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Sunday, 3 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 03 May 09

Indian Express

Indian Express

Asian Age

Asian Age

Times of India

Times of India

China a Major Player in Sri Lanka War

The Sri Lankan government has been able to disregard international concern over its civil war with Tamils because of financial and military backing by China, a senior former Indian intelligence official was quoted saying Saturday.

The Times newspaper said China has replaced Japan as Sri Lanka's biggest foreign donor giving the island-nation nearly a billion US dollars last year.

By comparison, the US gave $7.4 million last year, and Britain 1.25 million pounds.

"That's why Sri Lanka has been so dismissive of international criticism," B. Raman of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, a former additional secretary in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's external intelligence agency.

"It knows it can rely on support from China," he added.

The Times said strategic experts believe a billion dollar commercial port that the Chinese are building in the southern Sri Lankan town of Hambantota will eventually become a base for its navy.

"Ever since Sri Lanka agreed to the [port construction] plan, in March 2007, China has given it all the aid, arms and diplomatic support it needs to defeat the Tigers, without worrying about the West," the paper reported.

"China has cultivated ties with Sri Lanka for decades and became its biggest arms supplier in the 1990s, when India and Western governments refused to sell weapons to Colombo for use in the civil war. Beijing appears to have increased arms sales significantly to Sri Lanka since 2007, when the US suspended military aid over human rights issues," it paper said.

The Times said many US and Indian military planners regard the port as part of a "string of pearls" strategy under which China is also building or upgrading ports at Gwadar in Pakistan, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Myanmar.

The strategy was outlined in a paper by Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher J. Pehrson, of the Pentagon's Air Staff, in 2006, and again in a report by the US Joint Forces Command in November.

Stepping in after India's insistence on selling only defensive weapons to Sri Lanka, the Chinese gave six F7 fighter aircraft to Sri Lanka last year - apparently free of charge.

The paper quoted unnamed Indian security sources as saying China has encouraged Pakistan to sell weapons to Sri Lanka and to train Sri Lankan pilots to fly the Chinese fighters.

US asks Pakistan to Take 'Forceful Action'
against Taliban

By Arun Kumar

The US wants Pakistan to take "consistent, determined, and forceful action" against the Taliban and other extremists operating there and in Afghanistan, but has denied it has set a two week deadline.

"I don't know where this two-week timeframe came from, but look, we have said very clearly that we believe the Pakistanis need to take action against these extremist elements," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Friday.

"It has to be consistent, decisive, and we need to understand that this is not something we're going to be able to deal with in two days, two weeks, two months," he said when asked to comment on a US media report that a top US General was looking for concrete action by the Pakistani government to destroy the Taliban in the next two weeks.

General David Petraeus, commander of US Central Command, had also told US officials the next two weeks are critical to determining whether the Pakistani government will survive, Fox News reported Thursday.

"This is going to take time. But what's important is ... 110 per cent effort. And Pakistan seems willing to go in that direction. We'll continue to try to help them if they move in that direction," Wood said.

The official said the US will be working with Pakistan and provide assistance to it along with other countries who believe it is critical to international security to defeat the Taliban and the extremists that are operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Pakistan is doing this out in its own national security interests... It's important that these extremists be dealt with, and we're going to continue, as I said, to work with them and others," Wood said.

The spokesman termed "positive" the action taken by Pak army in the last couple of days. But said, the US was "under no illusions. It's going to take more than two days worth of action. It's going to take consistent, determined, and forceful action," he said.

Rise in cattle smuggling to B’desh worries Army
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 2
The Indian Army, on the job to check proliferation of Muslim Fundamentalist Organisation (MFOs) near India-Bangladesh border in Assam, has raised concern over spurt in cattle smuggling from India to Bangladesh across the porous border.

An army source based in western Assam said the force had, on several occasions, apprised the government about the danger being posed to the security because of the rise in cattle smuggling across the unfenced sector on India-Bangladesh border in Dhubri sector.

The Army maintains that cattle brought from states like Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal for smuggling into Bangladesh through the border in Dhubri sector of western Assam should be stopped at Sri Rampur check-gate at the inter-state boundary between Assam and West Bengal by the police.

The cattle are smuggled to Bangladesh mainly through the 32-km long stretch of unfenced river border in Dhubri sector and it becomes almost impossible for a few BSF personnel in a particular border post to check cattle being taken across the river to Bangladesh by smugglers who are well armed too.

“In view of MFOs based in Bangladesh striking coordination with the outlawed ULFA militants in Assam, you never know how many boys are going for training across the border along with the cattle,” said a senior Army official.

Meanwhile, the Border Security Force (BSF), manning India-Bangladesh border in Assam and Meghalaya, has geared up vigil against smuggling activities and managed to seize cattle worth about Rs 50 crore since 2007 till date.

The sharp rise in cattle smuggling in last few years is attributed to mushrooming of slaughter houses across the border in Bangladesh which has increased its volume of processed beef export to Gulf nations.

The BSF and the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) have had many rounds of talks to sort out issues related to border fencing, cross-border insurgency, infiltration, smuggling of fake currency, weapons, narcotics and of cattle between the two countries. Still the problem persists.

India and Bangladesh share a total 4,096-km frontier across West Bengal and north eastern states. More than 2,400 kilometres of the border have been fenced with barbed wire by India during the past eight years under $1.2 billion project. In Assam, 197 kms of the total 263-km border has been fenced so far.

Tamil protesters attack 5 army trucks in Tamil Nadu

May 2nd, 2009 - 10:03 pm ICT by ANI Tell a Friend -

Coimbatore, May 2 (ANI): Tamil protestors on Saturday ransacked five army trucks at Neelambur area near Coimbatore, following rumours that the weapon laden trucks were meant for Sri Lankan Army.

Around 80 trucks laden with weapons and other army supply was heading towards Thiruvananthapuram.

“More than 80 trucks of war material including weapons meant for Sri Lanka are being dispatched by the Indian government. And we have stopped these,” said Ramakrishnan, General Secretary of Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, a pro-Tamil group.

Several defense documents were also torched during the attack.

“We found that there are some small arms and some big arms and rocket launchers out there. 82 trucks and so much of arms together, movement of it is suspect and we demand an explanation from the Indian government,” said Ponchandran, a human rights activist.

Police have detained four protestors including Ramakrishnan, and further investigation is on.

Tamil Nadu has seen a series of protests to protect Sri Lanka’s Tamil civilians since the Lankan army mounted its latest offensive to oust the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) from their last stronghold.

Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in a tiny strip of coastline studded with coconut groves, a former army-declared no-fire zone that has become the final conventional battleground in Asia’s longest-running war.

Diplomatic pressure over the war boiled over the past week with the UN Security Council, the United States and others demanding Sri Lanka stop its offensive and the LTTE surrender to avert rising civilian casualties. (ANI)

How the Tamil Tigers lost their stripes

3 May 2009, 0049 hrs IST, Atul Sethi, TNN

As the final battles are fought in Sri Lanka, most people are unanimous in what the epitaph of the LTTE would probably read: “Here lies an organisation that dug its own grave.” The manner in which the group — that prided itself on being a highly motivated and trained cadre-based organisation — has sunk rapidly, shows that it went on self-destruct mode, says Lt Gen S C Sardeshpande, author of the book, Assignment Jaffna.

Sardeshpande, who commanded a division of the Indian Army in Sri Lanka as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), says in an analysis of the LTTE’s fall in the Indian Defence Journal, that the organisation faltered because it lost people’s support. “It torpedoed successfully all peace efforts, all development and reconstruction projects and plans in the war-ravaged North and East, and obviously paid little attention to the woes and weal of the people. Even a $4.5 billion aid offered by Japan and other donor countries in 2003 was rejected by the LTTE as it linked the peace process to the offer,” he says.

Many see the megalomaniac approach of LTTE supremo Prabhakaran as the reason for the downfall. “Prabhakaran thought he was larger than life — this overconfidence resulted in a false sense of supremacy and an obstinate approach,” says defence analyst Uday Bhaskar. In retrospect, says Bhaskar, it is questionable whether the LTTE had any affiliation left with the Tamil cause. “It seems they were more interested in building their own supremacy rather than the cause which had brought them into prominence. The LTTE should have moved from the gun to the ballot ages ago, if it was actually serious about finding a solution. But it stuck to its obstinate stance,” he says.

However, the end of the LTTE would not necessarily mean a resolution of the Tamil issue. “The Sri Lankan government has won a battle but not the war,” says Maj Gen Afsir Karim, former member of the National Security Advisory Board. “How the government handles the situation now, how it treats the vanquished and whether a political solution emerges at all, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Incidentally, a study by the US-based RAND Corporation — that examined 648 terrorist groups that existed between 1968 and 2006 — found that transition to the political process was the most common way in which terror groups ended. Policing was the next most effective strategy, successful in 40% of the cases, while military force led to the end of terror groups in only 7% cases.

“Non-violent strategies are the best means to disintegrate any terror group,” points out Harry Dhaul, director-general of the Independent Power Producers Association of India and Aviation Watch, which recently hosted a conference in Delhi on ways to counter terrorism. “For a long-term solution, the peaceful way is the only way forward.”

A war without a plan

By Irfan Husain

Saturday, 02 May, 2009 | 02:15 AM PST |

JUST as the army finally swung into action in Buner and Dir, yet another front has opened, this time in Karachi. With the Baloch insurgency assuming ever more serious proportions, Pakistan is now under threat from three different directions.

The recent eruption of ethnic violence in Karachi hardly came as a surprise. For weeks, tension had been building up, and there was much talk of a civil war between Karachi’s Pakhtuns and the MQM. The trouble first started nearly two years ago when a number of political party workers, including those of the ANP, were killed on May 12 — in what appeared to be ethnically motivated clashes — when the movement to restore the chief justice was at its height.

So predictable were the current clashes that one would have thought Zardari or Gilani would have come to the city to try and defuse tensions. This is what leadership is about. Pity there’s not much of it around to anticipate problems. Our preferred management style is to wait for crises to assume critical mass before we even notice.

Meanwhile, what of the most serious threat Pakistan faces today? From news reports, it seems the Frontier Corps has achieved some initial success against the Taliban. However, this needs to be backed up by political action. Unfortunately, the ANP-led coalition government in the NWFP seems unable to come to grips with the insurgency, preferring retreat to resolve.

But finally, the government and the army seem to be united on the need to face the militant threat. After weeks of drift and dither, the state is trying to claw back the space it had ceded to the Taliban without a fight. The odd thing is that our soldiers are not being backed with the kind of public support they need and deserve.

In any war, the enemy is not accorded a public platform from which to bombard the civilian population with its propaganda. In Pakistan, we have the bizarre situation where terrorists like Muslim Khan can appear on TV and threaten the state, while justifying the Taliban’s violence and cruelty. This causes confusion, and results in the kind of ambiguity that has characterised the war thus far.

One problem facing the army is that once it has liberated an area from the terrorists, it cannot stay forever to make sure the killers do not return. This is the job of the police and the paramilitary forces. But these forces are too weak and demoralised to take on the task. Over the last few months, they have seen scores of their colleagues murdered in the most gruesome ways by militants who are far better armed and trained.

More importantly, they have not received the political or public support they deserve. While it is easy enough to mock their lack of success, the fact is that they have not been trained or armed for the task that has been thrust upon them. Despite years of ethnic and sectarian terrorism, successive governments have consistently neglected to build up the morale and discipline of the police and the paramilitary force.

Among the many jokes and cartoons that land up in my inbox, one was called Karachi Cops. It depicted American, British and German police officers, armed and armoured with modern equipment, looking fierce and menacing. Finally, there was an image of a Pakistani policeman: fat, slouching and looking about as threatening as the local chowkidar.

While you grin at this image, consider what he earns, and what he is expected to do. According to a recent investigative report, he is on the beat for between 12 and 14 hours a day without getting any overtime. For this, he is paid less than most chauffeurs earn. Of course there is corruption, but on the salary we pay the police, what can we expect?

Police training is patchy, and includes very little time on the firing range. So when cops are called upon to shoot, they almost invariably miss their targets. This ineptitude was most famously on display when they were confronted with the armed and dangerous terrorists who launched their devastating attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore recently.

And all too often, when they arrest suspected militants after they risking their lives, they see them being released as the result of some tawdry deal the government has struck over their heads. In one case, the leader of the vicious Lashkar-i-Jhangvi was sprung from jail by Musharraf and allowed to win a National Assembly seat. Understandably, cops are reluctant to put their lives on the line when the people they arrest are released soon after they are locked up.

Then there is the whole inefficient and corrupt legal system in which people with blood on their hands are let off because of threats the judges might receive, or a bungled prosecution. Wars are not conducted by letting enemy foot soldiers and leaders walk free after being taken prisoners.

While the regular Pakistan Army is professionally trained, it has been drilled to fight the wrong war. Its present defence posture is oriented towards India, and it expects to fight on the plains of Punjab. In the Second World War, the British aimed their big guns out to sea to thwart an expected Japanese naval invasion of Singapore. But the enemy marched through a seemingly impenetrable jungle, and easily took the city. So, too, our major defences are facing in the wrong direction.

Thus far, the government has refused to accept repeated American offers to impart counter-insurgency training to our regular army. While units of the Frontier Corps have been receiving this highly specialised training, the bulk of our troops are still in the conventional war mode.

The fact is that no matter how unlikely, in the minds of our generals, the Indian army in Kashmir and along the international border constitutes a very real threat. With recent increases in defence spending, India has done little to reassure our military planners. Even a symbolic and public thinning of Indian forces from our border might serve to redeploy some units of our regular army to the northwest where the fighting is likely to get fiercer.

If we are to succeed against the many threats we face currently, we must understand that we are at war against a determined and highly motivated foe. In the face of this mortal threat to our very existence, we must unite if we are to survive. For this, it is vital that the government shows it has a plan, and the will to take the fight to the enemy.

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