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Saturday, 1 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 01 Nov

Lt-Col brought to Mumbai for questioning
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, October 31
Lt-Col Shrikant Purohit, based in Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh, was today brought to Mumbai for questioning by the Anti-Terror Squad in connection with the Malegaon blasts last month.

Investigators probing the blast zeroed in on Purohit after questioning other suspects who have been picked up so far. The Army officer is suspected to have diverted some RDX explosives from the Jabalpur ordnance factory to the bomb makers who set off the blasts in Malegaon. The police is also probing if the suspects were involved in carrying out blasts in other places.

Lt-Col Purohit was brought to Mumbai along with two other Army officers who will sit during his interrogation. Army headquarters have indicated that Purohit may be discharged from service if preliminary evidence was found against him. Purohit is so far the highest ranking Army officer to be questioned in connection with a terrorist plot so far in the country.

Apart from a sadhvi, Pragya Singh Thakur, investigators have arrested a retired Major, Ramesh Upadhyay, his associate Sameer Kulkarni and two others. All of them are linked to Abhinav Bharat, an organisation originally started by controversial freedom fighter Veer Savarkar. The body is now headed by Himani Savarkar, niece of Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi.

Savarkar has given a clean chit to those arrested so far. However, investigators are now probing other office-bearers of the Abhinav Bharat as well, sources said.

According to ATS officials, Lt-Col Purohit was acquainted with Upadhyay and also took classes at Bhonsala Military School, which has links with Hindu right-wing organisations. Reports say such an act by a serving Colonel violates service rules and the Army may take action against him even if he is cleared of charges in the terrorist conspiracy case.

Pak finger at RAW
Allegations are utter nonsense
by Sushant Sareen

IF the most inveterate haters and baiters of India in Pakistan are to be believed then India’s external intelligence agency, RAW, has pulled off a coup that few in India or rest of the world are even aware of. Apparently, RAW is not only directing, financing, training and equipping the Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)-led Islamist insurgency inside Pakistan, it has also managed to recruit luminaries of the TTP like Baitullah Mehsud, Mullah Fazlullah and Maulvi Faqir Mohammad to destabilise Pakistan.

But the most remarkable achievement of RAW is that despite knowing that the TTP is working at India’s behest, the Jamaat Islami (JI) - in particular its chief Qazi Husain Ahmad - and other Islamist political organisations are neither willing to condemn these “Indian agents” by name nor support the war being waged by the Pakistan Army against these Indian-sponsored Islamist insurgents. On the contrary, by demanding a cessation of hostilities against the insurgents and pleading for a dialogue and negotiated settlement with these Indian-sponsored guerrillas and saboteurs, Pakistan’s Islamist politicians and jihadist ex-servicemen are wittingly becoming agents of RAW themselves.

Clearly, allegations of Indian involvement in the Islamist insurgency are utter nonsense. To the extent that Pakistani state agencies point a finger at India simply to build up public opinion against the insurgents, it is understandable. But when political Islamists in Pakistan blame India for acts of terrorism by the Taliban, it flies in the face of all reason, logic, rationality, or even common sense. Subscribing to conspiracy theories is an obsessive compulsive disorder that most right-wing and radical parties in Pakistan suffer. And these days the neurosis has scaled new highs.

A classic case is that of the JI chief Qazi Husain Ahmed who first says that Indian and US meddling is destabilising Pakistan and then in the same breath says the military operation against the insurgents is not in Pakistan’s national interest.

Not that this is something new. Some years back when sectarian violence wrecked Balochistan, the immediate reaction after every incident was to blame India for the violence. Subsequent investigations invariably revealed the involvement of Pakistan-based sectarian mafias like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, which were anything but proxies of RAW.

Under normal circumstances it would be easy to dismiss the canard being spread against India as the raving and ranting of jaundiced minds. Unfortunately, after having worked themselves into a psychosis in which they see enemies even where none exist, many Pakistanis are increasingly lending credence to these ridiculous allegations. The unpalatable truth, however, is that Pakistan is really paying the price for its policy of using the jihadists as instruments of foreign policy.

Undoubtedly, many people in India think that Pakistan is getting just desserts for its policy of exporting jihad. But the last thing that India would like to see is a severely destabilised Pakistan, much less a Talibanised Pakistan. If anything, India would be more than happy to see the Pakistan army slay the demons and monsters it created for use against India. But perhaps this is the precisely the reason why the political Islamists oppose any army action against the insurgents.

Therefore, rather than India, it is the self-appointed guardians of Pakistan’s Islamist ideology who are doing everything possible to ruin their country by supporting the culture of religious militancy that has been assiduously built up over nearly three decades.

The overt and covert defenders and supporters of the Taliban in Pakistan talk with forked tongues when they say that they are opposed to the bombing of military and government installations, barber and music shops, and civilian targets like the Marriott Hotel. Invariably, the condemnation is qualified by saying that there’s no evidence that it is really the Taliban who are behind these actions. After all, they argue quite fallaciously, no Muslim can ever commit such heinous crimes.

Even after the Taliban claim responsibility for acts of terrorism, their defenders in the media raise doubts by asking how anyone can be sure that it was actually the Taliban who claimed responsibility! The most exacting standards of proof are demanded against Islamists, but the foreign hand theory or wild allegations against the Pakistan army are gobbled up unquestioningly.

To say that the funds and armaments for the militants are being supplied by India is nothing but a denial of reality. Pakistan’s involvement in dirty wars in the region has spawned a flourishing market for arms and drugs in the country. There is no dearth of weapons inside Pakistan. The funding comes partly from the drugs trade, partly from charities and partly from crimes like kidnapping, extortion and dacoity and runs into billions of rupees. All this is well documented in the Pakistani press, which has also reported that former military officials have joined ranks with the insurgents and are directing their war effort against the Pakistan army.

Interestingly, the apologists for Taliban have never satisfactorily answered questions regarding the source of funds, weapons and sophisticated tactics and training of terrorist organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkatul Jihad Islami. Whenever the Lashkar-Taiba chief, Hafiz Saeed, was asked his source of weapons, he would glibly answer that all their weapons were sourced from inside India. If this was true in the case of India, then why is the same not true for Pakistan which has been awash with assault weapons of all types?

On the issue of border crossings, Pakistan argues that if, despite all the measures that it has taken, infiltration still takes place then the ISAF forces are free to use all means at their disposal to tackle this problem on their side of the border. But then how come the same logic does not apply to the movement of militants into Pakistan from Afghanistan?

Perhaps the most disingenuous argument made by the Taliban apologists in Pakistan is that there was no problem in the insurgency affected areas before 9/11, the suicide attacks are a reaction to the pro-American policies of the Pakistan government and that the threat of talibanisation is a fiction created to justify the military operation against the Islamists. This is akin to a chain-smoker saying that he has been a smoker for two decades and didn’t have lung cancer for so many years; so how come he has got it now!

Like cancer, the symptoms of radicalism were there for all to see. But because no clinical examination was done to confirm the disease, it was assumed that it was not present. Had the problem been acknowledged in the early stages, perhaps it would not have spread as much as it has today. Unfortunately, or fortunately, 9/11 and the events that followed made the Pakistani establishment aware of the cancer of religious extremism that was spreading through its body politic and threatened to consume it.

The military operation is the surgery that Pakistan desperately needs to get rid of the cancer of radicalism and religious extremism. Of course, once the infected mass of radicalism is removed, Pakistan will need chemotherapy and perhaps some radiation to remove all remnants of the disease. The convulsions and pain that the country will undergo is part of the healing Pakistan needs before it is able to confidently walk hand in hand with the international community. But if Pakistan does not undergo this treatment, it is certain that the state of Pakistan, as the world knows it, will die.

India may help Pakistan get a bailout

1 Nov 2008, 0340 hrs IST, Indrani Bagchi, TNN

NEW DELHI: As Pakistan heads to the IMF for an emergency bailout or risk financial meltdown, what are the implications for India?

Pakistan's negotiators, led by Shaukat Tareen, completed one round of talks with the IMF in Dubai this week. It will see Pakistan making a formal request for help which should be wrapped up by the IMF by November 15 — when the G-20 meets in Washington to get a grip on the global financial crisis and two days before an 8-nation Friends of Pakistan meet in Abu Dhabi to help Pakistan tide over the present crisis.

Pakistan's financial situation is not enviable. Its foreign exchange reserves plunged to less than $7 billion in the last week, down by more than $400 million the previous week. Forex reserves with State Bank of Pakistan were $3.71 billion, down by over $320 million from last week. The country estimates it needs up to $15 billion from foreign lenders to cover its current financing needs. The Asian Development Bank released $500 million in the beginning of October, but that hasn't helped much.

The real problem is not that Pakistan's economy is tanking — in the wake of the global financial crisis, there are others headed that way. It's a couple of things: first, that Pakistan's best friends, China, Saudi Arabia and US, have failed to fulfil 'Plan A', and it's this lack of confidence by friends that is eroding further confidence from the country.

Pakistan is understandably reluctant to go to the IMF. The global financing body, after a few years in the shade, is suddenly enjoying a resurrection, but its conditions are as unpalatable now as they were in the late 90s, as bitter memories of Korea and Thailand will testify.

Certainly Pakistan has already been asked to cut defence expenditure. Reports from Pakistan say the IMF has asked the government to cut expenditure, further depreciate the rupee and raise taxes. A cut in defence expenditure (in 2008 Pakistan spent 3.2% of GDP on defence) would be extremely unpopular with the army which is battered by strongly adverse public sentiment on the one hand and their own Taliban on the other. It prompted Asif Ali Zardari to publicly reject that condition.

Zardari's game is now to work out a package from the IMF that avoids some of the harsher strictures, to give themselves some room. But an IMF package, however lenient, involves some painful decisions, which may be difficult for a precariously positioned civilian government to undertake.

In this Pakistan will receive help, certainly from India, because PM Manmohan Singh is clear that he will, like most other world leaders, support Pakistan's request of a bailout from the IMF. India watches with concern a Pakistan going down the tube, with nuclear weapons and state-sponsored jihadis on the rampage. India's assessments about the present situation centre largely on the security aspects.

Certainly, Pakistan will not take any substantive action to act against terror groups targeting India, citing the financial crisis and how tough steps are difficult.

While India will support Pakistan's bailout plea, India has also suggested that one of the easier ways by Pakistan to lessen the pain within is to open up to more trade with India. That would give a big fillip to its economic recovery plans. It's easier said than done, because financial crises hasn't helped a large part of the Pakistan establishment de-link trade from Kashmir.

Second, India will have to work much more closely with other, more important stakeholders in Pakistan (India is not a member of the FOP grouping). This will include suggesting more trade, less restrictions on an open economy, specially with India.

On the flip side, India worries that a Pakistan, holding the twin nuke-jihad guns to its own head, can essentially get a pass from some essential restructuring of its country — less the economy than its military-terror infrastructure. It's a restructuring of the ISI that is required, say Indian analysts, more than raising interest rates and taxes.

India believes Pakistan will get better-than-expected terms for a bailout, because Pakistan's case is not comparable to say, Ukraine or Hungary. Its Pakistan's position in the war on terror that will tilt the balance, say Indian sources. The world is reluctant to let Pakistan go down the tube, India believes.

Some Indian optimists want India to offer a short-term bailout package to Pakistan in return for a deal on Kashmir. Pakistan is yet to cash $25 million aid that India gave after the 2005 earthquake in PoK. It will take more than a financial crisis to change Pakistan's mind on its national fundamentals

India's growing military power

Barrister Harun Ur Rashid

India is gradually showing signs of military assertiveness as it is becoming an economic power.

India is the second largest populous country (nearly 1.1 billion) in the world and seventh largest in geographical area. It is twenty-three times larger than Bangladesh. There are almost 1,000 people for every square mile of area nationwide, much denser than China. India is likely to overtake China in the 21st century as the world's most populous country.

Under the US-India nuclear deal, it will receive nuclear fuel and technology and will be much more capable to enlarge its nuclear arsenal. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the India's Defense Ministry has earmarked US$ 2 billion annually to build 300 to 400 weapons over the next 5 to 7 years. Currently India has about 50 to 95 nuclear warheads.

Analysts say that there are many reasons for acquiring military power and some of them are described below:

Government officials argue that India's commitments have gradually increased both at home and abroad.

India's buildup has several overlapping motivations. It now trades vigorously with the world, most critically in oil. It has bought oil fields or engaged in exploration in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam and beyond.

A more robust military is also vital for protecting millions of Indian workers in the Gulf, who are from time to time threatened by political volatility. But the most pressing motivation may be the fast-moving Chinese.

"Immediately after independence, true, we had to engage ourselves for developing our country economically, politically because we were exploited under colonial rule for more than 200 years," Pranab Mukherjee, India's External Affairs Minister (a former Defence Minister) said in an interview.

Now, he said, things have changed: "Naturally, a country of this size, a population of this size we will be required to strengthen our security forces, modernize them, update them, upgrade our technology."

"We are ready to play a more responsible role," he added, "but we don't want to impose ourselves on others."

In a speech in India's Parliament this summer, a rising political star, Ruhul Gandhi, M.P, son of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi and an official of the Congress Party spoke of a change in civilian thinking that helps explain the change in military strategy.

"What is important," said Rahul Gandhi,"is that we stop worrying about how the world will impact us, we stop being scared about how the world will impact us, and we step out and worry about how we will impact the world."

Middle-aged Indians remember a time when their country would watch thousands of Indians in jeopardy in a foreign land and know that there was nothing their military could do.

But in 2006, when conflict between Israel and Hezbollah threatened Indian expatriates in Lebanon, four Indian warships happened to be in the Mediterranean. The navy rushed the vessels to Lebanon and brought more than 2,000 people on board, not only Indians, but Sri Lankans, Nepalese and Lebanese eager to escape the fighting.

Two years earlier, when a tsunami throttled Asia, including this country's own southern coast, the Indian Navy dispatched 16,000 troops, 32 warships, 41 planes and a floating hospital for rescue operations, according to news accounts.

Such changes bring pride to many Indians. But some also fear that India may become the kind of swaggering power it has opposed since it became independent from Britain in 1947.

In recent years, while world attention has focused on China's military, India has begun to refashion itself as an armed power with global reach: a power willing and able to dispatch troops thousands of miles from the subcontinent to protect its oil shipments and trade routes, to defend its large expatriate population in the Middle East and to shoulder international peacekeeping duties.

"India sees itself in a different light not looking so much inward and looking at Pakistan, but globally," said William Cohen, a secretary of defense in the Clinton administration who, in his new role as a lobbyist, represents American firms seeking weapons contracts in India. "It's sending a signal that it's going to be a big player."

India is buying armaments that major powers like the United States use to operate far from home: aircraft carriers, giant C-130J transport planes and airborne refueling tankers. Meanwhile, India has helped to build a small air base in Tajikistan that it will share with its host country.

It is modern India's first military outpost on foreign soil. India also appears to be positioning itself as a caretaker and patroller of the Indian Ocean region, which stretches from Africa's coast to Australia's and from the subcontinent southward to Antarctica.

"Ten years from now, India could be a real provider of security to all the ocean islands in the Indian Ocean," said Ashley Tellis, an Indian-born scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington who has also been an adviser to the Bush administration. "It could become a provider of security in the Gulf in collaboration with the U.S. I would think of the same being true with the Central Asian states."

Observers say that Indian military planning is still heavily focused on China and Pakistan, against both of which the country has fought wars. China, whose own military expansion outstrips India's, has not sounded public warnings about India's military modernization but Pakistan is more critical about it.

Pakistani officials "are paying attention to Indian plans to project India outside the South Asian region," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani expert on that country's military.

"There seems to be an emerging long-term competition between India and China for pre-eminence in the region," said Jacqueline Newmyer, President of the Long Term Strategy Group, a research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a security consultant to the United States government. "India is preparing slowly to claim its place as a pre-eminent power, and in the meantime China is working to complicate that for India."

India has worked to close the gap with China by spending heavily on modern arms. Analysts estimate that India could spend as much as $40 billion on military modernization in the next five years (China is spending $90 billion dollars on defense budget). What is most striking is that many of the weapons are designed for operations far from home.

Among the more notable purchases are six IL-78 airborne tankers, which can refuel three jets simultaneously and allow the air force to fly as far as Alaska. Other armaments recently acquired or in the pipeline include naval destroyers, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and the C-130J transport planes that are a staple of long-range conflicts.

India is slowly but steadily maturing into a conventional great power. Times have changed when India which gave the world the idea of Gandhian non-violence and, has long derided the force-projecting ways of the great powers is now showing military muscle to demonstrate that India is “rising” and should be given the role in world affairs commiserating its size, resources and population.

Army will cooperate in Malegaon blasts probe: Antony

Friday, 31 October , 2008, 19:57

New Delhi: Declining to comment on the suspected links of three serving and retired Indian Army personnel with the September 29 terror blasts in Malegaon, Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday said the army would fully cooperate in the investigations.

‘Nothing called Hindu terrorism’

“Already the Maharashtra police and IB (Intelligence Bureau) are investigating the matter. Let us see the result of the investigations. The Army is cooperating in the investigations,” Antony said on the sidelines of the Naval Commanders' Conference here.

"The Army is extending full assistance to the investigating agencies. At this stage, I do not want to make any more comments," Antony added.

Sadhvi to undergo tests in Mumbai

Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) Thursday began quizzing a serving lieutenant colonel for his alleged links to the Malegaon blasts that left six people dead. The ATS has also arrested two retired officers on similar charges.

Antony asks officers to take care of PBORs

New Delhi (PTI): In the wake of a Parliamentary Committee report on the "inhuman" treatment meted out to jawans, Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday asked officers of the Indian Navy to take care of personnel below officer's rank (PBORs) and ensure their human dignity.

"While the government is committed to the welfare of our armed forces, unless senior officers of Navy are sensitised about the condition of PBORs, no force can progress.

The human dignity and individuals have to be respected. The onus is on senior officers to take care of the PBORs," Antony said, addressing the Navy's senior officers' conference here.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence in its report this month on stress management in armed forces had said jawans were getting "inhuman" treatment from officers in the Army, who were using them as Batmans (sahayaks) and recommended that the practice be stopped forthwith.

Antony said PBORs must be provided with best quality of clothing and uniform, even as the Comptroller and Auditor General report this year had rapped the Army for supply low quality clothing to jawans in high-altitude areas.

Referring to Indian Navy's presence in Gulf of Aden, Antony said: "Presence of Indian Navy in Gulf of Aden will help protect our sea-borne trade, instill confidence in our sea-faring community, and will function as deterrent for pirates."

Expressing faith in capabilities of Indian Defence sector shipyards to complete their projects in time, the Defence Minister said: "I have confidence that they will be able to deliver on the contractual timelines."

Decision on Congo in consultation with the UN: Antony

October 31st, 2008 - 7:47 pm ICT by IANS -

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) Concerned over attacks on India’s UN peacekeepers in war-ravaged Congo, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Friday said the matter has been taken up with the United Nations to evolve a mechanism to deal with such incidents.“We have already taken it up with the UN on how to proceed in the future,” Antony told reporters on the sidelines of the annual Naval Commanders’ Conference.

“We are concerned about the latest development there. They are a very serious development,” Antony added.

There have been two separate attacks on India’s UN peacekeepers in the past week, sources in the Army Headquarters here said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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