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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

From Today's Papers - 06 Jan 09

Sorry for the disruption the past week. Regular updates commence from today.
I was overwhelmed by the number of emails and enquiries I received requesting for resumption.

Wishing everyone a very happy new year.

Pakistan Ready to Work with India,
Gilani tells US Official

By Muhammad Najeeb

Islamabad
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Monday, while talking to a senior US official, said that his government was ready to cooperate with India in the investigations of the Mumbai terror attacks and wants peace in the region.

The prime minister was talking to US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher who called on him Monday to discuss the tension between Pakistan and India and other issues regarding terrorism in the region.

An official said that the meeting lasted for about 50 minutes during which the demands of the Indian side regarding handing over of the Mumbai attacks mastermind was also discussed.

The prime minister told the visiting US official that his country was ready to cooperate with India and has already offered "joint investigations" into the Mumbai attacks that killed over 170 people in November last year.

According to the official, Gilani said Pakistan wants regional peace and wants to resolve all issues with India through dialogue.

The official said that during talks the prime minister also mentioned about the Kashmir issue. "Peace in the region was not possible without resolving the outstanding issues."

Boucher also met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and discussed in detail the Pakistan-India relations and war on terror on Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

"The minister told the US official that in case of tension with India, Pakistan will have to remove troops from the Western borders," said the official.

The meetings were held on the day when India gave evidences to Islamabad about the links of the Mumbai attackers with a militant organisation in Pakistan.

Sources quoting Boucher said that he urged Pakistan to "fully cooperate" with India and also "to consider" handing over the persons named by India as mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.

The US official, however, was told that no one will be handed over to India and if proved guilty, Pakistan will deal with them according to its own laws.

Boucher is also scheduled to meet President Asif Ali zardari and opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The meetings are said to be the farewell calls by the official of the outgoing Bush Administration.

Pakistan confirmed Monday that it has received "evidence" handed over by Indian authorities on the Mumbai attacks and was reviewing the substance.

"The Indian foreign secretary has handed over some information material regarding terrorist attacks in Mumbai to Pakistan's high commissioner in New Delhi this (Monday) morning," Muhammad Sadiq, foreign ministry spokesman, told IANS.

He said the material has been received in Pakistan now and "is being examined by concerned authorities". The spokesman did not give any timeframe for reply to the Indian authorities.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in India Monday that the evidence has been handed over to Pakistan linking the militants who carried out the November attacks to "elements in Pakistan".

Mumbai Heat
India shares proof with China

New Delhi, January 5
India today shared evidence with China about involvement of Pakistan-based elements in the Mumbai terror attacks and urged Beijing to use its influence with its ally Islamabad to cooperate on the issue.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon gave details of the Mumbai attacks to Chinese vice-foreign minister He Yafei, who has been sent here as a special envoy amid a chill in Indo-Pak ties in the aftermath of the November 26 terror strikes.

During the two-hour-long meeting, Menon apprised He Yafei about the evidence showing that 10 heavily armed terrorists were sent from Karachi to Mumbai to carry out attacks and that the three-day-long operation was guided from Pakistan.

India has compiled a dossier of evidence, which includes confession of Ajmal Amir Kasab satellite phone intercepts and record of logbooks recovered from a ship by which ten heavily armed terrorists came from Karachi to Mumbai on November 26.

Menon is understood to have urged the Chinese minister that his country should use its influence with Pakistan to ensure that the perpetrators of the attacks are brought to justice and that such strikes do not take place in the future. He Yafei, who arrived here last evening, suggested that India and Pakistan should hold dialogue to resolve the issue.

“We had very good talks with the foreign secretary... We got a full briefing from our (Indian) colleagues. We would study them of course... We would see,” He Yafei told mediapersons after his meeting with Menon when asked about evidence.

He noted that India had already shared the evidence with Pakistan. — PTI

Antony reviews security situation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 5
Defence minister AK Antony today asked the service chiefs to make a presentation on the current security scenario and the threat perceptions. Antony also discussed the preparedness of the armed forces in tackling them, officials added.

The meeting was attended by National Security Adviser (NSA) MK Narayanan. Services chiefs Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major and Army chief General Deepak Kapoor, apart from Defence Secretary Vijay Singh participated in the discussions, officials said.

“The Defence Minister held a meeting with the NSA and the three chiefs to review the security situation,” Defence Ministry officials said. The meeting lasted one hour.

The meeting gains significance as India Monday handed over to Pakistan the evidence linking Pakistan-based militants to the Mumbai carnage and ratcheted up international pressure on Islamabad to eliminate terror infrastructure from its territory.

Cops must get better weapons: Kavita Karkare

Mumbai, January 5
Breaking her silence over the Mumbai carnage, Kavita Karkare, wife of slain Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, today said police personnel have to be given better weapons and training to tackle such terror attacks.

She also referred to the Malegaon blast case which was being probed by her husband and said the family had felt humiliated when he was criticised by various political parties on the issue.

In separate interviews to television channels, Kavita said, “Police have to be given better weapons and training. They also must be paid well.”

She said, “I feel proud about my husband's sacrifice but we have paid hard price for it. It is very painful because I am 50 plus and at this age I really needed my husband”.

The slain officer’s wife further added, “It was very difficult for the children. My elder daughter who is married, has a family to help her but my younger daughter, who is in London School of Economics, and my 17-year-old son are finding it difficult to cope up. The first month, we were in so much grief, at night they cry, then get angry. But I allow them to show their emotions so that they can calm down.”

Though calm, Kavita's eyes do give away the emotional turmoil inside her as she rues her husband's decision to join the ATS. “I strongly regret that. When he took up the ATS job, I knew from his nature and uprightness that he will go in front and fight. It is a very risky job. That time, I used to tell him to apply for a UN job,” Kavita said.

On the Malegaon probe issue, Kavita said her husband “wasn't under pressure from what I understood...because according to the Bhagwad Gita if you are fighting evil, even if your gurus are not doing the right thing, you must continue your fight...He was not confused, his ideas, his ideology was fixed... even the investigations were going smoothly, he had finished his work. He was criticised by various political parties, by people from every side, it was humiliating and sorrowful for us... but I know my husband was right. He had proof, so he was comfortable. He was a very strong person”. — PTI

Govt mulls intake of NCC cadets into IMA
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 5
The government is considering a proposal to raise intake of cadets from the NCC into the prestigious Indian Military Academy (IMA) from 64 to 80, Lt Genl RK Karwal, Director-General, NCC, said here today. Alarmed over the shortfall of officers, the government is also likely to hike the intake of NCC ‘C’ certificate holders into the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, from 79 to 100, he added.

Addressing a news conference coinciding with the NCC Republic Day Camp, 2009, General Karwal said since 2007 the NCC was working on a programme to raise the enrolment of cadets, a majority of them would be girls. The strength of the NCC would go up from the present 13 lakh to 15 lakh in five years, he added.

More Army institutes to be opened: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 5
Defence Minister AK Antony today said the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES) had plans to open more institutes in the country near future. Speaking after formally inaugurating the Army College of Medical Sciences at Delhi Cantt, the Defence Minister lauded the role being played by the AWES in the field of education.

Affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi, and approved by the Medical Council of India, the college started functioning from the current academic session (2008-09). The annual intake of the college is 100 students and admission is purely on merit. Notably, ACMS and other affiliated colleges of the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES) have no quota of any kind and no reservation on any basis.

Randhawa new DG at Air Headquarters
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 5
Air Marshal TS Randhawa took over as Director-General (Inspection and Safety) at Air Headquarters here today. He was earlier posted as the Commandant of the National Defence Academy, Pune.

The Air Marshal has over 3,000 hours of flying to his credit. He was the leader of the ‘Thunderbolts’, the IAF aerobatic team of the 1980s.

In the past he has been the chief operations officer at a frontline Air Force base and also commanded a premier flying station of the IAF. He was in charge of all fighter operations in South western Air Command from 2002-2004.

He is the commodore commandant of the Pune-based Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter squadron.

Israeli strike in Gaza continues, 520 killed

Associated Press

Monday, January 05, 2009, (Jerusalem)

Israel continued its offensive against Hamas in the North of the Gaza Strip on Monday.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard but the punishing airstrikes of the past week appeared to have been halted, ahead of the arrival of international mediators, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the region.

Israel says it launched the offensive to stop rocket attacks from Hamas militants, which have traumatised southern Israel.

But around 520 Palestinians killed in Gaza and more than 2,500 injured, some Middle Eastern and European governments have strongly criticised Israel for use of excessive force.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the divided Security Council on Monday to work toward a speedy end to the escalating crisis in Gaza.

Ban said he remains "extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Gaza.

The UN is in close contact with Israeli authorities to press them to open crossing into Gaza to allow in, particularly, wheat grain and fuel for the power plant, as well as other essential supplies, Ban said.

The main power plant in Gaza has been shut down since Tuesday because Israel has blocked fuel deliveries, and UN officials have said they desperately need wheat flour.

Thousands of Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships continued to push into Gaza on Monday, the second day of Israel's ground invasion of the coastal territory.

Palestinians reported clashes early on Monday in the eastern part of Gaza, near the border with Israel.

Hamas militants fired at advancing Israeli tanks with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, witnesses said.

Explosions could be heard in Gaza City as aircraft attacked buildings.

There was no immediate word about casualties.

Israel said it has inflicted a heavy blow against Hamas as it expands a week-long offensive meant to stop rocket fire on southern Israel.

But spiralling civilian casualties fuelled an intensifying international outcry.

Since the ground assault began on Saturday, 64 Palestinian civilians have been killed, a Health Ministry official said.

Latest reports have brought the death toll in the Gaza Strip to more than 512 since December 27.

The tally is based on figures from the United Nations and Palestinian health officials as well as a count by The Associated Press.

One Israeli soldier died - the first to be killed in the ground operation - and about 40 others were wounded, some of them in heavy exchanges of fire near the militant stronghold of Jebaliya, a town on Gaza City's northern outskirts, the army said.

Condemnation of Israel's ground operation poured in from around the Middle East and Europe, but the United States blocked approval of a UN Security Council statement Saturday night calling for an immediate cease-fire and expressing serious concern at the escalation of violence.

Israel has four main demands: and end to Gaza rocket fire, a halt to Palestinian attacks, international supervision of a truce and an agreement to stop Hamas from re-arming.

Hamas demands a cessation of Israeli attacks and opening of vital Gaza-Israel cargo crossings, Gaza's main lifeline.

Taliban claims killing 5,220 foreign troops in Afghanistan

Associated Press

Monday, January 05, 2009, (Kabul)

The Taliban claims to have killed more than 5,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan last year--a figure nearly 20 times the official death toll.

The Taliban has long exaggerated its military successes, but its year-end numbers--posted last week on its Web site--may be the militia's most startling claim yet in the war of information.

In addition to claims it killed 5,220 foreign troops, the insurgents said they downed 31 aircraft last year. Its fighters destroyed 2,818 NATO and Afghan vehicles and killed 7,552 Afghan soldiers and police, according to a statement from a spokesman.

The true damage inflicted on U.S. and NATO fighters over the last year has been "repeatedly hidden by the enemy and they have controlled the media by using money, power and their lies,'' the statement said.

NATO and its member countries announce all troop deaths, providing names, ages and hometowns and how the soldiers were killed. According to a tally based on those announcements, 286 foreign forces died last year in Afghanistan, including 151 American and 51 British.

Though the death toll was highly exaggerated, the Taliban have had increased success recently. Violence in Afghanistan has spiked in the last two years, and Taliban militants now control wide swaths of countryside. In response, the U.S. is planning to pour up to 30,000 more troops into the country this year.

Antony’s good manners

The mild-mannered Defence Minister, A K Antony, gladdened the hearts of the defence personnel when he gave the duly deserved respect to Marshall of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh.

At a function to release a coffee-table book “Soldiering on” to mark 100 years of Sainik Samachar, Antony did not occupy his seat on the dais until Marshall Arjan Singh got into the chair that was positioned next to the minister’s.

Again when the Marshall got up to speak, Antony did not forget his manners and got up from his chair as a mark of respect.

Arjan Singh patted Antony on his shoulder, signalling him to sit down. But the minister did not and rather just smiled back at the veteran soldier.

Antony reviews security situation with NSA

Press Trust of India / New Delhi January 05, 2009, 19:39 IST

With Pakistan unrelenting on India's demands for action against terror groups and in view of the recent Assam blasts, Defence Minister A K Antony today reviewed the nation's security preparedness with National Security Adviser (NSA) M K Narayanan.

"The Defence Minister held a meeting with the NSA to review the security situation," Defence Ministry officials told PTI here.

The three Services chiefs Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major and Army chief General Deepak Kapoor, apart from Defence Secretary Vijay Singh participated in the discussions, officials said.

During the meeting, Antony asked the officials and officers to make a presentation on the current security scenario and the threat perceptions, and discussed the preparedness of the armed forces in tackling them, officials added.

India to step up defence collaboration with USA

Statesman News Service
NEW DELHI, Jan. 5: India is stepping up defence collaboration with the USA having already inked its biggest-ever military deal for eight long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft for the Indian Navy for $2.1 billion. It is also planning to go in for three key military pacts with Washington, including one which would enable their militaries to refuel ships and aircraft in cash-less transactions that are balanced at the end of the year.
“The deal for the eight P8I reconnaissance aircraft has been signed directly with the Boeing company. The terms and the end-user agreement governing the use of sensitive technology is yet to be sorted out with the US government,” highly placed sources said.
According to these sources, the actual signing was done on 1 January with the defence ministry’s joint secretary, Preeti Sudan, and Boeing integrated defence systems vice-president and country head Vivek Lall.
India will get the first of the P-81 by end-2012 or early 2013 with the remaining seven expected to be delivered in a phased manner by 2015-16. The contract also enables India to order four to eight more such aircraft.
Apart from the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), the other pacts pending are the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) that will enable the two militaries to communicate on a common platform, and an end-user agreement governing the sale of US military hardware to India. The USA has agreements similar to the LSA in place with some 65 countries.
With the Indian and US militaries increasing their engagement in war games on land, in the air and at sea, CISMOA has become a necessity to ensure there are no communication glitches.
“With the increasing number of military exercises between the countries, the pact is set to be given the green signal soon,” sources said.

Five Reasons Why India Can't 'Do A Gaza' On Pakistan
Tunku Varadarajan, 01.05.09, 12:00 AM ET

Over the last week, many Americans (and not a few Indians) have asked me why India does not "do a Gaza" on Pakistan, referring, of course, to an emulation of Israel's punitive use of force against Hamas-run Palestine, a territory from which rockets rain down on Israeli soil with reliable frequency (if not reliable destructiveness ... but that is not for want of Hamas intent).

My answer, given with the heavy heart that comes always with a painful grip on reality, is simple: India does not because it cannot.

Here are five reasons why:

1. India is not a military goliath in relation to Pakistan in the way Israel is to the Palestinian territories. India does not have the immunity, the confidence and the military free hand that result from an overwhelming military superiority over an opponent. Israel's foe is a non-sovereign entity that enjoys the most precarious form of self-governance. Pakistan, for all its dysfunction, is a proper country with a proper army, superior by far to the tin-pot Arab forces that Israel has had to combat over time. Pakistan has nukes, to boot. Any assault on Pakistani territory carries with it an apocalyptic risk for India. This is, in fact, Pakistan's trump card. (This explains, also, why Israel is determined to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.)

2. Even if India could attack Pakistan without fear of nuclear retaliation, the rationale for "doing a Gaza" is, arguably, not fully present: Israel had been attacked consistently by the very force--Hamas--that was in political control of the territory from which the attacks occurred. By contrast, terrorist attacks on India, while originating in Pakistan, are not authored by the Pakistani government. India can-- and does--contend that Pakistan's government should shut down the terrorist training camps on Pakistani soil. (In this insistence, India has unequivocal support from Washington.) Yet only a consistent and demonstrable pattern of dereliction by Pakistani authorities-- which would need to be dereliction verging on complicity with the terrorists--would furnish India with sufficient grounds to hold the Pakistani state culpable.

3. As our columnist, Karlyn Bowman, writes, Israel enjoys impressive support from the American people, in contrast to the Palestinians. No other state--apart, perhaps, from Britain--evokes as much favor in American public opinion as does Israel. This is not merely the result of the much-vaunted "Israel lobby" (to use a label deployed by its detractors), but also because of the very real depth of cultural interpenetration between American and Israeli society. This fraternal feeling buys Israel an enviable immunity in the conduct of its strategic defense. India, by contrast--while considerably more admired and favored in American public opinion than Pakistan--enjoys scarcely a fraction of Israel's "pull" in Washington when it comes to questions of the use of force beyond its borders.

4. Pakistan is strategically significant to the United States; the Palestinians are not. This gives Washington scant incentive to rein in the Israelis, but a major incentive to rein in any Indian impulse to strike at Pakistan. However justified the Indian anger against Pakistan over the recent invasion of Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists, the last thing that the U.S. wants right now is an attack--no matter how surgical--by India against Pakistan-based terror camps. This would almost certainly result in a wholesale shift of Pakistani troops away from their western, Afghan front toward the eastern boundary with India--and would leave the American Afghan campaign in some considerable disarray, at least in the short term. So Washington has asked for, and received, the gift of Indian patience. And although India recognizes that it is not wholly without options to mobilize quickly for punitive, surgical strikes in a "strategic space," it would--right now--settle for a trial of the accused terrorist leaders in U.S. courts. (Seven U.S. citizens were killed in Mumbai: Under U.S. law, those responsible--and this should include Pakistani intelligence masterminds--have to be brought to justice.)

5. My last, and meta-, point: Israel has the privilege of an international pariah to ignore international public opinion in its use of force against the Palestinians. A state with which few others have diplomatic relations can turn the tables on those that would anathematize it by saying, Hang diplomacy. India, by contrast, has no such luxury. It is a prisoner of its own global aspirations--and pretensions.

Tunku Varadarajan, a professor at the Stern Business School at NYU and research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, is opinions editor at Forbes.com, where he writes a weekly column.

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