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Monday, 10 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 10 Nov

Dismissing the batman

9 Nov 2008, 0345 hrs IST, Atul Sethi, TNN

Lance Naik Om Prakash* is a soldier in the Indian Army. His profile is that of a combatant, but he performs many other duties in his role as sahayak (batman) to the officer he's assigned. In addition to assisting his officer, maintaining his uniform and military kit and acting as his "buddy" in times of combat, Om Prakash says he also does domestic chores such as chopping vegetables, cooking, dusting, walking the dog and taking the children to school.

This might end soon if the defence ministry accepts recommendations from the standing parliamentary committee on defence. Last week, the committee suggested the Indian Army abolish the sahayak system. In the report it tabled in Parliament, it pointed out that "jawans are recruited for serving the nation and not to serve the family members of officers in household work, which is demeaning and humiliating."

Veteran MP Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, who headed the committee, says the misuse of the sahayak system by some officers has resulted in low morale in Army ranks. "We have recommended that this practice be stopped with immediate effect, as its misuse is contributing to emotional distress among the jawans," he says.

In fact, calls for the 1.1-million strong Indian Army to end the sahayak system are not new. A few months ago, defence minister A K Antony, asked senior officers to take a call on the issue. Since then, there has been a clamour to end a system that has been referred to as "an anachronism" and "a feudal practice", which has no place in a modern army.

Incidentally, most armies around the world have done away with the practice. The British Army, for instance, phased out the batman after WWII. And so has the Pakistani Army, recently.

Defence analyst and retired Major General Dipankar Banerjee agrees there is a case for the practice to be abolished, but says it should be applied to all government services. "Why single out the Army? A similar number of operatives function as domestic servants in paramilitary forces, as well as civil services. It should be stopped there too."

Many Army officers agree. "Misuse of manpower should be addressed across the board in every government service and not just in the Army," says a senior infantry officer. He recalls being the guest of a Superintendent of Police, whose home was fully staffed with policemen. "I was amazed to see that everybody in his house, right from the gardener to the cook to the person who was serving us, was a policeman. Needless to say, when the SP's wife went shopping, there was another posse of policemen accompanying her, and making other shoppers' lives miserable by pointing their guns at them so that memsahib could shop in peace."

Adds another serving Army officer, "In our country, unfortunately, we have a tendency to misuse any facility that's provided by the government. However, because of a few black sheep, we should not question the efficacy of the sahayak system itself. The bond between an officer and his sahayak is a unique one. There is friendship, camaraderie, respect and even an emotional connect. Almost 99% of officers genuinely care for their sahayaks," he adds.

So, is there a case for the sahayak to stay on? "There is justification in continuing it as long as it provides support to officers in the field, where sahayaks have operational responsibility. However, there's no justification for continuing it in peace stations," says Banerjee.

This might make sense, but it could be counter-productive. Explains an officer's wife, "Many sahayaks have a strong personal relationship with their officer's families and are often quite attached to his children. They look upon his family as their own extended family and share their problems, which they couldn't have otherwise, given the strong hierarchical structure in the Army. In fact, for many soldiers, it's a coveted posting, since it gives them a chance to stay with their own families, which they can't do in a field station."

Some experts believe that the solution to the problem may lie somewhere in the middle. This could include engaging civilians to help officers or making it optional for soldiers to serve as sahayaks. Whatever it is, it has to be done fast because the Army is already facing a manpower shortage and morale is down, especially after the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. Spiralling numbers of suicide and fratricide by soldiers also point to a growing sense of frustration. In this context, solving the sahayak issue in a way that boosts the morale of officers and soldiers, is a challenge the Army will have to combat soon.

* Name changed on request

ATS says Lt Col was fundraiser

Investigators trying to find if he had siphoned off Military Intelligence money

Nikhil S Dixit. Mumbai

Investigators have found that Abhinav Bharat, suspected Hindu terror network behind the September 29 Malegaon blast, had raised Rs60 lakh for its activities over the last three years and Lt Col Prasad Purohit had arranged most of it. They are now trying to ascertain if Purohit, who has been arrested, had siphoned off money from the funds sanctioned for secret activities of the Military Intelligence (MI).
Purohit was posted in the MI before being transferred to the army training college at Pachmari in Madhya Pradesh.
According to officials of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) who are investigating the case, they have so far found that the group had raised Rs60 lakh but the actual figure could be much more.
"Investigations reveal that most of the money was allegedly arranged by arrested lieutenant colonel Prasad Purohit," a senior ATS officer said.
"Since Purohit was working with the MI office in Pune, we are trying to find out if any of the MI money was diverted to the activities of Abhinav Bharat," he said.
The officer said the ATS was also investigating how money was transferred from Purohit's bank account to Ajay Rahirkar and others to carry out the Malegaon blast and if he had access to weapons or explosives during any of his postings in the Army.
Interrogation of the suspects has revealed that Purohit had attended secret meetings of Abhinav Bharat in Jabalpur and Bhopal. "The purpose of these meetings is being probed," the officer said.
Purohit is among the eight persons arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast. The other are Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shivnarayan Singh Kalsangra, Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu, major (retd) Ramesh Shivji Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Rakesh Dattaram Dhavde and Ajay Rahirkar.

India, Qatar sign defence, security pacts
Girja Shankar Kaura writes from Doha/PTI

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here this evening on the second leg of his three-day visit to the Gulf states of Sultanate of Oman and Emirate of Qatar, where he signed two agreements on defence and security.

The defence cooperation agreement includes issues of maritime security, while the pact on security and law enforcement will cover issues like common threat perceptions and sharing of data. Singh met Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al Thani for talks on enhancing trade, defence and energy cooperation.

Singh will tomorrow call on Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani.

In Doha, the Prime Minister was received by Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs Ahmad Bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud and the council of ministers. He was also presented a guard of honour.

The visit — first by an Indian head of government — follows a successful first leg to Oman, where the two countries decided to set up a committee to eliminate delays in the implementation of decisions in the economic sphere. Deputy chairman of the planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia will be heading the committee on the Indian side while the economic adviser to the Sultan of Oman will head the Oman side.

The committee will also have members from the private sector and will concentrate on operationalising the Indo-Oman Joint Investment Fund, which was created yesterday with a seed money of $100 million, with India and Oman jointly contributing $50 million each. The fund is expected to go up to $1.5 billion.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister rounded off his visit to Oman with an audience with the Sultan of Oman His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

The Prime Minister will be joined on the Qatar-leg of the visit by petroleum minister Murli Deora.

20 die in N-sub gas leak
Russian vessel was to be leased to India
Vinay Shukla

Moscow, November 9
In Russia's worst naval accident in nearly a decade, at least 20 people, including three sailors, were killed and 21 injured in a gas leakage during a sea trial of a brand-new nuclear-powered Nerpa submarine that was to be leased to India later this year.

"Autopsy results confirm that the people died as a result of inhaling freon gas released when the fire-extinguishing system was activated in one of the submarine's compartments last night," a spokesman for the federal probe panel said.

Freon is a cooling agent used in automatic fire-extinguishing systems. Due to accidental activation, the compartment was "hermetically" sealed and technicians inside it were suffocated, while in the usual condition the crew uses individual gas masks, Vesti channel reported.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a high-level probe into the accident aboard ‘K-152 Nerpa’, the worst since the 2000 Kursk nuclear submarine mishap.

Naval spokesman Capt Igor Dygalo said there was no radiation leak. The sub has since returned to the base from the Pacific Ocean, with its reactor working in the normal mode.

There were 208 people — 81 of them servicemen — on board the vessel at the time of the accident.

“According to preliminary information, the incident killed 20 people — three sailors and 17 civilian technicians who were aboard the submarine while 21 received injuries of various gravity,” spokesman for the investigation Vladimir Markin said.

NTV channel reported that the nuclear submarine was to be commissioned later this year and an Indian crew was expected to arrive to take the charge of the vessel.

Christened as ‘INS Chakra’, the submarine was to be leased to India for ten years.

Capt Dygalo said the vessel has not been damaged. Further tests to be conducted on it have since been cancelled on the order of the Navy commander-in-chief.

Medvedev has instructed the Defence Ministry to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the accident and provide the necessary assistance to the victims’ families.

The incident is Russia’s worst naval accident since 2000 when another nuclear submarine, Kursk, along with the 118 -member crew, had sank in the Barents Sea after an explosion.

Later in August 2003, nine of the ten sailors on board a K-159 submarine died when it sank in the Barents Sea. — PTI

Arunachal inseparable, asserts Pranab

Tawang, November 9
Rebuffing China’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh, India today asserted that the north eastern state is its integral part and ruled out ceding any of its part.

“China is often making claims on Arunachal Pradesh, but Arunachal Pradesh has a special place in our heart,” external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, who visited the 400-year-old Buddhist monastery here in this border town, the second in importance to the one at Lhasa, Tibet, said.

“People of Arunachal Pradesh regularly elect two representatives to the Lok Sabha and there is an elected state assembly carrying out the responsibility of administration like any of other 27 states. The question of parting company of Arunachal or any of its part does not arise,” he said amidst defeaning cheers.

Mukherjee’s rejection of the Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh follows recent declaration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a visit to the state that Arunachal was ‘our land of rising sun’.

Addressing as chief guest at the 8th Buddha Mahotsava, Mukherjee said “Both India and China are seeking a peaceful solution to the border dispute. The special representatives of the Prime Ministers of both India and China have completed 12 rounds of talks. There are problems in identification of land between the two countries.” — PTI

Was Purohit Part of a Bigger Network?

New Delhi
Although Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit is the first serving officer of the Indian Army to be arrested in connection with a terror attack, investigators are widening their probe to determine whether more uniformed personnel are part of a bigger network to have infiltrated the armed forces.

Unwilling to share details of the case, which are at a "sensitive" stage, investigating officers believe that Purohit may have "indoctrinated" other personnel with his political views and could not have worked single-handedly in planning such an attack.

"The arrest of Purohit is already a big blow to the army. After the current round of arrests of Hindu radicals linked to the army, top generals are just hoping this is a one-off case that does not prise open another can of worms," said a senior official who is monitoring the case.

Purohit, whom the Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) describes as the mastermind of the Malegaon blast that killed five people in September, was one of the founder members of the right wing Hindu radical outfit Abhinav Bharat.

Sleuths from the ATS are also examining if Purohit was involved in an April 2006 incident in Nanded in Maharashtra, about 350 km from Malegaon, where a powerful bomb went off in the home of a retired Public Works Department (PWD) executive engineer Laxman Gundayya Rajkondwar killing two people.

According to a member of the investigation team overseeing the probe, interrogation of Purohit has been extensive and investigators were going through his telephone calls and correspondence with a fine toothcomb.

"That he was keen on establishing a home-grown right-wing terror network is certain. We want to know how far it has spread and the people involved," the official said.

Efforts are also on to track down his laptop, which could throw light on the conspiracy behind the Malegaon blast. Another angle being probed is whether money from the funds meant for operational purposes of military intelligence had been allegedly siphoned off.

Military intelligence is investigating whether Purohit had access to weapons or explosives in any of his postings - he was posted at the Army Corps Training College and Centre at Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh when he was first called in for questioning.

As a Maratha Regiment officer, Purohit was posted in Jammu and Kashmir. Later, he was moved to the military intelligence corps due to a medical problem. He was posted in Maharashtra where his role was to liaison with the other security agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau and the state police.

The fact this episode has dented the image of the army, which has till date never been faced a predicament like this was reflected in defence minister, A.K. Antony's remarks on the ongoing probe. The normally reticent Antony admitted that the "matter was serious" and the army was "determined to go to the root of the whole thing".

Purohit is the eighth person to have been picked up by the ATS for alleged involvement with the Malegaon explosion. Malegaon is a Muslim majority town, about 280 km from Mumbai.

The other accused include Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shivnarayan Singh Kalsangram, Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu, Major Ramesh Shivji Upadhyay (retd), Sameer Kulkarni, Rakesh Dattaram Dhavde and Ajay Rahirkar.

The surprise arrests have indicated a change of course for police, who had blamed Muslim activists for a wave of bombings that have killed more than 145 people across the country since May.

US troops kill 14 Afghan militants

Associated Press

Monday, November 10, 2008 (Kabul)

Two Spanish soldiers died when a suicide bomber drove into a convoy in western Afghanistan, while US coalition forces separately killed 14 militants who fired on them, officials said.

The suicide bomber attacked the troops in the western province of Herat, which generally experiences much less violence than southern and eastern provinces.

Carmen Chacon of the Spanish Defense Ministry said six Spanish armored military vehicles were escorting 12 Afghan army trucks yesterday when the suicide bomber rammed his truck into the last vehicle in the convoy.

Two Spanish soldiers were killed and four were wounded, she said. More US and NATO troops have died in Afghanistan this year than in any other year since the 2001 US-led invasion. Militant attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and powerful.

In the east, in Khost province, US coalition forces stopped suspected militants in a vehicle on Sunday, and when they approached the vehicle those inside began firing, said Col Greg Julian, a US military spokesman.

Julian said helicopter gunfire was also used against the attackers and 14 were killed. The province's governor, Arsallah Jamal, said the 14 men were civilian construction workers and were not militants. But Julian insisted that the 14 were militants.

"The main thing is they started firing on these guys (soldiers) after they made the vehicle stop," Julian said. Civilian deaths caused by US and NATO military forces is a hugely sensitive issue in Afghanistan.

This week the US said a joint US-Afghan investigation found that 37 civilians were killed during a battle between US troops and Taliban militants in the village of Wech Baghtu in Kandahar province.

Lt. Col. Purohit:
A Case of Ultra-Patriotism Gone Awry?

By Shyam Pandharipande

He was praised by his neighbors as a soft-spoken and virtuous young man and commended by superiors in the army as a bright and diligent recruit. But Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit's involvement in a homegrown terror conspiracy and dubbed the "mastermind" behind the Malegaon bombing in September has caused untold embarrassment to the Indian Army.

Born in a cultured, middle-class Maharashtrian Brahmin family in Pune and educated in the reputed Abhinav Vidyalaya and Garware College in the same city, Purohit joined the army in order to serve the nation in the best possible manner rather than making a fabulous career, says his spiritual mentor Shaila Dighe.

"Imbued by patriotic spirit and fired by a desire to do something 'extra-ordinary' for the country and the society, Purohit had first thought of joining politics but I goaded him to join the army," Dighe told IANS.

Lt. Col. Jayant Chitale (retired), who headed the services selection board centre in Pune for several years, describes Purohit, the son of a bank officer, as a bright, hard-working student overflowing with patriotic fervour.

"He met me several times after completing his training and I kept getting a very favorable feedback about him all through his stint, particularly the long one in Jammu and Kashmir," Chitale told IANS.

In 2002 Purohit participated in 15 Maratha Light Infantry's counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir and his tenure ended in January 2005 while serving in the Awantipura based intelligence unit of the Military Intelligence Directorate.

"My impression is that Purohit was highly respected by his juniors and also appreciated by his officers because of his outstanding qualities," he said. "Had it not been for his extra-ordinary merit and dedication, the young man would not have risen through the ranks."

Though reticent, Purohit was articulate about his political views and firmly believed that the state was doing little to protect Hindus.

"I can tell you on good authority that several officers are thoroughly disenchanted with the rulers of the country for their lack of political will to sternly deal with terrorism and are itching to do something... Lt. Col. Purohit could be the one who perhaps did it in a manner that he thought right," Chitale said.

It was during his posting in the Army's Deolali Camp near Nashik that Lt. Col. Purohit came in contact with Abhinav Bharat, the radical Hindutva group, set up among others by retired major Ramesh Upadhyay, who is also in the Anti Terrorism Squad's custody for his alleged involvement in the Sep 29 bomb blast.

Apart from giving lectures at the Abhinav Bharat meetings in Nashik and Pune in the last two years, Purohit is believed to have imparted arms training to the group's members and to the activists of the Bajrang Dal, the youth brigade of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

Purohit is suspected to have donned many aliases - Rajendra, Srikant and Pramod, apart from his official name Prasad - during the time he allegedly imparted training in handling arms and explosives to the cadres of the two organizations.

ATS investigators are believed to have information that Purohit also donned the name 'Mithun Chakraborty' when he imparted training to the Abhinav Bharat and Bajrang Dal youth near Sinhagad Fort in Pune in 2006.

Among the cadres obtaining training in making bombs was Himanshu Panse of Nanded, who died in an explosion while attempting to make a bomb.

His friend in whose house the exercise was conducted died in the explosion. The explosives being used were allegedly supplied by Purohit, who had hidden them in a gymnasium in Pune that he regularly visited, the ATS investigators believe.

Indian Army and Hindu Terror?
by Saurav Basu

The ATS allegation that two army officers, including a serving Lt. Colonel apart from a retired major played a major role in the Malegaon blasts seems unbelievable at first glance. This most startling form of dereliction of discipline from what we have perceived as the most disciplined organization of India needs to be evaluated for there is no rebel without a cause.

The mainstream media’s easy equation of Hindu Terrorism with Islamic terror is most mischievously constructed for not only it fails to take into account the global spread of the latter, or the miniscule magnitude of the former but also the essential nature of the former being a reaction to the latter.

Moreover, there is a world of difference between a Madrassa graduate indoctrinated to his fundamentalist worldview taking to terror or even when a hard-line Hindutva activist takes recourse in retaliatory bombings; and when a reasonably upright officer (as interviews from the army brass indicate) in one of the most disciplined organizations commit to the same. The "secularist" claims terror attacks were not infrequent during the NDA regime. True? But then, no army-man took recourse to terror then. But why such aberrations now and why the absence of such Hindu conduct under a supposedly Hindu nationalist NDA government?

And if those army-men are found guilty, is the cause not a direct consequence of the blatant terror appeasing policies of the so called “Secular” parties in their anti-national avarice for minority vote? Whether it is hobnobbing with both convicted and soon to be convicted terrorists, feigning the innocence of terrorist groups, safeguarding the interests of totalitarian separatist Muslims, weeping for Muslims in foreign lands, propping up commission for Muslims as constitutionally authorized agencies, reducing impartial organizations to terrorist right groups, directing all Hindu resources for socially recalcitrant Muslims and finally turning a blind eye to Islamic terror (most recently in Assam); this secular government and its supporting constituents have been doing it all!

Is it not a case of an awakened Hindu finding unbearable his innocent and pacifist Hindu co-regionalists being consistently butchered by Islamic terrorists who use certain bloodthirsty verses of the Quran (claimed to be read out of context by Islamic apologists) in their plea to convert Hindustan to a bigger Pakistan. Is it not a case of a radical Hindu finding intolerable the masks of secularism which had been religiously promoting Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai, when one bhai is more interested in saving his brother from the fires of Allah’s perdition or securing more permanent relationships with his cousins in the Middle East!

Is it not a case of a reactionary Hindu being completely disillusioned by the ability of this impotent, minority appeasing government to tackle terror against his brothers and is utterly compelled to take the law into his own hands in what he or she erroneously perceives to be defense of his motherland…After all which national government has encouraged Bangladeshi infiltration through illegal and anti-constitutional IMDT Act? Which minister demands citizenship for illegal Bangladeshis? Which home minister gives clean chit to illegally residing Bangladeshis? Which state governments bends over backwards to accommodate illegal Bangladeshis in the secular voter list? Which government doubts the authenticity of M C Sharma’s martyrdom? Which government books suspected Hindu terrorists under MCOCA but ignores charging the Delhi blasts Muslim suspects under the same?

The Army has an inimitable record in defending our motherland, tens of thousands of our brave ksatriyas; whom Vivekananda called the ancient “defenders of the faith” have laid down their lives in this sacred act. Then, one cannot but envisage how much deep the resentment within the army must have grown for their officers to become possible party to such activities as in Malegaon.

Who is responsible for creating this crisis? Who is responsible for the malice that has overwhelmed the system? How much longer can this secularist perversion of blaming Hindu fundamentalists for every act of nationally and constitutionally subversive activity by a crooked but significant section of the minority be tolerated by any rational Hindu? Right after Malegaon blasts, a 25,000 strong Muslim mob critically injured two police officers who came to investigate conveniently ignoring that In 2006, the SIMI was proved to be involved for blasts at the same site.

With such a volatile populace, who needs Hindu fundamentalists? When will they admit that Hindu fundamentalism, is at most an unlawful even heinous albeit defensive reaction to the totalitarian agenda of both foreign and indigenous Islamic terrorists operating against Hindu India, and the secret sympathy that this jihad enjoys from several of their non participating co-religionists. Kill Minority fundamentalism and Hindu fundamentalist will lose its very raison de entrée!

Or else, the day is not far off when the cancer of pseudo-secularism undergoes whole body metastases to claim its first victim – the discipline of the Indian Army it self. Who will then mind our international obligations towards the civilian population? What if the bodyguards of our politicians turn the gun on whom they perceive to be criminally pseudo-secular or a jihadi sympathizer; after all there has been an ugly precedence! Or will they now call for a ban on the Indian army as the new face of Hindu terror?

Pakistan condemns US missile attack in Waziristan

Mineguruji 08 November 2008, Saturday

PAKISTAN GOVERNMENT has condemned the American missile attack in North Waziristan that killed ten people on Friday (November 7). It also said that this issue of unilateral operations will be taken up at the highest level with the US administration.

“The series of unilateral actions against high value targets on Pakistan’s soil is a self-defeating strategy. The US Administration’s reluctance to consider the repercussions of such operations is damaging the whole purpose of global efforts to combat terrorism,” said Pakistan federal Information minister, Sherry Rehman, commenting on the reports of the fresh US attacks on the FATA region.

Rehman informed the media that the issue of the US unilateral operations is being taken up at the highest level, with both the president and the prime minister demanding the US Administration to halt its military actions on Pakistan’s soil.

“All our international allies have expressed their reservation over the one-sided policy pursued by the US.

Mockery of national sovereignty

Air Marshal Ayaz A Khan (R)

In 2007-2008, US forces mounted over 120 Hellfire missile attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal territory –FATA, killing hundreds. In September and October 2008 Pakistan’s airspace was violated and tribal villages were attacked no less than 42 times. On the average fifteen to twenty people are killed in each Predator and Raeper drones bombardment with the deadly AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The press is quick to report heavy casualties of foreign terrorists, including dead Arab, Chechen, Uzbek and Afghan Al-Qaeda fighters. While Pakistani reporters are shy of visiting tribal villages, newspapers are quick at publishing unconfirmed reports of death of foreign fighters in every drone attack. What is the source of this information is not clear.

The public has the right to question the authenticity of reports of Al-Qaeda and foreign militants casualties by Predator missile attacks. It is propaganda to justify US drone missile attacks on Pakistani territory. It proves that the targeted areas are infested by foreign terrorists, and justifies missile bombings to wipe them. What is the source of information, for the USAF drones to home on accurately on designated targets, and destroy them ? It is claimed that the Predator drones have extended endurance for prolonged hovering-up to twenty four hours and excellent electronic photo capability. Hollywood film The Eagle Eye proves it. But the handouts about foreign casualties being issued by Inter Service Public Relations department, NATO or ISAF spokesmen are suspect. The death of over one thousand Pushtun tribesmen during Predator attacks on Bajaur, Lada, Miranshah, Razmak, Wana which are deep inside Pakistan territory is being justified by allegations about the presence of Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban there.

Shiv Saroor the well known Indian Defence journal cynically comments,” On September 3, 2008 Pakistan’s sovereignty became an international joke when a contingent of US Army’s heliborne forces mounted an audacious ground attack in South Waziristan, without informing Pakistan Army.” Pakistani leaders including President Asef Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Foreign Minister Shah Ahmed Qureshi, and Chief of the Army Staff General Pervez Kiyani have repeatedly denounced American drone attacks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned US Ambassador Patricia and lodged a very strong protest. Ambassador Hussain Haqqani went to the Department of State and lodged a protest in the strongest terms. But the drone bombings have continued. President George Bush, Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice, Under Secretry Boucher, and General David Petraeus C-IN-C US Central Command in their meetings with the Persident and Prime Minister had reiterated that Pakistani sovereignty will be respected. Astonishingly US Air Force made sure attacks by Predators drones are launched during the visits of high US officials to Islamabd, and during meetigs with the President and the Prime Minister.

Despite US asssurances intensified attacks by drones on Pakistani territory is a rebuke and an abuse of Pakistan’s territory and an insult to national sovereignty. This situation must be remedied.

Indian analyst comments: “If you don’t already know it, this is a crisis of potentially terrible proportions for Pakistan.” Pakistani’s feel humiliated and are angry at Governments inaction, which does not go beyond ineffective protests. Pakistani protests are being disregarded by the Bush Administration and US military officials. In my article published by The Nation last month, I had advocated military action to stop US missile bombings. The above Indian defense magazine commenting cynically wrote, “ Cursing: Here’s what the famed Air Marshal Ayaz Ahmed Khan had to say in a recent column in a Pakistani newspaper: “Violation of Pakistani territorial sovereignty must be challenged. Pakistan Air Force must be prepared to shoot down American drones, gunship helicopters and engage USAF fighter aircraft attacking and bombings Pakistani tribal villages. We must not act as frightened crows, when outsiders continue to kill our elders, brothers, sisters and children. Pakistan Air Force must defend Pakistan’s air space. PAF’s tradition is that it will rise to great heights to defend Pakistan.” “This is from a column where the Air Marshal is running around wringing his hands.” Indian establishment in general and Indian military in particular, are watching with glee the helplessness of the Pakistani government and of the Pakistani armed forces in failing to stop the unabated violation of Pakistan’s territory and sovereignty by the United States Air Force.

“The fact is that Pakistan finds itself in a situation not just of its own making, but one that it was sure would never come about. A simple matter of overplaying your hand and eating dust for it. Musharraf’s enduring vapour trail, apart from the assassination of Benazir, will be the bludgeoning of the Pak-Afghan border villages with impunity by American forces. For Gods sake, they’ve even stopped the customary pre-notifications to the Pak Army because they’ve found that this compromises missions, and terrorists/militants are usually far from their laser-illuminated lairs by the time the Hellfires lock on. Too much damn trouble, informing Rawalpindi.” Indian defence analysts are mocking us and laughing at us, for the paralysis and confusion at decision making in Pakistan. The public feels that the tongue in cheek protests are creating doubts that drone bombigs despite protests is “ Nura Kushti” between Islamabad and Washington. US intelligence agencies –CIA, administration officials and military generals are disregarding protests by the governent of Pakistan as of no consequence. These are puffs of hot air according to them.

The observations of the India critic are worth noting. He says, “What can the Pakistan Army do about it? So far it has done nothing. Overplaying your hand — orchestrating a fake self-centrality to the so called war on terror — and lying through your teeth about it, is a game in which any slip-up costs blood. The Pentagon knows, like India has for decades, that Pakistan harbours, funds and arms terrorists. And more troublingly for Pakistan, the US is having progressively less diplomatic reservations in talking tough about the Pakistan Army and ISI’s clear-as-hell role in regional terrorism. That’s great news for India, sure, but it doesn’t make the problem any less a problem. We’re still the ones on the other side of the fence if Islamabad talks itself into a corner.” Is New Delhi prodding Washington to continue missile bombings and violations of Pak sovereignty, cannot be ruled out.

Arjun unreliable for Indian Army?

Natteri Adigal 08 November 2008, Saturday

DEFENCE MINISTER AK Antony has successfully persuaded the Indian Army to extend ‘cooperation’ to Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). His mission was with regard to an order the army has placed for Arjun tanks. DRDO claims to have successfully developed the hardware indigenously, after decades of delay.

However, science bureaucrats at the organisation are not as jubilant as one would have expected them to be. For, the concession Antony got from Army chief Deepak Kapoor is limited only to the inclusion of Arjun in the forthcoming summer field trials. The tank will have to pass stringent tests for assessing reliability.

The military can afford, only at its peril, to follow the civilian practice of accepting under performers belonging to preferred or reserved category – whether it is for jobs or supplies. In military applications, even to include a particular product in trials, the authorities have to be absolutely satisfied that the supplier’s capability. Achieving the same standards as found in trials during bulk production must be assured. Inspection authorities carry out prior evaluation to ensure that machinery and systems are in place to achieve consistency in reliability.

The Army originally resisted to even include Arjun in next year’s summer trials, because the technology available with DRDO was found to be deficient. It insisted that the systems and methods be improved first, to bring them up to acceptable levels. Only after hectic lobbying by politicos and bureaucrats, and lastly by Antony, has it relented and agreed to hold comparative tests between the ‘indigenous’ tank and tanks from Russia.

The ‘indigenous’ tank, incidentally, is powered through a transmission system supplied by a German firm. Its integration with the other systems was however not found satisfactory enough. DRDO has since carried out some software changes to deal with the snags and is yet to incorporate hardware improvement as directed.

The Russian machines, although not as preferred as those available from the West, are approved in several countries due to their low price. Russia has made enormous investments in facilities and product development. In contrast, Arjun has failed to come up to the required specifications during the last 14 years it has been under trials. The project has been dogged by limited funds availability, compounded by the folly during the initial years of reinventing the wheel, seeking high indigenous content.

In an effort to hype up ‘patriotic pride’ among the gullible ‘intelligentsia’, the government forced the Army to place an order for 124 Arjuns even before the tanks were type-tested. While supplies have been nowhere in sight, the specifications themselves have been getting more stringent year after year. The Indian Army started insisting that the Israel Military Industries (IMI) Specifications should be followed in the design and manufacturing of the tanks for them to meet its approval. It has been resisting to take up a prototype batch for trials unless it conforms to IMI specifications.

After years of squandering billions of rupees in the empty pursuit of ‘indigenous development’, DRDO had to call in consultants from Israel. The objective was to formulate acceptable procedures for design, integration of systems, quality assurance, manufacturing etc as per IMI. Meantime, in irresponsible bureaucratic style, the agency went ahead with the fabrication of hulls – the most critical structure requiring utmost stability – needed to fulfill the order.

Naturally, the Army wants that the tanks against its order be produced, strictly following laid down procedures. With a view to avert waste of gigantic proportions in scrapping manufactured items, it has allowed repairing of the several ‘deviations from acceptable limits’ (flaws). However, there would be no waiving of the stipulated specifications, like firing accuracy.

Nobody, save jingoist super patriots craving for a sense of hollow pride, can blame Gen Kapoor for putting his foot down. No sensible Army top brass can go on letting the soldiers turning into an Abhimanyu. In the epic Mahabharat, the legendary son of Arjun, is the most knowledgeable about penetrating enemy formations. However, the Pandava prince had been a little less-than-perfect while acquiring the expertise. As his prowess of re-emerging from the battlefield has been compromised, he gets slaughtered by the Kaurava army.

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