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Friday, 17 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 17 Oct 08

Khaki vs Khadi

Inder Malhotra Posted online: Oct 17, 2008 at 0150 hrs

Since the issue of civilian control over the military has once again come to the fore, an account of the successive events in the evolution and establishment of this inviolable doctrine is in order. The most important and dramatic among these is what has come to be known as "the Thimayya Episode".

Until the end of the Raj, the commander-in-chief, India, was the second most important man in this country after the Viceroy. Sometimes — as in the famous case of Kitchener-Curzon confrontation — he could successfully challenge even the monarch's representative. He was also the commander-in-chief of the Indian army, and the C-in-Cs of the navy and the air force were his subordinates. The British had the knack of inflicting on their colonies systems that they would never tolerate in their own country.

All this came to an end on August 15, 1947 when all three C-in-Cs, all of them Englishmen still, were made equal. Their boss was the defence minister in the cabinet of the iconic Jawaharlal Nehru that included several towering leaders. On the commencement of the Constitution on January 26, 1950, the president became the supreme commander of the armed forces, acting, of course, through the council of ministers. On April 1, 1955, when only the navy chief was still a Briton, the designations of three C-in-Cs were changed to chiefs of staff.

There was no occasion or need to propound the doctrine of civilian control publicly until 1959 when the Thimayya-Krishna Menon clash erupted. Yet, strangely enough, the first example of woolly and unacceptable military thinking had come to light even before the dawn of independence. Nobody knew whether there would be one successor to the departing British or two. In the midst of intense negotiations over this issue, on May 9, 1947, Brigadier (later the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army) K.M. Cariappa called on Mountbatten's chief of staff, Lord Ismay, to suggest that the power be transferred to the "Indian Army with either Nehru or Jinnah as the commander-in-Chief". Taken aback by this "amazing" and, "highly dangerous" proposal, Ismay, himself a distinguished General, remonstrated with Cariappa and reported the conversation to the Viceroy, saying: "It is hard to know whether Cariappa ... was ingenuous and ignorant or ingenuous and dangerous".

In 1957 General K.S. Thimayya, with an enviably outstanding professional record and popularity with the ranks, was appointed Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). Roughly at the same time, the brilliant but waspish Krishna Menon, who enjoyed Nehru's complete confidence, was appointed defence minister. Much was therefore expected of the Menon-Thimayya partnership. But the result was exactly the opposite because of Menon's penchant for "unpleasant bossiness and supercilious bullying", in the words of Nehru's biographer, S. Gopal.

According to the best available evidence, there were differences between the army chief and the defence minister over promotions (especially that of Lieutenant-General B.M. Kaul). On the issue of defence against China also, the two were poles apart. However, it was Menon's "rude", arrogant and off-putting behaviour that caused the greatest irritation to Thimayya.

The other two chiefs, Vice-Admiral Ramdas Katari and Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee, were also peeved, and it was decided that Thimayya whom Nehru should meet the prime minister and apprise him of the unhappy situation.

Sometime in August 1959, Thimayya met Nehru, casually at a garden party first and then at the prime minister's house. What exactly transpired at these meetings has never been fully known. But the general belief is that Nehru listened to the general and promised to speak to Menon. And speak to Menon he did. Again, no one really knows what happened during this conversation. What is definitely known, however, is that three days after Nehru's talk with him, Menon sent for Thimayya "in a highly excited state of mind" and strongly criticised him for taking the matter to the prime minister. Thimayya should have "resolved the problems, Menon said, "privately and bilaterally". Menon also warned the general of "possible political repercussions if the matter became public". After this meeting that Thimayya sent in his resignation.

Its timing could not have been more inappropriate and unfortunate. For Thimayya's resignation letter reached Teen Murti in the afternoon of August 31. The prime minister read it in the evening, asked the COAS to see him at 7 p.m., and persuaded him to withdraw the resignation. The next morning Pakistan's first military dictator, Ayub Khan, was making a stopover in Delhi to talk to Nehru at the airport. Only a few hours before Ayub's arrival, the news of Thimayya's resignation was published in banner headlines. The newspapers were unaware that the resignation had been withdrawn. Some of them had added, wrongly, that the other two chiefs "would follow suit". All hell broke loose.

Ayub came and went but New Delhi was convulsed. There were lurid rumours galore. At 4 p.m. on September 1, the Press Trust of India reported that Krishna Menon had resigned, only to withdraw the report a few hours later. Later still, an agency dispatch from London quoted Air Marshal Mukherjee, then visiting Britain, to the effect that he "knew nothing" about these events.

The next day , Parliamentwas expectedly stormy. On the Opposition benches there was great support for Thimayya and trenchant criticism of Menon. A number of Congress MPs were no less critical of the defence minister but they remained silent. Nehru would have nothing of this, however. He told the House that the issues involved in Thimayya's withdrawn resignation were "rather trivial and of no consequence", and that they arose "from temperamental differences and did not include promotions". However, he declined to place Thimayya's letter of resignation on the table of Parliament, nor has it been made public since.

The core of Nehru's speech was the "supremacy of the civilian authority" though he took care to add that "due heed be paid to the expert advice" the civilian authority received. Altogether the tenor of the prime minister's speech was favourable to Menon and critical of the COAS. Nehru said at one stage that he "could not congratulate the general on the manner in which he has acted."

For months on end thereafter there was tremendous support for Thimayya in Parliament, the press and the public. Even after he retired in early 1961, demands for Menon's dismissal were constant. So were expectations of a cabinet reshuffle during which Menon was likely to be divested of the defence portfolio. Some of Menon's cabinet colleagues were also hoping to see him go. But finally, it was left to the Chinese to drive the abrasive defence minister out.

S. Gopal perceived the Thimayya-Menon episode as "a comic-opera putsch". According to him, Nehru dealt with it in Parliament "in such a way as to strengthen Menon's position and shrink Thimayya's reputation. He stressed the importance of the government's control of the armed forces and hinted that Thimayya had acted irresponsibly."

Some military officers argue that the Thimayya resignation should not be brought in while discussing the present three service chiefs' refusal, initially at least, to notify a cabinet decision. The matter is debatable but in any case, it is no bar to remembrance of things past.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator

ASK PRABHU – Prabhu Chawla's Blog

Why isn't the government too keen to act on grievances of the armed forces with regard to the Sixth Pay Commission? October 16, 2008

Prabhu Chawla Answers...

I think our political leaders didn't read the fine print of the Pay Commission report written by the IAS officers. Now our Prime Minister has realized the damage done to the morale of the defence forces. Hopefully, some positive news may come soon for them.

-Asked by Amit
etc.amit@gmail.com

India, US to strengthen military ties
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 16
India and the USA for the first time today agreed to work together to formulate a doctrine and raise the level of participation in joint military exercises.

The Chief of US Army General George William Casey met his Indian counterpart General Deepak Kapoor. They reportedly discussed security related developments in southeast Asia, especially in Pakistan, Nepal and China.

The two Chiefs also agreed to cooperate in exchange of military and related technologies for the development of enhanced capabilities for the future combat soldier (a programme of the Indian Army referred to as FINSAS - Future Infantry Soldier as a System). This is a long term project and Indian side asked the US for cooperation in this. The US army will be developing its own warfare models based on Indian experiences in counter insurgency and low intensity conflict.

The two Chiefs re-affirmed the need to enhance mutual military-to-military cooperation, especially in the fields of exchange of military personnel for attending additional professional courses.

General Casey will be addressing a gathering at the National Defence College (NDC) and will also be visiting Leh and Agra.

The US army chief paid homage at the Amar Jawan Jyoti after the traditional guard of honour at the South Block lawns.

Naval warship deployed to escort commercial ships
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 16
In a strategic move, the Government of India today deployed a naval warship that will escort the Indian commercial ships while crossing the piracy-ridden Red sea area that falls on the route to the entry into the Suez Canal.

India today became the fourth navy after the US, Russia and France to deploy its warships on the world's busiest sea trading route. The patrolling is commencing immediately as defence minister A.K. Antony cleared the proposal this evening.

Defence ministry officials said this had nothing to do with the ongoing crisis in which a ship MV Stolt Valor had been taken by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Meanwhile, sources said separate talks and negotiations were on for the release of 18 Indian sailors on board that liner. It is a Japanese-owned ship that is registered in Hong Kong. The talks are on with the transitional federal government in Somalia.

The Indian warship will have helicopters and marine commandos. It will patrol and escort Indian flagships through the Gulf of Aden. At present, only one warship is being deployed and the number can be increased anytime. The ship will patrol the normal route followed by the Indian Flagships during passage between Salalah in Oman and Aden in Yemen.

This anti-piracy patrol will be carried out in coordination with the director-general of shipping, who will keep the Indian Flagship vessels informed in case they want to travel in the Indian Ocean along with Indian Navy ships.

The strategic importance is such that the presence of the Indian navy warship in this area will be significant as the Gulf of Aden is a major strategic choke point in the Indian Ocean region and provides access to the Suez Canal through which the sizeable portion of India's trade flows.

The presence of the Indian Navy in the area will help to protect our sea borne trade and instil confidence in our sea faring community, as well as function as a deterrent for pirates.

India, Pak for joint patrolling on border
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Pakistan and India on Thursday agreed to carry out joint patrolling on the border to curb smuggling. This was announced at a joint press briefing of the Rangers and the BSF in Lahore.

The Rangers and the BSF, at the three-day meeting, exchanged lists of the prisoners from both sides and decided to release the inhabitants of Pakistan and India within 24 hours who mistakenly crossed the border and are languishing in jails.

It was also decided that a warning would be given to fishermen, who violated the maritime exclusive zone, before any arrest. They also agreed that until a final decision is taken, India would stop the construction work on the border.

Both sides decided to carry out day and night patrolling of the borders and avoid firing at innocent civilians.

9 die in Pak missile, suicide attacks

Islamabad, October 16
Six persons were killed and five injured in a missile strike today by a suspected US drone in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold of the local Taliban led by Baitullah Mehsud.

Local residents and witnesses told Dawn News channel that at least three missiles were fired at two houses, including that of a tribesman named Ghazi Khan Mehsud, in Tabargai village of South Waziristan.

In another incident, at least three policemen were killed today when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden car in a police station in Pakistan's restive Swat valley in a pre-dawn attack. The attack in Mingora, the main city in Swat district, also injured over 20 security personnel, the police said. — PTI

Navy to guard Indians ships in Gulf of Aden Press Trust of India
Thursday, October 16, 2008 (New Delhi)


In the wake of several pirate attacks on merchant vessels being reported along the African coast recently, India on Thursday decided to send its warships "immediately" to the Gulf of Aden for patrolling and to escort container vessels flying the Indian Tricolour.
"The government today approved deployment of Indian Naval warship in Gulf Aden to patrol the normal route followed by Indian flagships during passage between Salalah in Oman and Aden in Yemen," a Defence Ministry spokesperson announced in New Delhi.
"The patrolling is commencing immediately," he said, but in the same vein claimed the ship was yet to sail from the Indian shores to Gulf of Aden along the Horn of Africa.

Initially, India would deploy only one of its warships in the region but it could be increased later on a need basis, the spokesperson said.
The government's decision comes close on the heels of Somalian pirates hijacking a Japanese-owned merchant vessel MV Stolt Valor with 18 Indians among the 22 sailors on board on August 15 this year.
The pirate attack on Stolt Valor had triggered a crisis with families of crew members vociferously appealing to the Centre to intervene and obtain the crew's release.
Currently, the 18 Indian crew members are being held hostage at a Somalian port and the shipping company is holding negotiations with the pirates for their release.
"However, the current decision to patrol African waters is not directly related to the Stolt Valor abduction," a Defence ministry official said later.

Military aid to Lanka not to escalate conflict, says India

PTI | October 17, 2008 | 02:38 IST

The Centre on Thursday said military aid to Sri Lanka was not aimed at escalating the conflict in the island nation but part of India's strategic policy to remain a dominant power in the Indian Ocean region.
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"One of the reasons we give aid and platform and radar and things like that is to make sure that we are the dominant powers in the Indian Ocean Region," Union Minister of State for Defence, M M Pallam Raju told reporters in Begaluru.
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"And we will try to keep it that way (remain a dominant power in the region)", he said responding to questions on the governments' stand on the resolution adopted at an-all party meeting in Tamil Nadu on October 14 asking the Centre to stop military aid to Sri Lanka.
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The meeting, convened by Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and boycotted by major opposition parties, also set a fortnight's
deadline for the Centre to take action to stop the ongoing offensive by Sri Lankan Army in that country's north, failing which MPs from Tamil Nadu would resign.
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Raju said the aid to Sri Lanka was intended not to escalate conflict in the island nation. "India is working towards reducing the conflict there and finding a solution acceptable to both (Sri Lankan Government and Tamils) and as a nation (India) it was conscious about human rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka.


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US strike inside Pakistan kills four

PTI | October 16, 2008 | 13:58 IST

Four persons were killed and five others injured today in a missile strike by a suspected US drone in Pakistan's south Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold of the local Taliban led by Baitullah Mehsud.

Local residents and witnesses told Dawn News channel that at least three missiles were fired at the home of a tribesman named Ghazi Khan Mehsud in Tabargai area of South Waziritsan.

The witnesses said they had seen four bodies being pulled from the rubble of the house. They said they feared the toll could rise as a number of people were present in the house at the time of the attack. People kept away from Ghazi Khan Mehsud's house and did not immediately launch rescue operations as two drones were seen flying over the area even after the explosions occurred.

This was the first time suspected US drones have struck an area inhabited by the Mehsud tribe and under the control of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud. Today's attack was the latest in a series of missile strikes by US drones in Pakistan's troubled tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.��


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US army chief visiting Kashmir today

JAVAID MALIK

http://www.greaterkashmir.com/full_story.asp?Date=17_10_2008&ItemID=45&cat=1

Srinagar, Oct 16: The US Army Chief, General George W Casey, who arrived in New Delhi today, will visit Kashmir on Friday.
General Casey is scheduled to visit the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, sources said. They said Casey during his visit would inspect the last post of the Indian army on the glacier and also interact with the top army officials posted in Kashmir.
The US army chief's Kashmir visit comes a month after the Israeli army chief, General Avi Mizrahi, visited the Valley and held hectic deliberations with top officials of the Indian army.
Siachen has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan since the mid 1980s when India sent its troops to the 72-km-long glacier ostensibly to pre-empt a Pakistani move to send Japanese trekkers to the snowy heights ranging from 18,000 to 22,000 feet.
However, after the dialogue process between India and Pakistan commenced in 2002, both the countries have been claiming that the issue would be resolved soon.
After his arrival in New Delhi today, the US army chief is understood to have held a long discussion with his Indian counterpart General Deepak Kapoor and two chiefs took stock of the prevailing regional security situation, especially the developments in India's neighbourhood (Pakistan). The US army chief, according to the sources expressed concern over heightened tension on Pakistan-Afghan border.
"Two chiefs reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual military-to-military cooperation, especially in the fields of exchange of military personnel for attending additional professional courses; cooperation and enhanced consultations in the field of doctrine development and raising the level of participation in joint military exercises," sources said, adding, "The two chiefs also agreed to cooperate in exchange of military and related technologies for development of enhanced capabilities for the future combat soldier (a program of the Indian Army referred to as FINSAS – Future Infantry Soldier as a System)."
"His visit is significant in the backdrop of India and United States signing the nuclear agreement," said an official, adding that the US was keen on improving ties with India in near future and the General Casey's visit was a step towards that.
The US army chief is also expected to hold talks with the top brass of the defence forces on ways to further enhance bilateral military relations between New Delhi and Washington. The General is expected to meet the defence minister, A K Antony, and discuss issues of mutual interest with him.
The US army chief will deliver a lecture on land power in 21st Century at the National Defence College in New Delhi and would also visit some military bases outside Delhi before concluding his stay in India on October 18.

US plan to help Pakistan fight insurgents

The Pentagon wants to send more F-16 fighters. Critics say the jets could threaten India.

By Gordon Lubold | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The American military is beginning a training effort inside Pakistan this week that holds promise as the US helps Pakistan fight tribal militants blamed for much of the increase in violence there as well as in neighboring Afghanistan.

But a separate initiative to provide jet fighters to the Pakistani Air Force that Bush administration officials believe will be instrumental in the fight has been held up over concerns that Pakistan will use the planes against India, not against extremist elements in its border with Afghanistan.

The US deployed a small unit of about 30 special forces personnel into Pakistan this week to bolster the ability of Pakistan's Frontier Corps to fight its own insurgency.

The team, which also includes some British special forces, is significant, not for its size, but for the expectation that it can give Pakistan the tools to fight militants on its own. That is key to American defense officials who are desperate to reverse violence in the region but say any counterinsurgency there must have a Pakistani face.

That is why a long-proposed sale of new and refurbished F-16 jet fighters to Pakistan has become so critical to the Bush administration, which believes the old fleet of fighters the Pakistani Air Force is using now aren't effective.

The older planes aren't able to fly night missions, and they aren't equipped to drop the kind of precision munitions that could be instrumental in the ground fight against militants.

"Right now, they're basically dropping dumb bombs in the daylight, a fact that does not escape the enemy," says one defense official.

But Congress isn't so sure the Pakistani government can be trusted to use the planes against the tribal militants thought to be responsible for violence in Pakistan as well as in neighboring Afghanistan.

Members of Congress want to know why Pakistan would need a jet fighter that has "air-to-air" fighter capability when all the Pakistanis really need to fight militants from the air is a plane or helicopter with "air-to-ground" or "close air support" capabilities to support its efforts against militants on the ground.

Bush administration officials attempted to reassure lawmakers that the planes were actually being used for their intended purpose during a hearing on Capitol Hill last month as they attempted to get the proposed sales back on track.

"I don't know that it helps air-to-air with an entity such as Al Qaeda unless I'm missing something where they're in the air," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D) of New York, who chaired the hearing. "Do we have flying Al Qaedas?"

The plan includes the sale of about 18 new F-16s, as well as the sale of older-model American F-16s the US military isn't using. Another program would refurbish some of the Pakistani Air Force's planes with more current technology and capability. But the bulk of the planes wouldn't be in the hands of the Pakistanis until the end of 2010, a Defense official says.

The concern over the use of the planes illustrates broader issues about the role Pakistan is playing in the Bush administration's so-called war on terrorism. American officials have grown impatient over Pakistan's inability to fight the insurgency, long perceived to be a US problem, not a Pakistani one.

But in recent months and under new civilian and military leadership, the Pakistani government appears to be making inroads against havens in Pakistan's border region with large operations in places such as the Bajaur region, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other Defense officials.

The bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad by militants last month also helped to solidify support for counterterrorism efforts, at least within the Pakistani government, though still not strongly among its population.

"From what I have seen, they recognize the problem, and there is a commitment to do something about it," Admiral Mullen said in an interview this week.

The Pakistanis have made greater use of their fleet of older F-16s as part of this effort. But their limitations have provoked greater urgency among Bush administration officials to get them the planes as soon as possible.

"We are in a bind here because we really need Pakistan in order to prosecute the war against the Taliban," says Loren Thompson, a senior analyst with the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Va. "And yet there is a real danger that the weapons will be used for purposes other than that war."

Mr. Thompson believes that in the end the US will be able to sell the planes to Pakistan, albeit with restrictions. At the same time, the Pakistanis must meet other security requirements to house the planes once they receive them so the F-16's technology does not fall into the wrong hands, Defense officials say.

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s India Nepal's enemy?


Bhaskar Roy

Thursday, 16 October , 2008, 14:04




http://im.sify.com/news_info/news/images/may2008/bhaskar_roy.jpgBhaskar Roy, who retired recently as a senior government official with decades of national and international experience, is an expert on international relations and Indian strategic interests.

Nepal's Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, assured New Delhi during his official visit to India September 14-18 that that his government would not play strategic games between India and China.

But his defence minister preached the opposite after returning from a visit to China in the last week of September. A elated Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal told the CPN (Maoist) periodical, The Janadisha Weekly aboutthe support China was prepared extend to Nepal in the military field.
Thapa is the ex-Deputy Commander of the Maoist People's Liberation Army (PLA-M), and one of the leading voices from the CPN (M) demanding the PLA-M be absorbed into the Nepali Army (NA) en bloc.

Prachanda to take charge in Nepal on Monday

The Nepal Army, as well as other major political parties are opposed to this blatant attempt to politicize a professional force. In this context, Thapa also revealed that the Chinese People's Liberation Army was interested in establishing a separate relationship with Maoist army.

Thapa, who is also the Maoists' military strategist, visited China at the head of a three-member delegation which included a senior Nepali Army officer to witness the PLA's "Warrior 2008" military exercise. He was invited by Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Li Guanglie who is also a member of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP)'s Politburo. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with such exchanges between two sovereign nations. But, as Mao Zedong once said, one should "seek truth from facts".
Some of the issues Thapa revealed in his interview are bound to ring some alarm bells in New Delhi. According to him, the "Chinese People's Liberation Army wants to extend its relations with the Maoist PLA in Nepal. They maintained that China was ever committed to preserve Nepal's territorial integrity".

Prachanda sweeps Nepal PM poll

Expanding further on his interactions with Chinese leaders, Thapa explained the compatibility of Nepal's (or specifically, the CPN-M's) and China's security policy, saying in the changed political context Nepal's security policy was same as that of China's in "one way or the other".
Thapa, inadvertently or deliberately, revealed the core of his and his party Central Committee's India policy on his return from China in the following words "Nepal's international border is open from three sides, thus the anti-Nepal elements are entering into our country freely challenging our national security and threatening our territorial integrity".
He did not have to say any more. India borders Nepal in the East, South and West, and India was thus a threat to Nepal's security and territorial integrity. Thapa made it almost clear that he would like Nepal's foreign policy and security initiatives vis-à-vis India conform to that of China's.

Is Nepal's Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal declaring India an enemy state?

China's Nepal card

Two other corresponding developments in Nepal demand attention along with the Defence Minister's exposition on India. A book "Jasoosiko Jaalo" (Network of Spies) written by a journalist Saroj Raj Adhikari, released on September 21, claims that India's intelligence agency, RAW, has infiltrated every system of Nepal including the Nepali Army and the political system. Adhikari seems to have counted all RAW agents in Nepal, and arrived at a figure of 1,005. He also claimed that Nepal's Presidential and Vice Presidential elections were influenced by RAW.

Earlier, an article in a Nepali newspaper alleged RAW as also controlling Prime Minister Prachanda. The message is very clear. Prachanda and CPN (M) second in command, Baburam Bhattarai, were warned not to shake hands with India. Both these gentlemen had studied in India at some point of time and continued maintain links.

A documentary film, "Greater Nepal – in Quest of Boundary" claims historically Darjeeling, Dehradun and some other places belonged to Nepal but was incorporated into India by the British in an unequal treaty of Sugauli with the East India Company.

Prachanda sworn-in as first Prime Minister of republic Nepal

There is only one other country, a neighbour of Nepal, which conjures history to claim territories of its neighbours.

Instigating Nepal to raise territorial issues with India is nothing new for China. During an official tour to Nepal in December, 1996, Nepalese sources say Chinese President Jiang Zemin advised close Nepalese friends that territorial sanctity is supreme for any nation and Nepal must pursue this supreme objective. Almost immediately after Jiang's departure, Nepal raised the Kalapani issue with India.

More recently, a senior strategic advisor to the Chinese government had said China knew India planned to "Sikkimise" Nepal, but would not let that happen.

The difference between 1996 and 2008 is that while earlier China advised Nepal on such issues in confidential discussions, today they are coming out more arrogantly in the open. An earlier China's Ambassador to Nepal had openly assured China's commitment to Nepal's territorial integrity as its own.
The Nepal News of September 24 quoted Chinese Ambassador Zhen Xianling as saying security was the main concern of China in its relations with neighbours. During Defence Minister Thapa's visit, China announced a (NC) Rs.100 million military aid to Nepal. The co-relations cannot be ignored.

Nepal's last king bows out of palace

The Nepalese political parties are jubilant that China's railway from Lhasa was to soon reach Nepal. The Chinese proclaim that the railway will help it to connect with it more closely with the rest of South Asia. Some Nepali politicians see it as an alternative to India for access to sea ports and greater economic interaction with China to counter "dependence" on India.

The railway line from Golmud to Lhasa, and from Lhasa to Nepal's border is unlikely to transport only people and trade goods. The railway branches off to other destinations on India's borders. The military component of this railway system in the future will be ignored by Nepal at its own risk.

It is evident that China is trying to build Nepal among a series of "Little Dragons" spewing fire at India. It used Pakistan's post-partition visceral anti-Indianism to a remarkable effect to nail India down for decades. With India having broken out of these shackles, the Beijing hardliners are also concerned by the new thinking in Pakistan discarding the burdens of the partition, and the creation of Bangladesh.

But China is not going to give up on Pakistan. This portends a more disturbing possibility centered on Pakistan. The American factor needs to be taken into account here. A resurgence of Chinese influence in Bangladesh is also becoming evident.

Recent developments in Nepal, read along with Chinese strategic writings, suggest that China's objective to push its operative boundary with India to Nepal is receiving considerable support from Nepal's Maoists.

Defence Minister Thapa's exposition to the media may not be as official as a statement to Nepal's Constituent Assembly. But neither he nor the Maois- led government have retracted what Thapa said, and it can thus be considered an official position.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the Nepalese government must now publicly explain Defence Minister Thapa's views on India, since it raises questions about Dahal's official position on India. Dahal must act quickly to clarify whether he is in control, or whether he was just waltzing with India to flatter and deceive it.

The views expressed in the article are of the author's and not of Sify.com

Editorial: Discussing national security

Parliament began a discussion of Pakistan's security situation yesterday even as President Asif Ali Zardari signed eleven agreements in Beijing mainly relating to the country's economy. The finance adviser, Mr Shaukat Tareen, returned from his tour abroad Wednesday after telling Pakistan's "friends" that they had to do more to buttress an economy that was sustaining economic losses in its war against terrorism. Talks with India are also on the cards over the Chenab waters that Pakistan is allegedly losing to the Baglihar Dam. And there is an unprecedented nation-wide 12-hour load shedding going on in Pakistan that is bound to hurt whatever remains of the industrial sector.

Parliament hopefully will concentrate its mind as well as that of the people of Pakistan on what security should mean in the given circumstances. There is always the traditional way of linking the economy to preparedness for war which can be leaned on to confuse the debate. Military ineptness will be brought up again and again which will be deemed a consequence of following a wrong policy on terrorism. This means that no effort might be made to separate the disorder caused by terrorism from the economy as a pragmatic solution to the crisis. Should we say: sort out the Tribal Areas by declaring a ceasefire first and then look for economic solutions? Or should we look for ways to buttress the economy the best we can while we deal with the long-term problem of terrorism?

Security today is clearly linked to the economy. People are suffering because of an economic turndown that has little to do directly with terrorism even though there is certainly some economic fallout from it in some sectors. In the past, when we did not have terrorism to contend with, the trend in Pakistan was to link national security to military preparedness and that meant a kind of arms race with India. Even in the worst of economic times, our defence budgets remained steady and at times threatened the economy by becoming too large a part of the GDP. Even as Al Qaeda and the Taliban threaten us today we are adhering to the programme of nuclear deterrence by testing our delivery system. The irony becomes unbearable when the army maintained by us at great expense takes up the task of deterring the terrorists inside Pakistan and is asked by some politicians to relent and seek other foes such as the US and India.

As never before in our history, national security is linked to economic survival. It has to be addressed even when terrorism is rampant. The compulsion of enhancing the country's capacity to produce electricity has nothing to with what is happening in the Tribal Areas, and our energy crunch will not be sorted out by a ceasefire. What is needed are funds to steady the economy that is less able than India's, for instance, to withstand the shocks being delivered by the global economic crisis. We need investments in Pakistan at a time when local investors have either abstained or run away because of the law and order situation and lack of infrastructure facilities like water and power. Yes, investments are being made in the world in areas which are prone to unrest and violence but where opportunities of investments do exist.

The agreements signed in China point to the direction in which we should move. We have to defuse tensions with neighbours alienated by our earlier perceptions of national security. The recent visit of the Iranian foreign minister reminded us that we have a crucial fence to mend on our western border. Together with China and India, Iran is in a position to invest in Pakistan during these tough times. The special conditions of trade and investment that we have agreed in Beijing will have to apply to anyone who is willing to come to Pakistan at a time when no one else from our traditional partners is. These are the neighbours that have been linked to our military security in the past; a new economic relationship will remove the old paradigm of fear that has not worked as policy and has in fact brought terrorism into Pakistan. If change cannot come in normal times, let it come at a time of adversity.

Let us redefine "national interest" mainly in economic terms and not list troublesome items like the "Kashmir cause" and "nuclear deterrence" in the short-term the policy agenda of the state. Both have been rejected by the world because of the linkage seen between the two during the Kargil Operation in 1999. Both presume that Pakistan is economically surplus and has attained the status of a regional hegemon with the capacity to change the status quo. The jihadis of Kashmir are today fighting alongside Al Qaeda against our army, and Dr AQ Khan has to be protected against international inquiry into his past activities as a proliferater. For Pakistan to appear worth investing in at the forthcoming Friends of Pakistan forum in Dubai, our parliament must focus on the economy as security and be willing to give it the priority it deserves. *

Second Editorial: Taliban ready to give up arms?

One hopes that Maulvi Umar of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) knows how credible he sounds when he says that the Taliban are ready to lay down arms. He says: "We are sensible people and understand the survival and integrity of our country. If the government relinquishes use of power, we are also ready to stop our actions and hold talks with the government". He also says that the Taliban will help capture the "foreigners" after the Pakistan army has gone home.

After threatening Pakistan from the Tribal Areas down to Karachi and causing hundreds of people to die in suicide-bombings, this is hardly credible. In fact it sounds tongue-in-cheek to derail the debate going on in the parliament in Islamabad. What if the Pakistan Army told him: "relinquish arms and separate the terrorists from the peaceful population before we can talk peace", what would be his reply? As things stand now, Maulvi Umar is probably buying time for the next onslaught and is mocking the lack of unity in the national politics of the country. *

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