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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 25 Mar 09

Times of India

DNA India

DNA India

Hindustan Times

Asian Age

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Hindustan Times

Asian Age

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Asian Age

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Indian Express

Times of India


Army secretary visits wounded troops at NC base after AP article details punishments

The secretary of the Army visited the wounded warrior barracks at a North Carolina post after the service said it would review disciplinary actions against recuperating troops.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. —

The secretary of the Army visited the wounded warrior barracks at a North Carolina post after the service said it would review disciplinary actions against recuperating troops.

Secretary Pete Geren's visit to the unit came after an Associated Press story last week said wounded soldiers were punished three times as often as healthy soldiers. Geren also was at Fort Bragg to speak at a 50th anniversary ceremony for the Army's Golden Knights parachute team.

Geren said he has been to nearly every one of the 35 wounded warrior units to talk to soldiers about what works and what doesn't in their care and treatment, The Fayetteville Observer reported Tuesday.

Geren also said the units were evolving and that he personally hadn't heard any complaints.

"I'm here to hear firsthand from them what their experiences have been," Geren said before his visit to the unit, which wasn't open to the public. "These are men and women who've carried the burden of battle for our country, and we're doing everything we can to make the warrior transition units work for them, to help them to get rehabilitated."

The general in charge of the Army's more than 9,000 wounded soldiers said last week he is ordering a review of how the ones at Fort Bragg are being punished for minor violations. The units were created two years ago after reports of poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Former soldier Christina Steele told The Observer that she spent more than a year in the unit before getting out of the Army. Steele told the newspaper she was disciplined several times for sleeping through a morning formation because of sleeping pills doctors prescribed for her.

Steele said she saw other soldiers treated similarly.

"The morale is terrible," she said. "You've got a bunch of already busted and broken soldiers as it is."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/2008873896_woundedwarriors.html

Pakistan Marines arrest Indian fishermen again

Sambita Biswas 24 March 2009, Tuesday

THE PAKISTAN Marine Security Agency apprehended 12 fishermen along with their two boats off the Kori Creek area on Monday night (March 23). Manish Lodhari, the state secretary of the National Fish Forum confirmed the report later on March 24.

While speaking to the media, a tense Lodhari stated, “Two boats carrying 12 fishermen from the Porbander district have been apprehended by the PMSA from the Kori Creek area off the coast of Kutch district.”

Lodhari said that he received the message from his counterpart in Pakistan. The names of the two boats are Shree Singheshwar and Chandri Moleshwar. While Shree Singheshwar was carrying seven fishermen, Chandri Moleshwar had five fishermen on board. The PMSA apprehended them while they were fishing near the international maritime border in the Arabian Sea.

Both the boats have been taken to Karachi. While Rambha owns Shree Singheshwar, Chandri Moleshwar is owned by Parvatiben Kanji of Porbander district. Till date, Pakistan seized 400 Indian boats and arrested 456 fishermen. All seized boats and arrested fishermen were taken to Karachi.

http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?articleID=15758220

Recognize the Terror Challenge within Pakistan:
India to US

By Arun Kumar

Washington
India has told the US to confront the reality that terrorism posed a great challenge within Pakistan, noting that the international war against terrorism cannot be segmented with various terrorist groups cemented in their ideology.

"Al Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba have all fused, cemented together in their ideology of terror," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy Shyam Saran said here Monday at the Brookings Institute, a Washington think tank.

"We have to recognize there is a great challenge within Pakistan that needs to be confronted," he said by building up civilian support. "Instead of looking at certain individuals, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) or the military to fight terrorism, we need need to have a much more nuanced approach."

India, he said would be very supportive of US efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan "as we have very convergent interest in the region," the former foreign secretary said.

India's principal concern in Afghanistan was that it should not relapse into a pocket of terrorism as that would be a very worrisome development, he said noting India has given full support to a multi-party, multi-ethnic democratic set-up there.

Asking the US not to give up so easily, Saran noted that India's focus on development- education, health, infrastructure - in Afghanistan had a "very very positive impact" earning tremendous support and goodwill of the Afghan people.

With the US set to unveil the Obama administration's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan later this week, he said a restoration of balance between development and security would be very welcome.

Earlier, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg noting that India has a "huge stake" in making sure both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are stable, urged New Delhi to support Pakistan as it works to strengthen its democracy and fight extremists.

With President Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh expected to meet next week at a world economic summit in London, a central question for the leaders of the two powerful democracies, Steinberg said, will be how they can work together to combat extremism threatening South Asia.

The United States and India, Steinberg said, are "joined together" by the memories of the Sep 11, 2001, terror attacks in the US and the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai attack, blamed on the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"As President (Asif Ali) Zardari and the Pakistani government take courageous steps needed to confront and eliminate extremists, India and the US must work together with all our international partners to support them and facilitate democracy," Steinberg said.

India has a big stake in the success of democratic government in Pakistan and is playing a very important role in South Asia, he said. "We encourage India to continue that."

http://news.boloji.com/2009/03/29232.htm

India Links CTBT Signing to Nuclear Disarmament
By Arun Kumar

Washington
India has asserted it would not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - a top non-proliferation priority of the Obama administration - unless the world moves "categorically towards nuclear disarmament in a credible time-frame."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Special Envoy for Nuclear Issues and Climate Change, Shyam Saran, Monday acknowledged that the CTBT is "an issue that has been seen as potentially, a contentious one in our relations with the new US administration."

"President (Barack) Obama has made clear that he will seek Senate ratification of, which the US has signed, and India has not", he said in a keynote speech at The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank on "The US-India Nuclear Agreement: Expectations and Consequences,"

"He has also promised to launch a 'diplomatic effort to bring on board other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force,'" Saran noted citing from Obama's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in September.

"India has been a consistent votary of a CTBT but did not sign the CTBT as it eventually emerged because it was not explicitly linked to the goal of nuclear disarmament," the former foreign secretary said.

"For India, this was crucial since it was not acceptable to legitimize, in any way, a permanent division between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states," he said.

He said that the "other reason was the manner in which the CTBT was pushed through, bypassing the Conference on Disarmament, which works by consensus, and bringing the issue before the UN General Assembly. This was done to over-ride Indian objections and was justifiably seen in India as a not too subtle attempt to foreclose India's options."

"Additionally," Saran noted, "India was included in a category of states whose signature and ratification was deemed necessary in order for the Treaty to come into force, again an unusual provision, directed at putting international pressure on India to join a Treaty whose provisions it did not agree with."

"It was against this background that India did not sign the CTBT," but said however, that since the Pokhran tests in May 1998, "India has observed a unilateral and voluntary moratorium and is committed to its continuance," he explained.

But if "the world moves categorically towards nuclear disarmament in a credible time-frame, the Indo-US differences over the CTBT would probably recede into the background," Saran said.

http://news.boloji.com/2009/03/29229.htm

US wants India to support Pak in tackling terrorism


Lalit K Jha/ PTI / Washington March 24, 2009, 17:47 IST


In its first substantive remarks on India, the Obama Administration wants New Delhi to support Pakistan in rooting out terrorism arguing that it has a "big stake" in the success of the democratic government in the Islamic nation.

The US also said it backed a global role for India and the central question is how the two countries can work together to address the regional, global challenges.

"I think it will be important for India to make clear that as Pakistan takes steps to deal with extremists on its own territory that India will be supportive of that," Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said yesterday.

The American assessment of what it expects from India while dealing with the volatile situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan was given by Steinberg in his address at the prestigious Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think-tank in the first major foreign policy speech on India by a top Obama administration official.

Acknowledging India's efforts in the reconstruction of Afghanistan in the recent years, Steinberg said President Obama would set out the US strategy for the region in the coming weeks.

He said India should "look for ways to contribute to an overall environment which can then lead to further efforts to root out extremists... There is obviously a complex history between the two countries but we will encourage India to see that it has a big stake in the efforts that we will be advocating to work both with Afghanistan and Pakistan."

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/us-wants-india-to-support-pak-in-tackling-terrorism/57239/on

Pak intelligence warns terror attacks; security beefed up


Islamabad / Press Trust Of India March 24, 2009, 14:33 IST


Security was tightened across Pakistan today following an intelligence warning that Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had sent 20 foreign militants, most of them Uzbeks, to carry out terror strikes in major cities.

The move came after a suicide bomber struck at an office of the Special Branch of police in Islamabad last night, killing a policeman and injuring five others.

Officials said there could have been more casualties if the bomber was not stopped at the gate of the office.

The intelligence agencies had warned that terrorists could strike in Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi and other major cities, a senior police official told the Dawn newspaper.

Adequate protective measures had been put in place, security around police installations had been tightened and patrolling had been increased. Vehicles and people are being randomly checked in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, he said.

Police teams are also checking hotels and had rounded up 36 "suspicious" people. A total of 79 motorbikes, 19 cars and two rickshaws have also been impounded, he said.

Police have also arrested 20 people on charges of committing crimes and seized weapons from them, the official said.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/pak-intelligence-warns-terror-attacks-security-beefed-up/57216/on

Arms supply: India wants acceptable end-use clause from US


Lalit K Jha / PTI / Washington March 24, 2009, 13:08 IST


India has told United States to overcome "lingering" doubts about reliability of US weapons supply to India and has asked Washington to work together to find a mutually acceptable solution on the end use clause of transferred weapons systems.

These issues were raised at crucial meetings held by Prime Minister's Special Envoy Shyam Saran with top US officials.

Saran, who arrived here yesterday on a four-day visit, said India and the US needed to work together to find a mutually acceptable solution which will take care of US legal requirement about end use monitoring of transferred defence system, as well as "meet out sensitivities."

"I am certain we will be able to do so quickly given our past experience and also given the interest both our countries have in strengthening this relationship," he said.

Conveying to US that despite the economic slowdown, there would be no let up in India's drive to modernise its armed forces, Saran said if India maintains its current level of defence spending, it would be on course to meet its medium and long term goals of forces up gradation.

He told the US officials that a growing part of the expected 10-year acquisition plan of $120 billion could be re-oriented towards the US.

With such huge market for US weapons systems, New Delhi has told Washington this would require the US to overcome lingering Indian doubts about the reliability of the American supplies. India and US have recently concluded mega defence deals for transfer of huge ship landing dock, weapon locating radars, medium transport aircrafts for the IAF and long range surveillance aircrafts for the Navy.

But, some of these weapons purchases have been delayed due to US insistence on going ahead with the end users clause which gives American officials the right to monitor that the weapons systems remain with agencies they are sold to.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/arms-supply-india-wants-acceptable-end-use-clauseus/57207/on

PC asks Rajasthan govt to guard against infiltration

Press Trust of India

Wednesday, March 25, 2009, (Jaipur)

Noting that Rajasthan, being a border state, is "vulnerable" to terror attacks, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday asked the state government to remain on "high alert" against infiltration of terrorists "from across the border".

"Being a border state and having a history of terror incidents, Rajasthan is a vulnerable state. It needs to be on a high alert against infiltration from across the border," Chidambaram told reporters here after holding talks with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on internal security issues.

"... the enemy is sitting across the border...history of terror in Rajasthan includes incidents like Ajmer and Jaipur serial blasts...Hence there is a need for high alert and internal vigilance, he said.

When asked whether there is any specific threat against the border state, the Home Minister said, "There is no specific terror threat. The state is fully equipped to meet any exigency."

"Militant groups from across the border are always planning to intrude into India and create terror incidents, but we have been successful in identifying and neutralizing them in many cases," the Home Minister said.

When asked about Pakistan's attitude in the aftermath of Mumbai terror attack, the home minister said, "They (Pakistan) have started to accept (that the terrorists came from its soil), but have not fully come forward."

On the coordination between central intelligence agencies and the state government, Chidambaram said, "Since the setting up of Multi Agency Center (MAC), we are no longer relying on communication through letters...it is now on a real time sharing basis."

"This means every piece of information is shared immediately. The intelligence sharing is better now and the up-gradation process will continue," the Home Minister said.

The security review with the state administration is an outcome of the recent CMs meeting held in Delhi in which the Home Ministry decided to hold separate talks with states and discuss the matters of internal security.

During the security review, the Home Minister said, "The Rajasthan government has assured him that security audit will be carried out at the various tourist destinations in the state and "if required central agencies like CISF will under take such task".

The state government was asked to perform "urban policing" in cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Kota, and Udaipur besides strengthening the rural police network, Chidambaram said.

"Rajasthan has done good work in internal security matters and considerably strengthened its police and intelligence net... it would lead to national security," he observed.

On Chief Minister Gehlot's submission to provide citizenship to a group of Pakistanis displaced between 1960 and 1970, the Home Minister said they were not intruders but "old migrants".

"We will take up the matter liberally on the state government's demand...Also we are looking into the reduction of fee structure for applying citizenship," he said.

On Gehlot's demand of shifting the immigration and custom formalities for the Thar Express passengers from Jodhpur to Munabao or Barmer, the Home Minister assured that it would also be looked into.

http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20090088682&ch=3252009125900AM

Kupwara encounter ends, 17 militants killed

NDTV Correspondent

Tuesday, March 24, 2009, (Srinagar)

One of the longest and bloodiest encounters in recent times has ended in the remote forests of Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir. Seventeen militants have been killed but also eight Army personnel including a Major have been killed.

· 17 militants killed

· 8 soldiers, including major killed

· Army operation since Friday

And as that goes on, Ganderbal is in mourning, hundreds of people have come out to mourn the death of the soldier Shabbir Ahmed Malik, a para-commando of the Army. He died in the encounter in Kupwara.

PTI adds Earlier, Defence Minister A K Antony had directed the Army to deal with the situation with "utmost firmness".

At a review meeting of the country's overall security situation, Antony emphasised that the recent incidents in the border state highlighted the nature of threat the country faced from terrorists.

The four-hour long meeting, attended by Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, Army chief General Deepak Kapoor and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh also carried out a detailed analysis of the security apparatus in place in view of the coming Lok Sabha polls.

The Defence Minister also noted with concern the death of eight Army men, including Major Mohit Sharma, during the ongoing operation inside Hafroda forest in Kupwara in which the Army was successful in eliminating 17 militants.

In a separate meeting with Mehta and Coast Guard Director General Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, the Defence Minister also obtained feedback on the implementation of decisions relating to maritime security announced last month, which included setting up of the Joint Command and Control centres all along the coastline.

http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20090088672&ch=325200911000AM

SCENARIOS-Outcomes of U.S. Afghan review

Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:52pm EDT

March 24 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce results of a review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan in coming days.

Below are some key points that may emerge from the review, according to Reuters reporting, public comments by U.S. officials and representatives of allied nations.

NARROW MISSION, LOWER EXPECTATIONS, INCREASE RESOURCES

Obama is expected to set more modest goals for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and to try to lower expectations even as he plans to boost resources to tackle the insurgency and build Afghan and Pakistani capabilities.

Obama said on Sunday the U.S. mission in Afghanistan should be "making sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies."

"That's our number one priority," he told the CBS television network's "60 Minutes" program.

Even achieving more modest targets will require greater efforts by the United States and NATO, Obama and other officials acknowledged.

"We may need to build up economic capacity in Afghanistan. We may need to improve our diplomatic efforts in Pakistan," Obama said. But, he added, "there's got to be an exit strategy. There's got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift."

Narrowing the objectives "doesn't necessarily make them more modest," said a U.S. official who asked not to be named.

"If we don't want the Taliban and al Qaeda to operate from Afghanistan and Pakistan, that means not only do you have to fight those guys but somebody else has to be in control out there," he said. "Building Afghan and Pakistani capabilities (is) essential to the goal, however you define it."

MORE TROOPS, FOCUS ON PROTECTING LOCAL POPULATION

In February, Obama approved the deployment of an extra 17,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to tackle rising insurgent violence, particularly in the south of the country, ahead of Afghanistan's presidential election in August.

Those forces are in addition to 38,000 U.S. troops and 30,000 more from allied nations already in Afghanistan.

Military officers expect the new troops to be used to hold territory, towns and villages after they have been cleared of insurgents. They will protect the local population and allow essential services and economic development to be established.

U.S. Army General David McKiernan, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has requested thousands more troops on top of the 17,000. Obama could give an indication of whether he favors that request, although McKiernan said last month he did not need a decision until later in the year.

BIG BOOST IN AFGHAN SECURITY FORCES

U.S. officials have indicated they do not believe current targets for the size of the Afghan army and police are big enough to stabilize the country on their own.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on Saturday the United States favored "a very significant increase" in the size of the Afghan police, currently projected to grow from 78,000 to 82,000.

The Afghan National Army is planned to expand from a total of about 70,000 to 134,000 soldiers by 2012. But Pentagon chief Robert Gates has said even that number may not be big enough.

RECONCILIATION WITH TALIBAN ELEMENTS

Obama and other senior administration officials have raised the prospect of trying to persuade some insurgents to renounce violence and join Afghanistan's political process.

U.S. officials have stressed that this effort must be led by the Afghan government but they have drawn comparisons with Iraq, where Sunni Muslim insurgents turned against al Qaeda and sided with U.S. forces and the Iraqi government.

It is not clear whether any outreach would be limited to the foot soldiers of the Taliban, who U.S. officials say are motivated mainly by money, or more senior members.

Some analysts doubt there are many "moderate Taliban" leaders who would want to pursue reconciliation. Others have said any such efforts should only take place once U.S. and Afghan forces have put more pressure on the insurgents.

MORE FOCUS ON PROVINCES AND DISTRICTS

Obama said last month that Afghanistan's national government led by President Hamid Karzai "seemed very detached from what's going on in the surrounding community."

Senior U.S. officials and lawmakers, often noting that Afghanistan has no tradition of a strong central government, have also called for more aid to go directly to provincial and district leaders.

MORE LOCAL SECURITY FORCES

As part of efforts to focus more on local and tribal authorities, U.S. military officials have begun a pilot program to form security forces for some Afghan communities, drawn from the local population.

Obama could choose to expand this program of de facto officially-backed militias, although analysts say it carries risks -- including empowering local warlords.

BIG BOOST IN AID TO PAKISTAN

Senior U.S. officials all stress that Afghanistan and Pakistan must be viewed together. Success in Afghanistan is impossible without tackling the problem of militant safe havens across the border in Pakistan, they say.

As part of efforts to stabilize Pakistan, the United States could triple development aid to Pakistan and boost military assistance to help the Pakistani military fight militants, a U.S. official told Reuters on Friday.

The official, who spoke on condition that he not be named because Obama has yet to unveil his new strategy, said non-military assistance could rise to three times the current roughly $450 million a year.

MORE CIVILIANS TO IMPROVE GOVERNANCE

U.S. officials have said the United States and its allies must do more to help Afghan authorities provide essential services for their people.

They argue that this will lead more local people to side with the Afghan government and the West rather than the Taliban and other insurgents.

This approach is likely to mean more civilians from U.S. and allied nations and the private sector to help build up everything from agriculture to justice systems.

"The strategy will lay out some specific ideas about how to get access to those experts and bring them to the theater," a senior U.S. defense official said earlier this month.

"The help is going to have to come from all quarters. Everybody is going to have to step up their game."

U.S. officials said hundreds of civilians from across the government were expected to go to Afghanistan. In an effort to improve what has been described as a "chaotic" international aid effort, they said veteran U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith would become a deputy to the top U.N. official on the ground. (Reporting by Andrew Gray, Arshad Mohammed and David Morgan, editing by Vicki Allen)

http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSN24362621

India scraps attack helicopter tender: official

7 hours ago

NEW DELHI (AFP) — India said Tuesday it had scrapped a tender for 22 attack helicopters as three international firms vying for the multi-million-dollar deal had been unable to meet the military's requirements.

"The request for the proposal (RFP) was cancelled last week after the three companies could not meet the qualitative requirements," Indian defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar told AFP.

"A fresh RFP will be floated shortly," Kar added, without specifying when the global tender would be issued.

A ministry source said the attack helicopter tender, floated last year, was worth nearly 550 million dollars.

The three companies which were in the race for the contract were Russia's Kamov, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) company and Italian-British group Agusta Westland, spokesman Kar said.

The source added EADS, which owns the world's largest helicopter-maker Eurocopter, was ready to bid again for the 22 high-altitude machines India needs for its troops patrolling Kashmir's mountain borders with Pakistan.

India has emerged as the biggest buyer of military products with plans to spend up to 30 billion dollars on defence purchases by 2012.

The ministry source said five companies were initially in the race for the attack helicopter deal.

"Two bowed out before the RFP was floated last year," the source told AFP.

US media reports had named the two companies which quit the race as US-based Boeing and Bell, a unit of Textron.

EADS, meanwhile, has also expressed interest in collaborating with India in producing a trainer version of an indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) which now is under field trials.

"EADS has shown interest in the LCA trainer," India's chief military scientist M. Natarajan told reporters separately on Tuesday.

India scrapped a 600-million-dollar deal in 2007 for 197 helicopters awarded to Eurocopter after allegations of corruption in the bidding process.

Media reports said that the deal was scrapped because of the involvement of brokers.

India banned middlemen in military deals following allegations of bribery in a multi-billion-dollar artillery deal in the 1980s with Swedish firm Bofors.

That scandal led to the downfall of the government of Congress prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.

Eurocopter denied the Indian media allegations of the involvement of middlemen.

New Delhi says it will soon float a separate tender for 312 helicopters in a deal estimated to be worth more than one billion dollars.

India's million-plus army also wants to buy 285 heavy- and medium-lift helicopters to replace part of its fleet of 500 Soviet-era machines.

Also, India is expected soon to name the company from which it will buy 126 fighter jets worth 12 billion dollars.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jj-w6yRtXvYk8HBLtx4aQvdqCJAA

Admiral Gorshkov carrier's cost quadruples

The cost of Admiral Gorshkov carrier being imported by the Government of India (GOI) for Indian Navy from Russia has reportedly quadrupled.

http://www.whispersinthecorridors.com/today.html#next24

Signals from Washington
Pressure on Pak Army to change mindset
by K. Subrahmanyam

In the wake of the recent visit of the Indian Foreign Secretary to the US, there have been confusing signals from Washington in regard to their expectations from India on the basis of a review of the strategy the US and NATO expect to implement. There were reports quoting high-level sources that the US has suggested that India should take the initiative to reduce its troops on the Indo-Pak border.This report has been vehemently denied from Washington.

According to Indian sources, the Indian Foreign Secretary had pointed out that it was Pakistan which had transferred forces from its western to eastern border in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and, therefore, any initiative in this regard should emanate from Islamabad.

At about the same time, very rapid political developments have taken place in Pakistan involving reinstatement of sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and reconciliation between the leaderships of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League(Nawaz).There are expectations that the PML(N) government will be restored in Punjab and through their joint efforts Prime Minister Gilani and Mr Nawaz Sharif will get the 17th Amendment cancelled, stripping the President of his powers to dissolve the National Assembly and dismiss the Prime Minister. During these developments, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to President Zardari and Mr Nawaz Sharif exhorting them to cooperate and avoid confrontation.It is also widely believed in Pakistan that Army Chief General Kiyani, after he was briefed in Washington during his trip a couple of weeks ago, played a very effective role as a broker among Mr Zardari, Mr Gilani and Mr Nawaz Sharif.

CIA Director Leon Panetta visiting Pakistan in the last few days has made it clear that the Predator drone missile strikes will continue and there will be no change in that strategy irrespective of Pakistani opposition.By the end of the month the US will present its reviewed strategy to NATO at Brussels and there are expectations that the US will embark on consultations with Russia and Iran as well on its AF-PAK strategy. It is reasonable to expect a vigorous US-NATO military action with the onset of spring.

What has passed unnoticed in Pakistan, India and the rest of the world is the systematic attempt by Pakistan to repudiate all policies and versions of history of the Musharraf years.The Pakistan government is going in for a review petition moving the Supreme Court to quash the disqualification of Mr Nawaz Sharif from standing for elections.This would mean setting aside his conviction for terrorism and attempted hijacking of the aircraft in which General Musharraf was travelling on October 12,1999. If that were to happen, then the version so far projected by General Musharraf and his fellow Generals would be called into question and the developments of October 12, 1999, will become an act of usurpation.

By restoring Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to his office, now doubts are being cast on the constitutionality of the Emergency proclaimed by General Musharraf in November 2007. One wonders whether the National Reconciliation Order issued under the Emergency which withdrew all corruption cases against Benazir and Mr Zardari will be questioned before Chief Justice Chaudhry. Lastly, the Islamabad High Court has declared that the case against Dr A.Q.Khan for his alleged nuclear proliferation activities had not been substantiated and, therefore, he was a free man subject only to the conditionalities of the secret agreement between him and the government.This blows sky-high the version of General Musharraf that Dr Khan was the sole proliferator.

Till General Musharraf resigned, the US Administration considered the General as their man and was almost indispensable for their AF-PAK strategy. Originally, they formulated the plan of getting Benazir as the civilian face of an elected government,General Musharraf as a civilian President and General Kiyani as the Army Chief. General Kiyani was fully in the picture on this plan. Benazir’s assassination and rising unpopularity of General Musharraf called for changes in the American plan. Mr Zardari replaced General Musharraf, but it was obvious that he was not equal to the task. Meanwhile, the Obama administration reached the conclusion that General Musharraf had taken the US for a ride for the last seven years and Pakistan was permissive of Al-Qaeda, and the Afghan Taliban and rapidly expanding the Pakistani Taliban.

There were risks of Pakistan being overwhelmed by the Taliban. The problem cannot be solved till the Pakistani Generals accept that India is not the threat but extremism is.The new American Review team evidently has been attempting to persuade General Kiyani and his colleagues to change their mindset and bring in the Pakistan Army to curb and rollback the advance of the Taliban.The argument has presumably not yet settled.Therefore, one gets mixed signals both from Washington and Islamabad.

Pakistan cannot do without the large-scale US economic aid promised to the extent of $ 1.5 billion a year. Its attempts to get aid from Saudi Arabia and China have failed. Therefore, the Pakistan Army has very little option but to join the war against extremists on US terms.The Pakistan Army officer corps, mainstream political parties and civil society all understand that they can no longer hope to have Afghanistan as their strategic depth and also to hope to keep the jihadis under the control of the Inter-Services Intelligence wing.

If the Pakistan Army is to join the war against the jihadis, then the mainstream political parties should not be at each other’s throats. Hence the US’ interest in promoting cooperation between Mr Sharif and Mr Gilani. The Saudi influence on Mr Sharif is likely to have been invoked by the US to promote the Gilani- Sharif entente. Most significant signals on a possible change in the Pakistani strategy are repudiation of the Musharraf policies, the Sharif-Gilani entente and the impending passage of the Kerry-Lugar bill on economic aid to Pakistan to be calibrated with the Pakistan Army’s performance.

There are skeptics in India who justifiably question whether the Pakistan Army will accept such a U-turn. In 1948,1965,1971 and 1999 the Army started with very bold and aggressive plans against India. However, at the end of it in each case, when they found they had no alternative but to accept the realities on the ground, they did so unhesitatingly. They tried to project their setbacks, including Kargil, as victories. But they were realistic and pragmatic and reconciled themselves to the inescapable reality.Now they are facing gravest of all such situations.

While they will try their best to get the maximum of the bargain, they will accept their limitations. It is in this spirit that they are trying to put pressure on the Americans to get some concessions from India on Kashmir and troop withdrawals.While the Americans may pass on the Pakistani demands casually, they are aware that there is no case to press India and they cannot hope to get any Indian concessions at this stage. In India, there is an imperative need to have a realistic assessment of the situation in respect of US-Pak relations.This is different from an assessment on the threat of terrorism from Pakistani soil as it happens to be the epicentre of jihadi terrorism.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090325/edit.htm#4

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