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Friday, 23 January 2009

From Today's Papers - 23 Jan 09






















Pak: We gave blank cheque to China on talks with India

Islamabad, January 22
Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said Pakistan had given a "blank cheque" to China authorising it to negotiate with India on its behalf to deal with the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Speaking at a reception at the Chinese embassy here last night, Qureshi said he had told Chinese special envoy He Yafei to "go to Delhi and you have a blank cheque from us".

The minister said he had told the envoy that Pakistan would endorse whatever China, an all-weather friend of Pakistan, would tell India.

The Chinese envoy visited Pakistan on December 29 and during his meetings with the country's leaders had indicated that Beijing would remain engaged with Islamabad to promote peace and stability in the region.

Soon after Yafei's visit, Pakistan made two proposals for defusing tensions. It asked India to "de-activate" forward airbases and relocate troops to peace-time positions.

The Chinese envoy travelled to New Delhi on January 5 and urged India to resume the dialogue with Pakistan.

Qureshi also said that Pakistan regarded its ties with China as the cornerstone of its foreign policy.

"We have complete trust, mutual understanding and convergence of views on bilateral, regional and international issues," he said. — PTI

Pakistan faces Obama music

Pakistan has told America that it has the choice of reviewing its options after US President Barack Obama warned Pakistan that aid to the country is conditional and would depend on its sincere cooperation in the fight against terror..

CJ: Upendra Singh , 12 hours ago

BARACK OBAMA’S ascend to the US presidential post seems to have not gone down well with Pakistan, as it is miffed by the remarks passed by him after taking office. The remarks of the new President has irked Pakistan, which brought out its dissent by saying that it has the choice of reviewing its options after President Obama warned that aid to Pakistan is conditional and it would depend on its cooperation in the war against terror.

The very first day of Obama in office turned out to be a bitter experience for Pakistan, which is supposed to be one of US’ main allies in combating terror, post 9/11. Just after joining Oval Office, the Obama administration revealed its strong attitude towards demolition of terrorism. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden released their foreign policy agenda document, which said that America would be increasing non-military aid to Pakistan but at the same time holding them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan.

The US administration headed by Obama has cautioned Pakistan to act responsibly in its fight against terrorism, especially in the border regions of Afghanistan. Obama has clearly hinted at stopping aid to Pakistan if it fails to deliver goods as deemed. The statement said that Pakistan’s performance in the fight against terrorism would be linked to the financial aid to it. However, Pakistan responded to the statement by saying that it will review its options in the absence of a positive approach from Obama.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US - Hussain Huqqani was quite vocal when he expressed - “Pakistan hopes that Obama will be more patient while dealing with Pakistan. We will review all options if Obama does not adopt a positive policy towards us.

” Haqqani further hoped that Obama, in relation to war against terrorism, would also pay attention to the political, foreign policy factors and socio-economic matters of the region and not act in haste.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military has also bristled against the suggestions of Washington that Islamabad needs to do more in the war against terror and termed the statements as unhelpful and uncalled for. Gen Tariq Majid, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee said that such unhelpful statements must stop, as they are not required.

Obama has definitely triggered a change in the air and Pakistan is already feeling the heat. He definitely seems to be adopting a different line of action as compared to his predecessor George Bush who had a soft inclination for Pakistan. Even Pakistan has accepted the fact that former President Bush was more inclined to getting his words accepted than listening to others and believing in use of force. Now, it would be interesting to see how Obama takes future steps to combat terrorism.

Assam Rifles Trooper At Large
after Killing Six Colleagues in Manipur


Imphal
A paramilitary Assam Rifles trooper who shot dead six of his colleagues in Manipur is at large and security forces have launched a massive hunt to apprehend him, officials said Thursday.

"Efforts are on to nab him, but the trooper is still at large after he fled the camp with his service weapon (an assault rifle) late Wednesday," Major Shamser Jung, a defence spokesman, told IANS.

The tribal trooper hailing from Nagaland ran amok after an altercation with an officer at Ukhrul, about 90 km from Manipur state capital Imphal.

"The trooper had a verbal argument with a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and suddenly he picked up his service weapon (an assault rifle) and started firing indiscriminately, killing the officer on the spot," Jung said.

The irate trooper then went berserk and started firing on other colleagues who came out from their barracks hearing gunshots.

"The trooper sprayed bullets on a group of other colleagues, killing five more before fleeing the area with the weapon. We don't really know what led to this or what the reasons were for the verbal argument," the official said.

The Assam Rifles is a paramilitary force currently engaged in counter insurgency operations in Manipur, bordering Myanmar, with the state home to at least 19 rebel armies with demands ranging from independence to greater autonomy.

Pak to complete inquiry into India evidence soon: Gilani

Press Trust of India

Friday, January 23, 2009 12:02 AM (Islamabad)

Pakistan will complete its inquiry into the information provided by India on the Mumbai attacks "as soon as possible" and share its findings with India and other countries, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Thursday.

During a meeting with visiting NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Gilani expressed Pakistan's "keen desire to defuse the situation in South Asia in the wake of the Mumbai attacks".

"Pakistan will complete its inquiry into the dossier of information provided by India as soon as possible and will share its results with India and other countries in due course", he said.

Accusing India for delay in providing information, he said "If Pakistan had been provided the dossier earlier, it would have initiated its inquiry long ago."

He reiterated the government's "firm resolve to combat terrorism and focus its attention on restoring stability on Pakistan's western borders" as this is a prerequisite for the peace, prosperity and progress of South Asia.

Gilani also briefed Scheffer on measures taken by Pakistan to control the "movement of undesirable elements across the western border".

Referring to the negative fallout of US drone attacks on Pakistan's efforts to isolate extremists and terrorists, he urged NATO to share actionable intelligence with Pakistan's armed forces to enable them to take action.

He said that cooperation in military and intelligence fields between the two sides should be strengthened and called for institutionalising the strategic and political dialogue between Pakistan and NATO.

Scheffer also said NATO and Pakistan share the same strategic goal in combating terrorism. He acknowledged the need to focus on immediate economic development in the tribal areas, North West Frontier Province and Balochistan to help Pakistan in its efforts to eradicate extremism in these areas.

The NATO Secretary also called on President Asif Ali Zardari and discussed the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Zardari apprised Scheffer about Pakistan's offers of cooperation to India in the aftermath of the Mumbai incident.

Scheffer said both countries need to "cooperate closely in the investigations of the incident".

Zardari said the fight against militancy was a "huge effort that required a regional cooperative approach".

Karkare, Unnikrishnan may get Ashok Chakra

Press Trust of India

Thursday, January 22, 2009 11:58 PM (New Delhi)

Maharashtra's ATS former chief Hemant Karkare, sub-inspector Tukaram Gopal Omble and National Security Guard commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who were killed during the Mumbai terror strikes, are believed to have been chosen for awarding the Ashok Chakra.

The three officers, who fell to the bullets of terrorists while participating in the operations to flush out the terrorists from Pakistan, were among the nine names approved for the bravery award, which would be formally announced on January 25, the Republic Day eve, government sources told PTI on Thursday.

Inspector M C Sharma, a Delhi police encounter specialist who died in the Batla House police operation against Islamic terrorists, was also among the shortlisted martyrs for the medal, sources said.

Apart from these four brave hearts, the government has also shortlisted Havildar Gajendra Singh Bhist, a 36-year-old NSG commando killed during the Mumbai anti-terror operations at Nariman Point, sources said.

Others reportedly selected for the gallantry medal included Army officer Colonel Jojin Thomas, Orissa police officer T K Satpathy, Havildar Bahadur Singh Vohra and Meghalaya police officer A Diengdoh.

The government was still considering Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte, who died in the Mumbai anti-terror operation, for the Ashok Chakra and a decision on them would be taken in a couple of days, sources added.

Army has close ties with LeT: Pak delegation

January 22, 2009 | 19:34 IST

A peace delegation from Pakistan on Thursday suggested the military regime in that country might not yet be over yet and singled it out for maintaining close ties with terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

The delegation also said the Obama administration in the US would need the Pakistan military's help to restore stability in Afghanistan.

The 23-member delegation comprising journalists, peace and human rights activists, legislators and scholars arrived here after crossing over the Indo-Pak border from Wagah on Wednesday.

Attending a round table conference in New Delhi, the delegates referring to terrorism pointed out that the "monster that was created has outgrown its inventors".

"We are living in a jail. Our bureaus in the northern frontier regions are being shut down as they are constantly under physical vigil by the Pakistan troops," said Jugnu Mohsin, editor of the Friday Times and Daily Times.

Citing that a number of politicians and human rights activists have been killed or threatened for their stance against the Pakistan military, delegates sought India's help in co-opting the military to the political will of Pakistan.

"The relation between the United States and Pakistan should also be in a political to political level, rather than on a political to military level," said Imtiaz Alam, executive director of South Asia Free Media Association.

Pointing out that the civilian government is not in the loop of many happenings, chairperson of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jahangir said there is a need for making the Pakistan armed forces and its intelligence wing, the Inter Services Intelligence answerable to Pakistan Parliament.

"After the civil society in Pakistan came out with a joint statement expressing solidarity for the victims of Mumbai's terror strikes, we received threat calls asking us to change our views," said Jehangir.

A specialist on FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and northern frontiers of Pakistan Kamran Arif opined that the military is tackling forces who were provided arms and ammunition by the United States and the United Kingdom during earlier military regimes in Pakistan on the pretext of maintaining peace in these regions.

Indian journalists, former diplomats, activists and strategy experts, who welcomed the peace delegation from Pakistan, suggested it is impossible to commence any dialogue with a government which has responsibility but no power.

"Even the Director General of Pakistan's Ahmed Shuja Pasha came out with statements like the Taliban has a great ideology," pointed out India's former Ambassador to Pakistan G Parthasarathy.

To this, the Pakistani delegation sought the support of India's civil society in strengthening the democratic process in Pakistan.

The delegation opined that people in Pakistan sees the culmination of instability in the Northern frontiers and FATA zones as a direct fall-out of the instability reigning in Afghanistan.

Representatives of both the countries agreed that regaining stability in crisis torn Afghanistan will take at least two decades and the Obama government will not be able to achieve this without help from Pakistani military.

Armymen donate blood to save woman ULFA cadre

PTI | January 22, 2009 | 17:50 IST

In an irony of sorts, army personnel donated blood to save an injured woman cadre of the United Liberation Front of Asom captured during an encounter in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya.

The woman militant, Tezimalla Rabha, was injured in the thigh during an encounter with personnel of the army's Red Horns Division in East Garo Hills on December 22, 2008 during which two other ULFA militants were shot dead, an army official said on Thursday.

Rabha, wife of a commander of 109 ULFA Battalion Gulit Das, was given first aid and carried on the shoulder for five hours through a treacherous terrain by armymen and later admitted to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, the official said.

As she was in a precarious condition, the Red Horns Division shifted her to the Army Base hospital in Guwahati, where troops donated blood to save her life, he said.

The army surgeon attending Rabha said she was brought in a critical state as she had lost a lot of blood. However, she responded well to the treatment and is now out of danger.

The army apprehended Rabha earlier also but she had rejoined ULFA after her release.

Indo-Russian fifth-generation fighter by 2009-end

Vinay Shukla in Moscow | PTI | January 22, 2009 | 04:13 IST

Russia has said the maiden flight of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), being developed by its Sukhoi design bureau in tie-up with Indian aerospace and defence major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), will be made by the end of the year.

"We expect the aircraft to take to the skies no later than the end of this year," Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

Earlier the maiden flight of the new air superiority stealth multi-role fighter featuring high manoeuvrability and precision in destroying land and sea targets was expected in 2010.

Ivanov, a close Putin ally and former Defence Minister, made this announcement in the South Volga region of Astrakhan, where he is on a visit to supervise the construction of facilities for the trials of the next generation fighter.

Under the bilateral agreement signed in October 2007, FGFA is being developed by Sukhoi, which is now part of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), along with India's HAL.

India and Russia will simultaneously develop a two-seater version of the war-bird to meet the requirements of India's air superiority doctrine, and a single-seater version for the Russian Air Force.

HAL is expected to produce the Indian version at its facilities, while Russian version will be built at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant in Russia's Far East.

Ivanov said the plant had almost completed the construction of a first prototype of the fifth-generation fighter, but it will undergo only durability tests in the wind tunnel at a research facility in Zhukovsky near Moscow.

However, a second prototype will be built and will take to the skies by the end of this year, he said.

Russia is planning to induct the new fighters in 2015, probably at the same time with the Indian Air Force.

Venkateswarlu to be JS Defence

Now the name of Dr Usurupati Venkateswarlu has started doing the round for the post of Joint Secretary Defence. He is 1986 batch IAS officer of Manipur-Tripura cadre.

'Youth should aim to serve in Indian army'

22 Jan 2009, 2243 hrs IST, TNN

HAVERI: Many students are mentally fit to be a part of the national defence, but if they turn out to be physically unfit and cannot run 1.6 kms in eight minutes, they will not be recruited into the army, said district industries centre joint director A B Paraddi.

He was addressing cadets during the NCC day celebrations held in KLE Society's Gudleppa Hallikeri college, Haveri on Thursday afternoon. The national defence force will help the youths become warriors and prepare him/her to face challenges. It is the best platform to serve the nation, he added.

The present NCC cadets took an oath to work against corruption and donated their eyes.

Major N V Kambalimath, Degree college principal B S Gavi and PU college principal C M Math were present on the occasion. An appreciation letter was handed over to Jyoti Puttaradder of BSc III semester for her successful participation in a summer camp at Bhubaneswar (Orissa).

A rifle drill, combat show and martial arts display by Hanamantagouda were some of the attractions.

Murky Competition for $2B India Howitzer Order May End Soon… Or Not

22-Jan-2009 12:56 EST

India’s $2 billion purchase of about 400 new 155mm self-propelled howitzers is intended to supplement India’s dwindling artillery stocks, while out-ranging and out-shooting Pakistan’s self-propelled M109 155mm guns.

It seems simple enough, and BAE Systems Bofors has been competing against systems from Israel’s Soltam and Denel of South Africa.

Unfortunately, the competition has mostly served as a cautionary tale, a years-long affair filled with legal drama, accusations of corruption, and more than one re-start. Meanwhile, India’s stock of operational 155mm howitzers has dwindled to around 200. In 2007, a new RFP was issued, and the competition was expanded. Is there an end in sight? Or a potential winner?

Competition Background

US-India Defense and Strategic Affairs reported on the competition in 2004, and noted that this was expected to be one of the first large defense procurement decisions made by India’s new United Progressive Alliance government. The question now is whether a decision can be made within that government’s term(s) of office.

After multiple firing trials and several years, India’s competition managed to end up without any competitors left standing. All 3 competitors (Bofors FH-77B05, Soltam TIG 2002, Denel G5/2000) failed to meet India’s accuracy specifications in 2003 trials, but all three improved their guns to compete again in 2004. There are reports that Soltam fell out of the race after its barrel burst during field trials, while South Africa’s Denel sidelined in 2004 and then eliminated in 2005, after the Indian government accused the manufacturer of corruption in another defence deal.

That created problems on 2 fronts. Denel’s financial situation was deteriorating, and The Times of India reported that the contract may have been critical to the firm’s financial survival. In hindsight, that concern was valid, bt Denel managed to survive the loss. A win certainly would have made a significant difference, and might have allowed Denel to delay its major corporate restructuring and associated strategic rethinking for several years.

Winner by default?

The other problem involved India’s Ministry of Defence. DID has noted the extreme risk-averse behavior of India’s defense procurement establishment and its effects on contract awards, however, and Defense India notes that when a competition devolves to a single-vendor solution, the practice is often to re-tender.

The resulting dithering was relieved when allegations that Bofors had paid INR 640 million (about $16 million) in bribes to secure the order eliminated the last contender. Bofors Defence AB had been blacklisted by India before, after allegations of kickbacks in a 1987 deal during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime. That scandal had derailed a planned 1,500 gun buy, reducing it to 410 FH-77B howitzers.

Those accused in the Bofors case would eventually have their day in court, however, and win. In April 2007, India re-opened its howitzer competition again, and the passage of time had created a number of changes in the requirements and options.

Meanwhile, the support contract with Bofors for India’s in-service howitzers expired in 2001, and India’s stock is believed to sit at just 200 operational 155/39 caliber guns as of January 2009.

Contracts and Key Events

Jan 14/09: An anonymous Army official tells Indian reporters that:

“The procurement process for the towed and light howitzer is proceeding as planned. Bids have been received from all the vendors and trials of the guns are planned in February or March [of 2009].... The trials for self-propelled howitzers are planned in May-June [2009].”

According to the IANS report, the initial contract involves 180 guns, but the eventual contract is to include up to 400 guns, thanks to transfer of technology to build the howitzers in India. Of these, 140 will be light howitzers that will be spread over 7 regiments. They will still be 155/52 caliber, just lighter thanks to advances in metallurgy and design. The remaining 260 guns will be towed and self-propelled variants. IANS via ndia Defence | Hindustan Times.

April 4/07: Re-tender is exactly what happened. Sujan Dutta of The Calcutta Telegraph reports that India has reopened its artillery competitions entirely, refloating 2 global RFPs to 12 makers of 155mm/52 calibre self-propelled guns. The Indian Army reportedly proposes to buy 400 systems at the outset: 180 tracked and 220 wheeled.

The first new tender was for wheeled guns, with an RFP floated in early March 2007. The second tender for tracked guns was floated at the end of the month. Expected competitors include BAE Land Systems USA (M109A6 Paladin possible in tracked), BAE Bofors (FH77B towed, Archer wheeled), France’s Nexter (Caesar wheeled), Rheinmetall (Zuzana wheeled from Kerametal in Slovakia, possibly PzH-2000 tracked), Korea’s Samsung Techwin (K9 tracked), and Israel’s Soltam (Atmos 2000 wheeled, Rascal tracked).

In making its decision to re-float the RFP, the cabinet committee on security reportedly concluded that:

* A single-vendor situation must be avoided;

* South Africa’s Denel had emerged as the single vendor for the tracked version, but they were blacklisted in 2005 on another deal;

* The process delays of 5 years since the first tender have been so great that the field as a whole has advanced since then;

* The standards for the selection of the guns need to be revised; and

* India’s defence procurement policy has been revised in the interim, and the RFP should reflect that.

G6 Base, Bleeding?

Jan 16/06: A new scandal is swirling around re-opened allegations of kick-backs involving Bofors, and complicity by the current government in covering them up.

Jan 13/06: The Press Trust of India (PTI) reports that Army Chief General J J Singh has ordered a 4th round of extensive trials for the guns, in which only the Bofors and Soltam guns will be taking part. He said the two contending 155mm/52 caliber guns would be evaluated through summer and winter trials, with the winner inducted by 2007.

DID thought that was a bit optimistic...

Jan 12/06: The Times of India reports that India’s UPA government has floated new global tenders for collaboration in the Nalanda ordnance factory project to manufacture 155mm Bi-Modular Charge Systems (BMCS) for India’s artillery. See this link from BAE’s SWS Defence for a more in-depth look at a particular BMCS solution.

South Africa’s Denel had been picked, but the blacklisting stemming from the anti-material rifles’ deal is having further ripple effects. The winner of this competition will be well positioned for any follow-on orders involving India’s new howitzers.

July 28/05: South African competitor Denel is blacklisted from Indian defense contracts by the Ministry of Defence, as a result of the CBI’s bribery investigation.

June 15/04: Madison Government Affairs, summarizing Defense News:

“The Indian Army will choose among three foreign contenders for a $2 billion purchase of about 400 155mm self-propelled howitzers after field trials in the Rajasthan desert later this month, an Indian Defence Ministry official said. The candidates are the Swedish SWS Defense AB FH77B05 L52, the Israeli Soltam TIG 2002 and the South African Denel G5/2000 gun. All three failed to meet India’s accuracy specifications in last year’s trials; all three improved their guns to compete again this year, said an Indian Army official from the artillery directorate”

India and Pakistan

Diplomatic outsourcing

Jan 22nd 2009 | DELHI

From The Economist print edition

India’s disillusionment with its allies

ON JANUARY 26th India will celebrate Republic Day, a national holiday to mark the adoption of the constitution. Troops will march past the ramparts of Delhi’s Red Fort, camel-mounted cavalry will charm onlookers, and the air force will fly overhead. But six days before the big occasion, India held a more pointed show of force. In the desert near Pakistan, it tested a BrahMos cruise missile, with a range of 290km (180 miles). The trial was routine. But in these tense times, the missile bore a full payload of symbolism.

India’s government is dissatisfied with Pakistan’s grudging response to the attacks on Mumbai last November. It suspects the terrorists acted with the army’s tacit consent and perhaps its active connivance. It wants Pakistan to shut down the infrastructure of terrorism—the networks that recruit, train, equip and finance jihadists—and to hand over a list of suspects, accused of plotting terrorist atrocities in India.

To bolster its demands, India is counting on outside powers to intercede on its behalf. Measured in air-miles, the diplomatic effort has been impressive: Joe Biden, America’s new vice-president, and Condoleezza Rice, its former secretary of state, have made the trip to Islamabad, as have Britain’s prime minister, foreign secretary and defence secretary.

But the results of this globe-trotting are harder to verify. Pakistan eventually admitted that India had “provided significant proof” of the involvement of Pakistan nationals, but it insists they acted without state support. It has outlawed Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which was a front for the terrorist group that nurtured the Mumbai attackers. It has closed some camps and arrested scores of people. But Pakistan has never handed over one of its nationals to India for trial. It is not ready to start now.

Pakistan says it will act on the evidence India has given and prosecute the guilty itself. If it held a free, fair trial, open to all countries that lost citizens in the carnage, “I think India would live with it,” says Commodore Uday Bhaskar, of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in Delhi.

It might have to. Britain, for one, is not prepared to push the point. According to a spokesman for Britain’s foreign office, the government is not opposed to extradition, but “neither do we see it as a necessary condition for justice to be done”.

America, for its part, needs Pakistan’s help in Afghanistan, where the superpower is still struggling with a resurgent Taliban. About three-quarters of the food, fuel and other provisions that supply American troops pass through Pakistan. General David Petraeus, head of America’s Central Command, says that Russia and its Central Asian neighbours will provide other routes. But these will not be instantly available or free of political cost. Russia, in particular, may “demand that the United States acknowledge a Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union,” says Stratfor, a consultancy based in Texas.

Aspiring great powers never “outsource security”, laments Bharat Karnad of Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research in Mint, an Indian newspaper. He thinks India squandered the chance for a swift military reprisal. If it is hit by terrorism again, it may yet unsheathe some of the weaponry it will display on Republic Day. But a military strike carries non-military risks. It will rally Pakistan behind its army, bolster the country’s extremists and undermine its democratic government. On January 21st Indian army boffins admitted that the latest BrahMos test had suffered a hitch: the missile missed its intended target. An attack on Pakistan could easily do the same.

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