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Monday, 8 June 2009

From Today's Papers - 08 Jun 09

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B’desh getting tough with terror groups, says BSF chief
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Shillong, June 7
In response to the concern raised by India, the government in neighbouring Bangladesh has initiated action against Indian terrorist outfits, including those from North East, operating from their soil, forcing them to desperately look for safe sanctuaries elsewhere.

Director General of Border Security Force ML Kumawat today said here unlike the previous governments, the present political regime in Dhaka appeared to be more receptive to New Delhi’s concerns.

BSF chief was on a two-day visit to review the security scenario along the country’s frontiers in Assam, Meghalaya, as well as counter-insurgency operations by BSF personnel in Assam.

Kumawat said the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) chief, during his recent visit to New Delhi, had assured of action against Indian terror outfits taking shelter in his country. “There are indications of mounting pressures on the Indian militant groups in Bangladesh as the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and other terror groups are desperately trying to find safer haven elsewhere,” the BSF chief claimed.

Kumawat is scheduled to visit Dhaka to pursue all pending issues with Bangladesh. He said the BSF had expedited efforts to complete construction of fencing along the frontier with Bangladesh by 2012-13. There is plan to reinforce its presence along the frontier with additional forces and force-multiplier technology.

The government of India has decided to raise 29 additional battalions of the BSF and set up over 500 new Border Outposts (BoPs), most of which will be located in India’s porous and sensitive northeastern region, especially on the Indo-Bangladesh border. India and Bangladesh share a 4,096-km border in northeastern states and West Bengal.

Currently, over 70 BSF battalions are deployed along the Indo-Bangladesh border as well as for counter-insurgency operations in the North East.

In order to facilitate more effective vigil along the frontier with Bangladesh in the North East, distance between two BoPs will be reduced from the present 4.5 km to 2.8 km, considering the peculiar topography of the region. The ideal distance between two BoPs should be 3.5 km. For the purpose, 383 new BoPs will be set up along the Bangladesh frontier in the North East.

Better late than never
Nuclear-powered sub will be of great use

IN just a couple of months India is expected to launch its first nuclear-powered submarine, a capability that is currently the exclusive preserve of a select group of countries that incidentally comprises the Permanent Five in the UN Security Council. The submarine, termed as Advanced Technology Vessel or ATV, will provide a credible second-strike capability to the Navy, besides being a useful part of a strategic defence system.

The development of India’s most ambitious defence project has taken 25 long years, which witnessed many ups and downs. From facing dual technology denial regimes to overcoming the technological challenge of first constructing, fitting and then operationalising a miniature nuclear plant to power the submarine, both the Atomic Energy Commission and the Defence Research and Development Organisation have travelled a long and difficult road for which they deserve praise for their fortitude, perseverance and technological breakthrough. The ATV is critical to the defence needs of India, flanked as it is by two not-so-friendly nuclear- weapon states. While Pakistan does not yet possess this capability but has a more advanced nuclear-tipped missile capability, China has a fleet of about 60 submarines (against just 16 with India) that includes about a dozen nuclear-powered submarines armed with long-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads that can strike any part of India. Unlike conventional diesel-electric submarines that are vulnerable to detection because they need to regularly snorkel air to power their batteries, a nuclear-powered submarine can stay submerged for weeks together and, therefore, stay undetected.

The expected launch of the ATV will only mark the beginning of a long journey for India. The ATV will have to undergo extensive sea trials and will be successfully fitted with nuclear-tipped Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missile, currently under indigenous development, before India can qualify to have developed its strategic capability. This will take another three or four years. Moreover, India will need to build a number of such sophisticated vessels. As an interim measure, India is expected to soon lease a Project 971 Shchuka-B (also known as Akula) nuclear-powered submarine from Russia, which will help Indian sailors gain experience for handling such sophisticated weapon platforms. Even if it has taken two and a half decades to build a nuclear-powered submarine, there is nothing like being self-dependent in matters of defence of the nation.

Army success in Mingora
Anita Inder Singh

THE Pakistani army has driven the Taliban out of Mingora. But that good news is not the same as turning the tide against extremists in Pakistan. The army’s success came after a year of battles lost by security forces in north-western Pakistan, and it was not achieved easily: it took 15,000 soldiers to defeat an estimated 5,000 Taliban there.

The decisive battles are yet to be fought — on the military and civilian fronts. Even after throwing the Taliban out of Mingora, the military authorities have admitted that in Swat ‘this is an elusive enemy that has strongholds in the countryside’ and that they cannot confirm when the army’s operation in the area would be complete.

More than that, the tougher reality is that the Taliban are strongest not in Swat, which they took over only recently, but in South Waziristan, which has been the springboard for the attacks which have frustrated Nato’s Afghan campaign for the last seven years. Thanks to the hospitality and training provided by Pakistan’s army and intelligence since 2001, that is the region where the Taliban are deeply entrenched.

Part of the problem faced by the army is that the Taliban are not organised into neat little military barracks. They are a loose congeries of groups, united by little except a fanatical interpretation of Islam.

In many areas the Taliban have mingled with the local population. That is partly why American drones have found it hard to target extremist outfits accurately; that is partly why they have ended up killing more civilians than extremists. And that is why it is possible that some Taliban have joined the refugees and escaped the army’s guns in Mingora.

So the military campaign in Swat is just the first of many steps needed to defuse the extremist threat to Pakistan. In the meantime extremists can easily spread panic among ordinary Pakistanis by launching attacks at the time and place of their choosing.

The recent bombing attacks on major cities like Lahore and Peshawar suggest that the Taliban will target civilians and security forces alike.

The intention is to test the determination of the army and the government to rout them to foster doubts about the wisdom of a strategy aimed at quashing the Taliban.

How popular is the army’s action in Mingora? Few Swats — or Pakistanis generally — may have wanted to be flogged by Taliban thugs. But the military operation in Swat has created a humanitarian crisis and three million displaced people who are lacking the most basic amenities.

It will be, at least, a fortnight before even essential services like water and electricity are restored in Mingora.

Pakistan needs massive international aid to cope —and the US has already offered $ 110 million to help those displaced because of the battle in Mingora in order to show ordinary Pakistanis that it is concerned about their welfare.

How Islamabad handles the humanitarian crisis will have a bearing on the extent of popular support it can win for anti-extremist military operations.

The problem is that Pakistan’s civilian and military rulers have for long inflicted poor governance on its citizens, and there is no certainty that the aid will reach those who need it. (Did someone whisper Mr Ten Per Cent and President Zardari in the same breath?)

Long-term aid programmes will take time to show results — and the success of the anti-Taliban operation cannot hinge on that — rather, vice-versa.

Not even Islamabad is now saying anything about talks with ‘good’ or ‘moderate’ Taliban, if only because they do not seem to be in evidence, and at the moment, no one really knows who the bad and not-so-bad Taliban are. Pakistan’s army says it is determined to defeat the Taliban, and it must fight on. But undoing the extremist-training job it did for several years may be a long haul.

The writer is a Professor at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, New

Centre to raise 29 new battalions of BSF

K Anurag in Guwahati

June 07, 2009 22:06 IST

The Union government has decided to augment the presence of Border Security Force along the 4096-kilometer-long frontier with Bangladesh especially within North eastern states where difficult topography has been a hurdle for border vigil.

The frontier with Bangladesh has been used by the terror groups from to sneak into that country in search of safe heavens. Moreover, alleged illegal migration from Bangladesh through porous border in the North East has been a major issue.

BSF Director-General M L Kumawat said in Shillong that New Delhi [Images] has decided to raise 29 additional battalions of the BSF and set up over 500 new Border Outposts, most of which will be located along the porous and sensitive frontier with Bangladesh in the Northeast. Currently, over 70 BSF battalions are deployed along the Indo-Bangla border as well as for counter-insurgency operations in the North East.

For ensuring greater level of vigil along the frontier with Bangladesh in the North East, distance between two BoPs will be reduced to present 4.5 kilometer to 2.8 kilometer considering the peculiar topography of the region. The ideal distance between two BoPs should be 3.5 kilometer. For the purpose 383 new BoPs will be set up along the Bangladesh frontier in the region.

Kumawat informed in response to concern raised by New Delhi about presence of Indian terror groups on Bangladesh soil, the new government in the neighbouring country has already started acting against Indian terrorist outfits including those from North East operating from their soil forcing those outfits to desperately look for safe sanctuaries elsewhere.

The Assam police earlier claimed that the most wanted militant leader Paresh Baruah, commander in chief of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom, might have shifted his location to Yunan province of China from Bangladesh .He had been in Bangladesh since 1990 under the name of Kamruz Zaman Khan and set up a big business empire in that country.

Members of 23rd IMA Course celebrate Golden Jubilee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane for members of the 23rd Regular Course, who observed the Golden Jubilee of their becoming commissioned Army officers here last evening. They had passed out from the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, in July 1959.

As a special gesture, they also honoured their instructors, who had turned the boys into men after putting them through the mill in the hallowed grounds of the Army’s premier training institution. Four of them, Maj Gen Rajendra Nath, Col BIS Cheema, Col AS Grewal and Col Ranjit Singh, were present on the occasion.

The course consisted of 252 gentleman cadets, out of which about a 100 died in the line of duty during various wars fought and military operations undertaken subsequently. One of the members earned the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest award for gallantry.

One of the members, Gen VP Malik, rose to become Chief of the Army Staff, while two became Army Commanders. Several others reached the rank of Lieutenant General.

About 30 officers from the tricity, along with their wives, attended the event that was marked by bonhomie and esprit d’corps. Next month, course members from all across the country would be getting together at their alma mater in Dehradun to commemorate their Golden Jubilee.

Defence forces agree to free spectrum within three years

The MoU, inked between ministry of defence & DoT, entails vacation of spectrum by the defence forces once DoT builds an alternative optical fibre cabl network for them

Shauvik Ghosh

New Delhi: The ministry of defence and the department of telecommunications (DoT) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to free radio spectrum by the defence forces over the next three years.

Radio spectrum, an increasingly scarce resource, is the carrier of voice signals between wireless devices such as cellphones. An MoU is an expression of intent of the signatories and not a binding document to execute.

The MoU, signed on 22 May, follows at least two years of negotiations. It entails vacation of spectrum by the defence forces once DoT builds an alternative optical fibre cable (OFC) network for them.

The defence forces are major users of spectrum due to the mobile nature of military operations. The rapid growth of mobile telephony users in India has led to the demand for spectrum increasing exponentially. This had led to the government studying various methods to get the defence forces to vacate spectrum.

DoT has asked state-run telecom operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) to build OFC, the cost of which will be reimbursed by the department.

“We have signed the MoU on May 22. The defence forces are expected to vacate the spectrum within the next three years in a phased manner as prescribed in the MoU,” a senior DoT official said asking not to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

“The defence forces have more than 40% of the spectrum that has been mandated for commercial mobile usage,” another official in the wireless planning and coordination division of DoT said, also requesting anonymity.

India is the fastest growing mobile telephony market in the world adding at least 10 million new mobile subscribers every month.

In a bid to keep up with the demand for spectrum, which is a limited natural resource, MoD has agreed to shift part of its operations that run on spectrum to OFC to be built by BSNL and MTNL. The vacation will be done over a period of 37 months, according to the MoU.

BSNL and MTNL have already been building an OFC for the Indian Air Force at an estimated cost of Rs1,077 crore, which will be reimbursed by DoT. The air force will then vacate around around 42.5MHz of spectrum. OFC for the army and navy will be built over the next 37 months by BSNL, according to a timeline prescribed in the MoU, which entails the finalization of tenders for equipment vendors within seven months of signing of the MoU.

OFC for the army and navy is expected to cost Rs8,893 crore. The proposals for the amount to be paid to BSNL by DoT for building the OFC have to be approved by the cabinet committee on economic affairs.

The state-run telcos will lay a total of 40,000km of optical fibre to connect 219 army stations, 33 navy stations and 162 air force stations across the country as part of OFC.

In April, DoT had reviewed the terms of MoU and sent it to the defence ministry for approval. According to the MoU, the defence forces will vacate 15MHz of spectrum within a few days. Of this, 10MHz will be used for 3G services and will be auctioned while 5MHz will be used for 2G services.

Once the OFC is up and running, the defence forces would have vacated around 45MHz of spectrum, of which 25MHz is 3G spectrum.

Pak nukes are secure —Lawrence J Korb

Given the strategic location of Pakistan and the fact that it has nuclear weapons, it’s easy to see why some might embrace a worst-case scenario. But based on my visit, I don’t buy it

During the last week of April, I visited four cities in Pakistan (Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Karachi). The purpose of the trip was to discuss a December 2008 Centre for American Progress report that I co-authored, “Partnership for Progress: Advancing a New Strategy for Prosperity and Stability in Pakistan and the Region”.

Although this was my first trip to Pakistan, one of the two other colleagues who accompanied me had visited the country on three previous occasions. For two reasons, we had exceptional access to some 60 current and former civilian and military government officials (including a two-hour visit to the ISI headquarters), members of the media and academia, and heads of nongovernmental organisations.

First, one of the members of the working group who helped us formulate the report is now the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. Second, several of our colleagues from the Centre for American Progress have moved into key positions in the Obama administration. Moreover, since we aren’t in government, it was easier for us to challenge the bromides that some officials peddle.

Before the visit, I knew Pakistan was facing several critical political, economic, and security problems. Still, there were some hopeful signs: Pakistan held free and fair elections in February 2008; the country has an independent judiciary and a vibrant civil society and media; and the Obama administration and Congress were finally making US relations with Pakistan a priority.

That said, the day we arrived, the US media gave the impression that Pakistan was in dire straits. Some were going so far as to compare the current condition of Pakistan to that of contemporary Somalia, a failed state already in or about to be engulfed in chaos.

Similarly, some high-level officials in the Obama administration contend Pakistan resembles Iran in 1979, a Muslim country about to be taken over by a group of radical Islamists. Others see Islamabad as Saigon in 1975, a capital city about to fall to an advancing enemy. Finally, some analysts compare today’s Pakistan to that of Afghanistan in the 1990s, when the Taliban stepped into a chaotic situation and restored order.

After my trip, though, I believe that all of these comparisons are inaccurate and overstated. Pakistan isn’t about to descend into chaos, nor will it be taken over by the Taliban any time soon.

The trip reinforced my belief that Pakistan has a great many political, economic, and social problems that prevent it from achieving its full potential. But the majority of the population wants the duly constituted government to fulfil its responsibilities to promote the general welfare and provide for the common defence. They aren’t looking to some outside force such as the Taliban to assume control of the country and solve these problems.

Unlike Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban in Pakistan aren’t seen as a group capable of imposing order on a chaotic situation. Rather, the Taliban are seen as an organisation trying to upset the existing order. For instance, the majority of the Pakistani population urged the government to take forceful action against the Taliban when it reneged on its agreement in Malakand.

Moreover, at this time, the Pakistan Army has no desire to seize political power, nor will it let the Taliban take control of Pakistan proper or seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The Pakistan Army jealously guards its reputation. In fact, it places a higher priority on its reputation and its interest than that of the country. The army knows that if it staged a coup at this time, it would become responsible for all of the country’s economic and social problems.

Likewise, the Pakistani military, which numbers about 1 million soldiers, has enough brute force to prevent the Taliban from breaking out of the rural areas of the frontier provinces and into the heart of Pakistan, even if it keeps a large contingent on the border with India. Since the army knows that the collateral damage — including creating refugees — would be significant if it uses force, it won’t take action until ordered to do so by the prime minister and the parliament.

I’m also convinced that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons won’t be allowed to fall into the hands of the insurgents. This sentiment is shared by Gen David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander, and Adm Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the president himself.

In a recent interview with Newsweek, Obama said, “We have confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is safe; that the Pakistani military is equipped to prevent extremists from taking over those arsenals.”

Why? Because even though the programme originally was started by a civilian, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in the 1970s, the weapons now are firmly under the control of the Pakistani Army; the army sees them as its main counterweight to India’s large conventional forces and nuclear capabilities, which it views as the real existential threat to Pakistan. That’s exactly why it’s currently increasing its nuclear arsenal.

In addition, over the past three years, Washington has made a $100-million investment to improve Pakistan’s nuclear weapon safeguards. (The Pakistanis won’t let us see how this money was spent because they fear that we will use this information to disable the nukes.)

It’s also important to note that Islamabad’s intelligence service, or ISI, which has been a renegade operation for nearly two decades, has been brought under the army’s control. In fact, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the current Pakistan Army Chief of Staff, once headed the ISI, and the high-level officials in that agency are all his appointees and thus very loyal to him.

Lastly, the Pakistan Army is composed mostly of Punjabis, and the Taliban insurgents are entirely Pashtun. Therefore, the army won’t let these insurgents, who they see as outsiders, take control of the heart of Pakistan (as opposed to the frontier areas) or the nuclear weapons.

Given the strategic location of Pakistan and the fact that it has nuclear weapons, it’s easy to see why some might embrace a worst-case scenario. But based on my visit, I don’t buy it at this time.

Lawrence J Korb is a Senior Fellow at American Progress and a Senior Advisor to the Centre for Defence Information. This article originally appeared in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists\06\08\story_8-6-2009_pg3_3

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