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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

From Today's Papers - 03 Dec

Terror takes back seat as navy chief targets media

Admiral Mehta also trains guns on intel agencies, claiming their inputs were not 'actionable'; media hits back, says he is trying to deflect blame

Josy Joseph & Javed Ansari. New Delhi

Joining a long line of senior leaders of the government who have put their feet in their mouths since the attack on Mumbai, the navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, on Tuesday called the national media a "disabling instrument" of the country, and incorrectly held NDTV coverage responsible for the death of three soldiers during the Kargil conflict.
Mehta blasted the media for its coverage of the Mumbai mayhem, while absolving his own force of responsibility for the death of innocents in the city.
As an example of the media's "destructive" role, Mehta incorrectly cited an NDTV shot of Kargil which he said resulted in the death of three soldiers. NDTV Group Editor Barkha Dutt, who covered Kargil for the channel, said, "I would urge Admiral Mehta to read General VP Malik's book on the Kargil conflict wherein General Malik refers to some malicious rumours that implied that media coverage could have been responsible for fatalities. General Malik clearly clarifies that given that the army was using satellite phones, more than sixty of them, and that the rocket launchers used by the army were emitting more light than what 100s of cameras manage together, this was nothing but ill-informed rumour-mongering. Admiral Mehta should at least get his facts right."

the Mumbai attacks, the navy chief, whose force is tasked with protecting the international maritime boundary of the country, put up an aggressive defence of his force, while giving the media a long moral lecture about coverage of such events. Referring to reports that the defence minister had pulled him up on Monday for the navy's lapses, Mehta said: "You have put my reputation in the dock. I think the press has a responsibility."
The navy chief conveniently overlooked the fact that right through the Mumbai operation there were several instances of the military leadership on the ground, including navy personnel, trying to corner media glory. Before the NSG was airdropped on Nariman House, the media was invited to record it. The navy paraded its marine commandos before the press even before the operation was over, while the army's southern command chief had to be shooed away from Mumbai after he landed there to brief the media. There were several other 'voluntary' interviews and media inputs from the security personnel deployed in Mumbai. The NSG chief jumped the gun by addressing a press conference to proclaim the Taj hotel had been cleared on Friday morning, only to be followed by firing by terrorists for another day and night.
The navy chief's tirade also comes after a series of insensitive statements by senior leaders during and after the 60-hour siege of Mumbai that claimed nearly 200 lives and injured over 300. Maharashtra deputy chief minister RR Patil said such untoward incidents were bound to happen from time to time in a big city, while Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP said those protesting against political inaction were behaving like Kashmiri terrorists.
Apart from targeting the media, Mehta also dismissed specific inputs from the intelligence agencies about an impending attack on the Taj from the sea as not "actionable". He said it is the system which has to be blamed for the attacks. His statements go contrary to the government's stand of fixing responsibility, which forced out the Union home minister as well as the Maharashtra home minister. An investigation has also been initiated to see who else erred. But the navy chief believes it was only a "systemic failure."
The DNA on Sunday, and later many other media outlets, had reported there were specific intelligence inputs showing that an attack on Mumbai was going to happen. But Admiral Mehta said he wasn't aware of any intelligence warning that was specific about the Mumbai attack. "There is no such report I am aware of," he said. "'India is under terrorist threat' - is that actionable?" he asked.
When asked specifically if they had on November 19 received an alert from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), reported by DNA and other media, Mehta retorted, "I am not aware of any intercept."
Admiral Mehta did not say if the navy was taking action against any of its personnel for acts of omission in protecting the maritime boundary. But he said there were gaps in the maritime defence of India. And that the presence of a large number of fishing trawlers within Indian waters makes it difficult to provide a foolproof security system.
But he didn't say how so many terrorists could crossover from Pakistani waters into India, despite the fact it is India's most sensitive maritime boundary. The same route had been used for smuggling explosives for the 1993 Mumbai blasts .
Mehta alternated between being aggressive and sarcastic in his interaction with the media. Reacting to this, the president of the editors guild and editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai, said, "Let us not shoot the messenger. This was a huge story that demanded this kind of intensive coverage. There may have been instances where the due regard and restraint was not shown. However you can't tar the entire media with the same brush. The government should get its information system in order and create a proper protocol for dissemination of information."

Mumbai Heat
We are weighing all options: Pranab
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 2
India is weighing all options, including striking at terrorist camps in Pakistan, even as it mounts pressure on Islamabad to act strongly against ‘jehadi’ groups that have been enjoying safe sanctuaries in the neighbouring country and are carrying out attacks on the Indian soil.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s statements during the day made it quite clear that New Delhi was considering a tough line of action against Pakistan while the fragile composite dialogue process between the two countries flounders.

In an interview to a television news channel, Mukherjee said India had “every right to protect its territorial integrity and would take appropriate action” to deal with terror strikes emanating from Pakistan.

“What I am saying is every sovereign country has its right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action as and when it feels it is necessary to take that appropriate action,” he said.

However, earlier in the day, Mukherjee had stated that nobody was talking about military action. Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function to inaugurate the India-Arab Forum, he said India was awaiting Pakistan’s response to its demand for strong action against militants based on its territory. New Delhi would await the response from Pakistan to the demarche (formal protest note) served on Islamabad yesterday.

The external affairs ministry had yesterday summoned Pakistan High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik and handed over to him a list of more than 20 of India’s most wanted men, who are living in Pakistan and are wanted in India for committing or masterminding heinous crimes inside the Indian territory.

“We have in our demarche asked for the arrests and handing over of those persons who are settled in Pakistan and who are fugitives under the Indian law,” Mukherjee added.

His statement came a day before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives here to meet the Indian leadership and discuss how Washington could cooperate with New Delhi in bringing to book those who masterminded the audacious attacks in Mumbai.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied the presence of Indian fugitives on its soil despite New Delhi providing solid evidence to Islamabad. The list of 20 terrorists includes the names of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafez Mohammed Sayeed.

Asked about US President-elect Barack Obama’s statement that India has the right to protect itself, the Indian foreign minister said: “What will be done, time will show and you will come to know.”

When pointed out that his remarks could be misinterpreted as military action, Mukherjee said there was no room for misinterpretation as nobody was talking of such a move. Pakistan, meanwhile, denied any link with the Mumbai blasts but offered a joint team to investigate the terror attacks. “The government of Pakistan has offered a joint investigating mechanism and a joint commission to India,” foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a nationwide telecast in Islamabad.

“We are ready to jointly go into the depth of this issue and we are ready to compose a team that could help you,” Qureshi added.

Coast Guard seize Pak fishing boat

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Coast Guard today seized a Pakistani fishing boat off the Jakhao coast near Kutch and took into custody seven people in the boat. “We have taken into custody a Pakistani fishing boat off the Jakhao coast. There were seven crew members in the boat. We have handed over the boat to the local police for investigation,” Coast Guard officials said. — PTI

Straight talk: Yes, it was a failure, says Admiral Mehta

Tribune News Service

Naval chief denies being pulled up

Naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta today denied media reports that he had been ‘pulled up’ by the defence minister A.K. Antony for not acting in time to avert the Mumbai attack. “A meeting with the minister has been wrongly presented by the media,” he told reporters here today. He also criticised the manner in which the counter-attack operation was aired on the TV channels.

New Delhi, December 2

In a candid, upfront admission, the Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta today said “it was a systemic failure” that led to the terror attacks in Mumbai. “The lacunae did exist in India's coastal security and intelligence- sharing mechanisms,” said Mehta, while interacting with reporters here on Tuesday.

Mehta said the Navy did not receive any actionable input to effectively prevent the tragedy. “I am not aware of any intercept received by the research and analysis wing (RAW) on November 19 as being reported in the media,” said the Naval chief, adding that the government would come up with an adequate response. The loopholes in sharing of the information will be effectively plugged, he said. “The exchange of information is an operational function which should go on at fairly regular intervals. The most important part is that the information available should be actionable. It should have something specific,’ he pointed out.

On being asked if the government was sure of the Pakistan link to the attack, he said, “Surely, there is enough evidence.” The Navy head also emphasised on the need for electronic and mechanical tracking of all the 1.50 lakh fishing trawlers in the Western coastal states. “The existing system of ID cards being issued by the state government was not enough,” he maintained. Mehta also called for a greater ‘synergy’ among agencies controlling the security of the 7,516-km-long coastline. The coastal security in present formulation envisages layers. The Indian Navy is till 200 nautical miles from the coast. The inner circle belongs to the coast guard followed by the marine police and port security.

“There’s scope for lot of improvement as far as marine policing is concerned,” said the Admiral, adding that the Navy will soon procure a communication satellite that will network all the ships and planes of the force to provide real-time inputs. When asked if the coast guard should be merged with the Navy, Mehta said he could not comment on the merger.

On lack of prosecution powers to the Navy, the Admiral said the law should be amended to give more teeth to the force.

Earlier, he strongly defended the sinking of a Thai fishing trawler in the Gulf of Aden a fortnight ago. “The Indian warship INS Tabar did nothing wrong by blowing up a pirate ship in self-defence. The ship was under the control of pirates and was being put to use by the sea brigands for activities that were clearly against the law,” he remarked.

India Says All Options Open, Wants Pakistan to Act

New Delhi/Islamabad
India Tuesday indicated it was keeping all options open, including a military strike against terrorist camps in Pakistan and suspension of bilateral dialogue, and underlined that it will take "appropriate action" to protect its territory from terror attacks emanating from the neighboring country.

"We will await the response from Pakistan to the demarche (formal protest note)," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters here on the sidelines of a function to inaugurate the India-Arab Forum Tuesday morning.

"We have in our demarche asked for the arrests and handing over of those persons who are settled in Pakistan and who are fugitives under the Indian law," he added.

"There are lists (containing the names) of about 20 persons. (These) lists are sometimes altered and this exercise is going on and we have reviewed it in our demarche," Mukherjee said.

"What I am saying is every sovereign country has its right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action as and when it feels it is necessary to take that appropriate action," Mukherjee later told the NDTV news channel in an interview.

"As and when it takes place you will get to know. Nobody publicizes or advertises it. I am not making any comment on military option," he replied when asked whether he would rule out military option against terrorist groups like the Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) which are suspected to have engineered the Mumbai terror strikes.

"What will be done, time will show and you will come to know," Mukherjee said.

India's "most wanted 20" list includes known terror masterminds like mob boss Dawood Ibrahim, Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) which was suspected behind the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, and LeT chief Hafez Mohammed Sayeed.

New Delhi has suspected these fugitives to be behind major terror strikes in India over the years.

India has, however, not set a time-frame for Pakistan to the demarche it issued Monday that included the return of India's 20 most wanted men, the dismantling of terrorist camps and the proscription of anti-India militant outfits.

"We have not set a time-frame for Pakistan's response to our demarche. We will give them a reasonable amount of time," a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

"All options are open. Nothing has been decided as yet," he replied when asked what steps India will take in case Pakistan refuses to concede to its demands.

Pakistan has responded by offering India a joint team to probe the Mumbai attacks and underlined it will "frame a response" to New Delhi's demand for handing over 20 of India's most wanted men.

But India has cold-shouldered what it sees a diversionary ploy by Pakistan to impress the international community about its sincerity. "We want action on the ground," the official said.

The bilateral composite dialogue process has not been stalled yet, but if Pakistan fails to address India's concerns, New Delhi may decide to suspend the talks on the remaining items in the ongoing fifth round, said reliable sources, privy to the government's thinking on the subject.

"There is a stress on the dialogue process. The atmosphere has been vitiated by the Mumbai attacks," the official admitted.

The menu of likely actions by India in case of Pakistan's refusal to act on the ground could include military action. But this last resort action is not being considered yet. "You can't rule out anything. We will cross the bridge when it comes to it," the official said.

Investigations have disclosed that the Nov 26 Mumbai terror strikes bore the imprint of LeT, a banned militant outfit.

The probe has produced enough damning evidence that led New Delhi to officially tell Islamabad Tuesday that it holds elements in Pakistan responsible for the Mumbai terror strikes.

Pakistan has denied any link with the Mumbai blasts.

"The government of Pakistan has offered a joint investigating mechanism and a joint commission to India," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a nationwide telecast in Islamabad.

At the same time, India and Pakistan should not allow their composite dialogue to get derailed in the wake of the Mumbai killings, he said.

"We want better relations... and it is in the larger interest of the two countries to continue the composite dialogue process.

With Pakistan in the denial mode, India Tuesday briefed envoys of those countries whose nationals were killed in the NOv 26 terror carnage about the investigation and underlined that New Delhi expected Islamabad to act against militants based in its territory who engineered it.

Vivek Katju, special secretary (Political and International Organizations), held a meeting with the envoys and expressed India's deepest condolences to them.

The heads of missions from Germany, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Italy, Thailand, Israel and Mauritius were present at the meeting, official sources told IANS.

India's diplomatic offensive comes in response to repeated denials by Pakistan and Islamabad's frenzied calls to world capitals to convince the international community of its claimed innocence.

McCain Opposes Military Action against Pakistan, Wants Hard Evidence

New Delhi
US Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate who lost the presidential race to Barack Obama, Tuesday said he was hopeful of Pakistan's cooperation with India in the Mumbai terrorist attack probe and opposed a military strike against Islamabad.

Underlining solidarity with India in the wake of the Nov 26 terror attacks, he said the US would not allow terrorists to provoke a confrontation between India and Pakistan.

"I assume the government of Pakistan will cooperate. They realize that this act of terror is not something that affects India but all the civilized nations," McCain said.

"No," he replied when asked whether the Mumbai attacks were a "fit case" for India to launch military action against Pakistan.

"We do not have hard evidence yet. Obviously, there are allegations that this organization, this individual or this group were trained or operated or had some training in Pakistan," said McCain.

"This government is committed to better relations between India and Pakistan. They (those behind the Mumbai carnage) tried to provoke a confrontation between India and Pakistan," McCain told reporters here.

"This government will not allow it to happen," he said, indicating a pro-active US role in thwarting any breakdown of dialogue between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Nov 26 terror strikes.

"Relations between India and Pakistan were on an improving path. That was one of the objectives of terrorists (to strain ties between the two countries)," McCain said.

He, however, hoped that Pakistan will cooperate in addressing India's concerns over the terror strikes and show "transparency" in this connection.

"It is in the national interests of Pakistan to weaken these elements," he replied when asked whether the US will put pressure on Islamabad to act against those elements in Pakistan whom India suspect to be behind the Mumbai attacks.

McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, was on his way to Bangladesh and Bhutan but decided to make a brief stopover here in the wake of the Mumbai strikes that has killed 183 people, including six Americans, and left 239 people injured.

McCain was echoing anxieties in Washington about the repercussions of potential India-Pakistan confrontation on the US war against fundamentalists in Afghanistan.

If such a situation arises, Pakistan is likely to move its troops from the Afghan border to its border with India - a move which could damage the US hopes of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan.

McCain's trip to India comes a day before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives here in a bid to arrest the drift in fraying India-Pakistan ties in the wake of the terror attacks.

McCain, along with two other senators, Democrat Jospeh Lieberman and Lindsey O. Graham, called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here and underlined the US' solidarity with India in the fight against terrorism.

In their conversation with the prime minister, they offered to share the US' experiences in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Lieberman said.

They also told the prime minister about the counter-terror steps he US has taken, including the creation of the department of homeland security and a national counter-terrorism centre, said Lieberman.

President George W. Bush and president-elect Obama are acting in close coordination over the Mumbai terror strikes, the Republican senator said while underlining bipartisan support in the US to India in the aftermath of the terror strikes.

"We would be meeting Pakistan General (Ashfaq) Kiyani over the weekend and raise some questions with him," Liebermann told reporters here.

Mumbai Terror Attack a Systemic Failure: Navy Chief

New Delhi
Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta Tuesday attributed the Mumbai terror attack to a "systemic failure" and said they had no prior "actionable" intelligence inputs.

“There has been no actionable input. Actionable input is when there is a point in time and at a particular place,” said Mehta, who along with the Coast Guard has come under fire for the lapse that led to the terrorists landing on the shores of Mumbai despite advance intelligence inputs.

Showing concern at the “public outrage”, the navy chief stressed the need for assessing the situation adequately.

“It (public outrage) is a serious issue. The security lapse is a systemic failure and it has to be taken stock of,” Mehta said at the annual navy press conference ahead of the Navy Day.

“The exchange of information is an ongoing and regular function. But information given should be actionable. When actionable input has come we have acted. The Coast Guard had deployed ships on the coast of Gujarat,” Mehta, who has earlier commanded the Coast Guard, said.

The gunmen are presumed to have come from Karachi in a fishing trawler - MV Kuber - and were in Indian territorial waters for 72 hours before beginning the 60-hour attack that left at least 183 people dead.

“There are 1.5 lakh (150,000) registered fishing trawlers in India, of which over 50,000 are in Gujarat and Maharashtra. If you take even one third in Mumbai it comes to nearly 5,000 trawlers, which is a fairly large number.

“There is a difference between Indian and Pakistan trawlers but if an Indian trawler is being used, as in this case, then we are helpless. This is a lacunae and we have to plug it,” Mehta admitted.

In a bid to plug the gaping holes, he has suggested the fixing of transponders and employing electronic means for better surveillance of the shoreline.

“We need to have some mechanical device to keep a track of who has gone (into the sea). We need to go little electronic. Transponders help in keeping a track on the vessels through our radars,” said Mehta.

Mehta also called for a greater “synergy” among players controlling the layered security of the 7,516-km-long coastline.

“The coastal security in present formulation envisages layers. The Indian Navy is till 200 nautical miles from the coast, before that is the Coast Guard and then Marine Police and the port security.

"We are looking at options for better synergy. We should also have a strong marine police. It is unfortunate that it is not fully operational,” Mehta said.

So far, only 58 of the 73 approved coastal police stations have been made operational, a little more than the halfway mark.

The navy chief also spoke of the navy's lack of prosecution powers: “Indian Navy does not have a right to prosecution. It can only be done by the Coast Guard. Even if we catch somebody we have to hand him over to the Coast Guard. If the law is amended it will be beneficial,” he added.


has right to protect its territorial integrity: Pranab

Nidhi Razdan

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 4:42 PM (New Delhi)

In an exclusive interview to NDTV External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has not ruled out the option of military strikes against terror camps in Pakistan.

Mukherjee said that every country has the right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action when necessary. He also said that it has become difficult to continue the peace process with Pakistan in this atmosphere.

NDTV: Are we thinking about the military option at all?
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: As and when it takes place, people will come to know, it's not publicized.

NDTV: So, you are not ruling it out?
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: I am not making any comment on the military option, what I am saying is that every sovereign country has the right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action and when it feels necessary to take that appropriate action.

NDTV:Has the peace process suffered a big setback?
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: Yes it has vitiated the atmosphere. There was also the Kabul attack and now Mumbai attack; naturally the atmosphere is vitiated. While we have no intention of not carrying on with the peace process, but definitely when peoples' sentiments are affected and it creates an atmosphere not to carry on business as usual, it has some impact. These incidents and if these are not adequately addressed by the other side, create an atmosphere that's difficult to carry on normal business including the peace process.

India asks Pak to hand over fugitives

PTI adds: Sending a tough message, Mukherjee said India has demanded the handing over of LeT chief Hafiz Mohammad and other fugitives in Pakistan in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks and would await Islamabad's response.

"Now, we have in our demarche asked (for) the arrest and handover of those persons who are settled in Pakistan and who are fugitives of Indian law," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on the sidelines of a function to inaugurate the India-Arab Forum.

Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs yesterday and issued a demarche (protest note).

"...there are lists of about 20 persons. (These) lists are sometimes altered and this exercise is going on and we have renewed it in our demarche," Mukherjee said adding India "will await" Pakistan's response.

India has handed over to Pakistan a list of 20 terrorists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammad and Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar besides Dawood Ibrahim, who are based in that country and are suspected to be behind terror attacks in India.

Investigations into the three-day Mumbai terror strikes that left 183 dead have shown that the plan to carry out the attacks was hatched in Pakistan, suspectedly by Lashkar-e-Toiba and the perpetrators of the ghastly act came from Karachi by ships and boats.

Asked about US President-elect Barack Obama's suggestion that India has a "right to protect" itself, Mukherjee said "what will be done, time will show and you will come to know."

Islamabad has been in a denial mode but India says it has hard evidence to show Pakistani link.

New Delhi's outrage was voiced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who said India will not tolerate use of territories by its neighbours for launching attacks in this country and that there will be a "cost" to it.

The US is also building pressure on Pakistan, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who arrives here tomorrow for talks with Indian leaders, saying Islamabad must "follow evidence wherever it leads" and lend "absolute" and "transparent" cooperation to New Delhi in the probe into the Mumbai terror strikes.

On the solidarity shown by the world leaders, including the US President-elect, with India in the aftermath of the Mumbai incidents, the External Affairs Minister said: "We appreciate the responses which we have received from all over the world, including Obama."

Kerala CM's remark on slain commando's family creates furore

T S Sudhir

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 10:07 PM (Thiruvananthpuram)

The storm over Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan's remark on Major Unnikrishnan's family continues.

"Adding unimaginable insult to injury," that is what the Kerala chief minister said when a father who had just lost his only son turned away politicians.

"Even a dog would not have come here if it had not been for Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan becoming a martyr,'' he further said.

A shocked country and his own party, the CPM, said that the remark was regrettable. But he wouldn't even say sorry.

"His wife and relatives told me he is mentally disturbed. So I should not misunderstand,'' said V S Achuthanandan, Chief Minister, Kerala.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat stepped in for damage control. He said in a statement that certain remarks made by V S Achuthanandan are regrettable.

"Achutanandan should apologise to Unnikrishnan's family,'' said Abani Roy, leader, Revolutionary Socialist Party(RSP).

The Kerala CM on Tuesday insisted that he respected the family, but other political parties want Achuthanandan to say sorry.

"His utterances were perhaps unbecoming of a chief minister but I understand his anger, I justify his anger. I don't think that the family should have behaved that way,'' said A B Bardhan, CPI leader.

The public also, it seemed, was in no mood to forgive and forget.

RR Patil, Naqvi and V S Achuthanandan. It seems to be a season when cutting across party lines, politicians are very infamously, putting their foot in their mouth. That at a time when the mood of the country seems to suggest that they lie low.

India weighing all options before taking on Pak

Atishay Abbhi


COMMON CAUSE: India needs to develop a military response that will not push Islamabad towards a nuclear response.

New Delhi: India on Tuesday sought to allay fears about an armed conflict with Pakistan, saying military action is not being considered and that it will wait for Islamabad to respond to its demand for action against terror groups and individuals operating out of the neighbouring country.

“What will be done, time will tell, we will see, we are waiting for Pakistan's response,” said External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Mukherjee's statements seem to suggest the military option is open against Pakistan.

Government sources say air strikes are a possibility while ruling out an Operation Parakram like standoff, when India mobilised thousands of troops along the Pakistan border after the attack on Parliament in 2001.

Experts say that since both neighbours are nuclear armed, India needs to develop a military response that would not escalate or push Islamabad towards the unthinkable - a nuclear response.

Therefore, experts say India could look at strengthening its human intelligence capabilities inside Pakistan. These assets could be used by India's special forces to conduct covert operations against terror targets inside Pakistan.

India must also seek to act in partnership with US and NATO forces that are present on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Air strikes against Pakistani terror camps using unmanned aerial vehicles is another option.

"What we need to acquire as early as possible is the unmanned combat vehicles," said retired Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal.

The other option is to cleanse the Pakistani Army of Jihadis but diplomats say this is a long term option fraught with uncertainties. They suggest sharing intelligence and evidence with other countries hit by terrorism such as the US and Britain.

"What we need to do is meticulously collect the evidence and furnish them to countries like US, UK, France, Italy and Israel whose citizens have been brutally murdered. So they have an interest in taking this up," said G Parthasarathy, a former high commissioner to Pakistan.

Much of course depends on the willingness and the ability of the Indian state to take hard decisions and bite the bullet when the time comes.

Spare a thought for the wounded soldier

December 02, 2008 | 10:12 IST

Having witnessed the 60-hour battle against terror in Mumbai unrelentingly on television, images of bullets whizzing around, bloodied streets, grenade blasts and courageous men -- scaling walls and dropping from helicopters -- have been etched in our minds.

What many of us did not see were images of some brave men, caught in the path of the devastation they were trying to curb -- images of their homes and lives rocked by a stray bullet or a carelessly chucked grenade.

One such braveheart, Captain Amitendra Kumar Singh of the National Security Guard, found himself alone at the Bombay Hospital on November 27, injured in the attack, and unable to get in touch with his family and fiance.

The captain and his team arrived in Mumbai on the morning of November 27 and were sent straight to the site of action: The Oberoi Hotel.

As they closed in on terrorists, shrapnel from a grenade hit Amitendra's eye. He was immediately evacuated and sent to Bombay Hospital.

Captain Singh was preparing himself for surgery the next morning even as he recounted the horrors of that fateful evening for Doctors believe his vision will be impaired after the surgery; in fact, he might even lose complete vision in his left eye.

His fiance, Dr Madhu Singh, a dentist, was at home in Lucknow when she received the news -- two whole days after the incident. She was getting ready to go to work and her husband-to-be called her from a borrowed cell phone, informing her of his injury.

Her heart literally stopped at the news, and she got on the next flight to Mumbai, arriving even before his parents. The frail-looking lady has been a pillar of support for her fiancee, wiping his bad eye and repeatedly assuring him of how proud she was of him.

The captain hails from Lucknow and has been posted in Gurgaon, near Delhi. It is easy to forget how young this man is as he smiles and tells you his horror-laden yet heroic tale of the terrorist attacks. However, his emotions come pouring through in tears when he remembers details that are too painful to bear, and one realises that this hero is barely 25 years old.

Once the tears have been wiped and traces of his mischievous smile start playing at the corners of his mouth again, he jokes, saying, "Arre, don't take my photo today. Take it tomorrow when I have shaved."

Army to train foreign women officers
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 2
The Army will now train women officers from friendly foreign countries. The Officers Training Academy (OTA) here will soon induct foreign women cadets who will pass out as Lieutenants along side their Indian counterparts.

“We have already been sounded out by Army Headquarters that foreign women cadets would be trained in India,” a senior officer at OTA said. “We think that the first such batch would arrive here for the course commencing in 2010 or thereafter,” he added.

There would be no fixed vacancies for foreign cadets and the number would vary in each course, depending upon the requirements of the sponsoring governments.

At present, 17 foreign male cadets are undergoing training at the OTA to become officers. These include Afghan, Jamaican and Seychelles nationals. The Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun also trains foreign cadets. Foreign officers are also regularly nominated for high-level courses in Indian military institutions.

The OTA trains officers nominated for the short service commission and is the Army’s only institution imparting basic training to women cadets. About 22,000 officers have passed through so far its portals and over 1,500 women officers have undergone training here since the Army opened its doors to women in select arms and services in 1992.

The current batch of women officers undergoing training at the OTA is also the first batch to go through the revised and enhanced training period of 49 weeks, which the same as that for male officers. Earlier, women officers used to undergo training for just 24 weeks.

Sources said that consequent to revision of training syllabus, some fine-tuning in the training methodology and setting standards for various physical activities is being undertaken.

“It would take feedback and analysis of performance and other related factors from a couple of batches before standards are finally set,” an officer said. Since physically and psychological capabilities and aptitude of the genders are different, we cannot readily adopt standards already set for male cadets. We would have to review the outputs over a period of time, he added.

Talk of war

The terrorists and their masterminds have created a tricky situation. The talk of war suits them more than anybody else. The media, both print and electronic, is not as forthcoming as it ought to have been in telling the war-mongers that the result of such a course will be catastrophic.

What a Daily Times editorial pointed out is worth mentioning here: “The media on sides has to play a role in mediating the political side of the crisis. If it showcases retired Generals on this occasion, it will tilt the scale on the wrong side. If it hits the street with a one-sided question, the people are going to say unrealistic things like ‘we are ready to fight Pakistan, we must fight India’. No one in the world should ‘be ready’ to fight a nuclear war.”

The paper adds, “…the reasonable voice that says that the Mumbai attack is mounted by elements who want a conflict between India and Pakistan is being drowned amid angry statements. It could well be a plan to force the Pakistan Army out of the Tribal Areas and thus provide relief to the militants, who are seen by many to be under pressure these days.

The dominant anti-American view probably favours Pakistan’s delinking from the war against terrorism that will follow an Indo-Pak standoff.”

Dr Rasul Bakhsh Rais, who teaches at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, made a sensible comment in his article in Daily Times on Tuesday: “The war on terror requires international cooperation, more meaningful and institutionalised than has been forthcoming. An even bigger challenge is for India and Pakistan to cooperate with each other in fighting terrorism. It is, however, not going to be easy given the present climate of distrust.”

Army upset

The controversy over the question of sending the ISI chief to India for helping the investigation of the Mumbai terrorist attack seems to have led to uneasy relations between the PPP government and the Pakistan Army. Though official circles are trying to make everybody believe that the matter has ended with the reversal of the government’s decision, the situation is not as simple as it appears on the surface. The development may have far-reaching consequences.

What has been going on between the Army and the government for the past few days is not what Daily Times referred to in passing in one of its editorials: “Some media comment has dwelt on the ‘misunderstanding’ that occurred with regard to the ‘sending’ of the ISI chief to India, but that confusion has been cleared and need not be raked up.”

Let us have a look at what The News says: there are “indications that the Pakistan military is not seeing eye-to-eye with the government. The military high command is said to be upset over what it believes is the civilian government’s failure to consult it on key decisions; the initial agreement to send the DG, ISI, to India, which was then subsequently withdrawn, has added to the dangerous discord.”

Mumbai mayhem
Where did Indian security go wrong?
by Adm Arun Prakash (retd)

The diabolic, well-coordinated and ruthlessly executed multi-pronged terrorist assault on Mumbai has left the nation punch-drunk. Since Mumbai is a great port city, many in the media have been looking seawards for clues, and asking the inevitable question: could the Indian Navy (IN) or the Coast Guard (CG) have done anything to stop the terror strikes? The dramatic high seas interception of two merchant ships, and their internment in a Gujarat port has added grist to the mill.

Many of us are missing the wood for the trees. No set of people could have walked off a merchant ship in Sassoon Docks or stepped out of a dinghy at Machhlimar Nagar and launched these attacks. This operation called for reconnaissance, logistics, communications, local support and, perhaps, even rehearsals; all requiring time. The number of persons involved, directly or indirectly, could easily run into dozens, if not a hundred. It speaks of the abysmal depths plumbed by our police and intelligence apparatus that they failed to hear an underworld rumour or a whisper on the airwaves, or obtain any sort of warning at all. But that seems to be now “par for the course” in India.

Soon after the July 2006 serial train blasts in Mumbai, which resulted in over 500 dead and injured, I attended a high-level inter-ministry meeting to discuss this issue. After presentations, discussions and brain-storming lasting a couple of hours, the final question was asked by the Cabinet Secretary: what urgent remedial and precautionary measures should we take to prevent the recurrence of such incidents?

After a pregnant silence, the sole suggestion that came was voiced by a junior functionary: “We must give the SHOs at the thana level more and better quality walkie-talkie sets.” I was shaken to the core because of the pedestrian and a worm’s eye perspective that it demonstrated; not high-technology, not intelligence, not weapons, but walkie-talkies! And this was in 2006, after the nation had been experiencing bomb blasts or terrorist attacks with monotonous regularity in the wake of the horrifying 1993 Mumbai carnage. The score today, of course, stands much higher.

What we have been facing for many years now is an “asymmetric war”, waged by a ruthless and imaginative intelligence agency. This war has many dimensions; aiding separatism and insurgency, attacking our economy by pumping in fake currency, inciting communal violence, and undermining the morale and cohesion of the armed forces (often through the instrumentality of the Indian media) are some other facets of this multi-pronged assault by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency on the hapless Indian State.

Its most obvious manifestation has been the cold-blooded orchestration of violence amidst our civilian population. This is done through a complex and well-organized network of agents and surrogates, indigenous and foreign, who are trained, equipped and financed to wreak havoc. Mumbai was obviously a soft and undefended target, where they perpetrated mayhem with impunity.

Like ostriches with heads buried deep in sand, we have refused to acknowledge this asymmetric war. And full responsibility for this situation must be accepted by Indian politicians of all hues, who in their ruthless quest for votes and political one-upmanship have systematically undermined every instrument of state, and rendered the nation vulnerable. While using it to gain electoral “brownie points” they have failed to make terrorism an issue of sharp focus for the security establishment. Our response to the asymmetric war has, therefore, remained disjointed, fragmented and disorganised for three reasons.

Firstly, the netas have emasculated the police forces and made the intelligence agencies ineffective by interference and politicisation, so that they are unable to discharge their core functions. Secondly, the national security establishment has encouraged turf distribution and creation of fiefdoms, and thereby deprived itself of the benefits of holistic thinking and synchronized action. And lastly, in a system that must be uniquely world-wide, the armed forces are kept on the margins of national security management by a powerful bureaucracy, and rarely consulted or heard by politicians, even on issues in which they have exclusive expertise.

Let us return to Mumbai, which is not only a metropolis, port city and financial hub but also home to India’s nuclear establishments and the Western Naval Command. There can be little doubt that the city’s porous water-front is its Achilles heel, as is the state’s long coastal belt. But Maharashtra received adequate warning 15 years ago, when in 1993 the “mafia” landed a few tonnes of arms and explosives by boat near Ratnagiri, and with police connivance transported them to Mumbai for the carnage that was to follow.

Soon thereafter, all coastal states were directed by the Centre to raise marine police wings equipped with high-speed boats and communication equipment. To my knowledge, only Kerala has put together a small unit of this type, while the other states unrealistically expect the IN or the CG to undertake coastal policing functions. These two Services are meant to operate at sea, and cannot, for example, undertake patrolling of Juhu, Chowpatti, Cuffe Parade or Alibagh; which is the job of the marine police.

However, that is not all. Like much else in our country, port and coastal security is in a total mess because at least 14 ministries, departments and agencies have a degree of involvement in maritime-related issues. Most of the time our security is compromised because the left hand does not know what the right is doing. Agencies work at cross-purposes, while important harbours like Mumbai remain unguarded.

For years, the Navy has been pleading with the government that there is a dire need to constitute a central Maritime Commission for regulation, coordination and oversight of maritime security. That this eminently sensible proposal is languishing due to bureaucratic obduracy is proof of our political myopia and lack of resolve.

India’s coastal, maritime and national security will be tremendously enhanced if the Commanders-in-Chief of the Western and Eastern Naval Commands were to be empowered. But for that we will not only need to reach a higher level of security consciousness but also learn to repose faith, confidence and responsibility in the only national institution which continues to function with dedication, efficiency and intense patriotism: the Indian Armed Forces.

Every newspaper and TV channel is today reflecting how drastically the stock of the politician has fallen with the common man. If India’s polity wants to redeem itself in the public eye they must forget hypocritical vacuous statements, forget ex-gratia payments, forget commissions of enquiry; there is only one service they can perform for the nation. And that is to convene an emergency session of both Houses of Parliament, and, sinking their petty differences, show the people that for once they have not their own but the nation’s vital interests at heart.

This historic session of Parliament should enact or start the process for legislation for constituting a Homeland Defence Organisation, be it a civil ministry, a military command or a combination of the two, with appropriate instruments at its disposal. There should be the empowerment of this organisation with wide-ranging authority to, inter alia, monitor the movements, search and detain, if necessary, individuals suspected of posing a threat to the nation, gain access to telephones, e-mails, bank accounts and any other information in the interest of homeland safety. Reforms should also be implemented to free the police forces of the debilitating yoke of political interference.

This will be a draconian measure, but for how long must the people of India remain hostage to terror exported from the neighbourhood?n

Condolence, the Indian way
by Nonika Singh

As camera zooms in on the grieving K. Unnikrishnan, father of brave martyr Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, slamming the door on Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, suddenly the focus shifts from terror. Another kind of line is drawn. Drawing-room conversations as well as serious editorial conferences deliberate the matter. Many condemn the unbecoming remark of the Chief Minister. Others believe it was ungracious of heartbroken Unnikrishanan to have snubbed the poor Chief Minister who had come with the noblest of intentions — to offer condolences.

But having passed through a similar onslaught let me share that in India there are many empathisers who possess an uncanny knack of rubbing it in. Often, I too have been tempted, if not to shut the door, at least scream at the top of my voice — oh please, shut up.

Indeed, whoever said sorrow shared is sorrow halved knew exactly what he was talking about. The traditional Indian way, where for days relatives and friends keep streaming into your household is meant to do exactly that. As the anguished members of the family go over and over their tragedy, recounting again and again how they lost a dear one, the entire mourning exercise serves as a catharsis, where they partially purge themselves of the toxin that grief generates. And on the day earmarked for uthala which also signals the end of official mourning, once more friends turn up, to stand by you in your hour of sorrow.

But in modern India, there is a whole new tribe of insensitive “sympathisers”. They can offer you the weirdest of commiserations, which if the situation wasn’t so grim would easily qualify for an SMS joke, even if a poor one. Then there are those who perhaps believe — see no grief, hear no grief and simply do not speak about it. In the days of prompt SMS and mobile phones, they remain incommunicado and invisible. Silence is their golden way of commiseration. All very well … so be it.

But just when you have forgotten all about them and their grievous ways, just as you set about to get your life back in order, trying to come to terms with your very personal grief, there they are. At an official get-together, someone else’s funeral, on the roadside, in the market, even a party. And guess what, when you least expect and want it — the condolence message is writ all over them, as they seem only too eager to shed copious tears and offer fake sympathy. You resist the urge to tap them on the head — hey, sir /madam, losing a dear one is not yesterday’s weather, which can be used as a pretext anywhere and everywhere to initiate polite conversation.

With your insides churning, you just about control yourself from being nasty. Instead you offer feeble answers and walk away, relieving your pain publicly once more.

So dear “sympathisers”, if you don’t know, let it be known — condolence has a time, place and above all an inclination. If you do not care enough — simply keep quiet. Lip sympathy, too, can help assuage hurt feelings, provided it comes laced with some sensibility and sensitivity. Perhaps, Unnikrishnan sensed or felt that the Kerala Chief Minister’s gesture was devoid of both.n

Top military officer goes to India, Pakistan

Tue Dec 2, 2008 5:53pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer traveled to India and Pakistan on Tuesday as part of Washington's diplomatic efforts to ease tensions over last week's deadly attacks by militants in Mumbai, officials said.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was expected to arrive in the South Asia region around the same time as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was due in India on Wednesday.

"The chairman intends to meet with civilian and military leaders of both nations to encourage a cooperative approach to regional security concerns in the wake of the Mumbai attacks," Navy Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen, said by email.

"He believes the attacks, which also killed Americans, point to a growing sophistication of extremist groups that threaten the entire region."

Officials declined to provide details about Mullen's trip because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The three-day rampage by 10 Islamist gunmen in Mumbai killed 183 people. Indian investigators say the militants had months of commando training in Pakistan from Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group blamed for an attack on India's parliament in 2001.

Indian warned on Tuesday that a peace process with Pakistan that began in 2004 would be at risk if Islamabad did not act decisively to turn over militant fugitives believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

India and Pakistan, which both possess nuclear weapons, have fought three wars and had various military standoffs since independence from Britain in 1947.

U.S. military officials worry that rising tensions could prompt Pakistan to redeploy troops to its eastern border with India from northwestern tribal areas near the Afghanistan border where Pakistani forces are now operating against Islamist militant strongholds.

Mullen has met several times this year with the Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, to discuss the militant problem in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

(Reporting by Andrew Gray and David Morgan; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

Nation stands with Army for country’s defence: Hashmi

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

MULTAN: PML-N Vice-President Makhdoom Muhammad Javed Hashmi said here on Monday that the nation stood with the armed forces steadfastly like a rock and any aggression would be frustrated in unison.

Addressing a press conference, he said that the country was facing serious crisis at the moment. But the nation backs the Army, he said. He said that the Mumbai blasts were a part of a series of international conspiracies hatched against Pakistan.

He said Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was eliminated for launching the nuclear programme and Benazir Bhutto was assassinated because she wanted to keep the country united and make it stronger. The PML-N, he said, demanded of the government to call an emergency meeting of parliament to discuss the current situation arising out of the Mumbai blasts and the subsequent Indian threats.

Hashmi said that Nawaz Sharif had been kept out of parliament under a global plot. He said that the PML-N chief would have played a major role in parliament as an opposition leader. Hashmi said that India had always attacked Pakistan whenever it was being ruled by an army dictator while during a democratic era, it did not dare resorting to any adventurism.

He regretted that the US was advancing the Indian and Israeli agenda against Pakistan, which had always suffered a great deal due to its friendship and loyalty to the US. He said that international forces were once again conspiring against the integrity of the country and its nuclear programme, which was a deterrent for its defence.

The PML-N leader said that arson, riots and firing incidents in Karachi were also a part of the same conspiracy against the country. Hashmi called for an urgent need for making parliament strong and supreme. He suggested that envoys of friendly countries must be called to brief on the volatile situation instantly.

1 comment:

  1. The forerunner of the United Nations was the League of Nations, an organization conceived in similar circumstances during the first World War, and established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles "to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security.

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