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Friday, 13 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 13 Mar 09

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Pakistan in crisis, India gets headache


AT UNEASE: India and Pakistani border guards in Wagah. Pakistan's main Opposition is on a protest march.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Thursday and reviewed the developments in Pakistan, where political instability is deepening.

New Delhi issued a statement saying "strong and stable regimes" are needed in the neighbourhood to combat terrorism.

This was the first CCS meeting chaired by the Prime Minister since he underwent coronary bypass surgery around seven weeks ago.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony and Home Minister P. Chidambaram attended the meeting.

The meeting analysed the ramifications of political instability in Pakistan on the security situation, reliable sources said.

The meeting also discussed the deals struck by Pakistan with the Taliban in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) which have implications on the security of India, especially in the context of cross-border terrorism directed from elements in the neighbouring country.

India has chosen not to comment explicitly on the "internal affairs" of a neighbouring country.

"We do hope these issues will be resolved by their own system and by their own mechanism," Pranab Mukherjee told reporters after the CCS meeting.

"It's essential that there is a stable government which is responsible and responsive to the situation," he underlined.

The Pakistani media is full of speculation about strains in relations between the powerful army and the civilian government in that country and the political standoff between President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Nawaz Sharif that has fuelled reports about a possible military coup in that country.

Defying a government ban, Sharif's supporters have joined protesting lawyers in their "long march" to Islamabad to demand the reinstatement of deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and other judges.

The political climate worsened after Zardari sacked the government of then Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif following the Supreme Court's disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and his brother over old charges of corruption.

"The recent developments in Pakistan are an internal matter of the country. We never comment on internal matters of any sovereign nation," Mukherjee said.

"Pakistan is an important neighbour. I hope that all internal matters will be resolved by its leadership amicably and peacefully, in its best interests," he said.

"We have always been interested to see strong and stable regimes, more so in our neighbourhood, so that the entire region can grow and develop together, for the common good of its people," Mukherjee said.

"This is even more relevant to Pakistan, to enable her to fight against elements in the country that are utilising the terror infrastructure there and engaging in terrorism within Pakistan and outside," the minister stressed.

Pakistani media is reporting that Zardari has decided to end Governor's rule in Punjab--a key demand of Sharif--and that his Pakistan Peoples Party is in talks with the PML-Q to try and form a coalition in Punjab province.

Pakistan's Interior Ministry has promised the Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz, VVIP security and warned them of serious threat to their life.

IAF gets its first DG Operations
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 12
Air Marshal D C Kumaria today took over as the first ever Director-General Operations at the Air Headquarters here.

Air Marshal Kumaria was commissioned as a fighter pilot in the flying branch of IAF on July 2, 1973. A graduate of Defence Services Staff College, he is a Qualified Weapon Instructor having undergone the QWI course in the United Kingdom and a Fighter Combat Leader, who also served as a Directing Staff at the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE).

He has held many important field and staff appointments in his service career. He has been Assistant Adviser (Air) at Indian High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and has served as a defence attaché at Indian Embassy in Rome (Italy) with concurrent accreditation to the Iberian countries. He was especially selected to write the Air Power Doctrine of the IAF in 1994. He has commanded a frontline Jaguar Squadron specialising in Maritime Strike Role as well as a fighter air base and has had an operational experience of flying all versions of MiG-21 and Jaguar aircraft.

He has also functioned as the Principle Director of Concept Studies at Air Headquarters, as Air I at Headquarters Western Air Command and Assistant Chief of Air Staff Operations (Space) at Air Headquarters prior to taking over as the first ever Director General Operations at Air Headquarters.

Air Marshal Kumaria was awarded Vayu Sena Medal in 1983 and Vishisht Seva Medal in 1996 and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in 2007 for distinguished service of high order.

Fight against gender bias in Army

Neha Khanna

Thursday, March 12, 2009, (New Delhi)

More than 20 women Army officers, current and former, are fighting a tough battle in the Delhi High Court. They want the terms of employment for women in the Army to be revised. Currently, women officers have to retire after 14 years in service, irrespective of their record.

In addition to being subjected to rules that don't apply to male officers. This means women officers are not eligible for pension and other benefits.

Major Sandhya Yadav will have to quit the Army this month. She doesn't have a choice. As a woman, she's entitled to just 14 years in service.

"Corporates don't value army experience much. To top it all, there's recession in the market. Where do we go from here? It's such a bleak future," she says.

Women were first allowed into the army in 1992. In 2005, the Army explained its policy of limiting the service for women to 14 years.

In an affidavit filed in the High Court, the Army said.

"The background of our troops who hail from rural areas with fixed concepts of women had to be considered at the time of induction of women as officers into the Army. Grant of permanent commission would result in placing women officers as Commanding Officers of units, which was considered inappropriate."

In September last year, the government did revise the rules. To give women the same tenure as men. But this applies only to new recruits and not to women already in service.

Retd Lt Gen G L Bakshi says: "If principally, we've agreed that they're fit to be taken into certain corps and services, and that they will perform adequately, I see no reason why they can't continue to perform for a longer period." The Army says the final call will have to be taken by the government.

Army counsel Dalip Mehra says: "There could be various ramifications which the government has to consider.The financial implications, seniority in the Army, the effect on the male counterparts -- who have gone through a lot of other drills to get permanent commission which these women have not."

The matter next comes up for hearing in the last week of April. By then, an entire batch of lady officers would have retired -- and not by choice. But these women say they will continue to fight this battle. For them, it's not about personal gains -- it's about equality and fairness.

With the situation in Pakistan fast spinning out of control, the Nawaz Sharif-led long march begins on Friday from Karachi, sparking fears of possible army action.

US drone attack kills 7 in Pak's tribal area

Press Trust of India

Friday, March 13, 2009, (Islamabad)

At least seven persons were killed in missile strikes carried out by a US drone in Pakistan's Kurram tribal region on Thursday.

The US drone fired at least four missiles at a home in a village in Kurram agency, official sources were quoted by TV channels as saying.

There was no official word on the casualties though TV channels and witnesses said seven persons were killed in the attack.

Kurram agency was in the news recently for intense sectarian clashes between Shia and Sunni tribesmen that killed hundreds of people.

There were reports of Taliban militants infiltrating the area to back the Sunni tribesmen.

The US has not stopped drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal belt despite Islamabad's protests that such strikes are counter-productive and a violation of the country's sovereignty. There have been more than six drone attacks since US President Barack Obama assumed office.

'India remains Pakistan's primary target'

Columnist: Bharat Verma

March 12, 2009

Today, India is ringed by turbulent states -- Pakistan (land boundary with India 3,310 km in the northwest), Nepal (land boundary with India 1,751 km in the north), Bangladesh (land boundary with India 4,095 km in the southeast) and Myanmar (land boundary with India 1,463 km in the northeast).

Turbulence has percolated through India's porous borders in the form of arms and narcotics to finance insurgents, militants, terrorists and religious fundamentalists.

India remains Pakistan's primary target and operating ground for Islamic fundamentalists and terrorist groups who infiltrate through Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), Nepal and Bangladesh and carry out anti-Indian activities with impunity.

Nepal is vulnerable to China's influence. Its extremists have linkages with the People's War Group in India. In its bid to expand its influence, the PWG has carved a corridor ringing the states of Andhra Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh-Orissa-West Bengal-Jharkhand-Bihar.

This endless internal turbulence in India is also inter-linked with external factors. To the north, India shares a 3,440-km long border with China, which can pose the entire spectrum of conventional, nuclear and missile threats. It can also influence and use as proxy Indias neighbours to weigh India down in every possible way.

In short, India's 14,058-km long land frontier is impacted by a perpetually hostile or semi-hostile environment. Indian security stands threatened by demographic assault, arms and drug smuggling, and the safe havens that the insurgents have in India.

Fundamentalist-religious groups in Bangladesh under Pakistani tutelage, West Asian finance and China's patronage have synergized sufficiently to add to Indias security headache. The grim reality is that the unending turbulence will continue to afflict our land and sea frontiers and airspace.

Pakistan turmoil: PM reviews situation at CCS

New Delhi (PTI): With Pakistan plunging into political turmoil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday took stock of the situation at the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which he chaired for the first time since his bypass surgery about seven weeks back.

The CCS assessed the implications of political instability in Pakistan, particularly on cross-border terrorism which affects India directly, sources said.

The meeting was also attended by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

Pakistan is witnessing political crisis leading to speculation that there could be a change of guard with army assuming greater role.

Mr. Mukherjee described the developments in Pakistan as its "internal matter" but said India wants to see the government in the neighbouring country stable so that it can tackle terrorism emanating from there.

"We do hope these issues will be resolved by their own system and by their own mechanism," Mr. Mukherjee told reporters after the CCS meeting when asked to comment on the developments in Pakistan.

India expected to buy Singapore howitzers

NEW DELHI, March 12 — Singapore is the front runner to supply the Indian military's planned purchase of ultralight howitzers, the Republic's first major defence contract from South Asia's dominant power, people familiar with the developments said.

"Most of the technical evaluation of the contract to buy 145 pieces of the ultra-lightweight 155mm cannons has been done," said an Indian official who has proved reliable in the past.

Should the deal come through - possibly after field trials - it will be a major breakthrough for Singapore into India's arms market and help boost its economy's sagging export order-book.

The value of the contract is believed to be about S$1 billion (RM2.3 billion).

ST Kinetics confirmed that it had participated in the tender for the Indian army's ultra-lightweight howitzer and towed howitzer requirements.

"As with all our commercial and defence negotiations, we are bound by customers" confidentiality requirements," a company spokesman in Singapore said.

New Delhi, reliant on the Soviet Union and its successor state Russia for most of its defence needs, has embarked on a plan to diversify its arms purchases. Israel is nudging Russia to be the top supplier while US companies are eyeing major deals with the Indian Air Force and Indian

ST Kinetic's Pegasus ultralight howitzers, which weigh just above 5 tonnes, are capable of firing three rounds in 24 seconds. Heavy use of titanium and light alloy aluminium gives the machines both mobility and ruggedness.

The Pegasus can be transported by helicopter as well as fixed wing aircraft.

In the case of India's military that would probably mean Mi-26 heavy lift helicopters and Ilyushin 76 aircraft.

Only two companies, ST Kinetics and BAe Systems have weapons that match India's specifications for the ultralight guns. It was not clear if BAe had bid for the contract, though the Britain-based company is said to have displayed the weapon at a trade event in India last year.

Singapore also was included in the list of nations to which India sent the Request for Proposals for the heavier 52-calibre howitzers, people familiar with the issue said.

That contract, for which there are several more bidders, envisages the outright purchase of 400 artillery pieces and licensed production in India of another 1,180 pieces.

The tender for the ultralight cannons does not include a clause for licensed production in India, according to people who have seen the documents. — The Straits Times

Pakistan on the brink
Zardari faces ordeal of fire

Pakistan appears to be on the edge of a precipice yet again. Its fresh experiment with democracy is doomed to failure. The Taliban and other radical Islamist forces have gained control of portions of the country and the Army is groping for direction. At the heart of the current political crisis are political differences between President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over restoring deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, which is seen as an unfinished business ever since former President Pervez Musharraf dismissed the latter along with some other judges and anointed his favourities to this critical pillar so crucial for the success of a democracy. The recent Supreme Court judgment barring Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from contesting elections that led to the latter's removal from the post of Punjab Chief Minister followed by imposition of governor's rule has precipitated the political stand off between Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari whose control over Pakistan is tenuous. As such it seems that Mr Zardari's days could be numbered.

In any seasoned democracy, political differences and agitations are viewed as normal and do not signify a failed state. But in Pakistan, electoral politics and democracy have failed to take root. The 'long march' by lawyers egged on by a vitriolic Nawaz Sharif and the consequent crackdown that began on Thursday is not the sole issue of concern. Pakistan has been fast giving in to the Taliban and as the two seniormost US intelligence officials — the Director, National Intelligence and Director, Military Intelligence — have testified before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Pakistan has lost its authority in the north and west and in even the more developed parts of the country. It has allowed the Taliban to operate freely from Quetta while the tribal areas have become a 'central nervous system' for the al-Qaida.

This dangerous internal situation in Pakistan does not augur well for India. Some hope may lie in the recent meeting between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani for finding a compromise. But if all fails, it remains to be seen whether the Pakistan Army will step in again even though Mr Sharif has completely ruled it out. If, however, it does, this time it will be a stretched Pakistan Army, which, despite its deployment of 120,000 troops, has not been able to control the Swat Valley and is accused of only half-heartedly helping the US in its War on Terror.

France to return as full NATO member
by Edward Cody

President Charles de Gaulle infuriated the United States when he suddenly pulled France out of NATO's military command in 1966, arguing he had to preserve French independence in world affairs.

Forty-three years later, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Wednesday, France has decided to return as a full-fledged member of the 26-nation military pact, the North Atlantic Alliance, which came together under U.S. leadership at the start of the Cold War in 1949 and has served as the basis for U.S.-European security relations ever since.

Casting aside Gaullist dogma long cherished in France, Sarkozy declared that rejoining the U.S.-led integrated command in Brussels will not diminish the independence of France's nuclear-equipped military and, on the contrary, will open the way for more French influence in deciding what NATO's new missions should be in the post-Soviet era.

"The time has come," he said in a speech to France's Strategic Research Foundation, adding: "Our strategy cannot remain stuck in the past when the conditions of our security have changed radically."

The decision, widely debated even before it was formally announced, marked another significant step in Sarkozy's effort to bring France and the United States closer together after a period of estrangement and back-biting.

Since taking over in May 2007, Sarkozy has repeatedly declared himself a friend of Washington and made gestures to warm the chill that had settled over French-U.S. relations under presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac, chiefly because of Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war.

"We need a renewed trans-Atlantic partnership between an America that is open and a Europe that is being strengthened," Sarkozy's defense minister, Herve Morin, said in an address to the same conference.

Sarkozy said he would formally notify France's allies of its return the NATO command during celebrations to mark the North Atlantic Alliance's 60th anniversary, with President Obama in attendance, scheduled for April 3-4 in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, just across the border in Germany.

At Sarkozy's insistence, according to reports in Paris, Obama has penciled in a stop beforehand at the World War II Normandy landing beaches to dramatize the historic underpinnings of French-U.S. ties.

France never left the overarching North Atlantic Alliance, however, and within a year the practical effect of withdrawing from the integrated command was also watered down. A secret accord between U.S. and French officials, the Lemnitzer-Aillert Agreements, laid out in great detail how French forces would dovetail back into NATO's command structure should East-West hostilities break out.

Since then, the threat of Soviet attack has melted away and NATO has launched a long study about how it should redefine its mission in the 21st century, including what has become a practice of military operations beyond the borders of member countries.

India hopes Pak's crisis to be resolved
12 Mar 2009, 1803 hrs IST, Nirmala Ganapathy, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: As the political crisis in Pakistan threatened to spill out of control, India watched with concern and hoped that the internal crisis

would be resolved so that the Pakistani establishment could turn its focus on countering terror, which is being exported to all parts of the world.

The developments in Pakistan are a major worry for New Delhi which is concerned that an unstable Pakistan will lead to further consolidation of the terror infrastructure. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security to assess the crisis in Pakistan and the fallout on India. Apart from the fate of the Mumbai terror investigations, the main worry for India is a possible increase in cross border terrorism and terror activity in the absence of political stability.

All these issues were discussed at the CCS meeting which was attended by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, defence minister A.K. Antony and home minister P. Chidambaram. After the CCS meeting, Mr Mukherjee said that India wanted a stable Pakistan that can tackle the problem of terrorism.

Calling the political crisis an ``internal matter'', Mr Mukherjee said, ``I hope that all internal matters will be resolved by its leadership amicably and peacefully, in its best interests. We have always been interested to see strong and stable regimes, more so in our neighbourhood, so that the entire region can grow and develop
together, for the common good of its people''.

Mr Mukherjee further said that this was the time for Pakistan to focus on the fight against terror. ``This is even more relevant to Pakistan, to enable her to fight against elements in the country that are utilizing the terror infrastructure there and engaging in terrorism within Pakistan and outside."

In Pakistan thousands of lawyers, politicians and activists supported by former Pakistani president and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif started a long march to Islamabad defying a government ban and pushing for the restoration of sacked judges.

In a repeat of the lawyers' movement that unseated former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf from power, people from different parts of Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Hyderabad and other cities in Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh provinces, joined the march, according to reports, that will end with a sit-in outside Pakistan's parliament in Islamabad on March 16. The Zardari government unsuccessfully tried to stop the march by putting around 350 activists, including Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ghafoor Ahmed and Karachi Bar Association President Muhammad Ali Abbasi, under detention.

However, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari appeared increasingly isolated with Mr Sharif and his brother up in arms over a Supreme Court decision barring them from taking part in elections.

On the other hand Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani, according to reports, is said to be unhappy with Mr Zardari's inability to control the crisis and has asked him to tackle the political crisis. A meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who has expressed his unhappiness with Mr Zardari's style of unctioning, and the Army chief further fueled speculation that plans are afoot to slowly ease Mr Zardari, who is out of the country, out of power.

There will also be major ramifications for India if the Army does take control in Pakistan as is being speculated and predicted. The Army under Gen Kiyani has continued to be hostile to India and was against admitting even partial Pakistani links to the Mumbai terror attacks.

New Delhi also firmly believes that the Army is also behind the attacks which were carried out by the Lashkar e Taiba, an ISI creation.

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