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Monday, 23 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 23 Mar 09

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India not part of Afghan problem: Richard

NDTV Correspondent

Sunday, March 22, 2009, (Brussels)

US special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke has said that India is not part of the problem the way Pakistan is.

However, he added that India as well as Pakistan are certainly a major factor in resolving the Afghanistan crisis.

Speaking at a conference in Brussels, Holbrooke said, "The people who planned 9/11, who killed Benazir, who committed the atrocities in Mumbai, who probably were associated with the attack on the cricket team in Lahore... are not in Afghanistan. They're in Pakistan."

1,800 rebel BDR soldiers still on run?

Press Trust of India

Sunday, March 22, 2009, (Dhaka)

About 1,800 BDR soldiers were still absconding nearly a month after the bloody mutiny at the paramilitary force's headquarters in Dhaka in which more than 73 Army personnel were killed, officials said on Sunday.

A manhunt was still underway to trace the fugitives.

"Some 1,800 soldiers are still in hiding according to our list," newly appointed BDR chief Brigadier General Mainul Islam said.

About 9,000 soldiers fled their barracks during or after the February 25-26 mutiny but nearly 7,000 of them reported to work as ordered under a 24-hour ultimatum following the mutiny that saw deaths of 73 Army officers serving the paramilitary force.

Army troops under a special operation codenamed "Operation Rebel Hunt" and police and other security agencies including elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) so far arrested nearly 250 fugitive soldiers under a massive countrywide manhunt.

Officials earlier said the fugitives fled the BDR's Pilkhana headquarters along with "huge" weapons, ammunitions and explosives.

"The trained rebel soldiers, carrying weapons and explosives, are ready recruits for terrorist or militant outfits in Bangladesh and neighbouring countries," leading security expert retd general ANM Muniruzzaman said.

Foolproof maritime security still a dream
3 yrs needed to build effective monitoring system: Navy
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22
The Navy has said it would take a few more years to build an effective system to prevent militants from using the sea route to carry out an attack like the one in Mumbai recently.

The existing post-26/11 security plan that envisages monitoring movement of all kinds of boats just can not be implemented in any quick-fix fashion. It would take nearly three years to build up capacities, have satellite links, radio transponders and fit boats with some tracking system enabling the network to constantly monitor around 3 lakh boats, including merchant ships, small boats and fishing trawlers, said Naval sources.

The Navy, that was given overall charge of the maritime security a couple of weeks ago, has also apprised the government of the fact that sea-borne militants like those who attacked Mumbai, might not come on these “monitored” boats.

Anybody boarding a boat forcibly, as they did, could very well destroy the tracking equipment installed on board by dumping it into the sea.

“The monitoring has to be a method that does not rely on co-operation of the boat owner alone. A radar or sensor-based system has to be juxtaposed with this monitoring system,” said Naval officials.

The government has already ordered aerostat radars worth $600 million that would dot the country’s coastline.

The government wanted all boats of sub-300 tonne variety to be fitted with an automatic identification system (AIS). At present, it is mandatory for merchant ships having more than 300 tonne capacity to have AIS to sail. In case, the same is installed on all boats, the existing system of monitoring would collapse as our ground and ship-based stations do not have the capacity to take on the additional load.

Presently, only non-fishing boats like passenger ferries of the sub-300 tonne variety will be on AIS that allows two-way communication. Other fishing boats will be fitted with a “b-class” AIS. This costs about Rs 5,000 per boat. It has lower frequency and does not allow two-way communication.

Near-miss Incident
IAF chopper ‘may not have’ contacted ATC

New Delhi, March 22
The IAF helicopter in the Presidential entourage, which had a narrow-miss with an Air India aircraft at the Mumbai airport last month, was under visual flight rules (VFR) instead of being instrument-guided and probably had no contact with the control tower at the airport, informed sources have indicated.

As an inquiry into the February 9 incident by a joint committee of civil and military aviation officials progressed, there were indications that the helicopter had not established contact with the air traffic control (ATC) tower at the airport, which it was supposed to do in order to make a landing, the sources said.

They, however, said only completion of the probe would establish the exact reasons and circumstances and make important recommendations, including enhancing levels of coordination between civil and military aviation agencies, especially during VIP travel. Busy airports like Mumbai have controlled airspace around them and most of the air traffic is guided by instrument flight rules (IFR).

Pointing out that under no circumstances can an aircraft land at an airport or even change its position on the ground without permissions from the ATC, the sources said when a plane or helicopter had to land, it had to shift over from the approach control radar to the ATC tower, which was the appropriate authority for giving landing or take-off clearance. In Mumbai, the shift-over takes place about five km away from the airport. — PTI

Army on expedition to explore Lakshadweep

Agatti, March 22
Highlighting man’s insatiable thirst for exploring uncharted territory, the Army today launched a first-of-its-kind expedition here to test both skills of personnel in amphibious warfare and showcase their concern for ecology.

The multi-faceted expedition at this picturesque island in Lakshadweep by the Army’s Bison Division, an amphibious warfare formation, would provide opportunity to its personnel to try out para-rafting, scuba-diving and para-motoring, apart from highlighting the concern of environmentalists on ecological degradation.

The Bison Blue Waters Expedition, aimed at increasing the maritime awareness of the armed forces and educating the citizens, would appeal for conserving the coral reefs around the island in the Arabian Sea.

Bison Division General-Officer-Commanding Major Gen Rajesh Singh flagged off the expedition at a function in this island located 58 km north west of Kavarati. — PTI

Japanese military assumes more global role

By ERIC TALMADGE – 9 hours ago

CAMP MAKOMANAI, Japan (AP) — Col. Kenji Sawai, commander of Japan's 18th Infantry Regiment, stands in his headquarters dressed from head to foot in white camouflage. Skis clutter the hallways of his outpost in the snow-covered mountains of northern Japan, along with stacks of white ponchos, gloves and boots.

For decades, the mission for Japanese officers such as Sawai has been fairly straightforward: Defend the homeland. Narrowly defined, for Sawai and his infantrymen, that means protecting the island of Hokkaido, where the regiment is based, from invasion.

Now that definition is changing.

The political leadership and military planners — with the blessing of Washington, their closest ally — are cautiously moving the military away from its longtime role as a stay-at-home force. The new stance, while still centered on national defense, allows troops to be sent all over the world for a broad range of operations.

Lawmakers are mulling calls from the United States for Tokyo to send "boots on the ground" to bolster President Barack Obama's stepped-up efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. The U.S. has said that it would welcome a dispatch of soldiers.

While such a move would set off controversy among the public and is unlikely anytime soon, the government has taken a number of steps that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. It sent 600 troops to Iraq, albeit in a noncombat role; it has a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean that supports U.S. forces in Afghanistan; and it has sent two naval ships to the waters off Somalia to help battle pirates.

The tentative transition is reshaping the balance of power in northeast Asia — one of the world's most volatile and heavily armed regions — and could be a key to Japan's security as China's military rises and North Korea continues to be a nuclear-capable wild card.

Sawai's remote command, a series of drab beige barracks surrounded by sprawling marching fields, is already seeing the trickle-down effect.

At this year's "North Wind" exercises, annual maneuvers held with the United States, U.S. commanders said training involved more joint attacks, more collaboration, closer command and control — just the kind of thing that would be needed if the Japanese were to be fighting alongside the U.S. in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"We have never actually been to war, and there are many things that we want to learn from the U.S. soldiers," Sawai said after addressing his troops and several hundred U.S. National Guard soldiers who came to his base from Kentucky for the 11-day maneuvers.

It was a striking contrast: Many of the American guardsmen have been sent to war zones two or three times, while no Japanese soldier has fired a bullet in combat since Tokyo's 1945 surrender ended World War II — thanks largely to a pacifist constitution written by U.S. occupiers to keep Japan from rearming.

Sawai stressed that the exercises were not directly intended to ready the Japanese for deployment overseas.

"Defense is our mission," Sawai said. "That has not changed."

Still, the new, more aggressive, role of Japan's military is hard to ignore.

Japan has about 240,000 uniformed troops, with about 130,000 of them in the army, which is formally known as the Ground Self-Defense Forces. Because of sensitivities left over from the last century, the military itself is known as the Self-Defense Force.

Constitutional restrictions have barred the military from acquiring an aircraft carrier or some air-to-air refueling capabilities needed for long-range strikes, which are crucial for the projection of force but are considered too aggressive to meet the constitutional defense-only rules. Unlike China's double-digit defense spending growth, Japan's has remained flat for years. China has for years outspent Japan — $70 billion to $49 billion in 2009.

Even so, Japan has one of the best-funded and highly regarded militaries in the world. Its navy, in particular, is regarded as the best operating in the region, after only the U.S. Navy.

Earlier this month, after much haggling in parliament, two Japanese naval destroyers were dispatched to the sea off Somalia to join the multinational fight against piracy. Two more destroyers were sent to the Sea of Japan to monitor North Korean missile activity. And late last year, Japanese troops ended a four-year humanitarian and airlift mission in Iraq, the military's biggest overseas operation since World War II.

On the home front, Japan has worked closely with the United States to erect a multi-billion dollar ballistic missile shield to protect the country — and the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed here — from a potential attack by its unpredictable and often belligerent neighbor, North Korea.

Elements of that shield could soon be tested if North Korea, as expected, test launches its first long-range ballistic missile since a failed attempt in 2006. North Korea claims the launch is intended to put a satellite into orbit, but Japanese officials have said they are prepared to respond if the missile's trajectory poses a threat to Japan's territory.

Sending troops to Afghanistan or elsewhere would likely stir up opposition from many Japanese who recall the disaster of the previous century's militarist misadventures and strongly resist any action that might lead Japan again into war.

"I would anticipate the SDF (Japanese Self-Defense Force) taking a significantly larger role on the international stage in the years to come. There are any number of international and domestic factors that all point in the same direction on this point," said Eric Heginbotham, a political scientist with the U.S.-based RAND Corporation.

But raising the question of Japan sending troops to Afghanistan, he added: "I would say it is unlikely, unless the situation there stabilizes or the SDF can identify a safe corner of the country in which to operate. Japan is still extremely casualty sensitive."

Japan's neighbors are also wary of such moves.

But political opposition at home is eroding. Japan's two biggest parties both advocate the country taking a higher-profile role on the world stage, largely for nationalistic reasons. And the new mood dovetails with pressure from the United States, which would welcomes a stronger Japan that could assist thinly spread U.S. forces and serve as a counterbalance to the growing military strength of China.

"Gradually, Japan is moving toward that direction," said Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior fellow at the Tokyo Foundation.

"There is vague consensus among the policy circle. However, there is no consensus among ordinary citizens and politicians," he said. "The bridging role should be played by politicians, the policy research community and media."

ANALYSIS-Analysts see need for U.S. talks with Taliban

Sun Mar 22, 2009 4:54am EDT

By Myra MacDonald

LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - If the United States is to succeed in Afghanistan, it is going to have to engage in dialogue with Taliban-led insurgents, according to many analysts with close knowledge of the region.

But in doing so, it will have to juggle the competing interests of India and Pakistan, both of which have a stake in any eventual political settlement in Afghanistan.

"This is not going to work out smoothly. Each step there are going to be complications," said C. Raja Mohan, Professor of South Asia Studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technology University.

The United States, which is due to announce a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan shortly, has suggested it could reach out to insurgents to see if some can be peeled away from a hardline Islamist core linked to al Qaeda.

Vice President Joe Biden said this month that he believed only five percent of the Taliban were "incorrigible".

"I do think it is worth engaging and determining whether or not there are those who are willing to participate in a secure and stable Afghanistan," he told a news conference in Brussels.

But India has been wary of any political accommodation with the Taliban, which were close allies of Pakistan before they were toppled by the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

It long accused Pakistan of using links to Afghan Islamists to fuel an insurgency in Indian Kashmir, and of seeking to dominate Afghanistan to provide "strategic depth" -- effectively giving its army space to operate in the event of war with India.

Pakistan in turn has resented growing Indian influence in Afghanistan which it sees as an attempt by its much larger neighbour to put pressure on it from both east and west.


Indian analysts say India has no reason to oppose outright any political settlement with Afghan insurgents, who are dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group whose influence was undercut by the fall of the Pashtun Taliban in 2001.

"Engaging the Taliban is necessary," said retired Indian diplomat M. K. Bhadrakumar.

He noted Indians had good relations with the Pashtuns dating back to pre-independence days but blamed Pakistan for having encouraged Islamist fervour in Afghanistan to build a common bond of religion across both countries.

"Addressing Pashtun grievances is indeed the key to any settlement," said Raja Mohan. "The real problem is different: all Taliban are Pashtun; not all Pashtun are Taliban. Finding the space here is the real challenge."

"It is by no means clear if the U.S. and Pakistani interests can ever coincide," he added. "Pakistan needs to maintain an Islamic hold on the Pashtuns and the U.S. needs to separate the Pashtun conservatism from the extremist Islamic ideology, which is the same objective as that of India."

Pakistani analysts, however, say Indian suspicions that Pakistan -- and particularly the powerful Pakistan Army -- continues to support Islamist militancy to maintain its influence on Afghanistan are outdated.

Indeed they say Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has redefined strategic depth as coming not from Afghanistan, but from a stronger economy and stable Pakistan.

"They are probably going to stay away from the religion thing," said Shuja Nawaz, Director of the South Asia Center at The Atlantic Council of the United States. "Kayani knows how unreliable these religious types are."

"He really wants Pakistan to succeed in international terms, economically, first, then socially," said defence analyst Brian Cloughley.


Whatever differences between India and Pakistan, both would gain enormously if Washington could reach a political settlement in Afghanistan that isolates hardline Islamists.

Engaging in talks with the Afghan Taliban would have a sobering impact on the Pakistani Taliban since both appeal to each other on the basis of their common Pashtun identity, said Asif Durrani, Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner in London.

"What we are seeing on the Pakistani side is a reaction to what is happening in Afghanistan," he said.

"The moment the (Afghan) war ends, Pakistan is on the road to stability," said Bhadrakumar, adding this in turn would galvanise peace efforts over Kashmir.

According to Raja Mohan, a framework peace deal was nearly agreed in 2007 and then put on the back burner because of political instability in Pakistan.

But achieving a political settlement that would spread from Afghanistan into Pakistan, Kashmir and India would require Washington to pull off a spectacular diplomatic high-wire act.

It already has to contend with al Qaeda, which has every interest in sabotaging its plans. It has to decide how to adjust its military strategy, which is driving many Afghans into the arms of the Taliban because of high civilian casualties.

And with India facing a national election, the government is unlikely to make any concessions to Pakistan now, especially after last November's attack on Mumbai.

Washington would also have to work out the mechanics of how to hold talks and with whom.

U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide told France's Le Monde newspaper it was important to avoid a fragmented approach to the insurgency but to talk to all the Taliban movement. [ID:nLL470535]

The U.S. review of strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan will have to contend with all that and more. "They are trying to come up with big ideas," said Nawaz. "There is no wishful thinking." (Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Admission of guilt
Erring Armymen must not get away lightly

After dragging its feet considerably over the killing of two civilians in the Bomai-Sopore area of Jammu and Kashmir for a month, the Army has at the end of the day indicted a JCO and two soldiers on several counts. This apparently followed a direction from the Ministry of Defence to submit a detailed report within two days to clarify its position. The incident had led to massive public protests in the area and had united various political parties. Even Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah raised the issue of the Army’s inaction with Defence Minister A K Antony. The Army has finally said that its court of inquiry headed by a Brigadier had held a JCO and two soldiers, who were involved in the Bomai incident, “accountable for various lapses”. The charges, besides the failure to exercise the desired command and control by the JCO, also encompass failure by two soldiers to exercise restraint in the handling of their weapons during the incident.

A magisterial inquiry ordered by the state government has squarely blamed the Army for the killings. This report has even refuted the Army’s claim that there was a crossfire by saying that there was no evidence of militants being present on the spot. The Army’s admission of guilt may help defuse the confrontation that has engulfed the area. In a similar proof of zero tolerance towards human rights violations, the CRPF has also immediately suspended its erring men and officers for the killing of a civilian in Pulwama.

The security forces perform an extremely tedious role in Kashmir. They have to neutralise the terrorists while protecting innocent civilians at the same time. It will be futile to deny that serious mistakes do take place in this massive and tricky operation. But any attempt to cover up the blunders cannot be approved of and generally it boomerangs, because it makes it appear as if the Army is callous in dealing with the people most of whom are innocent. By meting out adequate punishment to those found guilty, it would not only neutralise the Pakistani propaganda in this regard, but would also deter other security men from taking the law into their own hands.

India's military power suffers from serious flaws
by Dinesh Kumar

First came news of Russia's decision to ground a substantial number of its MiG-29 fighters owing to structural defects. The news sparked off immediate concern for both the Indian Air Force (IAF), which flies three squadrons of this 'air superiority' aircraft that played a role during the Kargil war, and for also the Indian Navy which will begin taking delivery of the first four of a total 45 of this aircraft's naval variant, the MiG-29K, later this year.

Almost simultaneously came news of the Obama Administration's directive to General Electric to stop all work on the US-supplied gas turbine engines powering the Shivalik-class frigates just when the Navy was all set to launch sea trials of the first of these three stealth warships.

This freeze will stay until the US government finishes reviewing its military ties with different countries. India is now reportedly turning to an Italian company to help operationalise the engines of the 4,900 tonne warships so that sea trials begin within the next two months.

Ironically, this decision coincides with Washington clearing the sale of eight P-8I Poseidon maritime reconnaissance aircraft priced at $2.1 billion making it the largest arms transfer to India so far in the history of bilateral relations.

But then all purchases from the US come with the rider that India sign the End-Use Verification Agreement (EUVA) that entails 'on-site inspection' and 'physical verification' which New Delhi has been resisting.

And now comes news that the IAF is looking for advance jet trainers (AJT) other than the British-supplied Hawk aircraft to train its pilots. This is because the IAF is facing considerable problems relating to product-support for the 66 Hawks bought only a few years ago. The AJT plays a vital role in training rookie pilots to transition from subsonic trainer aircraft to 'high-performance' supersonic fighters.

These three events in quick succession are only a few of the many such incidents that have been occurring with monotonous regularity. It is repeatedly exposing the Indian armed forces' vulnerability to the whims and vagaries of foreign suppliers that range from sudden foreign policy shifts, price hikes to glitches in technology. This adversely affects every aspect of India's war-fighting capabilities, as was witnessed during the Kargil war when the Army chief commented on India's lack of preparedness famously saying that "if a war was thrust on us, we will fight with whatever we have".

The Ministry of Defence is still grappling with the Russians who have almost tripled the original cost of refitting the 44,500 tonne aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov (since renamed INS Vikramaditya). The arrival of this aircraft carrier, which is vital to India's strategic interests in the Indian Ocean because of its role in sea control, has been delayed further by four years to end-2012.

In 2008, the Russian company Rosoboroexport had suddenly hiked the price of 80 Mi-17-IV transport helicopters from $650 million to $ 1 billion after the deal had been finalised. In 2007, the Indian Navy refused to take delivery of an upgraded Kilo-class submarine from the Russians after they noticed deficiencies in the accuracy of the freshly fitted cruise missiles.

That same year, India also expressed reservations over the upgraded Russian-made IL-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft after the Navy complained that its Sea Dragon multi-mission electronic warfare suites were not working to parameters.

Then in the mid-1990s, many of the British-supplied Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles turned out to be duds. The French refused an Indian request for the 'proven' Exocet anti-ship missiles that had been successfully used by Argentina against the British naval fleet during the Falklands war.

After continued refusals, the US only recently agreed to sell to India the 'war proven' Harpoon anti-ship missiles, which, incidentally, it supplied to Pakistan two decades ago.

India may boast of the world's third largest Army, fourth largest Air Force and seventh largest Navy, but even 61 years after Independence the Indian military continues to be almost entirely dependent on foreign countries for its weapon systems.

From rifles and machine guns for its Infantry to tanks, artillery guns, fighter aircraft and submarines, the list of imports reads endless and runs into billions of dollars.

The Indian armed forces are currently in the midst of their most expensive modernisation and upgrading programme. But India's military is almost entirely foreign dependent. India is slated to spend a whopping $50 billion on defence purchases in the next five years. This does not include the $32 billion worth agreements signed between 2000-2007.

But the time lines, cost escalation, rapid advances in military technology and continued depletions in force-levels continue to take their toll on the armed forces which can only hope to attain their complete modernisation by 2025, which is still a decade-and-a-half away.

The order for big-ticket items — all of them replacements for an ageing fleet — is indeed daunting. It includes 126 multi-role combat aircraft valued at $10.4 billion; six more submarines; six more maritime reconnaissance aircraft to replace the ageing Soviet-origin IL-38s; six C-130J 'Super Hercules' transport aircraft from the US for the Special Forces valued at $962.45 million; a range of artillery ranging from 1,500 pieces of 155 mm towed artillery guns, 180 wheeled Self Propelled Guns and 140 ultra light howitzers; 347 more T-90 tanks from Russia; a range of helicopters ranging from Mi-17-IVs, 384 light helicopters including 259 for the Army and 125 for the IAF priced at a total of about $1.6 billion to replace the vintage French-origin Chetaks and Cheetahs, and 22 attack helicopters to replace the ageing Soviet-origin Mi-25/35s; 16 anti-submarine warfare helicopters for the Navy to replace the British-made Sea King fleet, and 15 heavy-lift utility helicopters to replace the four Soviet-origin Mi-25 helicopters.

Unfortunately, India's quest for self-reliance and indigenisation of defence hardware that began in the late 1950s is far from fruitition. Of particular dismay is the performance of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, which has failed to develop a single major weapon system.

Even 37 years after its development, the Arjun tank continues to suffer from performance deficiencies, forcing India to buy T-90s from Russia, which has since been creating hurdles in technology transfer.

Indigenous efforts to make the Kaveri engine for the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, developed with the help of the US and still a few years from induction into the IAF, have failed, forcing India to look for a foreign collaborator.

The Akash and Trishul surface-air-missiles have remained a non-starter even after 26 years forcing India to buy Barak and Spyder missiles from Israel. Both the Agni and Prithvi surface-to-surface missiles have only achieved limited success.

In contrast to military powers of reckoning, India's defence exports were a dismal $105 million in 2006-2007 allowing it little leverage in contrast to our long-term competitor and adversary, China, which signed export agreements worth $3.8 billion in 2007 alone.

Even the most expensive Indian defence exports comprise second-hand defence equipment of foreign origin. This over-dependence on foreign vendors coupled with a failure to become self-dependent in defence hardware does not auger well for a country that is seeking to be a global player in a world that is dictated by realpolitik and where military power is still key in a multi-polar world along with the other two major forms of power – ‘Economic’ and ‘Soft’.

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