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Sunday, 23 August 2009

From Today's Papers - 23 Aug 09

Asian Age

Asian Age

Asian Age

The Pioneer

Asian Age

Asian Age

The Pioneer

The Pioneer

Times of India

Times of India

DNA India

DNA India

Fighting the Taliban
Odds stacked against the Pakistan Army
by Gurmeet Kanwal

Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of South Waziristan, has been killed by a US missile launched from an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) and a bitter succession war has broken out in the TTP.

Pakistan’s north-west is now so deeply embroiled in insurgency that, for a change, no one has made even a token statement of disapproval against yet another violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by US forces deployed in Afghanistan. Perhaps the government and the Pakistan army are grateful to the US for helping them to get rid of an iconic symbol of defiance.

After the partially successful Operation Rah-e-Rast (the Right Path) in Buner-Swat Valley and the long-drawn Operation Mizan in South Waziristan, which has failed to meet its objectives so far, it has clearly emerged that the Pakistan army is finding it difficult to effectively subdue the Taliban, leave aside rooting them out.

Also, some elements in its higher echelons are not seriously inclined to do so as they see in this fight against the Pushtuns portents of an impending mutiny. The army comprises over 20 per cent Pushtuns and they are bound to be disenchanted if it kills their fellow Pushtuns in large numbers.

The army created the original Afghan Taliban and considers it a strategic asset. Hence, the army is still following the duplicitous policy of running with the (Afghan) Taliban hare and hunting (the Pakistan Taliban) with the US hounds. Inevitably, it is failing in both endeavours and has antagonised both the protagonists. On April 22, 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Pakistan of “abdicating to the Taliban and the extremists.”

Insurgency in the NWFP and FATA is proving difficult for the Pakistan army to handle primarily because its tactics, techniques and procedures are more suited to conventional conflict. Its policy of placing the Frontier Corps, a border guarding force, in the vanguard while the regular army provides support and trains and equips itself for surgical counter-insurgency interventions has been unsuccessful and casualties have been mounting.

The use of fighter jets and helicopter gunships for air-to-ground strikes and heavy artillery bombardments to attack terrorist hideouts is proving to be completely counter-productive and is rapidly alienating the tribal people. It is also compelling people to leave their homes. Unless it engages in close combat with the Taliban and systematically destroys armed resistance, the Pakistan army will be unable to gain control over and hold the areas that it has lost to them.

Approximately 1,00,000 army troops are now deployed for counter-insurgency operations. The Peshawar-based 11 Corps, comprising 7 and 9 Infantry Divisions, is responsible for counter-insurgency operations in the NWFP. It is stretched thin on ground whereas the Taliban are well prepared to launch high-profile hit-and-run attacks and melt away into the mountainous terrain.

The Okara-based 14 Infantry Division is deployed in the area Bannu-Mir Ali-Dera Ismail Khan in South Waziristan (Operation Mizan) since early-2007. It is finding it difficult to come to grips with the situation as the TTP has the initiative on its home turf.

Besides 14 Infantry Division, a large number of troops from the corps and divisions which are traditionally responsible for operations on the eastern front with India were inducted into the area of Buner and Swat Valley for Operation Rah-e-Rast.

According to the usually well informed Pakistan analyst Brian Cloughley, who is occasionally briefed by the Pakistan Army, these included “two brigades of the Mangla-based 19 Infantry Division (10 Corps)… two brigades of the Gujranwala-based 37 Infantry Division (1 Corps), two brigades of 23 Infantry Division (10 corps) under the command of HQ 19 Infantry Division and the Sialkot-based 54 Independent infantry Brigade (30 Corps). Two integral armoured units and two or three artillery regiments were also deployed… units of 11 Corps took positions in Lower Dir, Buner and along the Sawt Valley to the south of Mingora securing ground for the formations from the east…” (‘Swat Team’, Jane’s Intelligence Review, August 2009).

The operation was launched with 20,000 troops backed by massive air force and artillery support. While many militants were killed – the army claims that it killed 1,592 militants, many others fled the area to live to fight another day despite a tight cordon. The extremist elements are bound to return when the army moves out of the area. The operation resulted in a mass exodus of people from Dir, Swat, Malakand and Buner, the largest internal displacement of population since the great exodus of 1947.

Over two million refugees streamed into Peshawar and other towns in the NWFP, presenting a complex humanitarian challenge for a weak and financially insecure government and for the international relief agencies. The army is now in the process of engaging the TTP in South Waziristan in Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Road to Deliverance).

Brian Cloughley has estimated that up to five brigades have been deployed for this operation that is expected to last much longer than the Buner-Swat Valley operation. The TTP is fighting back with ferocity and is likely to further escalate its hit-and-run raids, ambushes and IED attacks after the death of its leader Baitullah Mehsud. Though the army might wish to launch surgical strikes against suspected hideouts and disengage quickly so as not to alienate the tribal population, it will be unable to do so.

The Pakistan army lacks counter-insurgency weaponry and equipment. Despite uncontrollable internal instability, the army has been investing in upgrading its war fighting capability for conventional war with India – at worst a distant threat. The army has also not yet succeeded in acquiring basic infantry skills that are necessary for dealing with internal security challenges. At a conservative estimate, it will take at least another two to three years to upgrade its capabilities to the level necessary to face the new challenges provided it begins in earnest immediately and makes a determined effort to succeed.

The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi

2003 Gangrape
Life term for Prez guards
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 22
A Delhi court today sentenced to life imprisonment two Presidential guards convicted for kidnapping and raping a minor girl at the Buddha Jayanti Park here on October 6, 2003.

Handing out the sentence to Harpreet Singh and Satyender Singh, who had been posted in the bodyguard’s department of Rashtrapati Bhawan when the crime was committed, Additional Sessions judge, S K Sarvaria explained that such a heinous crime, particularly by such persons, deserved “exemplary and deterrent” punishment.

The judge also imposed a fine of Rs. 7,000 on them. The two would have to undergo imprisonment for an additional nine months if they failed to pay the fine, the judge ruled.

Two others, Kuldeep Singh and Munesh Kumar, who had been convicted for robbing the victim, were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years each.

Harpreet and Satyender were also awarded a similar 10-year sentence each for robbery, but this would run concurrently with their life term. The judge had convicted the accused on August 17 for offences under various sections of the IPC.

All four had faced rape charges under Section 376(2) (g) IPC. While Harpreet and Satyender were convicted for the crime, the other two had been acquitted.

However, all of them were found guilty for offences under Sections 394/366/34 IPC. The victim, a first year student at Jesus and Mary College here, had been subjected to the crime when she was strolling in the park with her boyfriend, Ashish Kumar.

Chargesheet filed in Kargil coffin scam

New Delhi, August 22
The CBI has filed its charge sheet in the infamous 2002 “coffin scam” of the Kargil war against four persons, including two retired Army officials and one serving officer. Official sources said the charge sheet was filed on August 19 in a CBI Special Court here.

The CBI has not named the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, who had come under the scanner, following allegations that poor quality aluminium caskets were bought from USA at “exorbitant rates” after the Kargil war. Sources said Fernandes during the questioning by the CBI could not remember anything that happened during the particular period. — PTI

CBI clean chit to George Fernandes in coffin scam

August 22, 2009 22:12 IST

The Central Bureau of Investigation has filed its chargesheet in the infamous 2002 'coffin scam', against four persons including two retired Army officials and one serving officer.

Official sources said the chargesheet was filed on August 19 in a CBI Special Court in New Delhi [ Images ].

The CBI has not named the then Defence Minister George Fernandes [ Images ], who had come under the scanner following allegations that poor quality aluminum caskets were bought from United States at 'exorbitant rates' after the Kargil [ Images ] war.

Sources said Fernandes -- during the questioning by the CBI -- could not remember anything that happened during the particular period.

The chargesheet was filed against then military attache in the Indian Embassy in the US, Major General (Retd) Arun Roy, Col (Retd) S K Malik, Col S D Singh and US based private person Victor Baiza of Buritrol and Baizarces, the vendor which supplied the casket.

"This case is related to purchase of aluminum caskets to carry dead body but it was subsequently rejected. In the meantime, Victor Baiza had already obtained the payment against Letter of Credit. This caused a loss of Rs 89 lakh to the government exchequer. Therefore, a chargesheet has been filed against four persons," CBI spokesperson Harsh Bhal said.

He said the charges have been framed under different section of IPC, including Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 IPC (cheating) and under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act for alleged abuse of official position for personal gains.

The coffin scam, which rocked the nation during the Kargil war when body bags were used to bring back bodies of soldiers killed during the conflict, had come under the scanner of Comptroller and Auditor General, which had found lot of flaws in the procurement of caskets.

The UPA government then referred a number of defence deals entered during the NDA regime to CBI on the basis of objections raised by the CAG.

At the height of controversy, Fernandes had given clean chit to the procurement process for purchasing of coffins for the soldiers killed during the Kargil war.

'India has a legitimate interest in Af-Pak'

August 19, 2009 16:52 IST

The Ministry of External Affairs has never discouraged United States Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke [ Images ] from visiting India, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor [ Images ] told's Aziz Haniffa in an interview.

Refuting reports about India's concerns regarding Holbrooke, Dr Tharoor said, "His portfolio is very clear. His portfolio is what the Americans call Af-Pak -- it is Pakistan and Afghanistan. As far as we are concerned, we welcome Mr Holbrooke keeping us informed of this thinking and his deliberations."

It has been speculated that New Delhi [ Images ] was apprehensive about the Obama [ Images ] administration subtly attempting to extend Holbrooke's portfolio to include India.

But the minister was quick to add, "We certainly would not accept any hyphenation between his portfolio and us. But we have a legitimate interest in what is going on in that part of the world and we are very grateful that the US takes the trouble to keep us informed and to consult with us as this situation is being managed by them."

Dr Tharoor also reiterated India's commitment to Afghanistan, on the eve of that country's presidential election in the war-ravaged country, and declared that India was proud of the courage of its people.

"India is fundamentally committed to Afghanistan. We are very proud of our contributions to the development of Afghanistan, through our various development projects, which have cost a billion dollars now -- everything from road-building, hospital construction, schools and so on," he said.

"At the same time, we are really applauding the efforts of the Afghan people to go to the polls and enjoy the same rights as Indians enjoy -- that is the right in a democracy to choose their own leadership and to determine their own political destiny," Dr Tharoor added.

"We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan people in this endeavour and we have both condemnation and contempt for those who would seek to disrupt Afghanistan's fledgling democracy through bombs," he asserted.

Speaking about Holbrooke's twice-cancelled visit to New Delhi, Dr Tharoor said, "Mr Holbrooke has good friends in Delhi. He is well regarded here and we would welcome him, but obviously there is the question of logistics. It's not a small matter because when a senior and distinguished visitor comes from abroad, we want to make sure that his official interlocutors are all available to see him."

"This is an area in which there is a lot of travel involved for senior officials as well as competing visits by other foreign dignitaries and foreign leaders," he said, and added, "So, it becomes very often a scheduling issue, which is then made out unfortunately by some to be more than it is."

Incidentally, Holbrooke had been visibly annoyed when earlier this month, after completing a trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan, he was asked whether there was a rift between him and India.

'If there's a rift between me and India, it would be the first rift between me and India since I was seven years old. India was the first country in the world I was ever aware of. I have a special feeling for it,' he had then said.

Holbrooke had disclosed that he was scheduled to 'visit India in mid-August' during the Independence Day celebrations. But that trip was cancelled as well, further fueling rumors that he was not wanted in New Delhi.

Indo-US air, army exercises are message to the Dragon

Uttara Choudhury / DNA

China’s high-profile war games, launched last week by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with 50,000 troops, have alarmed India and made the US nervous.

The US is taking great pains to ensure the joint India-US army and air exercises scheduled to start in October send a message to the Dragon through their sophistication.

A military official told DNA the US will move a convoy of eight-wheeled armoured Strykers from its Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii to Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh for the October war games, billed as the largest exercise between the two countries. Armoured Strykers, which can withstand rocket-propelled grenades, will demonstrate their agility in a series of drills in Babina near Jhansi called “Yudh Abhyas” that will focus on counter-insurgency.

“Strykers with extra armour in Iraq and Afghanistan have helped safeguard them — they are the best machines in the world for patrols on roads that are laced with bombs,” said a US military official.

Menacing and massive armoured Strykers will rumble alongside Russian T-72 tanks belonging to the Indian army’s 31 Armoured Division which patrols India’s scorching western desert border with Pakistan. At least 500 American soldiers, mostly drawn from the 2nd Stryker Brigade, will converge on Babina to participate in the Yudh Abhyas drills in October, which will coincide with aerial exercises in Agra.

The US will deploy Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Hercules aircraft for the “Cope India” air drills. India which has already inked a $2.1-billion deal with Boeing for eight P-8i long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft has signalled interest in buying 15 Chinook helicopters.

India also plans to buy six Hercules transport planes from Lockheed Martin for $962 million and will get delivery in 2011. The Indian Air Force may also be shopping around for a transport aircraft like the giant Globemaster.

China was the world’s second biggest defence spender after the US last year.

Clean chit for Fernandes, 3 army officers chargesheet

Three Indian Army officers and a US supplier were chargesheeted on Saturday by the CBI in the Kargil war coffin scam. The agency, however, has given a clean chit to then defence minister George Fernandes.

“The CBI has named Major General (retd) Arun Roye, Colonel (retd) S.K. Malik and a serving officer Colonel F.B. Singh, besides a private person and US citizen Victor Baiza in the chargesheet. But Fernandes’s does not figure in the chargesheet,” said a CBI officer who did not want to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The Defence Ministry had imported 500 aluminum caskets from US-based funeral service company Buitron and Baiza to transport the bodies of soldiers killed during the Kargil War. It was alleged that the ministry gave a go-by to all procedures of defence procurement to buy each casket for $2,500 (Rs 1.21 lakh) — nearly 14 times higher than the actual price. In the first lot, 150 caskets were received after the war had ended in July 1999.

Similar caskets were supplied to the United Nation’s mission in Somalia and the US Army for $172 (Rs 8,250) each.

CBI spokesman Harsh Bhal told HT that the chargesheet was filed in the Patiala House Courts of Special Judge O.P. Saini on August 19. The accused have been challaned on charges of corruption, criminal conspiracy and cheating.

Although an order had been placed for the purchase of aluminum caskets, it was rejected subsequently. “In the meantime, however, the private person (Victor Baiza) had already received the payment against the Letter of Credit (for the supply). This caused a loss of Rs 89 lakh to the government exchequer,” Bhal added.

After the scam came to light in 2002, then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee had termed the allegations against Fernandes as baseless. But some parties had demanded his resignation.

In 2004, however, the UPA government ordered a CBI inquiry into the coffin scam.

India begins $10.4 bln fighter jet trials

Sunday, 23 Aug, 2009 | 02:51 AM PST |

NEW DELHI: India started field trials to buy 126 fighter jets this week, defence officials said on Friday, moving forward on a $10.4 billion deal to modernise the air force.

Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, France's Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin Corp's F-16, Russia's MiG-35, Sweden's Saab JAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium of European companies, are in the race for the contract, one of the biggest in play.

‘The trials have begun in full swing and it will take a year to complete it in different places and weather conditions,’ Nung Sanglemba Ao, a defence ministry official, told Reuters.

This week, two pilots are flying Boeing's Super Hornets in the southern city of Bangalore to test the planes' manoeuvrability and effectiveness, defence officials said.

The aircraft will be tested in extreme cold conditions in the Himalayas and the hot and humid deserts of Rajasthan, an air force spokesman said.

India is one of the world's biggest arms importers, and its government plans to spend more than $30 billion over the next five years to upgrade its largely Soviet-era arsenal to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China.

Lockheed last year sold six C-130J military transport planes to India for about $1.1 billion, while Boeing has already sealed a $2.1 billion deal to sell eight maritime patrol aircraft.

Israel and India sign missile system deal

Published: Aug. 22, 2009 at 7:29 AM

Israel's Rafael defense company will provide the Indian army with surface-to-air missile systems in a deal said to be worth over $1 billion.

Israeli media reports said the deal was approved recently by the Indian Cabinet. Rafael will supply India with 18 SPYDER missile systems between 2011 and 2012.

The anti-aircraft system is a quick-reaction, low-level, surface-to-air missile designed to counter attacks by aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and precision guided munitions, the Israeli company said.

The system's truck-mounted missile firing units carry four missiles on rotatable launchers. A standard missile battery contains up to six missile firing units per battery, the company said.

The system has a 360-degree engagement capability in all weather conditions, day or night, and can intercept incoming threats at a range of between 0.62 miles to 9.3 miles (1 to 15 kilometers).

Israel defense exports to India have reached $3 billion, making it the largest arms supplier to India, surpassing Russia, the Israeli newspaper Globes reported Thursday.

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