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Wednesday, 24 December 2008

From Today's Papers - 24 Dec


Kayani: Pak to respond within minutes

Islamabad, December 23
Pakistan's armed forces will mount an equal response "within minutes" if India carries out any surgical strike inside the country, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has reportedly assured the nation's leadership.

During a meeting at the presidency here yesterday, Kayani informed President Asif Ali Zardari about the operational preparedness of the military in the face of mounting tensions with India in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

The armed forces were "fully prepared to meet any eventuality and the men are ready to (make a) sacrifice for their country", Kayani was quoted as saying by pro-establishment The News daily. The report also quoted the army chief as saying that Pakistan would respond "within minutes" in the event of surgical strikes by India.

The "crux of the meeting" between Zardari and Kayani "was that any further buckling under mounting Indian pressure would prove counter-productive and would further encourage New Delhi to further build up pressure on Islamabad". — PTI

Why the CIA does not want Dawood in Indian hands

Jeremy R Hammond

The role Dawood Ibrahim, the underworld kingpin who heads the D-Company and has known ties to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and even the Central Intelligence Agency, is apparently being whitewashed. His capture and handover to India might prove inconvenient for either the ISI or the CIA, or both.

It was Ibrahim who was initially characterised by press reports as being the mastermind behind the attacks. Now, that title is being given to Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi by numerous media accounts reporting that Pakistan security forces have raided a training camp of the group Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which evidence has indicated was behind the attacks. Lakhvi was reportedly captured in the raid and is now in custody.

At the same time Ibrahim's role is being downplayed, Lakhvi's known role is being exaggerated. Initial reports described him as the training specialist for LeT, but the major media outlets like the New York Times and the London Times, citing government sources, have since promoted his status to that of commander of operations for the group.

The only terrorist from the Mumbai attacks to be captured alive, Ajmal Amir Kasab, characterised Ibrahim, not Lakhvi, as the mastermind of those attacks, according to earlier press accounts.

Kasab reportedly told his interrogators that he and his fellow terrorists were trained under Lakhvi, also known as Chacha (uncle), at a camp in Pakistan. Indian officials also traced calls from a satellite phone used by the terrorists to Lakhvi.

But the phone had also been used to call Yusuf Muzammil, also known as Abu Yusuf, Abu Hurrera, and "Yahah". And it has been Muzammil, not Lakhvi, who has previously been described as the military commander of the LeT. It was an intercepted call to Muzammil on November 18 that put the Indian Navy and Coast Guard on high alert to be on the lookout for any foreign vessels from Pakistan entering Indian waters.

Kasab told his interrogators that his team had set out from Karachi, Pakistan, on a ship belonging to Dawood Ibrahim, the MV Alpha. They then hijacked an Indian fishing trawler, the Kuber, to pass through Indian territorial waters to elude the Navy and Coast Guard that were boarding and searching suspect ships.

Although the MV Alpha was subsequently found and seized by the Indian Navy, there have been few, if any, developments about this aspect of the investigation in press accounts, such as whether it has been confirmed or not that the ship was owned by Ibrahim.

Upon arriving off the coast near the city, they were received by inflatable rubber dinghies that had been arranged by an associate of Ibrahim's in Mumbai.

The planning and execution of the attacks are indicative of the mastermind role not of either Lakhvi or Muzammil, but of Ibrahim, an Indian who is intimately familiar with the city. It was in Mumbai that Ibrahim rose through the ranks of the underworld to become a major organised crime boss.

At least two other Indians were also connected to the attacks, Mukhtar Ahmed and Tausef Rahman. They were arrested for their role in obtaining SIM cards used in the cell phones of the terrorists. Ahmed, according to Indian officials, had in fact been recruited by a special counter-insurgency police task force as an undercover operative. His exact role is still being investigated.

One of the SIM cards used was possibly purchased from New Jersey. Investigators are looking into this potential link to the US, as well.

Dawood Ibrahim went from underworld kingpin to terrorist in 1993, when he was connected to a series of bombings in Mumbai that resulted in 250 deaths. He is wanted by Interpol and was designated by the US as a global terrorist in 2003.

It Is believed Ibrahim has been residing in Karachi, and Indian officials have accused Pakistan's ISI of protecting him.

Ibrahim is known to be a major drug trafficker responsible for shipping narcotics into the United Kingdom and Western Europe.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, most Afghan opium (or its derivative, heroin, which is increasingly being produced in the country before export) is smuggled through Iran and Turkey en route by land to Europe; but the percentage that goes to Pakistan seems to mostly find its way directly to the UK, either by plane or by ship.

Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of opium, a trend that developed during the CIA-backed mujahedeen effort to oust the Soviet Union from the country, with the drug trade serving to help finance the war.

A known drug trafficker, Dawood Ibrahim is naturally also involved in money laundering, which is perhaps where the role of gambling operations in Nepal comes into the picture.

Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times, wrote last month after the Mumbai attacks that Ibrahim had worked with the US to help finance the mujahedeen during the 1980s and that because he knows too much about the US's 'darker secrets' in the region, he could never be allowed to be turned over to India.

The recent promotion of Lakhvi to 'mastermind' of the attacks while Ibrahim's name disappears from media reports would seem to lend credence to Shimatsu's assertion.

Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen similarly reported that according to intelligence sources, Ibrahim is a CIA asset, both as a veteran of the mujahedeen war and in a continuing connection with his casino and drug trade operations in Kathmandu, Nepal. A deal had been made earlier this year to have Pakistan hand Ibrahim over to India, but the CIA was fearful that this would lead to too many of its dirty secrets coming to light, including the criminal activities of high level personnel within the agency.

One theory on the Mumbai attacks is that it was backlash for this double-cross that was among other things intended to serve as a warning that any such arrangement could have further serious consequences.

Although designated as a major international terrorist by the US, media reports in India have characterised the US's past interest in seeing Ibrahim handed over as less than enthusiastic. Former Indian deputy prime minister L K Advani wrote in his memoir, My Country, My Life, that he made a great effort to get Pakistan to hand over Ibrahim, and met with then US secretary of state Colin Powell and then national security advisor Condoleezza Rice (now secretary of state) to pressure Pakistan to do so. But he was informed by Powell that Pakistan would hand over Ibrahim only "with some strings attached" and that then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would need more time before doing so.

The handover, needless to say, never occurred. The Pakistan government has also publicly denied that Ibrahim is even in the country; a denial that was repeated following the recent Mumbai attacks.

Others suspected of involvement in the attacks and named among the 20 individuals India wants Pakistan to turn over also have possible connections to the CIA, including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of LeT, and Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Maulana Masood Azhar, both veterans of the CIA-backed mujahedeen effort.

Azhar had been captured in 1994 and imprisoned in India for his role as leader of the Pakistani-based terrorist group Harkut-ul-Mujahideen. He was released, however, in 1999 in exchange for hostages from the takeover of Indian Airlines Flight 814, which was hijacked during its flight from Kathmandu, Nepal to Delhi, India and redirected to Afghanistan. After Azhar's release, he formed JeM, which was responsible for an attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 that led Pakistan and India to the brink of war. LeT was also blamed for the attack alongside JeM.

Both LeT and JeM have links to the ISI, which has used the groups as proxies in the conflict with India over the territory of Kashmir.

Saeed travelled to Peshawar to join the mujahedeen cause during the Soviet-Afghan war. Peshawar served as the base of operations for the CIA, which worked closely with the ISI to finance, arm, and train the mujahedeen. It was in Peshawar that Saeed became the protege of Abdullah Azzam, who founded an organization called Maktab al-Khidamat along with a Saudi individual named Osama bin Laden.

MaK worked alongside the CIA-ISI operations to recruit Arabs to the ranks of the mujahedeen. The ISI, acting as proxy for the CIA, chose mainly to channel its support to Afghans, such as warlord Gulbaddin Hekmatyar. The US claims the CIA had no relationship with MaK, but bin Laden's operation, which later evolved into Al Qaeda, must certainly have been known to, and approved by, the CIA.

But there are indications that the CIA's relationship with MaK and Al Qaeda go well beyond having shared a common enemy and mutual interests in the Soviet-Afghan war. A number of Al Qaeda associates appear to have been protected individuals.

Another former head of the ISI is now being privately accused by the US of involvement with the group responsible for the Mumbai attacks, according to reports citing a document listing former ISI chief Lieutenant General Hamid Gul and four other former heads of Pakistan's intelligence agency as being involved in supporting terrorist networks. The individuals named have been recommended to the UN Security Council to be named as international terrorists, according to Pakistan's The News.

The document has been provided to the Pakistan government and also accuses Gul, who was head of the ISI from 1987 to 1989, of providing assistance to criminal groups in Kabul, as well as to groups responsible for recruiting and training militants to attack US-led forces in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.

Hamid Gul responded to the reports by calling the allegations hilarious. The US denied that it had made any such recommendations to the UN.

But the US has similarly accused the ISI of involvement in the bombing of India's embassy in Kabul last July. This was unusual not because of the allegation of an ISI connection to terrorism but because it was in such stark contrast with US attempts to publicly portray Pakistan as a staunch ally in its 'war on terrorism' when the country was under the dictatorship of Musharraf.

The US attitude toward Pakistan shifted once an elected government came to power that has been more willing to side with the overwhelming belief among the public that it is the 'war on terrorism' itself that has exacerbated the problem of extremist militant groups and led to further terrorist attacks within the country, such as the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto last year or the bombing of the Marriot Hotel in September. While the world's attention has been focused on the attacks in Mumbai, a bomb blast in Peshawar killed 21 and injured 90.

While the purported US document names Gul and others as terrorist supporters, another report, from Indian intelligence, indicates that the terrorists who carried out the attacks in Mumbai were among 500 trained by instructors from the Pakistan military, according to The Times. This training of the 10 known Mumbai terrorists would have taken place prior to their recent preparation for these specific attacks by the LeT training specialist Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi.

But while Lakhvi, Muzammil, and Hafiz Saeed have continued to be named in connection with last month's attacks in Mumbai, the name of Dawood Ibrahim seems to be either disappearing altogether or his originally designated role as the accused mastermind of the attacks being credited now instead to Lakhvi in media accounts.

Whether this is a deliberate effort to downplay Ibrahim's role in the attacks so as not to have to force Pakistan to turn him over because of embarrassing revelations pertaining to the CIA's involvement with known terrorists and drug traffickers that development could possibly produce isn't certain.

But what is certain is that the CIA has had a long history of involvement with such characters and that the US has a track record of attempting to keep information about the nature of such involvement in the dark or to cover it up once it reaches the light of public scrutiny.

HAL pays tributes to its founder
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 23
The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) today paid tributes to its founder Walchand Hirachand with a glittering display by its fleet of fighter jets and helicopters.

The HAL was founded on December 23, 1940, by the visionary industrialist after a chance meeting he had with an American aircraft manufacturer in a flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Set up at the thick of the World War II, the British colonial government soon took over the management of the company in 1942. This also signaled the beginning of the HAL's tryst with the armed forces.

To this day, the Indian Air Force has remained the main client of the HAL. "We live for the IAF. We are there because they are there", Ashok Baweja, chairman, HAL, said while addressing the employees of the HAL.

The celebrations begun with a wonderful display of aerobatic skills by Sarang, the helicopter-based aerobatic team. Using Advanced Light Helicopters manufactured by the HAL, the team performed one after another manouvres, aptly described as 'gut wrenching' by the commentator and received a huge applause from the audience.

Displays by the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), Advanced Jet Trainer (Hawk Mk.132), Advanced Light Helicopter (Dhruv), and Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) followed. The show was wound up with display by the Suryakiran team of aircrafts.

HAL, Russian Co. to make fifth-gen fighter aircraft

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) of Russia has signed a pact to jointly develop and produce a fifth generation fighter aircraft, HAL chairman Ashok K Baweja said here today.

"We (HAL and UAC) are moving forward as per schedule. We (have) just done the general contract yesterday. I went to Delhi and signed the general contract," Baweja said.

He said under a preliminary inter-governmental agreement signed in October last year, the advanced multi-role fighter was being developed by Sukhoi, part of UAC, along with HAL.

Asked about the proposed investment in the venture, Baweja said it was very difficult to say at this stage. "It will be quite a lot", he said.

Baweja talked to reporters on the sidelines of the celebrations of HAL Day function here. He said HAL had temporarily shelved its MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul of civil aircraft) venture plans at HAL airport following the slump affecting the world civil aviation market.

Army Chief in Siachen for security review
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 23
In what is being seen as a move to review arrangements, Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor today visited the Siachen glacier and other forward areas of Jammu and Kashmir to check the operational preparedness of the troops.

General Kapoor left for Siachen this morning and would be there for a day to interact with the unit commanders and senior officers, before returning to the capital after taking stock of the situation, an official here said.

A part of the visit will be to boost the morale of the troops in the remote areas in J&K along the borders with Pakistan. His trip has come even as the Prime Minister today said " no one wants war" while the government had yesterday stated that it was not ruling out any option in its fight against terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Thing have heated up since Saturday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and some senior ministers had deliberations with the armed forces at the PMO.

Since the Mumbai carnage, Army units along the borders with Pakistan have been maintaining a close vigil. Some of IAF fighter squadrons in bases in forward areas have been conducting sorties.

Time Running Out for Pakistan,
Indian Military Action Imminent


New Delhi
"Time is running out" for Pakistan with the deadline of Dec 26 given by New Delhi to Islamabad for a crackdown on terror infrastructure approaching, said a report of a leading publisher of geopolitical intelligence Tuesday.

The report from Stratfor says that after the Nov 26 Mumbai attacks, India relayed a message to Pakistan via the US that they would be given "30 days to carry out significant actions in cracking down on Islamist militant proxies operating on Pakistani soil that continue to threaten India".

Islamabad has been denying that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai killing at least 170 people were from Pakistan.

"Pakistan's deadline, as far as we know, is Dec 26, making Indian military action against Pakistan a very real and near possibility. The Indians have had a month to prepare their military operations against Pakistan, and Indian defence sources have revealed that these plans are ready to go into effect," the report said.

"While India used the time to prepare its military forces, the US came down hard on Pakistan behind the scenes, making clear that Islamabad will have to deliver on India's demands or else Washington will not be able to stand in New Delhi's way if and when the time comes for India to act," the report, based on intelligence reports, reads.

The intelligence analysts observed that Pakistan has made a few arrests and raids targeting militant leaders and Pakistani intelligence operatives, but has done nothing that substantially reduced the militant threat to India from New Delhi's point of view.

"And even if Pakistan was prepared to swallow the bitter pill of conceding to its main rival by cutting its militant ties, it can only go so far to placate India before it creates a domestic crisis in trying to avoid an international one," Stratfor said.

However, the report said, that it is still unclear how far India will take this military campaign and to what extent the US operations in Afghanistan will be affected.

Discussions are taking place inside Indian defence circles over an escalatory military campaign, beginning with largely symbolic strikes in Pakistan-administered Kashmir against militant training camps and offices.

Depending on Pakistan's ability to respond, pressure could then be ratcheted up with precision air strikes in Pakistan's urban areas - to include the capital - against intelligence facilities and militant leadership hideouts.

The option of a naval blockade, which would cut off the US' main supply line into Afghanistan, has also been tossed around. While a blockade would put the already cash-strapped Pakistan in an economic choke, doing so would inevitably cause friction in India's relationship with Washington.

The intelligence publisher reported that the US, knowing its "limitations" of the relationship with New Delhi, is already preparing for "a worst-case scenario".

"For the past month, the US military has been feverishly stockpiling supplies for its forces in Afghanistan in anticipation of a major interruption," said the report.

Indian Army Chief at Siachen Glacier
to Review Preparedness


New Delhi
Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor Monday rushed to the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battle field in Jammu and Kashmir, to take stock of the preparedness of the troops posted there.

The visit comes a day after the Pakistan Air Force checked its preparedness by flying fighter jets.

The Siachen Glacier is located at a height of up to 22,000 ft where Indian and Pakistan troops have been standing eyeball to eyeball since 1984.

"Kapoor went to the Siachen Glacier on a day's visit. He flew down to the Kumar Post located at 16,000 ft," a senior defence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Maj. Gen. V.K. Ahluwalia, Commander of 14 Corps, briefed Kapoor on the security scenario on his way back.

Kapoor's visit comes after a crucial 'war room' meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Defence Minister A.K. Antony, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and the three service chiefs last week to assess the overall security situation in the country.

The army chief's visit to the Siachen Glacier has come at a time when the tensions between India and Pakistan are high in the wake of the Nov 26 Mumbai terrorist attack.

India has sought to build pressure on Pakistan to take action against the perpetrators of the brazen terror attack who it has maintained had come from Pakistan. However, Islamabad continues to ask for more evidence.

External Affairs Minister Mukherjee has said the government was keeping all the options, including military action, open.

World War II American Observation Post Found
in Arunachal Pradesh

By Syed Zarir Hussain

Jairampur (Arunachal Pradesh)
Villagers in Arunachal Pradesh have stumbled upon a World War II camp-cum-observation post used by American forces, close to a graveyard where over 1,000 soldiers of the Allied Forces are buried, officials said Tuesday.

A government spokesman said villagers discovered the post, spread over about 500 square metres, near Wintong village in Changlang district, about 600 km east of state capital Itanagar.

"The area was probably used as a monitoring and observation camp by American soldiers who were part of the Allied Forces to monitor air strikes during World War II," said Arunachal Pradesh assembly speaker Setong Sena.

After locals reported sighting remnants of the war, Sena, accompanied by government officials and paramilitary troopers, visited the site and discovered empty containers and vessels, tins and bottles of medicines and other items of daily use.

"Some locals in the area who worked with the Allied Forces showed us a tree in the area where the Americans installed gadgets for radio networking," Sena told IANS.

The Arunachal Pradesh government has now ordered the site to be preserved, besides measures for beautification of the area by constructing pavements and a parking zone for tourists.

"We shall also set up a security post near the site so that the area is properly guarded," the assembly speaker said.

Wintong is adjacent to the historic Stilwell Road. The 1,726-km road was a vital lifeline for movement of troops of the Allied Forces during World War II to free China from Japanese occupation.

It starts at Assam, in the heart of India's northeast, and cuts through the Pangsau pass in Myanmar to Kunming in southwest China.

Close to Wintong is Jairampur, a village along the Stilwell Road, where a mass burial ground was discovered in 1997 by villagers where soldiers who died in the war were buried.

The burial ground, with about 1,000 graves of allied soldiers believed to be mostly Chinese, Kachin, Indian, British and American, is now a tourist destination with friends and relatives of those who died in World War II making annual pilgrimages.

Hundreds of Allied soldiers died while constructing the Stilwell road - many are also buried along Lekhapani in eastern Assam, about 600 km east of the state's main city of Guwahati. Lekhapani is close to Jairampur.

The Stilwell Road runs for 61 km in India, 1,033 km in Myanmar and 632 km in China.

The road was built by Chinese labourers, Indian soldiers and American engineers, and named after American General Joseph Stilwell who led the task, which was completed after three years of hard work in 1945.

Gallantry award for 26/11 martyrs?

Ketki Angre

Wednesday, December 24, 2008, (Mumbai)

The Mumbai police has recommended the names of 13 policemen for the Ashok Chakra, the highest gallantry award during peace time. The names have been picked from the policemen who died fighting terrorists during 26/11.

Of those recommended for the honour is Tukaram Omble. On the night of the terror attacks, assistant sub-Inspector Omble was behind a police barricade forcing the terrorists to slow down.

While others waited under cover, Omble used a diversionary tactic by walking out. As terrorists fired at him he had already given his colleagues time, crucial moments to overpower the terrorists.

Omble's team captured a terrorist alive. However, it's cold solace for the terrible losses of the night.

For Omble's four young daughters and his widow, their world collapsed after his death. Omble was also the only earning member of his family.

"If there is anyone who deserves it, it's my father. It's only because of him we have managed to capture one terrorist alive, who is helping investigations," said Vaishali Omble, Tukaram's daughter.

Besides Tukaram, the Mumbai police has recommended the names of Anti-Terrorism Squad Chief Hemant Karkare, additional commissioner Kamte, encounter cop Salaskar along with other brave khaki martyrs.

Sixteen policemen were killed during the attacks of 26/11.

· Hemant Karkare, Joint Commissioner of Police, ATS, Mumbai

· Ashok Kamte , Additional Commissioner of Police, East Region, Mumbai

· Vijay Salaskar, Police Inspector, Anti Extortion Cell, Mumbai

· Prakash P. More, Police Sub-Inspector

· Bapusaheb Durugade, Police Sub-Inspector

· Tukaram G. Omble, Assistant Sub-Inspector

· Balasaheb Bhosale, Police Sub-Inspector

· Shashank Shinde, Police Inspector

· Arun Chithe, Police Constable

· Jaywant Patil, Police Constable

· Yogesh Patil, Police Constable

· Ambadas Pawar, Police Constable

· Vijay Khandekar, Police Constable

For the martyrs' families remorse is accompanied by pride.

"I used to tell him this is a dangerous job. He would laugh and say one day everyone has to die, better to die after some achievement,'' said Pandhari Chithe, brother of Arun Chithe.

Mullen seeks Pak commitment on Indian demands


Press Trust of India / Islamabad December 23, 2008, 13:09 IST


Undertaking a visit as tension escalates between India and Pakistan, the top US military official has asked Islamabad to do more to address India's concerns and reportedly sought commitments from Pakistani leadership on New Delhi's demands.

On a second visit to Pakistan since the Mumbai terror attacks, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is believed to have stressed on the need for Islamabad to do more to address India's concerns, including action against elements linked to the Nov 26 strikes during his meetings with the country's top military leadership yesterday.

Diplomatic sources said the tensions between India and Pakistan and ensuring Islamabad's cooperation to nab the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks was the focus of Mullen's two day visit.

Mullen met army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency yesterday.

US embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said Mullen is visiting for "scheduled meetings with senior Pakistani officials on regional issues". Mullen is expected to meet President Asif Ali Zardari today.
However, the influential Dawn newspaper reported Mullen was "on a mission to urge Pakistan to arrest elements accused by India of being involved in last month's Mumbai attacks for cooling down the mounting tension between the two countries".

The newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that Mullen "might have sought commitments from the Pakistani leadership on the Indian demands which are also a pre-condition for resuming the peace process" between the two countries.

The role of the ISI was also discussed by Mullen, who is believed to have reiterated the US's demand for bringing the spy agency under civilian control.

Pak ready to respond "within minutes" if India strikes: Kayani


Press Trust of India / Islamabad December 23, 2008, 12:53 IST



Pakistan's armed forces will mount an equal response "within minutes" if India carries out any surgical strike inside the country, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has reportedly assured the nation's leadership.

During a meeting at the presidency here yesterday, Kayani informed President Asif Ali Zardari about the operational preparedness of the military in the face of mounting tensions with India in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

The armed forces were "fully prepared to meet any "eventuality" and the "men are ready to (make a) sacrifice for their country", Kayani was quoted as saying by pro-establishment The News daily.

The report also quoted the army chief as saying that Pakistan would respond "within minutes" in the event of surgical strikes by India.

The report further stated that the "crux of the meeting" between Zardari and Kayani "was that any further buckling under mounting Indian pressure would prove counter-productive in the sense that it would further encourage New Delhi to further build up pressure on Islamabad".

The two leaders met hours after the Pakistan Air Force enhanced its vigilance and warplanes conducted sorties over key cities such as Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

Speaking in Karachi, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani too said the nation would stand united in the event of any aggression "on the eastern border".

During a meeting last night with the visiting US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, Kayani said Pakistan reserved the right to defend itself in case of any aggression from India, Dawn News channel reported.

In his hour-long meeting with Kayani, Zardari said he believed in gearing up efforts for peace, which should not be taken as a sign of weakness.

Zardari also said Pakistan wanted peaceful and cordial relations with all its neighbours, but the "threatening statements" of the Indian leadership were creating an atmosphere of aggression and harming the regional environment, The News reported.

He said all national security agencies, the army, political leadership and the people are united to meet any aggression against Pakistan. The country has the right to defend its borders in case of any aggression, Zardari added.


We will retort within minutes if India strikes: Pakistan


PTI | December 23, 2008 | 11:04 IST

Pakistan's armed forces will mount an equal response "within minutes" if India carries out any surgical strike inside the country, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has reportedly assured the nation's leadership.

During a meeting at the presidency on Tuesday, Kayani informed President Asif Ali Zardari about the operational preparedness of the military in the face of mounting tensions with India in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

The armed forces were "fully prepared to meet any "eventuality" and the "men are ready to (make a) sacrifice for their country", Kayani was quoted as saying by pro-establishment The News daily.

The report also quoted the army chief as saying that Pakistan would respond "within minutes" in the event of surgical strikes by India.

The report further stated that the "crux of the meeting" between Zardari and Kayani "was that any further buckling under mounting Indian pressure would prove counter-productive in the sense that it would further encourage New Delhi to further build up pressure on Islamabad".

The two leaders met hours after the Pakistan Air Force enhanced its vigilance and warplanes conducted sorties over key cities like Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Speaking in Karachi, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani too said the nation would stand united in the event of any aggression "on the eastern border".

During a meeting last night with the visiting US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, Kayani said Pakistan reserved the right to defend itself in case of any aggression from India, Dawn News channel reported.

In his hour-long meeting with Kayani, Zardari said he believed in gearing up efforts for peace, which should not be taken as a sign of weakness.

Zardari also said Pakistan wanted peaceful and cordial relations with all its neighbours, but the "threatening statements" of the Indian leadership were creating an atmosphere of aggression and harming the regional environment, The News reported.

He said all national security agencies, the army, political leadership and the people are united to meet any aggression against Pakistan. The country has the right to defend its borders in case of any aggression, Zardari added.

Pakistan is creating war hysteria: India

PTI | December 24, 2008 | 00:57 IST

India on Tuesday slammed Pakistan for trying to create 'war hysteria', saying it was aimed at diverting attention from the real issue of ending terrorism emanating from that country.

"My request to our friends in Pakistan would be (that) they should address the issue. The issue is not creating war hysteria or raising accusing fingers at others," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters outside Parliament.

"There has been a sinister, heinous terrorist attack on Mumbai from the elements in Pakistan. India has requested Pakistan to take action against the perpetrators of those attacks. We request Pakistan to act on our request," he said.

Mukherjee said Pakistan must honour the commitments given by its two Presidents -- Pervez Musharraf in January 2004 and Asif Ali Zardari in September 2008 -- not to allow the territories under its control to be used for terrorism.

Reacting to comments by Pakistan's Army Chief General Pervez Kayani that the armed forces had the right to defend borders in case of any aggression, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said, "The talk of war or creating war hysteria is diversionary."

He said, "The issue is not defence of Pakistan but terrorist attacks on India from Pakistan."

India feels that Pakistan, under mounting international pressure, is resorting to such tactics to deflect attention from the real issue of taking action against those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

India, Pak can't afford tension along border: Pak PM

PTI | December 23, 2008 | 21:43 IST

As Pakistani warplanes conducted sorties for the second straight day, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday said the two countries cannot afford tension along their border.

"Nobody wants tensions on the borders and we are moving responsibly and with caution," Gilani told reporters on the sidelines of an official ceremony in Islamabad.

He said the country's armed forces are prepared for any eventuality.

The nation and the army are united to defend the country and its territorial integrity, Gilani added.

Pakistan wants good neighbourly relations with India based on mutual respect, he said. "The government is aware of the situation in the region and will act as things move."

Asked about India's stance that Pakistan had ample evidence linking elements in the country to the Mumbai attacks, Gilani said his government would have publicised any evidence received from India.

Without elaborating, he said certain elementsare trying to escalate tension between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Pakistani warplanes conducted sorties over several cities, including Lahore, for the second day today. The Pakistan Air Force on Monday enhanced its vigilance in the wake of mounting tensions in the region after the Mumbai attacks.

Combat jets operating from the Sargodha airbase, one of the PAF's main bases, flew over Lahore and conducted surveillance flights in the area between the two cities in eastern Punjab province.

The PAF had conducted sorties over Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, sparking fears among people that the situation with India had worsened.

Pak's ungoverned spaces a problem: Rice

PTI | December 23, 2008 | 21:05 IST

Pakistan's ungoverned spaces are a problem in the war on terror and militants operating there are able to do hit-and-run raids across the border in Afghanistan, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said.

"If you look at South Asia, there is a problem -- a kind of coming together of the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan with the difficult-to-defend Afghan border," Rice said in an interview with a news agency, transcript of which was put out by the US state department.

"But I do not think that it would be right to say that they are unchallenged there or they're somehow on the march," she said.

"They're (militants) able to do hit-and-run attacks across that border. And the capacity of the Afghan government has to be strengthened, and the Pakistanis need to continue to press in those ungoverned spaces," she added.

Rice disagreed with the notion that somehow there is a lot of antipathy to President George W Bush around the world and in many ways there is a sigh of relief and hope that he is leaving the stage.

"It depends on where you're talking about. The two most populous countries in the world, China and India, the continent of Africa, President Bush is not only regarded as someone who had policies that took those relationships to a different level, but in the parlance of the day, he's popular," Rice told AFP according to the transcript.

"But I don't think popularity is the issue. I think the issue is how America has been able to change the terms of the foreign policy debate in many important places," she added.

'No nuke weapons will be used if war breaks out'

PTI | December 23, 2008 | 14:10 IST

Nuclear weapons will not be used if a war breaks out between Indian and Pakistan, said Pakistan Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar on Tuesday.

This was reported by a Pakistani website.

Mukhtar was talking to media after visiting the ailing PPP leader Haji Aziz-ur-Rehman Chan who is in a hospital in Lahore.

He also said, the reports indicate, that the government led by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will complete its tenure.

Centre rushes Army chief to Siachen

PTI | December 23, 2008 | 12:41 IST

In view of the heightening tension with Pakistan, the central government on Tuesday rushed Army chief General Deepak Kapoor to Siachen Glacier and forward areas of Jammu and Kashmir to check the operational preparedness of the troops.

Government sources told PTI in New Delhi that General Kapoor left for Siachen Glacier on Tuesday morning and will be there for a day to interact with unit commanders and senior officers before returning to New Delhi after taking stock of the situation.

Gen Kapoor would also visit some of the remote areas in Jammu and Kashmir along the borders with Pakistan to interact with the troops posted there, the sources said.

His sudden trip to the forward areas comes at a time when the government has stated that it is not ruling out any option in its fight against terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and some senior ministers had deliberations with the armed forces' top brass at the PMO in South Block, following which it is believed that Defence Minister A K Antony directed that all leave to military personnel be cancelled till April next year in view of the situation along the borders.

Since the Mumbai carnage, Army units along the borders with Pakistan have been maintaining a close vigil.

Some of IAF fighter aircraft squadrons in bases in forward areas have been on a 'cockpit alert' under which the force remains ready for military operations.

Indian Army chief visits Siachen as surveillance flights continue

* PAF jets fly over Lahore
* IAF steps up flights along Pak border


NEW DELHI: Despite Indian leaders' rejection of the 'war hysteria', Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor on Tuesday rushed to Siachen Glacier and forward areas of Jammu and Kashmir to check the operational preparedness of the troops as the Online news agency reported that both Indian and Pakistani fighter jets continued surveillance flights along the border.

Government sources in New Delhi said that Gen Kapoor left for Siachen Glacier on Tuesday morning, and would remain there for a day to take stock of the situation and interact with unit commanders and senior officers. The army chief would also visit some remote areas in Indian-held Kashmir along the border with Pakistan, said the sources.

It is also believed the Defence Minister AK Antony has ordered that leave to military personnel be cancelled until April next year.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter jets continued flying over Lahore as the Indian Air Force also stepped up flights along the border with Pakistan, according to Online.

The news agency said that four F-16s and Mirages equipped with extra fuel conducted surveillance flights over Lahore.

Like the Pakistani government, Indian leaders have also alerted the country's air force – with a war exercise underway in Jamna Nagar.

Also, the Pakistan Navy said on Tuesday it was ready to deal with any situation, Online reported. iftikhar gilani

'Don't underestimate Pak military might'

LAHORE: India should not underestimate Pakistan's military power and Islamabad is capable of thwarting any aggression from the eastern border, a private TV channel quoted President Asif Ali Zardari as saying on Tuesday.

He was talking to Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman General Tariq Majid in Islamabad. "Matters pertaining to the armed forces were discussed in the meeting," an official statement said. According to the channel, General Majeed told the president Pakistan's armed forces were capable of meeting any challenge.

Also on Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and briefed him on defence preparations of the armed forces amid rising tension between Pakistan and India.

Sources privy to the meeting said he told Gilani the armed forces were on high alert and could respond to any aggression immediately. The prime minister was satisfied with the preparations, they said, and assured the army chief the political leadership would stand by the army in defending the country.

Gilani said Pakistan wanted good ties with India and peace in the region, but would not compromise on its sovereignty. staff report/daily times monitor

Army chief in Jammu and Kashmir

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Chief of the Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor is in Jammu and Kashmir to review the Army's operational preparedness.

In response to a question on reported statements from Pakistan about the right to defend its borders in case of any "aggression," a spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry said, "The talk of war or creating war hysteria is diversionary. The issue is not defence of Pakistan but a terrorist attack on India from Pakistan." Officials insisted that Gen. Kapoor's visit was "routine." Informed sources, however, said it was in response to Pakistan buzzing its fighter jets on Monday.

Bell hits helicopter landmark in India

Still, company professes challenges in govt. deals

BY CHRIS NELSON

Gnyandeep

FORT WORTH, Texas – Last October, officials from Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. gathered at the Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad, India, to deliver a new Bell 412 EP utility helicopter to K. Gnyandeep, managing director of the New Delhi-based construction firm ABIR Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd.

In choosing Begumpet Airport as the setting for the delivery, Bell Helicopter ensured that it would receive maximum exposure from the Indian press and other, potential customers. On Oct. 15, the same day that Gnyandeep received the keys to the gleaming chopper from Jon Rudy, Bell's director of business development for Asia, the now-closed airfield welcomed the inaugural Indian Civil Aviation Airshow for a four-day run.

It was a seminal moment for Bell Helicopter, the 74-year-old Texas aerospace firm that developed the Vietnam War-icon UH-1 "Huey" – perhaps the most famous helicopter in aviation history. The 412 model that the company – which is a subsidiary of Textron Inc., a Fort Worth-based, $13.2 billion multi-industry company – delivered to ABIR Infrastructure was the 100th commercial helicopter that it has sold in India. And it came some 52 years after the then-Bell Helicopter Co. sold its first chopper in India. Bell officials marked the occasion by throwing a party underneath a tent on the Begumpet Airport tarmac.

"The combined team of Bell Helicopter, Edwards & Associates (a Bell parts supplier), Bell Helicopter Finance Group, and our [Noida, India-based independent representative, Jubilant Empro Pvt. Ltd.], are proud to deliver our 100th commercial helicopter into the Indian market," Rudy said. "We have a winning team and are looking forward to achieving the next 100 deliveries in India."

Indeed, the South Asian nation now ranks among Bell Helicopter's fastest-growing markets; the company sold 17 helicopters in India in 2008, and it expects to deliver another 22 choppers to Indian customers in 2009, according to Bell communications director Greg Hubbard, who added that the company now commands a 50-percent share of India's commercial market.

But while Bell Helicopter has enjoyed considerable success in its dealings with the country's private sector, the company has found that doing business with the Indian government – particularly the military – can be very difficult. In mid-November, Bell withdrew a proposal to sell the Indian Ministry of Defense 197 of its 407-model, light-utility helicopters because it considered governmental requirements for industrial offsets – essentially, work for Indian companies – as too onerous and expensive.

Bell Helicopter recently delivered its 100th commercial helicopter in India, a Bell 412 EP, example shown above, to ABIR Infrastructure in New Delhi. Photo courtesy of LA City Fire Department

The Bell 407 is a four-rotor-bladed, single-engine, civil-utility helicopter; it is frequently used for corporate and offshore transport, and is a favorite of air-ambulance services, law-enforcement departments and news-gathering organizations around the world. The decision ended a nine-year effort by Bell Helicopter to sell choppers to the Indian government.

"The more our leadership team looked at what the Indian government had asked of [the winning bidder] – particularly the 50 percent offsets – the more they felt that satisfying them was it was simply not the direction that Bell Helicopter should head in," Hubbard said. "The requirements were a really high threshold, and given our long-term strategy of ramping up production the way we wanted to, it presented an increased financial risk to the company to the point that it didn't make sense for us to pursue this opportunity."

Bell Helicopter cited the Indian defense ministry's decision in late 2007 to issue a new request for proposals that contained clauses requiring the winning bidder to reinvest 50 percent of the contract value back into India by sourcing parts and labor from subcontinent-based firms as the reason for its decision.

Indian defense officials anticipate these requirements will generate approximately $30 billion in lucrative offset-work partnerships with local companies in 2008. Currently, foreign companies investing over $60.3 million in an Indian defense project are required to source 30 percent of the business from within the South Asian nation.

Bell's frustrations with the Indian government boiled over in early 2007, when officials at the Ministry of Defense ruled that Eurocopter SAS – a French helicopter manufacturing and support company that was competing against Bell and other companies for the contract – be declared the winner of the competition. The government had disqualified Bell's proposal on a technicality, but Bell protested the decision and enlisted the assistance of U.S. government officials. The ploy worked – in December 2007, the Indian government overturned the ruling and said it would hold a new competition, which had come down to militarized versions of the Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel single-engine helicopter and the Bell 407. Bell eventually withdrew from the competition when it became clear that the industrial-offset requirements would negate any financial benefits that the company might have gained from winning the contract.

Slightly more than a month earlier, Bell Helicopter withdrew from a $500 million competition to supply the Indian Air Force with 22 attack helicopters because of similar requirements. Bell officials said later that the company pulled its bid because the Indian government insisted on purchasing the Bell AH-1Z Viper – a twin-engine, four-rotor-blade chopper based on Bell's famed AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopter – which would have violated the U.S. government's Foreign Military Sales program. Foreign governments that wish to purchase American-made weapons and military hardware do not deal directly with the companies that make them; instead, they must deal with the U.S. Department of Defense, acts as an intermediary, usually handling procurement, logistics and delivery and often providing product support and training.

Bell wasn't the only U.S.-based defense contractor to withdraw from the competition; Chicago-headquartered aerospace giant Boeing Co. yanked its bid after the Indian government refused to grant it more time to prepare a formal bid. "The company studied the government's request seriously and thoroughly, and Boeing executives participated in a pre-bidder's conference in New Delhi," Boeing said in an Oct. 15 statement. "However, following this review of the Indian Air Force's attack helicopter program request for proposals, Boeing regretfully concluded that it will not be able to prepare in the time allotted a fully compliant proposal that addresses India's unique requirements. This was a difficult but necessary decision."

The Indian defense ministry issued a request for proposals for 22 helicopters last May, and officials publicly stated they hoped to evaluate a half-dozen proposals: the AW129, a multi-role combat helicopter developed by Italian-British joint-venture company AugustaWestland NV; Boeing's AH-64D Apache Longbow; the Bell AH-1Z SuperCobra; the Eurocopter Tiger; the Russian-built Kamov Ka-50 Black Shark; and the Mil Mi-28 attack helicopter, which is also built in Russia.

Indian defense officials originally gave the six companies 90 days to respond to the request for proposals, but Boeing asked for an eight-week extension to prepare a fully compliant proposal. The ministry countered with an offer to extend the preparation time by one month, which prompted Boeing to withdraw.

It was another black mark for India's defense-procurement process, which has gained a dubious reputation among foreign suppliers and contractors as a slow-moving bureaucracy prone to "decision paralysis." This indecisiveness has become a major issue for foreign-based companies wishing to penetrate the Indian defense market, and is perhaps best exemplified by a request sent by the Indian army in 1990 to the federal government to upgrade its aging, 130-millimeter artillery guns to 155-millimeter cannons. A year later, New Delhi approved the request, and the Ministry of Defense picked Yokneam, Islrael-based contractor Soltam Systems Ltd. from a group of five bidders. Soltam carried out trials in 1993, but the defense ministry took another five years to approve the bid and fulfill the army's requirement.

These delays have also jeopardized a number of vital purchases, such as the Israel Aircraft Industries Heron unmanned aerial vehicle, the Russian Smerch multiple-launch rocket system and the Bhim self-propelled howitzer.

What's more, over the last five years, the Indian government's inability to make timely decisions has forced the Ministry of Defense to refund almost $7.3 billion that it had earmarked for new equipment and to modernize the Indian military.

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