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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 12 May 09

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By George Friedman

After U.S. airstrikes killed scores of civilians in western Afghanistan this past week, White House National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones said the United States would continue with the airstrikes and would not tie the hands of U.S. generals fighting in Afghanistan. At the same time, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus has cautioned against using tactics that undermine strategic U.S. goals in Afghanistan -- raising the question of what exactly are the U.S. strategic goals in Afghanistan. A debate inside the U.S. camp has emerged over this very question, the outcome of which is likely to determine the future of the region.

On one side are President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a substantial amount of the U.S. Army leadership. On the other side are Petraeus -- the architect of U.S. strategy in Iraq after 2006 -- and his staff and supporters. An Army general -- even one with four stars -- is unlikely to overcome a president and a defense secretary; even the five-star Gen. Douglas MacArthur couldn't pull that off. But the Afghan debate is important, and it provides us with a sense of future U.S. strategy in the region.

Petraeus and U.S. Strategy in Iraq

Petraeus took over effective command of coalition forces in Iraq in 2006. Two things framed his strategy. One was the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm congressional elections, which many saw as a referendum on the Iraq war. The second was the report by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan group of elder statesmen (including Gates) that recommended some fundamental changes in how the war was fought.

The expectation in November 2006 was that as U.S. President George W. Bush's strategy had been repudiated, his only option was to begin withdrawing troops. Even if Bush didn't begin this process, it was expected that his successor in two years certainly would have to do so. The situation was out of control, and U.S. forces did not seem able to assert control. The goals of the 2003 invasion, which were to create a pro-American regime in Baghdad, redefine the political order of Iraq and use Iraq as a base of operations against hostile regimes in the region, were unattainable. It did not seem possible to create any coherent regime in Baghdad at all, given that a complex civil war was under way that the United States did not seem able to contain.

Most important, groups in Iraq believed that the United States would be leaving. Therefore, political alliance with the United States made no sense, as U.S. guarantees would be made moot by withdrawal. The expectation of an American withdrawal sapped U.S. political influence, while the breadth of the civil war and its complexity exhausted the U.S. Army. Defeat had been psychologically locked in.

Bush's decision to launch a surge of forces in Iraq was less a military event than a psychological one. Militarily, the quantity of forces to be inserted -- some 30,000 on top of a force of 120,000 -- did not change the basic metrics of war in a country of about 29 million. Moreover, the insertion of additional troops was far from a surge; they trickled in over many months. Psychologically, however, it was stunning. Rather than commence withdrawals as so many expected, the United States was actually increasing its forces. The issue was not whether the United States could defeat all of the insurgents and militias; that was not possible. The issue was that because the United States was not leaving, the United States was not irrelevant. If the United States was not irrelevant, then at least some American guarantees could have meaning. And that made the United States a political actor in Iraq.

Petraeus combined the redeployment of some troops with an active political program. At the heart of this program was reaching out to the Sunni insurgents, who had been among the most violent opponents of the United States during 2003-2006. The Sunni insurgents represented the traditional leadership of the mainstream Sunni tribes, clans and villages. The U.S. policy of stripping the Sunnis of all power in 2003 and apparently leaving a vacuum to be filled by the Shia had left the Sunnis in a desperate situation, and they had moved to resistance as guerrillas.

The Sunnis actually were trapped by three forces. First, there were the Americans, always pressing on the Sunnis even if they could not crush them. Second, there were the militias of the Shia, a group that the Sunni Saddam Hussein had repressed and that now was suspicious of all Sunnis. Third, there were the jihadists, a foreign legion of Sunni fighters drawn to Iraq under the banner of al Qaeda. In many ways, the jihadists posed the greatest threat to the mainstream Sunnis, since they wanted to seize leadership of the Sunni communities and radicalize them.

U.S. policy under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been unbending hostility to the Sunni insurgency. The policy under Gates and Petraeus after 2006 -- and it must be understood that they developed this strategy jointly -- was to offer the Sunnis a way out of their three-pronged trap. Because the United States would be staying in Iraq, it could offer the Sunnis protection against both the jihadists and the Shia. And because the surge convinced the Sunnis that the United States was not going to withdraw, they took the deal. Petraeus' great achievement was presiding over the U.S.-Sunni negotiations and eventual understanding, and then using that to pressure the Shiite militias with the implicit threat of a U.S.-Sunni entente. The Shia subsequently and painfully shifted their position to accepting a coalition government, the mainstream Sunnis helped break the back of the jihadists and the civil war subsided, allowing the United States to stage a withdrawal under much more favorable circumstances.

This was a much better outcome than most would have thought possible in 2006. It was, however, an outcome that fell far short of American strategic goals of 2003. The current government in Baghdad is far from pro-American and is unlikely to be an ally of the United States; keeping it from becoming an Iranian tool would be the best outcome for the United States at this point. The United States certainly is not about to reshape Iraqi society, and Iraq is not likely to be a long-term base for U.S. offensive operations in the region.

Gates and Petraeus produced what was likely the best possible outcome under the circumstances. They created the framework for a U.S. withdrawal in a context other than a chaotic civil war, they created a coalition government, and they appear to have blocked Iranian influence in Iraq. But these achievements remain uncertain. The civil war could resume. The coalition government might collapse. The Iranians might become the dominant force in Baghdad. But these unknowns are enormously better than the outcomes expected in 2006. At the same time, snatching uncertainty from the jaws of defeat is not the same as victory.

Afghanistan and Lessons from Iraq

Petraeus is arguing that the strategy pursued in Iraq should be used as a blueprint in Afghanistan, and it appears that Obama and Gates have raised a number of important questions in response. Is the Iraqi solution really so desirable? If it is desirable, can it be replicated in Afghanistan? What level of U.S. commitment would be required in Afghanistan, and what would this cost in terms of vulnerabilities elsewhere in the world? And finally, what exactly is the U.S. goal in Afghanistan?

In Iraq, Gates and Petraeus sought to create a coalition government that, regardless of its nature, would facilitate a U.S. withdrawal. Obama and Gates have stated that the goal in Afghanistan is the defeat of al Qaeda and the denial of bases for the group in Afghanistan. This is a very different strategic goal than in Iraq, because this goal does not require a coalition government or a reconciliation of political elements. Rather, it requires an agreement with one entity: the Taliban. If the Taliban agree to block al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, the United States will have achieved its goal. Therefore, the challenge in Afghanistan is using U.S. power to give the Taliban what they want -- a return to power -- in exchange for a settlement on the al Qaeda question.

In Iraq, the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds all held genuine political and military power. In Afghanistan, the Americans and the Taliban have this power, though many other players have derivative power from the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; where al-Maliki had his own substantial political base, Karzai is someone the Americans invented to become a focus for power in the future. But the future has not come. The complexities of Iraq made a coalition government possible there, but in many ways, Afghanistan is both simpler and more complex. The country has a multiplicity of groups, but in the end only one insurgency that counts.

Petraeus argues that the U.S. strategic goal -- blocking al Qaeda in Afghanistan -- cannot be achieved simply through an agreement with the Taliban. In this view, the Taliban are not nearly as divided as some argue, and therefore their factions cannot be played against each other. Moreover, the Taliban cannot be trusted to keep their word even if they give it, which is not likely.

From Petraeus' view, Gates and Obama are creating the situation that existed in pre-surge Iraq. Rather than stunning Afghanistan psychologically with the idea that the United States is staying, thereby causing all the parties to reconsider their positions, Obama and Gates have done the opposite. They have made it clear that Washington has placed severe limits on its willingness to invest in Afghanistan, and made it appear that the United States is overly eager to make a deal with the one group that does not need a deal: the Taliban.

Gates and Obama have pointed out that there is a factor in Afghanistan for which there was no parallel in Iraq -- namely, Pakistan. While Iran was a factor in the Iraqi civil war, the Taliban are as much a Pakistani phenomenon as an Afghan one, and the Pakistanis are neither willing nor able to deny the Taliban sanctuary and lines of supply. So long as Pakistan is in the condition it is in -- and Pakistan likely will stay that way for a long time -- the Taliban have time on their side and no reason to split, and are likely to negotiate only on their terms.

There is also a military fear. Petraeus brought U.S. troops closer to the population in Iraq, and he is doing this in Afghanistan as well. U.S. forces in Afghanistan are deployed in firebases. These relatively isolated positions are vulnerable to massed Taliban forces. U.S. airpower can destroy these concentrations, so long as they are detected in time and attacked before they close in on the firebases. Ominously for the United States, the Taliban do not seem to have committed anywhere near the majority of their forces to the campaign.

This military concern is combined with real questions about the endgame. Gates and Obama are not convinced that the endgame in Iraq, perhaps the best outcome that was possible there, is actually all that desirable for Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, this outcome would leave the Taliban in power in the end. No amount of U.S. troops could match the Taliban's superior intelligence capability, their knowledge of the countryside and their willingness to take casualties in pursuing their ends, and every Afghan security force would be filled with Taliban agents.

And there is a deeper issue yet that Gates has referred to: the Russian experience in Afghanistan. The Petraeus camp is vehement that there is no parallel between the Russian and American experience; in this view, the Russians tried to crush the insurgents, while the Americans are trying to win them over and end the insurgency by convincing the Taliban's supporters and reaching a political accommodation with their leaders. Obama and Gates are less sanguine about the distinction -- such distinctions were made in Vietnam in response to the question of why the United States would fare better in Southeast Asia than the French did. From the Obama and Gates point of view, a political settlement would call for either a constellation of forces in Afghanistan favoring some accommodation with the Americans, or sufficient American power to compel accommodation. But it is not clear to Obama and Gates that either could exist in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, Petraeus is charging that Obama and Gates are missing the chance to repeat what was done in Iraq, while Obama and Gates are afraid Petraeus is confusing success in Iraq with a universal counterinsurgency model. To put it differently, they feel that while Petraeus benefited from fortuitous circumstances in Iraq, he quickly could find himself hopelessly bogged down in Afghanistan. The Pentagon on May 11 announced that U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David McKiernan would be replaced, less than a year after he took over, with Lt. Gen. Stan McChrystal. McKiernan's removal could pave the way for a broader reshuffling of Afghan strategy by the Obama administration.

The most important issues concern the extent to which Obama wants to stake his presidency on Petraeus' vision in Afghanistan, and how important Afghanistan is to U.S. grand strategy. Petraeus has conceded that al Qaeda is in Pakistan. Getting the group out of Pakistan requires surgical strikes. Occupation and regime change in Pakistan are way beyond American abilities. The question of what the United States expects to win in Afghanistan -- assuming it can win anything there -- remains.

In the end, there is never a debate between U.S. presidents and generals. Even MacArthur discovered that. It is becoming clear that Obama is not going to bet all in Afghanistan, and that he sees Afghanistan as not worth the fight. Petraeus is a soldier in a fight, and he wants to win. But in the end, as Clausewitz said, war is an extension of politics by other means. As such, generals tend to not get their way.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

Copyright 2009 Stratfor.

Pak ups offensive, Zardari for avoiding bloodshed

Upping ante against the terrorists, the Pakistan army and air force on Monday stepped up the shelling of militant hideouts. The aim of the heavy bombardment was to shock the heavily armed Taliban, which is firmly ensconced in large parts of Swat.

CJ: abhishekb, 15 hours ago Views:133 Comments:0

EVEN AS Pakistan President Aisf Ali Zardari reiterated his resolve to eliminate the Taliban, Pakistani security forces stepped up the offensive against the terrorists, holding out in Swat and adjoining areas on Monday (May 11).

Addressing a meeting of Pakistani Americans in New York, Zardari expressed confidence that a solution to the ever increasing problem of extremism will be found soon.

While making it clear that Pakistan did not want bloodshed, Zardari, said that he was determined to eliminate the threat posed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which he described as a monster.

That the Pakistan government wants to walk the talk is clear from the fact more troops are being moved from the India-Pakistan borders to the terror infested areas. This has come after repeated American assertions that Pakistan needs to look beyond India as its chief enemy and face the threat posed by fundamentalist and extremist groups.

Upping the ante against the terrorists, the Pakistan army and air force on Monday stepped up the shelling of militant hideouts and forced them on the run.

The aim of the heavy bombardment, sources said, was to shock the heavily armed Taliban, which is firmly ensconced in large parts of Swat.

The battle between the two sides has, however, unfolded a humanitarian crisis with thousands of people fleeing their homes in Swat.

A number of local residents have also lost their lives in the shelling, despite Zardari claiming that they were against bloodshed.

The Pakistan president also asked the international community and come forward and help Pakistan in its fight against terrorism and number of other problems facing the country.

Pakistan government has also said that it will take over the all madrasas (religious schools) in country to ensure that education and extremism does not get mixed up.

Incidentally, Madrasas run by various charitable organisations have served as fertile recruiting ground for terror groups, operating in Pakistan.;jsessionid=649ADC05EC633A4BB4E4006367B3FAEE?articleID=15768916

Pakistan's Top Leadership Vows to Eliminate Taliban

Islamabad/New York
Pakistan's top leadership has vowed to take a military operation against the Taliban in the country's troubled northwest to its logical conclusion, saying the militants would be eliminated and collateral damage kept to the minimum.

On its part, the military said Monday afternoon that the operations, now in their 16th day, was "making headway successfully" and that 52 militants had been killed in the last 24 hours.

This would bring to around 750 the number of Taliban fighters who had been killed since the operations began April 26.

Vowing to force the Taliban to lay down their arms, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Monday the government's writ would be re-established in the northwest.

"No matter how strong they (the militants) may get, they cannot fight with the armed forces of Pakistan. We will soon force them to lay down their arms," he said while making a policy statement in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, on the military operations in three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

"These terrorists are trying to destabilize and conquer Pakistan. They have their own agenda. They don't have a religion and are working under their foreign masters," APP quoted the prime minister as saying.

"These (militants) are a handful of people who are not sincere to Pakistan. Inshallah, we will fight them bravely and strengthen the defence of the country," the prime minister maintained.

He noted in this context that the National Assembly had last month approved the imposition of Sharia laws in the Malakand division of the NWFP that comprises seven districts, including Swat, Buner and Lower Dir, where the military operations are currently underway. In turn, the militants were to have laid down their arms, which they did not, Gilani noted.

He lamented that instead of ensuring peace, the writ of the NWFP government was challenged, personnel of the law enforcing agencies were taken hostage and government property was destroyed or forcefully occupied.

Reiterating Pakistan's commitment to defeat the Taliban insurgency in the northwest, President Asif Ali Zardari has vowed to keep collateral damage to the minimum.

"We don't want to make one million dead," APP quoted Zardari as saying Sunday evening while addressing a largely-attended meeting of Pakistani-Americans at a hotel in New York.

He also urged his audience to read contemporary history, not age-old history, about instances of large-scale casualties resulting from attempts by several countries to wipe out insurgencies.

"We want to avoid bloodshed so that the effect was minimal and a solution found. This moment calls for a lot of courage and at the same time a lot of thinking," the president maintained.

The Pakistani military moved into action against the Taliban after they violated a controversial peace accord with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.

Under the accord, brokered by Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad with the NWFP government, Sharia laws were to be be imposed in Swat and seven other districts of the districts collectively known as the Malakand division, in return for the militants laying down their arms.

The military operation began in the Lower Dir district and later spread to Buner and Swat.

Close to 300,000 civilians have been displaced due to the military action, UN agencies and other NGOs have estimated.

Zardari also said Pakistani and US intelligence agencies - the ISI and the CIA - together created the Taliban, but denied Islamabad would like to retain it as a bulwark against Indian influence in Afghanistan.

"I don't think so. I don't think so," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" programme Sunday when asked if there was a view in Pakistan that the Taliban should be kept around for a rainy day as a bulwark against Indian influence.

"I think it was part of your past and our past, and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) created them together," said Zardari when asked if the creation of Taliban was not part of Pakistan's past.

"And I can find you 10 books and 10 philosophers and 10 write-ups on that, of what all you didn't do," Zardari said, referring to the creation of Taliban to fight the then Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

ISI, CIA Together Created Taliban: Zardari
By Arun Kumar

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has said Pakistani and US intelligence agencies - the ISI and the CIA - together created the Taliban, but denied Islamabad would like to retain it as a bulwark against Indian influence in Afghanistan.

"I don't think so. I don't think so," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" programme Sunday when asked if there was a view in Pakistan that the Taliban should be kept around for a rainy day as a bulwark against Indian influence.

"I think it was part of your past and our past, and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) created them together," said Zardari when asked if the creation of Taliban was not part of Pakistan's past.

"And I can find you 10 books and 10 philosophers and 10 write-ups on that, of what all you didn't do," he said referring to the creation of Taliban to fight the then Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Asked if the game changed after 9/11 to a point where the US decided to root out the Taliban threat and Pakistan was straddling both sides, Zardari countered: "You tell me. I was imprisoned by the same dictator you were supporting."

"Yes. I'm speaking of (former president) General (Pervez) Musharraf. In fact, I lost my wife on his watch and I have -- I spent five years in his prison."

Zardari wouldn't agree with suggestions about a widespread belief that Pakistan's military and intelligence services still have same sympathies for the Taliban.

"I think General Musharraf may have had a mind-set that I -- to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. But certainly not on our watch. We don't have that thought process at all."

Asked who was in control of Pakistan, he or the military, Zardari said: "I think the military is in control of their hemisphere and I'm in control of the whole country."

When asked if the military could overrule him, he asserted, "No. I can overrule them."

Denying that he had been overruled in the past, Zardari said: "No. We've gone to their position and they've come to our positions."

Asked why was it that when he wanted the ISI chief to go to Mumbai after the Nov 26 attacks, he was overruled by the military, Zardari said: "No, it was not overruled by the military. They thought it was too, too soon. And eventually we've offered for the intelligence chief to meet."

NSG Troika meets Indian officials
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
The Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) Troika today met Indian officials to exchange views on civil nuclear cooperation.

This was the first meeting between the two sides since India secured a clean waiver from the 45-member cartel in September last year to undertake nuclear commerce.

An official statement here said special secretary (political and international organisations) in the External Affairs Ministry led the Indian delegation while Ambassador Viktor Elbling of Germany, its current chair, headed the NSG Troika team.

The NSG delegation included representatives from South Africa (the previous chair of NSG) and Hungary (its next chair). India has had meetings with NSG Troika since 2004.

“The discussions were positive, forward looking and included an exchange of views on future cooperation in different areas,” the statement added.

Former Naval Chief Admiral S M Nanda passes away

Press Trust Of India

SAD TURN OF EVENTS: Sanjeev Nanda, grandson of former Naval Chief, languishes in jail for the BMW hit-and-run case.

New Delhi: Former naval chief Admiral S M Nanda, a veteran of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, died on Monday evening in the national capital.

The 93-year-old Padma Vibhushan award winner was admitted to a city-based hospital on Monday morning and breathed his last around 2300hrs IST. He is survived by his two sons and wife besides grandchildren, family sources confirmed.

Nanda was admitted to Fortis, Vasant Kunj with complaints of fever and breathlessness, Navneet Singh, a physician of the hospital who treated the former navy chief, said.

Nanda, who was awarded the Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM) and the Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM) for his distinguished service, was appointed the Chief of Naval Staff on March 1, 1970. He retired in 1973.

His legendary command of the navy during the 1971 Indo-Pak war and his success in steering it to a resounding victory is the high-water mark of the modern Indian Navy.

The funeral will take place on Tuesday with full military honours at Brar Square Crematorium in New Delhi at 1600 hrs.

Al-Qaeda strengthening bases in Pak: report

Press Trust Of India

REPORTS: The turmoil in Swat is being seized by al-Qaeda to strengthen its presence in Pak.

New York: Taliban in Pakistan is being bolstered by the al-Qaeda network in the recent turmoil in Pakistan and the success of the Islamic group to extend territorial gains could foreshadow the creation of "min-Afghanistan" around the country.

The turmoil in Swat is being seized by al-Qaeda to strengthen its presence in Pakistan and any creation of bases like "mini-Afghanistan" could allow militants more freedom to plot attacks, the New York Times reported quoting intelligence sources.

That Taliban was receiving backing from groups like al-Qaeda, the paper said, was indicated when a UAV missile stuck an explosive-laden truck inside what was believed was an al-Qaeda compound in South Waziristan.

The truck went off in a fireball and US intelligence officials estimate that the truck was loaded with high explosives and could be meant to have in use as a suicide bomb in support of the Taliban forces fighting the army in Swat and Buner.

The bomb was more potent than the one used at the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad in September last year, which killed more than 50 people.

Intelligence officials say that Taliban advances into Swat and Buner, which are closer to Islamabad than Waziristan, had already helped the al-Qaeda in attracting more recruits from Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Al-Qaeda leaders - predominantly Arab group of Egyptians, Saudis and Yemenis as well as other nationalities like Uzbeks - for years have nurtured ties with Pakistani militant groups, the Times reported.

The foreign operatives have historically set their sights on targets loftier than those selected by the local militant groups, aiming for spectacular attacks against the West, but they may see new opportunity in the recent violence, the report said.

"They smell blood, and they are intoxicated by the idea of a jihadist takeover in Pakistan," former CIA analyst Bruce O' Riedel said. O' Riedel recently led the Obama administration's policy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, it remains unlikely that Islamic militants could seize power in Pakistan given the strength of Pakistan's military, American intelligence analysts say.

American government officials and terrorism experts said that al-Qaeda's increasing focus on a local strategy was partly born from necessity, as the CIA's intensifying airstrikes have reduced the group's ability to hit targets in the West.

One of al-Qaeda's main goals in Pakistan, the assessment said, was to "stage major terrorist attacks to create a feeling of insecurity, embarrass the government and retard economic development and political progress."

The al-Qaeda operatives are foreigners inside Pakistan, and the experts said that the group's leaders like Osama bin Laden and his deputy, appear to be wary of claiming credit for the violence in the country, possibly creating popular backlash against the group.

Antony reviews coastal security

Statesman News Service
NEW DELHI, May 11: With the Sri Lankan army almost closing in on the LTTE and the possibility of its chief V Prabhakaran using the sea route to escape along with his cadres, the defence minister, Mr AK Antony, today reviewed the coastal security with the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, and other senior officials.
Even though Sri Lanka has said that it has deployed an almost impregnable four-layered defence line to ensure that the remaining Tigers who are in Mullaittivu do not escape, India would not like to leave any scope for this.
“The meeting reviewed coastal security specially in the southern coast in the wake of the Sri Lankan army operations. The review is also important since Tamil Nadu is going to polls on Wednesday and the Lankan crisis is a major issue in the elections,” sources said.
Recently the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Naval Command, Vice Admiral SK Damle, had emphasised on the need to “make sure that our coastal borders are secure and allow no unauthorized elements to come into our country”.
He apprehended that the LTTE which was virtually fighting for survival may try to infiltrate into India through the western coast. The officer said that tight vigil along the Tamil Nadu coast has forced the LTTE to look for other areas to infiltrate and there have been reports of movement of their boats off the western coast.
“It is not a question of today. Earlier too we found that the moment the Indian Navy increased vigil along the Tamil Nadu coast, many unauthorised persons, including the LTTE, were coming in from the west coast,” Vice Admiral Damle said.
“The Sri Lankan navy is acting for their own security and there is no direct coordination between the southern naval command and the Sri Lankan navy,” he had said.
According to reports, the four-layered Sri Lankan defence line comprises fast attack crafts (FACS), off-shore patrol vessels (OPVS), gun boats, the rapid action boat squadron and special boat squadron.

Neighbourhood watch

Kanwal Sibal

Monday, May 11, 2009 20:54 IST

In South Asia, US president Barack Obama's top priority in the next few years will be the Pakistan-Afghanistan situation. As this situation will remain unstable, the level of US frustration will remain high too. The relationship with India will feel the impact of this.

We face an opportunity and a danger. The US has now an apocalyptic view of Pakistan, which has replaced Afghanistan as the real problem. Pakistan's collapse, as a nuclear power, presents a nightmare scenario. Accordingly, the US should show a determination to steer Pakistan away from hostility towards India, and stem the tide of Islamism there.

The danger comes from Pakistan's well-honed tactics to dupe the US, extract a military and economic price for cooperation, propagate the "existential" threat from India and demand US intervention on India related issues. The limits of even US's power in dealing with a nuclear weapon state should not be underestimated. US may end up yielding to some of Pakistan's demands. Already, the danger of India being seen as a "problem" can be sensed. Our refusal to engage with Pakistan unless our bottom lines on the Mumbai attack are met will become an irritant and a point of pressure on us. As a regional power, and one with future global responsibilities, we will be told to share the burden of responsibilities rather than ride on the back of others.

China will be projected as a benevolent actor to put us further on the defensive. China has already begun talking of involving India, not because of the need to take cognisance of our sensitivities as the West may think, but to promote the agenda of linking the situation on Pakistan's eastern frontier to a solution to the Af-Pak problem.

Statements made by secretary of state Hillary Clinton on the US pressure on us to not react to Pakistani provocations and resume the dialogue with Pakistan, and General Petraeus's remark that India is very much part of US envoy to Af-Pak Richard Holbrooke's mandate, indicate the core of US thinking, no matter what diplomatic gloss is put on it to soften the reality.

Earlier, the US was seeking an India-Pakistan engagement to stabilise the environment in South Asia so that it could deal with Afghanistan in cooperation with Pakistan. Now the US will seek India's help in stabilising the deteriorating situation in Pakistan itself, which threatens to make the situation in Afghanistan more difficult to deal with.

Yet the US will not want to lose India's goodwill and open a contentious diplomatic front with us. It has therefore to play its cards astutely. Exhortations to Pakistan by top US leaders to concentrate on the enemy within and not be obsessed by the Indian threat strike the right note, but our guard should not be lowered because of this tactical US shift. US expectations of some appeasing gestures by India towards Pakistan will move up the diplomatic ladder if progress on the Af-Pak front stalls.

With the appointment of envoys for Afghanistan by many countries, a consensus is emerging among them to seek India's cooperation in a collective framework. The US strategy to press India for steps that would reassure Pakistan will be pursued on its behalf by other countries, especially European.

The US will not be able to resolve the central contradiction in its objectives. It wants concessions from India, which India has no reason to give without a quid pro quo. It is unwilling to compel Pakistan to end terrorism against India and take action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack, a minimum condition for us to resume the India-Pakistan dialogue. The US cannot seriously ask India to reduce its presence in Afghanistan, to which Pakistan is fiercely opposed. It wants Pakistan to fight the Taliban wholeheartedly, while the Pakistanis consider some of these elements as their strategic assets in Afghanistan.

After past statements expressing confidence about their safety, the US is now feeding concerns about the danger of Pakistan collapsing and its nuclear weapons falling into the hands of religious extremists. The reasons behind such dramatisation would be to mobilise greater Congressional support for the economic-military aid package for Pakistan without tight conditions as well as stepped up effort by the international community in the region, besides pressuring the Pakistan government and the military to combat the Pakistani Taliban more forcefully.

US commitment upfront to massive economic and military aid to Pakistan signals reward, not punishment, for non-performance. So long as Pakistan's India-related demands to the US are motivated by hostility, as is the case, US arms support to Pakistan will cause us concern, which the Americans will disregard. This can impede trust building, necessary for an enhanced defence supply relationship between India and the US.

The writer was India's foreign secretary.

India, Russia to discuss roadmap for air-launched version of BrahMos news

11 May 2009

New Delhi: India is moving ahead with its plans to equip its frontline air superiority fighter, the Sukhoi-30MKI with the air launched version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. According to agency reports, both India and Russia will be holding talks by the end of the month to discuss the issue.

India has already dispatched two of these heavyweight Su-30 MKI fighters to Russia for modification of the aircraft's fuselage so that they will be able Sukhoi 30MKI to carry the modified, air-launched version of the BrahMos.

The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile is joint Indo-Russian development.

Reports quote unidentified ministry of defence officials as saying that the modification work on the aircraft is expected to be complete by early 2010, though no deadlines have been set.

The aerial version of the BrahMos will be shorter in length than the standard land or marine versions and will have the capability to auto-launch towards the target after being released from the aircraft by the pilot.

Once the air-launched version has been fully developed the BrahMos will become the only cruise missile in the world to operate in land, sea and air versions. It has already been inducted by the Army and the Navy.

The conventional BrahMos has a range of 290 km and carries a 300 kg conventional warhead at a speed of around 2.8 Mach.

Meanwhile, Indian Air Force and Sukhoi experts are jointly investigating an April 30 crash of a Su030MKI fighter which resulted in the death of a crew member. The fighter, part of a group of four, was returning to base after a routine training sortie when it went into an uncontrollable spin.

The crash is the aircraft's first since its induction in 2002.

Indian Army, DRDO to Conduct User Trials for Agni-II Ballistic Missile

Daily News & Updates

India Defence Premium

Dated 11/5/2009

Defence scientists are preparing for a user's trial of surface-to-surface Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), Agni-II, from the defence base off the Orissa coast this week. The indigenously developed missile will be fired from the launching complex-IV at the Wheeler's Island near Dhamra.

"Preparations are on in full swing. If everything goes as planned, the missile will be testfired between May 12 and May 14," said a source at the integrated test range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-Sea. It also said the test may be deferred by four-five days if there are problems reported during the preparations. Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) scientists are excited because this user trial will pave the way for the maiden test of Agni-IV that is now under development.

"The successful tests of Astra missile from the ITR have encouraged the scientists for user trial of Agni-II. They are doing everything to ensure it's a success story," a source said. This missile is part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), while the other missiles include Prithvi, Trishul, Akash and Nag. Agni II has appropriate on-board thrusters fitted on the second stage of the missile. Both stages of Agni-II have a solid propulsion system which allows the missile to be mobile and flexible.

The Agni-II missile, which is 20 metres long, has a diameter of one meter and weighs 16 tonne, can neutralize a target at over 2,000 km range. It can carry a payload of around 1,000 kg and its range can also be increased to 3,000 km depending upon the payload. The missile will be used by 555 Missile Group of the Army.

"Agni-II can be fired from a rail-mobile launcher and is also available in road-mobile configuration. This lends flexibility and reduces vulnerability to first strike. It is in fact a ready-to-fire missile with a launch time of about 15 minutes," said a defence scientist, who added that Agni-II, along with Agni-I and Agni-III form the triad of the country's minimum, credible, nuclear deterrence.

Indian Army major arrested for taking obscene pictures


Panaji : An Indian Army major was arrested here Monday for allegedly taking obscene photographs of a woman and attempting to blackmail her, police said.

The officer, identified as Major Tarun Singh, 27, is posted at Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and is in Goa on a holiday, Inspector Nolasco Raposo told reporters, adding he was staying in a hotel adjacent to a room occupied by a Mumbai-based family, which included the complainant.

"The major took some photographs of the woman having a bath by removing some of the sliding glass bars fitted to the window," Raposo said. Singh then started threatening the woman via the hotel intercom, claiming that he would post her nude photos on the Internet.

"He wanted to use the photographs as a leverage because he wanted her to come to his room for obvious reasons," Raposo said, adding that Singh had even sent a written note to the woman asking her to meet him in his room.

Raposo said the officer had not revealed his army background during initial questioning.

"We have seized his camera and his laptop where he had stored the images. We have contacted army officials who will help us to identify the antecedents and the regiment to which the accused belongs," Raposo said.

The army declined immediate comment, saying it would have to first study the facts of the case.

Pakistan Test-fires Babur Babur Hatf VII Cruise Missile

Daily News & Updates

India Defence Premium

Dated 11/5/2009

As the country's News Agency reported at the end of last week, on Wednesday Pakistan conducted a successful test-firing of its latest domestically manufactured cruise missile, known as Babur (or Babar, Hatf VII), exactly at the time President Asif Zardari was in Washington and due to meet US President Barack Obama.

A source in the Foreign Office said the test was carried out without prior announcement and that Islamabad did not want to leave any negative impression regarding the Washington meeting.

Designed by the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM), the Pakistani scientific and research organisation, Babur is believed to be based on the US BGM-109 Tomahawk design. The cruise missile has a reported range of 500 kilometres (310 miles). It can be fired from warships, submarines and aircraft and is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. The Pakistani cruise missile is designed to hug the terrain and slip undetected through almost any protective radar system.

The Babur joins Pakistan's existing arsenal of short-range, intermediate and long-range nuclear and conventional missiles, which includes the Shaheen-I with a range of 600 kilometres , the Shaheen-II with a range of 2,000 kilometres , the Ghauri-I and Ghauri-II with ranges of 1,500 kilometres and 2,300 kilometres respectively, and the short-range (100-290 kilometres) Hatf series.

After its first test-firing in 2005, then-President Pervez Musharraf described the Babur as "a major milestone in Pakistan's quest for strengthening and consolidating the country's strategic capability." Looking in the direction of India, he added that the missile manifests Pakistan's resolve to maintain the balance of power that is essential to stability and peace in the region.

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