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Wednesday, 11 February 2009

From Today's Papers - 11 Feb 09

IAF planes serial offenders in breaking flight rules

Karma Paljor


CHARTING THEIR OWN COURSE : President's convoy of helicopters have broken rules on many occasions.

New Delhi: The near miss at the Mumbai airport between the Air India Mumbai-Delhi Flight IC 866 and an Indian Air Force helicopter from President Pratibha Devisingh Patil's fleet on Monday was not an isolated case.

CNN-IBN has exclusive log book extracts that show how the President's convoy of helicopters broke rules in December at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.

Any of the cases could have proven fatal for many fliers.

On December 21, 2008 at the Delhi airport, three Indian Air Force MI 8 helicopters with the President aboard prepared to take off for Meerut.

The visibility was less than 1000 metres when the commander sought permission to fly in formation.

The permission was denied as log extracts available exclusively with CNN-IBN show. Formation flying is allowed only when visibility is higher. The convoy acknowledged the ATC command.

However, minutes later, the helicopters took off, flying in formation, breaking safety rules set by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

It wasn't the first time the India Air Force flouted the commands of civilian air traffic controllers, say air traffic control (ATC) sources.

On April 23, 2008, the Prime Minister's aircraft approached New Delhi. As it came in to land, an unidentified aircraft, not responding to ATC commands, came dangerously close.

It was later identified as an Indian Air Force Dornier, having the call sign DO 82.

In 2007 an Air Force plane flying Sonia Gandhi from Srinagar came too close to a Virgin Atlantic aircraft coming from London.

The air traffic controller was suspended for procedural breach

But one of the worst near misses involving Air Force aircraft took place in January 2005, 350 km from Delhi.

A climbing Air Force plane strayed dangerously close to a Saudi Airlines Boeing, came in the path of a British Airways aircraft and finally crosses a Boeing belonging to Emirates Airways.

Air Force officials and air traffic controllers admit to poor coordination but they are also quick to shift blame.

Several attempts to make them work in tandem have been unsuccessful.

After Monday's incident at the Mumbai airport, which put not just the President, but the lives of 148 passenger in danger, it is even more urgent that they work together to ensure safer skies.

IAF pilots didn't contact tower

11 Feb 2009, 0258 hrs IST, Manju V, TNN

MUMBAI: The day-long investigations into Monday's horrifying near-miss involving a chopper from President Pratibha Patil's VVIP squadron have thrown up two significant facts. None of the pilots of the three IAF helicopters was in touch with the Mumbai airport tower controller and did not take landing permission before touching down on runway 27.

The second that the pilot of Air India flight 866 responded in 18 seconds to the air traffic controller's instruction to abort take-off.

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) interrogated air traffic controllers for a large part of the day on Tuesday, even as the tower controller and the radar controller - who were on duty on Monday when the incident took place - were taken off duty till further notice. DGCA sources said both Air India pilots, Capt S S Kohli and Capt A Dewan, had been cleared and would resume duty from Wednesday.

But a few things are falling into place. "The last communication between the IAF choppers and the Mumbai air traffic control was on frequency 1279 Mhz, which is controlled by the approach radar. The approach radar controller had told one of the IAF helicopters to get in touch with the tower control (frequency: 118.1 MHz) on reaching the Mumbai airport," said a source.

The helicopter pilots were supposed to fly keeping the runway in sight and report to the tower controller on reaching, seeking permission to land before actually touching down. "That was not done as the transcripts with the ATC show no communication. It also looks like the three IAF choppers also failed in their communication with each other. But the second aspect is not clear-cut yet," the source added. Another DGCA source said the helicopter which was nearly hit had the president's husband as one of the passengers.

"Fingers are being pointed at the ATC for allowing a take-off at 09.17 am, when the first IAF chopper was scheduled to land at 9.20 am," said the source from the investigating team, adding that a three-minute gap is generally enforced before and after a VVIP flight lands or departs. "But the fact that the IAF choppers did not contact the tower controller is a more serious matter," he added.

The Times of India has obtained transcripts of the radio transmission (see box) between the air traffic controllers during that crucial one minute - 9.17 am - when the IAF chopper was spotted on the runway and the Air India pilot was told to abort take-off. The visibility, at 2,000 metres, was poor on Monday and so luckily only one runway, 09-27, was in use.

"At 09.17 am, the tower controller who physically monitors the scene on the runway saw an IAF chopper landing on runway 27 and could see the Air India aircraft speeding towards it from the other end," said the source. "The recordings show that at 09:17:38 he gave a 'Indair 866 Stop Immediately' warning twice. But even after that instruction, the controller could see the aircraft picking up speed on the runway and so again the same instruction was given at 09:17:46. At 09:17:56, the pilot responded and informed that the take-off has been rejected," said the source.

Though this information came from the transcripts that the investigating team seized from the ATC, a comprehensive picture of the pilot's reaction time will emerge only from the A-321 cockpit voice recorder. "It is very likely that when the 'Stop Immediately' instruction was given the first time at 09:17:38 seconds, it was lost in the babble as a number of pilots are speaking on the tower controller's frequency (118.1MHz). Take-off is a very stressful activity with a lot of monitoring to be done,'' said a commander. ``It cannot be said whether 18 seconds was a delayed reaction time or a proper reaction time without going through all the inputs. It is likely that he commenced the reject take-off procedure seconds before he informed the ATC about it,'' said a source from the investigating team. Capt S S Kohli, commander of flight IC-866 was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.

India Ready to Face Any Threat from Anywhere: Antony

New Delhi/London
India Tuesday asserted it was ready to face any threat after a senior Al Qaeda leader, who the Pakistani military said had died last year, threatened it with Mumbai-style strikes if it tried to attack Pakistan.

"One thing I can tell you. Whatever threat coming from any quarter, our armed forces are always ready to face them," Defence Minister A.K. Antony said, reacting to a 20-minute video in Arabic by the terror group sent to the BBC office in Islamabad.

The video released by Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, said to be the Al Qaeda's military commander in Afghanistan, warns India that it would have to "pay a heavy price" if it tried to attack Pakistan.

He referred to India's Mumbai "humiliation" in the video and said it will face more Mumbai-style attacks, BBC News reported.

Yazid, who the Pakistani military said was killed in a US drone strike in Bajaur tribal region in August last year, further said: "The Mujahideen will sunder your armies into the ground, like they did to the Russians in Afghanistan."

Yazid, described by the 9/11 Commission set up by the US to look into the attack as the network's "chief financial manager", also called on the people of Pakistan to rise up and overthrow the government and President Asif Ali Zardari.

Yazid, ranked behind Al Qaeda's No 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, is also suspected to have been involved in a number of terror attacks in Pakistan that included last year's Danish embassy bombings in Islamabad and the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.

The reappearance of the Al Qaeda commander with a message targeting India is seen in New Delhi as yet another piece of evidence that exposes Pakistan's duplicity in the fight against terror.

"It raises fresh questions on Pakistan's credibility as an ally in the war against terror. It means they have been lying about Al Qaeda to the US," a highly-placed source said in New Delhi.

As they began examining the video, Indian intelligence officials also pointed out that warnings by the Al Qaeda were not new.

"We will examine the video closely as it is in Arabic. But such threats are not new. There have been earlier threats as well but the security regimen which is in place now shows that our forces are on high alert," said an intelligence official who cannot be identified because of service protocol.

"The timing of the video is interesting because it comes when US President (Barack) Obama has said that Pakistan has to ensure that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists," said another intelligence official.

Officials said that "standard operating procedures were put in place" following an Al Qaeda threat some years ago.

He was alluding to the terror outfit's threat in August 2007 where a video compiled by its production arm As-Sahab proclaimed that the targeting of Tel Aviv, Moscow and New Delhi was its legitimate right.

The video had Adam Gaddahn, an American who had risen in the Al Qaeda ranks to become a spokesperson, accused India of killing more than 100,000 Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir with US blessings.

Gaddahn also lashed out at the US-led "crusade" against Muslims and alleged that diplomatic missions were the bases for anti-Muslim actions.

Earlier, in November 2006, airports across India were put on high alert following purported threats from the Al Qaeda that it would blow up airports in Chennai, Kochi, Trichy, Thiruvananthapuram and Coimbatore.

Al-Qaeda warns India of more Mumbai-style attacks

Press Trust of India / London February 10, 2009, 10:54 IST

A top al-Qaeda commander, who was reported killed in a US drone strike last year, has appeared in a video warning India of more Mumbai-style terror attacks if it tried to attack Pakistan.

"India should know that it will have to pay a heavy price if it attacks Pakistan," Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, believed to be al-Qaeda's military commander in Afghanistan and ranked behind No 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, said in a 20-minute video in Arabic received by BBC.

Yazid, who the Pakistani military said may have been killed in fighting last August in the Bajaur tribal region, said: "The Mujahideen will sunder your armies into the ground, like they did to the Russians in Afghanistan.

"They will target your economic centres and raze them to the ground."

Yazid denounced the ban on militant groups in Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks and asked the people of Pakistan to rise up and overthrow the government and President Asif Ali Zardari, the BBC reported.

The al-Qaeda leader is said to have been involved in a number of terror attacks, including last year's Danish Embassy bombings, in Pakistan and had claimed the responsibility of assassinating former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

He was last heard in August 2008 when he confirmed the death of al-Qaeda chemical-weapons expert Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar.

Cancel missile system contract to Israeli firm: Left

PTI | February 10, 2009 | 15:47 IST

Opposing the grant of a contract to an Israeli defence firm for supply of missile defence systems, the Left parties have asked the government to cancel the Rs 10,000 crore deal and not "subvert" India's own missile programme which was superior.

"It was surprising that such a contract has been given when the Israel Aerospace Industries is already under the investigation of the Central Bureau of Investigation on charges of bribery and corruption for the anti-ship, ship-mounted Barak missile system," top Left leaders, Prakash Karat and A B Bardhan, said in a signed letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Maintaining that the alleged violation of the Indian laws by the IAI had been brought to the prime minister's notice earlier, the general secretaries of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Communist Party of India said India had in the past blacklisted Swedish firm Bofors and the South African company Denel for similar cases of kickbacks and middlemen.

The Left leaders alleged that the deal brings out the unfortunate influence the Israeli arms manufacturers including the government-owned entities assert on India's arms purchases.

"Nothing else can explain why the IAI, which is seriously implicated in corruption in India, should be favoured in this way," the letter said.

The Left leaders said that the deal was also surprising on the count that it involves systems which were yet to be even developed by the IAI, let alone manufactured and test proven.

"Secondly, the Defence Research and Development Organisation has already developed and repeatedly field proven its Advanced Air Defence missiles capacity, which is capable of destroying incoming enemy missiles and aircraft. It was also capable of intercepting ballistic missiles at altitudes as high as 18 kms," the Left leaders said in the letter.

"This, the proposed missiles sought to be developed by the IAI appears to be inferior to the DRDO developed missiles AAD on the counts of technical, cost and operational readiness," the Left leaders claimed.

"Thirdly, in a bid to give a cover of indigenous involvement and content, the DRDO was forced to enter into a so-called joint development of the IAI Air Defence Missile, even when it already has its own superior AAD missile," Karat and Bardhan said.

"We urge you to get the contract stopped and see that the DRDO's indigenous missile programme is not subverted in this way," the leaders told the prime minister.

Chopper incident: Pilots cleared, 2 ATCs taken off duty

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 10

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) today cleared the two Air India pilots involved in the near-miss between an Air India plane and a helicopter belonging to the President's entourage at the Mumbai airport yesterday.

Air India pilots SS Kohli and A Dewan have been cleared by the DGCA inquiry to resume flight duties with immediate effect, a statement issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation late evening stated. It also added that the two Air Traffic Control (ATC) officials have been "de-rostered" till the DGCA inquiry gets completed. "No ATC officer has been suspended. As per standard DGCA procedure, the two officers have been de-rostered for the period of investigation as is the standard procedure during any DGCA investigation," it added.

Peace with India must for fighting terror: Pak tells US

Press Trust of India

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 (Islamabad)

Pakistan on Tuesday told US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke that peace with India is "a must" for it to concentrate on the war against terror along the Afghan border, in an apparent bid to put pressure on Washington to play a more active role in defusing Indo-Pak tensions.

Acknowledging that India and the Kashmir issue are not part of Holbrooke's mandate, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he had made it clear to the envoy that "if Pakistan has to remain focussed on the western front, a calm eastern front is a must".

Holbrooke's "mandate is Afghanistan and Pakistan, period," Qureshi told a news conference in the Foreign Office.

He said the US has been playing a "positive role" in defusing tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. Replying to a question, Qureshi said the Mumbai incident "did not surface" during his meeting with Holbrooke.

Pakistan's position that US drone attacks on militants in the tribal areas are counter-productive for the war on terror was conveyed to Holbrooke.

With the administration of new US President Barack Obama undertaking a review of its policy for the region, Pakistan has to be "on board" for such an exercise, Qureshi said.

Defence experts ask govt to deregulate arms industry Delhi, Feb 10: Making a strong plea for deregulation of the defence industry, leading defence experts have asked the government to involve the private sector, raise the foreign investment cap from 26 percent and join the 'global factory' concept of western nations to raise Indian capabilities to match international standards."Incorporate the genius of the private sector to compete with the sluggish public sector, increase the legitimate stakes of the foreign investor in the economic pie as an incentive, and announce India's readiness to join the 'global factory' concept with West," Indian Defence Review Editor Bharat Verma has said.

Maintaining that a technologically advanced and vibrant defence industry was critical for India's security and its global aspirations, he said it was time that the Defence Ministry "fine-tunes its policies by bringing them at par with the existing international business norms, instead of living in a mental ghetto."

He also opposed the holding of separate airshows, at Bangalore for defence aviation and in Hyderabad for civil aviation, saying "the uncalled for turf war between different ministries created unwanted segmentation and compartmentalisation between space, civil and military air power assets that are technically inter-linked.

Besides diluting the holistic structure of Aero India, conduct of three different exhibitions trebled the cost to the Indian taxpayer and the foreign vendor."

Another leading defence procurement expert, Maj Gen (Retd) Mrinal Suman said the present cap on foreign direct investment (FDI) at 26 percent made the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) "highly unattractive".

This, he said, implied that fulfilment of the offset clause in DPP would be "totally dependent" on export of defence goods and services.

Presently, Indian defence exports amounted to a meagre USD 50 million annually.

"Therefore, foreign vendors are unconvinced that Indian defence can absorb offsets worth billions of dollars and India's export potential cannot be increased multi-fold in a short span of time."

Suman said the offset obligations in the DPP could be fulfilled by introducing FDI in Indian defence industry through co-development, joint ventures and co-production, as also in research and development.

Bureau Report

Strategic analysis of the Mumbai attacks: Few points to project

By Walid Phares

As the Indian Government has issued its various reports on the Mumbai attacks and as a number of Think Tanks worldwide are issuing their evaluation and projections, the long term debate about what the operation meant, was meant to become and could generate in the future is now wide open. Pakistan's Government evaluation is focusing on minimizing the possibility of an inside assistance to the perpetrators. The Indian Government and agencies are focusing on determining the responsibility of Islambad's Government. In the West and also in Russia, analysts are studying the ability of international or local (called Homegrown) Jihadists of producing similar attacks in the future. As a contribution to the ongoing discussion I have briefed a number of US Representatives and members of the European Parliament on some points of projection and published several short pieces over the past month. Many of these points were expanded by colleagues. Following is an article published by the World Defense Review. I have added an interview with ETWN aired just before the inauguration of the new Administration.

As part of a panel held in the US Congress to review the Mumbai attacks, I raised four points in my global analysis of the Terror operation and its strategic goals:

1. The Jihadi decision-making process leading to the Mumbai operation.

2. What I define as the "strategic war room" ordering the operation. That is, the level of command behind this attack and other terror strikes. Such a discussion is needed because the media debate about the identity of those implicated in the operation has blurred the understanding of the public and thus needs to be clarified.

3. The strategic goal of the operation was designed by the higher levels in the Jihadi decision-making web above those who executed the operation. The execution team – killed and detained – was made of 10 individuals. But, it is very possible that the full number of those involved in the entire operation may be not yet determined. In this regard I am surmising that the "terror commandos" may have been ordered to action in Mumbai in order to trigger a crisis that only the higher level may know about.

4. The long range goals for this operation, meaning at the strategic level in the region.

"Architecture" of the attack

The "architecture" of the operation shows two components. First, there was an insistence on behalf of the perpetrators to draw "Indian participation" in the operation by using the name "Deccan Mujahedeen," referring to the previous attacks by the "Indian Mujahedeen" (IM). In October 2008 there were significant arrests of IM; there were Indian statements indicating that there are a large number of IM still on the loose; and there is fear of them striking back. Those who issued the Mumbai press release are trying to insinuate that they are the Deccan province "chapter" of the IM. If in the future, there is activity – in Assam for example – or other parts of India, they will use the name of that region to issue a press release in this sense. This reminds us of Al Qaeda's "local identities" in the Levant; Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in Arabia, etc. The focus is on looking "credible" in terms of statements and identity. But when you compare the declared identity of the perpetrators with the many traces left behind by the organizers of the strike, you'd draw different conclusions. If you come by sea and use dinghies, and make traceable cell phone calls to India's neighbor to its west, you are forcing every investigator to blame Pakistan. I am inviting the reflection that on the one hand there is an effort to show this is a local jihadi operation in India, but on the other hand evidence was left on purpose to show the link to Islamabad.

The strategic war room

If one analyzes the names of groups thought to be involved starting with the "Islamic Students Union of India" and the Laskar e-Taiba, (LeT) and examines the chain of interests – you'd see that the decision to strike was made at a regional Jihadist level. It comes at the heal of previous incidents inside India on one hand but if you project the operation's indicators it would lead you on the other hand to the logic that a decision had been made on a much higher level than local Jihadists inside India. That decision was most likely made in the war room including al Qaeda and the Taliban, with the LeT being "subcontracted" for the operation. The information supply may have been provided by infiltrated elements within the Pakistani security apparatus. If you look at the grand scheme and the direction of events, you will see the strategic interests of the Taliban and Al Qaeda while the execution was perpetrated by the LeT.

Long Range Goal

Third is the long-range goal. In most analysis and in any investigative paths followed, you'd conclude that the final outcome desired is to affect the relations between India and Pakistan. Two indicators are to be observed: One is the immediate reaction by the Jihadi websites as well as comments on Al Jazeera and other media asserting that the only root cause of the attack is Kashmir. The same editorial line was also adopted in many international media usually influenced by the Jihadi claim over Kashmir. This push seems to force the debate to be about Kashmir and not the jihadist movement.

However, another indicator began developing since a press release from the Taliban stated, "We will defend Pakistan from an attack by India." Thus, one can reconstruct the moves. Step one was for a group of Jihadists to attack India under the Kahsmir claim and to provoke India to mobilize against Pakistan. Step two was for Jihadi groups to state that they will defend Pakistan. Through this strategy, the Taliban and their allies think they would "shame" Islamabad into discontinuing its operations in Waziristan. In the mind of al qaeda – it would be odd and psychologically unpopular for the Pakistani Government to order more military pressure on the Taliban inside their country if India is mobilizing on its Eastern border. Striking in Mumbai is designed to relieve the pressure from Waziristan.

If we review the message by Zawahiri few weeks ago, we see that he warned the incoming US administration as follows: "If you increase the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, there will be escalation on the battlefield." Two weeks later the Jihadists hit Mumbay, aiming at creating tensions between India and Pakistan. In al Qaeda and the "War room" logic – the projected equation would give the Jihadists more room to operate in the region as a whole. It will be difficult for the U.S. government to launch an all out offensive following the promised build-up coming in Afghanistan to squeeze the Taliban, while there are extreme tensions with India.

Pakistan redeployment:

A legitimate concern among observers is to wonder about Pakistan's near future redeployment. The United States and NATO have used Coalition support funds to have Pakistan redeploy to be able to engage the Jihadists on its western border with Afghanistan. Will there be a tipping point where either the Pakistan army pulls out of its ongoing operations to get ready for redeployment? As we examine the strategic balance of power in the region the option of withdrawing some of these forces away from the north western frontier can surely create a dramatic shift. But even if the regular forces were withdrawn from the area, the intelligence service would remain there. Would the local Jihadists prefer to have the intelligence services? It is to be analyzed further. The second point of interest for the investigation is that for those who engineered this operation in Mumbai, this may not be the end of the process. This is not the final chapter if indeed this is a strike against India to force it to strike back at Pakistan. We would have to look at what would inflame the Pakistani people and army: it could be an assassination or any sensational violence.

Al Qaeda involvement

Some in the US intelligence have dismissed an involvement by al Qaeda. Their reasoning is based on the fact that it "doesn't bare the usual hallmarks" of the Bin Laden organization. But in my reading of the group's structure, al Qaeda does not always involve its own central units in the execution of every single Jihadi operation. They execute "central operations" as praetorian guards, but they also "subcontract" operations in many regions. In the sub Indian continent, I would assume that in the decision-making there must be some sort of al Qaeda participation in the back and forth talking, but in the execution, once a group is tasked, there is no need for al Qaeda assets. In this case since Laska e Taiba provided the infantrymen. The "central units" of al Qaeda didn't have to be used.


Let's also be aware that it is likely that as the terrorists seized locations in the city for many hours, this urban jihad was also aimed at creating the televised footage for the future. The product may not even be produced by LeT but some Jihadists at some point will use the photos and video from the clashes for indoctrination and recruitment purposes.

Muslim victims

As in many similar operations by Jihadists, Muslims have been killed during the shooting. Many commentators have wondered if this fact should be highlighted in the campaign to delegitimize the terrorists. I believe such facts needs to be cited but more important is that Muslim entities should condemn the attacks and raise the issue. India's Muslim community is very large and many of its members are holding important positions in national and local government. India's current vice president, ministers, deputies and high ranking officers, including the police commissioner in Mumbai are Muslims. These leaders are well positioned to condemn the Jihadi attacks and delegitimize this radical ideology.

Laskar's future operations

What can one learn in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks? And ironically how will the Jihadists improve their action in future strikes?

They have reversed the previous logic: you are not going to achieve one specific goal; you are fighting for the bigger goal. Second, if you look at the numbers involved in the operation the scenarios are becoming wider and wider. Maybe the next operation won't be a copy cat but a copy cat plus. The next might be against hotels and schools. The invitation is open to improve upon it.

Laska e Taiba and US Homeland Security

Last but not least, one has to look at the extension of LeT outside the Indian subcontinent and its presence overseas, including in America. This operation is an eye opener with implications on US homeland security. In the late 90's a Terror group, the so called "paintball jihad network" based in Virginia, was dismantled and its members were tried. Some of them are of them are serving time now. The Counter Terrorism community is invited to review the archives of the trial and media reports and re-analyze their training, tactics and targets. Before 9/11, they openly claimed affiliation with Laskar e Taiba and said they were involved in terror activities in Kashmir. But now that we've seen LeT striking way south of Kashmir and as experts confirmed the "Laskar" has support in their Diapora, one has to project that LeT cells may be tasked to also attack within liberal democracies, including particularly in America.


— Dr. Walid Phares is Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, D.C., and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. He is the author of the recently released book, The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad

India military says ready to face threat after Al Qaida allegedly hints attack

NEW DELHI, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Indian military said on Tuesday it is ready to face any threat from anywhere after an alleged attack threat by the Al Qaida terrorist organization.

"Our Army is ready to face any threat from anywhere," Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told the media here in response to al-Qaida's video threat to launch Mumbai-style terror strikes against India if the country attacks Pakistan.

Analysts here say the Indian authorities are taking the threat seriously, although the country's intelligence officials said the Al Qaida threats were nothing new.

The local Indo-Asian News Service quoted an anonymous top intelligence official as saying that intelligence agents will examine the video "closely" as it is in Arabic.

"But such threats are not new. There have been earlier threats as well but the security regimen which is in place now shows that our forces are on high alert," the news service quoted the official as saying.

A video allegedly released by Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, who was said to be the al Qaida's military commander in Afghanistan, has warned India that it will have to "pay a heavy price" if it seeks to attack Pakistan.

"India should know that it will have to pay a heavy price if it attacks Pakistan," Mustafa Abu al-Yazid said in a 20-minute video in Arabic received and reported by the BBC in London.

Yazid, who is said to have been killed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan last August, said: "The Mujahideen will sunder your armies into the ground, like they did to the Russians in Afghanistan. They will target your economic centers and raze them to the ground."

This is the first time for Al Qaida to threaten India directly after it released in August 2007 where a video saying targeting Tel Aviv, Moscow and Delhi was its legitimate right.

Adam Gaddahn, an American who had become a spokesperson for the group, said in the video that India had killed more than 100,000 Muslims in Kashmir with the support of the United States.

In November 2006, India put all airports across the country on high alert after airport authorities received an anonymous letter warning of an attack by about 10 Al Qaida terrorists who would break security cordons and blow up several airports.

India has not formally linked Al Qaida to the terror attacks upon Mumbai last November and upon the Indian Embassy in Kabul last July, but has accused Pakistani intelligence of involvement in them instead.

More than 170 people were killed in the Mumbai attacks and 40 killed in the Kabul attack.

Crashes, delays hit Indian participation at Aero India

Manu Pubby Posted online: Feb 10, 2009 at 1619 hrs

Bangalore : This year's Aero India show will be the largest ever with 592 companies from 25 countries showcasing their latest products, but a series of delays, production hitches and an air crash have hit the Indian participation at the prestigious military air exposition. While no new Indian products will be on display, even older "in development" products will give the air show a miss.

For starters, the indigenous effort to develop an Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) by HAL received a jolt just days before the air show. One of the two flying prototypes of the aircraft crashlanded on the runway after a routine test flight, writing it off for the Aero India show.

The project, which has been delayed for close to five years already, also had a similar spell of bad luck at the last air show in 2007 when the other flying prototype crashed during take-off in full view of the participants.

Defence Production Secretary Pradeep Kumar admitted that while HAL was planning to bring in the trainer for a demo flight, it was called off after more tests were required for the aircraft. "They (HAL) had earlier thought it would be able to fly. But we have to do some more tests now," he added.

While he said the pulling out had nothing to do with the crash-landing, insiders said the trainer was being prepped up to take part in the air show but had to be pulled out after the belly landing.

Another aircraft to be put up by HAL will be the 'indigenously manufactured' Hawk trainer for the Indian Air Force. While an 'indigenous' Hawk will be on display at HAL's pavilion, the trainer has been dogged by a serious delay over the past few months with problems of delivery of spare parts from the UK-based BAE company.

Sources say BAE is holding up supplies of certain components which has delayed the aircraft production at the Indian facility. While the UK-manufactured trainers have already come in, the lack of parts means that IAF has to do without the optimum number of trainers required.

As highlighted by The Indian Express, the trainer had been hit by a series of quality problems after it was inducted at the Bidar air base, prompting the IAF to take up the issue with BAE.

The ambitious Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) project taken up by HAL will also give the show a miss with the Indian company yet to come up with a prototype of the chopper. The project, that was taken up to provide a robust armoured chopper on the basic frame of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), was designed to provide a light attack chopper for the Indian Army and the Air Force.

However, the project has been delayed by over a year. HAL officials had last year shown confidence that the chopper would be ready for display at Aero India and the flight tests would take place this year.

The two major products on display by HAL will be the delay-hit LCA and the Advanced Light Helicopter. The LCA is finally getting to see the light of day and is likely to be inducted into a non-combat role by 2011. HAL's showpiece for the show will be the export version of the ALH. After bagging a contract to sell the chopper to Ecuador, HAL has put up the ALH in Ecuadorian colours for the air show.

It's official - India is not ready for war

By Siddharth Srivastava

NEW DELHI - In the first official admission that India is not ready for war, particularly with Pakistan, Defense Minister A K Antony has blamed government red tape for delays in modernizing the military.

"Even though our government has earmarked huge budgets [for the military], this is not being fully reflected in our modernization efforts. Allocation of money has never been a problem. The issue

has rather been the timely and judicious utilization of the money allocated," he said at a recent seminar in New Delhi.

"We need to cut down on unnecessary procedural delays, bottlenecks and red tape in our procurement mechanism," he added.

Antony said though the government had created the Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP), more changes in procedures were required to "optimize transparency, fairness and to ensure speedy procurement".

The DPP was unveiled by the government in 2008 in hopes of speeding up the acquisition of armaments, systems and platforms while ensuring greater transparency in the procurement process.

The government on Monday indicated it was reviewing the provisions of the DPP to remove bottlenecks and usher in greater private participation in the defense production sector, reported the Hindu newspaper.

"DPP had been revised for the fourth time in 2008 and it still requires further refining," said Sashi Kant Sharma, the director of General Acquisitions at the Defense Ministry.

India's defense expenditure for 2008-2009 dipped below 2% of gross domestic product for the first time in decades, an amount less than the global average of around 2.5%, and which lags behind America's 4.1% and Pakistan's 3.5%.

Officials have told Asia Times Online that India did not launch a military strike against Pakistan following the Pakistan-linked Mumbai terror attacks last November because army commanders told New Delhi the country lacked enough artillery to defend its territory. (See Indian army 'backed out' of Pakistan attack , Asia Times Online, January 20 2009.)

Sources have told ATol that the Defense Ministry's existing budgets are exhausted and that it is unhappy with delays in military procurement. The ministry has been pushing this year for at least a 30% hike in its budget to nearly 450 billion rupees (US$9.2 billion) for the armed forces.

In 2007-8 about 28 billion rupees was spent on weapons acquisitions out of a budget of nearly 33 billion rupees. While in 2008-2009, a capital outlay of nearly 37.5 billion rupees was revised down to 30.5 billion rupees due to delays in the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, Eurocopter and BrahMos contracts.

The parliamentary standing committee on defense said in its 2008 report that 13 billion rupees remained unspent in 2005-06, 30 billion rupees in 2003-04 and 90 billion rupees in 2002-03. These were funds which were supposed to modernize India's armed forces.

In total, 210 billion rupees has remained unspent in the five years (2003-7), as deals were scrapped or delayed due to controversy and kickback allegations. The slippages led to a year-end surrender of funds in 2007.

However, change is in the air following the Mumbai attack. The India-Pakistan tensions which followed have put a sense of urgency in India's military upgrading efforts, and US$50 billion is expected to be spent on modernization over the next five years.

Last week, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, the new chief of the air staff, said the Indian Air Force would utilize annual budgets and spend the full amount it has been allocated.

There is now hope that India's military will modernize as the government loosens the purse strings. India's wish list includes fighter jets, helicopters, nuclear submarines, radars, warships, reconnaissance aircraft and long-delayed Howitzer field guns, among others.

Over 300 foreign defense firms and many Indian ones are looking to impress at the Aero India-2009 air show in Bangalore from February 11-15.

Leading companies from Germany, France, Britain, Russia, the United States, Italy, Belgium, Israel and Australia are participating. Major aviation and weapons systems firms attending include Boeing, Sikorsky, EADS, BAE Systems MiG-Sukhoi, Embraer, Bombardier and SAAB.

Last month the army made a fast-track order of 4,100 French-origin Milan-2T anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), as the indigenous Nag missile is yet to be operational. The 6 billion rupee order for the Milan ATGMs has been on hold for a while, like other military orders.

Since Mumbai officials say there is an emerging consensus among the political leadership, the bureaucracy and military commanders that New Delhi cannot be "caught napping" again, given the heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.

Although a drawn-out war between the neighbors has been more or less ruled out due to expected intervention by Western powers, particularly the US, India needs to be prepared for a short war with Pakistan.

"Surgical strikes [against Pakistan] are definitely feasible," India's army chief General Deepak Kapoor was quoted as saying this week. "But whether you wish to take that decision or not is a separate issue," he said.

India has a long way to go to put its near obsolete military arsenal in order, as no defense contracts have escaped the usual cycle of corruption allegations, political brinkmanship and investigations.

One example is the Bofors gun corruption scandal of the 1980s, when several Indian politicians, including then-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India's 155 mm field howitzer.

This scandal severely affected the army's artillery modernization plan, with no powerful guns being introduced since the 1986 purchase of 410 Bofors 155mm/39-caliber howitzers.

The army has been looking to import 400 such artillery guns from abroad and manufacture another 1,100 domestically, without success.

Several experts' reports, including at least one by the independent Comptroller and Auditor (CAG), have highlighted the inadequacies in India's main battle tank (MBT) fleet - the main strike force of any army. Almost all of India's MBT fleet are of Russian origin.

The CAG report focused on India's deficiency vis-a-vis Pakistan, as the more immediate threat, but also deficiencies with regard to China are too glaring to even be addressed. It clearly pointed at tank, upgrades and technology transfer issues with Russia.

Last year, Kapoor also said that Russia had been delaying technology transfer on the T-90s, which has in turn pushed back production in India. India purchased 310 of these tanks in 2001 and in 2007, and signed a contract for another 347.

Pakistan has a crack fleet of about 1,300 Chinese and Ukrainian tanks.

Experts have also highlighted India's inadequacies in missile attack capability when compared to Pakistan's China- and North Korea-backed program. India's efforts to test a nuclear-enabled BrahMos cruise missile failed last month. ' Among India's ballistic missiles, only the short-range (150-350 kilometers) Prithvi is battle-ready. Though India has successfully tested the longer range (700-2,000 kilometer) Agni missiles, they are yet to be fully operational and are still being tested.

Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist. He can be reached at

Forces demonstrate amphibious warfare capabilities

New Delhi (PTI): The Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force on Monday jointly demonstrated their amphibious warfare capabilities at the conclusion of the largest-ever such exercise "Exercise Tropex-2009" at Madhavpur in Gujarat.

The amphibious landing — the most complex of all military manoeuvres involving coordination and synergy from conceptualisation to planning and final execution — was ably performed on the Madhavpur shores, a Defence Ministry official said here.

The Coast Guard too formed part of the short, swift and intense exercise that simulated a battle situation. The pre-assault operations of planning, mobilization and embarkation having been achieved at Karwar earlier last week, the Amphibious Task Force sailed from Karwar on February 5.

It landed on the shores of Madhavpur today using the Navy's newly-inducted Landing Pontoon Dock (LPD) INS Jalashwa, several Landing Ship Tank-Large (LST-L), fleet ships with their integral helicopters, shore-based aircraft, submarines and Coast Guard hovercraft.

This is the first time the joint amphibious warfare doctrine of the armed forces formulated last year was put into practice with its full scope.

Air support, being critical to any amphibious operations since mortars and artillery are not available immediately on landing, the Southern Air Command deployed its maritime Jaguars, officials said.

The Jaguars, which carry a large array of weapons, flying at 200 feet, pulled up and carried out rocket attacks with pin-point accuracy on simulated enemy targets, the official said.

IAF's MiG-29 aircraft with its state-of-the-art radar and ultra-modern missiles carried out Combat Air Patrol over Madhavpur to out-manoeuvre incoming enemy aircraft.

Tanks, Armoured Personnel Carriers and Infantry troops of 91 Infantry Brigade of the 'Sudarshan Chakra' Corps were carried in both stand-off and hard-beaching modes.

Use of deployment of troops exploiting third dimension — airborne and heliborne -- formed an integral part of the exercise, he added.

IAF's An-32 transport aircraft para-dropped troops from the skies, followed by slithering operations from MI-8 helicopters to deploy troops at the assault area.

The troops, in waves, emerged from the sea and carried out effective assaults on the beach of Madhavpur, defended by the 'enemy' troops played out by Army's 'Golden Katar' Division.

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