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Friday, 20 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 20 Mar 09

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Manipur: Army officer killed, 5 civilians injured during encounter

March 19, 2009 15:35 IST

Last Updated: March 19, 2009 15:38 IST

An army officer was killed and a jawan injured in an encounter with militants while five persons were wounded in a grenade explosion in Manipur, the police said on Thursday.

Personnel of 12th Maratha Light Infantry led by Lt. Satbir Singh was patrolling Oinam area in Bishenpur district when they were attacked by unidentified militants at around 9.30 pm on Wednesday night.

The army personnel returned the fire and in the ensuing encounter Lt. Satbir Singh (25), who hailed from Navaram village in Haryana, was killed and a jawan identified as Chandrakanta (28) was injured.

Minutes before the encounter, the militants had exploded two grenades and fired at the house of a Manipur government official identified as Ibopishak Singh near Oinam area in connection with a monetary demand.

While coming out from Singh's house, they were confronted by the army personnel who were patrolling the area, the police said. The militants escaped under the cover of darkness, the police added.

MiG with India fit to fly: Russian makers
Say no question of defect in upcoming naval version
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 19
The Russian makers of MiG-29 aircaft, which has been in the news for the past one week, said today that the fighters with the Indian Air Force have been flying for more than 20 years and were totally fit for flying. The yet-to-be-supplied naval version has been adapted for operations at sea “there was no question of any defects iBn the airframe”.

Allying fears in India after reports of “grounding” of some of the MiG-29 fleet in Russia, the India press office issued an email today, saying “Our attention has been drawn to some media reports on ‘grounding’ of MiG-29 aircraft in Russia. This is not only incorrect but misleading.

The facts are that since the early 1990s, a substantial part of the Russian Air Force MiG-29 fleet has not been operated for different reasons, primarily budgetary. In the course of scheduled inspections and maintenance of these aircraft, some defects in specific aircraft fins were ascertained in a relatively small number of aircraft.

Based on this inspection, the Russian aircraft corporation’s (RAC) MiG Design Bureau has issued specific procedures for rectification which will enable these aircraft to remain fully operational through their service life. The bulk of MiG-29 type aircraft with the Russian Air Force continue in frontline service with fighter units in accordance with standard procedure.

The statement said the IAF has been operating MiG-29s for over 20 years. These planes continue in frontline service even as the upgrade programme is underway in Russia.

Apart from this, in January 2009, the RAC, for the purpose of prompt notification, forwarded a method for inspection of critical zones of the aircraft fins to the IAF.

On the naval version - the new MiG-29-K - the statement said these had been designed and produced in full consideration of the maritime conditions in which they would be operated.

These aircraft have been suitably altered and there is no question of any defects in the airframe structure even during the aircraft’s long term storage. It may be mentioned here that certain experts had raised questions over the durability of the Russian aircraft at sea where salinity is high.

IAF to get 'eye in the sky' radar system soon

Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem | PTI | March 19, 2009 | 11:05 IST

In a big boost to India's surveillance capability, the Air Force is likely to receive the first of the three Israeli Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems in the second half of May this year, almost a year and a half behind schedule.

"Indian Air Force officials have been regularly checking the system. The final details are being worked out which will enable the delivery of the system by the second half of May," defence sources said.

"The remaining two deliveries are likely to come through by the middle of next year or by the third quarter of 2010 if everything works out on schedule," they said. The Phalcons will be mounted on Russia delivered Ilyushin-76 aircraft.

The technical difficulties involved in integrating the whole system is said to have contributed to the delay in its delivery. As per the deal inked in March 2004 at a whopping cost of $1.1 billion, all the three 'eye in the sky' airborne radar systems should have been delivered by the end of this month.

The system will provide the IAF with intelligence inputs, helping it to maintain air superiority, improve strike capabilities and conduct tactical surveillance deep into neighbouring countries without violating their airspace.

It is an all weather system capable of logging 60 targets simultaneously and has a range of 400 kms. The United States had earlier pressurised Israel to cancel a similar deal with China in 2000 but gave green light to the deal with India in May 2003.

Meanwhile, the IAF is said to have been in advanced talks with Israel over the procurement of three more Phalcons, which it plans to integrate with other air and ground assets through data link.

The Israeli defence ministry last year announced that New Delhi was its single largest importer of defence equipment, constituting about 50 per cent of Israel's defence exports and about 30 per cent of India's imports. The heads of all the three Indian defence forces have visited Israel during the past two and a half years to demonstrate the strong ties between the two countries.

Break up Pak army-ISI-jihadi links for peace: Expert

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

March 19, 2009 04:08 IST

If peace and stability is to come to South Asia, links between Pakistan's military, Inter-Services Intelligence and the violent extremist jihadi groups the ISI created, must be severed, said Steve Coll, president and CEO of The New America Foundation and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars.

Testifying before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom on Capitol Hill, at a hearing titled Pakistan: The Threat of Religious Extremism to Religious Freedom and Security,' Coll said, "Why the United States failed in the past, and particularly since 9/11, in its policy toward Pakistan, was "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 has been observed by many people that the United States wrote, essentially, a blank check to the Pakistani security services after 9/11," he said.

Coll said the "goal of US policy toward Pakistan is pretty easy to describe -- it is in the interest of the United States to promote a stable, modernising, democratic Pakistan that is at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbours, and, in pursuing that goal, to promote those leaders, institutions and forces within Pakistan that seek to revive and perfect the Pakistani Constitution that defined the country's identity and political system from its founding."

But he argued that "the United States has failed in its own policy-making when it has isolated and stepped away from that vision and those leaders in pursuit of its narrow security interests."

Coll said that now, he believed "there is an understanding in the Obama [Images] Administration and broadly in the Congress and elsewhere that the time has come to rebalance US policy to emphasize the pursuit of a stable, modernising, democratic constitutional Pakistan, not because it's an American idea but because it's a Pakistani idea."

He acknowledged that the problem now is that this constitutional order is under siege and undergoing considerable instability, and without precedent in recent Pakistani history, "particularly the role of an Islamist insurgency that has captured significant swathes of territory in a country."

Coll said for the United States, "in confronting this problem of instability and the pursuit of this constitutional order in these 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 said "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 relations to these banned Islamist groups."

But Coll said, in the end, "the pursuit of a stable, normalising, democratic Pakistan is not going to be successful if it is vested in incremental changes in the conduct of the Pakistani security services alone."

He asserted that "the only way to achieve stability in South Asia in the end is through normalization between India and Pakistan and the integration of their two economies and societies. That's why the Kashmir negotiations matter, not in an end of themselves but as a pathway to normalization."

During the question and answer session, Coll said, "Where the United States and its allies and other partners of Pakistan can help to highlight the self-interest that the Pakistan army [Images], and therefore ISI, has in normalisation (of its ties with India in place of trying to obtain strategic depth against India by using religious extremist groups to fight a proxy war), that's one obvious place to begin."

He explained that "on the sort of less aspirational side, it is the case that the Pakistan Army has indirectly been coerced into changing its conduct from time to time where it believes its own legitimacy is at stake," and pointed out to the time in the mid-1990s, when "the United States threatened to place Pakistan on the list of countries that sponsor international terrorism."

Coll also referred to the time after 9/11, when there was the "very famous interaction between the United States and Pakistan about which side it was on. And, you can argue that the Pakistan Army, in some of those cases, did the minimum necessary to preserve its legitimacy rather than making a full turn, but it did pay attention where its international legitimacy was at stake."

He recalled that during former President Pervez Musharraf's [Images] rule "by the time the 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."

Coll said, the Army, and Musharraf in particular, "wanted the international legitimacy, the credibility. He wanted to be celebrated at international events as a peacemaker. He wanted Oslo to pay attention to him."

Mahindra Defence eyes 2,000 crore turnover in 5 years


Prithla, March 19 (UNI): With the launch of a Special Military Vehicle (MSMV) facility here, Mahindra Defence System, a division of Mahindra Group, yesterday said it targets a 5-fold increase in its turnover at Rs 2,000 crore in the 5 from existing Rs 100 crores,” Mahindra Defence System CEO Brigadier Khutub Hai told reporters here. He said the company expects to close this year with the sales of 200 defence vehicles, while it targets to sell 350 vehicles in the next fiscal.

The company has an order book of 460 Rakshak’s of which it plans to deliver 60 of them in the First quarter of next fiscal. Meanwhile, he said an initial investment of Rs 25 crore has been made in the facility and an additional Rs 15 crore will be put in the next phase. “With the technologically advanced manufacturing facility, MSMV will help Mahindra Defence System to harness the potential in this State,” Mahindra Group Vice Chairman and MD Anand Mahindra said.

The company currently operates in a single shift which has a production capacity of 500 units. It can further be expanded up to 750 units if the demand arises. Hai said the company is planning to commence second shift operations next year. The company has a 100% of market share as far as Defence Ministry is concerned for protective vehicles and about 87% market share as far as Ministry of Home Affairs (police and paramilitary forces), he informed. “Brand presence and knowledge about the Indian conditions and the needs of the Indian armed forces will help us to be the No. 1 supplier for MSMV’s,” Hai said.

The company hopes to enlarge on this and continue to provide protective vehicles for the use of police and security forces and the defence, he added. It also has intentions of tying up with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop a special kind of armoured vehicles by 2017-18. “We have already given our presentation to the DRDO and if plans work out we would move ahed with our future plans,” he said without divulging any further details. The company had, 3 years ago, supplied 200 Rakshak’s to the Indian Army and about 9 bulletproof Scorpios last year.

Admitting to the fact that the demand of the special vehicles has increased post 26/11, Hai said the company has received an order of 10 Marksman and bulletproof Scorpios and Boleros from the Maharashtra police. On the export front, he said the company had exported about 30-40 vehicles to Ghana, Nepal, Guyana and Sri Lanka last year. The company, which is also looking at establishing another manufacturing facility in Africa to cater to the needs of African nations, will concentrate on exports next year, he said.

Awakening Afghanistan

by Bing West


The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for seven years now. Whatever our strategy is, it has not worked. As the Obama team ratchets up its Afghanistan war effort, the situation remains bleak. It is clear we need more troops—actively engaged. It is also clear most of the burden will rest with the United States. A surge for Afghanistan is indeed in the cards. But increasing our forces will be no panacea. Local military and police forces have not been trained adequately, while the corruption attendant to opium tears apart the fabric of trust in Afghan society. Hence, Washington is reviewing its strategy.

The heart of the security problem is the sanctuary in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in western Pakistan. To date, our approach has been containment—repulsing Taliban forces when they surge across the border into Afghanistan. This is playing defense against the Taliban, a second-tier enemy, while our mortal foe remains al-Qaeda. But the Pakistani army lacks the tactics, logistics and motivation to assert control in the FATA. So persuading Pakistan to take decisive action is unlikely to succeed. Of course, negotiating to lure some Taliban away from al-Qaeda is a reasonable option, although it won’t result in a marked turnaround.

A tough course is to slowly build up the size and intensity of American air and ground strikes inside the FATA, with the intent of destroying al-Qaeda as a distinct entity of Arab foreigners, separate from the Taliban. The gamble is that the Pakistani government and people will accept as a fact of life a gradual increase in strikes. Large raids merit serious consideration if the chances of inflicting major losses on al-Qaeda are high. But the downside risk is portentous. Such strikes may provoke riots that bring down the government. Hence covert actions against Osama bin Laden’s lair inside Pakistan remain the prudent course.

The Pentagon, however, must have ready a severe response if al-Qaeda succeeds in a second attack against American civilians. Assuming such a drastic action is not taken, it will be years before the tribes inside Pakistan are organized to reject the Taliban. Inside Afghanistan, U.S. troops may increase from thirty-two thousand to fifty thousand over the next year. But this surge can succeed only if the combat units live and fight alongside Afghan soldiers. Organizing and paying the tribes to contribute local militia, as was done in Vietnam with the Popular Forces and in Iraq with the Sunni neighborhood watches, will also enhance border defense. Iraq has demonstrated that the embedding of American small units among the population, partnered with indigenous forces, can bring about local security. Simultaneously, advisers must live in outposts with the local police.

Once security is provided at the village level in eastern Afghanistan, the issue is how to extract our troops. Currently, we’re still wrestling with this in Iraq, where the enemy is fragmented and enjoys scant sanctuary. The problem is the Baghdad government is loath to offer reasonable terms to the local Sunni militias. In Afghanistan, the gap between the local level and officials up the chain of command is even greater. The central government in Kabul is wracked by corruption, drug cartels, incompetence, indifference and tribal patronage. If a district remains neglected by the Kabul government, a local warlord is sure to emerge, regardless of American military effectiveness. The opium trade has corrupted all segments of Afghani leadership—from tribal and military rulers to the warlords.

And again, we are faced with unpalatable options to address this crisis. One is of course to maintain the status quo—a post-9/11 pledge by NATO to contribute the money and troops needed to create a twenty-first-century unified Afghanistan with a robust non-opium economy. Given the global financial breakdown, however, Europe and the United States are unlikely to provide that amount of resources.

The second option is to scale back our ambition, focusing on security conditions that prevent a sanctuary inside Afghanistan for the Taliban or al-Qaeda, and that includes smashing the drug networks that support the Taliban. Nearly three years ago, CENTCOM declared the drug trade to be “the number one threat” to Afghanistan’s democracy and freedom. If American units, living alongside Afghan soldiers, police and local tribal militias, are ordered to straighten out a corrupt mess, they have to be given the authority to arrest and to imprison. In essence, American units would be working against the interests of many in the Afghan government.

We have to face up to the reality of what it would take to achieve our goals, and to wrestle with our limitations. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen has said that Afghanistan needs highways, electricity, commerce, alternative crops to poppy, foreign investment, reliable provincial governors and a justice system based on the rule of law. “These are the keys to success in Afghanistan,” he said. “We can’t kill our way to victory.”

It’s strange for a military commander to say he can’t kill his way to victory when he is fighting a war. The United States entered Afghanistan to wage war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. A soldier is first and foremost a rifleman, not a construction worker. Security—achieved by killing the enemy until they desist from trying to kill you—must precede economic development. We’re not going to have the money to reconstruct Afghanistan to be the Sweden of the Indian subcontinent. The political pressures in the United States to reduce the defense budget will be intense. The global financial crisis will greatly constrict NATO funding for Afghanistan. Nation building in Afghanistan is distinct from the core mission of preventing the resurgence of al-Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.

The realistic response is to pare back our strategic goals and our rhetoric about the end-state in Afghanistan. The U.S. military should focus on security, with economic development downgraded from a mission to a tool, and more effort placed on training and advising the Afghan army and police, instead of doing the job for them.

Bing West is a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and combat marine. His third book on the Iraq War is The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics and the Endgame in Iraq (Random House, 2008).

A New Dawn in Pakistan

Today is a new dawn in Pakistan - not a perfect dawn, but a dawn nonetheless. As millions celebrate the reinstatement of the twice-deposed Pakistani Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, doubts about the country's democratic experiment are being cautiously laid to rest amidst economic and security woes. Pakistan's adolescent democracy is heading toward its rite of passage. But growing up is never easy. Pakistan continues to face impervious Islamist insurgents in the north and intransigent ethnic separatists in the south, and is surrounded by domineering Indians to the east and ambivalent Americans and Afghans to the west. While its unique ways and means beckon U.S. support, Pakistan is considered a bankrupt nuclear-armed tinderbox. Will this new dawn push political parties, lawyers, students, journalists - and yes, the historically skeptical military - to reset the system and salvage Pakistan?

Yes it will; and it should. A mentor of mine in Islamabad told me recently that he had protested against dictators in the sixties and eighties, but had never imagined a day when Pakistan - at the brink of a breakup, economic collapse, and military losses - would then almost suddenly pull back and reunite in unprecedented ways. He reinforced the dictum buried deep in the Pakistani creed: dictators steal dreams, politicians steal hope, and the people steal power from both. For more than sixty years the Pakistani people have been stuck in a tug-of-war between ineffective politicians and towering generals; between democracy without governance and autocracy without law; between a state strengthening a nation and competing nations weakening it; between Islam as a unifying identity and a national identity crisis; and between countries we learn to hate (India) and countries we can't learn to love (the United States).

Today, more than half of 175 million Pakistanis are living under undemocratic or extra-constitutional rule in Punjab and the Swat valley. The International Monetary Fund is providing life support to a high-prices-low-jobs economy showing little signs of recovery. A counterinsurgency policy process tainted with divergent security interests - good Taliban vs. bad Taliban - has led to poor planning, implementation, and evaluation. Perplexed, the United States has all but given up on joint intelligence and military operations in Pakistan's tribal areas - Al Qaeda's sanctuary. Instead, frequent drone attacks, despite the political outcry in Islamabad over collateral damage, continue as Washington completes a U.S.-Pakistan/Afghanistan policy review, focusing on military aid, training and equipment.

This dawn brings hope to end this cycle of state failure and ephemeral stability. While millions are placated by Islamabad's decision to free politicians, journalists, and students, time is not on the side of the current Pakistan Peoples Party government. The following political, military and economic steps must be taken with judicious speed.

First, President Zardari should unilaterally and unequivocally give all powers back to Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gillani that was consolidated unconstitutionally by his predecessor, President Musharraf. Second, Gillani's efforts to reconcile with the second largest political party in the largest province, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of Punjab, should be encouraged and expedited. The federal ministers for defense, information, foreign affairs, interior, and finance must form the backbone of the upcoming offensive against the wars on poverty, terrorism and ethnic and sectarian strife; free from partisan pandering, their selection should reflect experience, expertise and innovativeness.

Third, an overhaul of the counterinsurgency policy process is needed to dwarf demands from the United States for more trainers and equipment. Pakistan national security policy, while traditionally under the domain of the military, was unnecessarily and completely ignored by the current regime. This policy pause must resume and put on fast forward. The Prime Minister announced last year that the National Counter Terrorism Commission may be a good place to integrate the vast variety of intelligence, diplomatic, judicial and military efforts amongst local, and with U.S. and Afghan agencies. Questions about troop morale, peace deals with local Taliban, and military's reluctance to hold and build an area after clearing it must be at the center of any security policy reform. Moreover, parliamentary committees on intelligence and defense should be given oversight and appropriations authority to truly own the war against insurgents, and deter Islamabad from signing blank checks to Washington. Beyond institutional mission statements, pragmatic metrics of success must determine review and outcome.

Fourth, and perhaps the most important, the economy must be fixed in tandem with decreasing physical insecurity. This can be achieved by effective counterinsurgency and securing foreign aid and loans in the short term, enhancing comparative advantage of prime exports such as textiles and technology services in the medium term, and building human capital by large investments in education in the long term. The ultimate goal ought to be a coalition government partnered with the military and intelligence agencies on national security interests, as well as a government supportive of an independent judiciary and a viable economy.

After last year's national elections, Pakistan's transitional democracy has entered a second phase. Not everyone who has fought for change is praise worthy: judges have abused power, lawyers have joined corrupt political parties, and sanctimonious politicians from both sides of the aisle have coerced Supreme Court justices and ratified military coups. But I can say this with certainty: this week, the good and the bad defeated the ugly.

Haider Mullick is a Senior Fellow at the U.S. Joint Special Operations University, focusing on U.S.-South Asia Relations.. He can be reached at

NATO’s hard choices in Afghanistan

Patrick Seale

THERE is bad news and good news for NATO as it prepares for its 60th anniversary summit meeting on April 3-4. Hosted jointly by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit of the Atlantic Alliance will be held at Strasbourg in eastern France and also at Kehl, a small German town opposite it across the Rhine.

The bad news is that NATO is losing the war against the Taleban in Afghanistan. It is by no means certain that the ‘surge’ of 17,000 extra troops, demanded by CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus, will be sufficient to contain the Taleban’s expected spring offensive. A new strategy is urgently required in the crucial Afghan-Pakistan theater, but there is as yet no agreement among NATO allies on what this should be.

The good news is that France is rejoining NATO’s integrated military command structure after a 43-year absence. When General de Gaulle announced France’s withdrawal from the military command in 1966, his political bombshell was intended to signal France’s defiant independence from the United States. President Sarkozy has now sought to square the circle by declaring that rejoining the command will strengthen both the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance, the ‘two pillars’ of French and European security.

“Yes, we are allies of the United States,” Sarkozy declared in an important speech on March 11, “but friends that stand upright, independent allies, free partners.” France, he added, would retain control of its independent nuclear deterrent and would be free to decide where and when to deploy its troops.

The French military is said to be happy with Sarkozy’s decision. They will secure two senior operational command positions within NATO, as well as jobs for some 800 French officers. A recent poll suggests that 58 percent of the French people are also in favor. But the move has been opposed by the French Socialist Party, by leading figures on the right, such as former prime ministers Alain Juppe and Dominique de Villepin, and by diehard Gaullists.

An immediate headache for NATO will be the choice of a new secretary-general to replace the Dutchman, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, whose mandate expires on July 31. A decision is expected to be made before the April summit. Britain, France and Germany are said to favor Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, 56, who won points by taking the controversial decision to send Danish troops to Afghanistan.

The US is said to prefer Canadian defense minister Peter MacKay, while the Baltic States have backed the candidature of Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski. However, now that NATO is seeking close cooperation with Moscow, Sikorski’s hard-line views on Russia may not enhance his prospects.

Engrossing as they are, these diplomatic skirmishes among the allies have little impact on the dangerous – and worsening – situation in Afghanistan. General Petraeus’s strategy seems to be to attempt to seize the military initiative from the Taleban so as to create a position of strength from which to negotiate with ‘moderate elements’ in the insurgency. But are there any ‘moderate’ Taleban? The movement is by no means monolithic, but it seems to be united around a determination to drive foreign forces out of the country.

The US and NATO face two very serious problems. The lesser of the two is how to secure their logistical communications into Afghanistan. They have suffered several recent setbacks. A vital bridge in the Khyber Pass, through which much of the military traffic from Peshawar climbs up into Afghanistan, was destroyed – evidently blown up by the Taleban.

A second blow has been the decision by Kirghizstan to evict the Americans from the important Manas airbase – a vital Central Asian hub for supplies to Afghanistan. The Americans are to be replaced by a rapid deployment force from the Community of Independent States, under Russian command. Moscow is thereby signaling its determination to bring the republics of Central Asia – part of its ‘near abroad’ – back into its strategic orbit.

A more fundamental problem is the relationship of the US and NATO with Pakistan, and especially with the Pakistani armed forces, which form the backbone of the country and are the custodians of Pakistan nuclear arsenal. Pakistan may be in political chaos – with President Asif Ali Zardari fighting for political survival against his principal opponent, Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). But the key figure in the background is the Army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani.

General Kayani is said to be pro-West. But, whatever he may say publicly, he almost certainly shares the view of most senior Pakistani officers – and of the powerful inter-service intelligence agency, the ISI – that the Taleban and other Islamist groups are essential tools of Pakistan’s regional policy.

Pakistan does not want to see the Taleban defeated or the US establish long-term bases in Afghanistan.

In its contest with India, Pakistan sees Afghanistan as its ‘strategic depth.’ It does not like the way President Hamid Karzai has opened the door to Indian influence in Afghanistan. In a word, Pakistan would probably prefer to see a Taleban government in Kabul under its own influence, rather than the present Karzai government under Indian influence, propped up by the US and NATO.

If these are indeed the goals of Pakistan’s military chiefs, they run counter to those of General Petraeus and NATO’s military planners. Something like a tug-of-war is taking place. If the US and NATO put additional pressure on the Pakistan military to extend their authority over the Taleban ‘safe havens’ on the Pakistan-Afghan border, they risk on the contrary inciting Pakistan to increase its covert aid to the Taleban, in defence of its own national interests.

This then is the fundamental puzzle with which NATO must wrestle: it needs Pakistan’s aid for supply routes and for operations against the tribal insurgents, but NATO political and strategic goals are not those of Pakistan.

In any event, missile strikes by CIA drones into Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province – and their inevitable toll of civilian casualties – are profoundly resented by the Pakistan military and by the population at large.

Meanwhile, allied casualties mount in Afghanistan: 61 foreign soldiers have been killed since the beginning of this year including 29 Americans. Britain has lost 152 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001, Canada 112 and France 26. The public in most NATO countries does not understand in what noble cause its young men are being killed. – SG

US asks India to pull back troops from Pak border

Nitin Gokhale

Thursday, March 19, 2009, (New Delhi)

NDTV has exclusive details of how Foreign Secretary Shivshanker Menon was categorically told by the US that India must lower troop levels on the border with Pakistan as a first step to restarting the peace process.

An outraged India has ruled this out completely though it seems America's demand was made to encourage Pakistan to transfer soldiers to its Afghanistan border to help the US launch a major thrust against the Taliban.

But India on Thursday also clarified the Mumbai terror attacks had nothing to do with its relationship with Pakistan.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that India still believes terrorists used Pakistani soil and infrastructure in that country to launch the 26/11 attacks.

In his recent visit to Washington, the Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon came under unexpected pressure from the new US administration.

NDTV has learnt that the Foreign Secretary was told in no uncertain terms that India, not Pakistan should make the first moves towards restoring the peace process.

What really took Menon by surprise was that the US State Department wanted India to pull back troops from the border with Pakistan.

India refused saying that it hadn't deployed extra troops after the Mumbai attacks. Rather it was Pakistan which has sent thousands of troops.

The reason is that President Barack Obama is gearing up to launch a bigger military offensive in Afghanistan.

For this, he needs more Pakistani troops to help along the volatile Afghan-Pakistan border, troops, which Islamabad moved to the Indian border.

The US move to pressurise India has outraged New Delhi, it told Washington that Pakistan is responsible for the tension and the troop build up.

But what India cannot ignore is the sub-text: That it is yet to establish a comfort level with the new Obama administration like it achieved with President George W Bush.

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