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Sunday, 1 February 2009

From Today's Papers - 01 Feb 09

India Awaiting Word on Pakistan's Mumbai Probe: Mukherjee

New Delhi/Islamabad
India Saturday said it was awaiting a formal communication on Pakistan's probe into the Mumbai terror attacks that New Delhi has blamed on elements operating from the neighboring country, even as Islamabad hoped its enquiry would ease sub-continental tensions.

"The Pakistani High Commissioner (Shahid Malik) paid a courtesy call on the Home Minister (P. Chidambaram) on January 29, 2009. He did not provide any details on the results of the investigation in Pakistan into the Mumbai attacks," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in New Delhi.

"We have also seen media reports about certain statements by various Pakistani officials on their ongoing investigations, including a certain reported clarification by the Pakistani Prime Minister (Yousuf Raza Gilani).

"I would like to underline that we have so far not received any official Pakistani response to the Indian dossier or official information on the outcome of their investigations. These are awaited," Mukherjee maintained.

Speaking to reporters in Multan Saturday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that had been tasked with examining an Indian dossier on the Mumbai attacks had handed over its report to the interior ministry and the law ministry was reviewing this.

"Once the findings of the investigations into the Mumbai attacks is brought to light it will help defuse India-Pakistan tensions," Qureshi said.

"Pakistan will share the findings of the investigations with India," he added.

Underlining the need for bilateral cooperation for conducing an effective probe, the minister added: "Pakistan is serious about the investigation and intends to take necessary action".

On Friday, Qureshi had said Pakistan had shared with India the progress made in its probe into the Mumbai attacks but New Delhi promptly said this was yet to be received.

"High Commissioner Shahid Malik yesterday (Thursday) met Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram and updated him on the progress Pakistan has made so far in the investigations," Dawn Saturday quoted Qureshi as telling reporters in Islamabad.

On its part, India Friday said it was yet to receive "through proper channels" any response to the dossier holding it complicit in the Mumbai attacks and asked Islamabad to convey the "outcome" of its investigations soon.

According to Qureshi, the findings of the FIA preliminary investigation would be formally shared with India in a few days after an internal process that included a vetting by the law ministry.

"The report is understood to be with Prime Minister's Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik who will forward it to the law ministry for review," Dawn said.

After completion of the review the report would be handed over to the Foreign Office for sharing it with India and other countries.

According to Qureshi: "Pakistan has assured India and the world community that it is making progress in the process of investigating the Mumbai attacks and wants to bring the culprits to justice."

He maintained that Pakistan wanted to move forward with the "right intentions".

Meanwhile, the FIA Friday presented to the interior ministry its preliminary report prepared on the basis of an Indian dossier on the Mumbai attacks.

"I have seen the report and forwarded it to Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah for further examining it in consultation with the ministry of law," Malik told reporters after a meeting with FIA officials.

"I must reassure the international community that perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks would be brought to justice," the adviser said.

A handout issued by the interior ministry said: "On the basis of information provided by India about the Mumbai incident, the FIA team has submitted its report to Mr Rehman Malik."

Speaking in New Delhi Friday, Mukherjee had said: "We have not received any information through proper channels. This is not the way the government can respond."

"We have given them the material. We expect them to investigate and let us know the outcome of the investigation," Mukherjee stressed.

He was reacting to a question on reports in the media quoting Pakistani diplomats that suggested that Pakistan would claim that the Mumbai atrocity was not planned inside its territory.

"We will be amazed if they say so. This will be the end of whatever little credibility the Pakistani establishment has," said official sources, who did not wish to be named.

"It's totally unacceptable," said sources in response to Pakistan's habit of speaking through media and third countries in the wake of the Mumbai carnage.

According to Pakistani media reports, the probe conducted by the country's interior ministry has concluded that the Mumbai terror strikes were planned outside its territory.

Indian Army to Act or React
as Political Leadership Wants

Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor Saturday said the military was fully prepared to act or react in the manner the country's political leadership wanted it to in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

"As far as the military is concerned, it acts or reacts in a manner the country's political leadership wants it to," Kapoor, who is on a visit here, told media persons at the high security Badami Bagh headquarters of the army's 15 Corps.

Pointing out that post the Mumbai attacks there had been extra movement of troops on the Pakistan side as tensions between the two countries ran high, he added: "These tensions had, however, come down now".

At the same time, the terror infrastructure "is very much in existence and continuing in Pakistan".

Kapoor said as the snows start melting and the high Himalayan passes reopen, the possibility of infiltration from across the border cannot be ruled out.

"The security forces are taking all possible precautions to check infiltration through a three-tier mechanism," he maintained.

He said 700-800 guerrillas, 40-45 percent of them foreigners, were still active in the state but the anti-militancy efforts of the security forces had yielded appreciable results.

The high voter turnout in the November-December 2008 Kashmir assembly elections, where nearly 61 percent voters - higher than the national average - came out to exercise their franchise was proof of the improved ground situation in the state.

Asked about the timeframe for the army to return to the barracks in Kashmir, Kapoor said: "The military is here to perform a job and with a purpose. Once the situation is peaceful, we would be more than happy to go back to the barracks."

Replying to another question about the compensation for the lands and buildings under the army's occupation here, he said of the 765 such cases, 748 have already been settled.

On the Malegaon blasts, he said the army was fully ready to cooperate with the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in its investigations. "Army's courts of inquiry do not excuse anyone once proven guilty of rights violations (or other crimes)," he added.

The Maharashtra ATS has charged a serving army officer, Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit, and two retired officers, among others, for the September 29 Malegaon blasts that claimed six lives.

Kapoor also visited some forward areas along the Line of Control in the Valley Saturday.

Pak 'most dangerous country' in world: Albright

Press Trust of India

Saturday, January 31, 2009, (Washington)

Identifying Pakistan as the "most dangerous country" in the world, former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright has said that it has everything from nuclear weapons to extremism, which gives "an international migraine".

"It has nuclear weapons, extremism, poverty, corruption and a very fragile system and is in a very difficult location," Albright said participating in a panel discussion on 'US Relations with the Muslim World' on Friday.

The discussion was organised by the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) here.

"I have said that Pakistan -- you know, every day, some of us are asked, what is the most dangerous country in the world? And for me, Pakistan has won the lottery because it has everything that gives you an international migraine," Albright said.

The former Secretary of State, who served under the Clinton Administration, welcomed the move of new President Barack Obama to appoint Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan. This, she said, would help.

However, Albright appreciated efforts of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to have a better relationship with the US, particularly when it comes to dealing with the issues related to Afghanistan.

Pakistan, she said, has "a responsibility that it has to help us fulfill in that region."

"They have to understand; try to figure out how their military and ISI and everybody can be helpful so that we aren't in this particular position," Albright said.

'NDA would carry out surgical strikes in Pakistan'

PTI | January 31, 2009 | 20:41 IST

Accusing the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre of dithering in taking strong steps against terrorists, Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh on Saturday said the National Democratic Alliance would opt for surgical strikes to demolish their camps inside Pakistan, if it came to power.

The NDA would take other countries into confidence on the need for such surgical strikes if it came to power after the Lok Sabha polls, to be held later this year, he told a Janjagaran rally in Itanagar.

"True, there had been attacks on Parliament and on Akshardham and Raghunath temples during the NDA rule. But the morale of securitymen was high then and most of the terrorists were killed by security personnel. The UPA government has failed to hang Afzal Guru for his involvement in the attack on Parliament despite the court's verdict," he said.

The NDA, if voted to power, would not 'waste time' in carrying out the court verdict on Guru, he said and appealed to the people to throw out the UPA in the coming polls as 'it had failed on all fronts'.

The UPA government had withdrawn the stringent Prevention Of Terrorism Act and denied involvement of Pakistanis in the terrorist acts, he alleged. "But after the Mumbai strike, good sense has prevailed and it at last enacted some law to replace POTA, though not as stringent. The new law is so loose that even Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab could not be tried under it," he added.

Terrorism, Singh said, grew in India because of 'weak-kneed' policies of the Congress, which feels any stringent law against terrorists would antagonise the minorities.

"I would like to ask Congress leaders if they think all people belonging to the minority community are supporters of terrorists," Singh said.

26/11: Pak asks media not to speculate on probe

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | PTI | January 31, 2009 | 13:37 IST

Ahead of a crucial meeting of top officials in New Delhi to discuss the preliminary report on Pakistan's probe into India's dossier on the Mumbai attacks, Islamabad has said its response will be shared with New Delhi "as soon as possible" after the legal process is over.

"Pakistan stands committed to bringing the perpetrators to justice. Media is requested not to speculate on the outcome of the inquiry till it is made public," an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

He said Pakistan's "response will be shared with the government of India through diplomatic channels after due legal process as soon as possible".

His remark came ahead of a high-level meeting to be chaired by Pakistan's Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik on Saturday to discuss the preliminary report on Pakistan's probe into the dossier provided by India on the 26/11 attacks.

A three-member team of the Federal Investigation Agency, set up to examine the Indian dossier and other aspects of the on the Mumbai incident, submitted its report to Malik on Friday.

The meeting to be chaired by Malik will be attended by top officials of the Interior and Law ministries.

The investigation team had covered "every aspect" of the Mumbai attacks in its report, sources were quoted as saying by The News daily.

The report has termed the information provided by India as 'insufficient', the sources said.

"I have seen the report and forwarded it to Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah for further examining it in consultation with the Ministry of Law," Malik told media persons after a meeting with FIA officials late Friday night.

"I must reassure the international community that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks would be brought to justice," he said.

An earlier Pakistani media report had said that the investigation team had concluded that the Mumbai attacks were not planned on Pakistani soil.

Malik had directed the investigation team on January 17 to complete its preliminary probe within 10 days. The team was subsequently given more time to complete its work.

The team's report is expected to be made public only after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani returns to Pakistan from the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Pakistani officials have also said that if any Pakistani national is found to be involved in the Mumbai attacks, he will be tried in accordance with the country's laws and will not be handed over to India.

Any such trial will be held in camera, official sources told PTI.

The sources said Pakistan wanted to try such people because non-state actors had embarrassed the country and tarnished its image.

The Indian army is ready, says General Kapoor

Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar | January 31, 2009 | 22:28 IST

Army chief General Deepak Kapoor on Saturday reiterated that the country's army was 'ready to act in the manner the political leadership wanted it to'.

General Kapoor, who reached Srinagar on Saturday morning and visited the forward areas along the Line of Control in Kashmir to assess the situation, also met senior army officers.

Addressing a news conference at the headquarters of the army's 15 corps, General Kapoor said, "The military acts or reacts in a manner the country's political leadership wants it to."

The army chief acknowledged that tensions between India and Pakistan had been running high in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks and some extra movement of troops had also been noted across the border in Pakistan.

"The tensions have come down with the passage of time," he said.

Kapoor added that militants could not infiltrate into the Valley, as the mountain passes were snow-bound in the winter, but could sneak in from south of the Pir Panjal mountains.

"As the snow starts melting, the possibility of a rise in infiltration levels cannot be ruled out. The security forces are taking precautions to check infiltration through a three-tier mechanism," he explained.

He informed that 700 to 800 militants were still active in the state, of which 45 to 50 per cent were foreigners.

"In the last two years, there has been marked improvement in the security situation of the state," claimed the army chief.

General Kapoor pointed out that the high voter turnout of 61 percent in the recent state elections, which was higher than the national average, was a result of the improved security situation in the state.

Speaking on the possibility of the armymen deployed in the Valley returning to their barracks, he said, "The military is there to perform a job and a purpose. Once the situation becomes peaceful, we would be more than happy to return to the barracks".

Naga militant outfit provides shelter to ULFA cadres

K Anurag in Guwahati | January 31, 2009 | 20:31 IST

The Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), a militant outfit currently in a state of truce with the government, is providing help and shelter to cadres of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom in Naga villages.

According to police sources, the ULFA cadres have found safe haven in Mon district of Nagaland with the help of NSCN-K militants.

The ULFA militants often cross the border and flee to Nagaland after carrying out operations within Assam. A group of ULFA militants recently gunned down two policemen in Sivasagar district on January 29.

The Assam police have held several rounds of discussions with their counterparts in Nagaland to find a way to flush out ULFA militants hiding in the neighbouring state.

But the Nagaland police are apprehensive about taking action against ULFA militants as that might jeopardise the ceasefire between the NSCN-K and the government.

According to sources, though the ULFA militants don't have permanent camps inside Nagaland, they find shelters in the villages with the help of NSCN-K cadres.

The ULFA often sends its cadres to NSCN-K bases in Myanmar. The NSCN-K has been instrumental in providing logistical support to the ULFA within Nagaland and in Kachin region of Myanmar.

Rear Admiral Pillai is new Flag Officer

Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai has taken over the Flag Officer Goa Area (FOGA) and Flag Officer Naval Aviation (FONA) from Rear Admiral SM Vadgaokar.

Akash to go into production
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 31
The Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) here is gearing up for production of Akash, the first indigenous surface-to-air guided missile to be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The first phase of the IAF order will be worth Rs 1,500 crore, the DRDL officials said.

Besides, transferring technology in the form of documents for production of Akash, the DRDL will oversee the weapon system integration and provide support throughout the 20-year lifecycle of the missile system.

Akash, which is part of India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and comes with radars, mobile launchers, control centres, battlefield management software and other support systems, was successful in the recent field trials in terms of accuracy and consistency. In the same class as the American Patriot, Israel's Barak and the UK's SAM, the 5.78-metre long, 700-kg Akash can destroy targets as far away as 25 km and has a supersonic speed of 600 metres a second.

The medium range missile will be utilised by the IAF against attacks from unmanned combat aerial vehicles, aircraft and missiles.

It can destroy multiple targets and can be fired from both trucks and tracked vehicles.

The development of Akash missile system has cost the exchequer Rs. 516.86 crore, the highest for any of the country's missile systems.

The first phase of production of Akash is expected to be completed in three years, the DRDL officials said.

Meanwhile, the chief controller of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Dr R Prahlada, visited the DRDL complex here and reviewed the work.

Failed test and rocketing costs: Army says no to Brahmos missile

Amitav Ranjan Posted online: Feb 01, 2009 at 0124 hrs

New Delhi : The recent failure of the 290-km-range Brahmos missile to hit a pre-defined target and the high over-run in its production cost has put a question mark over fresh orders for 240 of these missiles from the Indian Army.

Though an RFP (Request For Proposal) for equipping two regiments with this missile was placed with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) mid-January, it's learnt that Army chief General Deepak Kapoor has indicated he would not opt for its purchase unless the missile proved its capability and was available at a reasonable price.

"We do not plan to move the proposal to the Cabinet Committee on Security. Let DRDO explain the shortcomings," Army officials told The Sunday Express, adding that both the Army and the Defence Ministry were opposed to the cost over-run and what DRDO claims to be an "advanced" seeker.

The Army, sources said, is bound by directions of the Defence Acquisition Council which, at the time of placing the first purchase order for 66 missiles in 2006, had said that subsequent regiments would have to be armed with SCAN or "multi-spectral seeker" — a system that provides a video feed to the missile control centre to ensure precision in guidance.

This would help latch the missile on to a specific target hidden in clusters of buildings unlike the present radar technology where the target has to be in isolation or else the missile can deviate to an adjacent body that provides higher radar reflection.

"That is why the present seeker has proved to be adequate for the Indian Navy as two objects are far removed from each other at sea," sources said. Brahmos is primarily an anti-ship missile that can be launched either in a vertical or inclined position with the capability of covering targets over a 360-degree horizon.

A demonstration to the Army of Brahmos hitting a specific target failed on January 20. The DRDO first claimed success but had to backtrack when General Kapoor insisted on visiting the target site and found that the missile had overshot by a kilometre.

"The missile performance was absolutely normal till the last phase but the missile missed the target though it maintained direction," Brahmos Aerospace Corporation Director Sivathanu Pillai admitted later. The next test is scheduled for February 10.

Incidentally, a test fire using a vertical launch instead of the usual inclined position from battleship INS Ranvir on January 15 also missed its target, DRDO sources said.

Beyond the technology glitch, the DRDO would also have to explain the costs. The Indo-Russian joint venture is now quoting Rs 8,500 crore (October 2008 prices) for arming two regiments compared to Rs 3,000 crore in 2006.

The DRDO says that the cost escalation is due to the new price of Rs 27 crore being asked by the Russians for each missile compared to Rs 13 crore earlier.

The Indo-Russian joint venture was formed between DRDO and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia of Russia with the intent to indigenize here. But so far, 80 percent — mainly the liquid ramjet engine and the seeker — are imported in knock-down condition to be reassembled by the Russians.

Sir Jock Stirrup: Even a US surge won't beat the Taliban

Sir Jock Stirrup, Britain's chief of the defence staff, tells Carey Schofield only politics can bring peace to Afghanistan

Fighter reconnaissance pilots possess steely resolve. Having served his time flying Strikemasters during Britain's "secret war" in Oman in the 1970s and a Jaguar reconnaissance aircraft during the cold war, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, now chief of the defence staff, knows something about steering a difficult course into hostile territory. Indeed, he's still doing it today. He is described by many in the services as "Gordon's favourite defence chief" - and it is not meant as a compliment.

At a time when the armed forces are stuck in two unpopular wars, Stirrup has come under heavy fire for his willingness to work with his political masters. Typically, he brushes aside suggestions that the defence budget is in trouble. There is "serious pressure" he admits, but "we have to adjust our programme so that we can live within the available resources". It is not hard to see why this frustrates troops waiting on the ground in Afghanistan for a helicopter that may or may not arrive to deliver supplies.

But political insiders say Stirrup has won Whitehall battles that more flamboyant generals would have botched. Today he is in his office at the Ministry of Defence - in full RAF rig - but his mind is in Afghanistan. He is not saying what reinforcements, if any, the British will send to Helmand, the southern province it controls, but it will be a "limited number". He agrees with General Sir Richard Dannatt's assertion that Britain's troops are in need of a rest. Britain's forces are "not structurally resourced" to have more than 12,000 troops on operations abroad: "So of course it's putting pressure on our people and they and their families are feeling the effect, which is one of the reasons we've got to get the tempo back in balance as quickly as possible."

Although the Americans are sending a "substantial number" of troops into Helmand, he insists that the UK will retain "the key lead in the centre of Helmand, with its provincial reconstruction team and with the partnership it has with the provincial governor and with local governance". Put another way, Britain will be confined to the surroundings of the capital Lashkar Gah, while the Americans take over the whole of the south.

Stirrup is clearly aware that some of his men are concerned that the Americans are coming in too hard and heavy, all too ready to call in ground attack aircraft regardless of the dangers to civilians. "We would expect, where the Americans are operating in Afghanistan, that they might do things a little differently from the way that we do them," he says, still carefully choosing his words. "But nevertheless we will be aiming towards the same objective."

Barack Obama is said to be unhappy with President Hamid Karzai and his regime's lack of power outside the Afghan capital, not to mention allegations of involvement in the drugs trade. Stirrup refrains from direct personal criticism, but admits to problems. "The weakness of governance in Afghanistan worries me considerably," he says. "But governance is not just about what goes on in Kabul. We have to look at the wider picture."

Which is? The clue hangs on the walls of his office: engravings of the Indian army operations that famously failed to impose any order on the Pashtun people who sprawl across both sides of Afghanistan's border with Pakistan. Today the "wider picture" means both countries. "The Taliban movement - and Taliban is now a catch-all phrase for ideologues, criminals, people with tribal grudges, people who are quite simply guns for hire to keep bread on the table - is on both sides of the border. It makes no distinction between one side or the other. Some people move across. Some are based almost exclusively in Pakistan. Some are based exclusively in Afghanistan. It's impossible to distinguish between those two and actually, in my view, not necessary. The border is not relevant," he says.

The Pakistan army has been criticised for not doing enough but, while admitting its success thus far has been "limited", Stirrup sympathises. "I think the Pakistan army has a series of very considerable problems," he says, adding that it has realised in recent years that "the growing insurgency within its own borders is an existential problem for Pakistan".

Stirrup has discussed this with General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistan army, on a number of occasions: "He is absolutely clear on the size of the challenge that he faces. My sense is that the Pakistan army has become much more sophisticated and much more flexible and adaptable in terms of its approach. So we have to do all we can to support the military in that shift, but we have to recognise that they can't do it overnight."

Nor can they do it alone, Stirrup says: "Just as in Afghanistan, that kind of insurgency cannot be defeated by conventional military means. It can only be dealt with, in the long term, through politics."

Here's the rub: there is a widely held perception in Pakistan that all would be well if only Nato troops were not in Afghanistan, a belief which grows stronger with every US Predator attack that kills innocent civilians.

"It's very important that the Pakistan government starts to shift that opinion," Stirrup says, "because, while they shouldn't be driven just by public opinion, they can't operate in the face of it. The Predator strikes don't help in that regard."

Only if Pakistan is sorted out will there be any chance of sorting out Afghanistan, he believes, although exactly what success will look like is less than clear. Obama has opted for the word "peace" instead of "victory", but right now achieving peace in Afghanistan seems every bit as improbable as victory.

"The objective is to get Afghanistan to the state where the government of Afghanistan is continuing and substantially unthreatened by the Taliban in terms of its security and is not a harbour for Al-Qaeda," says Stirrup. "It's not to turn Afghanistan into some sort of Asian Switzerland. We have to look upon Afghanistan as a journey continued rather than a destination reached."

Presence of Indian military personnel in Lanka denied

COLOMBO: An official of the Indian High Commission on Friday denied a report in the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet saying that four Indian military experts advising the Sri Lankan army in the war zone in the north of the island country were wounded and warded in a military hospital in Colombo.

"There are no Indian military personnel in the Wanni," the Indian official said.

The story was originally put out by the Australia- based Global Tamil Vision (GTV).

Tamilnet went on to recall that in September 2008, two Indian radar technicians were wounded when the LTTE attacked the headquarters of the Sri Lankan Security Forces in Vavuniya.

The men received treatment in Colombo before being taken to India.

The Indian and Sri Lankan governments had then said that the men were not military personnel but civilian maintenance engineers from Bharat Electronics Ltd.,which had manufactured the 2D radars which India had given Sri Lanka for its air defence.

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