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Friday, 29 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 29 May 09

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Feel safe with Phalcon in sky
IAF inducts first spy plane
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 28
The Indian Air Force (IAF) today inducted its first airborne warning and control system (AWACS) called the “Phalcon” or “eye-in-the-sky”.

With this, commanders will be able to detect aircrafts or missiles within parts of China, the entire Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan. This will also provide India with the capability to keep an eye on enemy activities in air, land and the sea.

Two other such spy planes will join the IAF by the end of the year and with this ability to see into enemy territory will go beyond the vision of ground-based and tethered electromagnetic sensors. A highly sophisticated radar has been mounted on an IL-76 transport plane and the project has been carried out jointly by India-Russia and Israel.

Defence Minister AK Antony dedicated the plane to the nation by “handing it” over to the IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshall Fali Homi Major at a ceremony attended by Ambassadors Konstantin Vasikiev and Mark Soffer of Russia and Israel, respectively.

The induction of the “eye-in-the-sky” comes just one month after India launched a spy-satellite in the space that can look through clouds and fog.Meanwhile, the media reports from Pakistan said the neighbouring country had reacted sharply over this. Chief of the Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Air Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, was quoted as saying that “this will trigger an arms race in the region.

Suleman added that Pakistan would induct 500 American-built beyond visual range (BVR) missiles to counter threat. Pakistan is also set to acquire similar capabilities of a Swedish-built AWACS by September this year.

The AWACS is described as “an eye in the sky” because of its capability to carry out surveillance of objects that are about 400-km away under all-weather conditions. It can “lock on” on to 60 targets simultaneously and convey the information to troops on the ground besides conveying it to naval warships and IAF fighters. This is expected to provide situational awareness for tactical and strategic operations. The radar is the most sophisticated built to date. It can collate surface information about troop movements and missile launches even while listening to highly confidential communications between enemy frontline units.

So far, only the US, Russia, Israel, China, UK, France and Australia have the system operational in their air forces, and its induction has propelled the IAF into that major league.

Later, talking to the media, the IAF chief said the requirement of more such planes after the first lot of three would be assessed and then only an exact number could be ordered.

IAF Inducts its First AWACS

for Battlefield Transparency

New Delhi

The Indian Air Force (IAF) Thursday got its first "eye-in-the-sky" with the induction of the first of the three airborne early warning and control systems (AWACS) which will help it detect incoming flying weapons and listen-in to aerial communications.

Defence minister A.K. Antony formally inducted the giant IL-76 aircraft, configured in its new avatar, at the Palam Air Base in the national capital.

"For the real time control of combat assets we require real time intelligence which will be provided by the AWACS. The AWACS will form and important part of command and control system and for increasing the transparency of the battlefield," IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major told reporters.

The remaining two AWACS are expected to be delivered by the year end.

A major step towards network centric operations, the induction of AWACS has catapulted India into the league of six nations - the US, Russia, Britain, Japan, Australia and Turkey - which operate aircrafts of this class.

With its ability to detect aircrafts, cruise missiles and other flying objects at ranges far greater than is possible through existing systems, the AWACS can also collate surface information about troop movements and missile launches even while "listening-in" to highly confidential communications between the enemy's front line units.

To this extent, the AWACS, as a potent force-multiplier, are expected to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the IAF's offensive and defensive operations. Given the intensity and pace of modern-day air warfare, the AWACS will provide an impregnable aerial umbrella to neutralise any incoming threat.

"It will be a complete transformation of capabilities....In future we may need more of these. It is unique and designed to suit our needs," Major added.

"We are using this asset for the first time and it will take us a while before we know how many more we require. But seeing the expanse of our country we will need more of these."

The airframe of the Russian aircraft has been changed to accommodate the Israeli radar system under a tripartite agreement. The AWACS carries the largest and heaviest dome. With its 360 degree phased-array radars they will form the IAF's "eyes and ears-in-the-sky".

The aircraft, in the newly formed 50 Squadron, will be stationed at Agra, the largest and one of the most strategically important airbases in the country.

Dedicating AWACS to the nation, Antony expressed his "anxieties" about the other two AWACS being delivered on time.

"The project was signed in 2004... five years is too long a time... I hope the governments of Russia and Israel and the hard work of our people will help us in getting the other two AWACS on time," Antony said while addressing the gathering, including the Israeli and Russian ambassadors, present during the induction system.

The $1.1 billion deal for the three AWACS was signed in 2004. The AWACS flew from Israel to the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat this week escorted by IAF's combat jets.

Pakistan's Nuclear Assets May Fall
into Terrorist Hands: US Report

By Arun Kumar

Chronic political instability in Pakistan and the current offensive against the Taliban has raised fears that Islamabad's strategic nuclear assets could be obtained by terrorists or used by elements in the Pakistani government, US lawmakers have been told.

While US and Pakistani officials have expressed confidence in controls over Pakistan's nuclear weapons, continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards, according to a new US Congressional Research Report on "Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues."

"Some observers fear radical takeover of a government that possesses a nuclear bomb, or proliferation by radical sympathizers within Pakistan's nuclear complex in case of a breakdown of controls," says the report prepared by two non-proliferation experts for US lawmakers.

Pakistan, which already has a nuclear arsenal of about 60 nuclear warheads, continues fissile material production for weapons, and is adding to its weapons production facilities and delivery vehicles, notes the report by Paul K. Kerr and Mary Beth Nikitin.

Pakistan does not have a stated nuclear policy, but its "minimum credible deterrent" is thought to be primarily a deterrent to Indian military action, the report suggests.

Pakistan reportedly stores its warheads unassembled with the fissile core separate from non-nuclear explosives, and these are stored separately from their delivery vehicles.

Command and control structures have been dramatically overhauled since Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks and export controls and personnel security programmes have been put in place since the 2004 revelations about Pakistan's notorious nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan's international proliferation network, the report said.

Pakistani and some US officials argue that Islamabad has taken a number of steps to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies and materials and improve its nuclear security, the report says.

"A number of important initiatives such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programmes have improved the security situation in recent years," the experts said.

But "Instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question," they noted.

Members of Congress have also expressed concerns regarding the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and related material with Richard Lugar, top Republican of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee favoring use of "the cooperative threat reduction tools in Pakistan to help with the security of nuclear, biological, and chemical materials and weapons in the country."

Taliban Claim Responsibility for Lahore Blast,
50 Suspects Held

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for Wednesday's car bomb blast that left 24 people dead and over 200 injured as over 50 suspects were arrested for the terror attack.

More than 50 people have been arrested in connection with the suicide blast at Rescue-15 building in Lahore's Civil Lines area, Geo TV reported.

A deputy to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud told the BBC by telephone the attack was in response to the army's ongoing operation in the Swat valley.

The caller, who identified himself as Hakimullah Mehsud, threatened similar attacks in other Pakistani cities.

The military went into action April 26 after the Taliban violated a controversial peace accord with the North West Frontier Province and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

US-based SITE Intelligence Group said that the Tehreek-e-Taliban militants made the claim in a statement posted on Turkish jihadist websites.

The group quoted the statement as saying that the attack "targeted the nest of evil in Lahore" and was an "humble gift to the Mujahideen who suffer beneath the attacks of Pakistani forces in Swat".

It said that a vehicle laden with 100 kg explosives was blown up outside the security building in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province in Pakistan. The blast reduced the building to rubble.

The attack came two months after a team of 12 terrorists ambushed and fired rocket propelled grenades at a convoy carrying Sri Lankan players to the Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium on March 3. Seven players and the team's assistant coach were injured and six Pakistani police officials, who were providing protection to the bus carrying the players, were killed in the attack that shook the entire cricketing world.

Later that month, Pakistani security forces had to storm the Manawan police training academy on the outskirts of Lahore, ending a seven-hour siege by a group of heavily armed attackers who had taken over 800 trainees hostage. Four of the attackers were killed, while three were captured alive.

Pak to counter Indian AWACS with BVR

Press Trust of India, Thursday May 28, 2009, Islamabad

Pakistan on Thursday voiced concern over the acquisition of Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft by India and said it would counter the threat by inducting 500 American Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles.

Claiming that induction of AWACS by India would trigger a new arms race in the subcontinent, Pakistan's Air chief Air Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said Islamabad would match this capability by acquiring its own AWACS by September this year.

The Air chief told newsmen in Risalpur that Pakistan was also procuring more US-made F-16 fighter aircraft.

Suleman was commenting on reports that India had inducted the first of its three Phalcon AWACS into the Indian Air Force.

Pakistan is proposing to buy a Swedish SAAB Ericsson AWACS, which however, have a limited range as compared to the Phalcons.

The Air Chief said PAF was supporting the military in its ongoing operations in Swat and Malakand in NWFP. "PAF had destroyed several Taliban hideouts and caches of ammunition to pave the way for rapid advance by ground forces in Swat."

Asked about whether Pakistan had capability to shoot down drones, Suleman said "definitely" and cited the shooting down of an Indian surveillance plane in 2002 near Lahore.

N Korean nuke much stronger this time'

Agence France-Presse, Thursday May 28, 2009, New York

The nuclear device detonated by North Korea this week was about five times more powerful than the country's maiden 2006 test, US seismologists said.

Scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said they based their conclusions on data collected from seismic stations, including one in China.

"The second test appears to have a significantly higher yield" than the one in 2006, said Paul Richards, an expert on seismic detection of nuclear tests.

Another Columbia expert, Won-Young Kim who co-authored with Richards a report on the 2006 blast estimated the power of the Monday test at between 2.2 and four kilotons, the university said in a statement.

The blast produced shaking equivalent to an earthquake of magnitude 4.5 to 4.7, the statement read.

According to the Columbia experts, North Korea's 2006 test bomb was estimated to be less than one kiloton in strength. Each kiloton is the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.

For comparison, the bombs that nuclear powers currently have in their arsenal are of around 50 megatons in strength, while the bomb the US military dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was of 13 kilotons.

Pakistan played major role in LTTE defeat: Sources

Press Trust of India / London May 28, 2009, 12:17 IST

Pakistan's supply of high-tech military equipment and positioning of some of its highly trained army officers in Sri Lanka played a key role in the ultimate defeat of Tamil Tigers, Pakistani media has claimed.

"It was the Pakistani defence cooperation with Sri Lanka as the largest suppliers of high-tech military equipment that played a major role in the ultimate defeat of the LTTE at the hands of the Sri Lankan army," The News quoted well placed sources in the Pakistani establishment as saying.

The newspaper said the defence cooperation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan had grown significantly in recent years as Islamabad, unlike New Delhi, had no problems supplying the state-of-the-art weaponry to Lankan army to accelerate its counter-insurgency operations against the LTTE which finally ended with the killing of Tamil chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

It was exactly a year ago, in the first week of May 2008, that Sri Lankan Army Chief Lt Gen Fonseka visited Pakistan and held detailed talks with his Pakistani counterpart Chief of Army Staff General Asfaq Parvez Kayani to finalise the purchase of high-tech arms for the Lankan armed forces, which were embroiled in an intense battle with the LTTE forces even at that time.

According to the report, during the talks with Pakistani military authorities, Lt Gen Fonseka had finalised a deal under which Pakistan supplied 22 Al-Khalid main battle tanks to Sri Lanka worth $100 million.

Fonseka also gave a shopping list of weaponry worth about $65 million to the Pakistani military authorities, the newspaper said.

While the Sri Lankan army chief's shopping list for the army was pegged at $25 million, the inventory for the Lankan air force was worth $40 million. He had further sought 250,000 rounds of 60mm, 81mm, 120mm and 130mm mortar ammunition worth $25 million and 150,000 hand grenades for immediate delivery to the Lankan army within a month.

Pakistan also accepted the visiting General's request to send one shipload of the items needed every 10 days to bolster the Lankan military efforts to take over Kilinochchi, the political headquarters of the LTTE.

On January 19, 2009, in a meeting between Pakistani Defence Secretary Lt Gen (R) Syed Athar Ali and his visiting Lankan counterpart Gotabhaya Rajapakse in Rawalpindi, the two countries had agreed to enhance cooperation in military training, exercises and intelligence sharing regarding terrorism, the report said.

The agreement came amid Sri Lankan media reports that the Pakistan Air force pilots had participated in several successful air strikes against several military bases of the LTTE in August 2008.

The report further claimed that a highly trained group of Pakistani armed officers are stationed in Colombo to guide the Sri Lankan security forces in their operations against the LTTE. This was quite contrary to the LTTE propaganda that India was helping the Sri Lankan Government.

In fact, Fonseka has gone on record to say in an interview to an Indian TV channel that his country turned to China and Pakistan for military purchases only after New Delhi refused to supply weapons to it.

The News report noted that it was not the first time the Pakistan army was helping Sri Lankan military in its fight against the LTTE. Back in 2000, when a LTTE offensive code-named Operation Ceaseless Waves overran Sri Lankan military positions in the north and captured the Elephant Pass Base and entered Jaffna, and was being feared that the LTTE would run down thousands of Sri Lankan troops stationed in Jaffna, Colombo had sought Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher System and other high tech weaponry from Pakistan on an urgent basis.

Subsequently, MBRLS and weapons and ammunition, including artillery shells and multi-barrel rocket launchers, were airlifted in an emergency operation from Karachi to Colombo in May 2000, it added.

Delay in defence equipment supply anguishes Antony

Press Trust of India / New Delhi May 28, 2009, 12:15 IST

Anguished over delays in procurement and supply of military equipment, Defence Minister A K Antony today urged foreign vendors, including those from Russia and Israel, to stick to deadlines.

Stepping up pressure on foreign countries, Antony said, "I convey my anguish to foreign vendors, including Russia and Israel, on the delays in delivery of defence equipment. They have to try and deliver the defence equipment on time."

Russia and Israel are the two largest military suppliers to India. New Delhi had recently signed contracts with Tel Aviv for supply of Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missiles worth Rs 7,500 crore and with Russia for design and development of fifth general fighter aircraft and medium transport aircraft.

Formally inducting the Israeli-built Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) into the Indian Air Force at Palam airbase here, Antony, who deviated from his written speech, said: "Thorough the Ambassadors of the two countries, who are present here, I request the foreign countries for cooperation in meeting delivery schedules of AWACS and other equipment so that the Indian armed forces get the latest, modern weapons systems in time."

Indian defence procurement is expected to touch about $100 billion in the next 10 years, and several foreign companies including those from the Americas, Europe and Asia are vying with each other for a big chunk of the deals for themselves.

Antony also conveyed his dismay over the delayed delivery of the AWACS that were originally scheduled to arrive in India about 18 months ago.

He said India had signed the tripartite contract with Israel and Russia for the AWACS in 2004 and it took about five years for delivery of the first of these sophisticated 'eye in the sky' system.

However, he said the problem of delayed delivery was a cause for concern with not just the two major suppliers, but with other countries too, though he did not name the US, France, Britain and Italy, who handle the rest of the defence contracts in India.

The Minister said Defence Secretary Vijay Singh would be leaving for Russia this Sunday to hold talks over the inordinate delays in supply of defence equipment, in particular the Gorshkov aircraft carrier price renegotiation and to press for the timely supply of two more AWACS, which are part of the $1.1 billion deal, for the IAF before the end of 2010.

Why security must top the government's agenda

Colonel (Dr) Anil Athale (retd)

May 28, 2009

Two points make the 2009 electoral verdict very satisfactory -- for one, there is a clear mandate and the government will be stable. Secondly, the resounding defeat of the Communist Party of India-Marxist augurs well for us to clearly focus on the long term threat and inimical actions of our northern neighbour.

But true to form, the media and the public as large are focussed on economic issues while security issues as usual take a back seat. This is an attempt to rectify that imbalance.

Sample this:

China opposed an Asian Development Bank [Get Quote] loan to India on the grounds that the project was located in Arunachal Pradesh -- 'a disputed area' according to the Chinese. There was also an attempt by China to work out with the United States the division of the Asia Pacific region with China getting a free hand in the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka [Images] launched its final offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, using air force, heavy artillery and tanks. Tens of thousands of Tamils (with ethnic and family ties with Indian Tamils) perished. Indian advice to restrain the use of heavy weapons fell on deaf ears. Sri Lanka continues to pursue a military solution to the 'problem' of the Tamil minority.

Nepal's Prachanda cocks a snook at India and visits China on his first-ever official journey. The Maoists throw out the traditional Indian priests from the Pashupatinath temple and in a move to consolidate power dismisses the army chief. When thwarted in the attempt, he blames India for the crisis.

After much delay the Pakistani army launches a brutal offensive against Taliban [Images] -- its erstwhile 'strategic asset' (Pakistan army [Images] chief General Ashfaq Kiyani was caught on tape saying this). It is only a matter of time before the Taliban/Inter Services Intelligence/Pakistan army create a 26/11-like incident in India so that they can cite the Indian threat and abort anti-Taliban operations.

One common factor in all these events is that the heat began to be turned on precisely at the time when Indian decision making went into a limbo. It was widely expected that there would be a hung Parliament and a weak government. Thanks to the Indian voters's legendary sagacity, that has not happened.

In international relations there are very few accidents and the bunching of these anti-India actions in our neighbourhood could not be just coincidence, but show a design and pattern.

The Pune-based Initiative for Peace and Disarmament, of which I am the co-ordinator, has worked relentlessly for the establishment of an institutional mechanism for national security. While it is understandable that the politicians were busy with the elections, the National Security Council Secretariat and other bureaucratic heads ought to have been active both in Nepal and in the Sri Lanka humanitarian crisis. Apparently they were, but also ineffective. Why this happened is a question that Indians must seriously ponder.

Immediate challenges

Take Pakistan first. Many foreign analysts as well as some Indians, have warned of a 26/11 type of terrorist strike against India. The logic is simple; such an incident will lead to Indian reaction against Pakistan giving an excuse to the Pakistanis to call off the much-disliked action in Swat against the Taliban.

A situation, in Pakistan may come about where the Taliban get hold of a nuclear weapon and export it to India via a sea borne container.

It is time we have to give a very serious consideration to our nuclear posture of no first strike. The government must order a through review of all options.

The 26/11 attacks showed up multiple failures at various levels. It is time a closed door independent inquiry is ordered to pin point the flaws and rectify them. We owe it to the victims of that horrible massacre if we wish to avoid a repeat in the future.

The aim should be rectification of the systems and not witch hunting. An in-house departmental inquiry can never be impartial and would fail to bring out the truth. Now that the election is over, this ought to be the new government's first priority.

On the Nepal and Sri Lanka front, it is time to remind the government of the steps taken by Rajiv Gandhi [Images] -- airdrops over Jaffna without asking the Lankans and economic blockade of Nepal to bring it to its senses.

It is time Indians have a re-look at the 'Indira Doctrine' of 1980s, essentially a policy of hands off for foreigners in the Indian subcontinent. India is today in far more powerful position than in the 1980s in terms of economic clout. Where we have possibly slipped is our military power. It is time serious attention is given to build a military muscle commensurate with our size and capability.

The build-up of military power takes time and cannot be created in an emergency. The process has to be medium to long term. As the official historian of the 1962 India-China border war, one is reminded of an incident.

The Indian Army [Images] fought the Chinese in 1962 with First World War vintage Lee Enfield bolt action rifles, the kind our policemen continue to carry to date! The army's request for automatic rifles was stuck in the red tape and government apathy.

Nobody told the babus and the netas that the induction of a new weapon takes at least a year or two to train the men in handling it. All that we ended up doing was to gift brand new rifles to the Chinese.

If we do not anticipate and prepare before the threat manifests, we may well end up like in 1962. Many political commentators have been hailing Dr Manmohan Singh [Images] as only the second prime minister after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to have got re-elected after a full term like Nehru in 1962. But come October 1962, and the Chinese attacked us. Nehru was never the same again.

While the prime minister basks in glory of being only second after Nehru, this is a useful reminder of the pitfalls of neglecting security.

Indian AWACS may not ride on IL-76 for long

May 28, 2009 11:10 IST

India may have created history by inducting its first Airborne Warning and Control System in New Delhi [Images] on Thursday but the IAF is planning to replace the Russian IL-76 aircraft with some other 'modern aircraft' as the platform for the system in future.

India is the first country in South Asia to own an AWACS, popularly called 'an eye in the sky'.

"The first three AWACS will be based on the Russian IL-76s but they are older aircraft and they will be replaced with modern aircraft, which have same endurance as the IL-76," an IAF source told PTI in New Delhi.

Officials, however, said the process to look out for new platforms for AWACS will begin only after the remaining two systems are inducted in the IAF. The second of the AWACS is expected to be in India by early 2010 and the last one by the end of next year.

The aircraft being looked as a replacement for the IL-76 include Embraer and Gulfstream 550, which can carry out flying missions of over nine hours at a stretch.

On operations by AWACS, the source said, "All the equipment for the system to work will take another two to three months to arrive. So, it will take three months before they start operational flying."

The aircraft will be deployed in Agra [Images] with IAF's 50 Squadron under Allahabad-based Central Air Command, but will be assigned tasks directly by the Air Headquarters.

Residents seethe as Pakistan army destroys homes

By CHRIS BRUMMITT – 1 hour ago

SULTANWAS, Pakistan (AP) — When Pakistan's army drove the Taliban back from this small northwestern village, it also destroyed much of everything else here.

F-16 fighter jets, military helicopters, tanks and artillery reduced houses, mosques and shops to rubble, strewn with children's shoes, shattered TV sets and perfume bottles.

Commanders say the force was necessary in an operation they claim killed 80 militants. But returning residents do not believe this: Although a burned-out army tank at the entrance to Sultanwas indicates the Taliban fought back, villagers say most fighters fled into the mountains.

Beyond any doubt is their fury at authorities for wrecking their homes — the sort of backlash the army doesn't want as it tries to win the support of the people for its month-old offensive against the Taliban in Pakistan's northwest frontier region near the border with Afghanistan.

"The Taliban never hurt the poor people, but the government has destroyed everything," Sher Wali Khan told the first reporting team to reach the village of about 1,000 homes.

"They are treating us like the enemy," he said as he collected shredded copies of a Quran from the ruins of a mosque, one of three that were damaged, possibly beyond repair.

The anger in this village is an echo of recent years, when previous army offensives against the Taliban in the northwestern frontier area caused widespread civilian casualties and damage to homes. The military's heavy-handed approach here shows it may still be more equipped to fight conventional war with India than guerrilla warfare in the shadows of mountain villages and towns, where militants use civilians as cover.

The Associated Press traveled to Sultanwas on Wednesday after the Pakistani army briefly lifted a curfew in the Buner district to allow residents to return.

But the fight for the region is clearly not over. Just beyond the village, a makeshift army checkpoint shows where its control ends. Beyond that, the army and villagers say the Taliban are in charge, patrolling streets on foot and in pickup trucks.

The United States wants a resounding victory against insurgents who are threatening not only the stability of this nuclear-armed country, but also the success of the American-led mission in neighboring Afghanistan.

The army launched its operation in April to take back the northwest after the militants lost popular support across the region partly because of their defiance of a peace deal with the government. The Taliban have also carried out atrocities in the northwest and claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians elsewhere in Pakistan.

But residents of Sultanwas say the militants in their village threatened no one.

Khan, a 17-year-old who is quick with a smile and hopes to attend medical school, said about five militants occasionally came to a mosque. There, he said, they preached an ultraconservative brand of Islam and called for overthrowing the government because it was not implementing Islamic law. He said he did not agree with either position.

Khan fled with his family and most other residents when the army warned them last week to get out because the offensive was about to reach them.

The Taliban entered Buner last month from the Swat Valley, an advance that triggered the military's offensive. There was very little damage to buildings in the road leading to Sultanwas, which military officials said used to be one of the Taliban's major strongholds in the district.

The army says it is making every effort to avoid damaging buildings in the offensive. Reporters on a military-escorted trip to part of the Swat Valley last week saw no significant destruction.

But the army used helicopters, F-16 jets, tanks and artillery in the battle for Sultanwas. While the military says this tactic reduces army casualties by "softening up" areas before troops move in, critics question its effectiveness against a small and, for the most part, lightly armed insurgent force moving in and out of towns.

Khan and others insisted the militants were not living in their homes either before or after the attack.

There were no bodies, blood or obviously buried corpses in the rubble, which spans an area the size of two football fields, roughly a third of the village. A reporter could find no sign any rebels had dug in there or used the area as a base. Residents said the same.

"When the operation started, the Taliban all ran away from the area," said Rosi Khan, citing an account from the only three villagers who he said stayed behind. He could not say where those villagers are now.

Spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said fleeing villagers had told military officials that militants were using Khan's house and others nearby. He said 80 insurgents were killed in the operation, and that other militants apparently removed their bodies.

But two officers involved in the Buner operations said most of the roughly 400 fighters believed to be there escaped to the mountains — terrain they know far better than do army troops trucked in from elsewhere in Pakistan. The two officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give information to reporters.

It is a pattern the military says the outgunned and outnumbered militants are following elsewhere in the region, including in the main Swat Valley city of Mingora.

A defense attache for a Western embassy said the Swat operation appeared to be better organized and more coordinated than earlier ones in the northwest. But he questioned whether the 15,000 troops deployed against roughly 4,000 militants were enough to secure the region.

Besides Swat, Pakistan needs to keep troops elsewhere in the border region where al-Qaida and other militants are strong. But most of its roughly 700,000-member army is stationed on or close to the border with India, the country's traditional rival.

To claim victory, the government will have to ensure the militants do not return to the Swat Valley and Buner, and that the 2.4 million people who fled the fighting stay on the government's side when they come home.

The army is appealing for refugees to return to Sultanwas, but as elsewhere in Buner, few were heeding the call.

A week after the battle for this village ended, there was still no police, electricity or civilian administration.

"The political leadership is not here, there is no police," said a senior army officer, who asked not be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "How can you expect them to return?"

An AP photographer saw several people looting food and drinks from a damaged store in Sultanwas. They stopped only when other villagers reprimanded them.

At a checkpoint in Sultanwas, young men riding in buses from Taliban-controlled Pir Baba were ordered to lift their shirts and be searched, but there was little sign they were making serious checks of all those leaving the area.

In Pir Baba, Taliban fighters armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles are patrolling the streets, said Mohammed Yusuf, a 50-year-old farmer who was leaving but intended to return after buying vegetables at the nearest open market, several miles away.

"They are on the streets in the morning and evening," Yusuf said. "They are friendly. Some of them I know from my area."

AWACS by Oct: PAF : Pakistan will not be intimidated, says Gen Kayani

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will not be terrorised and God willing the army will succeed in its anti-Taliban efforts, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said at his visit to a training area for troops in Lahore on Thursday.

During his visit Kayani condemned Wednesday’s suicide attack in Lahore where besides police, five defence personnel including a lieutenant colonel were martyred.

Also on Thursday, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said the ‘drone issue’ could be countered but a policy decision on the subject had to be taken by parliament and the government.

Talking to reporters after addressing a graduation ceremony at Risalpur Academy, he said during the 2001-02 Indo-Pak standoff, the PAF had shot down an Indian drone, which had infringed upon Pakistani territory.

To another question, the air chief said the PAF had the capability to absorb any modern technology to defend the territorial jurisdiction of the country.

The air chief said acquisition of spying satellite and AWACS by India had created an “imbalance in the power” in the region, in response to which, Pakistan would get an Air Warning and Control System (AWACS) by October.\05\29\story_29-5-2009_pg1_4

Understanding national defence and our role

The Indian Armed Forces are responsible for guarding a border across traditional and nuclear enemy nations; hostile and/or disturbed nations and disputed areas like Jammu and Kashmir

Cross Hairs | Raghu Raman

If the average Indian was asked to name one organization that continues to do the nation proud after about 62 years of independence, the answer would probably be the Armed Forces. This institution has remained secular, apolitical, insular and superbly efficient; unlike the general deterioration of virtually every other establishment of the same vintage. Be it in their primary role of defending against external aggression from five fronts, handling internal security duties in different regions or helping civilians during natural or man-made disasters, the Armed Forces have conducted themselves exemplarily each time they have been called to action. This track record is reflected even in global theatres where the Forces have won admiration and accolades for the country.

Despite their incredible role in nation building, the Armed Forces have remained an enigmatic organization to most people. Most nations teach their population about their army, the history of eventful battles, organizational structures and some basics of civil defence. Bookstores across the world are stocked with volumes on military history and operations. Yet, even educated Indians would probably be unaware of the basic structure of the Forces. Our country’s ignorance of its defence forces is possibly by design rather than indifference. One of the theories is that after independence, the newly minted government took deliberate steps to undermine the importance of the army, downplaying its role in consolidating the various princely states, including Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Perhaps there was a fear that the well-oiled and well-led machinery would replace the British.

But for a democracy of our size and given the times that we live in, it is important for every citizen to know more about national security, especially since it is the citizenry which eventually contributes to and is most affected by the state of the nation’s security. I hope this series of articles would give readers an insight into security-related issues that affect all of us. In the first of this series, I want to discuss the challenges that our Forces are facing.

The Indian Armed Forces (I include the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and other border security elements, though the “million-strong” Indian Army constitutes the largest component by far) are responsible for guarding a border across traditional and nuclear enemy nations (Pakistan and China); hostile and/or disturbed nations (Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and disputed areas like J&K. The latter alone uses up half a million troops (or roughly three times the size of the British army) as part of regular deployment in the conflict that has been raging for the last 20 years. The same army is also required to tackle insurgency in the entire north-eastern region and train regularly for conventional battle scenarios in the western theatre against Pakistan and the eastern theatre against China and Bangladesh.

This army could also be called upon, and therefore trains, for overseas operations in Sri Lanka or Maldives (both have happened in the past), jungle warfare in some of the thickest jungles of the world, desert warfare in the second largest desert of the world and ultra-high altitude warfare in Siachen glacier.

The Forces also have about 3,000 troops kept operationally ready for United Nations deployment. In addition, fighting units are expected to send officers to other paramilitary units and establishments such as the National Security Guard, Assam Rifles, Rashtriya Rifles, Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau, Defence Research and Development Organisation and for appointment as aide-de-camp (French for camp assistant) to the President and senior military officers.

The problem is there simply aren’t enough leaders for the job.

A critical factor influencing the calibre of any army is leadership at the combat level. It is these combat leaders (lieutenants, captains and majors) who lead troops into battle, grow into experienced veterans and rise to occupy operational positions as colonels and then move to strategic levels as brigadiers and generals to shape strategy and doctrine. A typical fighting battalion consists of about 750 soldiers grouped into four companies of about 180 men and led by about 22 commissioned officers. These are leaders who join the army as lieutenants and work their way up the hierarchy. But the tap is drying at the entry level.

About 20 years ago, an army career was considered a close second to the civil services and hence attracted commensurate talent. Today, it’s near the bottom of the totem pole. We can talk about the reasons till the cows come home, but that doesn’t change the fact that both in quality and quantity, fighting units are facing up to 30% deficiency of junior leaders. Even the recently rediscovered NSG executed the Mumbai operations with these deficiencies.

It is obvious that the army cannot fight this dual challenge of increasing responsibilities and decreasing number of leaders—and something’s got to give. The signs of stretch are showing on the organization, and it is only the incredible tradition of leadership in the Armed Forces that is holding the fort. But they need participative help from rest of the society. And perhaps the first step is to understand the issues of national defence and our role in that.

Raghu Raman is chief executive of corporate risk consulting firm Mahindra Special Services Group that advises companies and organizations on threat assessments and risk mitigation strategies. Respond to this column at

Indigenous battle tank heads for comparative trials with Russian T-90

2009-05-25 16:35:00

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) With one regiment of the indigenously built Arjun main battle tank (MBT) delivered to the Indian Army, the combat vehicle is now headed for comparative trials with its Russian T-90 equivalent.

This could deliver the final verdict on a platform that has been 36 years in the making and which has cost the exchequer Rs.3.5 billion ($71.7 million).

The Indian Army had insisted on the delivery of a full regiment (45 tanks) of the Arjun before the comparative trials could be conducted.

'DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) has handed over 16 more tanks to the Indian Army, completing one regiment of 45 tanks. This regiment will now be subjected to conversion training and field practice for a three months. After that, the army is planning to conduct a comparative trial with T-90 tanks in October or November to assess the operational deployment role of the Arjun,' a defence ministry official told IANS.

The DRDO demand for the comparative trials of the two tanks is being seen as a last ditch bid to save the Arjun as some 500 tanks would need to be manufactured to make the project feasible.

The army has made it clear that it will buy no more than the 124 Arjuns it has contracted for because it is unhappy with the tank on various counts. This apart, the army says the Arjun can at best remain in service for five to 10 years while it is looking 20 years ahead and needs a futuristic MBT.

The army's stand has been contrary to a third party assessment by an internationally reputed tank manufacturer.

The official said: 'As suggested by the army, Arjun tanks were subjected to rigorous trials and assessment in a third party audit. After the extensive evaluation, the auditor confirmed that Arjun is an excellent tank with very good mobility and firepower characteristics suitable for Indian deserts.'

'They (the auditor) also gave inputs on production procedures for further enhancing the performance of Arjun tanks. DRDO will be incorporating all these inputs before the next lot of 62 tanks is handed over to army by March 2010,' the official added.

The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, it was announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled for the first time only in 1995.

Arjun was originally meant to be a 40-tonne tank with a 105 mm gun. It has now grown to a 50-tonne tank with a 120 mm gun. The tank was meant to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBT that was first inducted in the early 1980s.

However, delays in the Arjun project and Pakistan's decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine, prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001.

Four UN peacekeepers from India to be honoured posthumously


May 28th, 2009

NEW DELHI - Four UN peacekeepers from India will be honoured posthumously Friday at a function to mark the International Day of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers at the New York headquarters of the organisation.

“This year’s commemorative ceremonies come at a time when the services of UN peacekeepers are in greater demand than ever. There are currently more than 113,000 peacekeepers, including 90,000 military and police personnel from 117 countries, serving in 18 operations in four continents, a UN information centre statement issued here said.

According to the statement, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is expected to oversee a solemn wreath-laying ceremony in honour of the 132 peacekeeping personnel, 10 of them women, who lost their lives in attacks, illnesses or accidents in 2008.

Four personnel from India - head constable Mahua Ghosh and constable Bharti Nagoriya who lost their lives while serving with the UN Mission in Liberia; head constable Subhash Chandra in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and warrant officer Pal Satya in Sudan - will be among those honoured, the statement said.

As part of the commemoration ceremonies, Dag Hammarskjld Medals will be awarded posthumously to the military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives in UN peacekeeping operations. The medals will be received by representatives of the respective Permanent Missions to be forwarded to the next of kin.

Of the 117 countries that provide uniformed peacekeepers to the UN, the largest contributors are Pakistan (10,626), Bangladesh (9,220), India (8,617), Nigeria (5,792) and Nepal (3,856).

At present, Indian peacekeepers are serving in Cote dIvoire, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Lebanon, Sudan and Timor-Leste.

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