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Sunday, 10 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 10 May 09

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Pakistani Troops Destroy Taliban Headquarters,
Kill 55 Militants


Islamabad
Pakistani troops Saturday destroyed the headquarters of the Taliban in the restive Swat valley and killed some 55 militants, as a humanitarian crisis intensified with thousands of civilians stranded in the battlefield.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR estimated up to 200,000 people fled the former tourist haven in recent days, and forecast further exodus of nearly 300,000 more.

Security forces targeted the Taliban headquarters in the Loenamal area of the mountainous Matta sub-district, completely destroying it, the army claimed in a statement. The action there and in eight neighbouring areas left 30 to 40 militants dead.

Separately, helicopter gunships pounded militant positions in Swat's main town of Mingora, to soften Taliban resistance as troops pushed forward with the ground operation, killing 15 rebels.

"Militants were harassing the civil population and were intensely involved in various activities of looting and arson in Mingora," a statement from the Pakistani army said.

The Pakistani military announced "a full-scale operation" Friday, the day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for national unity as the troops were ordered "to eliminate the terrorists".

The US welcomed the military action amid concerns about dwindling stability in the nuclear-armed state, which it considers central to counter-insurgency efforts in neighboring Afghanistan.

Clashes were also reported in the adjoining district of Buner and Shangla. The army claimed militants suffered "heavy casualties", without giving any details. Two soldiers were also injured.

More than 140 Taliban fighters were reported killed on the first day of the all-out offensive, with the troops also suffering at least seven casualties. The toll could not be verified independently.

Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told reporters that troops were battling up to 5,000 Taliban militants in the scenic valley, located 140 km northwest of the capital Islamabad.

The statement from his office said Saturday the "indiscriminate mortar firing" by the militants in the populated areas of Mingora, resulted in civilian casualties.

"Militants are using houses of civilians as bunkers for engaging the Security Forces," it said further.

An indefinite curfew remained in place in the insurgency-hit areas of Swat, with the authorities saying that the relaxation timings could not be disclosed in advance because militants were thought to be attacking non-combatants leaving the valley.

Those taking chances also faced the threat of being caught in crossfire or hit by roadside bombs planted by the insurgents.

Commentators say there is a wide consensus, at least for now, that the government needs to go all-out against the Taliban, but warn that the situation could change in case of heavy collateral damage or poor treatment of refugees.

Pakistani authorities have set up nearly a dozen camps with support from international and local relief agencies. However, UN refugee agency spokesman in Geneva, Ron Redmond, said the new influx would place "huge additional pressure on resources".

http://news.boloji.com/2009/05/30060.htm

Pakistan is Al Qaeda's Global Base
By Arun Kumar

Washington
Pakistan has become the nerve centre of Al Qaeda's global operations to plan attacks around the world even while the Pakistani Taliban are planning a "surge" of their own, according to a top American military commander.

Senior leaders of Al Qaeda are using sanctuaries in Pakistan's lawless frontier regions to plan new terror attacks and funnel money, manpower and guidance to affiliates around the world, Gen. David Petraeus, US Central Command chief, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Pakistan has become the nerve centre of Al Qaeda's global operations, allowing the terror group to re-establish its organizational structure and build stronger ties to Al Qaeda offshoots in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and parts of Europe, he said.

The comments underscored the growing US belief that Pakistan has displaced Afghanistan as Al Qaeda 's main stronghold, the Journal noted. "It is the headquarters of the Al Qaeda senior leadership," the general was quoted as saying.

In the interview, Petraeus also warned of difficult months ahead in Afghanistan, saying Taliban militants are moving weapons and forces into areas where the US is adding troops, planning a "surge" of their own to counter the US plan.

The US had intelligence showing that the Taliban were deploying new fighters to southern Afghanistan, appointing new local commanders, and prepositioning weapons and other supplies, he said.

"We have every expectation that the Taliban will fight to retain the sanctuaries and safe havens that they've been able to establish," he was quoted as saying.

US officials once believed that years of strikes had broken Al Qaeda 's leadership into smaller, less effective splinter groups.

But in the interview, Petraeus said US intelligence information suggested that Al Qaeda has re-emerged as a centrally directed organization capable of helping to plan attacks in other countries.

"There is a degree of hierarchy, there is a degree of interconnection, and there is certainly a flow of people, money, expertise, explosives and knowledge," he was quoted as saying.

Petraeus painted a picture of a globalised Al Qaeda that maintains extensive logistical and communications links to terror groups in Morocco, Somalia and other countries.

A ring of Tunisian suicide bombers who were recently apprehended in Iraq appear to have received their directions from Al Qaeda figures in Pakistan as well, he said. "There's absolutely no question about these links," he said.

Gen. Petraeus spent the past week in Washington as part of the Obama administration's summit with presidents Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

http://news.boloji.com/2009/05/30049.htm

Recession forces many to join UK army

Press Trust of India, Saturday May 9, 2009, London

The economic slump is prompting thousands of youths to join the British army, which has been struggling for years to win recruits, a news report said on Saturday.

The British army is expected to reach full strength in 2011 as recruitment rose by 14 per cent in the six months to March 31 compared with a year earlier.

The economic downturn, the worst since the end of the World war II, has led to drastic cut in the number of soldiers quitting the Armed Forces in 2008. With shrinking civilian jobs market, those leaving the army dropped by 8.3 per cent year on year, The Times newspaper said.

Despite a rising death toll in Afghanistan, the chance of deployment to the front line has failed to deter young people from joining the armed forces.

Hitting the full strength target of 101,790 soldiers will help to ease pressure on troops in the field, many of whom have endured multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. There is currently a deficit of about 2,550.

According to the British report, an overhaul of recruiting techniques and a softening of public opinion towards the Armed Forces are also helping to boost numbers.

"All of a sudden in January all of these people started to come into the offices. We noticed about a 20-25 per cent increase over the same week the previous year. That was probably down to people not having the opportunities out there in the economy," Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Meldon, who heads recruitment in London, was quoted as saying by the London daily.

http://www.ndtv.com/news/world/recession_forces_many_to_join_uk_army.php

PM rubbishes talk of sending army to Lanka

Press Trust of India / Chennai May 9, 2009, 16:43 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today rubbished the talk of sending army to Sri Lanka and favoured a political solution to the problem of Tamils within a united and federal set up, brushing aside the views of parties in Tamil Nadu, including ally DMK, pitching for a separate Eelam. "What is possible and what is not possible, I think it is a matter of speculation. But quite frankly we are dealing with a sovereign state Sri Lanka..a sovereign country.

It is not so easy to march armies to a sovereign state," he told a press conference here. He was replying to a question on AIADMK chief's Jayalalithaa's remarks that if a government of her choice comes to power after the elections, it would send army to Sri Lanka for creation of a separate Tamil Eelam state. With AIADMK and its allies PMK and MDMK raising the stakes on the Eelam issue, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi also joined the bandwagon for a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka.

"There is such thing as international law and all those constraints I think are known to all those who are making tall promises," he said in an apparent reference to Jayalalithaa's recent election speeches. The Prime Minister appeared to suggest that any action by India should not also make Sri Lanka go for other options. Singh told the southern neighbour that there could be no military solution but only a negotiated political settlement which is fair to Tamils.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/pm-rubbishes-talksending-army-to-lanka/61053/on

Pak's religious parties support military opns against Taliban

Press Trust of India / Lahore May 9, 2009, 14:36 IST

Pakistani religious parties of the Barelvi school of thought today forged an alliance to check extremist elements spreading Talibanisation in parts of the country, especially the politically strategic Punjab province, and backed the military operations against militants.

The parties – Sunni Tehrik, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, Aalmi Tanzim Ahle Sunnat, Markazi Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, Karwan-e-Islam and Nizam-e-Mustafa – have joined hands under the banner of the Sunni Itehad Counsil (SIC).

The leaders of these parties told a news conference here that the Taliban's brand of Islam had landed other religious parties in hot waters as "the people have started equating us with Taliban".

"To dispel this impression and Taliban's version of Islam, we are going to hold an all Pakistan Ulema and Mashaikh conference in Islamabad on May 17. We strongly condemn Taliban and urge the Pakistan military to eliminate them at the earliest," they said in a statement.

The parties said they were monitoring elements in their seminaries that are reportedly targeting young students to achieve their nefarious designs.

There are intelligence reports that Taliban have focused on seminaries, including those in Punjab, to recruit youths.A seminar of religious scholars held in Rawalpindi yesterday extended full support to the government's decision to flush out elements involved in defaming Islam by carrying out subversive activities in different parts of Pakistan.

Such elements are a "black spot on the peaceful religion of Islam" and the scholars will make all-out efforts to foil their nefarious designs and ensure the integrity and sovereignty of the country, the scholars said during their speeches at the seminar.

Several top clerics and scholars, including Hafiz Bashir Ahmed Sialvi, Fasih Mehmood, Qari Niaz Ali Niazi, Mufti Salman Rizvi, Zafar Muhammad Farashvi from Britain and Saleem Habibi spoke on the occasion and highlighted the teachings of Islam.

Terming incidents of violence as a "conspiracy" against Islam and Pakistan, they urged clerics, religious scholars and 'khateebs' from all schools of thought to play their role in creating awareness among masses on the issue.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/pak%5Cs-religious-parties-support-military-opns-against-taliban/61033/on

Varun keen to follow father’s footsteps
Favours conscription and controversial sterilisation policy

London, May 9
Varun Gandhi, whose hate speeches landed him in jail, favours conscription and intends to follow footsteps of his late father Sanjay Gandhi by offering a strong leadership.

The BJP's candidate from Pilibhit told London’s ‘The Daily Telegraph’ that he would propose a bill in Parliament to introduce compulsory military service for all Indians to unite the country and overcome caste and religious differences.

During the interview, the 29-year-old Varun said he hopes to follow in his father's footsteps by one day by offering the strong leadership, which according to him, India has been lacking for 20 years.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090510/main4.htm

Navy chief downplays Chinese presence
in Indian ocean

Shillong, May 9
Downplaying Chinese naval exercises with Southeast Asian countries in the Indian Ocean, Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta today said it did not mean that they were establishing bases.

“Navies are meant to do such things. They have to make friends across various regions. Such exercises do not mean they are establishing bases,” Mehta told reporters here in reply to a question.

Asked about the passage of Chinese naval ships through the Indian Ocean to the Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy mission in the last week of April, Admiral Mehta said, “They were on an anti-piracy mission for the first time.”

“Navies are meant to operate far from coasts. We too have been in the South China sea for the past two months, and by this month end we are sending our western fleet to operate in the Mediterranean and the North Sea.” Stating that India too has friends in the Indian Ocean like Mauritius, Maldives, Malaysia and Singapore, he said, “But there is a need to build perceptions. People have to have a friendly disposition towards you, so that at the time of requirement you could get help from them.” — PTI

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090510/nation.htm#4

LTTE eyeing west coast to enter India: Navy

Panaji, May 9
The LTTE, pushed to a narrow stretch in Sri Lanka by its army, was trying to infiltrate into India through the western coast, a senior Navy officer said today.

“As the Navy is closely monitoring the Tamil Nadu coast, we realised that people from Sri Lanka, including LTTE cadres, were trying to illegally enter from the west coast,” Vice-Admiral SK Damle, flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command, told here.

He was speaking on sidelines of a passing out parade organised by Indian Navy at ‘INS Mandovi’ near here.

Damle said the police and other security agencies have informed the Navy that the LTTE was also making attempts to infiltrate from other areas.

He, however, clarified that the problem was not of today. “This possibility was always there and we have been on high alert to foil any illegal entry attempt,” he said adding that the Navy had not come across any LTTE ship in Indian waters.

To a question, Damle said, “We are making sure that our coastal borders are secured and no unauthorised elements come into our country. As far as the Lankan navy is concerned they are acting on their own for their security.” — PTI

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090510/nation.htm#7

Pakistani Army shells Indian posts in Kashmir

May 9th, 2009 - 1:50 pm EST By Sindh Today | Category: India, UnCat

Jammu, May 9 (IANS) The Pakistani Army violated the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir Saturday evening by firing two mortar shells at Indian posts, an army officer said here.

“There has been a violation of the ceasefire by Pakistani troops on the Line of Control in the Rajouri sector,” the army officer, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The Indian Army, however, didn’t retaliate, the officer added.

“Pakistani troops fired two mortar shells in Jhangar area of mountainous Rajouri district at 7.15 p.m. It was unprovoked firing,” the officer said.

The shells did not cause any damage.

This is first ceasefire violation this year on the LoC - the de facto border with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

http://www.sindhtoday.net/south-asia/94919.htm

Pakistan's military, mullah, ISI mix

Lieutenant Colonel Vijay A Mittal (retd)

May 09, 2009

Faultlines (Lancer Publishers, 2009, Rs 495), a compilation of editorials by Bharat Verma, published in the Indian Defence Review, presents to his readers, a single source to access, refer and assimilate his views on the global geopolitical scenario and more specifically of the Indian subcontinent.

In a series of articles published over a span of 11 years, he deliberates upon the impact of the emerging geopolitical situation on the nation's security and well being, analyses their implications and at each time presents assessments which have stood the test of time with the accuracy of their predictions.

He traces the origin of the Indian faultline to the Indian emperor who laid down his arms in victory as he could not stomach violence as also to the ancient policy of Indian rulers who met an invading army not at the frontiers of their kingdom, but close to the seat of power where they remained firmly entrenched with their army. This was akin to allowing an adversary in a soccer match to dominate your half of the field and obviously goals would be scored.

The Indian psyche of abhorrence for violence, which manifested in attempts to absorb, appease or amalgamate the invading armies, put foreign rulers at the seat of power in Delhi [Images] with ease. Unfortunately, this mindset continued even after gaining Independence.

Instead of taking a realistic look at the reasons for the country's history of subjugation, the leadership, unable to comprehend the dynamics of military power, delinked the military component from its foreign policy, thus settling for a defensive defence policy. This, despite inheriting an excellent military machine with an offensive orientation under its erstwhile imperial mantle.

The author goes on to describe the threat perceptions to our territorial integrity through the medium of existing faultlines in the country and concludes that the Indian Faultline engulfs most of the eastern half of the Union. These are in the form of export of instability, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, arms, drugs and demographic inversion.

The main culprit is Pakistan through its military, mullah and ISI mix. The Western half is relatively peaceful and generates most of the wealth along with the South. With India predicted to be the third largest global economy by 2025, the result can be imagined if the Eastern half along with Kashmir could be put in order.

He urges that to emerge as a great Asian power the next generation waiting to take over the instruments of power in the near future should erase the Indian Faultline from the map and psyche.

On the other hand, the Pakistani Faultlines present an even grimmer picture. After the break up of Pakistan in 1971, instead of emerging as a more cohesive unit geographically, politically, economically and in orientation, 33 years hence, nearly 55% of Pakistan is witnessing vicious insurgencies which could lead to further vivisection. More than half the country has slipped into anarchy and the remaining may also follow if Islamabad [Images] does not carry out a drastic reassessment of its nationhood.

The role of the Chinese is analysed in great detail. China realised that India is the sole Asian power that could frustrate their designs of unrivalled supremacy in Asia. Adopting the Sun Tzu principle, 'To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting', they found a willing proxy in Pakistan to which China transferred for the first time in history, nuclear weapons and missile technology to countervail and further boost its anti-India strategy.

Over a period of time, further proxies were added in the form of Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar which were under the spell of Beijing [Images], thus shrinking India's influence in its own vicinity without having to take recourse to war.

Whilst tackling the global geopolitical scenario and the role of the only superpower, the USA, the following points are highlighted by the author: The grave folly committed by the Bush administration of waging a war against Iraq in the midst of an ongoing war against terrorism in Central Asia. The diversion of resources not only resulted in a stalemate, but also degraded the military power in both sectors. The Iraq takeover should not have been undertaken till the gains in Afghanistan were consolidated.

Post 9/11, the American need for Indian support is greater than ours for them. Also, the unjust war launched in Iraq, rapidly turned into a pitched battle between the American-led coalition forces and the Islamic fundamentalist forces in Asia.

With Asia largely Islamic, American presence in these countries becomes untenable. By declaring China as a strategic competitor, the US has further reduced its manoeverability in Asia.

Rising anti-American sentiments in the Asian Islamic world and the increasing US-China clash, will require the US to have a strategic tie-up with us. American operations in Central and West Asia are unsustainable in the long run without healthy partnerships with think alike powers located in this geographic region as the US conducts them at extremes of its reach.

Therefore, the US need for an alliance with India is far greater than realised. India also holds the geo-economic card to emerge as the largest buyer from the US in the near future.

The strategic advantages which India possesses are highlighted. These are firstly, the geographical location and size which lend it the advantage of both a continental and maritime power and which in turn makes it possible for New Delhi to impact and influence West Asia, Central Asia and South East Asia.

The other strategic advantages vis-a-vis its neighbours are those of having a young, highly skilled population, access to superior weapons technology from the West, Israel and Russia [Images] which is unlikely to be available to China and the Islamic countries in the near future and also a large, happening market in Asia.

The author argues forcefully for an offensive pro-active outlook when advocating the future strategies to be adopted by India. These range from the audacious to the most unique and cover a vast spectrum of strategies which include the forging of new alliances, tackling the global menace of terrorism in concert with the US, enhancement of our military might, forging of industrial alliances to leapfrog the technological gaps, skillful use of the media as a force multiplier as well as some corrective internal actions such as repeal of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir [Images] and reversal of the adverse demographic change of population in Assam and other North Eastern states.

The strategy proposed vis-a-vis Pakistan is highly audacious and considered too radical to find acceptance by the Indian leadership or by the international community.

A fair share of attention is devoted to the country's military power. Despite inheriting one of the finest military machines with a formidable reputation of winning wars in distant lands on attaining independence, lack of understanding of military power combined with naive and utopian dreams on the part of the Indian leadership, has landed the military today with the unenviable burden of undertaking policing tasks internally.

Arguing that the foreign policy of a nation is primarily dependant on the strength of two legs -- economic and military power -- the author calls for the utmost priority in the honing and nurturing of the military power in the national development agenda. Unfortunately, this is not so.

The story of shortages of critical equipment, bungling in acquisitions, bureaucratic red tape, complicated procedures and political incompetence to appreciate the relevance of military power continue to hinder the enhancement of our military prowess.

The other problems are also deliberated upon like the shortage of young officers and the aging military leadership profile and solutions offered. The topic of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), is given due prominence. The advantages to be gained by New Delhi by the appointment of a CDS are highlighted.

Bharat Verma'S editorials produced in his book, Faultlines, display his tremendous grasp and depth of understanding of the global geopolitical environment and their impact on India. He raises many pertinent questions vis-a-vis the nation's security and discusses them threadbare. At each stage, he offers assessments which are uncanny in their accuracy as borne out by subsequent events.

The one drawback of the book is that being a compilation of his editorials published over a span of eleven years, large portions of the articles on similar subjects, though separated by a period of time in their publication, tend to be repetitive in varying degrees, thus lending a touch of monotony in their reading.

Had he reproduced the essence of his editorials in a suitably structured book covering the various subjects in continuity from their inception to the present day, the tedium of repetition would be eradicated and at the same time provide continuity of reading to the reader.

Notwithstanding the above critique, Faultlines, provides an excellent source of reference and education in the field of international relations, strategy and military doctrine as it affects India and its reading is highly recommended for the Indian intelligentsia, personnel of the civil and foreign affairs services, military officers, students of political and military science and most importantly, the Indian political leadership.

Lieutenant Colonel Vijay A Mittal (retired) lives in Pune.

http://news.rediff.com/column/2009/may/09/pakistans-military-mullah-isi-mix.htm

Indian Army team successfully summit MT Dhaulagiri

16:38 IST

Six members of the Indian Army team successfully summitted Mt Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest peak in the world, today. Mount Dhaulagiri at 8167meter is considered as one of the most technical, demanding and challenging peak.

The 17 member expedition team led by Lt Col MS Chauhan was flagged off by Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, from New Delhi on 19th March this year. The team reached the Base Camp at 4700meter on 07th April and established three camps on the mountain by 01st May. On 07th May, the summit team left from Camp III, located at a height of 7400meter, in night and after nearly 14 hrs of grueling climb finally summitted the peak at 1115am (IST). The summit was a great challenge, as continuous inclement weather during the ascent had further increased the degree of difficulty.

There has not been any Indian expedition to Mount Dhaulagiri before this. The Indian Army has undertaken the first ever Indian Army expedition to the mountain and summitted it, inconsonance with its unfettered spirit of scaling all fourteen eight thousander peaks. Since 2001, Indian Army has already summitted six out of these fourteen peaks viz Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Annapurna and now Dhaulagiri.

http://www.pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=48643



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