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Wednesday, 3 June 2009

From Today's Papers - 03 Jun 09

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After Tezpur, Sukhoi War Planes at Chabua
Near India-China Border

New Delhi
After stationing the Sukhoi Su-30MIK war jets in Tezpur in Assam, the Indian Air Force will post another squadron of its frontline jets at the Chabua air base under its military policy to boost security along the border with China in the northeast.

On June 15, four Su-30MKIs will land in Tezpur for a symbolic induction, making the airbase the third in the country to house the combat jets.

"It will be a symbolic induction as of now. Currently it's not clear which of the Sukhoi bases - Pune or Bareilly - the aircraft belong to," a senior IAF official told IANS.

"The four aircraft will formalize the Sukhoi flying routes. After that plans are afoot to station the Sukhois at Chabua air station in the northeast (Assam) and at Halwara (Punjab) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) in the west," the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The basing of the squadron in Assam is in line with the IAF's policy of capacity-building near the India-China border.

Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, before handing over his charge last weekend, had said: "There is no escalation in threat perception (vis-à-vis China). We know very little about the capabilities of that country."

Currently India is operating five squadrons of the Russian-built fighter aircraft. out of them three are stationed at Lohegaon in Pune (Maharashtra) and two in Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh). Each squadron operates 18-20 aircraft.

In the next five years, the IAF plans increase the strength of Sukhois in its fleet to nearly 200.

After taking over as defence minister, A.K. Antony had underscored infrastructure development in the northeast as the priority of the defence ministry. Under the same programme, the upgradation of various airfields is in the offing.

"Five bases, including Tezpur, Chabua, Jorhat (Assam), Panagarh (West Bengal) and Purnea (Bihar), will be upgraded. The upgradation will comprise of expanding the length of the runway from 9,000 feet to 11,000 feet," the official added.

After Tezpur, Sukhoi War Planes at Chabua
Near India-China Border

New Delhi
After stationing the Sukhoi Su-30MIK war jets in Tezpur in Assam, the Indian Air Force will post another squadron of its frontline jets at the Chabua air base under its military policy to boost security along the border with China in the northeast.

On June 15, four Su-30MKIs will land in Tezpur for a symbolic induction, making the airbase the third in the country to house the combat jets.

"It will be a symbolic induction as of now. Currently it's not clear which of the Sukhoi bases - Pune or Bareilly - the aircraft belong to," a senior IAF official told IANS.

"The four aircraft will formalize the Sukhoi flying routes. After that plans are afoot to station the Sukhois at Chabua air station in the northeast (Assam) and at Halwara (Punjab) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) in the west," the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The basing of the squadron in Assam is in line with the IAF's policy of capacity-building near the India-China border.

Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, before handing over his charge last weekend, had said: "There is no escalation in threat perception (vis-à-vis China). We know very little about the capabilities of that country."

Currently India is operating five squadrons of the Russian-built fighter aircraft. out of them three are stationed at Lohegaon in Pune (Maharashtra) and two in Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh). Each squadron operates 18-20 aircraft.

In the next five years, the IAF plans increase the strength of Sukhois in its fleet to nearly 200.

After taking over as defence minister, A.K. Antony had underscored infrastructure development in the northeast as the priority of the defence ministry. Under the same programme, the upgradation of various airfields is in the offing.

"Five bases, including Tezpur, Chabua, Jorhat (Assam), Panagarh (West Bengal) and Purnea (Bihar), will be upgraded. The upgradation will comprise of expanding the length of the runway from 9,000 feet to 11,000 feet," the official added.

Zardari Declares 'Total War' Against Militancy

Declaring a "total war" against militancy, President Asif Ali Zardari Monday urged all sections of Pakistani society to "defeat the mindset that creates and nurtures militancy".

"The war against militancy is a total war and each and every section of the society must rise to the occasion to defeat the mindset that creates and nurtures militancy", APP quoted the president as declaring at a high-level meeting at the Aiwan-e-Sadr to review the law and order situation in the wake of the military's anti-Taliban operations in the restive North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani co-chaired the meeting.

Noting that the country could not afford to lose the ongoing war, Zardari described the present operations against the militants as also a war of ideas.

"For winning this battle of ideas, we need to carry out necessary reforms in the education system, particularly in Madrassa education, so as to produce tolerant, moderate and forward looking youth who naturally detest militancy, extremism and intolerance," the president contended.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Zardari expressed satisfaction over the success achieved in the NWFP, holding that the day was not far when the militants would be so crippled that they will pose no threat to the people and the country.

Half of the war was to subdue and defeat the militants militarily and the other half was to win the hearts and minds of the three million internally displaced persons who had fled the fighting in the Swat, Buner and Lower Dir districts of the NWFP, Zardari added.

He said that while the government was determined to pursue fight to the finish, it was also working on a plan to strengthen the capacity of law enforcing agencies to win the war.

The president also advised the government to step up implementation of the plan to strengthen law-enforcing agencies. The will to fight must be strengthened with the capacity to fight, he pointed out.

The president also underlined the need for strengthening the prosecution mechanism to bring the militants and criminals to speedy and efficient justice within the existing legal frame-work and laws.

Zardari also praised the armed forces and the law enforcement agencies for their courageous fight against militants and for sacrifices they had made for the cause.

The meeting was attended, among others, by the federal ministers for information and the interior, the four provincial chief ministers, the army chief, the chiefs of the intelligence agencies and senior bureaucrats and police officers.

Speaking separately with Gilani before the high-level meeting, Zardari said that the government, after ensuring the safe and honorable return of the displaced people to their homes, would launch a massive reconstruction process of the demolished property of the affected people.

The security forces were ordered into action April 26 after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government and instead moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace deal and who is Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah's father-in-law, and later spread to Buner and Swat.

Under the peace deal, the Taliban were to lay down arms in return for Sharia laws in Swat, Buner, Lower Dir and four other districts of the NWFP that are collectively known as the Malakand division.

The military operations have triggered the biggest and fastest civilian exodus in recent times.

The social welfare department of NWFP has registered some 1.4 million refugees at its camps but the UN estimates the number could be as high as 3 million as many could be staying with relatives and friends.

The UN estimates that close to $543 million would be required for the relief and rehabilitation of the refugees.

Pak offensive against Taliban
Handling the root causes may help
by Gen V.P. Malik (retd)

A distinguished Pakistani citizen said in an interview recently that the Army should have struck the Pakistani Taliban three years ago. The anguished gentleman could not answer more questions because he did not know what was happening in Swat, except for the large exodus of local civilians during the conduct of military operations.

There can be many reasons for the delay in launching this operation for which Pakistan and its Army have now to pay a heavy price. These could be the ISI and Taliban nexus, a misperceived threat from India, or wanting and waiting to strike a profitable deal with the US. But an important one, I believe, could be a historical military perspective.

About 50 years ago, Gen Ayub Khan, a Pakhtoon tribal and Pakistan’s first military ruler, had stated that “withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Waziristan was the most sensible thing to do.” Ayub Khan wrote in his memoirs about the “sheer futility” of campaigns in the North-West regions by the Pakistani forces.

He said “…when Pakistan was established, there were several Army divisions as well as scouts and levies tied up on the Frontier. All they did was to provide a constant irritation to the tribesmen and a target for them to fire at. Also no real progress would be possible in this part of Pakistan while this state of affairs continued…. It was a great waste of time; and a great waste of men.”

What can be expected from this operation in which the Pakistan Army has thrown over 15000 troops with tanks, artillery, gun-ships and fighter jets against the militants?

There is a widespread perception that for too long the Pakistan Army has focused on a potential war with India, its nuclear deterrent, and the power and pelf that it has enjoyed. Its counter-insurgency capabilities are almost non-existent. Currently, it is using tactics with heavy ground and aerial weapons which go against the accepted best-practice in counter-insurgency operations.

It will be easy for the armed forces with such heavy fire-power to enter cities, towns or villages but will take considerable time for the civil administration and the police to be able to govern the area. Meanwhile, the insurgents will avoid frontal clashes. With the advantage of a terrain which favours guerrilla operations, and tribal loyalty, they would break up into smaller groups, withdraw into the mountains, and step up small-scale raids and suicide attacks.

Insurgencies tend to behave like a balloon: when squashed in one spot, they quickly inflate in other areas. A Taliban setback in Swat will affect the neighbouring tribal areas. It may serve as a catalyst for binding the loose confederation of the Taliban operating in the North-West Frontier Province and thus produce a more united militant force. On the other hand, a Taliban victory in Swat, even a stalemate, will be a disaster which cannot be mitigated. It would embolden the Taliban further and thus spell ruin for Pakistan.

There is also the likelihood of increased terrorist attacks in the rest of Pakistan, as we have seen in the back-to-back suicide attacks on the ISI office in Lahore and police posts in Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan. Already, Taliban supporters are painting the walls with threats in Islamabad, compelling the administration to erase these messages quickly.

A heavy-handed offensive and indiscriminate use of fire-power will definitely eliminate some rebels. But it is bound to alienate many more people and thus cause socio-political instability. The collateral damage — over 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDP) and a large number of civilian casualties — has already started causing public concern. Pakistan will have to maintain IDP camps for a long time, just as India has done for Kashmiri Pandits.

An intriguing aspect of the Pakistani military operation is its total lack of transparency. The media has no access to information about the operation other than what is handed over to journalists in military briefs. The official claims of militants and Pakistani Army casualties keep rising daily. But there is no way of independent verification of the successes claimed, or of distinguishing between the dead fighters and collateral civilian casualties. Such an action can lead to excessive human rights violations, rumours and disinformation, and affect the morale of the troops belonging to the affected areas.

The media moulds national and international opinion. It is a potent force-multiplier or a force degrader. In counter-insurgency operations, the battle for hearts and minds is of paramount importance. There is no point in winning the battle of bullets if you lose the war due to popular alienation.

The Pakistan government and the Army have stated that they would like to bring the operation to an early end. That is wishful thinking. In this situation, the proximity to Pashtun tribes in Waziristan and across the Durand Line will create complex problems in hot pursuit and operational coordination. A few days ago, General Musharraf stated in the US that it would be possible to control the Pakistani Taliban only when the Taliban in Afghanistan are defeated and cannot extend weapons and drug money support to the former. Such operations tend to suck in troops and take years, sometimes decades, to bring about normalcy.

Taliban insurgency cannot be eliminated through military operations alone unless the people themselves are convinced of the dangerous consequences of the Taliban’s activities. Unless the root causes — socio-economic and socio-political factors, and dispensation of justice — are tackled simultaneously, such operations will produce only a temporary relief, if at all. Pakistan and its Army are up not only against the armed Taliban but also, more importantly, the very idea of the Taliban.

The Pakistan government is in a precarious security situation. It can neither refuse American aid nor defy the resultant pressure, whether its people like it or not. A related issue is President Obama’s stated endeavour to pull out American troops from Afghanistan as early as possible. This could motivate the Taliban to adopt a hard line and leave the Pakistani forces fighting them in the lurch. Having faced a similar situation in Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Pakistani political and military authorities would be wary of such a move. The US long-term commitment in Afghanistan, therefore, is in its own best interest, and that of Pakistan and the region.

The writer, a former Chief of the Army Staff, is currently the President of the ORF Institute of Security Studies, New Delhi.

India and Southeast Asia

Vietnam backs Delhi’s Look East Policy

by Paramjit S. Sahai

I have returned after participating in an international conference at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, which was billed as historic and the first of its kind in facilitating an academic discourse between Indian and Vietnamese experts — academicians, research scholars, former diplomats and bureaucrats.

The theme of the conference was: “Relationship between India and Southeast Asia — A Strategic Commitment or Regional Integration” that afforded an opportunity to get a Vietnamese perspective on India’s role in Southeast Asia.

The conference was jointly organised by the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies Kolkatta, and the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City. Over 50 experts from Vietnam, India, Thailand and Cambodia participated.

The conference covered a whole gamut of India-Southeast relationship. The Vietnamese academicians lauded India’s Look East Policy, appreciating its thrust, but noted the slow progress in the implementation of various programmes.

The key question raised and answered was whether India’s Look East Policy was a manifestation of India’s desire for power, viewing the region as a buffer zone between India and China or regional cooperation, give the complementarities between India and Southeast Asia.

The overwhelming response was for regional cooperation as India had not shown hegemonic designs and had no military conflicts in the region and was viewed as a benign power, whether in the present-day context or when Indian cultural influence took roots in Southeast Asia.

The scholars agreed that the main driving impulse for India’s Look East Policy was India’s economic engagement with Southeast Asia, consequent to the dismantling of the Cold War and India’s economic liberalisation in 1991. They noted the increase in trade and investment linkages between India and Southeast Asian countries.

In Vietnam, India was emerging as an important investor, even though the United States was leading the pack. Concerns were, however, expressed on account of Vietnamese’ adverse trade balance with India.

The experts, however, failed to recognise that Indian investments were contributing to employment and augmenting exports and thus helping in addressing the overall adverse balance of Vietnamese external trade.

There was, however, a sense of satisfaction that the present global economic meltdown had not affected India’s commitment to Vietnam, as reiterated by the visiting entrepreneurs from Indian multinationals like the Tatas, the Godrejs etc. In fact, for Godrej, Vietnam has emerged as the regional hub as they had migrated from Malaysia.

Vietnam was also emerging as an important hub for IT education. Two leading Indian companies — NIIT and Aptech — were involved in a big way, training 8000 students in 34 centres and 37,000 students in 28 centres in Vietnam. The Indian presence in IT education in Vietnam could be further stepped up, if this was linked to the study of the English language.

There is, therefore, a need for opening additional Indian centres in Vietnam, where English could be taught. Academic linkages between India and Vietnam are, however, limited and these need to be strengthened as Vietnamese perceptions should form an important component in India’s foreign, defence and economic policy formulations. The same would also be true, in reverse.

Vietnamese concerns over the Chinese strategic role were openly expressed. It was, therefore, not surprising that some experts would like to see the establishment of a new triangle — India, Vietnam and Japan.

Equally, there were concerns over the presence of Chinese diaspora, resulting in Vietnam adopting a restricted visa policy towards China. No such fears existed towards India or Indian diaspora.

In fact, the role of the Indian diaspora was viewed in a positive light not only in Vietnam, but the whole of Southeast Asia. Indian diaspora was seen as a bridge builder between India and other countries in the region.

The number of Indians in Vietnam is growing; it has touched over 600 families in Ho Chi Minh City, which is substantial from its earlier meager presence and is reflective of India’s growing involvement in Vietnam.

The unmistakable message from Vietnam was that it applauds India’s Look East Policy, but feels that much more needs to be achieved in concrete terms. Cultural bonds and values still bind the two countries and peoples.

India’s profile has to further increase in the economic arena in Vietnam, leading towards greater economic integration with Southeast Asia. There is need for greater economic integration of Northeast India with other parts in Southeast Asia.

Vietnam, on its part, would be willing to support India in an expanded role in the Asia-Pacific beyond Southeast Asia. India’s increasing role in the region would be welcome for the unstated reason that it could act as a counterpoise to the other Asian giant.

We also cannot overlook the fact that India shares maritime boundary with Southeast Asia, as only 80 miles separate the southernmost islands of Andaman Nicobar from the northern-western tip of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Is India listening and willing to convert its Look East Policy into an action-oriented policy, which is mutually advantageous at the bilateral and regional levels? The conference started with a Hindi song by a student which said “we would succeed and spread the message of peace” and this should become the centrality of India-Vietnamese relations, as India forges ahead in Southeast Asia,

The visit of Indian President Pratibha Patil to Vietnam in November 2008 sent this signal, as it reiterated commitment to our Look East Policy, as it expected this visit to become “another milestone in ensuring that our engagement remains strong and beneficial to all concerned”.

Could we transform this relationship from heart to heart into strategic partnership’, which was the title of one of the papers, and again, return to ‘heart to heart’, as it is cultural understanding, which connects people and promotes a more long lasting relationship, which goes beyond a change in government.

Pak exchanged N-tech for N Korean long range missiles

Lalit K Jha/ PTI / Washington June 2, 2009, 9:43 IST

North Korea received designs for uranium enrichment centrifuges from Pakistan's disgraced nuclear scientist A Q Khan in return for its long-range missiles, a Congressional report has told US lawmakers.

"Hwang Jang-yop, a Communist Party secretary who defected in 1997, has stated that North Korea and Pakistan agreed in the summer of 1996 to trade North Korean long-range missile technology for Pakistani HEU (highly enriched uranium) technology," the report on North Korean nuclear weapons programme has said.

Other information on North Korean-Pakistani cooperation dates back to 1993, said the report by Congressional Research Service (CRS) - the research wing of the US Congress.

North Korea has been exporting missiles to countries in the Middle East and South Asia and has had joint collaboration in development of missiles with Iran and Pakistan, it said.

In the 1990s, North Korea exported Scud and Nodong missiles to Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Syria and reportedly Egypt. It entered into joint development programmes with both Pakistan and Iran.

Pyongyang received designs for uranium enrichment centrifuges from Pakistan nuclear "czar" A Q Khan and has attempted to purchase overseas key components for uranium enrichment centrifuges, but some of these purchases have been blocked, according to the report.

The then Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf revealed in his 2006 memoir, 'In the Line of Fire', that Khan, the chief scientist in Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme who proliferated weapons technology for profit, "transferred nearly two dozen P-1 and P-2 centrifuges to North Korea".

Khan also provided North Korea with a flow meter, some special oils for centrifuges and coaching on centrifuge technology, including visits to top-secret centrifuge plants."

However, the US has not been able to get direct confirmation from Khan, the CRS said in another report on the same issue.

"It is possible that Pakistani scientist A Q Khan may have provided North Korea the same Chinese-origin nuclear weapon design he provided to Libya and Iran," it said.

"Even though that design was for an HEU-based device, it would still help North Korea develop a reliable warhead for ballistic missiles-small, light and robust enough to tolerate the extreme conditions encountered through a ballistic trajectory," the CRS report said.

China-Pak railway station makes India see red

Swati Vashishtha


TROUBLE BREWING: Pakistan is making the railway station a structure permanent.

Jaipur: In what could be a latest and one of the biggest threat to India, Pakistan has hired a Chinese company to build an illegal railway station on no man's land near the Indian border at Barmer.

The railway station being built by a Chinese company is not only illegal but is just one of the many moves Beijing is making to unsettle New Delhi.

The railway station of the Munabao-Khokhrapar rail link on which the Thar Express crosses the India-Pak border is one of the signs of friendship between the two countries.

But the makeshift railway station on Pakistani side could become a permanent security threat to India.

When the railway station was built in 2006 to coincide with the reopening of the Munabao-Khokhrapar line, it was against international laws, since it was built 150 meters inside the demarcated no man's land.

Now Pakistan is all set to make the structure permanent and in a double whammy for India, Islamabad has invited a Chinese company to construct the station and that too on the zero line.

Two weeks ago engineers from the Chinese company carried out a survey of the area.

Since the point is higher than the surrounding area, it will enable Pakistan to keep a direct watch on the Indian side and allow it to transport forces and ammunition right up to the zero line in the event of a conflict.

After Mumbai terror attack changed the equation between India and Pakistan, New Delhi is taking the matter very seriously, unlike three years ago.

"The seriousness of the matter I'm sure is being felt at a higher level but on our part we will send a report of the situation on the ground to the concerned ministry, " says Barmer District Magistrate Ravi Jain.

"We'll first take up the matter in the flag meeting. If that doesn't work then we'll stop them, if need be there'll be deployment and we'll take up the matter in a higher level meeting," adds BSF, DIG, Barmer HK Gujjar.

The Indian government says it is already keeping a close watch on the Chinese involvement in various projects of the neighbouring countries.

"There is no shortfall in preparedness from our side in this regard. Chinese influence is not just in Pakistan, but they are trying to develop a port in Sri Lanka and in Myanmar as well. And we are well aware of all these developments. And we are taking steps that this Chinese influence does not pose a threat to our nations," says Minister of State, Defence MM Pallam Raju.

With Indian government remaining silent so far on the illegal makeshift railway station almost on the zero line Pakistan has maintained that it was only meant for carrying out security checks.

But Pakistan's plans of building a permanent railway station there have raised fresh security concerns.

China building a railway station in Pakistan opposite Barmer does increase the threat that already exists.

China already claims Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. India could counter any Chinese military adventurism there by striking at its sea lines of communications in the Indian Ocean especially Chinese energy supplies/

In a bid to counter India, China is also building ports at Sittwe in Myanmar, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan.

There is heavy Chinese courtship of Maldives, Seychelles, Mozambique and South Africa.

Maritime experts describe this as China's String of Pearls Strategy. If the strategy is successful then the Indian Navy will be forced to change its concept of operations.

U.S. experts: Pakistan on course to become Islamist state

Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there's little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists, posing a greater threat to the U.S. than Afghanistan's terrorist haven did before 9/11.

"It's a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution," said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

Pakistan's fragmentation into warlord-run fiefdoms that host al Qaida and other terrorist groups would have grave implications for the security of its nuclear arsenal; for the U.S.-led effort to pacify Afghanistan; and for the security of India, the nearby oil-rich Persian Gulf and Central Asia, the U.S. and its allies.

"Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al Qaida sitting in two-thirds of the country which the government does not control," said David Kilcullen, a retired Australian army officer, a former State Department adviser and a counterinsurgency consultant to the Obama administration.

"Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, a backward, isolated, landlocked place that outsiders get interested in about once a century," agreed the U.S. intelligence official. "It's a developed state . . . (with) a major Indian Ocean port and ties to the outside world, especially the (Persian) Gulf, that Afghanistan and the Taliban never had."

"The implications of this are disastrous for the U.S.," he added. "The supply lines (from Karachi to U.S. bases) in Kandahar and Kabul from the south and east will be cut, or at least they'll be less secure, and probably sooner rather than later, and that will jeopardize the mission in Afghanistan, especially now that it's getting bigger."

The experts McClatchy interviewed said their views aren't a worst case scenario but a realistic expectation based on the militants' gains and the failure of Pakistan's civilian and military leadership to respond.

"The place is beyond redemption," said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified so he could speak freely. "I don't see any plausible scenario under which the present government or its most likely successor will mobilize the economic, political and security resources to push back this rising tide of violence.

"I think Pakistan is moving toward a situation where the extremists control virtually all of the countryside and the government controls only the urban centers," he continued. "If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants."

That pessimistic view of Pakistan's future has been bolstered by Islamabad's surrender this week for the first time of areas outside the frontier tribal region to Pakistan's Taliban movement and by a growing militant infiltration of Karachi, the nation's financial center, and the industrial and political heartland province of Punjab, in part to evade U.S. drone strikes in the tribal belt.

Civilian deaths in the drone attacks, the eight-year-old U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and U.S. support for Pakistan's former military dictatorship also have sown widespread ambivalence about the threat the insurgency poses and revulsion at fighting fellow Muslims.

"The government has to ratchet up the urgency and ratchet up the commitment of resources. This is a serious moment for Pakistan," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, on April 14 in Islamabad. "The federal government has got to . . . define this problem as Pakistan's."

Many Pakistanis, however, dismiss such warnings as inflated. They think that the militants are open to dialogue and political accommodation to end the unrest, which many trace to the former military regime's cooperation with the U.S. after 9/11.

Ahsan Iqbal, a top aide to opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said the insurgency can be quelled if the government rebuilds the judicial system, improves law enforcement, compensates guerrillas driven to fight by relatives' deaths in security force operations and implements democratic reforms.

"It will require time," Iqbal told McClatchy reporters and editors this week. "We need a very strong resolve and internal unity."

Many U.S. officials, though, regard the civilian government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari as unpopular, dysfunctional and mired in infighting. It's been unable to agree on an effective counterinsurgency strategy or to address the ills that are feeding the unrest. These include ethnic and sectarian hatreds, ineffective police, broken courts, widespread corruption, endemic poverty and a deepening financial crisis, they said.

Pakistan's army, meanwhile, is hobbled by a lack of direction from the country's civilian leaders, disparaged for its repeated coups and shaken by repeated defeats by the militants. It remains fixated on India to ensure high budgets and cohesion among troops of divergent ethnic and sectarian allegiances, U.S. officials and experts said.

Many officers and politicians also oppose fighting the Islamist groups that Pakistan nurtured to fight proxy wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and because they think the U.S. is secretly conspiring with India to destabilize their country.

Alarm rose in Washington this week after the parliament and Zardari agreed to impose Islamic law in the Swat district, where extremists have repelled several army offensives; closed girls' schools; and beheaded, hanged and lashed opponents and alleged criminals.

The government's capitulation handed the militants their first refuge outside the remote tribal area bordering Afghanistan, and less than 100 miles north of Islamabad. Taliban fighters also advanced virtually unopposed from Swat into the Buner district, 60 miles north of Islamabad.

Buner is close to a key hydroelectric dam and to the highways that link Pakistan to China, and Islamabad to Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province, much of which is already under Taliban sway.

Many U.S. officials and other experts expect the militants to continue advancing.

The Taliban "have now become a self-sustaining force," author Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the insurgency, told a conference in Washington on Wednesday. "They have an agenda for Pakistan, and that agenda is no less than to topple the government of Pakistan and 'Talibanizing' the entire country."

Iqbal, the adviser to Sharif, disagreed. While militants will overrun small pockets, most Pakistanis embrace democracy and will resist living under the Taliban's harsh interpretation of Islam, he said.

"The psychology, the temperament, the mood of the Pakistani nation does not subscribe to these extremist views," Iqbal said.

The U.S. intelligence official, however, said that Pakistan's elite, dominated since the country's independence in 1947 by politicians, bureaucrats and military officers from Punjab, have failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation.

"The Punjabi elite has already lost control of Pakistan, but neither they nor the Obama administration realize that," the official said. "Pakistan will be an Islamist state — or maybe a collection of four Islamic states, probably within a few years. There's no civilian leadership in Islamabad that can stop this, and so far, there hasn't been any that's been willing to try."

Several U.S. officials said that the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy that President Barack Obama unveiled last month is being called into question by the accelerating rate at which the insurgency in Pakistan is expanding.

The plan hinges on the Pakistani army's willingness to put aside its obsession with Hindu-dominated India and focus on fighting the Islamist insurgency. It also presupposes, despite doubts held by some U.S. officials, that sympathetic Pakistani military and intelligence officers will sever their links with militant groups.

Events in Pakistan, Afghanistan overtake Obama's strategy

Nancy A. Youssef and Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Events in Pakistan and Afghanistan are already overtaking the Obama administration's month-old strategy for the two countries, and it needs to be modified even before it's been implemented, U.S. officials and experts said this week.

As Islamic militants continue their advance in Pakistan and press their attacks on overstretched U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, many U.S. officials fear that the administration is running out of time to defeat what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week called a "mortal threat" to the world. Failure in either place, these officials argue, would guarantee failure in the other.

On Capitol Hill, one of the advisors who helped draft the strategy called for a fundamental change in the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, and others said the administration now must create a separate Pakistan strategy. Some of the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because much of the strategy and the intelligence that informs it remain classified.

"We need a fundamental change of approach," David Kilcullen, who advised the administration on its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Thursday.

In the last month, the Taliban have advanced toward the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and the strategic city of Peshawar, which is on one of the main U.S. military supply routes into Afghanistan.

"We're certainly moving closer to the tipping point" where Pakistan could be overrun by Islamic extremists, Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Friday.

U.S. officials are concerned that rather than confronting the advancing militants, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari earlier this month negotiated an agreement with the Taliban that allowed the militants to impose strict Islamic law in the northwestern Swat Valley.

They're also alarmed that when the Taliban began appearing earlier this month in the neighboring Buner district, which is even closer to Islamabad, the Pakistani military failed to respond.

"The most important, most pressing threat to the very existence of their country is the threat posed by the internal extremists and groups such as the Taliban and the syndicated extremists," Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander for U.S. Central Command, told a House of Representatives subcommittee Friday.

Yet Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy who's coordinating U.S. policy in the region, and other officials privately concede that there are no promising answers.

"The strategic assessment may have been off to the degree with which Pakistan would deteriorate, and yet we are left with the same limited options," said Andrew Exum, a former Army officer and a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

Petraeus and other U.S. officials would like the Pakistani military to shift its focus from Hindu-dominated archrival India to the threat posed by Islamic extremism, but so far the Pakistanis have shown little interest in doing so, despite the administration's plan to spend $3 billion to train Pakistani forces and another $1.5 billon a year for five years for non-military aid.

Appearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, a former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the U.S. "cannot continue to provide Pakistan with assistance and hope that simply they will take action against extremists."

U.S. officials are frustrated with Zardari and Pakistan's other civilian leaders, who they say remain determined to continue negotiating with the Taliban, are in denial about the threat that the extremists pose.

"The $64,000 question," one State Department official said, "is how much cooperation can we expect from the Pakistani government?"

Some officials favor reaching out to Zardari's main opponent, Nawaz Sharif, but others have little faith in him, either.

Joint Chiefs chairman Mullen and some other top officers argue that working with the Pakistani chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, is America's best option. "There are no other useful alternatives here," said one defense official.

Others, however, are skeptical that Kayani would risk the unity of his military by turning away from India to battle fellow Muslims.

Shuja Nawaz, the director of South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council of the United States, suggested that the United States encourage India to "cool the temperature" on Pakistan. That, however, will be difficult for Indian politicians to do in the middle of an election campaign and with many Indians still reeling from last year's Mumbai terrorist attacks, which were planned in Pakistan.

Moreover, some administration officials worry that any outreach to India would strengthen the Islamic militants by reinforcing Pakistani fears that the U.S. is allied with mostly Hindu India against predominately Muslim Pakistan.

The situation in Afghanistan is no better, officials concede. The U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai has failed to curb corruption and drug trafficking, and that's helped the Afghan Taliban win the support of poor and disenfranchised rural majority.

The Afghan part of the administration's strategy calls for the U.S. to send an additional 17,500 combat troops and another 4,000 trainers to Afghanistan to secure population centers and thwart the free flow of weapons, fighters and cash along the border.

U.S. commanders on the ground, however, say that even with those reinforcements they'll lack the forces, airpower and intelligence support needed to stem the tide of al Qaida and Taliban fighters from Pakistan and win the confidence of skeptical Afghan tribesmen.

The administration has said that it will announce the benchmarks it'll use to assess the success of its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy and a co-author of the strategy, declined to comment Friday about what adjustments the United States must now make, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Introspect before talks

By M B Naqvi Wednesday, June 03, 2009, 1:00 [IST]
India and Pakistan will have to stop hating each other before they develop a strong urge for friendship and regional cooperation.
Now that a new Congress-dominated government in New Delhi has been formed and is likely to be both stable and capable of doing what it wants, the media is full of speculation that talks between India and Pakistan are about to begin. Since jaw-jaw is better than war-war, the prospect is welcome. But questions arise.

Indian and Pakistani governments have been negotiating with each other since the Jawaharlal Nehru-Liaquat Ali Khan period. Initially the talks led to sensible agreements largely because both had more or less similar limited purposes in view. After that during the Nehru period, there were several approaches from Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Later there was the Bhutto-Swaran Singh talkathon in early 1960s. The 1965 war changed the mindsets radically on both sides, leaving little scope for agreement.

During 1965 to 1971, mostly rhetoric and invective reigned. There were no serious talks and India-Pakistan relations remained deadlocked. The 1971 India-Pakistan war was a decisive event. Indians were able to defeat the Pakistan army easily enough and the entire Eastern Command of Pakistan army surrendered unconditionally. The agreement signed at Shimla on July 2, 1972 between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto inaugurated a period of 18 years of peace and quiet. But the period also saw both sides remaining as distant from each other as possible, despite much talk of commonalities.
It was the nukes. Pakistan appears to have made nuclear weapons by or after 1984 and was able to threaten India with a nuclear riposte if the Indians invaded Pakistan under the cover of Brasstacks Exercise. Pakistan’s nuclear programme was in the news for a long while and to one’s knowledge all those stories emanated only from the American CIA. Also, no one knows for sure why India undertook its first nuclear test explosion in May 1974. Probably Indira Gandhi chose to warn

However, that merely served as an incentive to Pakistan’s large and powerful nuclear lobby. This Pakistani ‘success’ changed the Indo-Pak relationship. Those were the days when not many governments disputed the deterrence of nuclear weapons. That presumption had large negative consequences in the Indo-Pak relationship, while the idea of stable good-neighbourliness and, if possible friendship, went out of the window.
After that there has been a mad race for ever more deterrence. What happened in the Soviet-American relationship, viz. non-stop rivalry and unending augmentation of nukes, went on between these countries uninterruptedly. Just as the Soviets and the Americans could never stop at any stage, there seems to be no way of stopping at some point unless both undergo a peaceable kind of change in the mind sets and basic purposes.

While the Indians could be absolutely sure of India’s security through their own nuclear programme and reinforced, of course, by a strong conventional defence, Pakistanis too became cocksure of their own security. They thought and said that Pakistan’s security has become unassailable. It can do anything it likes! After 1989 the Pakistani generals – the governments in Islamabad did not matter in those days – in their own hubris and arrogance decided to inflict a thousand cuts on India, knowing that India cannot retaliate in any big way.

From 1989 to 2002 Pakistanis did whatever they could to harass and hurt India in Kashmir. Earlier the Indians were as convinced of the deterrence of nukes as anyone else in the world; they withstood the Mujahideen activities in Kashmir with the help of their large Indian army acting defensively but could not take any tougher action against Pakistan – until 2002, when Atal Behari Vajpayee threatened a credible large-scale invasion of Pakistan and brought half a million troops on the frontier in an attack mode.

World took it seriously and was frightened by the danger of a nuclear war in South Asia. The Indians, then, claimed they had found a way around the Pakistani nuclear weapons by discovering that nuclear weapons of both cancel each other out. A nuclear war in the populous subcontinent was clearly seen by both sides as utter madness and no one had any stomach for it. One does not know for sure, despite a lot of literature, whether the Americans did actually mediate peace between Pakistan and India in 2002. But Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf had to promise not to allow Pakistan-controlled territory to be used against India in the summer of 2002. This was commonly believed as having resulted from American pressure. What more the Americans did is uncertain, though it is likely that they guided both sides to stay peaceful. Which is where we still are today.
One does not believe that there have been any serious negotiations between India and Pakistan after the Shimla Agreement. In 1997 Indian foreign secretary visited Islamabad and agreed to a new format of eight-committee negotiations between the two. These committees met frequently but could agree on nothing. In the background were the Jihad by Pakistani irregulars in Kashmir as also the nukes. The point one is making is that neither side had any real desire to resile from their stances on different disputes, particularly on Kashmir. There was a hiatus in talks from when the attack on Indian parliament took place till January 2004 when the BJP government agreed to re-launch these negotiations. The eight committees again met, talked and dispersed.

Mindsets unchanged

With this negative record, what hopes can be entertained about the talks that may now ensue? The fact is that mindsets on both sides have remained largely unchanged though Pakistan appears to be far more eager to start talks with India. What appears likely is that, American influence in Pakistan being what it is, Islamabad has bought American ideas wholesale. This would explain their anxiety to start talks again, no matter if the Indians still seem reluctant.

During the last two years and more Pakistan has been in serious crises due to Musharraf’s mishandling and foolish decision-making. No Indian government could have seriously talked to Pakistan during such turmoil.

Even now foreigners seem uncertain as to who is calling the shots in Islamabad and whether the arrangement in Pakistan is stable enough to make far-reaching agreements. Before the two can develop a strong urge for Indo-Pakistan friendship and regional cooperation, they will have to stop hating each other. Until the two countries find a basis for normal good neighbourliness, what is the point in frequent toings and froings of the officials?

India, Britain, France To Practice ASW

By vivek raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI - Four Indian warships will participate in naval exercises with British and French forces in the Atlantic Ocean June 20 to July 4, a senior Indian Navy official said. The war games will include anti-submarine warfare - India's first such exercise against nuclear subs, the Navy official said.

India is gearing up to counter Chinese weapons purchases, said defense analyst Mahindra Choudhary, a retired Indian Army brigadier.

The Chinese Navy has deployed nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean, the Navy official said.

The Indian Navy is awaiting the delivery of its two nuclear submarines, which were ordered two years ago from Russia, the Navy official said.

The British will send the nuclear-powered submarine Trafalgar; two guided missile frigates, Westminster and Lancaster; two auxiliaries, Fort Rosalie and Mounts Bay; Merlin and Lynx helicopters; Falcon and Hawk fighter aircraft; and a Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft.

French assets will include the nuclear-powered submarine Emeraude, the guided-missile destroyer Primaguet, the guided-missile frigate Lieutenant de Vaisseau le Henaff, Atlantique II maritime reconnaissance aircraft, Lynx helicopters, and Rafale and Super Entendard fighter aircraft.

In April 2008, India and Germany first held bilateral naval exercises. In September 2007, Australia, India, Japan and the United States took part in one of the biggest sea exercises ever held in the Bay of Bengal.

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