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Friday, 24 July 2009

From Today's Papers - 24 Jul 09

Pak army, ISI keen on talks with India

Islamabad, July 23
The Pakistan army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency have launched concerted efforts to be involved in talks with India.

Diplomatic and other sources say the two organisations believe they can play a role because they are intrinsically linked to policy-making in Pakistan.

ISI chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, a trusted aide of powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has been involved in the move and reportedly brought up the matter during a meeting with three defence advisers in the Indian High Commission earlier this month, the sources said. Pasha suggested to the defence advisors representing the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force during the meeting held on July 3 that the ISI and Pakistan army should find a place in bilateral talks as they played a key role in helping the foreign ministry formulate its policies, they said.

Over the past few weeks, members of the Pakistani security establishment have privately sounded out Pakistani journalists about the need for the ISI and the army to have a role in talks with India. The journalists were told that talks with India would be more meaningful if New Delhi was in “direct contact” with the ISI and army as they were the real “power centres” in Pakistan.

Officials of the Indian High Commission refused to comment on the development. The Pakistan army spokesman too could not be reached for a reaction.

However, sources said there was a problem of “disconnect” in the proposal mooted by the Pakistani establishment. “In India, the intelligence agencies and Army only act in an advisory capacity by briefing the External Affairs Ministry and other departments for talks with Pakistan. They do not make decisions and they have no direct role in the dialogue unless the talks are on security-related issues like Siachen or Sir Creek,” a senior official, who did not want to be named, said. “On the Pakistani side, it is a totally different ballgame as the military and ISI are very much a part of decision-making and policy formulation,” he said.

Besides, sources pointed out that no formal proposal had been made by Islamabad about involving the army or the ISI in the talks.

Significance is also being attached to Pasha’s decision to have a separate meeting with the three Indian defence advisors. — PTI

Indian Army team to visit Saudi Arabia
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
In what is a diplomatic coup of sorts, a small team of the Indian Army will soon depart to Saudi Arabia, a well know ally of Pakistan and where the Chinese have interest in the oil industry.

It is hush-hush affair and is kept under wraps, said sources. The Indian military team will be from the fighting units and comprise officers who have experience in counter-terrorism. The team will explain the finer points of counter-terrorism to Saudi Arabians. Several ports in the oil-rich Kingdom are under threat from the Al-Qaida, which perceives the gulf emirates as being close to Americans. Sources said the team will explain the measures.

For India, it will be the second important military toe-hold in the Emirate region. In May two Indian Naval warships paid a three-day visit, while in August 2007 two other ships had visited the kingdom.

Defence land under illegal occupation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
A whopping 14,538 acres of defence land in the country is either under encroachment or under illegal occupation.

Defence Minister AK Antony yesterday submitted a written reply on the matter saying 10,441 acres spread across 25 states/UT’s has been encroached upon, while another 4,097 acres spread across 10 states is under illegal occupation. The state of UP usually notorious for its lawlessness, leads the figures. A total of 2,786 acres are encroached and 788 acres are illegally occupied.

Maharashtra is second with 2,215 acres of encroached and 162 acres of illegally occupied land. In Haryana, 678 acres and 319 acres of defence land have been encroached and occupied, respectively. In Punjab, 364 acres and 147 acres of land falls under these two categories.

In Himachal Pradesh, 87 acres and 76 acres of land falls under these two categories, while 781 acres of defence land in J&K is encroached. Among other defaulting states are Bihar, West Bengal, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, AP and Assam.

Ruinous recruitment to forces
Catastrophic corruption is rampant
by Inder Malhotra

TWO highly disturbing news items within 48 hours are a cause not for concern but for alarm over the state of recruitment to the Army and, of course, other security forces. At a centre for Army recruitment, three majors and three subedar-majors were arrested on Saturday for allegedly extorting huge bribes from competing aspirants before giving them the job. Collusion between the “touts” infesting the place and recruiting officers facilitated the transactions involving a lakh of rupees per candidate.

The next day at a recruitment camp in Chandauli district of Uttar Pradesh, first there were complaints about “irregularities” that had “unfairly” eliminated many candidates, then clashes between the protesting complainants and those guarding the camp, and later still a firing that caused a stampede in which one young man was killed and several others injured. The recruitment was disrupted. Thereafter, in the established and apparently unalterable tradition, the mob went on the usual rampage.

It would be a dangerous delusion to assume that dismal episodes like these are mere aberrations. No one is suggesting that every jawan gets into the Army by bribing his way in. But judging by the evidence over several decades, the menace of entry into the Army on the wheels of cash is far more widespread than the authorities would like the country to believe. At the recruitment centres I have visited since the fifties, the “touts” swarm the place and visibly have a cosy relationship with the officers in charge. India’s is and has always been a wholly volunteer army, which is highly commendable. But growing unemployment has made it easier for those with itching palms and greedy hearts to have a field day. Whatever comes to notice is but the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

The state of affairs in relation to recruitment to the Centre’s paramilitary forces is infinitely worse and that concerning entry into the police force in any of the 28 states abysmal. In May, the CBI had arrested high officers of the CRPF because of a horrendous recruitment scam. Among the nine accused produced in a Patna court were an Inspector-General, a Deputy Inspector-General and two battalion commanders of the CRPF. According to the CBI’s charge-sheet, they and their civilian accomplices had amassed Rs 225 crore in just a few years.

Is it conceivable that a scandal of this magnitude could have gone on without the knowledge, if not connivance, of the force’s top officers? In fact, the CBI stated in the court that the I-G, the principal accused, was suspected of indulging in the “same corrupt practices” two years earlier, too. But he escaped punitive action. The arrests made in May were confined to the states of Bihar and Jharkhand. Under orders of the Union Home Ministry, the CBI is now probing similar complaints in UP, Punjab and Haryana. Sadly, the virus afflicting the CRPF is highly contagious. Other Central police organisations also infected heavily. About state police forces, the less said the better.

Safeguards such as holding written examinations before interviewing candidates seldom work. For, as the CRPF case showed, examination papers are leaked selectively to those agreeable to paying Rs 3 lakh each. For them interview boards are also “fixed”. All this burst into the open only because those unable to pay the requisite bribes screamed. In the absence of such shouting there is business as usual.

Up to now discussion has focused on recruitment at the lowest level of the forces concerned. What about the officers? Mercifully, in the armed forces as well as the Central police organisations and indeed even in the state police, things are reassuring. The Army officers come through the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy. Police officers are from the Indian Police Service (IPS), selected by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC). Moreover, while there always is a surfeit of candidates for Other Ranks, the Army suffers from an acute shortage of officers. Ironically, instead of getting better, this worrisome situation is getting worse. For, more and more officers of the middle rank, especially in the technical services, are seeking premature retirement. There is great demand for their talent and experience in the greener pastures of the private sector.

However, in the police forces, Central and state, there is a vast sector between the officer class and the lowest rung, consisting of a variety of inspectors, etc. The havoc in this sector is egregious. More than seven years have passed since a politically appointed chairman of the Punjab Public Services Commission was arrested after enormous hoard of cash was recovered from his house. It was then discovered that any police inspector wanting to become a deputy superintendent of police had to cough up two and a half lakh of rupees. There were fixed rates also for all other promotions and fresh appointments. What has happened to this case no one knows. Meanwhile, similarly depressing complaints have come in from several other states. No one seems bothered.

Two very painful questions arise. First, whoever pays big bribes to seek entry into a service or promotion within it, wouldn’t he or she use the opportunity to make at least twenty times that amount? And who would bear the brunt of this loot but the poor and long-suffering people?

Secondly, and this is even worse, if all one needs to get into a sensitive security force is to produce enough money, won’t various terrorist outfits, whether foreign or homegrown, infiltrate the service of their choice? The Army at least has counter-intelligence and field security units to take care of this problem. No Central or state police has. The profound dangers of this state of affairs should be obvious, especially at a time when the country has just set up a federal investigative agency for terrorism and plans to organise a 26,000-strong task force to take care of the Maoist menace. Men for both the new forces are to be drawn from the existing Central police organisations.

Under the circumstances, the Union government needs to appoint what the Ameicans call a blue-ribbon commission and the British a royal commission to find a way out of the morass into which all security forces are neck deep. It should work faster than the Liberhan Commission and the government should not treat its report like that of the Henderson-Brookes committee on the 1962 border war with China.

Mr Antony, what's your agenda for India's defence?

The steady drip of rain continued to bathe us that October afternoon as we lingered on to catch a glimpse of the candidate.

Our excitement brimmed over as we espied him emerging in a roofless jeep -- no outriders, no hooting escort vehicles, no security detail, no fanfare, just a solitary jeep -- standing in tandem with a lone party man, with a handkerchief tied like a bandana to protect his pate from the drizzle, heading towards the staff quarters where his potential voters resided.

He smiled and waved at us bunch of batchmates on the roadside. Thrilled, we waved back with typical ninth-standard-boyish exuberance. After all, it was not every day that a chief minister waved at you from close proximity!

The year 1977 turned out to be an annus mirabilis for Arackaparambil Kurian Antony. On April 17, all of 37, he earned the distinction of becoming the youngest chief minister of Kerala. The incumbent, K Karunakaran, who was the home minister during the Emergency, had to demit office following allegations of unconstitutional excesses.

A K Antony replaced him, but as he was not a member of the Legislative Assembly, he had to become one via a by-election. He chose to contest from Kazhakootam, and came canvassing that day to my alma mater (Sainik School, Kazhakootam) situated bang in the middle of the constituency.

The year 2009 is definitely not 1977. Forget a drenched one, now you cannot imagine a chief minister moving about without a cavalcade, girded by finger-on-trigger commandos, flanked by his retinue, surrounded by an army of hangers-on.

Discount the effaced hairline, and Antony of 2009 has much likeness to Antony of 1977. Even his loudest critics will concede that he has possessed himself in Gandhian simplicity and scruples. Similarly, even his ardent admirers will admit that he still lacks the dynamism that was found wanting in that high noon of 1977.

The second coming; Antony reloaded

Besides defence, the armed forces are also a tool of the government to accomplish national political objectives, stated and unstated. Yet India seems to be the sole major power not to have a national military doctrine, which does not speak well of our politico-bureaucratic establishment.

So, blessed with or not, as defence minister redux, Antony will need oodles of dynamism to infuse a strategic vision to his ministry and the armed forces, inculcate a strategic culture and impart a strategic direction to helm them away from the cul-de-sac they are confined in now.

Our revitalised prime minister started the ball rolling by directing his ministers to chart a 100-day programme to convey he meant business this time round. Despite the convulsions rocking our immediate neighbourhood, despite external aggression (terrorism) and internal insurrection endangering national security, the defence minister has conspicuously absented himself from enlightening us citizens on what he intended to pursue in the first 100 days.

I mean if the defence minister or the national security adviser (NSA) has a 100-day dream, it remains a well-concealed secret. Vital issues of national security cannot be dealt so casually. Perhaps only another terror strike will jolt these high functionaries into some action.

Since we are halfway through that much-ballyhooed 100-day period, it would be an exercise in futility to enumerate a 100-day charter now. I shall therefore dwell on three very important steps that have the potential to convert our armed forces into a modern fighting force, with an operational and organisational kernel in sync with the requisites of a 21st-century military.

Modernise or perish; governmental flippancy is enfeebling our forces

During the Kargil [ Images ] War, a frustrated General V P Malik, the army chief, made a grim statement that his men would fight with whatever they have, an allusion to the ill-equipped, ill-protected, ill-shod, ill-armed Indian soldier.

With electoral politics overriding national security, with defence ministry eyed by politicians as a milch cow, with the ghosts of Bofors haunting South Block to nix fresh acquisitions, the armed forces routinely return huge chunks of budgetary allocation (Rs 7,000 crores returned just last year as unspent), which has more or less paralysed modernisation.

Barring few exceptions, the three services are forced to make do with antiquated hardware and systems, and DRDO duds in some cases.

Post-Kargil, a Defence Acquisition Council was created to hasten the R&D, production and procurement of military equipment, but the exertions of the DAC have so far produced only stillborn babies!

With the Chinese behemoth having revved up into a menacing juggernaut, with the US administration indulging Pakistan with billions to buy choicest weapons, our haemorrhaging armed forces are crying to be outfitted with lethal weaponry. Antony has to find ways to bridle red tape and to fast-track acquisitions and upgrades before it is too late.

Deliver the defence forces from bureaucratic meddling and meanness

The armed forces are not simply an aggregation of guns, tanks, aircraft, ships, submarines, missiles, etc; its personnel form its nucleus, and there is something called morale that fires their fighting fitness and backs it up. Commentators have written expansively about how the soldiers and veterans were hard-done-by the Sixth Pay Commission, how the impudent babus then rubbed chilli in their wounds, thus scarring their psyche almost irreversibly.

For instance, though the Pay Commission made no such recommendation, the babus maliciously segregated veterans into pre-2006, post-2006 and other divisions, to perpetrate some kind of apartheid besides robbing the so-called pre-Jan 2006 veterans of their dues. Now another bureaucratic exercise is afoot to fob the veterans off with a diluted version of 'one rank one pension', a legitimate demand that earned the imprimatur of the Supreme Court 27 years ago, and hitherto opposed by none expressly!

The prime minister intervened by announcing a separate Pay Commission for the defence forces, but with a rider -- the next time onwards! There is however no guarantee that the government a decade later will stand by Dr Manmohan Singh's [ Images ] verbal assurance. Hence Antony has to do two things to demonstrate the UPA government's professed solidarity with the armed forces: one, push through the necessary statutory provision to confer de jure backing to the prime minister's word, and two, disband the present anomalies committee populated by the babus and constitute a lite Pay Commission with members also from the defence community, to swiftly disentangle and resolve all the anomalies contrived by the clique of secretaries.

The military wants 'civilian control' exercised by the political leadership directly, but in the name of 'civilian control,' the foxy babus, through coup mongering, have erected a bureaucratic wall between the political executive and the service chiefs, which has ossified over the years, thus converting 'civilian control' into 'civil service's control' in effect!

A generalist defence secretary, lower in warrant of precedence vis-a-vis the service chiefs, actually enjoying the last word in military matters is absurd. The babus have thus disallowed the involvement of the armed forces in national security issues. How long will the babu ride roughshod over the soldier?

I am not arguing for dumping the bureaucratic interface, but minimising the number of civilian busybodies will certainly enhance the efficiency and sinews of the armed forces. Antony can accomplish this, with minimal bloodletting, with the third step -- restructuring the higher defence management. And the blueprint is readily available in a strongroom of his ministry; he needs to dust it off and implement it.

Jointmanship and Chief of Defence Staff, the catalysts of military perestroika

In the light of the lessons it learned from the 1991 Gulf War, the United States military expounded a concept called Effects-Based Operations (EBO) to tackle threats in irregular fourth generation warfare.

In a recent article, Admiral Arun Prakash, the former navy chief, explained EBO with the following example. 'Should we want to undertake a limited precision strike on a terrorist training camp in our neighbourhood, the "effect" desired would be the delivery of "x" tons of high explosive with a specified accuracy on target.'

'Under the EBO concept, this mission could be accomplished with equal dexterity by air force strike aircraft, army missile or artillery units, naval carrier-borne fighters, and even cruise-missile armed submarines. The actual choice of weapon system would be dictated by a variety of factors including effectiveness, economy of effort, surprise, etc.'

The beauty of EBO lies in its flexibility. But are the Indian armed forces EBO-ready? No. Because the concept of EBO hinges on tri-services jointmanship.

Rear Admiral Raja Menon posed the following query in an article:

'China has a strategy of tying India down south of the Himalayas, using Pakistan as a proxy. Unless India acts with determination and urgency, we could end up with a nuclear arms race, the outlines of which are already discernible. The latest act of perfidy and duplicity is in arming Pakistan with a cruise missile Babur with a strategic capability (range of 1,000 km), unlike the BrahMos. The Babur harkens back to the Chinese Hongniao, which goes back to the Ukrainian Kh-65, which goes back to the American Tomahawk. The Babur will inevitably form the backbone of a first-strike capability, with the Chinese factory made Shaheen II as the long-range first strike. The Shaheen I will probably be relegated to a second strike role. China's nuclear strategy is therefore Pakistan's nuclear strategy and we are the victims. The Indian answer to this carefully crafted collusive strategy is yet to be worked out. The question is, who will do it?'

Indeed, who will do it? Nobody. Unless we create the post of Chief of Defence Staff or CDS.

Jointmanship or jointness can be described as inter-services cooperation across the entire spectrum of military functions -- be it training, research, planning, procurement, operations -- in pursuit of a common objective. In fact, the most lucid definition of jointness came from General Colin Powell: 'Train as a team, fight as a team and win as a team.'

Jointmanship equips and readies the forces for joint operations. Jointmanship facilitates collective assessment and cohesive action, thus maximising power. Jointmanship enables rapider deployment of forces.

This begs the question: If jointmanship is so cool, why haven't we embraced it so far? Because our governments have been reluctant to create the post of CDS, the agent that can catalyse jointmanship.

By the way, the seminal concept of jointmanship is not alien to India. Military historians trace jointmanship back to the fourth century BC! The Mauryan Empire had a unified headquarters for its army and navy, with the infantry, cavalry, commissariat, elephants, chariots and admiralty functioning under one commander-in-chief. Needless to add, orchestrating these diverse arms into a composite force was no mean feat.

Immediately after independence, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the governor general, tasked General Hastings Lionel Ismay, his Chief of Staff, with the creation of the higher defence management framework. He advocated the establishment of a Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) comprising the three service chiefs, chaired on a rotational basis by the chief left with the longest service.

Though other countries have moved on, India is still saddled with this six-decades-old anachronistic command structure, where the chairman of COSC remains primus inter pares (first among equals), a toothless one at that.

Despite supreme commanders like Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, General Dwight Eisenhower, General Douglas McArthur and Admiral Mountbatten crafting the Allied victory, the Second World War exposed major flaws in the core, and the need for a more compact, robust, harmonised structure dawned on the victors.

Instead of basking in triumphalism, they consolidated the process of integration. The landmark was finally pegged out on October 1, 1986, when US President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganisation Act.

Considered an exemplar of jointness, the Goldwater-Nichols Act expanded the scope and powers of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and recast and streamlined the chain of command, which now runs from the president through the secretary of defence directly to the theatre commanders, bypassing the service chiefs who were assigned an advisory role.

On last count, in different guises, over 60 countries had embraced the jointmanship paradigm and the integrated military command system roughly based on the Goldwater-Nichols model.

Our first tryst with jointmanship could be traced to 1987 when the COSC formally anointed Lieutenant General Depinder Singh, GOC-in-C of Southern Command, as the Overall Force Commander of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka [ Images ], but the arrangement fell apart as his naval and air force co-equals refused to play ball.

Even during the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and Kargil conflict of 1999, jointmanship was given the short shrift and the three services followed their own scripts.

Concussed by the utter failure of the various agencies to detect the Pakistani infiltration into the Kargil sectors, the government appointed a four-member committee chaired by K Subrahmanyam to prescribe remedial measures to reinforce national security. To implement the Kargil Review Committee recommendations, the government constituted a Group of Ministers, which in turn formed four Task Forces to recommend the restructuring of the national security apparatus.

Arun Singh, the former minister of state for defence, headed the task force that delved into defence management. The government approved all his recommendations except the most revolutionary, far-reaching one -- the appointment of a CDS as the principal military adviser to the political executive.

Left holding a hot potato, the Indian genius to conjure up a halfway house when confronted with hard choices came to the government's rescue!

The Services Headquarters, which were designated post-Independence as Attached Offices of the Department of Defence, were bestowed with a new nomenclature -- Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence; two new commands, viz. Strategic Forces Command and Andaman & Nicobar Command were sanctioned; the post for a three-star officer was created with the vertiginous appellation 'Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chiefs of Staff Committee' to be the figurehead of the newly blessed Integrated Defence Staff (IDS).

The IDS, originally conceived as the headquarters of the CDS, was left headless, thus artfully, effectively mothballing the CDS!

Why do successive governments dodge the installation of CDS? First, the two usual suspects: The politicians fear the CDS will grow too big for his boots; the bureaucrats fear a dilution in their power and naturally, they do not want to let go off their stranglehold over the military.

U.S. may put up 'defense umbrella' over Mideast

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says her warning is aimed at getting Iran to reconsider its nuclear program. But some say it suggests the U.S. is bracing for the reality of a nuclear-armed Iran.

By Paul Richter

July 23, 2009

Reporting from Washington -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Wednesday that the United States may erect a "defense umbrella" over the Middle East if Tehran continues its nuclear program, a sign that the Obama administration is preparing for the reality of an Iranian bomb.

Clinton, appearing at a regional meeting in Thailand, also laid down a tough line on North Korea, declaring that the United States and the communist nation's neighbors will offer no new incentives for the Pyongyang government to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

"We do not intend to reward North Korea just for returning to the table, nor do we intend to reward them for actions they have already committed to, then reneged on," Clinton said after conferring with ministers of China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

In raising the possibility of a "defense umbrella," Clinton insisted that she was not abandoning the current U.S. policy toward Iran, which involves a combination of diplomatic outreach and sanctions. Even so, her words suggested that U.S. officials are looking ahead in case the approach, which faces formidable obstacles, proves unsuccessful.

Although President Obama has pushed hard to draw the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table, some U.S. officials and many outside experts have doubts that outreach efforts will succeed. And the likely next step, an effort to organize tougher international economic sanctions, faces strong resistance from Russia, China and India.

Some senior figures in the Obama administration have suggested that the U.S. might have to live one day with the reality of an Iranian bomb.

Defense Undersecretary Ashton B. Carter wrote before joining the administration that if diplomacy failed, the fallback was a policy of "containment and punishment."

Gary Samore, the chief of nonproliferation at the National Security Council, wrote before Obama was elected that Iran would probably act like other nuclear-armed states and was not likely to give terrorists the bomb.

The United States offers extensive military equipment and commitments to a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

A "defense umbrella" suggests that the United States would promise to retaliate against any strike on the protected countries, a policy it follows for Japan and South Korea.

Clinton didn't say that the United States would offer the protection of a "nuclear umbrella." But James Dobbins, a former U.S. diplomat now with the Rand Corp., said that with the enormous U.S. conventional forces in the region, the United States probably wouldn't need such a promise to retaliate.

Although Clinton's words didn't necessarily indicate a policy shift, "they do suggest they're seriously considering the requirements of deterrence," Dobbins said.

Clinton's suggestion drew a quick reaction from the Israeli government, which feels threatened by Iran's nuclear program and has been pushing the U.S. and other countries to move aggressively to halt it.

Dan Meridor, Israel's minister of intelligence and atomic energy, told Israel's Army Radio: "I was not thrilled to hear the American statement from yesterday that they will protect their allies with a nuclear umbrella -- as if they have already come to terms with a nuclear Iran. I think that's a mistake."

Clinton said her goal was to convince Iran's leaders that the bomb would be of little benefit.

"We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment: that if the U.S. extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it's unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate, as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear weapon."

Dobbins said Clinton's comments probably also were aimed at reassuring Iran's neighbors and convincing them that they do not need to build their own nuclear weapons if Tehran acquires the know-how.

There are wide fears that countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia would feel compelled to launch their own weapons programs if Tehran gained nuclear weapons capability.

Clinton said that Iran "faces the prospect, if it pursues nuclear weapons, of sparking an arms race in the region. That should affect the reality of what Iran intends to do."

Clinton's warning on North Korea was another sign that the administration is deeply reluctant to try to buy North Korea's participation in the 6-year-old six-nation disarmament talks, as past administrations have done, and is largely focusing on containing the proliferation of nuclear and missile equipment.

Both the Clinton and Bush administrations offered sweeteners for Pyongyang to resume talks. But Clinton insisted that the five countries presented a "united front" and that North Korea needed to undergo a "complete and irreversible denuclearization" before it will receive any additional rewards.

The chief U.S. goal in recent weeks has been to persuade other Asian countries to help enforce a United Nations resolution that calls for blocking shipments of banned weapons and halting international financing of North Korea's arms trade.

Clinton said that Russia, China, South Korea and Japan have agreed to cooperate in implementing the resolution.,0,6136414.story

New website gives insight into army

By Li Xiaokun and Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) will launch an official bilingual website on Aug 1.

New website gives insight into army

The move, military experts say, is a leap forward for the Chinese army, which is attempting to be more transparent and focus more on "public diplomacy".

The launch of the site, in Chinese and in English, is meant to allow more access to the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Senior Colonel Huang Xueping, deputy director-general of the MND's information office, said yesterday that the website will operate on a trial basis. The start date marks the 82nd anniversary of the founding of the 2.3-million-strong PLA.

Access to the PLA has been limited to tightly controlled reports that have appeared in a handful of media organizations.

"The launch of the MND website is a major step for the PLA to open up to the outside world," said Huang, in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

"As the Chinese army develops, the army has valued diplomacy with foreign militaries and has paid great attention to informing the public of China's defense policies and troop images through the platform we established."

The official did not elaborate on the website's contents, but web editors running the official site said the portal will "cover a large amount of information", featuring both regular activities and background about the Chinese army.

"We hope the website is as informative as Defense Link, the gateway to the US Pentagon," one editor said.

The Chinese army in recent years has sped up military-to-military exchanges with foreign troops and eased up on its reluctance to release information about the PLA's forces.

The navy's anti-piracy fleet also shared intelligence with other nations' naval fleets, including the US and Japan, during its historic mission to guard Chinese and foreign merchant ships against the threat of pirates off the coast of Somalia.

China has sent three contingents of warships to the troubled region since last December, joining the naval forces of about 20 nations in combating piracy.

The PLA invited 29 naval delegations to the coastal city of Qingdao in April for a grand fleet review and naval exchanges to mark the navy's 60th anniversary.

Foreign military attaches were also invited to a missile base near Beijing in April.

And many will be on hand to observe the weapons display at Tiananmen Square during a military parade marking the country's 60th National Day on Oct 1.

"It is a welcome development, definitely, and we look forward to knowing what will be the content on display on the official website," said Lieutenant Colonel Puneet Ahuja, deputy defense attache of the Indian embassy in China.

"As more attention is being given to online information, the Chinese army has moved one step forward in its public diplomacy," said Professor Li Xiguang, an advocate of press officers for China's cabinet and ministries and executive dean of Tsinghua University's School of Journalism and Communication in Beijing.

Huang said the MND is working to improve its press release mechanism. He said information offices will be established at more military institutions nationwide.

The army's official newspaper reported that the first group of "press officers", selected from different armed forces, graduated from a boot camp on public relations in March.

"We may consider making more regular press briefings in the future while keeping contacts with domestic and overseas media organizations in Beijing," said Huang. "The aim is to release information on China's defense and military modernization to create a better understanding of the Chinese military."

Peng Kuang contributed to the story

ISI chief to India: talk to us, we make policy too

Nirupama Subramanian and Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi will only respond to request made by Pakistani government

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: Days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani met in Egypt, the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence floated a suggestion that India deal not just with Pakistan’s civilian government but also directly with its Army and intelligence agency.

Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha made the out-of-the-box overture during a meeting earlier this month with the three Indian defence advisers representing the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force attached to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, The Hindu has learnt.

The sit-in at Lt. Gen. Pasha’s office in Rawalpindi on July 3 took place entirely at his initiative, though it was ostensibly convened in response to a request made by the Indian High Commission “years before.” It is normal for defence advisors attached to various diplomatic missions in Islamabad to seek and be granted calls on the ISI director-general — a wing of the ISI is the co-ordinating agency for them — but Indians have rarely had an audience.

During their discussion, Lt. Gen. Pasha and the defence advisors did not refer to the Mumbai attacks or the investigations into it, either on the Indian or Pakistani side. Nevertheless, senior officials in Delhi saw the interaction as an attempt by the ISI to “reach out” to India in the run-up to the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting of the two Prime Ministers.

The Hindu has learnt that during the course of the extremely cordial meeting, Lt. Gen. Pasha came clean in stating that the ISI and the Pakistan Army were involved in framing Pakistan’s India policy, along with the Foreign Office. He made the oblique suggestion that India deal directly with these three institutions if it had a similar three-way mechanism.

In their effort to understand the genesis of this idea, Indian officials sought to establish whether the ISI chief — who has a reputation for speaking his mind freely — had merely made an off-the-cuff remark or was floating a trial balloon after consultations with all other “stakeholders” in the Pakistani establishment.

Ministry of External Affairs officials asked Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik about the ISI chief’s suggestion, but the envoy was unaware that the meeting had even taken place. This led the MEA to conclude that the Pakistani foreign office may not be in the loop.

Asked about the July 3 meeting last week, Mr. Malik confirmed to The Hindu that it took place but said he was unaware of what was discussed. Major-General Athar Abbas, the Pakistani military spokesman, said he had no knowledge of the meeting. Officials at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad also refused comment.

Highly placed South Block officials told The Hindu that India is not averse to talking to the Pakistani military or the ISI even as it engages with the civilian government but there were two problems with the suggestion. First, any proposal to open new lines of communication must come from the Pakistani government. And second, the power structures in India and Pakistan cannot really compare with each other.

Although Prime Minister Singh and Prime Minister Gilani agreed the ISI chief could come to India in the immediate aftermath of last November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Islamabad quickly backtracked. Since then, no formal proposal for interaction between the ISI and an Indian intelligence agency has been made. Indeed, Mr. Gilani told The Hindu at Sharm el-Sheikh that the question of an intelligence chiefs’ dialogue did not come up in his meeting with Dr. Singh, a fact confirmed by Indian officials.

But apart from form, it is the question of structure that poses an obstacle. “The Research & Analysis Wing operates within the law and is subordinate to the government,” a senior intelligence official told The Hindu. “There, the government is subordinate to the ISI, which is a law unto itself.”

South Block officials said the Indian High Commissioner and his officers could and should be in touch with the Pakistani army and intelligence chiefs. “But I wonder what would be the point of the Indian Army Chief talking to his Pakistani counterpart … their job definitions are so different.”

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