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Saturday, 30 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 30 May 09

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Navy foils another attack by pirates

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 29

The Indian Navy has yet again flexed its muscles against pirates operating off the coast of Somalia in Africa. Naval commandos on board war ship INS Talwar, were deployed using a chopper to fire at a group of well-armed pirates, who in daring attempt were trying to board a cargo ship.

Two of the pirates, attempting to board the cargo ship, fell into the sea waters and are feared to have been killed. Six others were arrested they were equipped with rocket launchers, AK 47 assault rifles, a GPS system and phones. The incident occurred yesterday afternoon some 225 nautical miles off the coast of Aden, a naval spokesperson said today.

This is the fourth major attack by the navy on pirates since it was deployed in November last year. The Indian warship is part of the international collation of Russia, China, UK, France and other NATO countries that are working in tandem to ensure that the world busiest shipping route is freed from pirates

The INS Talwar, a guided missile frigate, was escorting a group of three cargo ships in the international recommended transit corridor through the Gulf of Aden. One of the ship, MV Maud’s crew noticed an eight-member pirate gang in a skiff (a small motorised speed boat) approaching towards it. The ship is registered in Liberia but was having an India crew.

The cargo vessel’s captain Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal sent out a distress signal to the Indian war ship. “There was just about two-mile visibility at that point of time due to a dust haze hence making it sure that the pirates were less than two miles away,” sources explained.

As the helicopter approached the cargo vessel, Navy commandoes noticed two of the pirates trying to board the ship after locking a make-shit ladder on to it. Using a light machine gun the naval commandoes fired at the two men, who fell into the sea. The duo is feared dead as the Navy personnel did not see them resurfacing.

Even as the chopper operations were on, a boat was lowered by the warship into sea. The remaining six pirates were asked to surrender, which they did. On searching the boat sophisticated weapons

were recovered.

Since, further piracy attacks were possible due to the low visibility prevailing at that time, the Indian warship proceeded to continue with the escort duty and the cargo ships are on way to their destinations. It takes about 48 hours for cargo ships to cross through the demarcated transit corridor. Warships from other countries had arrived on the scene for follow up action.

Capt Dhaliwal, has emailed a thank you letter to the navy on board from his ship. The email says, “On behalf of the Owners, crew and officers of MV Maud, I wish to express our gratitude for your prompt and effective action to thwart the attempted piracy attack on MV Maud earlier today.”

SBI launches pay scheme for Army
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 29
The State Bank of India today launched a special scheme called Defence Salary Package (DSP) for Army personnel and aims to open about 12 lakh accounts under the scheme.

It will allow the payment of salaries through the SBI and each jawan will get two ATM cards, one for himself and one for family.

The SBI expects to open about 12 lakh plus accounts under the scheme,” SBI chairman OP Bhatt said at the launch of the new service here. Army Chief Deepak Kapoor was also present on the occasion.

Bhatt said the bank was ready with stationery and application form for opening such huge number of accounts.

He informed that the package included free drafts, free cheque book, free fund transfers to any of the SBI Group’s about 15,000 branches and free ATM cards.

Bhatt said the bank would also offer home, auto and personal loans to Army personnel at 25 basis points lower than the floor rate.

At the same time, the bank was contemplating to launch special two-wheeler loan scheme for jawans, he added.

Navy out on war games with UK, France
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 29
In a significant strategic development, a four-ship fleet of the Indian Navy has embarked upon a two-and-a-half month strenuous trip to Europe for a series of separate war games in the Atlantic Ocean with Russia, France and the UK.

The fleet will also have an engagement with the Navy of Turkey, a traditional and strong military ally of Pakistan. On the trip, the Navy of Israel -- India’s second biggest defence ally after Russia - will practice alongside the Indian ships in yet another separately scheduled exercise.

The visit to Turkey is seen as crucial as far as strategic reach of the country goes. It is being termed as “scope studying” visit.

The first lot of ships has already reached Europe while the second will be reaching soon. Three warships will join the fleet replenishment tanker from the Indian Navy’s western fleet.

“The Indian Navy will be holding the exercise code named Konkan with the British navy between June 20-25 and exercise named Varuna with the French Navy between June 30-July 4,” an official said.

These two are the major exercises while small exercises will be with Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Greece in Europe. Two other small exercises are scheduled in Algeria and Morrocco on the northern African coast and one with Israel. Each country has its own significance in the changing global order.

Israel is partnering Indian in setting up radars along the coast and also in the space. Italy is a partner with India in designing the new upcoming indigenous aircraft carrier. Defence Minister AK Antony had laid its foundation on March 1 at Kochi.

With Russia, it was re-enforcing historical solidarity, the sources said adding that an Indian navy fleet going to the Atlantic and not to Russia would have sent a wrong signal.

The exercise with Russia will be in the first week of June at St Petersburg. This is very crucial, as after the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union this is the first attempt of the two navies to come together at sea.

Pakistan - Somalia and Darfur of Asia

Om Prakash Yadav

29 May 2009, Friday

ON WEDNESDAY, May 28, 2009, a huge car blast rocked Lahore, killing more than 24 people and injuring 300 plus. Reportedly, one ISI agent and some police personnel have also lost their lives in this dastardly act, allegedly perpetrated by Pakistan-based Taliban. Interestingly, Lahore is not too far away from SWAT.

Pakistan seems to be sitting on a stockpile of explosives, which, ironically, has been amassed by Pakistan itself. The most striking thing in this attack is that it took place near ISI and Police Chief Offices, which is suggestive of the fact that militants and terrorists are capable of striking and attacking anytime, anywhere, in Pakistan. In fact, the ongoing military onslaught against Taliban in SWAT and Mingora has baffled the Taliban. Thus it has started making its presence felt in a much bigger way.

The so called war against terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan has converted the region into a war zone, and India has been unnecessarily made a part of it. The US has miserably failed to tame Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, even after hundreds of billions of dollars have been injected into the entire exercise. With every passing day, the situation becomes worse and the hopes of illusive victory in this strife-torn country are far from sight. Pakistan is becoming the Somalia of Asia, and Rwanda and Darfur of the region.

Incapable political leadership – The political leadership in Pakistan is in nadir. Initial euphoria after the elections is over, and now Zardari has to swallow the bitter pill of the Military-ISI-Taliban nexus. The situation in Pakistan is fast moving away from normal. The stand-off between Zardari and Nawaz may be over on the issue of reinstatement of Justice Chaudhary but hatred and suspicion between them are still high. Now with the recent verdict by the Supreme Court, allowing Nawaz to fight elections, the tussle may assume some more dangerous proportions.

Capture of SWAT and repercussions thereafter – Even before the recent spurt in incidents of violence, the security situation in Pakistan has been fast slipping out of the hands of the government. The complete surrender of the Pakistan government in SWAT valley – which is hardly 100 km away from Islamabad – to the Taliban, was the testimony of the ever growing power of the Taliban in Pakistan. The purchased peace in SWAT – once an alpine tourist valley – in exchange of introduction of Shariat law, had stopped the guns for the time being, but the authority of the government had been thoroughly undermined. The lapis lazuli mines of SWAT valley have reportedly been brought under the Taliban’s control. The poppy cultivation in many areas in Pakistan by the ‘jehadis’ and the Taliban is also adding to their coffers. According to one estimate, Taliban controls more than 2/3rd of the illegal arms and drug trade, which is approximately 3-4 trillion US dollars. Such is the economic and military strength of these elements.

Impact of these developments on India – India has been the softest target of Pakistani militants, right from its (Pakistan’s) birth. We all know – and it is too obvious and simple a proposition to be discussed – that the humiliating defeat of Pakistan at the hands of India, thrice, has forced it to switch over to proxy war, and subsequently low intensity war in Indian territory.

The SWAT coming to the Taliban’s hegemony is of immense strategic importance. SWAT is hardly 100 km away from Islamabad and roughly 70 km away from Peshawar. It these distances are calculated, the Indian capital, New Delhi, is hardly 758 km away from Islamabad and only 427 km from Lahore. Obviously, our western command will be very near to the SWAT Valley. Pakistan has developed intermediate and short range missiles like Abdali and Ghaznavi, Ghauri I and II, medium range Ghauri III (ICBM) Shaheen I, II and III, etc.

SWAT is just a sojourn of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and if allowed to consolidate their position, will not only threaten the very existence of Pakistan but will hawk on India also. Unfortunately, the Strategic Plan Division (SPD), the command and control system of these missiles and nuclear warheads, are in the hands of the military, rather than civilian government. The startling revelation of A. Q. Khan only a few years ago has revealed that nuke technology might have slipped into terrorists’ hands. Imagine what situation Pakistan is trapped in. Is it not sitting on stockpiles? Has it not become Somalia and Darfur? Unfortunately, this situation will probably spill over into India, too.

Indian Warship Foils Fourth Piracy Bid in Gulf of Aden

New Delhi
It was an anti-piracy operation with a twist in the tale: Instead of arresting the eight brigands who were attempting to board a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden, Indian Navy commandos seized their weapons, emptied their skiff of its fuel and set it adrift, leaving the tidying up to another warship.

About 225 nautical miles east of Aden Thursday, as visibility dropped to less than two nautical miles, the guided missile stealth frigate INS Talwar that is currently patrolling the piracy-infested Gulf of Aden received a distress call from the Liberian-registered MV Maud, with 10 Indian crew on board, saying a skiff with eight armed men on board was approaching at high speed, an official here said Friday.

"The Indian warship immediately responded to the distress call and advised the vessel to increase speed and carry out evasive manoeuvres to avoid getting boarded. Simultaneously, a helicopter with marine commandos took off and started closing in on the threatened vessel," a senior Indian Navy official said.

The commandos noticed that the brigands had thrown a rope ladder and were attempting to board the Maud from just off the bow.

"The visibility being low, it was possible that the pirates may not have sighted the warship and the helicopter. The helicopter crew fired warning shots to deter the pirates from boarding the ship," the official added.

Following this, the two pirates who were attempting to clamber up the merchant vessel fell into the water. Commandos from the warship thereafter boarded the skiff and confiscated the weapons and other equipment from the pirates.

"Then, fearing further piracy attacks due to the low visibility, the commandos emptied the skiff of its fuel and set it adrift as INS returned to her patrolling duties while warships from other navies arrived on the scene for follow up action," the official said.

In response to the timely action of the Indian warship, the Indian master of MV Maud, Captain Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal, sent a message expressing his gratitude.

"From available records, this may be the first instance of a piracy attempt being thwarted when the brigands were in the process of boarding a merchant ship," an Indian Navy statement said.

Overall, this is the fifth successful action of the Indian Navy against the pirates in the region.

On December 13 last year, the guided missile destroyer INS Mysore foiled an attack on an Ethiopian merchant vessel and arrested 23 Somali and Yemeni pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Before that, on November 18, the stealth frigate INS Tabar had sunk a Somali pirate vessel after coming under attack.

On Nov 8, the Tabar had repulsed an attack by pirates to hijack two ships - an Indian and a Saudi Arabian merchant vessel.

Earlier this month, the Indian Navy thwarted a piracy bid off the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean Region.

Pakistan Making More Deadly,
Deliverable Nukes: US Think Tank

By Arun Kumar

Pakistan is likely supplementing or replacing its current uranium-based nuclear weapon arsenal with plutonium-based weapons that will be more destructive and deliverable, says a US think tank.

In the last two weeks, Pakistan has sought to turn the public debate over its nuclear programme into a binary choice between Pakistan expanding its programme and Pakistan modernizing its programme, Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said Thursday reacting to a Washington Post report.

The truth, however, is more complex, the Washington based think tank said. "Pakistan is likely supplementing or replacing its current uranium-based nuclear weapon arsenal with plutonium-based weapons which will be more destructive and deliverable."

In the wake of North Korea's underground nuclear test, the Post, it noted, had "called Pakistan's imminent development of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and perhaps thermonuclear weapons a sign of a 'more mature' programme, as if to imply that more destructive nuclear weapons somehow lead to a better nation."

"The misuse of language has often occurred in debates over nuclear arsenals, particularly during the Cold War, as adversaries tried to make the horrible look bearable," ISIS said adding, "Words such as 'modernization' were carefully used to distort the debates over nuclear weapon systems,

By incorrectly describing what is going on in Pakistan, these choices of words distort the debate before it even starts. Debates over conventional weapons are spared these distortions, ISIS said. "Few would say, for example, that the possession of semi-automatic weapons by criminals is a sign of a more mature criminal."

"Modernizing" a nuclear weapons programme, rather, should at most be interpreted as improving the security of existing nuclear weapons, increasing security of fissile material in storage, at military and civilian nuclear industrial sites, or in transit," the think tank said.

Training camp for NCC shooters begins
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 29
As many as 550 NCC cadets from all over Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh are attending the basic marksmanship-cum-talent hunt shooting camp which began at the Patiala ki Rao ranges here.

The cadets would be trained for various national and international- level shooting tournaments scheduled for this year. The selected cadets will form the Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh NCC Directorate shooting team.

Col Vikram Datta, commanding officer of No.2 Chandigarh NCC battalion, which is organising the camp, is responsible for training and coaching the shooters. This is the first camp in the series of such training camps being organised this year.

Chandigarh NCC Group has produced national-level shooters. Three girl cadets from Chandigarh — Shikha Dull, Hema KC and Meera Kumari — formed part of the Indian squad for various tournaments in Germany and Pakistan. Col Dharmender Gupta, Group Commander, Chandigarh, said the NCC had purchased state-of-the-art Olympic-level weapons and other support equipment on which the cadets are being trained.

Shooting has been identified as the key result area of the Chandigarh Directorate. Last year the Chandigarh Directorate won the Inter-Directorate Shooting Championship. At the national level, NCC shooters won 13 medals at the All-India Mavlankar Cup Championship and nine medals at the National Shooting Championship held at Kerala.

Pending salaries: Ex-servicemen take to streets
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 29
A number of ex-servicemen today protested against the lackadaisical attitude of the government telephone exchange for not providing their salaries for the past three months.

The president of the District Ex-Servicemen Association, Mukand Singh, said nearly 70 ex-servicemen were deployed on a contract basis in various telephone exchanges, who had not been given salaries for the past three months.

The ex-servicemen threatened to intensify the agitation if their salaries were not given in the coming few days.

Army concerned over Pak's rising N-arms

Press Trust of India, Friday May 29, 2009, New Delhi

India has voiced its concern over reports about Pakistan's attempts to increase the number of nuclear warheads in its arsenal and said that it was "closely monitoring the situation".

"We certainly are concerned about what is happening in our neighbourhood. We are closely monitoring the situation," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said in Bangalore on Thursday.

Terming the developments in Pakistan as a "matter of concern", the Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor today said, "If the media reports are to be believed, I am told the number (of Pakistani nuclear weapons) is limited to 60, it is increasing. So definitely, that is matter for concern."

A United States Congressional report had recently suggested that Pakistan had around 60 nuclear weapons in its arsenal and was working to add more in future.

The Army Chief, talking to reporters at a function, said that Pakistan's attempts to expand its nuclear arsenal, more than it required for deterrence, should be stopped by the global community.

"Even if Pakistan is looking at deterrence, they require a minimum amount. But when you keep increasing it, it is a matter of concern. I think the world community should put the kind of pressure, which is required for Pakistan to cap their nuclear weapons," he said.

The Army Chief assured that India had its systems in place to take care of its security needs against the backdrop of developments taking place in Islamabad.

Replying to a query if the jihadi groups in Kashmir were regrouping to fight against the security forces, Kapoor said, "You see, this kind of regrouping by jihadis will always continue to keep happening. I had said that this summer is going to be a testing time because we do expect them to try and enhance the level of infiltration to show that they can cause tremendous amount of damage and somehow reignite the movement in the valley."

"But that is something (that) we are determined to make sure doesn't happen. We have already taken few steps to ensure that infiltration levels are minimised. Those who are able to come through, we are able to tackle them," he added.

US moots military command for cyberspace

May 29, 2009 11:15 IST

The Pentagon [Images] plans to create a new military command for cyberspace, stepping up preparations by the armed forces to conduct both offensive and defensive computer warfare, a leading US daily reported on Friday.

The military command would complement a civilian effort to be announced by President Barack Obama [Images] that would overhaul the way the United States safeguards its computer networks, administration officials said.

Obama, officials told New York Times, will announce the creation of a White House office -- reporting to both the National Security Council and the National Economic Council -- that will coordinate a multibillion-dollar effort to restrict access to government computers and protect systems that run the stock exchanges, clear global banking transactions and manage the air traffic control system.

White House officials told the paper that Obama has not yet been formally presented with the Pentagon plan. They said he would not discuss it today when he announces creation of a White House office responsible for coordinating private-sector and government defences against the thousands of cyber attacks mounted against the US -- largely by hackers but sometimes by foreign governments -- every day.

But he is expected to sign a classified order in coming weeks that will create the military cyber command, officials were quoted by the paper as saying.

It is recognition that the US already has a growing number of computer weapons in its arsenal and must prepare strategies for use -- as a deterrent or alongside conventional weapons -- in a wide variety of possible future conflicts.

The White House office, said the Times, will be run by a 'cyberczar', but because the position will not have direct access to the President, some experts told the paper that it was not high-level enough to end a series of bureaucratic wars that have broken out as billions of dollars have suddenly been allocated to protect against the computer threats.

The main dispute, the Times says, has been over whether the Pentagon or NSA should take the lead in preparing for and fighting cyberbattles. Under one proposal still being debated, parts of the NSA would be integrated into the military command so they could operate jointly.

Officials said that in addition to the unclassified strategy paper to be released by Obama, a classified set of presidential directives is expected to lay out the military's new responsibilities and how it coordinates its mission with that of the NSA, where most of the expertise on digital warfare resides today.

The decision to create a cyber command, the Times said, is a major step beyond the actions taken by Bush administration, which authorised several computer-based attacks but never resolved the question of how the government would prepare for a new era of warfare fought over digital networks.

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