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Monday, 9 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 09 Mar 09

DNA India

Asian Age

DNA India

Indian Express

Telegraph India

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Asian Age

The Pioneer

The Pioneer

DNA India

Times of India

Asian Age

Asian Age

Asian Age

Asian Age

Will US attack Pakistan to secure nuclear weapons?

Speculation is rife that United States of America, increasingly worried by the expansion of fundamentalist and Jehadi forces in Pakistan, could attack that country to secure its nuclear arsenal. Such a move could suck many nations into the quagmire..

WILL THE attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the heart of Pakistan prove to be the last straw on the camel’s back? Has the belligerence shown by the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba convinced the world that no business is possible with the Jehadis?

The answer to these questions cannot be a straight yes or no. However, if the grapevine is to be believed then the next few months could see a paradigm shift in the War Against Terror in so much so that there could be a possibility of a war staring South Asia.

Speculation is rife that United States of America, increasingly worried by the expansion of fundamentalist and Jehadi forces in Pakistan, could attack that country to secure its nuclear arsenal. US fears that terror groups, either forcibly or with the connivance of security official can manage to obtain a nuclear weapon, a situation which could be nothing less than catastrophe.

India, which is holding the elections next month could also be seriously affected, if the US seriously pursues the aggressive agenda and decides to divest Pakistan of nuclear weapons. Most probably the elections scheduled in April will have to be postponed in case of such an attack and an emergency like situation could be imposed here.

Indian army will also be pushed to stand at the borders and remain vigilant in case Pakistan decides to use the US attack as a ruse to teach India a lesson. A frustrated Pak army could also make a push towards India as it will need an enemy to fight a war, in the sense that fighting US is almost an improbability.

The immediate reason behind the shift in the US policy, it seems, is the brazen attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers, in which several people were killed. The utter failure of security forces and the inability of the Pakistani establishment to catch the culprits has further added to the US discomfiture.

Political and security establishment in US is worried about the manner in which the Taliban and other groups are taking over Pakistan. The day is not far when their ambitions run riot and they decide to take over the nukes.

It is this possibility of nukes falling in dangerous hands that is giving sleepless nights to the Americans.

To preempt any such happening, it is being speculated that US is likely to take a more proactive stand than seen in this past.

Political observers, however, feel that in case US decides to attack Pakistan then it could be interpreted as an attack on a Muslim country. This could also bring neighbours India and China into this conflict as an attack on Pakistan will need Indian support and the Chinese won't like this.

They are also considered to be close to Pakistan government and military and would not like Americans flexing muscle in their backyard. China has also played an important part in helping Pakistan develop nuclear weapons and missile programme.

Some experts opine that this could be a premature step; if US ever takes such a step, it could suck many nations into a war, which is not needed at this time.

BDR mutiny was aimed at triggering civil war: Hasina

Press Trust of India

Sunday, March 08, 2009, (Dhaka)

Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina has said the recent mutiny in the paramilitary force BDR which killed 73 "brilliant" army officers was aimed at triggering a civil war and warned that the masterminds behind the bloody revolt still wanted to achieve their goal.

"The aim of the conspirators, who had staged the bloody incidents at BDR headquarters killing scores of brilliant army officers, was to trigger anarchy and push the country to the brink of a civil war ... They (mutiny masterminds) still want to set off a civil war," she said during a discussion at her Awami League party's meeting in Dhaka on Sunday.

The 33-hour mutiny by the rebel BDR soldiers on February 25-26 had claimed 77 lives, 73 of them Army officers. However, Hasina said that her government, which came to power after her party swept the December 29 general elections, had successfully tackled the crisis.

She urged all to be alert so that the perpetrators could not commit similar crimes again in their bid to destroy the country's democracy, which was restored after the landmark polls following two years of state of emergency.

Hasina also renewed her earlier pledge to bring the "killers and the conspirators" to justice, even if it required enacting new laws.

US is not winning in Afghanistan: Obama

Press Trust of India

Sunday, March 08, 2009, (New York)

Admitting that the United States is not winning in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has opened the door for a reconciliation process in which his troops could reach out to moderate elements in Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.

In an interview with the New York Times, when asked if the United States was winning in Afghanistan -- a war Obama effectively adopted as his own last month by ordering an additional 17,000 troops being sent there, he flatly replied "No."

Obama pointed to the success in peeling Iraqi insurgents away from more hard-core elements of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a strategy that many credit as much as the increase of the US forces with turning the war around in the last two years.

"There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani region," he said, while cautioning that solutions in Afghanistan will be complicated.

In a 35-minute conversation aboard Air Force One on Friday, the Times said, Obama reviewed the challenges to his young administration.

He spoke at length about the struggle with terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere, staking out positions that at times seemed more comparable to those of his predecessor than many of his more liberal supporters would like.

Obama, during his campaign trail last year, had talked about exploring the possibility of breaking away some elements of the Taliban, an idea also considered by some military leaders, the paper noted.

But now, he has started a review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan intended to find a new strategy, and signalled that reconciliation could emerge as an important initiative, mirroring the strategy used by General David H Petraeus in Iraq.

"If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of Al Qaeda in Iraq," Obama said.

At the same time, he acknowledged that outreach may not yield the same success. "You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, and so figuring all that out is going to be much more of a challenge," he said.

For American military planners, reaching out to some members of the Taliban is fraught with complexities, the paper said, adding that for one thing, officials would have to figure out which Taliban members might be within the reach of a reconciliation campaign, "no easy task in a lawless country with feuding groups of insurgents."

The US officials, the Times said, have criticised the Pakistani government for its own reconciliation deal with local Taliban leaders in the Swat Valley, where Islamic law has been imposed and radical figures hold sway.

Pakistani officials have sought to reassure the US officials that their deal was not a surrender to the Taliban, but rather an attempt to drive a wedge between hard-core Taliban leaders and local Islamists.

During the interview, he also did not rule out the option of snatching terror suspects out of hostile countries.

"There could be situations and I emphasise 'could be' because we haven't made a determination yet where, let's say that we have a well-known Al Qaeda operative that doesn't surface very often, appears in a third country with whom we don't have an extradition relationship or would not be willing to prosecute, but we think is a very dangerous person," he said.

"I think we still have to think about how do we deal with that kind of scenario," he added. The president went on to say that "we don't torture" and that "we ultimately provide anybody that we're detaining an opportunity through habeas corpus to answer to charges."

The Time said aides later explained that Obama did not mean to suggest that everybody held by American forces would be granted habeas corpus or the right to challenge their detention.

In a court filing last month, the Obama administration agreed with the Bush administration position that 600 prisoners in a cavernous prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan have no right to seek their release in court.

Instead, aides said Obama's comment referred only to a Supreme Court decision last year finding that prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, have the right to go to federal court to challenge their continued detention. Obama, the paper said, signaled that those on the left seeking a wholesale reversal of Bushs detainee policy might be disappointed.

He said that by the time he got into office, the Bush administration had taken "steps to correct certain policies and procedures after those first couple of years" after the September 11 attacks.

He credited not Bush but the former Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael V Hayden and the former director of national intelligence Mike McConnell, who "really had America's security interests in mind when they acted, and I think were mindful of American values and ideals."

Territorial Army jawan allegedly joins Lashkar-e-Toiba

Press Trust Of India

The Army and police have launched a major operation to track down the absconding jawan.

Jammu: A day after the Lashkar-e-Toiba appointed new leaders from among its ranks, a Jawan in Jammu and Kashmir Territorial Army has allegedly joined the terrorist group.

Zaffarullah Khan Parray of Behlulia, Doda escaped from Anta camp of the Territorial Army unit in Dachan area with two AK rifles, one insas rifle, five AK magazines, twi insas magazines and some ammunition on Saturday night, police said.

The Army and police launched a major operation to track down the absconding jawan.

Police have registered a case.

Army jawan shoots himself in Doda

March 08, 2009 14:34 IST

An army jawan allegedly committed suicide on Sunday by shooting himself with his service rifle in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir [Images]. Jawan sepoy Atul Kumar Tiwari of 8 Rastriya Rifles shot himself while on guard duty at Arnoora Rashtriya Rifles camp in Doda district early on Sunday, police said.

After hearing the gunshots, the jawans and officers rushed to spot and found Tiwari dead in a pool of blood, they


The police have registered a case and took the body to a Doda hospital for post-mortem, he said adding that the reason behind the jawan taking the extreme step is not known. The Army has ordered a court of inquiry into the incident.

Taliban kill 14 abducted Pak soldiers

Islamabad, March 8
Pakistani Taliban have shot dead 14 security personnel, a day after kidnapping them in a tribal region near the Afghan border, an official said today.

The Taliban abducted the security personnel yesterday after an exchange of fire in Mohmand Agency, assistant administrative officer Rasool Khan said.

Local residents found the bullet-riddled bodies of the securitymen in the mountainous areas of Omar Banda and Ayesha Kuroona today.

The security forces collected the bodies, Khan said.

The security forces also launched a major operation against those responsible for killing the security personnel, witnesses said.

Troops blocked all roads in the area and initiated a search to catch the militants.

Mohmand Agency is located near the restive Bajaur tribal region. Security officials believe the Taliban sneaked into Mohmand Agency after the army expelled them from Bajaur, where the army claims to have killed over 1,500 militants.

In January, security forces launched a major offensive against militants in Mohmand Agency. The army has claimed it has killed around 60 militants in the area.

The Taliban in Mohmand Agency are led by Omar Khalid.

Local media reported in January that Khalid was killed in fighting with security forces but Taliban spokesman Ikramullah Mohm and denied these reports. — PTI

Over 100 Tamil rebels killed in fierce clashes

COLOMBO (AFP) — More than 100 Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed in two days of fighting in Sri Lanka as they tried to break a military stranglehold, the defence ministry said on Sunday.

They died when the army beat back a series of counter-attacks Friday and Saturday by the Tiger rebels against advancing government forces in the district of Mullaittivu in the northeast.

Fresh fighting erupted on Sunday with heavy casualties reported among the rebels, military officials said, without giving further details.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were in control of large swathes of the north and east of Sri Lanka less than two years ago, have now been cornered in a small patch of jungle.

"As the Mullaittivu battle reached its last phase, the LTTE terrorists made several desperate attempts in vain to infiltrate the military forward defences," the defence ministry statement said.

"Over 100 terrorists were killed and as many injured since Friday."

The government accused the Tigers of deploying heavy mortars and artillery guns inside a designated security zone where large numbers of civilians have gathered to shelter from the fighting.

Concern over the danger to non-combatants has mounted as government troops fight to wipe out the remnant rebels, with the International Committee of the Red Cross saying hundreds of civilians have been killed in crossfire.

With the Tigers encircled Sri Lankan military leaders have said they hope to crush the guerrillas by next month -- a victory that would end 37 years of armed conflict on the island.

Sri Lanka's top defence official, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, said recently that the offensive against the Tigers had been slowed in a bid to ensure the safety of civilians whom he said were being used by the rebels as human shields.

Rajapakse, President Mahinda Rajapakse's younger brother, said the military has stopped using long-range weapons and air attacks against remaining Tiger rebels, who are known to mingle with civilians.

The government calculates more than 36,000 civilians have escaped from the LTTE and sought shelter in relief camps in the island's north.

Nearly 500 more civilians fled Saturday, the military said, adding however that three people were shot dead by the rebels Friday as they tried to leave.

Sri Lanka officially estimates that 70,000 non-combatants remain trapped, but the United Nations says that number could be about 200,000.

Reports from the battle zone are impossible to verify as journalists, aid groups and international monitors are banned from travelling freely in the area.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week reiterated his call for a swift halt to the conflict to avoid further civilian casualties.

"He strongly deplores the mounting death toll of civilians in the area of fighting, including a significant number of children," his office said in a statement.

The Tigers, who have fought since 1972 for a separate Tamil homeland in Sinhalese-majority Sri Lanka, have not commented on the latest fighting, but their recent calls for a conditional truce were rejected by the government.

‘NSG men were shocked to find aviation crew missing’

New Delhi, March 8
Elite NSG commandos, on their way to Mumbai to fight terrorists in the early hours of November 27, were in for a rude shock when they found crew of the Aviation Research Centre plane missing.

“I was a little surprised ... I thought the crew was there. But they were at their homes. I called up the Aviation Research Centre Director around midnight for a plane and he said it would be ready by 2.30 am after refuelling,” former NSG chief JK Dutt said.

Dutt, who boarded the plane along with the first batch of 200 black cat commandos told here although there was no delay on NSG’s part for a take-off from Delhi, the “commandos had to lift the ammunition and heavy explosive boxes themselves, which also tires out the men.” Dutt said reports on former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil having kept the commando flight waiting were unfounded.

“I got a call from the Home Minister’s residence, which said the Minister wanted me to accompany him. I told them I would like to accompany my men in the same transport plane. They then said Patil would also come and board the same aircraft... I told them the huge plane had no air-conditioning and other facilities. I reached the Minister’s residence at around 1.45 am. By 2.20 am, we (Patil and myself) boarded the plane and the plane took off at 2.30 am,” Dutt said.

He said the crack commandos based at the Manesar garrison were asked to report by 2.00 am as a matter of Standard Operating Procedure.

“I was anticipating the events since the time I started viewing the visuals of the attack on Mumbai and hence I asked commandos of the 51 Special Action Group to remain prepared even before the orders of sending the NSG were given,” Dutt said.

He said the NSG Act at that time did not permit him to requisite a private passenger plane for “anti-terror operations”.

“The NSG Act only allowed the DG to requisition a private aircraft for anti-hijack operations and hence the question did not arise then,” Dutt said. — PTI

The last flight
IAF bids farewell to MiG-23

Last Friday the Indian Air Force formally retired the last of its Soviet-made MiG-23 BN fighters after 28 years of service and almost a decade after this aircraft was de-inducted by most former Warsaw Pact members. The only time this swing-wing aircraft, developed in the early 1970s, fired in anger was during the Kargil War when it contributed to 30 per cent of the attack missions. But for most part of its service life, the IAF’s 95 MiG-23s flew training missions and earned the distinction of becoming the first fighter aircraft to cross Kashmir’s Banihal Pass at night. Its interceptor variant, the MiG-23 MF, which was bought in response to Pakistan’s acquisition of F-16 multi-role fighters in the early 1980s, was earlier phased out in 2007.

Nostalgia apart for the pilots of this aircraft with its otherwise high accident record, the phasing out of the MiG-23s has contributed to the depleting strength of the IAF which is down from its sanctioned fighter squadron strength of 39.5 to an unprecedented 32. It will not be until 2017 before the IAF can currently hope to return to its original squadron strength. But this again is dependent on when the indigenously developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft can be inducted in the IAF, the timely induction of 126 multi-role combat aircraft for which a request for proposals has been floated, and a hitch-free Sukhoi-30 MKI production line. Indeed, never before has the IAF found itself in this state of depleting aircraft strength at a time when air power has become very important in military operations.

The IAF is in the midst of a major modernisation programme and is inducting altogether new weapon platforms and force multipliers. It has already inducted mid-air refuelling capability and unmanned aerial vehicles, and will soon be adding airborne warning and control aircraft while launching its first satellite next year. The IAF (as also the Navy) is central to India’s strategic interests which extend from the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf to the Malacca Straits near Singapore. Therefore, fresh inductions and modernisation have to keep pace with de-inductions, future needs and advances in technology. Else, the country will be in danger of being left with an out-dated aircraft and technology with an unstable neighbourhood and China’s growing military muscle.

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