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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

From Today's Papers - 17 Dec

Test of Diplomacy

9/11 followed by 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack has polarized the world community in to pro and anti terrorism as there is realization that like religion terrorism has no boundaries either. What is to India today will be to other countries tomorrow. Pakistan has been identified as epic centre of terrorism. However the world is in a fix as to how to deal with her. As a nuclear power it is in the interest of the world that it is democratic stable and progressive country but it is irony that its own rulers continue to follow a policy of thousand cuts to India even at the cost of its own stability. Pakistan too is divided into pro and anti terrorism while the civilian Government and large part of public seems to be against terrorism the military that is waiting on the wings to seize power is hand in glove with the terrorists, for instability suites their designs. India is so hurt by Mumbai attack that she is prepared to go to any length to bring perpetrators of the terrorist attack to justice. The world community is in a bind. They will go to any extent to go with India short of military action. The Pakistan military understands world's predicament and is not doing any thing tangible against the terrorists. Mumbai terrorist attack is therefore an acid test of world diplomatic prowess. Pakistan is in financial mess. She has no resources beyond one month to even pay to her employees including military without IMF help. She should be squeezed of all help of every kind by all nations unless she falls in line with rest of the world. They must close all shops of the terrorist and take effective steps to deal with the identified terrorists. The ISI must be brought under the civilian rule and totally reigned in. Diplomatic route will only be effective if Pakistan is made to realize that the world might suffer the disintegration of a nuclear Pakistan but they will be nothing left for them to rule if they fail to fall in line with rest of the world in annihilation of terrorist all over the world.

Lt Col (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Cheema

Ex-servicemen protest pay, pension issues

New Delhi (PTI): After the government refused to accept their demands over pay and pension, ex-servicemen on Tuesday took out a protest rally and went on an indefinite relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar here "to protest the shabby treatment" meted out to them.

"Around 700 ex-servicemen including 50 General-rank officers today took out a rally against the government's shabby treatment of veterans and serving personnel. A group of retired officers and jawans have sat on a hunger strike today and we will continue the protest till our demands are met," said Indian Ex-Servicemen League (IESL) Vice-chairman Maj Gen (retired) Satbir Singh here.

The veterans started their protest after paying homage at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to mark the martyrdom of Indian soldiers in 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, observed as Vijay Diwas every year.

"We chose this day to start our protests as we want to highlight the shabby treatment meted out to us by this government," Maj Gen Singh said.

IESL chairman Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (retired) said the Sixth Pay Commission, by rejecting the demand of ex-servicemen for "one rank-one pension" had created a major anomaly that has caused a lot of heartburn among the veterans.

"By rejecting our demand for one rank-one pension, the Sixth Pay Commission has created an unprecedented situation of different ranks, but one pension," he said.

The demand of ex-servicemen, Lt Gen Kadyan said, was not money, but a fight for "justice and equality."

Ex-servicemen are demanding that similarly placed personnel retiring at the same age, with an equal number of years in service and same rank should get on-par pension, irrespective of their date of retirement.

Indian military a threat to democracy

Ahmed Khan

Investigations into Samjhota Express ordeal has revealed an extraordinary scenario in the country of world's biggest democracy i.e. India. Involvement of a serving Lieutenant Colonel has shocked not only general masses of the Indian republic but also created an alarm around the world, and especially in the region. India is not a country where everything is rosy and goody goody is going on. It's democracy is facing lot of domestic uprisings and separatist movements. From Seven Sisters to heavenly valleys of Kashmir, entire width of India is boiling up. The latest catalyst is of extremist Hindu organizations, which are popping up and threatening its existence. If the fanaticism of these organizations got into Indian Army which is quite likely and first such evidence has already been hightlighted, then in near future, Indian proud democracy is likely to have same fate as of its neighbours. The poorly staffed Indian army is losing all its traditional charms and only destitute and rejected youth from civilian consumption are now joining its ranks and files. Its an ideal opportunity for the extremist organizations to get their followers enrolled in the officers corps to get results like Samjhota Express and burn down peace loving passengers. Ultimately, that day will not be far off when these fanatic, extremist Hindu officers will not only threaten the biggest democracy but also the very existence of the country. Things just don't stop over here, all neighbours of India are somehow not secure from Indian policies in the region. Bangladesh is having river water, illegal border movements and border issues. Sri Lanka is suffering from insurgency from its Tamils, Indian sponsored rebels. Maldives have seen Indian police actions. Nepal and Bhutan being landlocked are having status of Indian satellite states. Pakistan has fought three wars with India on unresolved issue of Kashmir. Recently, India stopped water of another river, Chenab, thus forcing it to suffer more economically. In the region India is warming up with Iran. Its motives in Afghanistan are not hidden any more. Pakistan has repeatedly raised voice against Indian consulates in Afghanistan, which are supporting militancy in FATA and in Balochistan. With millions living under poverty line, India is trying to raise its stature to a global power if not that at least a regional power. On the pretext of countering China, India is getting all possible support may it be military or nuclear technology from the United States. Establishment of Ayani Military Base in Tajikistan is another kick on the back of poor and hungry Indian population, hidden under the galvanized curtain of media gimmicks. Indian research organizations like Defense Research and Development Organization have failed to deliver what the Indian nation expects from them, their light combat aircraft and main battle tank projects are nowhere near completion. Indian media is full of criticism against such organizations as they feel if India has to import their military hardware from abroad by consuming the bread of poor masses then what's the need of having these white elephants. By having a global or regional military might, may be a wild ambition for India but it is forgetting the fate of its former ally, the USSR. Its not good to have ambitions and suppress the regional and neighboring countries with military might when there is hunger in your own soil. Then it produces the fanatics not in masses but also in the military arms. What will India do with its fanatic lieutenant colonel the time will tell? It's the first drop of the rain which is coming towards Indian homeland.

No plan to attack Pak: Antony

New Delhi, December 16
India today said it was not planning any military action against Pakistan but stressed that the neighbouring country would have to take action against terrorists there for the relations to improve.

"We are not planning any military action... but at the same time unless Pakistan takes actions against those terrorists who are operating from their soil against India and also against all those who are behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks, things will not be normal," defence minister A.K. Antony said. He was talking to reporters on occasion of 'Vijay Diwas' marking the 37th anniversary of India's military victory today over Pakistan in the Bangladesh liberation war.

On the issue of troop deployment along the Indo-Pak border, Antony said the situation there was "normal" and armed forces were "always ready".

"Everything is normal because our forces are always ready," the minister said.The minister denied that India was planning to call off the more than five-year-old ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC).

"Nothing like that," he stated when asked if India had any plans to call off the ceasefire with Pakistan.

Refusing to divulge India's course of action in the present scenario, Antony demanded sincere action by Pakistan against the terrorists.

"I cannot say what course of action we will take but unless Pakistan shows sincerity in whatever they are saying through their actions, one thing is very sure that there is no question of things as usual," he said.

The chiefs of Navy, Army and Air Force — Admiral Sureesh Mehta, General Deepak Kapoor and Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major — also attended the Vijay Diwas function. — PTI

Federal agency to have super powers

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

NIA to cover

* Threat to atomic energy

* All kinds of terrorist activities and harbouring of terrorists.

* Hijacking

* Threat to safety of civil aviation

* Threat to maritime navigation and off-shore oil rigs.

* SAARC convention on suppression of terrorism

* Threat from weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems

New Delhi, December 16

Ushering in a new pattern of policing, the proposed national investigation agency (NIA) will be a super body with far-reaching and country-wide powers. It will control and investigate everything connected to terrorism, counterfeiting of currency, threat to atomic installations and energy, maritime security, hijacking, sedition and waging a war against the nation, among others crimes.

The NIA will be backed by special courts, provision for in-camera proceedings and protection of witnesses. Its officials will have over riding powers over state police forces when dealing with these "designated crimes" that will fall under its ambit. The need for the NIA was illustrated by the Administrative Reforms Commission and also after several inter-state and international linkages were found between smuggling, terrorism, fake currency, infiltration and risk to installations.

The central Government today unveiled the contours of the NIA when home minister P. Chidambaram introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha for its formation late in the afternoon. The Bill will come for discussion and approval in the current session of Parliament.

The Bill proposes to empower an official of the NIA to have countrywide jurisdiction and, crucially, use "powers of the officer-in-charge of the police station of the area where he is functioning". This could be any of the police stations across the country. Meaning thereby he/she will act as a station house officer (SHO) when dealing with crimes under the NIA's ambit. The NIA official will enjoy all powers and duties that the SHO of local police stations is empowered under the Code of Criminal procedure, 1973.

The Bill specifies offences under seven major acts that will fall under the NIA's ambit and also 10 sections of the Indian penal code. Crucially, the sections of the IPC deal with collecting arms with an intent to wage a war against the nation, sedition, waging war with any Asian neighbour, aiding an escape of any prisoner, counterfeiting currency, among others.

The NIA will also over ride the provisions of the Police Act - 1861 when investigating these specified crimes. Though, some what, the states have been kept in the loop as a section in the Bill empowers them to inform the NIA on finding such offences being committed, however, the NIA can act suo moto to deal with any of the scheduled crimes. This is a change from the pattern used by the CBI wherein the states approval is a mandatory requirement before the agency can take over the case.

On the prosecution front, the NIA, like the CBI, will have designated special courts across the country. A judge of a high court will preside over the special court. All offences under the ambit of the NIA will be heard by the special Judge only. The NIA will have the powers to approach the Supreme Court to get the case transferred out of a particular state if pursuance of justice is not possible in the area of offence. The special court will have the powers to prosecute a person, who is nabbed for a "specified crime" but is also involved in cases under other laws.

The NIA can also seek permission of the special judge to conduct in-camera proceedings and also avoid mentioning the names of the witnesses in orders passed. The court can also issue directions in public interest to prevent publication of proceedings pending in court and also keep the names of the witnesses a secret.

The NIA will be headed by the director-general rank official, who will be on par with the DG of a state police force.

'Keep military option against Pak open'
Experts also want US to cut defence aid to Islamabad
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 16
Former chief of the Army Staff, Gen V.P. Malik, today observed that India must keep all options, including military strikes at militant camps, against Pakistan open in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

"We should not say we are ruling out the military option. At least, there should not have been a public statement," Malik said at a symposium on "The Attack on Mumbai and Indo-Pak Relations". He was referring to Defence Minister A.K. Antony's remarks earlier in the day ruling out the military option. "Alike Kabul attacks, ISI had a hand in Mumbai attacks too. The ISI is the creation of the Pakistani army," he said, while underlining that Mumbai attacks could not have happened without "official conspiracy or complicity".

Former prime minister I.K. Gujral, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh, former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, former Indian ambassador to US Naresh Chandra and strategic expert K. Subramanian were the other participants.

Mishra suggested India should persuade Washington to cut off military and financial aid to the Pakistani Army. He was of the view that Pakistan's military should be reined in the ISI placed under the civilian control. "There are options available that can make US, UK and other major powers look at the problem from the point of view of India," Mishra said, advocating a more focused approach for bringing meaningful international pressure on Pakistan that would force it to dismantle terrorist infrastructure. "Unless their (Western powers) strategy is affected by your action, they will not act in your favour," he said.

Gujral, like any other politician, struck a note of caution saying New Delhi should not forget that both India and Pakistan were nuclear powers. He recalled that when he was the Prime Minister in 1997, former US ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley had conveyed to him through the Indian envoy that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons against India as its first option in the event of war, if ever.

Jaswant Singh, the former External Affairs minister, linked terrorism in South Asia with the failure of the US policy in the region. "The Taliban was a creation of the US. It was established by Pakistan Army with the assistance of the US," Singh said.

India Steps Up Pressure on Pakistan
to Deliver on Assurances

Srinagar/New Delhi
In a sign of growing impatience with "assurances" from Islamabad, India Tuesday asked Pakistan to fulfill its anti-terror pledge by dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism and renewed calls for returning 40 people wanted by New Delhi for various crimes and terrorist activities.

New Delhi, however, ruled out military action against Pakistan but made it clear that bilateral relations would not be normal until Islamabad takes action against terrorists operating from its soil.

Ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan to take "credible action" against terrorists in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee asked Islamabad to show its seriousness by handing over Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, suspected of plotting the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.

In his most explicit remarks on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, Mukherjee demanded that Pakistan return him to India, which freed him following the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Afghanistan.

Mukherjee said the list of 40 people in Pakistan India is seeking for various crimes included both Indians and Pakistanis and that the names had been submitted over a period of time. "We want them to return them."

Alluding to the Pakistan government's claim that it had nothing with some of the persons, Mukherjee referred to the Jaish chief Azhar, who was one of the three prisoners India freed under duress after terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

"One gentleman was in Indian custody. A plane was hijacked from a third country. It was taken to another country, Kandahar in Afghanistan, and the hijackers demanded that you release that person and hand (him) over us so that we release the Indian passengers and the Indian aircraft. Otherwise they will be killed.

"When international pressure is mounted, he is placed under house arrest... What is the difficulty in handing him over to us? Hijacking is an international crime."

Referring to promises made by then and present Pakistan presidents, Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari, to not allow terrorists to use Pakistani territory against India, the minister said: "We want those assurances to be fulfilled. We want that the infrastructure facilities available (to terrorists in Pakistan) be dismantled."

Mukherjee's comments follow Islamabad's insistence that Pakistan has nothing to do with the Nov 26-29 terrorist mayhem in Mumbai that killed over 170 people, including 26 foreigners. Pakistan says the lone terrorist caught in Mumbai is not a Pakistani.

Mukherjee added that India expected the various India-Pakistan mechanisms dealing with the problem of terrorism such as the dialogues between home and foreign secretaries to yield results.

"We expect good sense will prevail (in Pakistan)... Words must be followed by action."

While ruling out military action against Pakistan, Defence Minister A.K. Antony added that bilateral relations would not be normal until Islamabad takes action against terrorists operating from its soil.

"We are not planning any military action... but at the same time unless Pakistan takes actions against those terrorists who are operating from their soil against India and also against all those who are behind the Mumbai terrorist attack, things will not be normal," he said.

The minister was speaking to reporters at the India Gate monument in the capital after laying a wreath on the occasion of Vijay Diwas that marks the 37th anniversary of the Indian victory over Pakistan.

"I cannot say what course of action we will take but, unless Pakistan shows sincerity in whatever they are saying through their actions, one thing is very sure - that there is no question of things as usual," said Antony.

Antony also said the armed forces were prepared for any eventuality. The three forces are on "high alert" following heightened tensions between the two neighbors in the wake of the Mumbai terror strike, which left over 170 dead and over 300 injured.

"Everything is normal because our forces are always ready."

In a related development, India said the remarks of Pakistan's permanent representative to the UN seeking to link an Islamic seminary in India to jehadis in Pakistan were "indeed regrettable".

"Statements by the Pakistani permanent representative (Abdullah Hussain Haroon) are indeed regrettable," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said.

"The Darul Uloom Deoband is one of our highly respected institutions of Islamic learning," he said, alluding to the leading centre of Islamic learning in India in western Uttar Pradesh, located over 100 km from New Delhi.

The spokesperson also said that the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind had complained to the external affairs ministry on the matter.

The Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, an organization of leading Muslim clerics in India comprising mainly Deoband clerics, was founded in 1866 and opposed the two-nation theory that became the basis of the creation of Pakistan.

US Believes India Prepared for Strike on Pakistan: CNN
By Arun Kumar

The US believes that the Indian Air Force began preliminary preparations for a possible attack against Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack, CNN has said citing unnamed Pentagon officials.

The US has supported India's charge that Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) mounted the Nov 26 terror attacks from Pakistani soil and pressed Islamabad to take action against those behind it and prevent a future attack.

CNN said three Pentagon officials have individually confirmed to it that the US has information indicating that India began to prepare air force personnel for a possible mission.

The unnamed officials offered very few details, it said, but one said the Indian Air Force (IAF) "went on alert".

CNN quoted a second official as saying the US concluded these preliminary preparations would have put India quickly in the position to launch air strikes against suspected terrorist camps and targets inside Pakistan.

During these preparations, a number of senior US officials were urging India to exercise restraint - which apparently it did, CNN said.

Until now, the Bush administration has publicly said it saw no signs of military movement by India and no indication that the Indian government was preparing any type of retaliation.

CNN said the Pentagon officials broadly described the activity as checking on the status of crews, fighter jets and weapons that were available. The extent of the reported preparation was not immediately known.

One of the Pentagon officials, CNN said, also confirmed that the US has intelligence indicating a single Indian aircraft violated Pakistani airspace twice Saturday.

The US believes the incursion was inadvertent, the official said, adding that there is no information to indicate it was planned.

An Indian Air Force official had no comment, CNN said.

The TV news channel said a spokesman for the Pakistan Air Force, Air Commodore Homayoon Ziqar, had no comment when asked if India had prepared for air strikes against Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks.

Ziqar was quoted as saying Pakistan is not on heightened alert at the moment. "Everything is normal," he said.

CNN cited "another source in the Pakistan Air Force" as saying the air force is not on heightened alert but added, "We are always ready, on weekends, on holidays, no matter what the circumstances."

NSG commando recalls the horror of 26/11

Poonam Agarwal

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 8:29 AM (Pataudi, Haryana)

Though the worst ever terror attack has ended, the nightmares are still haunting NSG commando Sunil Yadav. Even after he had united with his family, Yadav cannot forget the fateful night when he took three bullets during the operation.

The 29-year-old, who belongs to Pataudi in Haryana, is now back home and recovering from mental and physical injuries he sustained two weeks ago in Mumbai.

An armyman for eight years, Sunil was posted in Jammu and Kashmir for six of those years. But he says that things at Taj hotel were way worse than the encounters he did in the Valley.

"There is a huge difference in the anti-terrorism mission that was carried out in Mumbai in comparison to the Valley. There were 1,200 rooms in Taj hotel. We didn't know which room militants were hiding in. And there is no citizen between terrorists and us in the Valley," he said.

Rated as one of the best NSG commandos, Sunil and his team rescued more than 150 hostages from the Taj hotel. He narrated the challenges they faced, one of them being the language barrier.

"There was too much of smoke and because of water our weapons got wet. A lady was making noise in the room. She didn't open the door so we broke in. She was hiding under the bed and thought we were terrorists. I pulled her out but she refused to come with us. She was a foreigner. Then I called a guide who explained her everything," Sunil said.

Sunil Kumar Yadav was in the team headed by Major Sandeep Unnikrishanan at Taj hotel. Sunil acted as guide to the team constantly informing the team whether it is safe to move ahead or not. He was the first commando who got injured in the operation. But he has only one regret that he couldn't fight for his country till the end.

"On the evening of November 27, a terrorist opened fire at me. Two bullets hit my ribs and one more crossed through my jacket," he said.

Sunil's parents spent a lot of tense time after the news reached them.

"My heart started beating fast when I came to know that he had been shot. I wanted to fly out to be with him," said Rajesh Kumar, Sunil's mother.

For now, Sunil is happy to be with his family and a two-year-old son. But he secretly hopes he recovers soon and goes back to doing what he does best.

Tejas trials at Leh successful: DRDO
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 16
India's underdevelopment Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas, was successfully tested at Leh in extreme cold conditions. The test started last weekend in Ladakh region at an altitude of 10,600 ft when temperatures had dropped to minus 20°C.

The prevailing temperature ranges from plus 5°C to minus 20°C. The objective of the current phase of flight trials at Leh was to expose the on-board systems to the extreme low temperatures while making an assessment of the aircraft performance in the rarefied atmospheric conditions, a spokesperson of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said.

Two LCA's were involved in this test. The aircraft were two powered by the latest IN20 engine. It may be mentioned the LCA is expected that will be cleared for induction in service. As per reports received from the trial location, the current phase of flight trial is progressing well with aircraft and systems performing well as expected.

Real time telemetry link between Pathankot, the base camp, and Bangalore is also made operational during the trial.

The team effort of the professionals from different organisation resulted in a success of the trial. Senior functionaries were present during the test.

Stamp on Manekshaw released

New Delhi, December 16
On the occasion of Vijay Diwas, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil today released a commemorative postage stamp and special cover in honour of Late Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, MC here.

Defence minister A.K. Antony, minister of state for defence M.M. Pallam Raju, along with chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force and other senior officials were present at the ceremony.

On the occasion, Antony recalled the Field Marshal's contribution to India's victory in 1971 operations.

Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor said, "There is no better way to honour the spirit of the great man on the occasion of Vijay Diwas' than by releasing the commemorative postage stamp." The Field Marshal was born in Amritsar on April 3, 1914. He joined the first course at IMA, Dehradun and was commissioned into the Frontier Force Regiment on February 4, 1934. — UNI

Antony's statement will help improve ties, says Pakistan

PTI | December 17, 2008 | 03:47 IST

Pakistan welcomed India's assurance
on Tuesday that it will not carry out any military action against its neighbour, saying such a statement will help improve the existing "climate" of relations between the two countries.

Terming it a "welcome statement," Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said Pakistan has already made it clear that war is not a solution to the current problem.

"We have already said that war is not a solution and if an Indian leader or minister says the same, it is certainly a welcome statement," Babar told the Times Now channel.

Indian Defence Minister A K Antony had said that New Delhiwas not planning any military action against Pakistan, while stressing that the neighbouring country will have to take action against terrorists there for the relations to improve.

"The reiteration of the principle that war is no solution on either side surely will help in improving the present climate of relations," Babar said.

India Was Prepared to Strike Pakistan, Officials Say

Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008

India prepared its air force to launch attacks on extremist enclaves within Pakistan after last month's terror strikes in Mumbai, CNN reported yesterday (see GSN, Dec. 15).

(Dec. 16) - An Indian fighter jet flies in a March exercise (Raveendran/Getty Images).

New Delhi's preparation for military action, confirmed separately by three U.S. Defense Department insiders, suggests that the nuclear-armed rivals were nearer to armed conflict after the terror attacks than either side has admitted. The Pentagon officials gave little specific information about India's military preparations, but one of the sources said the country's air force "went on alert."

The lone surviving gunman captured after the attacks at several sites in Mumbai told Indian authorities that he and all nine other attackers were Pakistani nationals and that their strikes had been mapped out by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar e-Taiba, India said.

One Pentagon official said that several high-level U.S. officials urged India not to conduct attacks inside Pakistan, even though New Delhi might have been capable of quick strikes on alleged terrorist encampments in the country (Barbara Starr, CNN, Dec. 15).

However, the U.S. State Department denied that Washington cautioned India against an attack, United Press International reported yesterday.

"We don't give warnings. We've talked to both countries about the importance of cooperating, in terms of this investigation of the Mumbai attacks," spokesman Robert Wood said. "We obviously don't want to see tensions in the region escalate. We think that promoting this type of cooperation between the two governments will help ease tensions in the region."

"I'm not going to speculate about something that, you know, that hasn't happened or -- let's just say we don't want to see any type of actions that destabilize the region," he added (United Press International, Dec. 15).

India today said it was "not planning any military action" against Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai strikes, the Associated Press reported.

Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony, though, warned that "unless Pakistan takes actions against those terrorists who are operating on their soil against India ... things will not be normal" (Sam Dolnick, Associated Press/Google News, Dec. 16).

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today that peace efforts with Pakistan had been suspended, Agence France-Presse reported.

"I do admit there is a pause in the composite dialogue process because of the attacks on Mumbai," he said.

"What we expect, and what we have pointed out to (Pakistani Foreign Minister) Shah Mahmood Qureshi, is that Pakistan should fulfill its commitment of not allowing its territory for terrorist attacks against India," Mukherjee added (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, Dec. 16).

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said he rejected a request from his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, to let British authorities interrogate the surviving Mumbai gunman, AP reported.

Zardari told lawmakers that if Islamabad obtains evidence implicating individuals in the Mumbai strikes, the suspects "will be prosecuted under the law of Pakistan," Gilani's office said (Dolnick, Associated Press).

Laila Bushra, a Pakistan-based sociologist, said the nation's pride could be fueling its reluctance to take more forceful action against Lashkar e-Taiba beyond detaining the organization's supreme commander and other suspected members and shutting down a suspected financial supporter, the Christian Science Monitor reported. "No one ... wants to be seen as bowing to Indian pressure," Bushra said.

The United Kingdom and the United States and preparing to offer Pakistan up to $16 billion in assistance aimed at persuading Islamabad to root out a vast extremist network created in the country during the 1980s, the Monitor reported. British Prime Minister Brown suggested that three-fourths of all terror attacks in the United Kingdom have originated in Pakistani militant groups (Sappenfield/Mufti, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 16).

Pak may be under world pressure but its military gets help from China

17 Dec 2008, 0046 hrs IST, Indrani Bagchi, TNN

NEW DELHI: As tensions between India and Pakistan rise in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks and Islamabad finds itself burdened under international pressure, it's only in Beijing that it has found solace.

Signing a defence agreement with China on Monday, the two countries publicly reaffirmed their military and security ties, with promises of more Chinese military help coming Pakistan's way. The talks were led by Chen Bingde, chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), and Tariq Majid, chairman joint chiefs of staff committee of Pakistan.

They also resolved to co-operate with each other to fight terrorism. Majid said Pakistan cherished the traditional friendship and co-operation with China and was ready to make concerted efforts with the PLA to strengthen military ties.

The talks between China and Pakistan, despite the warm vibes between them, were held at the same time when the US deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte, was telling his Chinese counterpart, Dai Bingguo, that Beijing needed to exert its influence on Islamabad regarding the current tensions in South Asia and to push Pakistan to take more steps against terrorist groups on its soil.

While there were few details about the talks between China and Pakistan, it's clear Islamabad is seeking a lot of military help from Beijing including equipment and intelligence. It's also clear that the current crisis with India was the focus of discussions between the two sides.

Beijing regards Islamabad in much the same way as Washington regards Tel Aviv in its national security calculus.

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, China lifted its opposition to proscribing Jamaat-ud-Dawa in the UN Security Council. On previous occasions, including about six months ago, China fudged on banning this group, citing lack of evidence. The Mumbai attacks, however, changed that.

But that does not mean China will not extend covert assistance to Pakistan despite the fact that when President Zardari went to Beijing to ask for financial assistance, he returned empty-handed. Not so the defence establishment of Pakistan, because, sources say, China continues to assist Pakistan in the military sector.

In return, Pakistan tamps down on the Uighur separatists in Xinjiang province, though it's not stopped many Uighurs from training in Pakistani terror camps.

Earlier this year, China completed four militarily important naval frigates as part of an $800 million deal to Pakistan.

Over the past few years, Pakistan has agreed to jointly produce with China up to 250 JF-17 fighter planes in a deal estimated by defence officials to be worth at least $5 billion. In addition, Pakistan is reportedly negotiating the purchase of 35-40 of the J-10 fighter planes which is one of the most advanced fighter planes produced by China.

The Malayalam superstar is now Lt.Col Mohanlal

By Moviebuzz | Tuesday, 16 December , 2008, 10:13

We salute Lt. Col Mohanlal! The Malayalam superstar has been has been commissioned in the Territorial Army (TA), a citizen's force of the Indian army.

After cricketer Kapil Dev, he is the first actor to be conferred with this title. The age limit for joining the TA which has been fixed at 42 has been relaxed for the star who is 48. There is precedence for this as Kapil Dev was too over aged when he was commissioned by TA.

Mohanlal always had a fascination for the armed forces and wanted to join the army after college. Says Mohanlal: "When I was in school as a youngster I used to go to Pangode army camp, a stone throw away from where I was staying in Mudavanmugal in Poojapura just to watch the army parade."

Later as an actor as Major Mahadevan he was brilliant in Major Ravi's Keerthi Chakra and Kurukshetra, two super hits. Since then he has taken a fascination for the Indian Army. He has huge fan following not only among south Indian men of the forces but even among the North Indians.

Now Lt.Col Mohanlal is going to visit forward areas and meet the army men. For TA it is a great boost that Mohanlal, Kapil Dev and likely Nana Patekar are going to join the army.

EDITORIAL COMMENT | Chinks In Our Armour

17 Dec 2008, 0000 hrs IST

Truth or fiction, technical mistake or precisely calculated gamesmanship, the alleged straying of two Indian Air Force planes into Pakistani airspace has highlighted the tension of the current situation. External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee might have tamped down aggressive rhetoric by making it clear that full-scale conflict is not an option, but at such a time especially given that they have been placed on alert the spotlight must inevitably fall on the armed forces. Disturbingly, the scrutiny reveals several cracks.

The most alarming of the cracks is at the doctrinal level. Adopted after the mobilisation of the armed forces in 2002 following the attack on Parliament, the 'cold start' doctrine is premised on a reorganisation of various army corps into smaller, more flexible integrated battle groups. This gives the advantage of a more mobile offensive capability which does not require a lengthy build-up period of three weeks as seen in 2002, which gave Pakistan a large window for its response. The problem is that while this doctrine has been adopted, it does not seem that the necessary reorganisation of the army to implement it has. Neither have military exercises in the intervening years demonstrated that level of efficiency in joint operations between the army and the air force, which is a prime requisite for the doctrine. The result is a dangerous mismatch between strategy and operational capabilities.

Insufficient and ageing arms further erode those capabilities. A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General disclosed that more than half of India's submarine fleet is not battle-ready because they are in repair and refit. Further, a number of them have outlived their service life; by 2012, close to 65 per cent of the fleet would have to be phased out. Other branches of the armed forces are not immune to the rot. The air force lacks equipment to mount an adequate air defence for the country. It faces a shortage of key radars and depends on ageing MiG-21s that form the bulk of its combat squadrons. The army is in a similar predicament with T-72 main battle tanks (MBTs), several generations behind current models, forming the backbone of its armoured corps.

There is no quick fix. Some steps in the right direction have been taken, such as the induction of several hundred T-90 MBTs. But more must be done, starting with a review of the entire defence acquisition process. Just as important is the establishment of the post of chief of defence staff, long pending but held up by bureaucratic, political and inter-services roadblocks. The process is lengthy, but it must be started now.

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