade between the Gulf region and the South Asian states can best take place through Pakistan. The country would work as a link between the Gulf region, Iran, Afghanistan, China and Central Asia and that would make regional states natural trading partners. Pakistan is the ideal approach for the shipment of Indian goods to Afghanistan and the Central Asian markets”. Hopefully we can add the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline to the above project(s) after the complex tripartite negotiations on it are successfully concluded.

But a much more important thing happened during President Asif Ali Zardari’s meeting with the Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, in New York. The report says: “The two met on sidelines of the 63rd United Nations General Assembly session and announced a mutual agreement on a number of vital business-related issues. On top of everything else came Pakistan’s agreement to allow Indians an overland access to Afghanistan.”

The trade corridor was first spoken of by General Musharraf in one of his enlightened moments. He was thinking in paradigmatic terms, about converting Pakistan into a trading hub for the regions lying around it. Since he had begun to build the Gwadar Port — not first conceived by him, let us admit — the network of roads and railway tracks branching from the port seemed to leave India out. But later he began to speak in more general terms and was once privately in favour of conceding the Indian request that a corridor be given it for trading with Central Asia.

But the idea of the Indian corridor got stuck because Gen Musharraf deferred to the “defence” angle and abstained from delinking it from Kashmir, despite having established the precedent of delinking the IPI from Kashmir. As a general, he probably realised that he might be standing on the edge of an identity-change of the state of Pakistan. But equally as a general, perhaps he realised the limits of how far he could go in changing the country from a warrior state to a trading nation.

There are two ways of looking at “geopolitical importance”, or two ways of deriving benefit from it. One is the “civilian” approach which means the geographically important state has to develop its roadways and railways, and other infrastructure such as hotels, to facilitate those who wish to pass through. Once the geographically “connective” state has become an effective corridor of passage, its “strategic” importance no doubt increases. And the dividend of this importance comes in economic terms and through an absence of war.

The other way is the “military” approach which relies on geography as “hindrance” rather than “connection”. The military mind says: we are in the middle and we will not let you pass unless you agree to our terms. (To India, we say let’s resolve Kashmir before we talk free trade.) In Pakistan’s case, this approach is often cited also as a raison d’etre for being a military dominated national security state. This is a warrior’s approach and signalises his preference for selective militarism as opposed to generalised economic betterment. In the case of Pakistan, it is the military view of geopolitical importance that has held sway.

Pakistan as a nuclear power is eminently suited to becoming a trade corridor with capacity to lay down the terms compatible with its economic interest. The Central Asian market may be small at this moment and it may be tough for India to compete with China there, but in the coming years the region of SAARC will take what is its due in Central Asia on the basis of shared history and civilisation. Afghanistan has already decided where it wants to stand by joining SAARC. The free trade project of the SAARC “common market” will finally integrate it to South Asia. The Central Asians will follow.

The smuggling that takes place between Pakistan and Afghanistan now supplies markets in Central Asia. The flour Pakistan loses to the region northwest of it will no longer be smuggled because the support price of wheat is now linked to the international price. The next stage is Pakistan organising the Central Asian food supply on the strength of its trade corridor and making the middleman’s money out of it. *

Second Editorial: The Brits want out?

The UK commander of the British forces in Helmand in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, has put a new gloss on what the war in Afghanistan is all about. On Sunday, he said his job would be done if the Afghan army was enabled to take on the Taliban. There can be no victory over the Taliban, he said; only peace through negotiation. His statement was an echo of an earlier statement by the British ambassador in Kabul which in turn had echoed another statement made in the US by the British Foreign Secretary Mr David Miliband.

The Labour government after Tony Blair has thinned out its presence in Iraq and looks like getting out of Afghanistan before the new administration in Washington diverts funds and troops from Iraq to concentrate on Afghanistan. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is worried about the British economy and may want the troops to come back home. NATO states have never been keen on fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. The war is not popular with the electorates and no one wants to lose elections fighting Osama bin Laden in a far-off land.

This view may, of course, change dramatically if Al Qaeda stages another lethal attack in Europe and scares it into fighting back. But if NATO leaves, Pakistan will have to think hard about what to do next, without going back to its doctrine of “strategic depth”. A regional forum that includes India, Pakistan and Iran may be better in resolving the political problem of Afghanistan than the current NATO-ISAF contingent that is not even doing the military job whole-heartedly. *\10\07\story_7-10-2008_pg3_1

Redefining security doctrine

Dr Ali Mohammad

The real aim of foreign involvement in sponsoring ethnic and sectarian terror attacks in Pakistani cities is to destabilize the country and taking control of its nuclear assets, and neutralizing Pakistan’s army and the ISI. However, our leadership should be aware that Pakistan is not a weak country. It has a population reaching 170 million. It has a huge army, which is competent, dedicated, and war prepared. Pakistan has impregnable nuclear assets with a delivery system, which can reach the hearts of its enemies’ territories. The tribal population has risen against militants and foreign intruders and is ready to defend their country against any aggression. Moreover, Pakistanis are highly resilient people, while wars and calamities have always galvanized the nation to unify itself. Abundant natural resources, a highly intelligent population, and a dexterous labor force also bestow Pakistan. It has a strategic location and proximity to important markets, sea/trade routes, and to several emerging major economic centers of the world.

In this article, our focus of attention is redefining Pakistan’s security doctrine. Enemies who are overwhelmingly larger than it surround Pakistan. Security needs require that the country develop alternative war strategies such as an asymmetrical warfare strategy. We must develop large number of missiles capable of carrying both conventional and non -conventional warheads that, if attacked, can be rained on the enemy. It is urged that the nation’s politicians endeavor to strengthen Pakistan’s relations with our trusted friend China in the fields of economics, defense, and logistic cooperation. We must also consider a defense pact with China (see SCO below). Ever since Pakistan seriously began its nuclear program in the mid-seventies, there has been no major war with India. Achievement of a balance of power between the two countries has corrected the thinking that issues can be resolved only through brute force or bullying. However, that balance is about to be disturbed due to the recent nuclear deal between the USA and India. We must insist on total parity of nuclear capabilities to ensure a balance of power and stability in the region. This is vital for Pakistan’s survival and deterrence against nuclear blackmail. Moreover, the authors of the recent nuclear agreement between America and India should make no mistake that China already feels encirclement through Afghanistan and India. Certainly, Iran and other regional powers have many reasons not to give up their nuclear ambitions.

ISI is one of the most important assets of Pakistan. It is the backbone of our efforts to comprehend the real ambitions of our enemies, and to provide a strategic support to defend Pakistan’s vital interests. Many of Pakistan’s enemies are upset about the ISI as it has foiled their designs to harm the country. Therefore, there is a concerted campaign to discredit, weaken, and control this agency. While some individuals in this organization may have made mistakes, especially in internal security matters, others have done an excellent job in defending their country. Like all government entities, ISI may need reforms in some of its operations. However, our politicians should stand united in protecting this crucial agency. For its part, the present leadership in the armed forces is fully cognizant of its constitutional role of defending the country from internal and external threats. It knows well that Pakistan’s future economic and security needs demand a sound political and democratic system. Our enemies are also intimidated by the competence, discipline, and fighting ability of our armed forces. Along with their brothers in uniform, people are united in their resolve to fight against any external aggression. It is critical that the nation’s politicians should respect the sanctity of the armed forces and give full financial support for a constant upgrading of our defense needs. The Pakistani leadership should also be aware of Gawader’s strategic location. Situated on the helm of the Indian Ocean, it can control strategic supplies to and from the region. Moreover, the Indian Ocean is destined to be an important theatre for action during the next several decades as the major powers’ supply lines for energy and trade run through here. It is no accident that all nuclear powers send their submarines to petrol the Indian Ocean. China is helping Pakistan to develop strategic facilities at Gawadar port. Politicians should give full support to this project. To cement relations for continued assistance and support, General Kayani has undertaken his first visit to China since the installation of the new government. It is emphasized that our top leadership in the new government should immediately visit China.Along with a focus on security needs, the leadership should put a top priority on strengthening the economy, boosting agricultural productivity, finding conventional and non-conventional sources of energy, and integrating the economy with emerging world economies. For a decade now, this author has been urging Pakistani leaders and policy - makers to wake-up to the fast deteriorating food situation in Pakistan. More than any other security issue, self-sufficiency in food is vital for the country’s independence and for its very survival. Dependency on food imports poses a grave threat to our national security. As a potent weapon, food dependency could be used to humiliate and force countries having serious food shortages to compromise their vital national security priorities.

In addition to financing militancy and terrorism, India is also endeavoring to strangulate Pakistan by building dams on rivers that provide much needed water to the point of its very survival. India should be reminded of international agreements and be warned that Pakistan should not be pushed to the wall where she has no choice but to declare a full-scale war, which would be catastrophic to both countries. On our part, we must build dams on all our rivers and “nalas” to overcome the water crisis. Our politicians should rise above their petty self - interests and realize the needs of the country and enemy’s designs. It is not patriotic to oppose dams when India is stealing our waters.

Finally, Pakistan must be aware of the competitive forces in the world. It must be cognizant of the rivalry between NATO on the one hand, and China and Russia on the other hand. Also, with Russia and China emerging as the next superpowers, America is in a state of panic. There will be great competition for controlling world energy resources. On the other hand, the Chinese and Russians would like to defend their own supply lines for energy, resources, and international trade. There is a distinct possibility of a showdown within the next ten to fifteen years between the two. Pakistan cannot remain neutral. For its own security, it is vital that Pakistan should become a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). SCO’s full members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, and Ubekistan. Pakistan currently has an observer status.

'New' twists in the relations with Nepal
Created 2008-10-07 01:08

By Chandramohan - Syndicate Features

Days before he had arrived in India on his first official visit as prime minister of Nepal, Push Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, had said in an interview to an Indian television channel that he wanted a ‘new’ relationship with India built on a ‘new’ basis that reflected the current realities. It can be presumed that he explained to Indian leaders when he did come to India and held talks with them what kind of ‘new’ relations he had in mind.

On the face of it, his five-day Indian visit was hailed as ‘success’ both in New Delhi and Kathmandu. The two neighbours agreed to sort out the issues that Nepal has with the 1950 India Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship and also review some other bilateral agreements. The visiting prime minister was able to convince his hosts that his decision to first visit China instead of India after taking over the reins of Nepal was not a deliberate snub or an indication that the Maoists rulers in Kathmandu would be downgrading the ties with New Delhi.

Reassuring as these words might sound it would be better if judgement on the future course of India-Nepal relations is held over, at least till the constituent assembly in Nepal completes its task of writing a new constitution and elections for a regular parliament are held. The process is expected to be completed in another two years. Till then uncertainties may continue to prevail, never mind Prachanda’s ‘successful’ visit to India. In fact, even many Nepalese are not sure which way their country will be heading. Despite a decade of armed struggle against the state, the Maoists came to power through democratic means. But the Maoists have not hesitated to categorically state many times that they are not enamoured of the system of parliamentary democracy.

The Nepal comrades are not shy of professing their love for ‘socialist communism’. Their goal is to ‘ultimately’ establish a ‘people’s republic’. In an interview to BBC, Prachanda said that he was sure that the Maoists would win the general election and get a two-thirds majority. They would thus get a five-year term to rule the country during which, said Prachanda, he had no doubt the people would come to realise that ‘the Maoists alone can run the country.’ Thereafter, the Maoists would win the subsequent elections with ’90 percent votes’ and would remain in power for a very, very long time—as the Communist party used to do in the Soviet era.

Comrades like Prachanda do not believe in astrology. So his forecast about a long rule by the Maoists cannot be dismissed as guess work. It is remarkable how easily does he assume that rival political forces will not be in a position to challenge the Maoists.

The Maoists came out of their jungle hideouts only recently with a two-phase strategy to join the political mainstream. The first was to rid the country of the 240-year-old monarchy. It was achieved by making common cause with some of the established political parties. In the second stage they dumped some of their political allies and sought new allies when the former apparently refused to kowtow to the Maoists diktats in government formation, including the choice of some of the high constitutional posts.

Prachanda has told India that he did not believe in playing the Chinese card to bargain with India. He claims to believe in the policy of equal distance between the two giant neighbours of Nepal. It has to be seen how his balancing act works out when not only India but many in Kathmandu think that Nepal under the Maoists would tilt towards China. It may take time, though.

China will have to work very hard and invest a lot more in Nepal before it can catch up with the Indian contribution to the economic well being of Nepal. It is common knowledge that so far Nepal has benefited a lot from its special relationship with India, far more than India has. Yet Prachanda’s alter ego, Baburam Bhattarai believes and in deed proclaims publicly that Nepal’s economic prosperity has suffered because of the special relationship with India.

While expression of anti-Indian views has been a constant feature in Nepal for a long time, in recent days it has become more intense because the river Kosi has brought unprecedented devastation to the Terai region of Nepal, adjacent to Bihar which has suffered a similar fate. It is India that has been held responsible for this tragedy. Indian defence that it was the result of ‘non cooperation’ by Nepal is dismissed out of hand. On the other hand some Nepalese leaders have gone to the extent of making serious allegations of ‘invasion’ of Nepalese territory by Indian army during the course of flood relief measures on the Indian side of the river.

The Maoists are touchy about the Indian Army. They do not want Gorkhas to be recruited in the Indian army. They also resent the close ties between the Nepalese Army and Indian Army. A particular sore point for the comrades and others of their ilk has been a clause in the 1950 India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship that demands consultations with Delhi before Kathmandu sources military equipment from a third country.

These are some of the factors that may have to be kept in mind when trying to fathom what Prachanda means when he talks of a ‘new’ relationship with India. He, of course, has not categorically rejected all the provisions of the 1950 treaty because that may also mean the end of the unique privilege enjoyed by Nepalese who can freely enter India, take up jobs here and settle down permanently. He must also be in a bit of a quandary about diluting trade and economic ties with India, considering that India accounts for 55 percent of Nepal’s export and 44 percent of its import. Almost 40 percent of all foreign direct investment in Nepal comes from India. About 100 of the 265 approved Indo-Nepal joint ventures are already operating, though some of them have been at the receiving end of the Maoists wrath, leading to fears among Indian entrepreneurs in Nepal.

There may not be a compelling reason for India to suspect that a ‘new’ relationship with Nepal would mean it comes second to China. After the Maoists came to power Nepal has been very mindful of Chinese sensibilities which might suggest that Nepal is getting closer to China.

Forget the Beijing dash of Prachanda during the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Consider the fact that while there has been criticism of certain 'restrictions’ placed by India on Tibetan refugees during the spate of recent anti-Chinese demonstration nowhere else were the Tibetan protesters treated so brutally as in Nepal. The police there had a free hand in arresting and beating them if they did anything that would displease the Chinese. The Tibetans in Nepal had to sign affidavits relinquishing their right to protest, or else face jail terms.

Nepal does have some military relationship with China, especially since 1998 when Nepalese army officers and soldiers began to be sent to China for training and studies. The Maoist regime is bound to expand these ties further by shopping for Chinese arms and China would be only too happy to supply at throw away prices, if not as gifts.

The trained Maoist insurgents of yesterday are being integrated in the Nepalese army, which when the process is completed may be converted into an ideologically indoctrinated army from a professional army. Pakistan, looking for ISI bases in India’s neighbourhood, can also be expected to benefit from closer ties between China and Nepal. China has a policy of encircling its southern neighbour (India) by forging special ties with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal. Clearly, there may be quite a few 'new’ twists in the ‘new’ relationship that Prachanda wants with India.

- Asian Tribune -

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23 companies shortlisted for defence equipment
Patiala, Oct 06: As many as 23 private manufacturers have been short listed for manufacturing defence equipment in the country to export to friendly countries, DRDO Chief Controller Development A S Pillai said.

Pillai said the DRDO have export orders of around USD two billion for BrahMos cruise missiles.

The missile, an Indo-Russian joint venture, has network-centric warfare capabilities using information from satellites, troops on the ground, submarines and ships to guide the weapon.

"BrahMos, which has already been inducted into the Indian Navy and Army, will be inducted into the Air Force by 2012. It will be integrated with Sukhoi-30 aircrafts," Pillai said.

Earlier, Pillai was awarded the Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) for his outstanding contribution to the field of defence research and development.

Tarun Das, Chief Mentor, Confederation of Indian Industry, and Gautam Thapar, President, Thapar University and Chairman and CEO, Das, Chief Mentor, Confederation of Indian Industry, and Gautam Thapar, President, Thapar University and Chairman & CEO, Avantha, presided over the ceremony.

Das congratulated Pillai and said, "Today, India needs more dedicated scientists like him, and I hope that his presence here will serve as an inspiration to many of these young people."

DoT gives telcos access to defence zone

Aims to improve quality of telecom services

By Umli Miuli @ Monday, October 06, 2008 10:04 AM

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has announced that telecom operators will be allowed to set up infrastructure in defence areas such as cantonments and airports, reports the Economic Times.

As the telcos were prohibited from setting up towers and related infrastructure in certain zones which came under the jurisdiction of defence services, subscribers had to deal with sudden network failure. In a communication to the service chiefs of the Army, Air Force and Navy, the director general of defence estates and the ordinance factory boards, the DoT said that the government has decided to open up all zones controlled by armed forces, to enhance the quality of telecom services. Only the state-owned telcos - BSNL and MTNL - and stand-alone telecom infrastructure companies such as GTL, Acme, Indus and the hived off tower arms of Reliance and Tatas, are entitled to access defence land.

The telcos are likely to acquire land from the armed services, on ten year leases at market rates. The DoT has asked all service providers to share their telecom infrastructures set up on defence land. Because of the proposal of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India to classify defence areas across the country as critical, the DoT has given the armed forces the right to stop or terminate telecom services operated out of their premises on security grounds.

New ISI Chief no guarantee of change in the spooky outfit
Mon, 2008-10-06 00:42

By Chandrahasan - Syndicate Features

Given its tag as the ‘state within state’, any change at the top in Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence is a matter of considerable interest to many countries in the world, including the US and Pakistan’s eastern and western neighbours. When this change comes in less than a year of the last appointment the interest is bound to be all the greater because to be effective in carrying out all the dirty work ISI chiefs usually have a much longer tenure.

In a late night decision on September 29, the Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani announced that Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha will replace Lt-Gen Nadeem Taj as the head of the shadowy ISI. Kayani took the precaution of simultaneously announcing some other changes at the top of military leadership so as to give the impression that it was all part of a ‘routine’ reshuffling exercise.

Many Pakistanis believe that the change at the top of ISI shows that Gen Kayani is in full charge of the military and a master of his own mind. They hope that the US would find Kayani a more willing ally in the fight against terrorism and despite the overwhelming anti-US sentiments in the country the US munificence would not slack.

It is to be seen how things eventually turn out to Pakistan’s advantage. Perhaps this is the first time in the ISI history that its head has been shown the door after only a short stint at the helm. The change, however, was not because the Pakistani army chief was particularly unhappy with Gen Taj but because of other factors. The most notable was the increasing pressure in recent months from the US to ‘reform’ the ISI. In fact, the US has been almost blunt in telling Pakistan to do something about the ISI, which according to many US officials has been double-crossing the US by leaking operations plans against militants in Afghanistan to the Taliban.

On September 16, the US assistant secretary of state for South Asia and Central Asian affairs, Richard Boucher, publicly demanded ‘reforms’ in the ISI as a conviction was growing among top US officials that ISI’s ‘double game’ was undermining the ‘war on terror’ by supporting the Taliban and other militants. The US spy agencies and forces in Afghanistan had even collected ‘proof’ of leaks by the ISI of operations plans to the Taliban.

It needs mention here that the US is also convinced, as India and Afghanistan have been, that the ISI had a hand in the attack on the Indian mission in Kabul in July this year. The ISI had used its contacts with the Jalaluddin Haqqani network of terrorists to engineer the attack in which India lost two diplomats.

After the Boucher statement came a ‘secret’ meeting in New York between the CIA director, Michael Hayden, and the visiting Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari. It can be easily guessed that whatever else the two may have discussed the US officials would have certainly raised the question of ‘reforms’ in the ISI. There was no escape from the US pressure on the ISI issue while Zardari was on the American soil.

In what sounded like an exasperated tone, Zaradri told the New York Times that the ISI was his problem and he could handle it. ‘We don’t hunt with the hound and run with the hare, which is what Musharraf was doing,’ he added in the hope that his words convey the impression that he means business.

But the ISI can barely be called his business as the last bold attempt made by his government to tame the ISI by formally putting it under the interior ministry had backfired instantly. Within hours of that announcement the army put its foot down and the civilian government had to backtrack.

Any ‘assurance’ from Zaradri or any other civilian official in Pakistan about the ISI cannot be taken seriously. It is being said that the by changing the ISI head Kayani has brought a man at the top of the spy agency who is less ambiguous about fighting terrorism than his predecessor, Lt-Gen Nadeem Taj, described as a Musharraf follower and a distant relative of the recently deposed president.

The Americans are supposed to be impressed by this fact. Pakistan army may have ‘warned’ the US against violating its ‘sovereignty’ by launching attacks on Pakistani territories, but it is desperate to assure the US that it wants to fight the war against terrorists. It is vital for Pakistan to give this impression for a very good reason.

The downward curve of US-Pakistan relations has worried the much-bloated Pakistani army, used as it is to receiving generous gifts and other handouts from the Americans. In the last eight years the US has been pumping in almost $1 billion a year directly into the Pakistan army. The strain in bilateral relations has created a fear in Pakistan that a drastic reduction of US aid to its army would follow.

Despite its weakening economy—for which Pakistan is again looking to the US--one thing that the Pakistani government is reluctant to do is effect substantive cut in its defence expenditure. It rarely had to do so because the US could always be counted upon to help out by sending plenty of spanking fighting equipment, most of which Pakistan would promptly deploy on its eastern frontier. Apart from fighter jets and other sophisticated military equipment for fighting terrorism the US gift to Pakistan has included lethal weapons used by the navy. But the US used to ignore questions about the aptness of sending naval equipment to Pakistan when the terrorists were concentrated in the treacherous mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The US will have more reasons to worry if it continues to mollycoddle Pakistan. It cannot take the change at the ISI top as an indication that the dubious agency is changing its colour.Because, in an interview with the Time magazine, the Pakistan army’s spokesman, Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, admitted that the army does maintain some ‘indirect’ contact with an assortment of militant groups. He was candid enough to admit that it was not possible for the army to cut itself off completely from these elements. The reason is clear. Both the Zardari government and the Kayani army believe that in order to influence events in Afghanistan and pursue the policy of inflicting ‘a thousands wounds’ on India, Pakistan must have an army of assortment of militants, created by the ISI, at its beck and command to foment trouble in these two countries. That is why a new ISI chief is no guarantee that the spooky outfit is going to change its ways.

- Asian Tribune -

Indian Air Force to install more Advanced Landing Ground at Siachen

Dated 6/10/2008

With India opening the forbidding Siachen Glacier for civilian trek last year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to open more Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) for aircraft operations, aimed at promoting tourism in high-altitude areas of Ladakh.

"The Defence Ministry (MOD) has directed us to look for more Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Ladakh to increase aircraft operations that will help promote tourism and for other purposes," Western Air Commander Air Marshal P K Barbora said today, after witnessing the IAF's dress rehearsal for the 76th Air Force Day parade at Hindan near here.

"With fixed wing aircraft landing at these ALGs, we would be able to send more relief material in less time for humanitarian support and also for disaster management, whenever it is required," Barbora said, to a question about the opening of ALGs in high-altitude areas.

The IAF had already opened the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) ALG around May this year, closer to the Chinese-held Aksai Chin areas of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, with the first An-32 landing in three decades.

The Siachen glacier trekking camp was launched this October 1 for the second year in a row. Last year, the government had opened up the 72-km-long Glacier for civilian adventure tourism, despite Pakistani protests.

By increasing civilian and tourist movement in the region, India wants to strengthen its claim on the territory along the 110-km-long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) with Pakistan.

J-K: 70 ultras killed in 30 infiltration bids this year
ammu, October 6: With hawk-like vigil stepped up on the new and traditional infiltration routes along the LoC, three-tier border fencing along Indo-Pak zeroline has proved to be a "death trap" for heavily armed militants as 70 infiltrating militants were killed in 30 bids this year.

"Three-tier border fencing along Indo-Pak border has virtually turned into a death trap for ultras, as 70 infiltrating militants were killed in 30 bids in 2008", Northern Command PRO Col D K Kachari said.

The effectiveness of the fencing on the LoC has led to decline in the rate of suceesful infiltration bid by militants, he said.

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