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Saturday, 21 February 2009

From Today's Papers - 21 Feb 09

Is Pakistan's Swat Deal a Surrender to Militants,
asks Holbrooke

By Arun Kumar


Washington
US special representative Richard Holbrooke has called Pakistan President Ali Zardari to express concern over a peace deal allowing imposition of Islamic law in the restive Swaat region controlled by Taliban militants.

"It is hard to understand this deal in Swat," in northwest Pakitsan, the envoy, who returned this week from a regional tour that included visits to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, told CNN television in an interview Thursday.

"I am concerned, and I know Secretary (Hillary) Clinton is, and the president (Barack Obama) is, that this deal, which is portrayed in the press as a truce, does not turn into a surrender," said Holbrooke who has been charged with coordinating US policy to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"I talked to President Zardari of Pakistan on the phone about two hours ago and I expressed to him the same kind of concern you have just stated to me," he said.

"President Zardari has assured us it is not the case." He has described the deal as "an interim arrangement" to stabilise the restive Swat region north of the capital Islamabad, said the US diplomat.

"He does not disagree that people who are running Swat now are murderers, thugs and militants and they pose a danger not only to Pakistan but to the US as well."

Holbrooke told PBS television earlier that the US was "troubled and confused" about what happened in Swat, "because it is not an encouraging trend."

Noting that previous cease-fires have broken down, he said: "And we do not want to see territory ceded to the bad guys, and the people who took over Swat are very bad people."

Asked to comment on Holbrooke's remark State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said the envoy had spoken to the Pakistanis. "They understand that the threat of terrorism is a threat to them as well as to us."

The US, he said would be talking to the Pakistanis about this at a review meeting on Afghanistan next week that will be attended by delegations from both the countries led by their foreign ministers.

The Pakistani government's pact with the Taliban to introduce Islamic law in the northwestern Swat valley has raised concern among NATO countries with troops in neighbouring Afghanistan that are struggling to quell the Taliban in the border region.

IANS | February 20, 2009

Kashmir Not on my Place: Holbrooke
By Arun Kumar


Washington
US special envoy Richard Holbrooke has confirmed that Kashmir is not part of his mission, but hoped India and Pakistan would find common cause to reduce the threat of terrorism by taking it on head on.

"Yes, it is not part of my mission to work on Kashmir," the envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan told PBS television in an interview when asked what was going to be President Barack Obama's goal since as a candidate he had suggested that the US should probably help try to resolve the Kashmir crisis.

Asked to comment on a new book by David Sanger of the New York Times suggesting that the Pakistani military's support of the Taliban stems in large part from their fear of India, which they believe is gaining a foothold in Afghanistan, Holbrooke called it "an interesting point."

"This is the first time since the independence of Pakistan and India, over 60 years ago, that India, Pakistan, and the United States share a common threat from the terrorists," said the envoy who returned this week after a tour of the region.

"The people who did 9/11 in the United States, the people who attacked Mumbai, and the people who seized Swat all come from the same roots and all are located in the same area," he said.

"As everyone knows, the Pakistan army has been focused on India for decades. Most of us believe that they ought to reorient their attention much more to the west," Holbrooke said. "But in order to do that, there has to be much more confidence between Pakistan and India."

"The terrorist attack in Mumbai was conducted by very shrewd, ruthless murderers. The terrorists who launched that attack were trying to upset the improving relations between Pakistan and India," he said.

"The Indians did not play into their hands. The Indians restrained themselves. And the Pakistanis did not move troops to the border," Holbrooke said.

"But we have got to understand that to get the Pakistanis to focus on the west, we have to have a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan."

"It is our hope that India and Pakistan, who have faced off against each other and fought several wars in the last 60 years, are now going to find the common cause to reduce this threat by taking it on head on," he said.

In India, "We were welcomed and we had very excellent consultations, said Holbrooke who visited New Delhi after going to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

India is not joining next week's policy review of the Afghan-Pakistan region. But they would be sending senior officials to Washington "a couple of weeks down the road."

LTTE attacks air force HQ in Colombo, 2 killed 40 injured

NDTV Correspondent

Friday, February 20, 2009, (Colombo)

Two suspected LTTE aircraft hit air force headquarters and revenue building in Colombo on Friday night killing 2 and injuring over 40 people. One plane was shot down near the city international airport and the pilot was reported killed.

One bomb fell close to Army headquarters. Exact casualty figures are still awaited.

Sri Lankan airforce spokesperson Captain Ajanta Silva told NDTV that one aircraft entered Colombo and attempted to hit various targets. "Sri Lankan airforce is in possession of plane wreckage and the pilot's body," he said.

Power cuts have been reported across Colombo.

PTI adds: A suspected LTTE aircraft was on Friday night spotted over the skies in northwestern Mannar forcing the authorities in Colombo to activate air defences system and shut down power supply in the national capital.

According to sources, the radar in Mannar detected the suspected LTTE aircraft a short while ago following which the air defence system in Colombo was activated.

Anti-aircraft guns were heard firing in Colombo.

"The air defence system in Colombo has been activated following the incident," Air Force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara said.

Power was cut off and searchlights pointed to the sky to detect any suspected LTTE aircraft, he said.

Indian militants flee Bangladesh camps: BSF

PTI | February 20, 2009 | 18:25 IST

Indian militants are fleeing from their camps in Bangladesh after the Sheikh Hasina regime came to power, Border Security Force sources said on Friday.

"Indian militants in Bangladesh are aware of the changing scenario after the change of regime there. It may be that the militants have made up their minds and taking all these actions," BSF Inspector General (Assam and Meghalaya frontier) Prithvi Raj said.

His statement comes in the backdrop of the arrest of nine militants along the Indo-Bangla border in Meghalaya and the surrender of 118 separatists who reportedly fled their Bangladesh camps in Tripura in the past few days.

During interrogation, some arrested Pepole's Liberation Army cadres said the militants in Bangladesh were shifting their camps from the Chittagong hill tracts to Myanmar.

"Apparently there is an indication that there is a change in attitude of the Bangladesh government. But the change is yet to be reflected in hard action against the militants. We would be happy if pressure is mounted on the militants," the BSF IG said.

Security Council should reflect new world order, says US

Lalit K Jha in Washington

February 20, 2009 10:06 IST

The United States has said that the United Nations Security Council needs to reflect the ground realties of the 21st century and it would work with other members of the world body to make that happen.

"The United States believes that the long-term legitimacy and viability of the UN Security Council depends on

its reflecting the world of the 21st century," said Gordon Duguid, the State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman,

onThursday.

"We will make serious and deliberate efforts in consulting with key allies and capitals to find a way forward on reform that enhances the ability of the Security Council to carry out its mandate effectively and to meet the challenges of the new century," Duguid said.

"The United States is not linking, however, Security Council reform with other aspects of UN reform," Duguid said,

reflecting the policy of the Obama [Images] Administration with regard to reforms of the UN Security Council.

The Bush Administration had insisted on reforms on the entire United Nations along with the expansion of the Security

Council.

India, along with Brazil [Images], Germany [Images] and Japan [Images] have staked their claims in the expanded Security Council as its permanent.

Row over promotion of ASC officers
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 20
Promotion of officers in the Army Service Corps (ASC) has kicked up a controversy. The results of the Selection Board from Colonel to Brigadier have been held up for several months as a “debarred” officer was not only empanelled for consideration by the board, but also approved for promotion.

Sources in Army Headquarters revealed that a Colonel, who was facing a “Discipline and Vigilance Ban” for alleged professional impropriety, was considered for promotion by No.2 Service Selection Board in October. While the results of other arms and services were declassified last year, those of the ASC are still pending.

The matter of officer facing a ban came to light only when the files were routed to the Discipline and Vigilance (DV) Directorate for routine clearances following the board’s approval for promotions. Army officers said the very fact that an officer facing DV ban appearing before a selection board and getting approved was a reflection on the state of affairs in the services.

Consequently, the fate of about 26 officers is held in balance. This includes 14 officers from the 1983 batch and 12 other cases from previous batches that came up for review. The number of vacancies in the ASC at the Brigadier level is seven, which includes one recent addition following the implementation of the AV Singh Committee recommendations. The authorised strength of Brigadiers in the ASC is 40 and at the moment there are 34 officers in this rank. Two posts are falling vacant shortly.

The officer supposedly holding up the promotion results had faced administrative action and was awarded a severe displeasure for alleged financial misappropriation while he was commanding a unit in the northern sector. Thereafter in September, the DV Directorate placed him under a three-year ban for further promotions, decorations, foreign postings, etc.

In the arms bazaar
Thanks to politicians, there’s corruption in defence deals
by N. Vittal

The Tribune in its issue of February 7, 2009, carried an article, “In the arms bazaar”, by noted defence analyst K. Subrahmanyam. Mr N. Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Government of India, has, at our invitation, sent the following article commenting on the vital issues raised by Mr Subrahmanyam.
— Editor-in-Chief

ANY whiff of corruption relating to defence procurements becomes headline-grabbing material. It provides excellent grist to the mill of political battles. There are special reasons why corruption in defence procurement attracts special attention. Defence is directly connected with national security, and any case of corruption is seen as compromising national security.

Defence budgets are huge, running into thousands of crores, and there is always suspicion of massive kickbacks in procurements. More important, if the top brass in defence are perceived to be corrupt, it will seriously compromise the morale and the fighting spirit of the defence forces right down the line, including the jawans. This will greatly weaken the nation.

Unfortunately, there are two factors that provide an ideal environment for perceptions of corruption. The first is the extensive culture of secrecy in all matters relating to defence. Lack of transparency provides an ideal breeding ground for corruption. The second factor is the element of technology and the continuous upgrading of weapon systems.

Historically, wars have been a catalyst for technological breakthroughs and especially in our times of modern technology the success of defence forces depends critically on the availability of the latest weapons and other equipment.

A country of India’s size cannot afford to be totally dependent on weapon systems from abroad. For strategic reasons there must be a healthy balance between the development of indigenous systems and the imported ones so that our country is not subjected to technological blackmail from abroad.

Thanks to our excellent scientific and technical manpower, India itself has the potential to become an effective producer and supplier of weapon systems. The network of laboratories under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has a very important role in ensuring the strategic strength of our defence forces.

There is, however, a continuous problem between the desire of the defence services for the latest in the weapon systems and the development of indigenous systems through our own R&D. The procurement process in defence takes time and there has always been a general perception that it is the delays caused by red tape in procurement procedures which lead to the lapsing of the funds provided in the budget for defence procurement.

In his very perceptive article (The Tribune, February 7), one of our leading strategic thinkers, K. Subrahmanyam, has highlighted three important aspects of defence procurement, including the aspect of corruption. The first is corruption in defence procurement, a world-wide phenomenon.

Secondly, it is the politicians, and not the procedures, which are to be blamed in the case of corruption in defence procurement. Thirdly, “our politicians are yet to realise that corruption allows terrorists to penetrate our borders, explosives to be landed on our shores, leads to misgovernance, slows down our development and economic growth and delays weapon and equipment procurement vitally needed for our national security. Political corruption is as big a threat to our nation as jihadi terrorism.”

As Central Vigilance Commissioner, I had to enquire into some aspects of corruption in defence procurement. The CVC was entrusted in February 2000 with an enquiry into the claims made by Mr Jayant Malhotra, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), in December 1999 that in spite of the ban on Indian agents in weapons procurement imposed in 1989, the agents or middlemen were present in practically every major case of defence procurement even after the ban.

He also highlighted some cases of irregularities in defence procurement as brought out by the report of the CAG. The then Defence Minister gave an assurance that the issues raised by Mr Malhotra would be enquired into by the CVC.

In fulfilment of this assurance, the CVC had to enquire into the issue whether there were indeed middlemen in the procurement of weapon systems after 1989 and all cases of purchases of more than Rs.25 crore should be examined from the point of view of corruption. The CVC gave an interim report in August 2000 and the final report was submitted on March 31, 2001.

On the question whether there are middlemen, the CVC, applying the principle of preponderance of probability, reported that there were indeed middlemen in cases after the ban was introduced in 1989. The CVC also recommended that the government might specify the conditions for recognising agents or middlemen in weapon procurement systems to bring in greater transparency.

The real culprit in the whole issue is the blanket of secrecy in defence procurement. It was ironic that even though the matter was raised in the Rajya Sabha and the minister gave an open assurance about the CVC inquiry, the CVC had to grade this report as secret.

This was because practically all the 500-plus files studied for the inquiry were classified as either secret or top-secret. From the point of view of propriety and the rules, the CVC had no alternative but to classify the report as secret.

It was left to the government to declassify the report as it was, after all, the result of a debate and assurance in Parliament. In spite of the Public Accounts Committee requesting the government to declassify the report, the government did not do so.

One result that came out of the report was that the government accepted the need for transparency in identifying and approving agents for weapons procurement. Many of the international companies supplying weapons cannot afford to have a separate office in India and have to depend on their local agents.

The agents have to provide the requisite information on the technical aspects of the systems to the authorities concerned with the procurement process. The suspicion that they will be used for bribing the authorities concerned may not be valid in all cases. The government issued an order in September 2001 laying down the conditions for the approval of agents.

Greater transparency in the procurement process will reduce the scope for corruption but the problem is the fear of compromising national security. Can there be greater transparency in the case of non-lethal systems procurement? Transparency International has suggested the idea of integrity pacts with suppliers to reduce corruption. This is an idea worth trying.

The other issue of political corruption highlighted by Mr Subrahmanyam is far more serious. Politics in India has become a mega business, requiring humungous amounts of funds. In a recent byelection in Tamil Nadu, for instance, there were allegations that enormous amounts of money were paid to the voters directly even to the extent of Rs. 7000 per vote.

Thanks to our current culture of coalition politics, political parties look upon government departments as a money-spinnng machine for party funds. An idea about the gargantuan levels of black money and money stashed abroad was highlighted in the Swiss Banking Association’s report of 2006. According to the report, the five countries’ nationals who top the deposits held in banks in the territory of Switzerland are:
India— $1,456 billion
Russia—$ 470 billion
UK—$ 390 billion
Ukraine—$ 100 billion
China—$ 96 billion

In other words, India with $1,456 billion or $1.4 trillion has more money in Swiss banks than the rest of the world put together. Simply put, these are monies – doubtless of questionable origins – that are meant to and continue to remain outside the ken of public knowledge and reach.

Systematic efforts to reduce the presence of black money in our system are, therefore, a national priority to safeguard our country. The political class benefiting from the present system will not take the lead. This will have to come from the people, NGOs and institutions like the judiciary, the Election Commission and the CVC.

NISHANT UAV to be handed over to Indian Army soon

Daily News & Updates

India Defence Premium

Dated 18/2/2009

The country's premier agency in the aviation sector, Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) will be handing over NISHANT, it's first indigenously made Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to Indian Army very soon. NISHANT, which means 'end of darkness' is a tactical UAV and can be employed in tactical areas in a local domain.

"The limited series production is specially prepared for Indian Army as per their requirements. The confirmatory trials of NISHANT are planned and it is ready for delivery", Project Director, ADE, Shri G Srinivasa Murthy said.

ADE has also embarked upon an ambitious programme to build another UAV with Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) that has multi-mission capability. RUSTOM, named after Rustom Damania, who was instrumental in conceptualizing the idea, will have 300 km range with 200 kg payload. According to Shri Murthy, RUSTOM will be in a flying stage in about 3 years. With an endurance level of more than 24 hours, this UAV can be used by all three armed forces. RUSTOM can be useful in reconnaissance and surveillance, target acquisition and designation, communications relay and signal intelligence. ADE has acquired about 4200 acres of land in Chitragurga district in Karnataka which is being developed for test range only for UAV.

The tactical highlights of NISHANT include multi-mission day/night capability using advance payloads, jam resistant command link and digital down link. It is a highly mobile, compact and easily deployable system and can undertake day/night battle field reconnaissance, surveillance, target tracking and localization. It can also help in correction of artillery fire. With an endurance capacity of 4 hours and 30 minutes, it can attain maximum speed of 185 km per hour.

Prototypes of both UAVs were displayed at the Aero India 2009 at Yelahanka air base in Bangaluru.

Lt Col Kapil Dev readies for combat (Lead, Superseding earlier story)

Feb 20th, 2009 | By Sindh Today | Category: Sports

New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) “I am feeling a complete Indian now,” said former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev, as he underwent physical and arms training here Friday after joining the Territorial Army five months ago.

“It is emotional to wear this uniform. I like to serve my country and that’s the focus point,” he said.

Kapil Dev, who scripted history by leading the Indian team to victory in the 1983 World Cup, was commissioned into the 150 TA (Infantry) battalion of the Punjab Regiment. He has been participating in a three-day battle efficiency test that began Thursday.

“I will learn even a bit of weapons training. If you have shouldered the responsibility of being an army personnel then I will need to know how to handle weapons.

“I hope a moment of firing does not come because firing is not a great thing to do,” added the 50-year-old legendary skipper.

Kapil Dev is now an honorary lieutenant colonel. He received his badges of rank from the Indian Army chief Sep 24 last year.

“The training of the army at this age is tough. After 50 years, if you do something like this you are a bit scared. But if you are enthusiastic about it then you will just give your best.

“Why didn’t I do this 30 years back? I have fulfilled a dream now and I feel a complete Indian,” an elated Kapil Dev added.

Having inspired thousands of youngsters in the country to take up cricket, Kapil Dev now hopes to inspire them to don the olive green to protect the nation.

“The youngsters should think of joining the army and should give it a shot. There is a need for people from every field in the army. They can fulfil their dreams even if they serve the army,” said Kapil.

The Indian Army is currently facing a shortage of nearly 11,000 officers.

The Territorial Army is a citizens’ force that functions as a vital adjunct to the army.

India worried over truce between Pakistan and Taliban

www.chinaview.cn 2009-02-20 19:23:27

NEW DELHI, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- India said Friday that it is worried about a peace accord reached between Pakistan and the Taliban, which allows the latter to impose Islamic law or Sharia in the northwest Pakistan's Swat Valley.

"From 26/11 onwards, we are very much concerned about the security scenario. This new development, in a way, adds to our worries," Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told the media.

He also said that the government's stand on the issue was already made clear by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who said earlier this week that Taliban is "a terrorist organization" and "a danger to humanity and civilisation."

The North West Frontier Province Government in Pakistan had signed a pact with the militant group Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad on the implementation of Sharia in the Swat Valley's Malakand region.

According to the truce accord, Pakistan Army would stop its military campaign in Swat while the Taliban agreed to a tentative ceasefire.

Maritime Air Operations to be under IAF’s Southern Air Command

Written on February 20, 2009 – 4:17 pm | by Frontier India Strategic and Defence |

In an indication of growing importance of Southern Air Command, the Maritime Air Operations (MAO) Headquarters based in Mumbai will be placed under it. The new arrangements will come into effect from April 1, 2009. This was announced by Air Marshal S Radhakrishnan, AOC-in-C of Southern Air Command (SAC) here today. Currently the MAO Hqs in Mumbai is under the control of Gandhinagar based South-Western Air Command of IAF. Thus, air support for maritime activities will now be controlled by SAC.

While interacting with media during the ongoing IAF Exercise ‘DAKSHIN PRAHAR’, Air Marshal Radhakrishnan said an Aerostat Radar with the capability of picking up targets at lower ranges will be established in two years.

IAF is conducting Exercise DAKSHIN PRAHAR to validate the concept of flexi use of air space from 18th February and will end on 25th February 2009. During the exercise, IAF and Airport Authority of India (AAI) officials are constantly in touch on daily basis and the information is being shared regarding flight plans so that civil air traffic is not affected, Air Marshal Radhakrishnan said. On each day of the exercise, a certain target is fixed in carefully crafted corridor in coordination with AAI and modern tactics of using combat air power is being practiced.

State of the art fighter aircraft such as Sukhoi 30 MKI, Mirage 2000 and upgraded versions of maritime Jaguar are taking part in the exercise. The maritime Jaguars can carry special weapons required for maritime operations. Aircraft are also being operated from Bangalore, Pune and Goa, in addition to Thiruvananthapuram, he said. All the combat aircraft are capable of air-to-air refueling by the IL- 78s which are strategically positioned to increase the reach of fighters to go around the peninsula without refueling. AN-32s, Avro and Mi-8 are providing vital transport support and perform communication duties during the exercise.

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