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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

From Today's Papers - 16 Dec

Portal Pangs
'Incorrect' pension data on MoD website riles veterans
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 15
The tables for revised pension posted on the Ministry of Defence's website are purported to be different from those originally issued by the ministry. This revelation comes in the wake of "incorrect" tables being floated to banks by the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PDCA).

Army Headquarters is learnt to have taken up the issue of incorrect tables with the MoD. In fact, the tables now available on the ministry's website are the same as those floated by the PCDA to banks.

The tables were released as annexure to the pension letter issued by the defence ministry on November 11. Copies of the said letter were sent to, among others, the President's and Vice-President's Secretariats, Prime Minister's Office, Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha and cabinet secretariats, PCDA and scheduled banks.

There are several discrepancies in the annexure originally issued by the MoD and those floated by the PCDA and on the MoD website. Pension fixed for some ranks in the latter is lower than that of their juniors.

This, ex-servicemen have pointed out violates existing provisions as well as orders of the Supreme Court in the case of Union of India vs S.P.S. Vains, that pay or pension of an individual cannot be lower than that of his junior.

Tables floated by the PCDA do not reflect stepping-up of pension in cases where the pension fixed for a particular rank by the Sixth Pay Commission worked out to be lower than that of subordinate rank.

Implementation of successive pay panel recommendations has led to wide disparity in the pension of armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank but at different times. Ex-servicemen were strongly demanding "one rank-one pension", but defence minister A.K. Antony stated in Parliament that it was not acceptable to the government.

The Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IEM) has reacted by saying that the defence minister had not only failed to give any reason for not accepting the demand, but also violated constitutional provisions and Supreme Court orders, for which it was answerable to the nation.

The IEM has also flayed Antony's statement in Rajya Sabha that ex-servicemen had not rejected the SPC, stating that the minister seemed to have misled the House. Service chiefs had twice represented to the government about pay anomalies.

Maj-Gen Satbir Singh (retd), vice chairman IEM, said after paying homage to martyrs on Vijay Diwas ex-servicemen would organise a protest rally and a relay fast against the "injustice" done to them and to garner support for their demands.

Federal agency to tackle terror gets cabinet nod
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 15
Finally, after much deliberations and despite objections from several states, including Punjab, the union cabinet tonight gave its approval for the formation of a national investigating agency (NIA) to handle the cases of terrorism, organised crimes with inter-state and foreign linkages.

A special meeting of the cabinet approved this. The cabinet also okayed amendments to existing laws to combat terror. "Bills for these purposes will be introduced in Parliament," an official spokesman told mediapersons here tonight.

The important amendment will be to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Though the government does not want to unleash another TADA or POTA like Act, it is understood that provisions to detain a person will be more stringent by providing for up to 180 days or detention against 90 days at present.

Also the onus of proving innocence will on part of accused. The TADA — Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act and the POTA — Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, had been repealed in Parliament following complaints of widespread misuse.

The opposition parties like the BJP has been demanding tough anti-terror POTA like law, which the Congress and the government had been rejecting. Even several senior police officers have advised against using POTA or TADA.

The other important step is to establish the NIA. Since the law and order is a state subject, the proposed amendment may give the Centre overriding powers over the states in case of terrorist attacks, like the Mumbai attacks or the various blasts. Article 246 of the Constitution allows the Central government this power to override the states in making laws.

The final contours of the NIA will be known only when the bill is tabled, however, it is likely to be opposed by several regional parties like the Shiromani Akali Dal, the DMK, the Janata Dal United and even, to some extent, by the Left parties. The latter have already said the states had to be on board such an agency.

Sources said the NIA would override all agencies when it would come to probing and collating information and intelligence on crimes that would designate as "federal crimes". It could be reporting directly to the Prime Minister or have special minister handling internal security.

The cabinet decision comes in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks after which the government has expressed its determination to put in place a tough legal framework to combat the menace.

The Prime minister and home minister P. Chidambaram have told Parliament and talked about strengthening legal framework to combat terror — toughening the provisions of law.

Bring ISI under civilian control, Kerry tells Pak
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 15
Another important US leader today came calling on the Indian leadership in the wake of the terror attack on Mumbai and asked Pakistan in the strongest terms to deal sternly with militant groups operating on its soil and ensure that its notorious spy agency ISI was brought under the civilian control.

Influential Senator John Kerry, a close confidant of US President-elect Barack Obama, said Islamabad must take visible and effective steps to take on groups, like the LeT and the Jaish-e-Mohammed. "We know it (Mumbai attack) was planned in Pakistan and we are very confident that evidence will be presented at the right time,'' he said.

During the course of the day, he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of the Opposition L.K Advani and is understood to have conveyed Obama's message about Washington's intention to maintain pressure on Pakistan and impress upon it the urgent need to fight the 'jehadi' elements.

Kerry, who will be the chairman of the Senate Committee for Foreign Relations in the incoming administration, is the third high-level visitor from Washington following the November 26 Mumbai attacks.

At his meetings in New Delhi, Kerry was firmly told that India had solid evidence suggesting the involvement of the LeT in the Mumbai attack.

Later talking to mediapersons, he described the Mumbai attack as a '"turning point", which warranted a new era of cooperation against terrorism.

The lesson of the Mumbai incidents was that the behaviour (against terrorism) had now to be different and all needed to cooperate.

The Senator said such incidents made it absolutely impossible to conduct business as usual. "Mumbai is a turning point...It calls for a new era of cooperation. It is imperative that Pakistan takes steps to deal with terrorists that are at war with civilians," Senator Kerry said.

Kerry said it was imperative that ISI was not be allowed to "make its own choices", in an obvious indication that the spy agency should be brought under the civilian control.

Asked about Pakistan's response to India's demand for the return of fugitives, Kerry said New Delhi had the right to expect that Pakistan would act in the matter.

Perils of Indian Navy's Nelson touch

"ONCE BITTEN, twice shy" goes the saying and the Indian media has grown mature enough to understand the value of restraint. In a world marked by easy access to any amount of authentic information, it has perhaps realised, it cannot continue to thrive by singing the tune of a discredited establishment. Whatever be the size of the crumbs thrown, blatant hatchet jobs and sycophancy gets exposed within no time and undermines credibility.

The 'Nelson Touch' displayed by Indian Navy's 6900-tonne destroyer INS Mysore of detaining 23 (pirates, in all probability) on Dec 13 has been reported with a pinch of caution. This is in stark contrast to the tumultuous reception to the dubious 'breakthrough' achieved by the frigate INS Tabar last month. (See "Goof-up in the high seas") INS Mysore is currently on anti-piracy patrol operations, conducted under the control of the Western Naval Command, off the Gulf of Aden.

Only the government-controlled (through backdoor) Indian news agency, Press Trust of India, expectedly went delirious. "Continuing with its successful run against sea pirates, a Navy warship today repulsed a group of sea brigands. . ," it waxed while highlighting the detaining of 12 Somali and 11 Yemeni people as 'capture of pirates'. The media did not, however, go beyond hyping the inventory of small arms – seven AK-47s, two rifles, a grenade launcher, and ammunition – seized from the two boats that the Navy commandos had boarded as "substantial cache". Interestingly, the Ethiopian flag- vessel MV Gibe, that had sent the mayday call for help too had such weapons. It had opened retaliatory fire with small arms that were held onboard the vessel.

Armed helicopters were dispatched to locate the vessel that reported distress in the hands of pirates' boats. An Indian government statement said that the boats disengaged from MV Gibe on sighting the chopper. Some of them escaped in unspecified number of boats. The destroyer closed in on a 8-10 metre dhow with a skiff (small boat) under tow and stopped it. Marine commandos boarded them to nab the Somalis and Yemenis. BBC reported the government statement verbatim adding that the 'pirates' would be handed over to the appropriate authorities. Reflecting the credibility of the claim in the world, BBC was careful enough to volunteer with additional info: "Last month, India's Navy said it had sunk a pirate "mother vessel" off Somalia. But it later emerged that the vessel was actually a Thai fishing trawler that had been seized by pirates off Yemen."

The locations of the pirates' lairs are no secret but most responsible countries realise that they can't do anything drastic for fear of putting captured crews at hazard. Hawkish enthusiasts elsewhere have, however, showered accolades on India if only as stick to beat the Western navies with. A typical royal British hothead lamented their restraint: "Let's be shaken by the Nelson touch of Indian Navy. A couple of hundred years ago, the Royal Navy cemented its reputation as the ruler of the seas through the audacious exploits of the captains of its fast, heavily-armed frigates against piratical riff-raff like these Somalis." There still are fanatics basking in hoary glory of the past, refusing to realise that this world belongs to the common man.

For the uninitiated, Horatio Nelson was the hero of Trafalgar Battle that Britain fought in 1805 off Spain with Franco-Spanish fleet of Napoleon. Nelson's grand strategies and touch may have made Napoleon to abandon his plan to invade England. But, there can be no takers in today's scenario for the notion that only Britain had the divine right to rule Europe. It is equally so for his historic call: "England expects that every man will do his duty." The economic cost of the victory was enormous to both parties. Almost 25 per cent of the captains and 20 per cent of the lieutenants of the Royal Navy fell and Nelson himself was killed!

More than 60 years of after World War II that ended the era of colonisation, everyone realises that peace and prosperity would be a pipedream unless the concerns of the 'riff raff' is addressed sensibly; that includes Somalia. Of course, 'patriotic Indians' waiting for permanent residency abroad can walk a little confidently in societies that look down upon them, basking in these accolades. But, it is a fact that such an 'esteemed' presence of the Navy at mindboggling cost to the taxpayer is actually an exercise in futility. Indian foreign affairs pundits see the Navy only as their cat's paws to divert attention from domestic problems. The policy of proudly rambling in isolation robs it of valuable expertise that it could gain with international coordination.

It should also be noted that it is beyond India's capability to fight for every 'just cause' in the world, and is likely to remain so for centuries. None of the major sea-faring countries will complain if India does not participate in the policing because its trade volume in the Aden Gulf is a trifle. Also, everyone knows about the poverty of its hinterland. Pushed into the scene of action by bureaucratic shortsightedness, the Navy may not even be fit for inclusion in the international anti-piracy initiative off Somalia.

In this context, Xinhua reports that the Greek chemical tanker hijacked on October 10 with 20 crew members has been freed. However, three of them have died: Seafarers Assistance Program's East Asia coordinator, Andrew Mwangura stated: "MV Action was released by pirates. She is currently limping to safe waters. It is feared that three crew members lost their lives under questionable circumstances." He would not confirm if owners of the Panama-flagged ship paid a ransom or how the three crew members died.

Significantly, the Indian government could do nothing for the captured crew even in the case of the 18 Indians aboard MV Stolt Valor recently.

It was left to the Japanese owners to negotiate and secure their release. Currently, some 25 Indians of MT Biscaglia have been held hostage, including the ship's Indian Master. Naveen Patnaik, Orissa chief minister, has written to foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee for intervening on behalf of one of the crew Himanshu Kar. Himanshu's father too has directly appealed to prime minister to help bring his son back. But, it is for the Singapore-based company employing the 30 crewmen to get them released.

Let cronies ruling the roost in New Delhi under the likes of Pranab Mukherjee swindle peoples' meagre assets for fictitious breakthroughs in nukes and ICBMs; these can never tackle piracy, or terror attacks for that matter. But, at least, they do not deter international companies from hiring Indian crew! For, mindless rabble-rousing by the government may endanger employment prospects of Indian crew. They may be perceived to be under too much risk from pirates due to such government misadventures.

Army's drive to woo Kashmir's 'Generation Next'

FOR THEM, it was exhilarating experience of a lifetime. Most of the young lads from Kashmir, who enjoyed a ride on Delhi Metro on Saturday, had not stepped out of the Valley so far.

Expressing their gratitude to the Army for organising such an event, most children remarked that they never dreamt that such things existed in our National Capital.

Army in Kashmir is not only fighting the militancy but also has been depicting the humane and people-friendly face to the people of the state. In its relentless drive to enlighten and empower the 'Generation Next' of Kashmir, the Army organised a ride on Delhi Metro for 35 children from South Kashmir.

The tour, which started from South Kashmir has took these 35 children to immaculately laid out Chandigarh. After an experience of a life time in the beautiful gardens of Chandigarh and Pinjore, the children are now in our National Capital, Delhi to see and feel for themselves the gigantic strides made by our nation in diverse fields. The Metro ride was just one of them.

Most children remarked that they never dreamt that such things existed in our National Capital. Why in Delhi? Such development can take place in Kashmir once the scourge of militancy is eliminated from the Valley. Instead of a train ride from Qaziguand to Baramula, it will be a Metro ride.

In its continuous effort to win the hearts and minds of people, the Army is organising educational tours for the children from the Valley who can get first-hand experience of great economic strides achieved by our country.

Indian Navy has Sleepless Nights
with 23 Pirates Aboard Ship

New Delhi
The arrest of 23 pirates from the Gulf of Aden is giving sleepless nights to the Indian Navy, as it is struggling with the legalities over whom to hand the brigands to and ensuring their prosecution.

The Indian Navy's guided-missile destroyer INS Mysore, which has been patrolling the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, Saturday arrested 12 Somalian and 11 Yemeni nationals and seized their two boats - a dhow and a skiff - after repulsing an attack on the Ethiopian vessel MV Gibe.

"The pirates have been onboard the ship for nearly two days now. With no laws in place to prosecute them, we are having a hard time in finding a way to deal with them," a senior navy official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Though the warship is pretty large, the onus of having the pirates on board is large. From the number of mouths to be fed having increased to the security to be put in place for them," he said.

"At least three sentries have to be on guard or else these pirates may create a nuisance by fighting among themselves and inflicting injuries," the official said.

One of the options that the Indian Navy is mulling is to disembark the pirates at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and hand them over to French authorities. But nothing is clear as of now.

While escorting merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, the Mysore received a distress call from the MV Gibe at about 11 a.m Saturday.

"MV Gibe reported that she was under attack by two boats closing her and firing small arms. MV Gibe opened retaliatory fire with small arms that were held onboard the vessel. The position reported by the merchant vessel was 13 nautical miles from Mysore at that time," the Indian Navy has said.

Mysore immediately altered course to close in on MV Gibe and also launched her integral armed helicopter, carrying marine commandos.

"On sighting the helicopter and Mysore, the pirate boats disengaged from MV Gibe and attempted escape. The Mysore closed on the vessels and ordered them to stop."

"The larger boat was a green coloured dhow of 8-10 metres length. It had taken the second smaller boat, a skiff, under its tow. Subsequently, the name of the dhow was identified as 'Salahaddin' and its hull number as 758(2)," the spokesman said.

The Mysore's marine commandoes boarded the dhow at 12.30 p.m. and carried out a search. Twenty-three pirates surrendered on boarding, the spokesman said.

A search of the dhow revealed a substantial cache of arms and equipment, including seven AK-47 and three other automatic rifles; 13 loaded magazines; a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher along with rockets, cartridges and grenades; three outboard motors and a GPS receiver.

This is the third rescue the Indian Navy has effected since it began anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden early in November.

On Nov 18, the navy earned worldwide accolades after the stealth frigate INS Tabar sank a Somali pirate vessel after coming under attack.

On Nov 8, INS Tabar had, in a daring rescue mission, foiled an attempt by pirates to hijack two ships - an Indian and a Saudi Arabian merchant vessels.

Somali pirates have attempted 95 hijackings this year alone, a 75 percent increase since 2007.

Navy at sea over what to do with nabbed pirates

Press Trust of India

Monday, December 15, 2008, (New Delhi)

With no instructions from the Indian government, Navy ship INS Mysore is virtually at sea over what to do with the 23 pirates and their dhow apprehended by it in the Gulf of Aden while repulsing an attack by the brigands on an Ethiopian merchant vessel.

"Since Saturday afternoon, the 12 Somali and 11 Yemeni pirates are kept in custody on board INS Mysore and they are being fed with the rations meant for sailors," Navy officials said.

"We have not received any instructions yet from the Defence Ministry or the External Affairs Ministry on what needs to be done with the pirates," they said.

The piquant situation that INS Mysore finds itself has been compounded as the Rules of Engagement issued to the warship before it set sail to Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy patrol duties is unclear on the course of action if it did seize a pirate vessel and sea brigands, officials said.

However, officials claimed that frantic efforts were in progress in both Ministries to get a foreign port to accept the bandits for trial in their courts and were optimistic of finding a solution by tomorrow.

The only other option available to INS Mysore is to abandon its anti-piracy patrols and return to an Indian port to hand over the pirates to local authorities for trying them. But that appears to be unacceptable to the Navy authorities as their action against the sea bandits was just gaining momentum.

Officials said under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS), International Maritime Organisation resolutions and the Navy Act and Regulations, the warships were authorised to seize and apprehend the pirates.

Russia likely to lease 'Shchuka-B' class nuke subs to India

Press Trust of India

Monday, December 15, 2008, (Moscow)

Russia could lease 'several' 'Shchuka-B' class nuclear attack submarines to India in coming years, a top official in Moscow said though the delivery of the first of the two nuke subs reportedly contracted by India is far behind schedule.

At the same time, the official had ruled out any plans by Moscow to strike similar deals with China.

"Yes, there is a real possibility of leasing for ten years several of our nuclear powered multi-role submarines of Project 971 of 'Shchuka-B' class," the Director of Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS) Mikhail Dmitriyev was quoted as saying by a news agency.

The Russian offer comes as Indian Navy has formulated a 20 year plan to produce indigenously 24 conventional submarines. New Delhi had also contracted for two nuclear submarines from Moscow, but navy has projected that in the next 10 years India would need to acquire or build another

10-12 nuclear subs.

These nuclear submarines would be similar to the 'Nerpa' class, which was involved in an accident in November during final sea trials in Sea of Japan.

"This possibility can materialise in the coming years," he added.

Dmitriyev also denied that Moscow was negotiating supply of nuclear submarines to China.

"The question of supply of our multi role nuclear submarines to China does not exist, as unlike India, China never asked for them. That's why we never negotiated with China on their lease or sale," Dmitriyev said.

"This issue was also not raised at the Russian-Chinese Intergovernmental Commission session on December 11 in Beijing," he said.

The offer is only for leasing of the submarines to the Indian navy and not their sale to India, Dmitriyev specified.

According to earlier reports, under a deal as part of the larger Gorshkov aircraft carrier package, Russia was to lease two "Shchuka-B" (NATO codename -Akula-II) nuclear attack submarines to India.

Until the last-month's accident on board 'Nerpa' nuclear submarine, when 21 crew and technical staff suffocated to death due to accidental release of toxic Freon gas used in fire-suppressing system, Moscow was silent on the deal.

Built on advances reportedly paid by the Indian government, the nuclear submarine is expected to join Indian Navy as 'INS Chakra' some time next year, sources said.

They claimed that India's advanced technology vessel (ATV) project to develop an indigenous nuclear submarine was based on the Russian 'Shchuka-B' design.

How the ISI foments terror

Vicky Nanjappa | December 15, 2008 | 16:25 IST

Sabahudin, the man responsible for the attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and the attack on the CRPF camp at Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, has revealed that he is the one who passed on video clippings of targets in Mumbai to Abu Hamza which in turn was used to train the youth who carried out the Mumbai terror attacks.

Sabahuddin, whose custody has been sought by the Mumbai Anti Terrorist Squad, acted as the point man between Fahim Ansari and Abu Hamza. Ansari had done a recee at Mumbai and shot clippings of the targets. He then met Sabahuddin at Kathamandu, Nepal and passed on the videos and maps which in turn were later handed over to Abu Hamza, the handler for the Mumbai attack.

Sabahuddin, who was arrested by the UP police after the CRPF camp attack, had told interrogators that he had undertaken the IISC attack too. He was also taken to Bangalore where he was subjected to another round of interrogation.

The Laqvi connection:

During interrogation, the 26-year-old Sabahuddin has clearly stated that he was well acquainted withZaki-Ur-Rehman Laqvi, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba man being called the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, who has been placed under house arrest by the Pakistan government.

Sabahuddin further revealed that he had met Laqviafter he completed the Daur-e-Khas (LeT training) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. After the special training, Sabahuddin went to a house which belonged to another LeT operative by the name Muzammil. At his house, he says he met Laqvi for the first time.

Sabahuddin said Laqvi along with Abu-Al-qama asked him to join the LeT which was backed by the ISI so that they could carry out several missions. He was then introduced to Abdulla Mujaheed, the coordinator between the LeT and ISI. Later he was taken to the Jamaat-ud-Dawah headquarters at Murdike which is 50 kilometres from Lahore.

He says the Lashkar gave him accommodation in Lahore at Bhatta Chowki where he stayed for three months. He was given a computer on which he could browse the Internet. He was also taught how to create fake email ids and send out mails.

Meeting with the ISI:

Later he met with Colonel Kyani, Abdul Majid and Subedar Babar from the ISI. They imparted training on intelligence gathering. He was also taught on how to do a recee and surveillance. Another man by the name, Captain Mallik Zafar gave him training on firing. Sabahuddin says Zafar was very nice to him and after training he used to take him out.

He says after training, he was sent back to India with a passport in the name of Mohammad Shafiq and a fake address of Faisabad, Punjab, Pakistan was arranged for him.

Subedar Javed Saab, an ISI officer took him to the Nepal Embassy in Islamabad and obtained a visa. He was asked to pose a carpet seller from Pakistan.

Before setting out to India, Colonel Kyani gave him Rs 25,000. The money was handed over through some person at the Lahore airport. He was directed to take the PIA flight out of Lahore to Doha, Qatar. From Doha, he took a Qatar Airways flight to Kathamandu.

On reaching Kathamandu, as per directions, he tore the Pakistani passport and flushed it down the toilet. He took up a room in a hotel and tried crossing over to India several times by train and bus, but backed out as security was high. He mailed Azeez, an LeT contact in Pakistan about the same who in turn got in touch with Captain Mallik Zafar. The captain in turn sent a man by the name Saifulla, a chief accountant with the LeT. Saifualla, who called himself Vinod, paid a Nepali youth Rs 65,000 to take him across the border on a motor cycle.

Special aircraft for coastline security
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 15
Within days of terrorists having used a sea route to attack Mumbai, it now seems that India will speed up induction of specialised aircraft that can carry maritime reconnaissance over and around the country's vast 8,000 km coastline. On the other hand, stealth frigates and destroyers class ships will be delayed for short span.

Defence minister A.K Antony while replying to suggestions of the standing committee on Defence today told the Lok Sabha that three types of aircraft were being acquired.

In his reply he also gave details about how 56 airfields across the country were being upgraded and modernised. The Indian Air Force will also be expanding in a big way with addition of Sukhoi -30 MKI fighters, Indigenously developed light-combat aircraft and development of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft with Russia.

The standing committee had questioned the shortage and wanted that the projects should not suffer from cost-over-run. Antony has assured that there is progress and the medium range ones will be inducted within this plan, ending 2012.

Antony admitted that there was a delay in acquiring the stealth frigates and there was lag of nearly 9 months in the delivery of the first ship. The issue of weapon systems for these ships has been resolved. Separately another delay has been encountered to deliver destroyers for the Navy as the "shafting" and the propeller system has been delayed.

Antony said a total of 56 airfields were being upgraded. A total of 30 have been taken up in the first phase. A sum of Rs 1,216 crore was being spent. This sum will also include a very high frequency distance --measuring equipment for the Navy.

The committee suggested that the IAF should take over some of the airfields that were owned by state governments but were in a state of a dis-repair for want of funds. The minister said the IAF was opening up military enclaves at some of the civil aerodromes that were under the command of the Airports Authority of India. The taking over of airfields will be discussed as per the need.

Navy at sea over what to do with nabbed pirates

New Delhi, December 15
With no instructions from the Indian government, Navy ship INS Mysore is virtually at sea over what to do with the 23 pirates and their dhow apprehended by it in the Gulf of Aden while repulsing an attack by the brigands on an Ethiopian merchant vessel.

"Since Saturday afternoon, the 12 Somali and 11 Yemeni pirates have been kept in custody on board INS Mysore and they are being fed with the rations meant for sailors," Navy officials said here today.

"We have not received any instructions yet from the Defence Ministry or the external affairs ministry on what needs to be done with the pirates," they said

The piquant situation that INS Mysore finds itself has been compounded as the Rules of Engagement issued to the warship before it set sail to the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy patrol duties is unclear on the course of action if it did seize a pirate vessel and sea brigands, officials said.

However, officials claimed that frantic efforts were in progress in both ministries to get a foreign port to accept the bandits for trial in their courts and were optimistic of finding a solution by tomorrow.

The only other option available to INS Mysore is to abandon its anti-piracy patrols and return to an Indian port to hand over the pirates to local authorities for trying them. But that appears to be unacceptable to the Navy authorities as their action against the sea bandits was just gaining momentum.

Officials said under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS), International Maritime Organisation resolutions and the Navy Act and Regulations, the warships were authorised to seize and apprehend the pirates. — PTI

Is Pakistan serious?
Its action against LeT is deficient

Pakistan remains in the dock and more so because of its lack of seriousness in handling terrorism. The whole world knows that the terrorists who caused mayhem in Mumbai on November 26 were Pakistani nationals. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown went by his government's information when he pointed out on Sunday during his short visit to New Delhi and Islamabad that the terrorist outfit responsible for the attack was LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiyaba) and Pakistan "has a great deal to answer for". This is what every influential world leader has pointed out, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited India immediately after the terrorist strike on Mumbai. Even surviving Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Ameer Qasab has given enough details about how, where and by whom he and the nine other terrorists were trained and armed to do what they did on that black Wednesday. Yet Pakistan shamefully goes on repeating parrot-like that it needs "proof" from India before it decisively acts against the terrorist organisations threatening to destroy peace in South Asia.

Pakistan can no longer fool the world by diversionary statements. It has to take concrete action against terrorists by destroying their infrastructure and choking their funding sources, as Mr Brown pointed out. The international community has to step up pressure on Islamabad so that it goes whole hog against the perpetrators of terrorist violence. Pakistan needs to be reminded more forcefully that its non-seriousness in taking on terrorism can cost it dear. Islamabad's unimpressive approach can be seen in its action against the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), declared a terrorist outfit by the UN. Very few JuD offices and the institutions run by it have been sealed. Even the arrested JuD leaders are likely to be released.

India and the rest of the world are watching all this closely. The terrorist attack on Mumbai has hit the peace process between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a gathering in Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, "We want to have normal relations" with Pakistan, but this is not possible when Islamabad allows its territory to be used for terrorist attacks in India. Only when Pakistan gives the guarantee that its territory has ceased to be a haven for terrorists can the peace process be resumed.

It is the army that owns Pakistan
by Prem Prakash

It won't be long before a large group of people march to Wagah on the India-Pakistan border carrying lit candles in their hands, seeking friendship with that country. Makes for great pictures, gives them all the publicity, but where does it take the relations between India and Pakistan?

It is high time that we learn to be realistic about our neighbour. There is far too much talk about the cultural affinity between India and Pakistan and the fact that we were one country at one time.

Yes, we were one at one time. They sought separation and got it. It is a different matter that they do not know what to do with the country that they got.

The founders of Pakistan failed to give that country a stable constitution. The present rulers have totally forgotten what their founder Mohammad Jinnah wanted the country to be like.

The country has become a fiefdom of its army ever since Gen. Ayub Khan staged a coup in 1958. It is not a country that has an army, but it is an army that owns the country.

The army in Pakistan can continue to control and own that country so long as it can project that it faces a threat from India. Take away that threat perception and the Pakistan army will lose all its clout.

This is clear like daylight to anyone who wishes to see it, yet there are people in India who keep making noises about "people-to-people relations", "one culture" and so on as though the other side is waiting with open arms to befriend Indians.

Whatever cultural affinity existed between the two people has been destroyed. Pakistan today is an altogether a different kind of nation and people.

There may be a miniscule minority having values similar to the Indian middle class, but the large majority of the ruling class has been converted to 'Wahabi' Islam. Efforts have been made to indoctrinate Muslims in India as well.

The Pakistan army, which took over the country in the sixties, sought to legitimise itself by telling its people that India is its greatest enemy, and legitimately the 'Moslems' should have been ruling in the Red Fort. School books were rewritten and officers and soldiers in the armed forces were indoctrinated with that message.

So, how does India deal with a country with such a fragmented polity? One answer would be to deal with the army. Here again, it is a no-win scenario. Why should Pakistan's army befriend India and destroy its legitimacy and necessity for that country?

Therefore, let us take a hard look. First, it is just too bad that we have a neighbour like Pakistan, which is hostile. The first and foremost thing to be done is to secure your own house.

The recent terror attack in Mumbai has exposed the fact that India has neither fully secured its land frontiers nor its coastline. We need to get that done.

The whole idea of these trains and buses travelling between the two countries needs a fresh look. We need to study the rise in the number of terror attacks on India ever since these so-called "people-to-people" contacts became too open. There has been a quantitative rise in these attacks as the enemy has been able to use these services for frequent incognito visits.

Yes, let trade relations grow, but strictly on a reciprocal basis. We have serious differences with China, yet trade between the two countries is multiplying. Surely we can do some thing similar with Pakistan if that is workable.

If the government in Pakistan is seen as trying to respond to Indian concerns following the Mumbai commando attack by elements from that country, it is because of international pressure on Pakistan, which is today on the brink of bankruptcy.

If Pakistan fails to get the second instalment of funds from the IMF this month, it won't have funds in its treasury to pay for the salaries of its staff, and that perhaps includes the army as well.

Let us also not forget that the army there has received well over US $10 billion from the US to fund the so-called war against terror. Further income from this source could dry up too.

Let us deal with Pakistan realistically and without nostalgia. Let us deal with them as a country that is home to the world's most wanted terrorists, a country that created the "mujahadeen" and "Taliban" as pawns to extend its reach into neighbouring territories.

Let us also remember that it was the so-called "Taliban" who overran Afghanistan, three years after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops. They publicly hanged the President of Afghanistan Najibullah.

Even since the murder of President Najibullah, Pakistan has pushed Afghanistan into the stone age with the help of the "Taliban". Pakistan has always wanted to create a strategic depth for itself. Afghanistan had to lose its individuality.

India must be realistic about the situation that exists on the ground. Yes, we want a civilian government in Pakistan. Yes, we want the army of that country and its ISI to be brought under civilian control. But, then Americans too have their interests in the region. They want the Pakistan army to fight their war on terror.

For India, the choice is clear. We have had enough of this nonsense of one-way goodwill. It is time to deal with Pakistan as it is. Let us not expect that they will respond to any of our demands about closing down the terror camps or handing over the criminals wanted by India. We have to evolve our own options.

The world today respects the rich and powerful. India today is seen as an emerging power.

Let us strengthen our borders and our coastlines so that the enemy dare not attempt to come in again. Ignore your adversaries and isolate them for what they are doing to the world. Stop the candle light marches to the Wagah border, to shake hands with a neighbour who still dreams of marching into India. — ANI

From The Times

December 16, 2008

US accuses Britain over military failings in Afghanistan

Allegations that British troops in Helmand are snide, underequipped and often need rescuing have soured relations

Tom Baldwin in Washington and Michael Evans, Defence Editor

The performance of Britain's overstretched military in Afghanistan is coming under sustained criticism from the Pentagon and US analysts even as Gordon Brown ponders whether to send in further reinforcements.

Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary who has been asked to remain in his job under Barack Obama, is understood to have expressed strong reservations about counterinsurgency operations in British-controlled Helmand province.

He has already announced plans for a surge of 20,000 US troops into Afghanistan but Mr Brown, who was given a bleak progress report when he visited Afghanistan at the weekend, is said to be reluctant about committing another 2,000 British troops on top of the 8,400 already there.

A total of 132 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001 and the Government is worried about public opinion turning against the campaign. British officials are concerned that the US may take over control of Helmand – where Mr Gates plans to deploy an extra 5,000 troops – if Mr Brown fails to support the surge. The Americans have grievances over Britain's lack of equipment, including helicopters, which has left troops unable to perform the same tasks as US counterparts and led to more cautious tactics. There is also grumbling about the regularity with which US airstrikes are called to rescue British troops.

General James Jones, who has been picked at Mr Obama's National Security Adviser, co-chaired a bipartisan panel this year which cautioned that Afghanistan was close to becoming a failed state and called for better coordination among Nato forces.

It is understood that there has been "tension and resentment" over the air of superiority adopted by British commanders such as Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who suggested that his American counterparts needed to take lessons from Britain's experience in Northern Ireland and Malaya.

David Kilcullen, an adviser to the US State Department, told a recent seminar that there had been "lots of fairly snide criticism" from the British whose attitude had been: "Look at us, we're on the street in our soft caps and everyone loves us."

He added that such claims had been undercut by the performance since then. "It would be fair to say that in 2006 the British Army was defeated in the field in southern Iraq." At the same event, Daniel Marston, an American consultant who until recently was a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and has been embedded with troops in Afghanistan, said that Britain was being forced to learn some humility after being "embarrassed by their performance".

Mr Brown hinted at some of his doubts when he told reporters in Kabul: "We are the second largest force in Afghanistan and we will expect as part of the burden-sharing that other countries will do more." Senior diplomatic sources say there is also frustration in Britain's military over the lack of a coherent mission statement for the Nato forces in Afghanistan. This has led to problems with US forces sometimes wrecking carefully nurtured community relations in their pursuit of al-Qaeda.

Carter Malkesian, an expert at the Centre of Naval Analysis, said: "Among those in the Department of Defence who are paying attention to these operations, Britain's reputation has probably fallen. But they still recognise that the British Army, among all the allies, are those that fight the most and fight the best."

A British officer in Afghanistan expressed surprise at the criticism from the US. "They have few enough allies who will actually do any fighting," he told The Times.

"It may be that our lay-down is presented as one brigade – when in fact it is far larger – and those away from the coal face simply do not realise the scale of what we do."

A senior British defence source said: "We are punching above our weight in Afghanistan and are the second biggest contributor of all the Nato allies, so for anyone to single us out for criticism is plainly wrong and unfair."

Yesterday it emerged that the Ministry of Defence expects its budget for Afghanistan to rise by more than 50 per cent next year from £1.51 billion in the financial year to £2.32 billion.

— A soldier with 29 Commando Royal Artillery became the 133rd British serviceman to die in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001, the Ministry of Defence said. The soldier was at a Forward Operating Base in the Gereshk area of Helmand province when he was wounded by enemy fire. He was taken by helicopter to the military hospital at Kandahar but died later of his wounds. His family has been informed. The death comes three days after four Royal Marines died in two separate explosions in the Sangin area of Helmand. Three were killed by a 13-year-old suspected suicide bomber.

India, China lay stress on cooperation to combat terrorism

New Delhi (IANS): Close on the heels of the joint India-China army exercise and in the wake of the recent Mumbai terror attack, the two countries on Monday called for greater defence cooperation to combat "increasing menace of terrorism" and threats "sponsored by religious fundamentalism".

The call was made in the India-China Annual Defence Dialogue held here. India was represented by Defence Secretary Vijay Singh and the Chinese side was led by Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army.

"Both leaders highlighted the importance of Indo-China defence relations in the light of the new political order and the increasing menace of terrorism and non-traditional threats sponsored by religious fundamentalism," a senior defence official said.

Agreeing that "unilateralism" was not the way forward, the two sides also agreed that "international cooperation" was essential.

"They agreed on the importance to work collectively to defeat these destabilising forces," the official added.

Both countries also shared their perspectives on various global and regional security situations, including piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

The Gulf of Aden, one of the busiest and the most piracy infested shipping lanes in the world, is a vital route for energy supplies of the two countries.

Pakistani lorry drivers supplying Nato troops in Afghanistan go on strike

An association of Pakistani lorry owners and drivers refused yesterday to resume delivering supplies to foreign troops in Afghanistan after a series of militant attacks on convoys plying the main supply route via the Khyber Pass.

An international shipping company that handles US military supplies through Pakistan also said that there was now "a large backlog of military freight" across the country from Karachi, where the cargo arrives by ship, to the Afghan border, "Clearly the security situation is very difficult," Kevin Speers, a spokesman for Maersk Lines Ltd, told The Times. "Movement through the Pass has been severely restricted."

Pakistani authorities closed the Khyber Pass route nine days ago after militants carried out their biggest attack yet on the supply line, torching around 260 vehicles on two consecutive nights in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

There were another three smaller attacks in Peshawar last week.

Pakistan's Government re-opened the route yesterday, hoping to restore a lifeline that accounts for about 70 per cent of all supplies to the 67,000 Nato, US and other foreign troops in Afghanistan.

But the Khyber Transport Association, which claims to represent the owners of 3,500 trucks, tankers and other vehicles, said that its members would no longer ply the route because of the recent security problems.

"They're on strike," said a representative of one large Pakistani haulage company that handles supplies to foreign troops in Afghanistan.

"It's because of the security situation," he told The Times. "No trucks crossed the border [yesterday], but we hope to move about 30-40 across tomorrow."

He said that the association represented about 60 per cent of the lorry owner-drivers who work on the route from Peshawar, via the Khyber Pass and the border town of Torkham to Kabul, the Afghan capital.

The strike came as US President George Bush made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, warning of a "long struggle" ahead amid plans to deploy another 20,000 American troops to the country.

Nato and US officials admit that they are concerned about the recent attacks but insist they are insignificant in strategic terms, and have had no effect on military operations in Afghanistan.

"Our logistics people at Nato are aware of the strike," Lieutenant Commander James Gater, a spokesman for Nato-led forces in Afghanistan, told The Times.

"The Khyber Association is on strike but the flow of trucks of Nato equipment across Torkham has been relatively good. This has not had any impact on our operations, nor has this had any impact on our logistical effort. They don't provide the majority of our goods."

However, military analysts and logistics specialists say that a stoppage of more than two weeks could start to affect operations on the ground — as well as hampering efforts to distribute food aid.

Even when the route reopens, the Frontier Corps, which provides armed escorts for the convoys, can take only about 80 trucks a day — 20 at a time — compared to about 300-400 a day before the attacks began.

The Pakistani haulage firms that handle the supplies say that last week's attacks have caused a backlog of more than 1,000 containers in Peshawar, and increased haulage costs by up to 70 per cent.

Truck drivers are now demanding 100,000 Pakistani rupees (£865) to drive from Peshawar to Bagram Airbase, just outside Kabul, compared with 60,000 rupees (£513) before the security problems began last month, sources in the firms say.

Pakistani authorities have now told haulage companies to move their cargo terminals outside Peshawar and into the central province of Punjab, they say.

Most Nato and US supplies are currently shipped into Karachi and driven to Peshawar, where they wait overnight before being driven on to Kabul via the Khyber Pass the next day.

Some are driven from Karachi to southern Afghanistan via the border town of Chaman — but that route is also considered unsafe because of the strong Taleban presence around the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Nato and Russian officials told The Times last week that Nato planned to open a new supply route through Russia and the Central Asian states of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan within two months.

Nato and the United States are also in talks on opening a third route through Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to prevent Russia from gaining a stranglehold on supplies to Afghanistan.

General David McKiernan, commander of Nato-led troops in Afghanistan, revealed on Sunday that most fuel for foreign forces in Afghanistan already comes from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The US military also confirmed that it receives 350,000 gallons (1.6 million litres) of fuel via Afghanistan's northern neighbours.

"As a military leader I think it's very important to have multiple lines of re-supply, but I would also say that's very important for the future economic interests of Afghanistan as well," General McKiernan said.

Let's not forget

Sajjad Shaukat

India has been supporting separatism in Sindh, Balohistan, and insurgency in NWFP. It had played a key role in the Dhaka debacle. December 16, 1971 is the day of tragic memory when Pakistan was dismembered and a new state of Bangladesh was created through the Indian plot. India has a long gone history of many centuries, based upon religious prejudice and ethnic antagonism against Muslims. In this regard, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the spy agency of India which was founded in 1968, has assumed a significant status as invisible actor in formulation of India's domestic, regional and global policies, particularly directed Pakistan.

Hindus give credit to Indira Gandhi who in the late 1970s gave RAW a new role to suit her Indira Doctrine specifically asking it to undertake covert operations in neighboring countries, especially Pakistan which comprises majority of Muslims. RAW was given a green signal to mobilise all its resources by exploiting political turmoil in East Pakistan in 1971 which RAW had created through its agents who provided Bengalis with arms and ammunition for conducting guerrilla acts against the Pakistani defence forces.

As regards the separation of East Pakistan, Indian Raw had unleashed a well-organized plan of psychological warfare, creation of polarisation among the armed forces, propaganda by false allegations against West Pakistan, creation of differences between the political parties and religious sects of East and West Pakistan, control of media, manipulating linguistic, political and economic disputes in order to keep maligned the Bengalis against Islamabad.

There is no doubt that one can note political, economic and social disparities almost in every third world country. India contains these disparities in the developed and the less developed regions. In seven states of India separatist movements are at work. But New Delhi, which has not recognized the existence of Pakistan since partition, left no stone unturned in planting and exploiting differences between the people of East and West Pakistan.

RAW has a long history of sinister activities in East Pakistan, backing secular areas of Hindu minority who had played an important role in motivating Bengali Muslims against West Pakistan. RAW's well-paid agents had activated themselves in East Pakistan in the 1960's, when this intelligence agency made an aim to dismember Pakistan. For this aim, RAW took the responsibility of funding Mujib-ur-Rehman's general elections in 1970 including the members of the Awami Party. It colluded with the pro-Indian persons and had paid full attention in training and arming the Mukti Bahni. RAW, while playing with the bloodshed of Muslims succeeded in initiating a civil war in East Pakistan.

Meanwhile, India welcomed the refugees from East Pakistan, provided them with every possible facility so as to incite them against West Pakistan.

However, huge quantity of arms and ammunition started entering East Pakistan along with the guideline of Indian army and RAW. In this connection, Asoka Raina in his book, Inside RAW: The Story of India's Secret Service, reveals, "Indian intelligence agencies were involved in erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, since early 1960s. Its operatives were in touch with Sheikh Mujib as the possible 'Father' of a new nation-Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujib went to Agartala in 1965. The famous Agartala case was unearthed in 1967. In fact, the main purpose of RAW in 1968 was to organise covert operations in Bangladesh. Indian army officers and RAW officials used Bengali refugees to set up Mukti Bahini. Using this outfit as a cover, Indian military sneaked deep into East Pakistan. The story of Mukti Bahini and RAW's role in its creation and training is now well-known."

Asoka further elaborated, "Indian sources, including journalists, have put on record how much before 1971 RAW had established the network of a separatist movement through 'cells' within East Pakistan and military training camps in Indian territory adjoining East Pakistan. The Mukti Bahini were there to take advantage of the political trouble in 1971 and carry out acts of sabotage against communication lines so that Indian forces simply marched in at the 'right' time. RAW agents provided valuable information as well as acting as an advance guard for conducting unconventional guerrilla acts against the Pakistani defence forces."

Nevertheless, India had played a key role in the debacle of Dhaka, which culminated in dismemberment of Pakistan. Even at present, Indian RAW with the direction of New Delhi has been implementing a hidden agenda against other countries such as China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan in order to maintain Indian dominance in the region. In this context, Pakistan has become a special target of RAW where this secret agency is making clandestine efforts either to disintegrate or weaken our country.

Regarding the RAW's covert tactics, M. K Dhar in his book, Open Secrets, India's Intelligence Unveiled, while proving its operations in the neighbouring countries, points outs, "RAW's operations against the regional countries are conducted with great professional skill and expertise, which include the establishment of a huge network inside the target countries. It has used propaganda, political dissent, ethnic divisions, economic backwardness and criminal elements to foment subversion and terrorism to weaken these states in consonance with Indian regional ambitions". However, application of these nefarious designs vary from country to country as RAW's incursion takes different form in accordance with the vulnerabilities of the concerned country.

Nevertheless, Indian sinister aims against Pakistan continue unabated. RAW which played a key role in the dismemberment of Pakistan has been still working on the same pattern to further destabilize our country. It is notable that India has established more than 200 foreign offices and training camps in Afghanistan where RAW's intelligence officials with the help of Khad are doing their utmost to weaken Pakistan by sending weapons to the separatist elements in Balochistan and the insurgents of FATA regions. Very young boys including Afghans, training recruits are mostly from Central Asia, bordering Afghanistan. Thus more than 20,000 ideologically motivated terrorists are intermittently being infiltrated into troubled spots of Pakistan. They join the Taliban militants to fight against Pakistan's security forces. These miscreants also conducted a number of suicide attacks and bombblasts in Pakistan, killing a number of innocent people and personnel of the security forces. In Kurram Agency, RAW's Afghan agents are also actively involved in the sectarian conflict. However, their main plot is to create unrest in our country.

In this context, in its editorial on December 7, 2008, The New York Times wrote, "India's growing investment and intelligence network in Afghanistan is also feeding Islamabad's insecurity and sense of encirclement". Now, again India, while acting upon groundless evidence, is blaming Pakistan for the Mumbai carnage which occurred on November 26 this year. New Delhi has demanded Pakistan to hand over some most wanted persons to New Delhi. Surprisingly, she has presented same list of the suspected men to Islamabad, which it had sent in 2002. Now New Delhi has submitted another list in this connection. On December 2, Pakistan urged India to provide credible evidence about persons living in Pakistan, allegedly involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, but India failed. And this fact has exposed the hollowness of its anti-Pakistan propaganda.

India had accused that the arrested gunman, Ajmal Amir confessed his links with Lashkar-i-Tayiba and told that he is from Faridkot, situated in Pakistan. While, early reports disclosed that an organization, calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the Mumbai incident. Notably, Lashkar-i-Tayiba also denied any involvement in Mumbai tragedy. Meanwhile, Indian police have arrested two persons of Indian origin, illegally buying mobile phone cards as used by militants in the Mumbai attacks. As regards Indian senseless allegations against Pakistan, Newsweek indicated on December 4, 2008, "India has been extremely reluctant to come to terms with the fact that at least some of its terror problem is now homegrown."

Without any doubt, India had played a vital role in the Dhaka debacle. To avoid further disintegration, our politicians, armed forces and the general masses need a strong sense of unity in thwarting RAW's sinister designs against the federation of Pakistan.

The writer is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power


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