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Friday, 22 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 22 May 09

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Mhadei' sets sail for Mauritius

21 May 2009, 0015 hrs IST, TNN

PANAJI: Indian Navy's sailing vessel Mhadei', a state-of-the-art yacht built in Goa, set sail for Mauritius last week on her maiden long distance voyage from the naval jetty at Chicalim.

The expedition, a first of its kind in India, was flagged off by rear admiral Sudhir Pillai, flag officer commanding, Goa naval area.

The distance of over 2,300 nautical miles is expected to be covered in 25 days under various trying conditions that would include encounter with the south west monsoon, north of the equator, crossing the equator, and negotiating the south east trade winds, south of the equator.

The voyage is expected to test the yacht and train the crew in sailing under diverse weather conditions over an extended period of time.

The voyage is being undertaken as preparatory training for Sagar Parikrama', Indian Navy's solo circumnavigation project. The first leg from Goa to Mauritius will be sailed by a two-member crew comprising Cdr Dilip Donde and Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy.

On reaching Port Louis, Donde will sail the yacht back alone. The voyage is a first not only for the navy, but also for the country as no Indian has sailed shorthanded or solo over such distances.

Mhadei, named after the river she was built on, was constructed at Divar island by Aquarius Fibreglass Pvt Ltd, Goa, that have pioneered the art of building such yachts in the country. It has an overall length of 56ft and a mast rising to over 25mt.

Three months after the yacth was handed over to the navy, the vessel sailed over 2,000 nautical miles, including a brief visit to Colombo.

The yacht carries a set of six sails that can be used in different combinations allowing speeds of up to 10 knots. The yacht is also equipped with state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment, a de-salinator to make fresh water, and an inboard diesel engine for power generation and propulsion, etc.

3-fold hike in US aid to Pak

Washington, May 21
A three-fold increase in US non-military aid to Pakistan to a whopping $1.5 billion annually was approved today by a key Congressional Committee on the condition that it would not allow terrorist activity from its soil against “neighbouring countries” without mentioning India by name.

The original bill had insisted that Pakistan would not let its territory to be used for launching terrorist attacks against and not support any group that indulges in terrorist activities against India but dropped a direct reference to India keeping in mind Pakistan’s sensitivities. The Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act 2009 was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee by the voice vote, following about an hour of debate, replacing the word India with “neighbouring countries”.

Congressional observers said the word “India” had to be deleted because the Obama Admn told the lawmakers that this could be counter-productive to their overall objective given that Pakistan establishment is allergic to it. In the original bill, the US President was asked to give a presidential determination about the progress made by Pakistan in preventing cross border attacks into India. — PTI

Aid to Pak
India disappointed with US panel’s decision
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
India is disappointed over the decision of a US Congressional committee approving a law tripling non-military aid to Pakistan and is expected to take up the matter with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to visit New Delhi soon.

Official sources observed that Washington was extending aid to Pakistan, obviously to keep it in a good humour though it was fully aware of the ground situation in this region.

“We have seen in the past that such assistance to Pakistan has always been used against India. Pakistan’s track record should have been taken into account. Any such aid to Islamabad should come with a rider that it would not be used against India…it is disappointing,’’ the sources added.

They were also surprised that the US Foreign Affairs Committee, the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act, replaced word ‘India’ with ‘neighbouring countries’ with regard to Pakistan not allowing its territory to be used to launch terror attacks.

These issues will figure prominently during discussions between the Indian side and Hillary Clinton, who is likely to visit New Delhi in July.

This would be the first top-level visit to India from Washington since the Obama administration assumed office in January.

There are also indications that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could meet President Obama on the margins of the G-8 summit in Italy in July. The two leaders had met for the first time in London on the sidelines of the G-20 meet in early April.However, nothing concrete emerged from that meeting since the process of the Lok Sabha elections in India had already been set in motion.

BSF to spend Rs 6,016 cr on modernisation in next 5 yrs

Press Trust of India / New Delhi May 21, 2009, 16:57 IST

The Border Security Force (BSF), will soon undertake a massive modernisation project worth over Rs 6,000 crore which will see recruitment of additional 30,000 men and procurement of new aircraft, among others.

As per the modernisation plan of the force, a total of Rs 6,016 crore is to be spent in the next five years.

"The force is going on for a massive modernisation ahead. The total expenditure for the same in the next five years is pegged at Rs 6,016 crore," BSF Director General M L Kumawat said.

The five-year plan will also see the construction of 509 new border posts along the Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangla border, nine new sectors and three more frontier headquarters.

The government has already sanctioned an amount of Rs 360 as part of its modernisation process in the first phase.

The force will also procure eight 'Dhruv' Advanced Light Helicopters from Hindustan Aeronautics and one large transport plane and two small aircraft from abroad within this fiscal to transport men and material in case of emergencies.

Pakistan as a failed state is a peril, says Kerry

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

May 22, 2009 01:34 IST

Saying that the challenges the United States faces in Pakistan are far greater to that in Afghanistan, Senator John F Kerry, the chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, warned that if Pakistan, "a nuclear-armed nation of 170 million people" becomes a failed state, it would pose "an unimaginable peril to itself, its neighbors and the world."

In his opening remarks at a hearing he convened on US Strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan that featured Admiral Mike Mullen [Images], the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kerry said, no only were the challenges in Pakistan "in many ways greater than in Afghanistan," but that America's "ability to confront them is at the same time far more limited.

But make no mistake, it is an absolutely vital and compelling national security concern for the United States."

He said that "to fix the Pakistan policy that has largely failed--to the degree there's been a policy--we need to create a new strategy," and this is why he and Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Committee had introduced legislation "which we believe helps to do just that."

Kerry said that by "tripling non-military aid, authorizing it for 5-10 years, and de-linking this aid from our security assistance, we believe we can put our relationship with Pakistan on an entirely new foundation.We can ground our ties on the bedrock of the Pakistani people themselves," he said, and added: "That's why President Obama [Images] explicitly called on Congress to pass the Kerry-Lugar bill as part of his overall strategy."

Kerry bemoaned that when he recently visited the Frontier Corps headquarters in Peshawar, he was told by General Tariq Khan, whom he described as a "very competent General" that "after the Corps had fought so hard to clear the Taliban [Images] out of Bajaur and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, they had no capacity to bring in the type of development assistance necessary to consolidate their military gains."

Continuing to make a pitch for his bill, Kerry said, it "would help provide the 'hold and build' parts of Pakistan's counter-insurgency strategy." But, he said if nothing is done to change the lives of people who have "been dislocated or impacted by the military operations," it was an invitation "to these folks giving up on the notion that it makes a difference and clearly in the long-run we are not going to be successful if that's what happens."

Kerry said it was imperative to "employ this new counter-insurgency strategy that is more people focused than troop focused, not only in the tribal areas but throughout the country before settled areas like the Punjab [Images] and Sindh are destabilised." He argued only then could the US be "able to address the emerging crisis before it matures."

But in the final analysis, Kerry said, "We need to be clear about what's possible. Ultimately, we can influence events in Pakistan, but we cannot decide them. We can strengthen the hand of the moderate majority, but the choices need to be made by that majority and by the Pakistanis themselves."

Gurkhas given right to settle in the UK

All former Gurkhas who have served in the British Army for at least four years will now be eligible for settlement in the UK, the Home Secretary announced in Parliament today.

Under the new policy, those Gurkhas who retired prior to 1 July 1997 and completed four years service can apply to settle in the UK with their spouses and dependent children.

The policy introduced today refers specifically to those Gurkhas who retired before 1 July 1997 and who will now be granted settlement rights under the new scheme. Those who retired after 1 July 1997 are already eligible to apply for settlement under the current immigration rules.

Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith said:

"Generations of Gurkhas have served the United Kingdom with great courage, sacrifice and distinction and they continue to make a vital and valued contribution to our operations around the world.

"We respect the will of the House of Commons on this issue and that is why I have now announced a new policy, the basis of which we have worked on with the Home Affairs Select Committee and Gurkha representatives.

"This means we can now welcome any Gurkha who has served for four years or more to settle in the UK."

In 2004 the Government granted the first Gurkhas the right of settlement in Britain if they served on or after 1 July 1997 - the point at which the Brigade's base moved to the UK. Since then, over 6,000 Gurkhas and their families have been given the right to live in the UK.

The new policy announced will allow settlement rights to be granted to all those who retired from the Brigade of Gurkhas prior to 1 July 1997 with four or more years' service. The new policy reflects the fresh advice of the Home Affairs Select Committee around the numbers of Gurkhas and their families likely to apply under the new rules.

Kevan Jones, Minister for Veterans said:

"The British Army and the Ministry of Defence are determined to do all that we can to uphold our ongoing commitment to the welfare of former Gurkhas, whether in Nepal or the UK. We value greatly the bravery, commitment and dedication which they have shown over many years and continue to demonstrate on operations today."


1. The British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas (BG) is currently around 3,800 strong and provides around three per cent of the Army's strength and eight per cent of the Infantry.

2. The modern day Brigade of Gurkhas was formed in 1948 when four Regiments transferred from the old Indian Army to the British Army. There are seven Regiments in the Indian Army.

3. Gurkhas are recruited in Nepal and remain Nepalese citizens throughout their service with the Brigade of Gurkhas, which is in line with the wishes of the Government of Nepal.

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