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Friday, 27 February 2009

From Today's Papers - 27 Feb 09

Drone Attacks Inside Pakistan Will Continue, CIA Chief Says
Panetta Calls Strikes 'Successful' at Disrupting Insurgents

By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 26, 2009; A10

CIA Director Leon Panetta said yesterday that U.S. aerial attacks against al-Qaeda and other extremist strongholds inside Pakistan would continue, despite concerns about a popular Pakistani backlash.

"Nothing has changed our efforts to go after terrorists, and nothing will change those efforts," Panetta said in response to questions about CIA missile attacks, launched from unmanned Predator aircraft. Although he refused to discuss details of the attacks -- and the CIA will not confirm publicly that it is behind the strikes -- Panetta said that the efforts begun under President George W. Bush to destabilize al-Qaeda and destroy its leadership "have been successful."

"I don't think we can stop just at the effort to try to disrupt them. I think it has to be a continuing effort, because they aren't going to stop," Panetta said in his first news briefing since taking the job. The CIA has launched about three dozen Predator strikes in Pakistan since late last summer, two of them during the Obama administration.

Panetta's comments came as senior Pakistani and Afghan leaders held lengthy talks here with each other and with their U.S. counterparts. Obama administration officials said that the unprecedented consultations were as important as any substantive agreements that may emerge from them.

The talks, quickly arranged during the first overseas trip of special U.S. envoy Richard C. Holbrooke this month, include the foreign and defense ministers of both countries, along with Afghanistan's interior minister and Pakistan's intelligence chief. The Pakistani army chief of staff is also here on a separate visit to his U.S. military counterparts.

In addition to bilateral sessions, the Afghan and Pakistani delegations met jointly yesterday with the National Security Council and attended a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. They will hold another trilateral session today.

"We have two goals," a senior administration official said. One is to receive their input for the Obama administration's ongoing strategy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said. "But it's also to hear commitments -- the Pakistanis on taking on terrorists themselves, and the Afghans on cleaning up their government."

"There are not too many brand-new ideas," the official said. "But our expectations of what they have to do are not just based on what we want them to do, but what they say they're going to do. It gives us a different basis for going back to them in the future."

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been marked by mutual suspicion. Pakistan believes Afghanistan is too close to India, Islamabad's historical adversary to the east, while Afghanistan suspects that Pakistan has continued its traditional support for the Taliban. In addition to urging a stronger counterterrorism effort from Islamabad and less governmental corruption in Kabul, the administration seeks better cooperation between the two to stop cross-border infiltration by Pakistan-based extremists fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The difference between the Obama and Bush administrations, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, is that "the present administration is willing to listen. They are very frank. They're saying, 'We do not have a magic formula. . . . Let Pakistan, let the U.S., let Afghanistan -- let's all stick together and find a solution," Qureshi told CNN.

The meetings have not been without conflict. Panetta, who has participated in the sessions, said he had voiced concerns about Pakistan's recently announced truce with local Taliban leaders in that country's Swat Valley region, and noted that similar agreements with militant groups in the past had allowed al-Qaeda to strengthen its base. "They assured me that this is not the same as past agreements," Panetta said. "I remain skeptical."

In a series of interviews yesterday, Qureshi said that Pakistan objected to the Predator strikes and that he has asked the United States to supply his country with drones to carry out its own missile attacks against extremists. Pakistan has also requested other sophisticated weaponry, including Cobra attack helicopters, communications and night-vision equipment. Although the drones are unlikely -- and both U.S. and Pakistani officials say they are privately in agreement on continuation of the CIA strikes -- the administration and Congress are likely to approve more military assistance along with a multibillion-dollar aid package.

Legislation introduced in the Senate last year by Vice President Biden, and soon to be sponsored by his successor as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), and Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), ranking Republican, calls for about $1.5 million a year in economic and development assistance for Pakistan over the next five years.

A report released yesterday by the Atlantic Council said that at least double that amount is needed from the United States and the international community if Pakistan is to be brought back "from the brink." Pakistan, it said, "is on a rapid trajectory toward becoming a failing or failed state."

In a report last year, under the leadership of James L. Jones, who is now the national security adviser, the Atlantic Council warned that the West was "not winning in Afghanistan." Those words were repeated yesterday by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in his first major foreign policy speech since losing the presidential election to Obama in November. "Let us not shy from the truth," McCain said in an address to the American Enterprise Institute, "but let us not be paralyzed by it either."

McCain chastised "some [who] suggest it is time to scale back our ambitions in Afghanistan -- to give up on nation-building and instead focus narrowly on our counterterrorism objectives, by simply mounting operations aimed at killing or capturing terrorist leaders and destroying their networks."

Obama, while calling for improved governance in Afghanistan, has publicly suggested that the United States adopt the "very limited goal" of ensuring that "Afghanistan cannot be used as a base for launching terrorist attacks" against the United States.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Bangladesh Mutiny
Rebels rise again, surrender
50 feared dead in BDR’s 33-hour protest
Ashfaq Wares Khan writes from Dhaka

Rebel Bangladesh Rifles’ (BDR) troops surrendered on Thursday evening after army tanks rolled into Dhaka to end the bloody 33-hour siege of the headquarters that may have left at least 50 (army) officers dead.

“The situation is under complete control of the government,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s press secretary told reporters. "BDR members have completed the surrender of arms."

But it was still unclear as to how many had been killed during the mutiny, with Junior Law Minister Quamrul Islam saying that BDR troops had told him that 50 people may have died during the violent rebellion. The mutinous BDR troops, largely responsible for guarding the borders, had reached a deal with the government on Wednesday night to surrender their arms after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised them an amnesty.

But, the process stalled as they refused to surrender arms to the military, who had been the principal target of their mutiny. The rebellion spread to other areas in the country with several BDR battalions leaving their border posts after violence erupted in Cox's Bazaar, Chittagong and Naikhongchari in the south, Sylhet in the north-east, Rajshahi and Naogaon in the north-west. The commanding officers in all of these border posts had fled.

At the height of the tensions, the Prime Minister issued a warning to the rebels asking them to surrender or face consequences.

“We don't want to use force to break the standoff,” Hasina said. “But don't play with our patience. We will not hesitate to do whatever is needed to end the violence if peaceful means fail.”

Army tanks then rolled into the capital with a convoy of armoured personnel carriers and military bulldozers, which approached the headquarters in late afternoon. A team of five government ministers remained inside the headquarters engaged in intensive negotiations.

Intimidated by the strength of the government’s response, the guards hoisted a white flag and surrendered.

6 pc DA hike for govt staff
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
With polls round the corner, it’s raining bonanza for the government employees. The government staffers and pensioners will now get an additional six per cent dearness allowance (DA) and this will be given with retrospective effect from January one this year, as per a decision cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) here. It would benefit 5 million employees and 3.8 million pensioners, said Home Minister P Chidambaram.

In yet another decision, the cabinet has allowed the states to raise their fiscal deficit target to 3.5 percent of the state GDP, though this relaxation is only for the year 2009-10. The relaxation to the states comes in the wake of global slowdown. Since there are strong export links with other economies, it is likely that the Indian economy may feel further heat in the coming months and hence the relaxation. The government had earlier allowed states to raise their fiscal deficit target to 3.5% in the current fiscal, as part of the second economic stimulus package announced on January 2.

States will be allowed to raise additional market borrowings of 0.5% of their Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in 2009-10 fiscal as well.

Meanwhile, the government did not discuss fuel prices in the cabinet meeting today. Unfortunately, it was not on the agenda, said Oil Minister Murli Deora after emerging from the meeting. Though there is speculation that a decision might be taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs scheduled for Friday.

Probe army’s role, Pranab tells Pak
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
A day after the Mumbai police filed a chargesheet naming 45 Pakistanis as perpetrators of the 26/11 terror attacks, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said Pakistan must thoroughly investigate its army’s links to the (Mumbai) mayhem.

“The perpetrators of the attacks must be brought to book...we expect Pakistan to fulfil its bilateral and international obligations of not letting its territory to be used by terrorists,” Mukherjee said at a function here.

On Pakistan demanding timely response from India to the 30 questions it had raised on the Mumbai attack probe, he said, “We will respond whenever we are in a position to do so.”

Notably, the Mumbai police chargesheet contains the names of two Pakistan army officers with the designation of major general and colonel. The Pakistan army, however, has denied the allegation.

Omar: Forces’ special powers to go if peace persists
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 26
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said today that if the situation in the valley continued to remain peaceful following decline in the number of incidents of violence, he would revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Area Act from the state.

“I commit to people that if situation improves we will revoke these Acts,” Omar said while replying to the adjournment motion on the alleged human rights violation presented by PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti in the legislative Assembly today.

He said, “In this regard, we have taken certain steps and the replacement of the CRPF with the police is a step forward.”

Commenting on the Bomai incident in Sopore in which two civilians were allegedly gunned down by the Army, the Chief Minister said after getting information he ordered an inquiry immediately and the report would be submitted within 15 days. “The government would give severe punishment to whosoever is found guilty to send a clear signal that it is not ready to tolerate human rights violation.”

He said it was for the first time that the source, who passed on the information to the Army about the presence of terrorists in the bus, had been taken into custody by the police.

Targeting the PDP for what the Chief Minister termed as their inefficiency to control the human rights violation when it shared the power in the state, Omar said, “There were numerous such incidents that took place during your regime, how many cases you registered and how many you punished.”

Giving figures, Omar said 111 civilians were killed in 2003, 75 in 2004, and 54 persons were killed in 2005, but the then government did nothing to punish the guilty.

“From 2003 to 2005, when you were in power, 24 custodial killings took place. How many people did you punish,” he questioned.

To deal with the incidents of human rights violation, the Chief Minister said he would give more powers to the State Human Rights Commission and prompt action would be taken on its recommendations.

“The chairman of the SHRC during the PDP tenure had accused that right from the day he assumed the office, the government (PDP) was not serious about the functioning of the commission.” he added.

The CM cautioned the Opposition not to draw “undue” mileage by distorting facts and blaming forces for even a “normal murder” that took place in the valley.

“The body of Fida Hussain Bhat was found in an auto rickshaw along with some narcotics. The initial reports suggests that the security forces have nothing to do with his killing, but people are trying to take political mileage by relating his murder with the security forces.” he said Earlier, PDP legislature party leader Mehbooba Mufti asked the government to revoke the AFSPA and the Disturbed Area Act and reduce the number of security forces to the pre-1989 status.

NPS Aulakh is NSG chief
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 26
Punjab DGP NPS Aulakh has become the first-ever Punjab officer to head the high profile National Security Guard. The Punjab government here received a formal communication clearing his appointment late tonight.

He will take over his new assignment on March 1 as the present incumbent, JK Dutt of West Bengal, retires on February 28.

Aulakh, who belongs to the 1972 batch was Special Director-General of Police of the Border Security Force before the present SAD-BJP government recalled him from central deputation to make him the DGP of the state in 2007.

He thus joins a select band of Punjab cadre IPS officers who rose to head a central police organisation (CPO). Last Punjab officer to head a CPO was Sarabjit Singh, who after serving the State as DGP for three years headed the Bureau of Police Research and Development.

Other state officers to head the CPO included Gurbachan Jagat, who not only headed the BSF but also led the Jammu and Kashmir police in its fight against militancy.

JS Bawa was another officer who served as Director of the CBI.

While NPS Aulakh has 18 months to go for attaining the retirement age of 60, he may get a few months extension, as the mandated term for a CPO chief is normally two years.

Though the state government is yet to take a decision to name his successor, chances of KK Attri, the senior-most IPS officers of the state belonging to the 1971 batch being named overall chief of the Punjab police cannot be ruled out. Decision about his appointment is likely to be made in a couple of days.

Dhaka Trouble
Up vigil on Bangla border: MPs’ panel
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
Touching upon a sensitive issue, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs today told the government that “any laxity” on the Indo-Bangladesh border would prove detrimental to India’s security and economic progress.

The panel submitted its report today in both house of Parliament and suggested even greater strengthening of surveillance. “A large presence of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants poses a grave threat to the internal security and should be viewed seriously,” said the committee headed by BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.

The ministry should leave no stone unturned in making Indo-Bangladesh border intrusion-free, said the committee, while adding the border surveillance must be strengthened by deploying hi-tech equipment, patrolling and establishing additional troops in adequate number. The greater vigil in view of the alleged involvement of some Bangladeshi terrorist groups in recent blasts in the country.

The Home Ministry informed the committee that hand-held thermal imagers, battlefield surveillance radars had been provided. The riverine segments of the Indo-Bangladesh border were being patrolled using power-boats.

On reports of counterfeit notes in large circulation along the Indo-Bangladesh border, the committee strongly recommended that movement along the border may be “strictly monitored”.

The committee also slammed the ministry, saying security to people of the national capital appeared to be “inadequate” ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

It recommended the Home Ministry must undertake a “comprehensive review” of the security capability of the Delhi police and provide the force with required personnel, weapons and training.

The ministry had informed it that action would be taken in coordination with central intelligence agencies for security of the games and protection of participants.

In its action taken report, the ministry said the government had already sanctioned 5,000 additional posts in the Delhi police, specifically in the context of the Commonwealth Games, and an additional 7,612 posts had been sanctioned in terms of a larger proposal of the Delhi police.

A Tribune Special
India-Pakistan-US intelligence assessment
Pak groups can carry out more 26/11s
Man Mohan
Our Roving Editor

New Delhi, February 26
Even after carrying out the deadly 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, Pakistan-based groups can still carry out additional attacks against India and run the risk of provoking an India-Pakistan conflict, warns US intelligence community’s annual global threat assessment.

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis C. Blair submitted a 46-page statement dealing with international terrorism, economic and environment threat to American House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday night. Available with The Tribune, the document describes India-Pakistan as “one of the world’s least integrated regions within South Asia.”

Issuing an alert about China’s re-emergence as a major power with global impact, Blair said it was especially affecting the regional balance of power.

Talking about India-US relations, Blair felt “Indian leaders often will adopt positions contrary to those favoured by Washington…on the global stage, Indian leaders will continue to follow an independent course characterised by economic and political pragmatism.”

“Strong ties to Washington will give India more confidence in dealing with China and in mitigating the dangers posed by its long-time adversary, Pakistan,” Blair said, adding that “India will be concerned about China during the coming decade because of Beijing’s political and economic power and its ability to project military force regionally, but Indian leaders will strive to avoid confrontation with China.”

“India also will look for ways to safeguard its interests in light of the concluding civil war in Sri Lanka and political uncertainty in Bangladesh and Nepal, which have experienced dramatic transformations in government during the past year,” Blair said.

Making a significant observation, the National Intelligence chief said: “New Delhi generally will be supportive of democratic forces in its smaller neighbours, while also being sensitive to the opinions of the Tamil and Bengali communities within the country.”

Dealing with the issue of India-Pakistan relations, Blair said the determined efforts by Indian and Pakistani leaders to improve relations “through the so-called composite dialogue” over the last four years could unravel unless Islamabad takes sustained, concrete, meaningful steps to allay Indian concerns about Pakistan’s support to anti-Indian militant groups, and this is the case particularly in light of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai.

According to Blair, India, which has endured a series of major terrorist attacks without major military response since 2003, is under domestic pressure to make rapid and significant improvements in its counter-terrorism capabilities. India will strive to manage tensions with Pakistan, transnational terrorism, and spillover from instability in small neighbouring states.

“The Mumbai attack has convinced many Indians that Pakistani military leaders, in an effort to undercut India’s emerging international stature, now favour a strategy of allowing Pakistan-based groups to attack targets that symbolise New Delhi’s growing prominence on the global stage or that could undermine India’s prominence by provoking religious violence in the country,” he said.

In the absence of a military response against Islamabad, Blair pointed out, the Indian public will look for visible signs that Pakistan is actively working to punish those involved and eliminate its domestic terrorist organisations.

Touching every part of the globe, the American intelligence community believes that the groups with the greatest capability to threaten are extremist Muslim groups. The Al-Qaida leaders increasingly have highlighted enduring support for the Taliban and the fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in other regions where they portray the West being at war with Islam and Al-Qaida as the vanguard of the global terrorist movement, the national intelligence study said.

It claims that the Pakistan government is losing authority in parts of the NWFP and has less control of its semi-autonomous tribal areas: even in the more developed parts of the country, mounting economic hardships and frustration over poor governance have given rise to greater radicalisation. “In 2008 Islamabad intensified counterinsurgency efforts,” Blair observed, “but Islamabad’s record in dealing with militants has been mixed as it navigates conflicting internal and counter-terrorist priorities.”

India rejects Pak suggestion on resumption of dialogue

Press Trust of India

Friday, February 27, 2009, (Colombo)

In the first high-level contact with Pakistan since the Mumbai attacks, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon on Thursday met his counterpart Salman Bashir in Colombo and rejected his suggestion for resumption of Composite Dialogue till Islamabad took credible steps to end terrorism.

Menon, who met Bashir on the sidelines of a SAARC conference, underlined that India and Pakistan had entered entirely a "new phase of relations" as Mumbai attacks has changed the situation.

"We have paused the composite dialogue and official talks have been paused," Menon told reporters after the meeting.

Bashir stressed the need for resuming the composite dialogue but Menon made it known that it could happen only after India's sees credible action by Pakistan to dismantle terror infrastructure.

"We have brought Pakistan to somewhere. It has to be recognised. Terrorism infrastructure inside that country has to be dismantled and credible steps towards this should be taken," he said.

"As far as resumption of composite dialogue is concerned, we have to see whether there is a real movement forward on (ending) terrorism. Our goal is to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai attack to justice," he said.

Noting that India wants to see perpetrators of Mumbai attack to be brought to justice, he referred to the queries sent by Pakistan in response to India's dossier and said initial steps were "positive".

A Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said during his meeting with Menon, Bashir reiterated the need to resume the dialogue as soon as possible to promote "substantive engagement on all issues, including Kashmir."

"We have made it clear that we have no quarrel with the people of Pakistan. Trade and travel links between the two countries have not been affected," Menon further said.

Menon said India does not doubt the sincerity of the civilian government in Pakistan. "But we need to see what they can do to eradicate the menace of terrorism."

Kerry to move bill for tripling non-military aid to Pakistan

Press Trust of India

Friday, February 27, 2009, (Washington)

Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry has said that he would soon be introducing a legislation in the US Congress to triple the non-military aid to Pakistan to avert an economic meltdown.

Speaking after the release of a report on Pakistan by the prestigious Atlantic Council at the Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Kerry said it is time that the international community should come together to help Pakistan come out from its present economic mess.

The report, released jointly by Senators Kerry and Chuck Hagel, asks for an additional USD4-5 billion of immediate financial aid for Pakistan to avert an economic meltdown.

If the US and its Atlantic partners do not provide Pakistan with this assistance, the country may be placed on a downward trajectory whose consequences will be dire, the report said.

He said he would soon be introducing a legislation in the US Congress to triple the non-military aid to Pakistan.

However, this non-military aid has to be conditional and would be linked directly with Islamabad's efforts and success in its war against terrorism, he added.

Kerry also said Pakistan has become the "ground zero of terrorism and security threat to the United States".

The Senator said the war in Afghanistan is being lost in Pakistan and expressed his serious concerns over the Swat valley peace treaty with the Taliban terrorists.

Board for promotion of Brigadiers to meet in March

As the grapevine has it the Board for promotion of Brigadiers is going to meet in March 2009.More than 30 Brigadiers could expect their promotions.

Maj Gen (Retd) Chhatwal gets appointment

Maj Gen (retd) Ravinder Singh Chhatwal has been appointed Director-cum-Principal of MBS College of Engineering and Technology, Jammu.

India’s BrahMos Air-Launched Cruise Missile Operational by 2012

Written by admin on February 26th, 2009

The Russian-Indian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile program is on track, and the Indian air force will be equipped with the first operational models of the missile by 2012, the company’s CEO said earlier this month.

“The (cruise) missile will be put in service in 2012,” BrahMos Chief Executive Officer Sivathanu Pillai told an audience at the Aero India-2009 air show in Bangalore, India, on Feb. 12. He was displaying the air-launched cruise missile — ALCM — version of the weapon.

As we have noted in previous columns, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile program is of enormous importance in both technological and strategic terms. India has consistently failed in many areas to be able to mass-produce operational versions of many high-tech weapons, especially missiles, despite succeeding in producing successful prototypes that initially succeeded in tests.

But with the BrahMos programs, India not only will deploy but also will receive the technology to manufacture cruise missiles that can fly at Mach 2.8 (around 1,900 mph). That is three times faster than the United States’ own cruise missile, the subsonic, 650 mph Tomahawk can achieve.

RIA Novosti, reporting Pillai’s comments, noted that BrahMos Aerospace, which was created as a joint Indian-Russian venture in 1998, is already manufacturing and selling sea-based and land-based versions of the cruise missile that have already been deployed with the Indian army and navy.

RIA Novosti said the BrahMos has a range of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and a conventional warhead of up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds). It could approach its designated targets from altitudes as low as 10 meters (30 feet), the report said.

The ALCM version of the cruise missile required considerable modifications from the army and navy versions, RIA Novosti quoted Pillai as telling the news agency in a 2008 interview.

“For the airborne version … we had to reduce the mass of the missile and to ensure aerodynamic stability after its separation from the aircraft. The air-launched platform has its own initial speed during the launch of the missile, so we have reduced the size of the booster. Now the missile is ready,” he said.

The Indian air force has also decided to employ the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 MKI Flanker-H multirole fighter initially to carry and fire the BrahMos ALCM. However, upgrading those aircraft was projected to take around four years, the news agency quoted Pillai as saying.

In another example of the extremely close and still developing Russian-Indian technical cooperation, India intends to manufacture a minimum of 140 Su-30MKI fighters by 2014 under a Russian license with full technology transfer rights, the report said.

The scale and ambition of the program are enormous. RIA Novosti said India may buy as many as 1,000 BrahMos cruise missiles for its army, navy and air force over the next 10 tears and sell up to 2,000 of them to other nations by 2019.

And even though the BrahMos is already three times faster than any American cruise missile, Moscow and New Delhi believe they can develop it further.

RIA Novosti reported that in 2008, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, during a trip to India, reached an understanding with the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to jointly produce a hypersonic version of the missile, to be known as BrahMos-2.

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