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Monday, 29 June 2009

From Today's Papers - 29 Jun 09

The Pioneer

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Asian Age

Asian Age

Asian Age

Indian Express

The Pioneer

Asian Age

Indian Express

Asian Age

Hindustan Times

Times of India

10 years after Kargil
Army regains supremacy in Drass sector
Ajay Banerjee writes from Drass (on the LoC)

The boom of the Bofors guns does not echo anymore. There are no frenzied television crews beaming live pictures to millions of drawing rooms across the globe. It is a tense silence at the Line of Control where India and Pakistan fought pitched battles during the Kargil conflict in June-July 1999.

In these 10 years, the Indian Army has rejigged its plans. Going by the Kargil experience, it has virtually clawed back to a position of supremacy in holding on to the strategic Drass-Kargil-Batalik sector.

The snow-clad, rugged and treacherous Himalayan ridge line in this part rises beyond 16,000 feet. It forms a strategic tri-axis with Pakistan to the west and China to the east of India. It was this slice of the mountains that had prompted Gen Pervez Musharraf, the then Chief of the Pakistan Army, to carry out his “mis-adventure”, hoping to cut out Leh and Siachen.

After having evicted the enemy in 1999 through sheer grit and against all odds, today the biggest challenge for the Army has been to hold onto the icy peaks and

create an impregnable defence, opined a senior officer. Now, troops and officers man fully equipped posts on top of the snow-clad ridge line throughout the year. On the LoC, Indian and Pakistani troops sit in their respective posts that are separated by a few hundred metres through the air.

Such is the extreme that day-time temperatures in June are minus 5 degrees Celsius. Some of the posts are cut off from the world from November through June. The communication is through a telephone line as temperatures go down to minus 40 degrees Celsius in the winter.

The earlier practice of vacating these peaks during winter had led to the intrusion. Particularly crucial were Tiger Hill, Point 4875 and Tololing from where the Pakistanis pounded the Srinagar-Leh highway relentlessly as they occupied vantage points.

Now, a series of big guns like the 155 mm Bofors and the 105 mm Indian field gun have been based in this area. To know about intrusions, if any, the Army has access to satellite images besides gathering human intelligence.

The strength of the Army has been increased from a brigade — roughly 6,000 troops — in 1999 to three times its size to have a division based here.

A new corps has been raised at Leh with a Lt Gen rank official heading it while a “Kargil battle school” continuously trains fresh batches of troops about the nuances of mountain warfare on these heights. In 1999, it had taken the troops some days to be acclimatised and not all of them were trained in the mountain warfare. A couple of new landing strips have been created for faster induction of troops. The National Highway 1-D between Zojila pass and Leh has been widened. At present work is on to widen it further to accommodate two vehicles passing each other in opposite directions.

One of the handicaps of the 1999 conflict was communication between troops and the base camps. This was through hand-held radio sets which was intercepted easily by Pakistanis.

Now secure telephone lines have been laid connecting each small post and outpost with the senior commanders at the bases. Roads have been laid in new inaccessible areas in Batalik, while the Border Roads Organisation is continuously at work to create new much-needed infrastructure.

The enemy within
Corruption delays defence modernisation
by Premvir Das

IN a recent column of a Beijing journal, the author contended, amongst other things and quite derisively, that India would never be able to equal China’s national power. This statement may rouse tempers and hurt sensitivities in this country but a little introspection will show that he was not wide off the mark. National power is, of course, not just military strength alone but without it, is clearly unachievable. And, it is here that India is not just well behind China.

The gap is widening every day, even as the latter moves speedily on its modernisation schemes, while we simply keep on shooting ourselves in the foot. Look at the dismal picture. In 1986, a contract to procure 155 mm guns for the Army was finalised after years of dithering. Everyone agreed that the Bofors gun was the best available in the global arms market at that time.

This contract provided for an outright purchase of some guns and transfer of technology to manufacture the rest in the country. There were audible sighs of relief in the Army that the induction of this weapon would restore the edge that it had lost over Pakistan. The elation was short lived; within two years the whole euphoria was shattered.

Bofors was blacklisted amid cries of bribery and corruption and indigenous production was grounded. Charges were levied against just about everybody, the Prime Minister included. The balance sheet, 20 years down the line, is that not one of the alleged bribe takers has seen jail even for a day. Three of them are dead and those who are not, are free as birds, hobnobbing with the highest in the land.

On the flip side and as a direct consequence of the blacklisting, neither have any more guns been procured nor have any been built indigenously. In this period of 20 years, the Indian Army has not received a single piece of heavy artillery. This is not all. In 1984, India signed a contract with a German company called HDW to acquire four submarines for its Navy, with more to follow. Of the first four, two were to be built in Germany and two in an Indian yard. The HDW-built boats were commissioned by 1989; the local production went slightly behind schedule but all four were operational by 1992.

In 1987, the Navy had proposed continuation of the indigenous production line, facilities for which were created at great cost, with four follow on submarines when thunderstorms struck the project, again, with familiar charges of bribery and corruption. HDW was blacklisted and everything came to a grinding halt. FIRs were filed listing some people. The balance sheet, 20 years later, is that not one of the people alleged to have taken bribes or done other wrongdoings has spent even a day in jail. No charge sheet could be filed for want of evidence and the case has been closed.

Again, on the flip side, and as a direct result of the blacklisting, not a single submarine has been built or acquired for the Navy in the 20 years that have elapsed. Some six or seven years ago, a contract was signed for the acquisition of six French submarines through a technology transfer building programme. Yet again, cries of bribery and corruption filled the air, repeated yet again, in the case of Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov and the Israeli Barak missile systems, being acquired for the Navy.

Mercifully, the government was able to continue with the projects in contradiction of its ‘blacklisting’ profile. It seemed as if we had come of age. Just when it seemed that bad times were behind us, there is ‘déjà vu’ once again. When the French Rafaele was recently deleted, possibly for good reason, from the126 Multi Role Combat Aircraft race, lobbying and adequate hue and cry got it back into contention. And now comes the dreaded B word once again; as many as six firms cleared for supplying important weapons and sensors for the armed forces have been blacklisted, the guess is right, for bribery and corruption.

A former Director General of Ordnance Factories and his accomplices, alleged to have made some money, have ensured that modernisation schemes of the military have been stymied once again. Whether their cases will follow the Bofors and HDW route remains to be seen; what is abundantly clear is that India’s quest for acquiring desired capabilities for its armed forces has been halted once more. So if the Chinese are smirking and grinning from ear to ear at our inadequacies, they are not to blame because the enemy is within, not without.

Bribery in the arms market is neither new nor peculiar to India. In almost all military procurements, not only in India, commissions are the norm, not the exception. And, the beneficiaries are, mainly, politicians and political parties. So it is not surprising that we, ourselves, are quite accomplished at the game. No one doubts that commissions were paid for the Bofors and HDW contracts and everyone knows that these went to political parties just as they did for so many procurements earlier, the Jaguar and Mirage deals in the 1970s and 1980s, being only a few.

Unlike elsewhere, the political route remains untouched in India. The convenient and side-stepping response is to blacklist the firms when the fact is that they would not have given bribes if these had not been demanded. We only end up by degrading our military capabilities even further.

There is need to differentiate between bribery and punishing the guilty, and needs of military modernisation. When the aim should be to purposefully crush the first and progress on the second, we are doing exactly the opposite. The Defence Minister is known to be a person of great honesty and integrity. This does not, by implication, mean that transparency in procurements can eliminate the political connection; it can, at best, skim the insignificant icing on the cake.

While a few crores, swindled by officials are a bad thing and unacceptable, meriting appropriate punishment, that aspect should not be allowed to cripple the modernisation of the armed forces. The money made available for that purpose is already well short of what is needed; to further castrate its utilisation is not going to help any. There is need to move more pragmatically because India can never become a power of consequence if it is weak militarily. At least this once, we should heed the Chinese.

The writer is a former Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command

Pakistan among top 10 failed states

June 28, 2009 21:47 IST

Pakistan, plagued by insurgency and the worst-ever economic crisis, has been named among the "top 10 failed states" by the US-based reputed Foreign Policy journal. Pakistan, bracketed along with countries like Somalia, Afghanistan and Sudan, has improved its position only by a notch -- it is placed 10th in the index for 2009 published in the July-August issue of the magazine.

The fifth annual 'Failed States Index' is a collaboration between The Fund for Peace, an independent research organisation and Foreign Policy. The financial crisis is a "near-death experience for insurgency-plagued" Pakistan, which remains on IMF life support, the journal said. It is a sobering time for the world's most fragile countries--virulent economic crisis, countless natural disasters and government collapse, it noted.

Using 12 indicators of state cohesion and performance, compiled through a close examination of more than 30,000 publicly available sources, the journal ranked 177 states in order from most to least at risk of failure. India is ranked 87th, showing an improvement over the previous year. But its neighbours performed badly in the index with Sri Lanka [Images] placed 12th, Bangladesh 19th and Nepal 25th.

Tehsildar Assault Case
Ex-services league seeks independent probe
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 28
Indian Ex-Services League president Prabhjot Singh today said the league had submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal seeking an investigation by an independent agency in tehsildar Major GS Benipal (retd) assault case to bring culprits to the book of law at the earliest so that justice was delivered to the victim.

The Indian Ex-Services League, Punjab and Chandigarh, the oldest NGO of ex-servicemen and widows, strongly condemned the barbaric incidence of mercilessly beating of Major Benipal (retd) working as sub-registrar in Ludhiana.

Hooligans, by their act, had not only harmed a veteran physically but also exhibited a show of high handedness by party workers of the ruling party, which was elected to govern and maintain law and order to safeguard the interests of public at large.

The league had expressed its solidarity with Major Benipal and the ex-servicemen community had already offered to bear the whole expenditure if the victim wanted to go to the High Court to get justice.

The league had also expressed its concern over the deteriorating law and order condition in Punjab and requested the Chief Minister to maintain it at the earliest.

The stakes in Waziristan

Syed Mohammad Ali

As the gradual elimination of the Taliban in Malakand division by the Pakistan Army enters its decisive phase, Waziristan braces for a much-awaited showdown following Islamabad’s decision to finally destroy Baitullah Mahsud’s terrorist infrastructure which is after all the principal source of the nation’s current woes. Militancy in the NWFP is sustained by competing powers seeking to secure their strategic and energy interests in the complex milieu of South and Central Asia.

The question arises that if this insurgency happens to survive a few more years, will Islamabad be able to keep the Pukhtun nationalist elements on its side against the religious militants. It is crucial to assess the political capacity of the ANP government to successfully deal with the present conflict. According to a senior NWFP government official, over three million people are already internally displaced. This is in addition to the Afghan refugees who are still in large number and a great burden on the establishment.

When a full-scale military operation is launched in Waziristan, more people will become displaced and the government of the NWFP will have to grapple with an inflated humanitarian crisis. It will be of essence to watch how long the military action takes to achieve its objective and what tactics the enemy adopts to escape the firepower how much political support it gets from the population of the affected areas. There are lessons to learn from how the Indian army successfully dealt with the Khalistan movement. Though dealing with a small-scale uprising in Indian Punjab plains, compared to hilly and forest terrain of the NWFP, six factors which contributed to the success ofIndian army operation in quelling the separatist movement were quality intelligence; diplomatic and political isolation of the terrorists from international and domestic support base; timely elimination of their leadership; element of surprise; ruthless elimination of the terrorists without any remorse, and finally effective management of the humanitarian crisis.

A decisive factor in the strategic matrix of the conflict in Waziristan would be the response of the civilian population of the tribal areas. How well the government is prepared to tackle the eventuality of mass exodus from Fata and how much resources it has to properly organise IDPs’ interim shelters, will equally determine the end-result of the military operation which in itself is a much delayed action.

Then, the government will need to arrange cash money to offer to the displaced families. These factors will be of utmost importance to keep the uprooted population of tribal Areas satisfied and on the side of the government and to prevent them from succumbing to temptations or coercion of the Taliban and the Baitullah Mehsud gang with a view to demoralise the Pakistani troops.

Conservative Pushtun families may find it difficult to cooperate in the house to house search by troops given their cultural and traditional sensitivities. The government will have to draw up a comprehensive political and economic strategy to isolate TTP leadership before it launches a military operation in Waziristan. Despite hectic high-level diplomacy, US has not been very successful in gaining substantive military and economic support from its European Nato allies for expanding military operations in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the US and Nato are fighting the war away from their homeland whereas the stakes for the state and military of Pakistan are much higher while fighting on its own territory and to win the war it cannot rely on promises of external financial help alone. US aid pledges aside, the government will need to raise resources on its own as well. We have to get rid of our dead wood, tighten belts, possibly postpone some developmental plans and probably increase defence budget and cut corners where we can.

Political expediency and localised politics based on ‘baradari’ will have to be shelved if the state of Pakistan has to survive thisdecisive battle for its identity. It is not a war like 1965 where the military could stop Indians from advancing on Wagah and Chawinda fronts but a war in which the enemy is invisible and has already penetrated deep inside our territory; not just the resorts of Swat and Malam Jabba but the streets, homes and markets of Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar have become battlefronts.

The leadership must realise that the success and sacrifices of our troops can go waste if we do not succeed in winning hearts and minds of the large displaced population. Any lapses in timely, effective and efficient relief and rehabilitation of the continuing streams of the displaced persons could ignite the Pukhtun nationalist sentiments in those areas with long-term adverse effects to the objective of this war. On May 2, 2003 George W. Bush in a speech from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln proudly declared victory in Iraq war but six years later Washington still remains mired in the quagmire that Iraq has become. A study of the Irish guerilla war shows that the Irish Republican Armywas never really a major strategic threat to the British military inIreland.

Nor were they ever in a position to engage them inconventional warfare. IRA leader Richard Mulcahy deplored the fact that they had not been able to drive the British “out of anything bigger than a fairly good size police barracks.” But they had made Ireland ungovernable except by military means. The political, military and financial costs of remaining in Ireland were higher than the British government was prepared to afford. This fact forced it to enter into negotiations with the Irish political leaders.

Similarly, Taliban by engaging Pakistani military forces are diverting its resources into an internal war rather than let it be prepared against any potential external threat. Today the stakes of this conflict in Fata and the NWFP are higher for Pakistan’s security than they have ever been before. This could be the decisive battle for the identity and future of our nation and like 1965 or 1971 we should not totally depend on the US alone for winning it.

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