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Thursday, 19 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 19 Mar 09

Asian Age

Telegraph India

Indian Express

Indian Express

Indian Express

The Pioneer

Indian Express

DNA India

Telegraph India

The Pioneer

DNA India

Asian Age

The Pioneer

The Pioneer

Times of India

Asian Age

Times of India

DNA India

DNA India

Hindustan Times

Times of India

Armed forces still await enhanced pay
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 18
The long wait of the 13 lakh strong armed force for better salary and status continues as no orders have been issued, so far, to implement the decision that was taken on certain issues of the forces.

Four core issues still remain unresolved despite directions of the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) in this regard.

Since the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not issued directions, the central defence accounts (CDA) cannot implement any hike or change that was cleared by the PMO, resulting no change at the ground level.

The Armed forces had raised four core issue after the Sixth Pay Commission submitted its report.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formed a three-member ministerial committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee, which submitted its report in the last week of December. Subsequently, Chief of Staffs Committee Admiral Sureesh Mehta took up the matter.

A Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Defence issued a letter some time in the last week of January, clarifying that Lieutenant Colonels, with a few exceptions of those who are on deputation to public sector units, will be placed under the enhanced pay-band IV structure.

That was the last written word on the subject. In a normal course, instructions are issued and conveyed to the CDA informing it that Lt Cols and their equivalents in the IAF and the Navy, are now placed in pay-band IV and not pay-band III as suggested by the pay commission.

This is expected to raise the salary of each officer by about Rs 10,000-12,000 over the existing pay okayed by the sixth pay commission.

There are about 11,000 officers who are in the rank of Lt Cols or wing commanders of the IAF and the Commanders of the Navy.

However, no instructions has been issued till date. Sources in the ministry of defence confirmed here yesterday.

Another issue was of granting 70 per cent weightage of the last salary to retiring jawans for their post-retirement pension.

The commission had allowed only 50 per cent. Though senior ministers in the UPA regime have gone public to claim that the matter has been sorted out, sources confirmed that no instructions have been issued to convey a decision, if any, to the CDA. The jawans form the back bone of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. So, as of now, a retiring jawan continues to get just 50 per cent weightage.

The third issue was of giving a grade pay to all ranks of officers that is at par with their counterparts in the civil administration. The PMO had said a high-powered committee should be formed to look into this.

The forces have tabulated and submitted their claims. In this case also the committee has not even taken a decision.

The last was of placing all Lieutenant Generals in the special pay band of higher administrative grade plus. All DGPs of states are in this grade.

The last pay commission had maintained this parity, the forces want that restored. However, this is also pending at the level of the high-powered committee.

Pak army still in league with terror groups?
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News service

New Delhi, March 18
India has not seen any evidence on the grounds suggesting that the Pakistan army has cut off its links with the Taliban or other terrorist groups.

"The Pakistan army must decide whether it wants to continue using extremists as an instrument of state policy…something which is not acceptable to the entire global community,'' government sources said here today.

The sources were, however, hopeful that the internal political turmoil in Pakistan would not distract the neighbouring country from pursuing credible investigations into the 26/11 attacks and bring to justice those behind the mayhem. "We have seen Pakistan taking the first step in the right direction…we are still a long way from realising our goal," said the sources, alluding to Islamabad's admission that the Mumbai strikes were partly planned on the Pakistani territory.

Asked about India's March 13 reply to Pakistan's 30 questions relating to the terror attacks, the sources said New Delhi had given fingerprints of eight of the 10 terrorists to Islamabad, who carried out the Mumbai attacks. The fingerprints of two terrorists could not be given as they were badly burnt. The DNA profiles of all terrorists have been given to Islamabad.

Maj Gen S.P. Kochhar to be Col. Co. of Corps of Signals

Maj Gen S.P. Kochhar, SM, VSM has been appointed as the 52nd Colonel Commandant of Corps of Signals and would assume the appointment on March 1,2009. Commissioned in Dec 1973, Maj Gen SP Kochhar has excelled in all courses of instruction and has to his credit two M.Phils, first from DAVPP and second from Madras University, an M.Tech from IIT Delhi and fellowships/membership of reputed national and international professional societies. He has also published many papers in professional journals and magazines.In his present appt of Addl DG Personnel Services dealing with policies on terms and conditions of Service, pay and pension maters. Some of his initiatives have already been accepted and are in the process of formal approval/ implementation. His contributions have earned him the awards of a Sena Medal, a Vishist Sewa Medal and an Army Cdr's commendation card.

Time to Return to War on Terror, says Pakistani Media

The victory of the lawyers' Long March has come at the cost of ignoring the "two-ton gorilla in the drawing room", an editorial in a leading English daily said Wednesday, urging the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that led the protest to show "true solidarity against the menace of terrorism".

Another editorial said the PML-N had gained considerably at the cost of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which "appeared to be devious and untrustworthy, a party that breaks its promises".

"Let us be frank. The victory of the Long March which came at the end of an almost year-long political bickering has been gained at the cost of ignoring the two-ton gorilla in the drawing-room: terrorism from the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the erstwhile jihadi organizations now on the payroll of Al Qaeda," Daily Times said in an editorial headlined "Back to the business of terrorism".

For the last several months, it noted, Pakistan has seen an "alarming increase in the incidence of terrorism while the campaign went on against the government's broken promises" on restoring the judges then president Pervez Musharraf had deposed.

In this context, it noted that the India-Pakistan proxy war "has heated up in Afghanistan and then spilled over into India itself. The Mumbai attacks have implicated a jihadi militia once nursed by Pakistan into an instrument of the war of liberation in Kashmir".

Now that the PML-N has won the battle, "it is time to show true solidarity against the menace of terrorism", the editorial said, even as it noted that party chief Nawaz Sharif "has given some good interviews on the subject of terrorism - like saying 'we must set our own house in order' - and should change tack to give the kind of support the government and the army need to go out and fight Al Qaeda".

"Because of politicization of terrorism, Pakistan has lost both face and faith in the world community. It is today facing not only terrorism but also charges of terrorism. Will the politicians choose to come together and use the parliament to strengthen Pakistan instead of weakening it?" Daily Times wondered.

The News added in its editorial "Right face" that the PPP had "lost a vast amount of goodwill and credibility" during the lawyers' struggle.

"It has appeared to be devious and untrustworthy, a party that breaks its promises - or at least only fulfils them when it has got its back to the wall and a knife to its throat.

"It has gained a president of truly spectacular unpopularity and managed to hold on to a prime minister whose footwork would do credit to a prima ballerina. By contrast the PML-N has won the 'trust issue' hands down. They stuck to their mantra of judicial restoration throughout and when push came to shove last Sunday they supported the lawyers by putting feet on the street; creating the tipping point that forced the compromise," the newspaper maintained.

At the same time, it cautioned the PML-N against "going for the throat" and toppling the PPP, "which is now struggling to re-balance itself. This is a step too far. We do not need further instability and turmoil; we need a period of quiet reflection".

There are no good Taliban, India on Afghan situation

Press Trust of India

Thursday, March 19, 2009, (New Delhi)

As it prepares to participate in two international conferences on Afghanistan, India on Wednesday cautioned against treating any section of Taliban as "good", in an apparent message to the US which has expressed readiness to hold talks with "moderate" militia.

Maintaining that it would be unwise to negotiate with Taliban and leave people to their mercy, sources here said efforts should instead be made to strengthen the age-old tribal structures which are still intact in Afghanistan.

The situation in Afghanistan, over which world concerns are growing because of resurgence of Taliban, will be discussed at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Moscow on March 27 and a conference in The Hague later this month.

India is expected to be represented by the Prime Minister's Special Envoy S K Lambah at the SCO meeting. Some high-ranking official will also be attending The Hague meet.

At these meetings, India will present its prescription for stabilisation of Afghanistan, which would include giving thrust to developmental initiatives besides military and security components in creating a zone of peace.

India feels that efforts should be made to create 'secure areas' and promote developmental activities in such areas, a process that would alienate the Taliban.

No talks with Taliban

New Delhi disfavours any negotiations with Taliban, either in Afghanistan or Pakistan, saying there are no good elements in the fundamentalist militia as is claimed by some sections.

"There is no good Taliban or bad Taliban. Leaving people at the mercy of Taliban is no solution," the sources said, adding negotiations with Taliban will serve no purpose.

The comment is a veiled message to the US, which has expressed willingness to hold talks with "moderate" Taliban.

"The old tribal structures still work in Afghanistan and they have no place for Taliban or other extremists," the sources said, suggesting a three-pronged approach covering development, security and governance for the region.

They cited the successful development projects undertaken by India in Afghanistan by engaging the local people there, who tend to defend the initiatives, as they are results of the suggestions of the tribals.

The sources pointed out that the local tribal structures in Pakistan were systematically destroyed by the ISI and this could be a hindrance in engaging local population in development work there.

Significantly, Iran has also been invited for The Hague conference, which is spearheaded by the US.

On the recent political crisis in Pakistan, India feels that Army in that country has emerged more powerful than before.

In view of this, New Delhi feels that Islamabad's capacity to deliver on demands for dismantling the terror infrastructure has gone up.

Sri Lanka conflict

On Sri Lanka, the sources said India intends to increase the capacity of the hospital it had set up in the affected areas to cater to the civilians injured in the crossfire between the LTTE and the Army.

They said that India was also urging Sri Lankan authorities to increase supply of food to the affected areas.

The sources pointed out that about 150 tonnes of food was supplied to the conflict zone in February, which was a fraction of the normal supply.

According to Indian estimates, about 70,000 people could have been trapped in the conflict zone but nobody was in a position to give the exact number.

On the recent developments in Bangladesh, the sources said the incidents suggest that there could be a conspiracy to eliminate the army chief.

They said the manner in which the Bangladesh government dealt with the crisis was impressive.

Obama considering expanding covert American war in Pak: report

Press Trust of India

Wednesday, March 18, 2009, (New York)

US President Barack Obama is considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the tribal areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Balochistan, from where top leaders of the outfit are orchestrating attacks into southern Afghanistan.

Two high-level reports on Pakistan and Afghanistan that have been forwarded to the White House in recent weeks have called for broadening the target area to include a major insurgent sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta, 'The New York Times' reported on Wednesday.

Mullah Muhammad Omar, who led the Taliban government that was ousted in the American-led invasion in 2001, has operated with near impunity out of the region for years, along with many of his deputies, the paper said.

The extensive missile strikes being carried out by Central Intelligence Agency-operated drones have until now been limited to the tribal areas, and have never been extended into Balochistan, a sprawling province that is under the authority of the central government, and which abuts the parts of southern Afghanistan.

Fear, the paper said, remains within the American government that extending the raids would worsen tensions.

Pakistan complains that the strikes violate its sovereignty. But some American officials were quoted as saying that the missile strikes in the tribal areas have forced some leaders of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to flee south toward Quetta, making them more vulnerable.

In separate reports, groups led by both Gen. David H Petraeus, commander of American forces in the region, and Lt. Gen. Douglas E Lute, top White House official on Afghanistan, have recommended expanding American operations outside the tribal areas if Pakistan cannot root out the strengthening insurgency, The Times said.

Many of Obama's advisers, it said, are also urging him to sustain orders issued last summer by President George W Bush to continue Predator drone attacks against a wider range of targets in the tribal areas.

They also are recommending preserving the option to conduct cross border ground action, using CIA and Special Operations commandos, as was done in September.

Bush's orders also named as targets a wide variety of insurgents seeking to topple Pakistan's government. Obama has said little in public about how broadly he wants to pursue those groups, the paper said.

"It is fair to say that there is wide agreement to sustain and continue these covert programs," one senior administration official told the paper.

"One of the foundations on which the recommendations to the president will be based is that we've got to sustain the disruption of the safe havens."

Obama's top national security advisers, known as the Principals Committee, met yesterday to begin debating all aspects of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, The Times said.
Any expansion of the war, the paper said, is bound to upset those in Obama's party who worry that he is sinking further into a lengthy conflict in Afghanistan, even while reducing forces in Iraq.

It is possible that the decisions about covert actions will never be publicly announced, the paper added.

Several administration and military officials, the paper said, stressed that they continued to prod the Pakistani military to take the lead in a more aggressive campaign to root out Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters who are attacking American forces in Afghanistan and increasingly destabilising nuclear-armed Pakistan.

But with Pakistan consumed by political turmoil, fear of financial collapse and a spreading insurgency, American officials say they have few illusions that the United States will be able to rely on Pakistans own forces.

However, each strike by Predators or ground forces reverberates in Pakistan, and Obama will be weighing that cost, the report said.

Suicides & fratricides in Indian Armed Forces

Mamoona Ali Kazmi

After the suicide of a Rastriya Rifles Jawan in Kishtwar, another head constable Surinder Singh of 126 Territorial Army committed suicide on 9 March by shooting himself with his service rifle inside the B. B. Cant Srinagar. He had recently come back from home after spending holidays. Since 1988, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been hit by confrontation between Kashmiri Freedom Fighters and the Indian Military, which has resulted in more than one hundred thousand of deaths. In Indian Held Kashmir, soldiers die not only from enemies' bullets but also from their own weapons. Four hundred army personnel have killed themselves in Jammu and Kashmir in the past four years, while 100 of them pointed the muzzles toward their fellow soldiers, before ending their own lives.

Suicides and killing fellow soldiers have become perilously frequent in the Indian Armed Forces. This phenomenon is appearing with frightening regularity. Since 2002, there have been at least 200 incidents of violence within the armed forces and at least 100 soldiers commit suicide every year. In 2007, 128 soldiers committed suicide and 32 were killed by colleagues running amok, while only 70 were killed in counter-insurgency operations. The Indian Government has admitted that nearly 120 Indian Army soldiers and 24 Indian Air Force personnel committed suicide in 2006. 77 cases of suicides have been reported in 2005, 100 in 2004 and 96 in 2003. The phenomenon of suicides and fratricides is a result of amalgamation of different factors such as fatigue, unpredictability of threat, easy availability of firearms, extended tenures of stay, absence of recreational avenues, domestic worries, irregular mail, and an inflexible leave system. All these increase the level of frustration among the Indian troops deployed in the Indian Held Kashmir. In many cases, the incidents of suicide and colleague killing happened when Jawans wanted to go on leave and were denied that privilege or were just returning from leave. In the first case, the necessary relief after a stressful stint is missing. In the second case, the problems at home, which remain unattended due to long periods of absence, could be the cause. So, in such a stressful state of mind a normal rebuke, scolding or an embarrassment is enough to ignite them. The rapport between Officers and Junior Commissioned Officers is missing in Indian Armed Forces. Officers at senior level are more concerned with their own welfare rather then the welfare of Jawans. Similarly, Jawans in Indian Army also face economic pressures. They are deprived of adequate housing and decent salaries. They face poor promotional opportunities and meager pensions. Due to economic pressures Armed Forces personnel seek premature discharge from the services, which the Indian Government is reluctant to provide. These army men when trapped in insurgency hit areas and finding no way out suffers from mental stress, which eventually drained out anger and violence against fellows and others. Similarly, the changes in Indian society such as the breakdown of the tradition of men staying with their parents even after marriage also contribute to the pressure. Previously, a soldier who went off to war was sure that his wife and children would be looked after in the event of his being killed in the battle. With modern nuclear families, the soldier is always beset by concerns about his family's future. The hostile working conditions in insurgent infested areas are no less important. The jawans, trained to fight a visible enemy, have to fight an invisible enemy in insurgency ridden areas and are exposed to enemy by themselves. So this confusion increases mental stress and frustration that results into rash actions. Soldiers in counter insurgency operations of the North and North East carry loaded rifles with them all the time. The smallest arguments usually result in the safety catch being slipped off and triggers being pulled. Vice Admiral V K Singh, Director General of the Armed forces Medical Service admitted that the spate of suicides in the Indian Army was linked to stress. According to a study conducted by scientists of the Defence Institute of Psychological Research, suicide and fratricide rates in the Indian Armed Forces are highest among troops deployed for counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East because their jobs are highly demanding. Director of the Institute said, "We have come across around 150 factors leading to stress among the armed forces". He further described that the stress could be of a personal, operational, organizational or familial kind or a combination of all these. In the insurgency-wracked area, soldiers operate in an environment where they are not sure about their future. Dr. S Khrushid-ul-Islam, who teaches behavioral sciences at the Institute of Management and Public Administration in Srinagar, is of the opinion that stress caused by continued combat situations is the crucial reason for the rise in suicides and fraternal killings. Dr. Khrushid said that regular exposure to media transmissions from the outside world could enhance mental disturbance rather than act as a palliative.

The Indian Army is well aware of growing problem of suicides and colleague killing. It is increasing the number of psychiatrists in community hospitals. The government trained 50 Junior Commissioned Officers from the Army Medical Corps as counsellors in the Northern and Eastern commands where troops are battling insurgency. The Indian Army recently began distributing field manuals on suicides and fratricides, for use by Officers and men in North and North East to inform soldiers about the stress symptoms and ways to prevent outbreaks of violence. Similarly, religious teachers, JCOs of Army Education Corps and regimental medical officers have also been identified as "psychological health mentors" at the unit level. The government approval of two psychiatric centers at the Northern and Eastern Commands in addition to advisories on formal and informal interactions between senior and junior officers is indicative of the intensity of problem. Indian Army is doing all that is possible to alleviate the problems caused by deployment of men on unending dangerous missions. The stress level in the Indian Army has shot beyond the normal by wide margins and the impact is evident from the suicides and fragging in the Indian Army. Herein lays the vital point of the Mujahedden bringing the Indian Army to its need, despite a wide margin in their military capabilities. A critical phase has been reached in the Kashmir's struggle for freedom. It is time for freedom fighters to stick to their guns and surely they are bound to succeed.

Killers of BDR chief, other officers identified: Report

PTI | March 18, 2009 | 15:26 IST

Three rebel border guards, who gunned down Bangladesh Rifles chief Major General Shakil Ahmed and other army officers during the two-day long mutiny last month in Dhaka, have been identified, reports said on Wednesday.

"We've identified the killer of BDR DG Maj Gen Shakil Ahmed and at least two others who gunned down other senior officers," the Daily Star newspaper quoted an unnamed investigating officer as saying.

He, however, declined to name the three but said they are already in custody. The officer said the three were involved in the killing at the onset of the mutiny, while they claimed a group of six to seven who first opened fire at the Darbar Hall were BDR soldiers and not outsiders.

Investigators earlier said they found clues that outsiders in uniform intruded the BDR headquarters ahead of the rebellion while a senior government minister overseeing the investigation process said Islamist militants might have a hand in the carnage.

Officials earlier said a BDR soldier who was believed to have killed Shakil's wife was arrested as so far 650 rebels were detected through video footage, interrogation of arrested soldiers and on the basis of the statements of survived officers and family members.

"Of the 650 BDR men, over 150 were directly involved in killings, looting of arms and explosives from armouries," an officer earlier said.

'Musharraf agreed to shift stand on Kashmir for army's credibility'

Lalit K Jha in Washington | PTI | March 18, 2009 | 15:41 IST

Former President General Pervez Musharraf was ready to give upIslamabad's traditional stand on Kashmir during secret talks with India in 2006 in order to regain credibility to Pakistan army post 9/11, a US analyst has said.

After September 11, the Pakistani army had lost its credibility in the international community mainly because of its well-established relationship with the extremists groups, said Steve
Coll, a Pultizer prize-winning American journalist, who has written several investigative stories on Kashmir.

"The Pakistan army took the extraordinary steps that it did to enter into these negotiations over Kashmir, essentially threatening to reverse decades of policy in this negotiation with India, it was not coercion that brought them to the table; it was aspiration," he said in his testimony before the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"They wanted, Musharraf in particular, the international legitimacy, the credibility. He wanted to be celebrated at international events as a peacemaker. He wanted Oslo to pay attention to him," Coll said in response to a question. The only way to achieve stability in South Asia, he observed, is through normalisation between India and Pakistan. And "that's why the Kashmir negotiations matter, not in and of themselves but as a pathway to normalisation," he argued.

Coll, currently president and CEO of the New America Foundation, had written an investigative article in
The New York Times, saying that India and Pakistan held several rounds of secretive talks and were on the brink of achieving a breakthrough in Kashmir before Musharraf got plunged into domestic political turmoil, resulting into his ultimate fall.

Testifying before the Commission, Coll said there is an understanding in the Obama administration and broadly in the Congress and elsewhere that the time has come to rebalance US policy to emphasize the pursuit of a stable, modernizing, democratic constitutional Pakistan, not because it's an American idea but because it's a Pakistani idea.

"The problem now is that this constitutional order is undergoing a period of considerable instability," he said. Some of the aspects of that instability are without precedent in recent Pakistani history, particularly the role of an Islamist insurgency that has captured significant swathes of territory in the country, Coll said. Now, the US, under such difficult circumstances has to also confront the role of the Pakistani security services historically in promoting, funding, arming, and equipping, sometimes with American cooperation, the very Islamist groups that now threaten that order, he observed.

One of the real problems in American policy in the past has been trying to find an effective, consistent policy to engage with the Pakistani army and to encourage and at times if necessary coerce it to change its conduct in relation to these banned Islamist groups, Coll argued.

Commenting on the proposed Kerry-Lugar bill, Coll said to some extent though it is necessary but insufficient. "It was meant to address the problem of Musharraf's authoritarian rule and to address the recognition that too much US aid had gone into the Pakistani security services without proper accounting, without proper shared understanding of what that aid was intended to accomplish," he said.

Coll said the US has struggled in the past with identifying the policies that can encourage and persuade the Pakistani security services to break once and for all with the jihadi groups that have been an instrument of Pakistani foreign and regional policy for decades. He said the US has failed in the past, and particularly since 9/11, because it has not enunciated clear standards of expectation that can be used to measure the attitudes and conduct of the Pakistani security services.

"It's been observed by many people that the United States wrote, essentially, a blank cheque to the Pakistani security services after 9/11. But what would it mean to write a different kind of cheque -- in other words to have a more constructive engagement?"
Coll said.

Lanka noise over India medic team


A Sri Lanka Navy medical team member (left) with an injured Tamil baby at a hospital in Pulmoddai. (Reuters)

New Delhi, March 18: An anti-India political outfit in Sri Lanka has resented the presence of the Indian military-medical mission in the island nation. But Colombo has assured Delhi that the team of doctors and medics from the Armed Forces Medical Corps is welcome and will be protected.

"The problem is that the government did not tell us that the doctors were not civilian but from the army," an independent non-government worker told The Telegraph over phone from Colombo.

"We welcome them in any case but we wish the government was transparent. The situation being what it is, any kind of medical help is desperately needed and they are indeed welcome," she said, requesting anonymity.

The 52-member team was flown into Colombo on March 11 by an Indian Air Force IL-76 transporter and driven to Pulmoddai in the island's north-east, about 49km from the port of Trincomalee. They have written guarantees that they will be given security by the Sri Lanka Navy.

"We are prepared for some resentment but our primary concern is to give medical relief to the civilians who are the victims. Our mission is to keep the engagement with the non-combatants who are the victims," said a senior defence ministry official in New Delhi.

The mission coincided with political pressure from Tamil Nadu where Jayalalithaa went on a day's fast demanding Indian intervention in Sri Lanka in aid of Tamils who are caught between the guns of the LTTE and the Lankan armed forces. The Sri Lankan government decided that the Indian field medical unit would set up camp in Pulmoddai (an adaptation of the Tamil word meaning tigers' den.)

India's assessment is that the Lankan army is making incremental progress, and is some 56sqkm from pinning down the LTTE, in the north of Mulaitivu in the ongoing military offensive.

An estimated 40,000 people escaped the cross-fire since January 21 till last week, and humanitarian situation is getting worse. Various estimates even now put 1.5 lakh people being trapped in the area.

For example, of the 142 people who reached the Indian-run hospital among the recent evacuees, 136 were surgical cases. Delhi intends to increase the capacity of the hospital, and will request for sending more food supply as well. The food supply to the area, sources said, is 1/8th of what it used to be earlier.

This is the first intervention by the Indian forces — though through its medical wing — in the middle of the war in 22 years. But the armed forces medical wing was involved in taking relief to Sri Lanka after the tsunami during a ceasefire between the Tamil Tigers and the Lankan armed forces in 2004-05. Even the Tamil Tigers had praised the role of the Indian medics then.

But yesterday the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a political party primarily based in the Lankan south which campaigns against alleged Indian expansionism, charged the Lankan government with being untruthful about the conditions under which they allowed the Indian medical mission.

JVP parliamentary group leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told Parliament that the Indian Army's mobile hospital in Pulmoddai was a "threat to the sovereignty and national security of Sri Lanka".

The Indian medical team comprises 52 doctors, paramedics, and support staff that reached Lanka on March 11. They have been asked to abandon their official uniforms and work in plainclothes. Indian military doctors and paramedics in Afghanistan also work in the same way.

Dissanayake was reported to have said that the Pulmoddai area had mineral deposits and was strategically important. He asked the Lankan government to explain if the Indian government was invited to set up a hospital or whether Delhi took the initiative. The leader wondered if other foreign governments were going to follow suit.

TOP ARTICLE | Generals Call The Shots

19 Mar 2009, 0008 hrs IST, Kanwal Sibal

Pakistan's internal political situation is becoming increasingly volatile, with the unceasing Asif Ali Zardari-Nawaz Sharif confrontation endangering civilian rule and creating conditions for an army comeback.

The worst has been avoided for now by a Zardari climbdown brokered by the US and the Pakistani army, but this is only a reprieve. It leaves Zardari weakened, Sharif stronger and the military looking responsible. Religious extremism, steadily advancing, will profit from unsettled political conditions.

The US's "integrated" strategy for Afghanistan-Pakistan presents us with a dilemma. We cannot let Richard Holbrooke, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, induct us into it. Yet he must be dissuaded from pursuing solutions detrimental to our interests, especially with intended overtures to "moderate Taliban". India's quandaries are becoming more acute.

General Pervez Musharraf's pronouncements in New Delhi on March 7, at a time India-Pakistan relations have nosedived after Mumbai attack and the future is fraught, should reinforce our concerns. He might be unpopular internally, but his steely views can be taken to represent core Pakistani military thinking on bilateral ties in the post-Mumbai perspective.

This thinking promises no breakthroughs in the foreseeable future. Pakistan's military is not on the defensive; it sees Pakistan as a victim of unjust accusations, one-sided demands and distorted perceptions. Musharraf's disturbing assertions were replete with self-righteousness, antipathy and erroneous judgment. It's puzzling how a man with such thinking became a trustworthy interlocutor and evokes lingering nostalgia in some circles here.

Pakistan's defiant attitude was best exemplified by his total silence on Mumbai in his prepared remarks. Not even a proforma word of sympathy for the victims, even as he thanked the Indian government for providing him security. His government's acceptance of a Pakistani hand in the carnage gave him room for some placatory comment. His commitment in January 2004 as president to not allow territory under Pakistan's control to be used for terrorism against India obliged him to say something for the record. Even in reply to a question, he preferred chiding India for excessive army-ISI bashing from day one.

Musharraf's highly flawed diagnosis of core India-Pakistan differences defies treatment. He accused India of coercive policies and disrespect for Pakistan's sovereignty, whereas the opposite is true. Pakistan even now refuses to accept India's territorial sovereignty in toto.

By resorting to terrorism in J&K and elsewhere as state policy, it is Pakistan that seeks to coerce India to meet its demands. Musharraf argued that terrorism is born of festering political disputes and is the last resort of oppressed people. But India is not oppressing Pakistanis. As disputes involve two parties, why is it that only one resorts to terrorism? The reality is that recourse to terrorism is a Pakistani choice, not a fatality.

Doing what he decried in us, Musharraf knowingly infringed our sovereign domain by advising us to look at India's ground reality of atrocities and denial of equal opportunities that were causing alienation and driving Muslim youth to extremism. Worse, he brazenly avowed that the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad came into existence because of sympathy for Muslims in India and in Kashmir in particular, as if this was quite acceptable. When a Muslim MP affirmed that our Muslims could look after themselves with the support of numerous Hindu-dominated NGOs and Pakistan should cease its interference, Musharraf, momentarily nonplussed, accused him of hypocrisy. He reminded us that Pakistan would continue its policy of exploiting India's communal fault lines.

Musharraf was robust in ISI's defence, bracketing it with RAW in all respects, ignoring international concern about its activities and the fundamental difference between it as part of Pakistan's military machinery and RAW's functioning under civilian authority. Numerous jihadi organisations operating in Pakistan, many with ISI's complicity, make Pakistan, unlike us, an epicentre of transnational terrorism. Musharraf accused our consulates in Afghanistan of promoting terror in Pakistan, another canard to justify Pakistan's lawless conduct and pressure the US and Afghanistan on our presence there. He rejected Dawood Ibrahim's transfer unless India ceased harbouring Pakistani terrorists and both countries moved towards peace, rendering illusory our expectations to obtain custody of absconders.

Musharraf contrasted hate-campaigns in India against Pakistan, its army and ISI with "very little India-bashing" in Pakistani political campaigns, suggesting bizarrely that Pakistan is more at ease with India than vice versa. He deprecated mass misperception of Pakistan in India because of negative and distorted impressions conveyed by the media, believing no doubt that the US and European media are equally guilty of this. He dismissed threats to Pakistan of creeping Talibanisation, contradicting Zardari and civil society concerns.

On Pakistan's enduring obsession, he warned that unless Kashmir "the key dispute and sore point" is resolved, our confrontation will "carry on forever" as the "emotional involvement of the people of Pakistan in Kashmir" has spawned dozens of difficult to control freelance Mujahideen groups. The self-proclaimed "man for peace" thus delivered the Pakistan military's ominous message that unless India accepts the onus of delivering peace, more Mumbais will happen.

Political disarray lies ahead in Pakistan. If Zardari is overly scheming, Sharif, twice dismissed as prime minister, hardly promises better political management. Exile and imprisonment have not chastened both. Behind their antagonism lies a PPP-PML and provincial Sindh-Punjab rivalry. Political uncertainty will benefit the military and extremist groups, rendering darker the outlook for India-Pakistan relations pictured by Musharraf.,prtpage-1.cms

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