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Thursday, 2 April 2009

From Today's Papers - 02 Apr 09

Indian Express

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Lt Gen Lamba appointed CCRA (UPDATED)

Lieutenant General Arvinder Singh Lamba, General Officer Commanding, Sudarshan Chakra Corps has been appointed Colonel Commandant Regiment of Artillery on Wednesday today.

Double whammy for Rodrigues

MHA again directs restoration of Mehra's ACR powers;

questions legal opinion

Raveen Thukral

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 1

Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Gen SF Rodrigues (retd) has suffered more setbacks in his ongoing war against Adviser Pradip Mehra.

In a fresh missive, the Union Ministry has once again directed him to "forthwith" restore Mehra's powers to write the annual confidential reports (ACRs) of his subordinates. According to well placed sources, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has overruled Rodrigues' contentions of not restoring Mehra's powers on the pretext of the ongoing vigilance probe against him.

It may be recalled that earlier on March 2, the Union Home Ministry had written to the Administrator directing him to restore Mehra's powers after the Central Vigilance Commission had given him a clean chit on allegations of misuse of CITCO's funds. However, instead of following the directive, the Administrator had ordered a vigilance probe against Mehra on March 9 on the basis of the legal opinion submitted by the UT's senior standing counsel, Anupam Gupta, on certain quasi judicial orders passed by him.

On March 10, Rodrigues wrote to the Home Minster expressing his inability to restore Mehra's power in view of the ongoing vigilance inquiry. A letter sent by Ashwani Kumar, Director (S), MHA, to UT Home Secretary yesterday clearly states that the arguments of the Administrator were examined but there was nothing to suggest a departure from the laid down guidelines of GOI that provide for communication of ACRs, whether adverse or otherwise, to the officer reported upon.

The letter further states: "It has, therefore been decided that the prevalent channel of writing ACRs of subordinate officers by the Adviser and the status quo ante may be restored forthwith." The letter is explicit that "this issues with the approval of the Union Home Minister".

Incidentally, the Union Home Ministry has also raised questions on the legal opinion given by the UT senior standing counsel, Anupam Gupta, on the quasi judicial orders passed by the Adviser, on the basis of which a vigilance probe was ordered against Mehra. It may be recalled that Gen Rodrigues had sought legal opinion on the revision petitions, pertaining to resumed properties, entertained by Mehra during his tenure.

In his 32-page report, Gupta, while highlighting six cases reviewed by Mehra, had concluded that these were "cases of conscious favouritism". The entire report was sent to the Union Home Minister.

In the second letter, also sent by Ashwani Kumar yesterday, it is stated that "the legal opinion of the senior standing counsel does not state what were the remedies that were available to the Administrator under the relevant Act by way of appeal and why the same had not been availed where applicable".

According to sources, this refers to Article 226 of the Constitution, which allows the administration to challenge the quasi judicial powers of the Adviser in the High Court. Incidentally, it was only on Gupta's advice that the administration had forgone this option. During an earlier opinion to the administration, Gupta had categorically stated that no order of the Adviser should be challenged.

The MHA has also asked the Home Secretary to respond to the query immediately.

According to senior advocate M L Sareen, "A very dangerous precedent was being set by holding vigilance inquiries at the instance of the administration, which was party to all the orders without first issuing notice to the officer concerned. Such a course would expose all judicial/quasi judicial officers to disciplinary action without challenging the same on merit."

India gets its own 'Air Force One'

Nitin Gokhle

Wednesday, April 01, 2009, (New Delhi)

The Prime Minister and the President of India have a swanky new aircraft each while many say it's about time, others feel it's bit too extravagant.

It's not exactly Air Force 1 but is certainly a much needed addition to the VIP squadron of the Indian Air Force. Three such aircraft will now be used by the President and the Prime Minister for their official travel.

So, what does this VIP Boeing, which comes at a cost of over Rs 300 crore, boast of?

· A state-of-the art cockpit

· A VIP section with a fully equipped office

· And a twin-bed bedroom

· Six rows of seats for security officials and personal staff

· And another section with additional 30 seats for the support staff or accompanying media

These planes also come armed with state of the art warning systems and intruder detection equipment making them safe from any missile attack.

"These are the best available aircraft in the world. They are capable of self-protection and fulfill our needs," said F H Major, Air Chief Marshal.

The Rajdoot as these jets are called, can cruise at an altitude of over 40,000 feet and fly non-stop for 5,000 km making them a comfortable home in the sky for India's top decision-makers.

US plans $2.8 bn military aid to Pakistan: report

The US is planning a USD 2.8 billion military aid to Pakistan to successfully fight terrorism, but Washington would ensure that the money is not spent in a way that would give Islamabad a greater capacity to attack another country, primarily India, a media report said.

The Obama Administration is planning to propose to the Congress a USD 2.8 billion military aid to Pakistan, in addition to the USD 7.5 billion non-military aid in the next five years as proposed in the Kerry-Lugar Bill, the FOX News said quoting unnamed Defence Department officials.

The officials said the US would have control over the spending of money under this fund, who would ensure that the money is not spent in a way that would give Pakistan a greater capacity to attack another country, primarily India, it reported.

This has been one of the major concern of India in the past, wherein US funds to fight against terrorism, has been used to purchase fighter jets, primarily aimed at India.

In an interview to FOX News, US Central Command chief General David Petraeus said the plan for military-aid will be called the "Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capability Fund".

It said the military aid of USD 2.8 billion would be distributed over five years, with the first USD 400 million of it added to the fiscal year 2009 supplemental request for war fighting. Another USD 700 million would be in the fiscal 2010 base budget.

For each of the fiscal from 2011 to 2013, Pakistan would receive USD 575 million, the report said.

Bruce Riedel, chairman of the Interagency Policy Review on Pakistan and Afghanistan, had earlier said: "In the course of implementing this new strategy, General Petraeus and CENTCOM will study exactly what Pakistan's military needs are that are best related to the counterinsurgency fight."

The White Paper of the Interagency Policy Group, stresses on the need to strengthen the US efforts to develop and operationally enable Pakistani security forces so that they are capable of succeeding sustained counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

"In part this will include increased US military assistance for helicopters to provide air mobility, night vision equipment, and training and equipment specifically for Pakistani Special Operation Forces and their Frontier Cops," the White Paper said.

LS Polls
BSF ups security along border
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 1
Following intelligence inputs about threat to about 25 top leaders of the country from terrorist outfits during the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, the Border Security Force (BSF) has gone in for major augmentation of security along the highly-sensitive Indo-Pak border in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

A top official of the BSF, which mans the border, today confirmed to the Tribune that certain stretches of the border in Punjab and Gujarat could be used by the terrorists for infiltration. And to increase vigil in these areas, he said, 'force multiplers', including thermal imagers and ground sensors, had been added here in the past one week. The official, however, refused to divulge any details about the nature of the equipment, positioning or how it would help.

Home Minister P Chidambaram, too, visited border areas in Punjab and Rajasthan last week. Also, the Home Ministry had put the BSF on a high alert after the Kupwara encounter and lately the attack on a police training academy in Lahore, Pakistan, the area being a mere 15 km away from the Indian border.

Meanwhile, the Home Minister has sent letters to the 25 VVIPs who, as per security inputs, could be the target of terrorists during the elections. The list includes Sonia Gandhi, her children Rahul and Priyanka, Manmohan Singh, LK Advani, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Farooq Abdullah, Parkash Singh Badal, J. Jayalalithaa, Omar Abdullah, Narendra Modi and Mayawati.

US drone attack in Pak tribal area kills 12

April 01, 2009 12:57 IST

A US drone fired missiles at a key Taliban [Images] base in Pakistan's restive northwest tribal region bordering Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least 12 militants and injuring over 15 others.

The drone fired two missiles at Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's base at Khadezai village in a remote mountainous area of Aurakzai tribal agency, witnesses said.

Local residents and witnesses told TV channels that at least 12 militants were killed and more than 15 others injured in the strike.

There was no official word on the incident.

Reports said some key Pakistani Taliban leader and foreign fighters could have been in the base at the time of the strike.

The drone attack came a day after Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud claimed responsibility for Monday's terrorist siege of a police training centre near Lahore [Images] and threatened to carry out more attacks, including on the US soil.

Indian Sponsored Terror Attack in Lahore

Kashmir Watch, April 1

By Sajjad Shaukat

It is a good sign that after eight hours exchange of fire on March 30, 2009, our security forces regained the control of Police Training Center the at Manawa, Lahore, capturing five terrorists alive, who prove useful in the investigation. In less than a month, after similar pattern of assault on Sri Lanka's visiting cricket team, this major attack on the police academy which killed 11 persons and injured more than 90 individuals in the heart of Lahore, underscores the course of threat. It was well-organized and highly coordinated act, while terrorists used hand grenades and sophisticated weapons.

On the same day, Mr Rehman Malik, the Interior Advisor pointed out Baitullah Mehsud, chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as the planner and executioner of the terrorist operation, also indicated reference to a "foreign hand to be on the safe side." On March 31, Mehsud claimed responsibility for the Manawan attack, and threatened to carry out similar operations in Lahore and other parts of Punjab including US homeland in future. Regarding Lahore mayhem, he told BBC Urdu over the telephone from an undisclosed location, "These attacks were in reaction to US drone strikes in the tribal areas." However, among the captured fugitives, one was Afghan national, and police arrested around 50 suspected persons from various parts of Lahore on his disclosure. While a number of questions arise in the minds of every Pakistani in connection with Lahore debacle�who was involved, why it happened and what were the aims behind that terrorist event. These queries need logical conclusion to sort out the real culprits.

First of all, statement of Bailtullah Mehsud, leader of the TTP, itself, requires special attention. After spreading terrorism in Pakistan's Frontier Province, he has repeatedly warned to target Lahore, other parts of Punjab and Karachi. He has started implementing his nefarious game. Unlike the Swat-based Taliban who signed a peace agreement with the provincial government in the recent past, Mehsud whose insurgents are most active in Waziristan and other related tribal agencies, flatly refused to initiate or conclude any such peace accord. As a matter of fact, Bailtullah Mehsud is direct agent of Indian intelligence agency, RAW and indirect agent of American CIA. Just like his patrons, while, playing a double game, his main purpose is to destablise Pakistan in order to fulfill the sinister designs of his paymasters. Mehsud whose insurgents get arms and ammunition from Afghanistan where Indian RAW and military troops are well-entrenched against Pakistan, is allowed to condemn US drones attacks and New Delhi's anti-Pakistan policies so that his followers do not doubt his integrity.
There is similarity in anti-Pakistan designs, being acted upon by our enemies, if we witness the ongoing phenomenon of sabotage in our country in wake of various developments. In this context, an article, published in the "Indian Defence Review," Jan-Mar 2009 under the caption: Stable Pakistan not in India's Interest, suggested the disintegration of Pakistan as it could better serve Indian interest in the region. In this respect, while opposing the two nation theory and creation of Pakistan, it elaborated: "The ugly separatist face of the agitation in the Valley (Kashmir) today is the consequence of the dereliction of the fundamental duty by the Indian Union." In this connection, the article encouraged Hindu religious forces at the cost of secular character of India.
Indian Defence Review further pointed out: "With Pakistan on the brink of collapse, it is matter of time before it ceases to exist…multiple benefits will accrue to India…Balochistan will achieve independence. For New Delhi, this opens a window of opportunity to ensure that the Gwadar port does not fall into the hands of the Chinese. Afghanistan will gain fair amount of stability. India's access to Central Asian energy routes will open up. Sindh and most of the non-Punjabi areas of Pakistan will be our new friends."

Indian anti-Pakistan plan has also been endorsed by a 72-page white paper handed over to its Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the aftermath of Mumbai carnage. The paper, titled, War on Terror: The Agenda for Action, advised New Delhi to "exploit the divisions within Pakistan and expose its weaknesses in Balochistan, FATA and Azad Kashmir," including building of pressure on Islamabad especially by the US.

Notably, on March 22, 2009, David Kilcullen, a top adviser to the US Gen. David H. Petraeus disclosed during his interview to the Washington Post, "The Pakistani state could collapse within six months." Intermittently, some US high officials and thinktants have also predicted instability or lawlessness in Pakistan in one or the other way. Nevertheless, US, India and Israel are in collusion to destabilise or disintegrate our country through their secret agencies owing to a number of common strategic goals such as depriving Pakistan of nuclear assets, occupying Gwader port which links Central and South Asia, thwarting the interests of China and Iran in the region and making India a superpower of Asia. Due to its strategic location, Pakistan has become direct target of unrest, created by the external secret agencies through a perennial wave of suicide attacks and assaults on security forces, which began from tribal areas and Balochistan have now reached Lahore. Apart from other nefarious purposes against Islamabad, New Delhi's plot against Pakistan is based upon century's old animosity of Hindus against Muslims as partition of the Indian Sub-continental remains fresh in their minds.
Pakistan shares a common border with India and Afghanistan, so it becomes easy for Indian RAW to send its trained agents in Pakistan with the clandestine help of Mossad and CIA. In Wakhan, a religious Madrassa of the Indian Muslim clerics is functioning under the patronage of RAW. Very young boys including Afghans, recruits are mostly from Central Asia, bordering Afghanistan. Thus more than 20,000 ideologically motivated terrorists are continuously being infiltrated into troubled spots of Pakistan. Posing as volunteers, they join the Taliban militants to fight against our security forces and to conduct multiple subversive acts. At some places of our country, RAW's Afghan agents are also actively involved in fuelling sectarian violence and killing of religious leaders.

In fact, by taking advantage of War On Terror, with the help of Indian-home grown terrorists and some of Pakistani militants, Indian RAW has become pro-active to arrange any terrorist event in Pakistan as recently noted in Lahore or in Indian Mumbai on November 26 last year and then to manipulate the same against Islamabad. This exploitation also entails every such militant attack which is being conducted by the freedom fighters who are struggling for the liberation of their lands from the alien rule either in Afghanistan or Kashmir.

As already mentioned, the interior adviser, Rehman Malik, has held Baitullah Mehsud responsible for the terrorist carnage in Lahore, while referring to a foreign hand in that regard. He did not name any country because at present, Pakistan is facing multi-faceted crises which have compelled it to depend upon the US-led international community. And Islamabad had to accept the undue demands of Washington as recently it accepted some false demands in relation to Mumbai mayhem, thought that episode was actually prepared by the Indian RAW not only to distort the image of Pakistan, but also to isolate it diplomatically. The events like attacks on Sri Lanka's cricket team and police facility at Manawa in Lahore were also part of this conspiracy. Although Rehman Malik could not disclose facts, yet his assertions endorse many ground realities.

As regard Bailtullah Mehsud, reports suggest that the US military commanders had been provided with his exact location on many occasions in the past, but the CIA-operated predators did not hunt him as he is Pakistan's real enemy who masterminded almost every suicide operation in the country. He plays a key role in instigating the peace-loving Taliban against Islamabad. The US military has launched missile strikes to a precise location at very short notice, and killed high-profile leaders of Al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal regions, but Mehsud is free to move in Waziristan or other places of FATA, sometimes addressing press conferences and sometimes meeting journalists. With the direct help of RAW and indirect backing of CIA, he collects information on Pakistani troop movements from an unidentified foreign source. On the other hand, US military and high officials accuse Pakistan's army and ISI of close links with Mehsud. Nonetheless, Mehsud like other secret agents is part of US and Indian double game in weakening the federation of Pakistan. It is due to these reasons that he will never favour a peace pact between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan of Waziristan and the government of Pakistan. Event then, it is concluded in future, he will castigate the same under one or the other pretext.

Returning to our earlier discussion, like other terrorist incidents, attack at Manawan police training centre in Lahore was sponsored by Indian intelligence agency RAW. And Bailtullah Mehsud along with RAW-paid local agents of our country played his sinister role in accordance with the Indian agenda. Every Pakistani patriot must remain vigilant as the wave of Indian-sponsored terrorism which started from FATA and Balochistan has, now, reached Lahore. No doubt, India which finances and trains insurgents to commit terrorist operations, wants total break down of institutions in Pakistan.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations. Email:

British Army chief ready to send more UK troops to Afghanistan

By Harvey Thompson
1st April 2009

The head of the British Army announced at the weekend that he stood ready to send 2,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, while the government made clear its intent to pursue the war into Pakistan.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the General Staff, told the Times of London that part of the 12th Mechanised Brigade, which had been training for deployment to Iraq but were later stood down, had now been "earmarked for Afghanistan."

The report came as US President Barack Obama announced a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan and its further extension into Pakistan. Echoing the Bush administration's military "surge" in Iraq, Obama outlined plans to send 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan on top of the 17,000 additional forces already committed, and signalled Washington's intent to aggressively expand the war across the border into Pakistan.

Currently the UK has some 8,000 troops in Afghanistan. Although Dannatt said that there were no plans to send a whole brigade of 4,000 troops, and defence sources described the 2,000 as "the uppermost ceiling," the statements were couched in vague terms.

A Ministry of Defence source said later that any decision would be based on advice from the military. "If the clear that we need more people to keep our troops safe, we will make a judgment based on this," he said.

The equivocation is due to concern among the high command of "military overstretch." In the same Times interview, Dannatt made it clear that although a number of military options were being considered to boost Britain's presence in Afghanistan, sending an extra brigade would put too much strain on British forces. "If we were to send another 4,000...there would be a risk of replicating the pressures on the Army that we are trying to avoid," he said.

He agreed with Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the Defence Staff, who said recently that he could not support any plan to engage in "a one-for-one" movement to Afghanistan, under which the 4,000 troops being withdrawn from Iraq by July 31 would be transferred to Helmand Province.

"Improving security in Afghanistan will be dictated by having more boots on the ground," said Dannatt. "I don't mind whether the boots will be American, British or Afghan." He added that Afghanistan was going to be "a marathon campaign, not a sprint."

Despite the cautious language, Dannatt's statement and other comments make clear that the British government is fully committed to a significant stepping up of the US-led intervention in South and Central Asia and is attempting to pressure its European counterparts to do the same.

The Observer newspaper reported March 29 on the British government's declaration of full backing for a US-led military offensive inside Pakistan, as UK ministers confirmed the country was now "part of a single campaign" alongside Afghanistan.

Defence Secretary John Hutton said Britain supported targeting Pakistan-based Taliban and Al Qaeda positions and urged Europe to begin offering assistance to eradicate insurgents in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Making clear Britain's readiness to participate in the widening regional conflict, Hutton said military objectives in the region must now have "an equal focus on both countries."

"We remain, as we have been on many occasions in this past century, grateful to the United States for the leadership that she has shown time and again since 2001 in rooting out extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan," he continued. "But Europe must do more, and it is in our interest to do more."

"In Europe," he said, "we can no longer offload the tough questions about how we deal effectively with AQ [Al Qaeda] and the Taliban in Pakistan to the US. The political burden of dealing with the Pakistan side of the border must be shared. And there are many European countries with strong ties to Pakistan that can more effectively share that burden with America."

Hutton condemned "the massive leadership imbalance" between Europe and the US in NATO, adding, "It's an imbalance set to grow in the coming months as America commits vastly more resources of every kind to the mission in Afghanistan."

Britain's targeting of Pakistan was further underscored last week when Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined the government's renewed national security strategy. Citing Al Qaeda in Pakistan as the greatest security threat facing the UK, it claimed that two-thirds of terror plots uncovered by British intelligence agencies have a Pakistani connection.

The implications of British military involvement in Pakistan are major. As the former colonial power in the region, the UK has long historical ties with Pakistan and is home to the second largest Pakistani diaspora of over 900,000 people.

More broadly, US actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, supported by Britain, represent a threat to the entire region. It is difficult to imagine how a military conflict on Pakistani territory proper would not entangle India—the other nuclear power in the region. Under conditions of spiralling regional tensions, the short border that Afghanistan shares with China may also become a flash point, drawing in the Beijing regime, while Russia, as a regional power, would be compelled to intervene, raising the prospect of a far wider war.

The new focus on Pakistan is set to dominate NATO's 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg later this week, in which Britain and the US will again attempt to pressure the other NATO members—particularly Germany, France and Spain—for additional military forces. But senior NATO diplomatic sources leaking to the press said that no meaningful offers were expected from any alliance member apart from Britain. Italy and Poland are planning to send small reinforcements, but only during the campaign for the Afghan presidential election, due to be held on August 20.

NATO has so far committed 32,000 troops to Afghanistan, with Germany deploying 3,640, France 2,780 and Spain 780.

The killing of Pakistani civilians by air-strikes carried out by unmanned CIA aircraft is increasing popular anger in Pakistan against the US and the Pakistani government's collaboration with Washington's war. However, US officials made clear at the weekend that attacks along Pakistan's western frontier will continue, amid speculation that coalition ground units may begin crossing into Pakistan's borderlands at some point. A Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wright, told the Observer that the US had already offered to launch "joint military operations" with Pakistan's Frontier Corps in the tribal areas.

India extends support to Bangladesh in reconstructing BDR


April 1st, 2009

NEW DELHI -; Extending its support to the neighbouring Bangladesh, New Delhi on Wednesday said that it will ensure that any of the "recalcitrant elements" of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) do not cross over to India.

Addressing a joint press conference with BDR chief Brigadier-General Mainul Islam here today, BSF Director General M L Kumawat said, "We have expressed our full support to the Bangladesh government and BDR in restructuring the force."

"We will ensure that BDR recalcitrant elements do not enter into India at any cost and if any one caught we would hand them over to Bangladesh," added Kumawat.

Appreciating the BSF forces for showing "prudence and wisdom" at the borders since the tragic mutiny by the BDR on February 26 and 27, which left over 77 Bangladeshi army officers dead, Mainul Islam urged them to continue performing their duties diligently.

"The BSF has shown prudence and wisdom during the (BDR mutiny) crisis. It has been dealing the whole matter with wisdom and we expect them to do so in the future," Islam told reporters in New Delhi.

He informed that three separate investigations on the BDR mutiny is continuing and the miscreants would be brought to justice.

Islam, who led a six-member delegation for 29th Border Coordination Conference, was speaking after signing a Joint Record of Discussions with Kumawat in New Delhi.

The two nations discussed on several issues including border management. They also came upon a decision to make effective joint efforts to prevent trans-border crimes including illegal movements across the border, trafficking of women and children, smuggling of drugs, arms and ammunition.

The issue of maintenance of boundary pillars along the Indo-Bangla border was also considered during the three-day meet held from March 30 to April 1. (ANI)

Report on secret Indian military exercise 'surprises' China

Apr 1st, 2009 | By Sindh Today | Category: India

Beijing, Apr.1 (ANI): A Hindustan Times report last week that suggested that the Indian army had on March 25 concluded a three-day military exercise codenamed Divine Matrix, based on the assumption a 'nuclear-armed China will attack India before 2017′, has left the government in Beijing surprised.

It said that before the exercise, the Indian military spent six months studying various hypothetical scenarios of war with Beijing and concluded: 'China would rely on information warfare to bring India down on its knees before launching an offensive.'

It also quoted an officer as saying the People's Liberation Army can now 'launch an assault very quickly, without any warning'.

The China Daily quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang as telling reporters here: 'We are surprised by the report. Leaders of China and India had already reached consensus that the two countries will not pose a threat to each other but rather treat each other as partners.'

China is willing to work with India to boost relations over the long term, he said.

Qin also dismissed allegations yesterday that China was involved in worldwide computer espionage, accusing the report's authors of being 'possessed by the Cold War ghost'.

The Toronto-based Information Warfare Monitor report released on Saturday said that over the past two years, at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries were breached by software used for spying.

"China pays great attention to computer network security, and resolutely opposes and fights any criminal activity harmful to computer networks, such as hacking, Qin said.

'These people's attempts to vilify China through rumors will never succeed,' he said. (ANI)

India-US nuclear face-off
Arms reduction no guarantee for disarmament
by G. Parthasarathy

For over three decades two Washington-based institutions — the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Brookings Institution — have spearheaded an international campaign to compel India to "cap, roll back and eliminate" its nuclear weapons programme. It is symbolic of how times have changed following the nuclear tests of May 1998. The Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Nuclear Issues and Climate Change, Mr Shyam Saran, visited Washington to proactively spell out where India stood on the issues many feared could become sources of friction with the Obama Administration, which is influenced by those popularly referred to by their Indian counterparts as the "Ayatollahs of Non-Proliferation". More importantly, Mr Saran spelled out India's position publicly on March 23 at the Brookings Institution.

Mr Saran did not fight shy of addressing issues like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) at the Brookings Institution. He made it clear that while India remained committed to its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, there were serious reservations about the CTBT because the Treaty was not "explicitly linked to nuclear disarmament" and the manner in which it was accepted was obviously meant to circumscribe Indian nuclear options. He added that while "we cannot be part of a discriminatory regime where only certain states are allowed to possess reprocessing or enrichment facilities", we would be willing to work with the US to curb nuclear proliferation.

Welcoming President Obama's plan to expand the "Proliferation Security Initiative" (PSI) from merely stopping illicit nuclear shipments to eliminating the remnants of organisations like the Abdul Qadeer Khan Organisation, Mr Saran signalled Indian flexibility in looking afresh at the PSI.

Another crucial issue which Mr Saran alluded to was India's readiness to accede to an FMCT provided that it was a "multilateral, universally applicable and effectively verifiable" treaty. India has to insist on the treaty being non-discriminatory and internationally verifiable, given China's readiness to transfer fissile material and nuclear weapons knowhow to Pakistan. But what the US is going to find it difficult to address is that despite President Obama's stated intention "to make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons a central element of US nuclear policies", the American establishment is going to have serious reservations about making any commitment to eliminate their nuclear weapons within a reasonable time-frame.

All that the Americans presently appear to be ready to do is to seek agreement with Russia to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenal to around 1000 warheads. It is astonishing that between them the Americans and Russians today possess over 20,000 nuclear warheads. Moreover, for the first time, there seems to be recognition among the scholars in the US that moves towards nuclear disarmament can succeed only if the concerns of all "nuclear-armed states", including India, Pakistan and Israel, are addressed while noting for the first time that Indian concerns about China's nuclear weapons cannot be brushed aside.

Mr Saran spoke of India's readiness to work with the US to set up a working group for nuclear disarmament in the UN Commission on Disarmament. But what he did not mention is the recent propensity on the part of the US, France, the United Kingdom and NATO to threaten the use of nuclear weapons against those they choose to characterise as "rogue states". Even the Russians do not subscribe to a doctrine of no-first use and never using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states. The Chinese claims of adhering to a doctrine of no first-use are suspect, given their deployment of scores of missiles targeting India.

India needs to sensitise world opinion to the fact that refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons runs contrary to the historic World Court ruling of July 8, 1996, which held that the countries possessing nuclear weapons had not just have a need but an obligation to commence negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament, and that the use or the threat of use of nuclear weapons was generally contrary to the principles of international law. In fact, the least the nuclear weapons powers could do was to de-alert their nuclear missiles and separate their missiles from warheads.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 was premised on its "three pillars" of non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and the right of access of nuclear technology to its signatories. While the five "nuclear weapons powers" amassed nuclear weapons and refused to abide by any commitment not to use these weapons against those who foreswore their acquisition, they also refused to move towards nuclear disarmament and placed highly selective restrictions on the others seeking to acquire nuclear technology. The net result was that the fifth review conference of the NPT in 2005 ended in a fiasco, with divisions between those who possessed nuclear weapons and were unwilling to make any commitments on nuclear disarmament and the others refusing to go along with the violation of two of the "three pillars" of the treaty.

The US and its partners recognise that the forthcoming NPT review conference in 2010 will end in a similar fiasco unless they can claim movement forward towards a nuclear weapon-free world. Hence the feverish moves to show progress towards disarmament by agreeing to discus cuts in nuclear stockpiles with Russia. The point India has to emphasise is that arms reductions by themselves do not constitute a credible move towards disarmament unless accompanied by the guarantees of no-first use and de-alerting of nuclear delivery systems and the separation of warheads from missiles.

India has conveyed that with the estimated investments of $150 billion in nuclear power, it stands by its letter of intent for the acquisition of 10,000 MW of nuclear power reactors from the US, provided Washington fulfils its side of the bargain, recognising India as a "responsible state with advanced nuclear technology" by upfront approval of reprocessing of spent fuel for the reactors it supplies. With former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher slated for her appointment as the State Department's non-proliferation Czar, India can never be too careful on this score.

With Mr Saran noting that while India was scheduled to purchase around $120 billion of defence equipment, with the US entering the market in a significant manner once the concerns about the "reliability" of supplies were addressed and with growing convergence on the issues ranging from the proliferation security initiative to the FMCT, there does appear to have been sufficient groundwork done for moving matters forward in the India-US relationship after the general elections. Another important area of dialogue would be the prevention of military conflict in space and negotiations on an agreement to prohibit the testing of anti-satellite weapons. Much will depend on the political dispensation that emerges in New Delhi after the polls.

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