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Thursday, 5 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 05 Mar 09

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Army Commander releases a book 'Pension in the Defence Services' by Maj Navdeep Singh

Punjab Newsline Network

Wednesday, 04 March 2009

CHANDIGARH: Calling it as a need of the hour for the officers and personnel of all the three Defence Services, Lt Gen TK Sapru GOC-in-C, Western Command released a book, written by Major Navdeep Singh, a High Court Advocate and also a decorated Territorial Army volunteer titled 'Pension in the defence services' Wednesday at Headquarters Western Command .

The foreword of the book has been written by former Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman and retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Justice R N Aggarwal.

The Army Cdr, while addressing the august gathering, dwelt upon the need to educate the officers and jawans on various provisions concerning pension related entitlements and other orders issued by the Government from time to time and appreciated the efforts undertaken by author in this regard.

The book is a commentary and compilation of all pension related orders and provisions related to the defence forces from the fourth till the sixth pay commission. It also contains information on related benefits such as battle casualty declaration, military insurance benefits and other useful orders issued from time to time. It also has a chapter on attribute ability and aggravation of disabilities for the purposes of disability pension.

Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing Advocate in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and a decorated Territorial Army volunteer. The Territorial Army (TA) is a voluntary citizens' army consisting of civil professionals from all walks of life who can be called out for national military service in times of wars and national emergencies. Many eminent personalities have been part of TA including sitting Ministers, MPs, Bureaucrats and Industrialists. Kapil Dev was also inducted into TA recently. Unknown to many, the Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi was also associated with an auxiliary organisation of the TA called the Ambulance Corps.

Maj Navdeep singh is also credited with the execution of implementation of the Indian Tolls (Army & Air Force) Act, 1901 all over India and also effective implementation of entertainment tax exemption to serving defence personnel in cinemas and theatres. He has also worked for the benefit of WWII veterans and authored a book, "Soldiers Know Your Rights", which was released by General J J Singh, India's former Chief of the Army Staff. An another book called "Fauj Hai Mauj", (Military is fun) is also written by him.

Killing of Two Youths in Firing
CM promises action, probe blames Army
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, March 4
The Army seems to be in a tight spot over its role in the killing of two youths, Amin Tantray and Javaid Dar, as a report submitted by previous district commissioner Baseer Khan has reportedly indicted it.

Khan, who was Baramula's DC at the time of incident on February 21, was asked by the government to carry out a probe, and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was in Srinagar today, admitted that the report had reached the chief secretary.

The inquiry report has, officials said, brushed aside the Army's claim that its party was fired upon by militants. Based on eyewitness accounts, police statements and empty shells found from the spot, the report said there was little evidence to validate the Army's claims.

The report has also said that the Army did not follow the standard procedure adopted prior to an operation as local police officials said the Army did not inform them about the operation during which, as per army's claims, militants fired upon it.

Omar Abdullah reiterated his claim that "anybody found guilty will be punished", adding that zero tolerance on human rights violations was not a mere slogan.

The Army is unlikely to agree with the inquiry findings and the state government has rather limited powers when it comes to taking action against soldiers.

Meanwhile, the situation in Bomai continues to be tense and locals have kept markets closed and their wards away from schools since the incident. Current DC Lateef Deva told The Tribune he would talk to local residents to resolve the crisis. "The strike is still on. I will go there tomorrow to meet them," he said.

Pakistan's blame game has begun

Soyeta Bhattacharjee 04 March 2009, Wednesday

AFTER THE gruesome terror attack in Paskistan, which targetted Sri Lankan cricket team, the Pakistani authorities have started their favourite sport, the blame game.

They are saying that they cannot ignore the chance of India's involvement in this attack. Lahore commissioner Khushru Pervaiz said, "Indian involvement in the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team cannot be ruled out."

He also added, "Security officials had successfully protected Lanka team." According to them India wants to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state and this attack was related to that conspiracy.

This incident took place when the Lankan team was going to play the third day of the second test against Pakistan at Gaddafi stadium. Suddenly, twelve heavily armed gunmen near the stadium came out firing at the player's bus. Six escorting security personnel were killed and six Sri Lankan cricketers along with the assistant coach were injured.

"The terrorism infrastructure facilities available in Pakistan must be completely dismantled and the perpetrators (of the attacks) brought to justice, otherwise perpetration of these type of incidents will take place," said Pranab Mukherjee, India's Foreign minister.

He also added, "I request the Pakistani authorities not to divert the attention of the international community, but to take courage in both hands and dismantle the terrorism infrastructure and take stiff measures against the perpetrators. Only then will such issues be adequately addressed."

Terror in Pakistan: How India should respond?

Satbir Singh Bedi 04 March 2009, Wednesday

WHEN THE Indian and Australian cricket teams refused to tour Pakistan because of security concerns, the Sri Lankan government pushed its team to tour Pakistan as it wanted to express its gratitude to Pakistan for favouring it with arms supplies. It needed the arms and ammunition for deployment in its war against the LTTE. This expression of gratitude on the part of Sri Lanka has cost it dearly. But Pakistan too has suffered in the process - its police force has suffered casualties, its image has taken a beating and it stands fully exposed as a failed state.

The Pakistani government also seems to be in a state of confusion. The Governor of the Punjab province of Pakistan declared that the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore was a Mumbai-type attack while a minister in the government of Pakistan stated that there was an Indian connection to the attack. However, the arrest of four Afghans by the Punjab (Pakistan) police has established that it is the handiwork of the Al Qaeda / Taliban.

Now it seems that for the next few years, no cricketing nation would be willing to tour Pakistan for security reasons. Meanwhile, India must realise that there is fire raging in its neighbourhood. It must do everything in its power to put off that fire, which means that it must move the UN to declare Pakistan as a rogue state and demand that UN forces be sent to Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight out the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The fire would engulf India if it does not act to put it out.

First Woman Co-pilot to Fly Largest Aircraft
of Indian Air Force

By Ritu Sharma

One more gender barrier fell to the determination of women as Squadron Leader Veena Saharan became the first woman co-pilot to fly one of the mightiest and heaviest aircraft of the Indian Air Force - the Russian-built Illyushin-76 (IL-76).

She will first co-pilot IL-76, renamed by the IAF as Gajraj (Elephant), and after 40 hours of flying she will become the pilot.

"It is a great achievement. I have just finished my solo flight of the IL-76 aircraft. Now I am looking forward to the second step of gaining expertise on this aircraft
It is good that the IAF is creating more opportunities for women officers," an elated Saharan told IANS here Wednesday.

Saharan, 27, hails from Jaipur and is a second-generation defence officer. Her father, a colonel in the Indian Army, is also proud of her.

She completed her two-month ground training for the aircraft at the Agra air base last month and has now moved on to Nagpur for further training.

After flying IL-76 for 40 hours Saharan will complete her conversion from AN-32 transport aircraft to the largest transport aircraft of the force.

Saharan has done her graduation from Delhi University in Physics. "I had applied in the third year itself and got selected in the first attempt," she said.

The IAF operates 25 IL-76s for military transport duties such as tactical and strategic airlift, at all operational levels. The IL-76 is a strategic air-lifter with a payload of 95,000 pounds and a range of over 5,000 km.

"My parents are very happy for me. Even though I was in the army wing of the NCC (National Cadet Corps), I decided to join the IAF as I wanted to fly," Saharan said with a smile.

Commissioned in the IAF in December 2002, Saharan's story is of hard work and sweat. The opportunity to fly IL-76 was always there for the women pilots since their induction into the IAF a decade and a half ago but it is only the best who get a chance. So far Saharan has flown four types of aircraft.

"I started with the two-seater HPT-32 aircraft and then moved on to Dornier transport aircraft. I have also flown AN-32 and now will be flying IL-76," she explained.

Saharan has done sorties over Jammu and Kashmir, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the northeastern sector.

"This (the aircraft squadron) is the elite group of aircraft and is an asset for the IAF. For induction the pilot has to meet certain qualifications. And it feels good that I have met all the requirements," she added.

The IAF, which has completed 75 years, currently has 784 women officers who work in all branches, barring the fighter stream.

In January this year, its first woman navigator Flying Officer Kavita Barala created history of sorts as she saluted Pratibha Patil, the first woman president of the country, at the Republic Day parade.

IANS | March 4, 2009

Attack on Cricketers Shows
Pakistan Faces Emboldened Militants

By Nadeem Sarwar

The brazen terrorist ambush targeting the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore came as a shocking reminder of the threat posed to Pakistan by ever bolder Islamist militants.

Recent years have seen the Islamic country endure dozens of suicide attacks and roadside bombings that have killed thousands, including former premier Benazir Bhutto.

But the attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team seemed to turn a brutal new page as around a dozen terrorists made their getaway after action graphically captured by TV cameras.

Armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and a rocket launcher, they targeted the bus carrying Sri Lankan team to Gaddafi stadium on a busy street in the centre of around a city of more than six million and killed six policemen and a civilian.

The Sri Lankan team, with six players injured, narrowly escaped a possible hostage situation or cold-blooded executions, not least because of the bravery of their Pakistani driver.

Mohammad Khalil drove off in a hail of bullets after a rocket missed his bus - but the incident showed the vulnerability of Pakistani law enforcers against the militants.

"A tall bearded man in shalwar qameez (traditional dress) came out of a white-colored car and fired straight at us," Khalil told reporters in Lahore as he stood by the bullet-riddled bus.

"As the rocket missed us, a short person also appeared on the scene and lobbed a hand grenade that went underneath the vehicle. The occupants started shouting in panic and one of the players yelled Go! Go! - so I swiftly drove off towards the stadium."

TV footage showed a youthful attacker walking towards an injured traffic warden and mercilessly shooting him dead.

Defence analyst Hassan Askari, a former visiting professor at New York's Columbia University, said the militants "have shown the government that they are quite effective, mobile and can take on the state".

He added: "It is unbelievable. We have never seen anything bolder than this here in Pakistan. Sri Lanka is not even a country that has forces in Afghanistan.

"An attack on its players is just a strong message for the Pakistani government, which now needs to to go all out against the militants to restore the writ of the state."

Pakistan, which supported Taliban emergence in the late 1990s in Afghanistan, joined the US-led international fight against terrorism following the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001.

But it has reluctantly acted against Islamic extremists launching cross border attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan.

As a result, Taliban militants have gained control over large areas in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) that borders Afghanistan, based barely one-and-a half hours' drive from Islamabad.

Their influence is spreading in Punjab, Pakistan's most populous and richest province, after issuing bans in the region on music, female education and men shaving.

The Pakistani government has appeared to yield to the militants by signing peace deals with them, such as that signed in the restive Swat region, where the government last month accepted the militants' demand for the introduction of Islamic Shariat law.

One reason for Pakistan's reluctance to take action against the Taliban springs from the old strategic theory, still popular among country's armed forces and diplomats, that the Taliban ensure the defence of Pakistan's eastern border against old rival India.

The two countries have fought three wars since their independence in 1947 - two over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, over which both India and Pakistan lay claim.

Pakistan's intelligence agencies have previously supported Kashmir-based militant organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is believed to have been behind the carnage in the Indian financial hub of Mumbai in November.

This approach, ingrained strongly in the national psyche, has prompted Pakistani politicians to blame Indian intelligence agencies for whatever ill goes on in the homeland.

But the militants' strategy this time might have back-fired. Most Pakistanis adore cricket, and the attack on Sri Lanka's team might lead to a clear estrangement between them and the extremists.

"It's shocking news for cricket-lovers in Pakistan. We strongly condemn the attack," said Shoeeb Bokhari, a shopkeeper in Islamabad, summing up the feelings of millions.

"Pakistan's blaming of foreign forces would not resolve the problem that is home-grown," said Askari.

"The Pakistani state needs to make up its mind whether it wants to deal with them hard or just make agreements with them. This is going to determine the future of the country. Otherwise, we are going to lose the country to the extremists, who are determined to take over."

China's Defence Budget to Go Up by 14.9% in 2009

China plans to increase its defence budget by 14.9 percent in 2009, a spokesman said here Wednesday.

The planned defence budget is 480.686 billion yuan ($70 billion), a rise of 62.482 billion yuan from last year, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the second session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), told a press conference.

Defence spending accounts for 6.3 percent of the country's total fiscal expenditure in 2009, slightly down from the level of previous years, Li said.

The budget rise follows a 17.6 percent increase in 2008 compared with the previous year.

Li said the increased spending is mainly for better treatment of servicemen, adding that more money would be used to adjust the subsidies and salaries to lift their living standards.

The increased budget will also be spent on the purchase of equipment and construction of facilities to enhance the ability of the military force to defend the country in the age of information, Li said.

The capacity of the armed forces for disaster relief and anti-terror operations shall also be enhanced. Spending on the reconstruction of military facilities damaged in the 8 magnitude earthquake that struck China's Sichuan province May 12 last year was also listed in this year's defence budget, he said.

Li described the defence budget growth as "modest", saying that China's defence expenditure was fairly low compared with other countries, considering the size of China's population and territory.

"China's defence expenditure accounted for 1.4 percent of it's GDP in 2008. The ratio was 4 percent for the US, and more than 2 percent for the United Kingdom, France and other countries.

"China's limited military force is mainly for safeguarding our sovereignty and territory and forms no threat to any other country," he said.

This year's draft national budget would be deliberated at the NPC annual session due to open in Beijing later Wednesday.

Li said the Chinese government began to submit an annual report on military expenditure to the United Nations from 2007.

"So the country has no so-called 'hidden military expenditure'," Li said.

In a white paper on China's national defence in 2008 that was issued in January this year, China said its defence expenditure had always been kept at a reasonable and appropriate level.

In the past three decades of reform and opening up, China has insisted that defence development should be both subordinated to and in the service of the country's overall economic development, according to the white paper.

"Although the share of China's defence expenditure in its GDP increased, that in the state financial expenditure continued to drop on the whole," says the paper.

In the past two years, the increased part of China's defence expenditure was primarily used to increase the salaries and benefits of servicemen, compensate for price rises and push forward the revolution in military affairs, according to the paper.

"Both the total amount and per-service-person share of China's defence expenditure remain lower than those of some major powers," it says.

DRDO says BrahMos test a success, Army sceptical

Press Trust of India

Wednesday, March 04, 2009, (New Delhi)

With the previous trial of BrahMos failing to hit its target, the DRDO on Wednesday conducted another test launch of the 290 km-range supersonic cruise missile at Pokhran in Rajasthan and claimed that it was a success.

However, the Army, which had punctured DRDO's success claim of the last trial, was still skeptical, saying it would comment on the test-firing only after its analysis of the flight and the mission was complete.

"The Block-II BrahMos missile was successfully launched at 10.30 hours this morning," officials of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), who developed the weapon system in collaboration with the Russians said.

The missile "took two-and-a-half minutes to strike its target," they said.

But the Army Headquarters refused to confirm or deny the success of the missile's test firing, stating that its officers present at the site were evaluating the data on the flight and the mission.

"We do not want to hurry up things and make a wrong claim on the test-firing of BrahMos. We are the end-users of the missile and we want to be 100 per cent sure of the weapon system's effectiveness before making our views on today's test known," senior Army officers said.

Israel navy head faces row after strip club visit

Indo-Asian News Service

Wednesday, March 04, 2009, (Tel Aviv)

Israeli legislators on Wednesday demanded that military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi fire Israel Navy head Eliezer Marom, who finds himself in hot water after visiting a Tel Aviv strip club earlier this week.

Lieutenant-General Ashkenazi has already reprimanded Rear-Admiral Marom, who apologised for the visit and admitted that it "did not accord with what is expected of an officer of his rank", Israeli media reported.

Newly-elected lawmaker Nahman Shai insisted however that Ashkenazi fire Marom for humiliating women and failing to set a personal example.

The Yediot Ahronot daily had reported Tuesday that Marom, smoking a cigar, drinking alcohol and surrounded by bare-chested women, had been spotted at a strip club in Tel Aviv's seedy Allenby Street Monday night.

The admiral said initially that he had only stayed for a short while at the club, after entering to say hello to a friend.

But the Ha'aretz daily quoted a witness as saying Marom came to the club by himself, in mufti (ordinary clothes), and stayed for about half an hour.

Marom, 53, was appointed to command the navy in August 2007. According to Ha'aretz, although his seamanship and operational abilities are beyond dispute, "some question his character".

The daily quoted employees of the strip club as saying that the visit was not Marom's first.

"He is a familiar face here. We thought he was a Chinese worker because he didn't come in uniform, and we didn't know he had a connection to the army," one said.

Marom has a Chinese grandfather.

BrahMos missile's test-fire a success, hits target

Press Trust Of India

POTENT WEAPON: The 290 km-range supersonic BrahMos cruise missile was test-fired on Wednesday.

New Delhi: After failing to hit its target in the previous test, a new version of the 290 km-range supersonic BrahMos cruise missile was on Wednesday successfully test launched at a firing range in Pokhran in Rajasthan desert.

"The Block II BrahMos missile was successfully launched at 1030 hours this morning," officials of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), who have developed the weapon system in collaboration with Russia scientists, said.

The missile "took two-and-a half-minutes to strike its target in the Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan," they said.

The test launch was witnessed by Deputy Army Chief (Planning and Systems) Lt Gen MS Dadwal among others. The latest land attack version of the missile has been developed for the Army and the weapon was fired in a vertical-launch configuration, the officials said.

The earlier test of the Indo-Russian joint venture missile was carried out on January 20 when after a successful take off, it deviated from its course mid-way and failed to hit the target.

The officials said that a "defect" in the software of the homing device of the missile had been rectified leading to its successful test on Wednesday.

The officials said the "unique" technology in the Block II BrahMos version made the missile an "unparalleled" one giving the armed forces the ability to hit targets in building clusters.

"The new seeker system is unique and it will help us to hit the targets, which may be insignificant in terms of size, in a cluster of large buildings. We are the only nation having this advanced technology," they claimed.

Some more launches of the Block II BrahMos system will be carried out since the Army has made it clear that it will induct the supersonic missile's new version only after it proves its capabilities in a series of tests to be conducted in the near future.

The officials said that the Army will start receiving deliveries of the 240 missiles ordered by it in two years from now as per the original schedule.

The Army has already armed one regiment with the Block I version of the missile. BrahMos, which is an Indo-Russian joint venture company, has its headquarters in Delhi.

Pakistan needs to dismantle terror outfits from its soil: BSF

PTI | March 04, 2009 | 20:51 IST

The Border Security Force director general, M L Kumawat on Wednesday said that India is surrounded by a very "dangerous" country like Pakistan and there was a need for our neighbour to dismantle all terror outfits from its soil.

"We had problem like 26/11 in Mumbai. There is need for Pakistan to act against all such terror outfits and dismantle them as the terrorists have already mentioned that they will attack our cities. It is a matter of concern for us and that's why our security forces should be very alert in dealing with the terrorists, who are highly trained and equipped with advanced lethal weapons," Kumawat said.

Speaking to media persons on the sidelines of a function in Hyderabad, he said there is always a spillover effect if Pakistan do not control terrorist outfits.

"Altogether it's a new paradigm for our security forces. So we need to prepare them professionally and equip them and increase their morale in whatever manner it can be done," the top BSF official said.

The role of security agencies had increased manifold after the government took many decisions in the last few months which will go a long way in improving the security system in the country, he said.

Reacting to a query on Tuesday's terrorists attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, the BSF official termed it as an internal problem of Pakistan.

Ordnance Scam
CBI asks MoD to take action
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 4
Finding lapses in the procurement of equipment worth crores done locally by Army units based in Ambala, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to initiate appropriate action in accordance with its policies against those involved.

Investigation by the CBI into alleged irregularities in the purchase of ordnance stores has revealed gross overpricing of items, formation of a cartel by various suppliers and negligence on the part of some officers. Motor vehicle spare parts, clothing and accessories and other items of general use were involved.

"We had sent the report on our findings along with our recommendations to the MoD a few days ago," Superintendent of Police (CBI), Mahesh Aggarwal said. Last year, the CBI had conducted raids at two ordnance units in Ambala after it received complaints of irregularities. The records for the past three years were examined. Each unit had a purchase budget of about Rs 1 crore annually.

CBI sources said their recommendations included placing a ban on the Army carrying out business with about half-a-dozen local contractors who figure in the investigations, besides initiating a departmental action against the officers involved.

Scrutiny of documents and other evidence revealed that some of the items were purchased from local vendors at rates three to four times higher than the prevailing market rates, CBI officers said.

For instance, there was wide variance in the prices mentioned against the index number of motor vehicle parts in catalogues available with authorised dealers and the prices mentioned in quotations and bills.

In many instances, the brand names of companies were not mentioned on the bills and the prices of items procured were higher than that of branded products, or locally made products were shown as branded items on files, a CBI officer said. Further, non-standardisation of certain items of clothing, accessories and general stores left scope for misappropriation.

The CBI also found indications of impersonation or some local suppliers and contractors forming a cartel and working in unison. This was borne out by the facts that several quotations received from supposedly different vendors for particular contracts were made out in the same handwriting.

A few months ago, the CBI had indicted two Army officers, including a Colonel of an Army transport company at Ambala and three civilian contractors for alleged irregularities in hiring vehicles for military use.

Investigations by the CBI revealed that Army authorities passed false and highly inflated bills submitted by the private firms, causing a loss of lakhs to the state.

New version of BrahMos test-fired again
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
Less than six weeks after a new software that had been developed to fine-tune the supersonic BrahMos missile failed, India today test-fired a land-attack version using the new software. "The specified and defined target of about 5 metres by 7 metres was hit and videographed also,"officials said here this evening.

The test was conducted by the BrahMos Aerospace in Rajasthan and watched by a team of senior army personnel. The Army team, led by a Lieutenant General-rank official, is expected to reveal its findings latter.

The new software is to guide a missile to its specified target. Otherwise, the missile jointly developed by India and Russia is highly successful. Today's test was conducted to upgrade its ability.

Normally, a missile picks out the biggest possible target among a cluster of targets; for example, a biggest building in the target zone. The new software will enable the missile to home in targets that may not be the biggest among the cluster but are very important. This will help in multi-target environment and when the specific target is identified before the launch. This is the first-ever attempt made by any country in the world to enable the missile in this manner.

So far the missile, a 290-kg weapon having a speed of 2.8 times of sound, has been inducted into the Navy and the Army. Officials said the tests were not routine, it was a very sophisticated development. Since the weapon has already been inducted the test was to fine-tune the nuclear capable missile to hit specific and defined targets.

This upgrade will enhance the capabilities of the missile in the land-attack configuration. The missile takes its name from the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers.

This complicated mission called for an advanced algorithm and intelligence embedded in the missile. Since cruise missiles fly at low altitudes, they have the ability to evade enemy radars and air-defence systems.

The supersonic anti-ship versions have already been inducted into the Indian Navy. An air launched version is being developed and is intended to be fitted onto the Indian Air Force's Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters.

Duplicity of Pak Army
'Strategic depth' for the Taliban
by G. Parthasarathy

Pakistan's politicians appear to learn nothing from their past history, when political uncertainty and lack of respect for democratic and constitutional norms and institutions inevitably led to military takeovers. Whether it was the coup staged by Gen Iskandar Mirza and Gen Ayub Khan within a decade of independence, the ouster of Bhutto after allegations of rigging national elections, or the 1999 Musharraf takeover, the political class had so thoroughly discredited itself that not a voice was raised whenever the Army's infamous 111 Brigade moved to takeover the country.

Is Pakistan moving in this direction again, as President Asif Ali Zardari and Mr Nawaz Sharif are locked in confrontation? Where is Pakistan headed for after Mr Zardari's refusal to restore former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry and the decision of a Supreme Court headed by a Chief Justice beholden to General Musharraf and Mr Zardari to declare Mr Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz ineligible to stand for elections and hold high office?

Mr Nawaz Sharif himself can have no great claims to being a stickler for constitutional propriety. Following the ouster of Benazir Bhutto in 1990 in a constitutional coup staged by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg, Mr Sharif led an alliance of right-wing parties, duly bankrolled by the ISI, to become Prime Minister.

During Mr Sharif's second term as Prime Minister, goons from his ruling Pakistan Muslim League led by his Political Secretary Mushtaq Tahir Kheli stormed the Supreme Court premises on November 28, 1997, during a growing confrontation with then Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. His present claims of "respect" for constitutional proprieties and independence of the judiciary are primarily motivated by his belief that, if restored, former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will declare General Musharraf's actions as illegal and even seek punitive action against the former military ruler. Mr Zardari believes that if this happens, even the immunity granted to him by General Musharraf on cases of corruption could well be revoked. Pakistan's squabbling and feudal politicians have still to learn that in political life compromise is a far better option than vendetta.

The Zardari-Sharif feud is being played out in Islamabad and in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's populous Punjab province, where Mr Sharif enjoys widespread support. This battle is being carried into Islamabad by lawyers across the country, demanding the restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. They are determined to converge in large numbers on the capital. Mr Zardari's coalition partners are uneasy over the looming confrontation and his authoritarian style of functioning is leading to tensions and differences within the ruling Pakistan People's Party and particularly with his handpicked Prime Minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

With Mr Gilani appearing determined to trim the President's powers by actions like seeking to disband the National Security Council, which the President presides over, Pakistan could well see a government hamstrung by internal rivalries and challenged by a confrontational opposition. In such a situation, the army, which has recognised that years of misrule by it has resulted in public disenchantment, will remain the dominant player in shaping national security policies while gleefully allowing the politicians to discredit themselves.

These developments have led to American and international recognition that outside powers and visiting VIPs have to deal directly with Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani while paying lip service to support for democracy in Pakistan. For India, this also means that the ability of Pakistan's civilian interlocutors to deliver results on issues like terrorism is very limited. This becomes important now because for the first time evidence corroborated by the FBI has emerged that the Pakistan Army-controlled Special Communications Organisation was involved in developing communications facilities for the Lashkar-e-taiyaba terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan, who executed the 26/11 Mumbai carnage. It also means that given the links of senior Lashkar functionaries like operations chief Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi and communications chief and ISI liaison man Zarar Shah with the ISI and other elements in the Pakistan Army, there is little prospect of a comprehensive investigation, or transparent trial, of the real perpetrators of the carnage.

All this is taking place even as noted American commentators like journalist David Sanger have exposed the duplicity of the Pakistan military establishment, led earlier by General Musharraf and now by General Kiyani, in providing assistance and haven to Taliban leaders and informing Taliban fighters of impending American military operations. Sanger has revealed that the CIA had monitored a conversation where General Kiyani described the top Taliban military commander Jalaluddin Haqqani as a "strategic asset".

Sanger has also described the ISI involvement in the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008. But Pakistan has paid a high price for its duplicity and the policies of successive army chiefs of seeking "strategic depth" in Afghanistan and "bleeding India with a thousand cuts," utilising radical Islamic groups. These groups have joined hands and created a situation wherein the entire Northwest Frontier Province including the picturesque Swat valley, located barely 100 miles from Islamabad, is now under effective Taliban rule. The Durand Line, which Afghanistan has never recognised as an international border, has virtually ceased to exist. Rather than gaining "strategic depth" for Pakistan within Afghanistan, all that the Pakistan Army has ended up doing is in giving "strategic depth" to the Taliban in Pakistan!

In this volatile situation, New Delhi cannot rule out the possibility of even more terrorist strikes in the coming months. America's prestigious Rand Corporation has carried out a detailed study authored, among others, by former US envoy to India Robert Blackwill and strategic analyst Ashley Tellis. The report notes that the objective of the Lashkar-e-taiyaba, which is dedicated to destroying what it calls a "Crusader, Zionist, Hindu Alliance", is not merely "liberating" Kashmir but also breaking up India and promoting Hindu-Muslim tensions. The report is critical of the absence of effective coordination between agencies like the Intelligence Bureau, the RAW and state police forces while noting that the police forces across India lack the equipment and training to meet serious terrorist threats.

While the new Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, has moved swiftly to deal with the mismanagement and inefficiency that his predecessor promoted in the country's security set-up, it would be a serious mistake to underestimate the challenges India still faces from jihadi terrorism emanating from across its borders and from radicalised youth within the country. The Rand Corporation report notes, "For the foreseeable future India is likely to remain a target of Pakistan-based terrorism." More importantly, it notes that while India understands the "costs of military action", it should clearly understand the costs of "not responding" to terrorist outrages sponsored from across its borders.

Avoiding Disaster in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a land mine. If not handled properly, it will blow a hole in the Obama presidency before the midterm elections. Peering down the barrel of the Afghan war, Yogi Berra would have said, "Don't make the wrong mistake." With Iraq consuming 4,000 American lives, 33,000 wounded thus far, and costs estimated between $1.5 and $3 trillion, U.S. taxpayers must ask precisely how homeland security is linked to Afghanistan, and if, indeed, they must gird themselves for another war of choice with more loss of American life and fortune while the nation confronts such pressing needs at home.

Barack Obama assumed office with 79 percent of Americans optimistic about his administration, including 59 percent of those who voted for John McCain. It was a moment like few others in modern times: the nation's nerve endings are raw after eight years of hope and reversals on the bloody fields of Iraq and Afghanistan; controversy surrounds Bush administration policies on civil liberties, executive power and spending; we are shocked by the sharp global disapproval of things American; and our economy is in near freefall. To be fair, George W. Bush has seen us through seven years without further terrorism at home—an important achievement. But the price of suppressing risk at home and abroad is heavy, and the picture for 2009 is not pretty.

Our hopes now rest with an untested president for the vision, determination, and agility that will surely be needed going forward. Analysts are correct when they say Obama has moved to the "center"; one assumes he understands this is not the time for adventure or risk or expenditure on anything but the critical need to restart the economy and maintain the nation's security. But does he?

Last October Obama said, "The trends across the board are not going in the right direction. Make no mistake: we are confronting an urgent crisis in Afghanistan, and we have to act. It's time to heed the call from General McKiernan and others for more troops. That's why I'd send at least two or three additional combat brigades to Afghanistan."

Since the election Obama and his new choice for chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, have proposed to increase U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan by 35,000. He would redeploy soldiers being withdrawn from Iraq and hopes to persuade the Europeans to provide additional NATO troops. Present plans also call for discussions with the more approachable Taliban elements, outreach programs that emphasize reconciliation and cooperation with tribal elders, and providing local leaders funds to help protect roads, bridges, cell phone towers. And food shipments.

Yet U.S. and British NATO officers returning from their tours of duty are nearly unanimous in saying the Taliban have consolidated their position, that they have the momentum, that things are going in the wrong direction. Troop shortages and a failure to find common ground with local leaders have brought little progress. Despite promises, we have rarely followed up to provide water and electricity to battle-scarred villages, leaving tribesmen alienated and reliant on the Taliban. This has been made worse by our opium eradication program that destroys the cash crop most farmers rely upon to survive.

How Did We Get Here?

Taliban rule in Kabul was broken seven years ago in a lightning 22-day U.S. strike whose ferocity and effectiveness stunned military staffs from Moscow to Beijing to Tehran. Today, however, the Taliban controls all but the capital in this "graveyard of empires" nearly the size of Texas. It's a violent tribal society rooted in Islamic fundamentalism, with 27 percent literacy, 40 percent unemployment, and 80 political parties. Founded in 1747 when Ahmad Shah Durrani unified the Pashtun tribes, this land of the Khyber Pass, celebrated by Rudyard Kipling, has not been conquered since Alexander the Great. Hoping to maintain a buffer between British India and Russia, Afghan tribesmen held their ground in 1842 to slaughter a British expeditionary force of some 15,000 men— leaving one man to escape and relate the grotesque horrors of the battle.

Then 147 years later, the USSR, bled white over 10 years, was defeated by the mujahideen with help from CIA-supplied Stinger missiles. And today the story remains the same: determined Islamist fighters with al Qaeda assistance, based in the border tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan, have fought the NATO coalition to a standstill. Hamid Karzai, known in-country, as the "President of Kabul," has made little progress in democratizing the country, while U.S. and UK casualties in 2008 were the highest since the 2001 invasion.

Some Hard Questions

As the new administration urges its reluctant British, Canadian, Dutch, and German allies to commit additional troops to the Afghan effort, the time has come for a few hard questions. First, what, exactly, is the U.S. national interest in Afghanistan?

Second, what, exactly, is the objective in Afghanistan: Is it to bring democratic governance to this vast, disconnected tribal system? Is it to pacify one province after another in hopes of bringing stability?

Is it, as analyst Andrew Bacevich says, simply to assure that terrorist forces intent on attacking the U.S. do not assemble there?

Third, is there any example in history of an outside power either subduing Afghanistan or modifying its tribal structure or values?

Fourth, can the American people be persuaded that stabilizing or transforming Afghanistan is worth the price in blood and fortune?

Fifth, what is the exit strategy? What constitutes success?

There are no agreed answers to these questions within the U.S. government or among the NATO partners. In my conversations with Admiral Mullen, the head of the Afghan program at Voice of America, and a recent assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, I found no agreement on the objective of our Afghan policy, no agreement on what we can or should spend or on an exit strategy. Nor is there agreement on whether Afghanistan is a stand-alone problem. It may be that the Afghan situation cannot be addressed without addressing an increasingly dysfunctional government in Pakistan. There is no mystery as to what is at stake here. Simple math indicates the administration's commitment to restarting the U.S. economy means we cannot undertake another war costing billions, if not trillions of dollars. Moreover, the military is overstretched, which means we lack the manpower to apply overwhelming force at critical times and places.

Nor would we have the manpower to respond to emergencies in other parts of the world were we heavily committed in Afghanistan. But most of all, there is no public desire, no stomach, among the American people for another war of choice. Twice in the past half-century we have undertaken substantial military efforts abroad without sufficient public support and both, Vietnam and Iraq, have, in effect distorted and then destroyed the presidencies at the time.

The vast majority of Americans believe it is time to heal ourselves. Curiously, one asks why Barack Obama, given his public commitment to job creation, health care, and education, regulatory, and financial reform—is not among them.

The Way Forward

First, we must determine if Afghanistan is a stand-alone problem, then define our objectives and gain broad public support for whatever approach we take both in the U.S. and among our NATO allies. Failure to achieve this will bring political disaster to the Obama administration, compromise NATO, and continue the stalemate in Afghanistan.

Second, accept the lessons of history. Afghanistan is known as the "graveyard of empires" for a reason. Conquest has been attempted through the ages but has not succeeded in the Christian era.

Today limited funds and an overstretched military impose choices. We are not able to mount a sustained military effort in Afghanistan unless we choose to neglect today's pressing domestic economic requirements, or intend to assume heavy additional tax burdens or place additional crushing debt on future generations.

Given these conditions, a two-dimensional approach may make sense: first, accept that the objective is to deny the Taliban and al Qaeda a base in Afghanistan from which to strike the U.S. or its interests. Second, accept that separating the Taliban from opium revenues strikes at its ability to obtain weaponry. Then combine "soft" and "hard power" to use what Harvard professor Joseph Nye calls "smart power" to achieve this by addressing the opium issue and the Taliban/al Qaeda threat together.

Progress on the opium issue was made last June when the Group of Eight foreign ministers met in Japan and created a coordinating body to oversee the provision of some $4 billion in aid to the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their purpose is to improve police and military training and anti-drug trafficking programs. The anti-drug trafficking program is modeled on the Nixon-Kissinger program in Turkey that used product licensing to encourage Turkish farmers to sell their illegal opium crops to pharmaceutical companies to make legal medicine. This program would encourage Afghan farmers to sell their opium produce to an NGO that would pay them the same or more than they would get from the Taliban. The NGO would then sell it to hospitals worldwide to help address the global shortage in morphine. Clearly, this would cost less than fighting the Taliban and it would have the effect of cutting off the revenue the Taliban use to purchase weapons. (Moreover, there is some indication Tehran would be sympathetic to such an initiative that might provide the platform for expanded discussions to, eventually, include nuclear issues.)

Secondly, the Taliban and al Qaeda could be denied bases and training facilities by fully deploying the highly mobile strike capacity created by the U.S. military over the past decade. Continuing, and unpredictable, strikes by these forces would make Taliban/al Qaeda attack planning difficult if not impossible. Such U.S./NATO units would be deployed with the acknowledgment of Kabul and Pakistani authorities where necessary, and would avoid: (1) the greater cost of deploying large number of troops to permanent bases in-country, (2) tensions with our allies over troop commitments, (3) the need to generate broad public support for yet another "war."

Suppressing the Taliban and separating it from its main source of financial support would render tribal authorities more approachable by the Karzai government. Finally, this approach accepts that neither we nor our allies fully understand the technology of nation building—and that this is not a nation-building effort—but we are prepared to join the international community in providing humanitarian assistance and stabilization measures at the request of the Kabul

Stefan Halper is a senior research fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and a senior fellow at the Cambridge Centre of International Studies, where he is director of the Donner Atlantic Studies Program. He is author of The Silence of the Rational Center: Why American Foreign Policy Is Failing (Basic Books).

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