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Monday, 27 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 27 Oct

Needless row

An honourable recourse by the armed forces to seek just reward for the services they render, through their respective Chiefs, has been turned into an unsavoury controversy (Arundhati Ghose’s article, “Services’ contempt of civil authority is not casual”, Oct 22).

The writer states that “the onus lies in the first place on the three Service Chiefs to clarify their stand”. But they have been at pain to state that the anomalies arising out of the Sixth Pay Commission report have not been redressed. The horrendous repercussions arising from the anomalies have certainly not been grasped, neither by the committee nor the government.

Sadly, the inter se status of a civil servant and armed forces officers is derived from the monthly pay they derive, but not by the nature of service they render. The gravest anomaly relates to this one fundamental issue.

Unfortunately, the intent of an honourable approach by the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, acting within the parametres of the Constitution, has been distorted and made a subject of public debate. Worse, a seasoned diplomat should have gone so overboard as to suggest that the armed forces have abjured their time-honoured apolitical culture.

The Indian armed forces are still the best, the most disciplined body. Let us not deceive them, please.

Lt-Gen BALJIT SINGH (retd), Chandigarh

ITBP to guard plains

New Delhi, October 26
The ITBP, whose primary role is guarding the Sino-Indo frontier at very high altitudes, will now be involved in maintaining law and order in the plains of the country and also go abroad on various peacekeeping missions.

Postings in the plains and missions abroad would reduce the physical hardship borne by soldiers in high-altitude regions, said union home minister Shivraj Patil during interaction with troops of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

“You will not only be serving in the country, but also be posted abroad. This will reduce the physical pain that you undergo during your posting in high altitude. You will also know how big this world is and how people lead their lives,” he said.

The force has raised 20 more battalions and is eyeing at least 15 cities in the country. It has already acquired lands at seven places to set up battalion centres after talks with the respective state governments.

Once these battalion stations are established in the plains, jawans who complete their two-three years of high altitude postings, can be accommodated there. It will also facilitate the ITBP’s presence in areas beyond its operations in order to meet new responsibilities.

“Talks with various state governments are on for the purchase of land. About 75-85 acres of lands are required at each place to establish a base and station a battalion,” director-general of the ITBP force Vikram Srivastava said — PTI

Tamil Tigers accuse Sri Lankan military of shelling hospital

20 hours ago

COLOMBO (AFP) — Separatist Tamil Tigers Sunday accused Sri Lankan troops of shelling a hospital inside rebel-held territory, putting scores of patients at risk.

The report on a pro-Tiger website said at least five artillery shells fell close to the Kilinochchi hospital on Saturday, destroying part of its boundary wall.

"At least 170 patients, including 60 warded inpatients with the staff of the Kilinochchi hospital narrowly escaped Saturday evening an artillery attack launched by the Sri Lanka army," said.

The website, which released pictures it said were of the attack, said the hospital buildings were undamaged and that patients and staff had not been evacuated.

There was no immediate comment from Sri Lanka's defence ministry.

However, the ministry said troops fought pitched battles on Saturday as they moved closer to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) political capital of Kilinochchi.

The ministry did not release details of troops wounded or killed in the battles. The defence ministry last week said it will not release casualty figures because of the "need for operational security."

According to a defence ministry map, government troops are about 10 to 15 kilometres (six to 10 miles) southwest of Kilinochchi.

Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides since the LTTE launched a military campaign in 1972 to carve out a homeland for minority Tamils.

Role of regional players in Afghan imbroglio

Mon, 2008-10-27 05:24

By Asif Haroon Raja

USA having bungled up in Afghanistan is constantly blaming Pakistan since 2005 for the ever growing militancy in Afghanistan. It has somehow got fixed with the misplaced idea that but for continued infiltration from FATA; insurgency in Afghanistan by now would have been controlled. It fails to understand that only 1400 km Afghan border is contiguous to Pakistan and the rest attached with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Iran. Out of 34 provinces only seven are linked with Pakistan. All these countries are playing their role in one way or the other in keeping the Afghan cauldron boiling.


By virtue of its geographic contiguity, Russia has enjoyed influence over Afghan affairs right from the very beginning. After the end of monarchy and take over by Daud in 1974, Soviet influence in Afghan affairs increased manifold. All governments in Kabul were Moscow installed. After physically occupying it in December 1979, USSR pumped in 160,000 troops and structured 100,000 Afghan militia and KHAD. Its heavy influence diminished after its defeat and its nominee Dr Najibullah was ousted from power in 1992. With its military and nuclear strength intact, it gradually came out of its economic crisis and under Valadin Putin regained its economic health due to oil and gas price spiral. Russia has now begun to assert its authority in the world affairs more aggressively.

During the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Russia continued to provide military support to Ahmad Shah Masood and Dostum led Northern Alliance forces. With this background it can be deduced that Russia still retains sufficient pockets of influence in Afghanistan. Apart from selling war munitions to Karzai regime, it must be providing funds, arms and explosives to the Taliban, Hikmatyar and Al-Qaeda through Central Asian states to keep the flames of insurgency burning.

Notwithstanding that USA, the west and India are making strenuous efforts to expand their influence in Central Asian Republics and wean them away from Russia because of economic interests; the ex Soviet Republics are still under the strong influence of Russia. The latter has developed close relations with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and had played a role in closing down American bases in Uzbekistan in 2006. Russian forces Georgian adventure must have dispelled any misperceptions among the Republics about Russia’s assertiveness in the region when its interests get threatened. It must have been quite easy for Russia to funnel in war munitions because of America’s entire focus of attention towards mounting insurgency in southern and eastern Afghanistan and its fixation that all the supplies are coming from Pakistan.

Russia has not forgotten or forgiven USA for its perverse role in the Afghan Jihad in which it suffered a humiliating defeat and got truncated from super power to Russian federation. It also must not have forgotten that supply of stinger missiles to the Mujahideen in 1988 turned the tide against the Soviet forces. It is a great opportunity for Russia to avenge its humiliation by converting American venture in Afghanistan into another Vietnam for America and would be too pleased to see American military might sink into the quagmire of Afghanistan. It is likely that Russia may supply ground to air missiles to the militants at an opportune time to take on the American helicopter and predator threat. Once the aerial edge gets neutralised US-NATO troops would be like sitting ducks for the resurgent Taliban. Russian assistance to the Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a distinct possibility since that is another venue to bleed the Americans. Coming years cannot rule out the possibility of recommencement of cold war between USA and Russia duly aligned with China.


When USA had decided to invade Afghanistan after 9/11, India had offered its services and had strongly recommended that both Afghanistan and Pakistan should be dealt with simultaneously, otherwise no worthwhile results would be achieved. USA however considered it prudent to adopt a piecemeal approach by first pitching one against the other and then deal with its prey one by one. In conjunction with Northern Alliance, CIA and Israel, India wove a web of deceit around Pakistan and is playing a major role in destabilising Pakistan. It has played a key role in colouring the perceptions of US leaders and Karzai against Pakistan to spoil Pak-US and Pak-Afghan relations and is now working hard to create misunderstandings between China and Pakistan and between Iran and Pakistan with a view to isolate Pakistan. India is however maintaining friendly relations both with China and Iran and had a hand in the development of Iranian nuclear program. Nuclear material is still being funnelled into Iran through private sources.

India has succeeded in establishing a strong foothold in Afghanistan after 9/11 and has cultivated deep economic, intelligence, cultural, and educational ties. It is now all set to enhance its military presence so as to assume pivotal position in the affairs of Afghanistan. Induction of 150000 troops would allow yet another corridor for invasion against Pakistan to India. It looks forward to fill the vacuum once US-Nato troops decide to abandon Afghanistan in not too distant future and to ensure that the Taliban do not return to power. Opening up of a land link from Chahbahar would facilitate India’s mercantile goods and military supplies into Afghanistan. It enjoys best of relations with Russia and is still dependent upon Russian armament. Well knowing US-Russia antagonism, it is playing a double role and acting as a conduit to receive and distribute arms and equipment from Russia among the militants in Afghanistan to earn money. It is feverishly engaged in training, motivating, arming and funding militants in Afghanistan and launching them into Pakistan to destabilise it. However, a good portion of Russian arms are being utilised within Afghanistan against US-Nato forces since the Afghans as well as Indian trainers are well versed with them.

India must realise that placement of its security forces in Afghanistan would not be without a price it will have to pay. It must learn lesson from its debacle in Sri Lanka and refrain from adventurism. Should it not concentrate more on putting its own house in order by tackling over fifteen insurgencies on its soil instead of meddling in others affairs?


Iran has its own axe to grind in Afghanistan; it desires continuation of pro-Iran Northern Alliance led regime in Kabul. Growing influence of Pakistan in Afghanistan during and after the Afghan Jihad and later on Pakistan having played a role in the establishment of Taliban rule in Afghanistan which led to growth of very close ties between the two neighbours had been viewed by Iran with concern. Its relations with the Taliban were unfriendly and at one stage it had offensively deployed its forces along Afghan border. It had hosted the entire leadership of Northern Alliance when it was pushed out by the Taliban and was in control of less than 10% territory of Afghanistan in the north. It had allowed Indian military to impart training to Ahmad Shah Masood?s men and was glad to see the demise of Taliban rule at the hands of Americans. Undoubtedly, it is maintaining contacts with the elements it had hosted. These contacts helped in linking Road Zaranj-Dalaran with its port at Chahbahar which has economic and military implications for Pakistan. It will reduce the dependence of landlocked Afghanistan on Pakistan and also help in spreading the influence of Iran in Afghanistan.

Although like India, Iran also does not desire the Taliban to regain power, there are reports that Iran has of late cultivated contacts with the Taliban and is providing material support. Israel had provided military assistance to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war to ensure that none of the rivals win the war. Likewise, Iran too would like USA to remain stuck in the minefields of Afghanistan and Iraq for as long as possible and get enfeebled to an extent that it is unable to mount an offensive against its nuclear sites or destabilise Iran through southern Iraq and Baluchistan. It is keen to buy time to be able to complete its nuclear program. Its intimacy with Russia because of latter’s assistance in development of its missile and nuclear programs is well known and a cause of worry for USA. Both must be working in unison to bring down USA.


Although China has decided to continue with its defensive strategy till 2025 to be able to fill the technological gap, it cannot remain oblivious of US economic interests in Central Asian States and establishment of military bases in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It is fully conscious of American containment policy and conversion of Afghanistan into a strong military base to monitor its activities. It is also mindful of India’s burgeoning military strength and latest Indo-US nuclear deal and America’s efforts to convert India into a bulwark against China. Having gone through the rough experience of Indo-US sponsored riots in Tibet recently; it understands the implications of growth of Indian influence in Afghanistan which allows additional venue to India to keep an eye on China and to possibly exploit Chinese Ughuir Muslims in Xingjian province.

While Pakistan’s hobnobbing with USA doesn’t bother China, strategic partnership of India with USA does bother her. The US effort to make India the permanent member of UNSC and to acquire a central position in the Afghan affairs must not be to its liking. Friendship with Pakistan and development of Gwadar Port help China in breaking the encirclement. Knowing the designs of USA, China would like to befriend India and America to remain bogged down in the swamp of Afghanistan. China may be deriving satisfaction from the fact that USA is its largest debtor and has now further plunged into economic crisis.

Other countries.

In Uzbekistan, there is strong Islamic movement in progress which is linked with the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Uzbeks had taken part in Afghan Jihad and are now fighting the Americans in Afghanistan alongside Taliban. Some are settled in certain parts of FATA and in Swat and are reputed to be ruthless and robust fighters. Muslim fighters from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan too are extending a helping hand to the Taliban in Afghanistan. There is a regular inflow of Al-Qaeda members from Chechnya, Iraq, Far Eastern, African and Arab countries and also from European countries to strengthen the hands of the Taliban. They are bringing in sophisticated weaponry and refined tactics to conduct guerrilla warfare. All these factors put together have increased violence and fatalities of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Us Naivety and flawed policies

US military command in Kabul is under the spell of Indian, Israeli and Northern Alliance advisers and is thoughtlessly ignoring the above noted threats emanating from multiple directions. The trio is anti-Pakistan and hence their efforts to cause maximum harm to Pakistan from behind the US cover. The latter is naively spending all its energies against its ally viewed as the chief suspect and supposed to be harming American interests. It has become so thoroughly brainwashed by its confidantes that instead of appreciating and rewarding Pakistan for all the sacrifices rendered by Pak army it has of late adopted a hostile policy. It refuses to acknowledge the fact that Pakistan has always come to its aid whenever in distress irrespective of the fact that it was constantly ditched by USA after its interests were served.

Even now, losses incurred by Pak army are much larger than any other country taking part in the war on terror. Besides the human losses, the leadership and the army in particular had to bear the stings and arrows from its own people for fighting US war and killing its own people. USA also ignores the fact that without Pakistan’s all out support it could neither occupy Afghanistan with so much ease nor can it hope to win the war at its own. Instead of extending all out support to its principal ally to turn the tide in its favour, USA discourages it and misses no opportunity to deride and denigrate Pakistan. On the contrary, USA has given all the goodies to India which had remained a strategic partner of former Soviet Union till 1991, has befriended China and is playing a double game and failing USA. Its skewed approach reinforces the general impression that USA has immense wealth and power but lacks good sense to appreciate its true friends. It has inadvertently allowed itself to be sucked into the web of the Jews who have their own Zionist agenda to dominate world affairs. Britain and India are also among leading advisers counselling the super power how to harness resources of the Muslim world. This weakness allows the trio space to exploit the sole super power to serve respective interests.

As a consequence to US flawed policy and warped thinking, it is now finding it exceedingly hard to contain insurgency which has spread to almost all parts of Afghanistan including non-Pashtun areas which sooner than later may get converted into a people’s liberation war. One of the principle reasons for chaos is the iniquitous role of six intelligence agencies based in Kabul (CIA, MI-6, RAW, Mossad, German Intelligence, RAM) each having its own agenda. There is no proper mechanism to coordinate and control the working of these agencies. Another reason is lack of coordination between US troops, NATO troops, Afghan army and troops from other countries. Integrated approach is lacking in Afghanistan. Lure of big money through drug trade is yet another motive for all the forces to get distracted from adopting a mission oriented focussed approach. Sidelining of the Sunni Pakhtuns from power that are predominant in whole of the country less northern Afghanistan and depending upon untrustworthy, inefficient and corrupt warlords and non-Pashtun Northern Alliance elements, and putting faith in unpopular Karzai were blunders for which USA is paying a price. The US stooge Karzai heads unrepresentative, inefficient, corrupt regime.

Instead of carrying out a critical appraisal of threat perception at the global level, Bush and even the presidential hopefuls are trying to win the election race by making Pakistan the scapegoat and antagonistically stating that it will be slaughtered to make America safe. It is high time USA should admit its own fault lines and put its act together rather than blaming others for its failures.

US dependence on India

USA has been instrumental in paving ground for expansion and consolidation of Indian influence in Afghanistan because of mutuality of interests. It has now given a green signal for gradual induction of 150000 Indian troops in Afghanistan by December 2009. USA must know the track record of Indian military on which it has decided to lean on heavily in South Asia. India succeeded in cutting Pakistan to size and creating Bangladesh in the hope of making the two countries client states of India. Contrary to its expectations, the two countries have emerged as strong Islamic states thereby posing a threat to India from either flank. India’s policy of sabotage and subversion in Bangladesh and Pakistan has inflamed anti-Indian sentiments in both the Muslim countries and drawn them closer to each other and both view India as common enemy.

India was the leading ally of former USSR; it had all along supported USSR occupation of Afghanistan and had condemned American interventionist policies. It’s RAW in conjunction with KGB and KHAD played a key role to destabilise Pakistan through sabotage and subversion but failed to save Soviet forces from getting defeated. Over 100,000 Indian forces had uninvitingly barged into Sri Lanka in 1987 as peacekeepers to defuse ethnic war. After bloodying their nose, they had to beat a hasty retreat after two-year fighting with the LTTE with its prestige rolled in the dust.

Over seven lacs Indian security forces are pitched against few thousand Kashmiri freedom fighters since 1989 but have miserably failed to extinguish the flaming torch of liberty lit by the Kashmiri Mujahideen. Till recent, India was throwing the entire blame on Pakistan for supporting the freedom struggle inside occupied Kashmir. This so-called grouse of theirs was removed by Gen Musharraf by reining in all Jihadi forces in Pakistan and letting India fence the entire length of Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. Indian civilian and military leaders confirmed several times that cross LoC movement from Azad Kashmir had ceased. The Kashmiris have once again surged with full force and this time the movement is unarmed which has unnerved Indian leaders.

Indian security forces are fighting series of separatist movements and insurgencies in various Indian states, some as old as over five decades and none has been quelled despite using excessive force and applying draconian laws. India has so far played no active role in war on terror except for covert operations and that too against Pakistan which is US ally in this war. Yet it wants to capture central role for itself in Afghanistan. One fails to comprehend why did USA rope in Nato when Indian forces were available next door? Why could Pakistan be assigned the role which USA intends to hand over to India? Although placement of foreign forces in Afghanistan is least desirable, US should have known that Pak troops as peacekeepers may be acceptable to the Pashtun Afghans but they would certainly not welcome Indian troops on their soil.

End piece food for thought

Having been repeatedly betrayed by USA, it is for certain that Pakistan would think hundred times before falling into the trap of USA once it lands itself into another soup. It will surely miss the crucial support of Pakistan that had always staked its security to bailout untrustworthy USA. God forbid if this so-called most dangerous country in the world gets destabilised because of machinations of our so-called friends, would it sink alone or take the entire region along with it? I leave this to the good judgement of think tanks in USA.

Pakistan having suffered a great deal on account of putting all its eggs in the American basket and getting repeatedly ditched, isn’t it high time for our leaders to come out of the American spell and carve out a more realistic and balanced foreign policy. China, Russia and Iran provide some space for refurbishing our US centric policy.

Asif Haroon Raja is Rawalpindi based defence and political analyst and contributes articles to several national and foreign newspapers and exclusively for Asian Tribune.

- Asian Tribune -

Army in FATA on govt’s order: Gilani
World community has committed to help Pakistan
Resolution of power crisis to take time

Sharafat Kazmi

Islamabad—Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Sunday said the army is undertaking operation in FATA on the directive of the government and the troops will be withdrawn when directed by the government.

He further said that army action is not the solution of all problems and government took its help to handle troubled situation of tribal areas.

Addressing a press conference here, the Prime Minister said army is not the solution of any problems and its help is being taken to tackle an emergency situation.

The military went to the tribal areas on the request of the government, he said.

Gilani said the international community recognises Pakistan’s vital role against the threat of terrorism and earnestly wants to work with it in countering its security and economic challenges. He said more than 40 leaders at the ASEM summit held detailed discussions on the global financial crisis and how to aid countries facing economic turmoil. The leaders from Europe and Asia resolved to utilise the international financial institutions to avert the financial meltdown, Gilani said. He said more than 40 leaders at the ASEM summit held detailed discussions on the global financial crisis and how to aid countries facing economic turmoil.

The leaders from Europe and Asia resolved to utilise the international financial institutions to avert the financial meltdown, Gilani said.

On the sidelines of the summit, the Prime Minister held meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Italian Prime Minister Salvio Berlusconi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Czech Vice Prime Minister, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Head Jia Qingling and a number of other leaders.

“They were appreciative of Pakistan’s stand on terrorism and extremism,” he said adding, “my meetings with leadership of these countries made them more aware of the situation,” he explained.

Pakistan along with India were made members of ASEM from the Asian continent.

Gilani said Pakistan’s policy is to improve ties with its neighbours and he and Dr. Manmohan Singh of India pledged to move on the path of improved bilateral relations.

The Italian Prime Minister assured of his country’s support and cooperation to Pakistan against terrorism. Italy which will be the next President of G-8 is also among the countries forming “Friends of Pakistan”.

Gilani termed his meetings during ASEM fruitful and productive and said Italy agreed to assist Pakistan in archaeology tourism and agriculture.

He dispelled the impression that “Friends of Pakistan” group will be of not much help to Pakistan.

The United States Congress is working on a bill to earmark substantial economic assistance for Pakistan spread over years, he reminded.

He said Pakistan and China are cooperating with each other in the fields of defence, economic, agriculture, health and culture for the benefit of the two people.

He said, important steps are being taken to promote people to people contacts for enhancing cooperation in various sectors. He said that China is time tested friend of Pakistan and once again the leadership of China assured him all assistance for the quick recovery from economic and energy crisis. He said that during his talks with Chinese leadership we have discussed various issues of mutual concern, bilateral relations and regional and international issues.

The Prime Minister said during his stay in China he had useful meetings with the Chancellor of Germany and Prime Ministers of India and Italy and exchanged views on bilateral relations and cooperation in various sectors.

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said that Italian Prime Minister assured him that he will raise Pakistan ‘s concerns in G-8 meeting to address these problems.

Replying a question he said the parliament has unanimously adopted a resolution on national security and to deal with the challenges of terrorism which is unprecedented move in the history of Pakistan .

Mr. Gilani appreciated that all the political parties representing in the parliament have unanimously adopted the Resolution. He said he apprised the delegates of the all the forty three countries taking part in the Asia Europe Meeting Summit in Beijing about the unanimous resolution and Pakistan ‘s stand on the war on terror, and they commended this resolution.

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said the resolution was adopted after threadbare debate by the parliamentarians of the two Houses in in-camera sessions. He said the resolution was prepared by the special parliamentary committee representing all parties in the Parliament after two days hectic deliberations to make it a national thinking.

Replying a question for formation of a monitoring committee of the Parliament for the implementation of the Resolution the Prime Minister said it will be formed by the Speaker National Assembly as we consider the Parliament the supreme power of the people.

To another question Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said that military is not the solution to bring peace in FATA but the government is working on three-pronged strategy to deal with terrorism in the area. He said the strategy include dialogue, development and deterrence. He said military is being used in FATA in emergency.

He said the government is working to strengthen the civilian law enforcing agencies so that they would be able to maintain law and order affectively in the country. He said the international community also supported it and offered capacity building of our civilian law enforcing agencies.

He said we are successfully working to delink the militants from the tribes and the local tribal men are taking action against these elements.

Responding to a question regarding drone attacks from across the border the Prime Minister condemned these attacks and said these attacks are weakening our efforts to curb the menace of terrorism. He said that he also raised the matter in ASUM Summit and they supported our stance in this regard and expressed solidarity with Pakistan.

Replying a question regarding export of manpower to Saudi Arabia , Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said that he had meeting with Saudi Ambassador and discussed the issue with him. He said President Asif Ali Zardari also undertaking visit to Saudi Arabia from 4th of next month and will have meetings with Saudi leadership to exchange views for enhancing cooperation in economic and trade sectors.

About loadshedding he said that the government is taking measures on war footing to overcome the crisis.

He said China has assured to provide assistance for setting up of power generating projects in Pakistan .

He said all countries hit by the global financial crises will need help of the IMF and other financial institutions. Pakistan has also been affected but it is premature for the country to seek foreign assistance to overcome the problem.

Tejas to be in IAF by 2011, says Antony

BANGALORE: The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA-Tejas) project will be continued and will be inducted into the India Air Force, fully certified and weaponised, by 2011. The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH-Dhruv) will be inducted into the armed forces for various applications in its weaponised form, according to Defence Minister A.K. Antony here on Saturday.

Briefing the press after reviewing the performance of the indigenously produced aircraft at the HAL airport, Mr. Antony said: “We should put behind all apprehensions about the LCA project and look forward to the fruition of the project. The LCA is our country’s own fighter aircraft which is highly evolved. The government has already ordered one squadron of 20 aircraft for induction in 2011 and the government has plans to order seven more squadrons in the future.”

He said: “There is no need for any debate on the engines for the LCA as the present engine is doing just fine but in future, the capabilities of the engine will be upgraded as and when better options comes through.” He said the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Hindustan Aeronautics were collaborating their efforts in developing the engine further.

He said he had heard from the critics that the LCA and the India’s Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun would not make it to the defence forces but he said both were now nearing certification stage. “I too had some apprehensions, but after knowing the facts I can confidently tell that both LCA and MBT can find their due place in the armed forces.”

Mr. Antony said that for the last 17 years the armed forces could not get some vital electronic gadgets. But now the government was making efforts to provide the armed forces the much needed electronic gadgetry, including the radars and other defence equipment. “We did lag behind in modernising the military electronics but things are now moving faster and the government is committed to meeting the demands of the armed forces in terms of modern equipment.”

Asked about the weaponsiation of the ALH – Dhruv, Mr. Antony said the helicopters were already in action in difficult terrains in Leh region. The fully weaponised variant would be inducted into the armed forces in 2010; the process of certification of the ALH was in the process, he aded.

Mr. Antony said the IJT would replace the ageing fleet of Kirans for training the pilots. He said the Hawks would also have a phased induction into the force.

Responding to queries, Mr. Antony said the Defence Ministry was ready to give any help from the armed forces to make the elections in the Jammu Kashmir a smooth affair.

“Goodwill visit”

He said his recent visit to the United States was just a goodwill visit in reciprocation to the visit of the defence secretary of that country. The U.S. was going to be a “larger partner” of India in future, he added.

Mr. Antony later reviewed the various units of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and paid a special visit to the helicopter development unit. Earlier, he witnessed an air display by different aircraft, including the ALH, the transport plane Saras, the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) and the Hawk. Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major, HAL Chairman Ashok Baweja were present.

IMF not pressing for defence cuts

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Oct 25: The International Monetary Fund never asked Pakistan to cut military spending by a third, although it has urged the country to take a number of painful economic measures, a senior Pakistani diplomat told Dawn on Saturday.

Intensive Pakistan-IMF consultations have been taking place in Dubai since Tuesday, for a bailout plan to avert possible debt default.

Both sides are believed to have agreed in principle on the need for help that was decided in their meetings in Washington in September.

If the talks succeed, the Fund’s board of governors, which meets in Washington on Nov 7, can approve a loan of about $9.6 billion from the IMF over three years at a six per cent interest rate.

Islamabad immediately needs $4 billion to $5 billion to stabilise the economy and enhance confidence in its financial system.

“There have been suggestions of general reductions in expenses but not a word about the military,” said the Pakistani diplomat who is aware of the ongoing negotiations between Pakistan and the IMF to bailout the country from a possible economic collapse.

“These are wrong speculative stories,” said the diplomat when asked to comment on reports published in a section of the press that the IMF had asked Pakistan to cut military spending by a third.

The diplomat pointed out that same stories also claim that the IMF and other donors wanted to help Pakistan because they thought the country had a key role to play in the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

“How can you fight the militants without a strong army?” the diplomat asked.

“The United States and other allies want Pakistan to play a greater role in this war and they know that this cannot be done by downsizing the army.”

The diplomat, however, acknowledged that the US wanted Pakistan to “refocus its military strategy on fighting the militants” instead of devoting most of its resources on confronting India.He said that the IMF and Pakistan were discussing various proposals to reduce expenses but nothing had been finalised yet.

“The measures being discussed include reducing the trade gap, readjusting balance of payment and other similar steps needed to strengthen the economy,” he said.

Apparently, the IMF is willing to help Pakistan on the condition that it will have a major say in the country’s economic policies.

The conditions include allowing six IMF and two World Bank directors to oversee preparations for the country’s next budget. They would also have a say in the affairs of the State Bank of Pakistan as well.

IMF officials will also monitor tax collection at the provincial level.

Among the reforms suggested by the IMF is a proposal to reduce the number of pensionable government jobs by almost half.

Pakistan is awaiting outcome of the ‘Friends of Pakistan’ conference in Abu Dhabi next month and the ongoing negotiations with international financial institutions, before accepting IMF’s conditions. But vibes coming from these sources for urgent cash of about $4 billion it needs, are far from optimistic.

Earlier this week, some US media outlets quoted a senior US State Department official as saying that the Pakistanis were not happy with IMF’s conditions but they were forced to go to the Fund because other donors were not willing to help.

The US media reported on Saturday that President Asif Ali Zardari plans to visit Saudi Arabia early next month to urge the kingdom to rescue Pakistan.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, China and the United States refused to provide large cash advances to Pakistan before the country undertakes the much-needed economic reforms.

Pakistan is now rated among the worst credit risks in the world, ahead of only the Indian Ocean Seychelles islands in the Standard & Poor’s index.

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