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Friday, 1 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 01 May 09

Asian Age

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Indian Army to celebrate 71st Armour Day

New Delhi, Apr 30 (ANI): The Indian Army would celebrate 71st Armour Day tomorrow to honour the arrival of armoured vehicles in place of horses in the Indian cavalry regiments.

Armour Day is celebrated each year on May 1. On this day in 1938, the Scindia Horse became the first regiment to convert to tanks.

The first equipments they adapted were Vickers light tanks and Chevrolet armoured cars.

With the passage of time, the Indian Army became better equipped. In 1943, the Indian Armour updated itself to the Sherman tanks (M4) of American origin.

This transformation in the army was updated post independence with the coming in of the Centurions Mark 7 and AMX-13 light tanks.

Since then, the Armoured Corps has operated the indigenous Vijayanta tank, the Russian T-54 and T-55 tanks and the T-72 main battle tank, which has been the workhorse of the corps for the past three decades.

With the combination of forces and armoured vehicles , the Indian Army was able to register a first-rate performance in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. Equiped mainly with Shermans and Centurions , the Army was successful in destroying the sophisticated Pakistani Patton tanks to form the famous graveyard, "Patton Nagar" near Khemkaran in Punjab. Lt.Col.(later General) A.S Vaidya Col Caleb were awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for their gallant performance in the Khem Karan sector.

Lt Col AB Tarapore was posthumously honoured with the Param Vir Chakra for his valiant action against the Pakistanis in the Shakargarh bulge in the 1965 operations.

In 1971, the Corps had was in the forefront of operations. Tanks broke through Pakistani lines both in the Western and Eastern fronts fighting the Pakistan forces.

2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal fought gallantly and sacrificed himself in the battle of Basantar River earning his regiment, the Poona Horse, yet another Param Vir Chakra.

The mechanized forces have time and again shown their supremacy in achieving the desired strategic plans.

The Armoured Corps is continuously modernizing itself. The authorities are renewing the existing task forces to bring them at par with the best. (ANI)

Taliban says New Offensive Begins in Afghanistan

An attack in western Afghanistan Thursday marked the beginning of a new countrywide offensive by the Taliban aimed at countering the arrival in the coming months of US and NATO reinforcements, the Islamist rebels said.

Mullah Brodar, deputy to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, said the new operation, dubbed Nasrat, which means victory, is similar to the Taliban's spring offensives in previous years and would include an increased number of suicide attacks, ambushes and offensive assaults.

The new operation got under way with Taliban militants attacking the Salemi police post in the Pashtun Zarghoon district of Herat province, Qari Mohammad Yousif Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement posted at the rebels' website.

He claimed that six security officers were killed and the commander of the post, who was wounded in the attack, fled the area before the militants torched the station.

Abdul Raouf Ahmadi, a police spokesman in western Afghanistan, confirmed the attack but denied the Taliban's casualty figures, saying four police officers received minor injuries in the rocket attack.

Ahmadi said the police forces inflicted casualties on the Taliban side during the three-hour gunbattle but could not give any figures.

Taliban militants have steadily gained strength in Afghanistan in the past three years after the ouster of their ultra-Islamic regime in late 2001, and they extended their territory to larger swathes of the country last year.

Compared to the eastern and southern parts of the country, where Taliban-led insurgents are most active, western and northern provinces are relatively peaceful. But under their new offensive, the Taliban vowed to move their battleground into new areas of the country.

A suicide attack and ambush was carried out in the northern province of Kunduz Wednesday, killing one German soldier and wounding nine. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.

With the deployment of 21,000 additional US soldiers and around 5,000 NATO forces, there would be more than 90,000 international troops deployed from 42 nations in Afghanistan by this summer.

Nuke safety: Obama does not rule out intervention in Pak

Lalit K Jha/ PTI / Washington April 30, 2009, 12:37 IST

Leaving open the option of US intervention, President Barack Obama today said his country had "huge" strategic and security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and its nuclear weapons do not fall into militant hands.

"We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognise that we have huge strategic interests — huge national security interests —in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state," Obama said in a prime-time news conference marking the 100-day of his presidency.

But Obama said he was confident that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal was secure, "because the Pakistani army, I think, recognises the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands."

When pressed whether the United States would intervene if Pakistan's nuclear arsenal were under threat, Obama, speaking at his third White House press conference since assuming office on January 20, said he would not respond to a "hypothetical question."

"I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan, not because I think that they're immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan," Obama said.

"I'm more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile," Obama said. "I'm more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don't seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services: schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of the people."

At the same time, Obama said that the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari, who is to visit Washington next week, was unable to offer basic services that would ensure people's support and loyalty. He also said that Pakistan's military had just recently started to change its traditional animosity towards India.

"You're starting to see some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided and that their biggest threat right now comes internally," Obama said.

Pakistan, the Muslim world's only nuclear weapons state, has been critical of US infringement on its sovereignty, particularly of regular drone attacks on high-value terror targets in its restive tribal region.

Pak to move 6,000 troops from Indian border: NYT

Press Trust Of India

MOVING OUT: Pakistan to move 6,000 troops from Indian border to westernside.

New York: As Pakistan stepped up military operations to flush out Taliban militants from NWFP's Buner district, the army is set to move 6,000 troops from its Indian border to its western frontier with Afghanistan, a news report has said.

The 6,000 troops to be shifted had originally been on Pakistan's western border but were sent to the Indian border in December, after the November Mumbai terror attacks in which nearly 170 people were killed. The carnage had led to war of words between the two nation, and analysts feared that India

could be pushed into taking military actions against terror outfits based in Pakistan.

The promised redeployment, which will essentially return Pakistan's military presence in the northwest to pre-Mumbai levels, comes as American and Pakistani officials are preparing for "tense meetings" in Washington next week

between President Obama, President Zardari and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, the New York Times said.

India had massed troops on the Pakistani border after the terror attacks, which Indian and American officials concluded was planned in Pakistan and carried out its nationals.

After a week of strong criticism, the Pakistan Army deployed fighter jets and helicopter gunships to push back hundreds of Taliban militants who overran the Buner, just 100 km from Islamabad.

However, American officials, who welcomed the redeployment, said Pakistan was still not doing enough to fight the insurgents, who are tightening their hold on the country, the US daily reported.

Sukhoi crashes, 1 pilot dead

Jaisalmer, April 30
A sophisticated Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft today crashed near here, killing one of the two pilots. This is the first time that a Sukhoi-30 MKI, a frontline fighter plane, has crashed.

The incident occurred at around 10.20 am near Rajmathai village, about 70 kms from here, when the plane, the squadron of which is based in Pune, was on a routine exercise, Defence PRO Lt. Col. NN Joshi said. — PTI

Combating the Taliban
Pak Army needs to go all out

After much internal and external pressure on Islamabad the Pakistan Army has acted against the Taliban marauders in Dir and Buner districts in the NWFP. The Pakistan government claims to have cleared the two areas of militants. It is, however, difficult to believe the official version. To hide its insincerity in fighting the Taliban, it has never presented a correct picture. Soon after Taliban fighters were virtually allowed to run over Buner district, 100 km from Islamabad, in the first week of April, the government claimed that the militants had withdrawn from the area and gone back to the Swat valley. Then why did the army launch the current operation in Buner? This naturally fuels doubts.

It is no longer possible for the Pakistan government to fool the world when people in cities like Lahore have begun to openly condemn the Taliban by taking out rallies. The people’s ire will turn against the government if it does not launch a major and decisive army drive against the militants. What has been done is too little, too late. There is no credible anti-militancy strategy in Pakistan. The military operation should have come much earlier, at least when Taliban activists refused to surrender their arms and ammunition after the Swat deal and started denouncing the entire system of governance and justice delivery in Pakistan. This is the time to eliminate the Taliban militants in Malakand division also, which they are controlling after the flawed “peace” deal.

The earlier the Taliban is dispossessed of the 11 per cent of Pakistan’s territory over which it has established its sway, the better it will be for Pakistan and the rest of the world. The militant movement has its allies in the terrorist outfits based in Occupied Kashmir and Punjab like the Lashkar-e-Toiyaba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed. The Taliban can be eliminated only if its associates, which have been targeting mainly India, are also finished off. These outfits have been providing strength to Al-Qaida too. The international community, particularly the US, must take note of this.

U.S. wants to boost training of Pakistani forces

Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:02pm BST

By Ross Colvin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Pakistan will likely discuss stepping up U.S. training for Pakistani security forces when President Asif Ali Zardari visits Washington next week, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The United States has become increasingly alarmed about the threat of Taliban militants based in Pakistan's Swat valley to Zardari's weak government, whose support it needs to defeat al Qaeda and stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan.

One proposal being considered is for the United States to offer counter-insurgency training to larger groups of Pakistani military personnel outside Pakistan, possibly in the United States or a third country, said the senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"They (Pakistan) in principle have agreed we need to do it. The question now is how to do it," the official said.

Some 30 U.S. personnel have been training a few hundred members of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps since last October, said a U.S. defence official.

The effort has focussed on training trainers who can then pass on the skills they have learned more widely in the Frontier Corps, the official said. So-called "training events" have also been held with Pakistani special operations units.

But Pakistan has rebuffed U.S. efforts to train the regular army in counter-insurgency partly because the army still sees their traditional enemy of India as their main threat.

Pakistani leaders are also wary of closer cooperation with the U.S. military, fearing it could fuel anti-American sentiment domestically.

But U.S. President Barack Obama told a news conference on Wednesday that Pakistan's army had begun to realise home-grown militants posed a bigger current threat than India, with whom it has fought three wars.

"It is in Pakistan's interest and our interest to try to find ways to confront the threat extremists pose to the Pakistani people," the administration official said.

The official said the proposal to expand training of Pakistan's security forces had not been finalized and different options were being examined.

Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will meet separately with Obama and then have three-way talks during visits to the White House on May 6 and May 7.

U.S. lawmakers said they planned to accelerate the flow of more than $400 million (271 million pounds) in aid to Pakistan to help with counter-insurgency operations to thwart Taliban militants who last week moved within 60 miles (97 km) of Islamabad. (Additional reporting by David Morgan, editing by Alan Elsner)

Obama's Deepening AfPak Crisis

With the appropriate huzzahs for President Barack Obama's first 100 days still ringing in the air, his new AfPak strategy, for the linked crisis of Afghanistan and Pakistan, is already in deep trouble. Events have accelerated beyond the assumptions underlying it, especially in Pakistan, and much of the past few days in the administration was taken up with re-strategizing, including discussions on Air Force One as the president flew back-and-forth for a Missouri town hall yesterday and a full-scale National Security Council session before that.

Obama is meeting today with the chairs and ranking minority members of the Senate and House armed services committees, including his defeated rival, John McCain.

AfPak could be a tremendous disaster for America. As we are serially distracted by the various ADD obsessions of our media culture.

What's wrong? Most immediately, the slow-rolling jihad in Pakistan and a relatively new government there that's been fighting with functional modernist governmental rivals and cutting deals that don't work with the Pakistani Taliban. And in the long term, an approach in Afghanistan that leans in the direction of nation-building rather than simply -- though it's not simple -- keeping Al Qaeda too disrupted to launch serious attacks on America.

Richard Armitage, longtime confidante of Colin Powell and deputy secretary of state in the Bush/Cheney Administration, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Pakistan and Afghanistan may spiral out of control.

What, after all, does Obama want to accomplish? To try to turn Afghanistan into a country like ours, as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney seemingly tried in Iraq? (Leaving Obama with the messy overhang.) That's an even more unlikely goal for Afghanistan than for Iraq.

At this point, Obama will be fortunate to keep Pakistan from falling into the hands of the Taliban. And if that were to happen, all hope of denying Al Qaeda cadre safe havens in Pakistan from which to plan and launch strategic terrorist operations against America would be lost.

It seems to me that our policy should be guided by three imperatives:

1. To disrupt and disable Al Qaeda's strategic capabilities, i.e., its ability to launch a 9/11-type attack.

2. To develop friendlier relations with the Islamic world as a whole.

3. To keep Pakistan's nuclear weapons out of the hands of jihadists. Iranian nuclear weapons are theoretical; Pakistani nuclear weapons are not.

A top Soviet commander remembers the difficulty of the Afghan War.

We may actually be closer than we suppose to achieving the first goal in Afghanistan. That's about preventing the formation of terrorist bases, camps, training centers, keeping leaders on the run, disrupting communications, interdicting weapons shipments, preventing the development or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Which does not require a modern state run out of Afghanistan's capital of Kabul, but simply a more stable and functional one, probably a coalition government, that enables ongoing operations against Al Qaeda.

The second goal, of friendlier relations with the Islamic world, is one that Obama is already well launched upon. His speech to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, his respectful tour of the nation's most famous mosque and religious museum, are major departures from the past.

The third goal, of keeping Pakistani nukes out of the hands of jihadists, is trickier. That requires at least a major semblance of stability in Pakistan. And that is something fast unraveling.

Obama is realizing that Pakistan has become his toughest international challenge.

Obama is spending a great deal of time focusing on the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. Under the new administration, which replaced that of General Pervez Musharaff, the Pakistani Taliban have metastized through much of the country, and are edging perilously close to the capital of Islamabad.

In developments which mostly went unreported in the American media, the US Embassy in Islamabad on April 9th shut down for all normal operations and suggested that American citizens curtail their travels.

On April 10th, security forces arrested some 350 suspected jihadist terrorists in the Pakistani capital, in advance of some still unspecified plot for a terrorist strike. You'll recall that that is far more people than were needed to virtually shut down Mumbai, India's financial capital, in the terrorist siege there last Thanksgiving.

Since then, the Pakistani Taliban have made further advances around the country. They continue to disrupt US supply operations to the forces fighting in Afghanistan and are threatening Karachi, Pakistan's seaport through which those supplies must flow.

After several agreements, granting sharia law in various parts of the country in exchange for peace and an end to offensive operations, between the government and the Taliban failed, the Obama Administration urged the government to launch military attacks, and the army may be having some successes in the last few days.

The army, founded in the British tradition following Pakistan's independence in the 1940s, is historically the only stable major institution in the country. Like Pervez Musharaff and current chief of staff Ashfaq Kayani, its top officers were educated and trained in elite British and American staff colleges as well as in Pakistan. But for all its modernist sheen and pro-Western sympathies, the army -- like the dread ISI intelligence service, which helped Afghan Taliban take over Afghanistan from battling mujahedeen warlords in the wake of the Soviet ouster -- is shot through with jihadist sympathizers. Pakistan's rationale, incidentally, is that it wanted a very stable Afghanistan to avoid meddling there from archrival India.

Obama had already upped civilian aid to Pakistan to help stabilize the country. Now he's proposing to increase military aid, in the form of new military hardware such as helicopters, infantry weapons, and night-vision goggles. And Pakistan has just agreed to increased US military training in counterinsurgency for its forces, with some of it apparently to take place outside the country.

The terrorist siege of Mumbai five months ago derailed already tense relations between Pakistan and India.

Pakistan is also moving some of its troops massed along the border with India to its border with Afghanistan. When India and Pakistan nearly came to war after the terrorist siege of Mumbai last Thanksgiving, probably a major strategic goal of the attack, Pakistan moved troops away from the Afghan border, where they are supposed to interdict forces aiding the Afghan Taliban, to its border with India.

And what of Pakistan's nukes? That's even less clear. The Financial Times reported yesterday that Pakistani officials are sharing nuclear secrets with the US, Britain, and other Western countries to "assuage fears." Considering the proximity of Pakistan's nuclear weapons to territory under the sway of the Pakistani Taliban, that's not tremendously reassuring.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the suddenly simpler part of the AfPak equation, the Afghan Taliban announced yesterday that they will launch Operation Nasrat Victory to respond to Obama's Afghan military surge. They promise a series of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against foreign troops, diplomats, international aid workers -- Obama is dispatching hundreds of civilian experts and aid workers to more rural parts of Afghanistan to help develop the country's civilian infrastructure -- and Afghan officials.

In other developments, Britain and Australia, having ended their Iraqi missions, are sending more troops to Afghanistan.

And Turkey is taking over command of NATO forces in and around the Afghan capital of Kabul to provide security, increasing its troops in Afghanistan. The French previously had that command, and security had become rather porous.

You know it's a bad situation when Afghanistan, site of the long-troubled and neglected "good" post-9/11 war, as the Democrats had it during the Bush/Cheney years, is suddenly in better shape than Pakistan, our one-time front-line ally in the "War on Terror."

You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ...

The missing security experts

India’s national security vision lacks serious intellectual content. In a volatile world, that spells trouble

Bharat Karnad

Joseph S. Nye Jr, of Harvard University and a Clinton-era assistant secretary of defence, in a recent Washington Post oped piece noted that US political scientists were more interested in honing international relations theory than doing policy-related research. This development, he claimed, has led to their absence, by and large, from the senior ranks of the Obama administration. Nye’s rueful tone is understandable. The US foreign and military policy post-World War II has been in the vanguard of thinking in the main because of its high-octane intellectual content, of course, but also because US leaders have had the confidence to trust the experts and shape policies based on their advice.

Image: StockXpert

Image: StockXpert

In India, economists and statisticians have always held positions of responsibility in government, apparently because the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, couldn’t make much of the “dismal science” and hoped the specialists he relied on to implement the Soviet socialist model would deliver fast-paced economic growth. In the foreign and military policy realms, however, he was convinced that nobody else on the scene could match his knowledge of history or his capacity for insights into global power politics. India’s foreign and military policies in the formative years, therefore, became a matter of implementing Nehru’s decrees. No surprise, then, that the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), while having pretensions, never really developed intellectual muscle. How could it if, as Natwar Singh, a former foreign minister and diplomat, claims, 70% of IFS officers have not read a book after joining service? Nehru’s contempt for civil servants paralleled his lack of respect for Indians holding flag rank in the Indian Army, whose inability to score a decisive victory in the 1947-48 Kashmir operations only reinforced his prejudice, eventuating in his belief that the China threat would have to be tackled diplomatically.

Subsequent prime ministers sometimes called in people from outside for advice. Indira Gandhi had her “kitchen cabinet” comprising Left-leaning friends. Other than indicating the line, policy definition was left by her to the so-called “professionals”—the diplomats and senior Indian Administrative Service officers and uniformed personnel where defence was concerned, who, in turn, hewed to the Nehruvian guidelines long after these became obsolete. The ensuing system of policymaking disregarded the fact that conceptualizing grand strategy and working out strategy and policy options in a milieu in flux requires qualifications beyond following precedent and adopting an incremental approach, which is what non-expert careerists “playing safe” do. Honourable exceptions apart, they are ill equipped to jettison overnight a lifetime bureaucrat’s habit of mind or acquire the necessary analytical capability, intellectual heft and expertise across critical foreign and national security policy domains for the purpose of creative strategic visioning and fleshing out alternative policy schemes. Despite this, political leaders have mistaken a civil servant’s tenure in a ministry with expertise in the field and a be-medalled visage for the ability to strategize. Moreover, retirees from the civilian and uniformed services tapped for advice have a vested interest in prolonging brain-dead policies they were associated with.

Not according a substantive role to experts in policymaking is a liability in today’s complex world

Naturally, stodginess and diffidence—the bane of India’s foreign and military policies—have resulted. And the dubious thinking of civilian and military bureaucrats, whose reputation for sagacious counsel is overtaken by the growing weight of their wrong advice, remains the touchstone of fearful political leaders. Thus in 1995-96, for instance, K. Subrahmanyam, the late J.N. Dixit and retired Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, all urged the Indian government to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The antique 1974 bomb was sufficient, they argued, for nuclear deterrence even in an uncertain future potentially rife with grave risks. But come 1998, and they crowed about the political and strategic benefits accruing from the tests and were given a role in shaping the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s foreign policy agenda. These advisers then championed the strategically short-sighted deal with the US predicated on India’s giving up nuclear testing pushed by the successor Congress party regime that has sucked the credibility out of its minimum deterrent stance. It is a deal that is coming unstuck with the non-proliferation-minded Obama presidency, which will hold India to its commitments but not deliver unhindered trade in civilian nuclear technologies.

The awareness is growing that in an ever more complex world, where specialist knowledge is the building block of policy, not according a substantive role to experts in policymaking is a self-inflicted liability. The second Administrative Reforms Commission headed by M. Veerappa Moily has recognized the need and recommended the lateral entry of outside experts to improve policymaking generally. In this context, the new dispensation assuming power mid-May should, for starters, create advisory posts at the highest level in the defence and external affairs ministries and departments such as atomic energy and space, and fill them with outside experts. This will better utilize the available intellectual resources, ventilate a closed policymaking process, expose the government to cutting edge analytics and offer up a rich array of policy choices. It could initiate the sort of “revolving door” system (wherein experts follow up stints in government with time in think tanks and universities) that has served US policymaking so well.

Bharat Karnad is professor in national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research and author, most recently, of India’s Nuclear Policy. Comments are welcome at

Pakistani sentenced to life for passing defence secrets to ISI

Hyderabad, April 30 (IANS) A city court Thursday sentenced to life imprisonment a Pakistani national for passing on vital Indian defence secrets to Pakistan and for criminal conspiracy.

Malik Arshad Mahmood, 44, was found guilty under sections 3 and 4 of the Official Secrets Act, section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, and section 14 of the Foreigners Act.

However, First Additional Metropolitan Sessions judge L. Srirama Murthy, who passed the life sentence on Malik, acquitted his Indian accomplice for want of evidence.

The Pakistani national had been arrested by the police here in 2004 when he was sending the photographs of vital defence establishments to his handlers in Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) on the internet.

Malik, who had entered India on a fake passport through Bangladesh, was arrested by police on March 9, 2004, from King Kothi area here. A computer and some documents were also seized from him.

Police also arrested Malik's local accomplice Milind Dattatreya who was arranging funds through illegal hawala channels. During investigations, police also found that four Pakistanis and one Bangladeshi were also helping him but they could not be arrested.

Police had filed a chargesheet against both Malik and Dattatreya. While Malik was convicted and sentenced to 14 years, his local accomplice was acquitted for want of evidence.

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