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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

From Today's Papers - 09 Sep 09

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Why think tanks are ignored
by Satish Misra and Neil Padukone

Concerns have been expressed on the role and relevance of think tanks in India. A former US Department of State official, Daniel Markey, who has been studying India for some time, recently observed that India’s rise as a great power is constrained by the country’s own foreign policy establishment and lack of policy relevant scholarship by think tanks.

The Group of Ministers (GoM), set up after the Kargil war, had similarly pointed out that “there is a need to ensure that the government’s policy and decision making processes are informed by the findings of rigorous analyses and research”.

In the information age, think tanks play a decisive role in shaping public policy, public opinion and official decisions. It becomes all the more significant in the system of competitive politics and particularly in a democratic polity.

For India, which is transiting from a feudal cultural society to an industrial cultural society, the role of think tanks is all the more relevant. New ideas and approaches to the prevailing social, economic, political and religious problems will help in accelerating the transitional process.

In India, where elected representatives often have rural backgrounds and are under-exposed to the nuances of national and international affairs, think tanks assume greater significance. A systematic and structured exposure to think tanks will make elected representatives better policy-makers, law-framers and executioners.

Think tanks in India should evolve an appropriate strategy and plan for ensuring a structured interaction with not only elected representatives but also with political aspirants like student union leaders.

Every discerning politician or a bureaucrat knows fully well that ideas have consequences. Globally, policy framers look for advice and counsel of scholars from think tanks, which understand this reality and thus are able to shape policies and politics with their innovative ideas and approach.

Think tanks play an important role in the policy process, but that does not only mean interacting with the government; they have a critical audience among scholars, media persons, the private sector and the common man.

The reach and impact of think tanks could be gauged with the return of conservative politics in the early 80s of the last century and decreasing appeal of communism. The intellectual arguments and policy proposals that contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the success of the West were prepared and articulated by think tanks.

The regimes of President Ronald Reagan in the United States , Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Helmut Kohl in the then West Germany are some of the concrete examples of the role that right-wing think tanks had played. This led to the privatisation of public sector enterprises.

Experts agree that think tanks can play a decisive role in helping India secure its rightful place in the international order. But “does India have the intellectual tools to meet” the challenges of internal strife, terrorism, proxy wars, a disturbed neighbourhood, the threat of conventional war in the shadow of nuclear weapons, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and piracy on the high seas? asks IDSA Director General N S Sisodia. The answer is an “emphatic NO”.

Though there are 124 think tanks in the country, most are of “indifferent standards”. In a global survey undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania in 2008, only the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) figures at the 46th position on the list of 50 non-US think tanks.

India’s international studies and strategic affairs think tanks are sandwiched between a university system in crisis and an indifferent policy establishment. As Sisodia says, they suffer from both demand and supply constraints. There is hardly any demand for their output, either because it is not regarded as relevant or because key officials believe that they already know what is there to know, says Sisodia.

Over and above, there is a systemic problem with the majority of the Indian think tanks— reconciling theory with practice — as they consist mostly of retired bureaucrats and young academics. That is why think tanks often produce work which is easily ignored.

The Observer Research Foundation, for one, is striving to bridge this gap. The Centre for Policy Research (CPR), set up in 1973, has launched an “Accountability Initiative” with the objective of improving governance in the country in which citizens can participate even from their homes.

The work of the Tata Energy & Resource Institute (TERI) has touched crucial issues of urban planning and rural energy needs by suggesting innovative approaches to the existing problems.

But these initiatives need to be encouraged. The government should facilitate the flow of information by opening its archives to scholars and its minds to ideas from outside.

Terror’s Tipping Point

While the U.S. focuses on Afghanistan, nuclear-armed Pakistan is the far more critical concern.

By Ed Warner

Foreign Policy magazine calls it the tenth most failed nation in the world. A “dysfunctional state,” concedes Tariq Ali, Pakistani author of The Duel. Yet according to U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke, “Pakistan is the most important country in the world.”

In response to crisis, the army—savior and suppressor of the state—rules at the expense of civil institutions. Name a problem and Pakistan probably has it. A fierce insurgency within and across the border (hardly a border) with Afghanistan. A menacing, much larger neighbor to its east, India, with whom it has fought five wars. A nuclear arsenal poorly managed in the past and still susceptible to terrorist infiltration. A secessionist movement in the south complicated by Taliban operations. A shattered economy and spreading Islamism. A monster of its own creation, Inter-Services Intelligence, that maneuvers in the shadows on behalf of the state but also its enemies. The world’s most wanted man comfortably holding court. And finally, a superpower that supplies military and economic aid but has promised to bomb the fragile state back to the Stone Age if it doesn’t cooperate in a mission that angers its own population.

In many ways, Pakistan is a nation prey to forces beyond its control, perhaps too much to ask of any state. And this one happens to be the world’s sixth largest, with a population of 169 million. No wonder rumors of imminent collapse regularly circulate: the Taliban will take over and Osama bin Laden will have his own nuclear weapon. But that hasn’t happened. Pakistan lives.

Zafar Syed, webmaster of Voice of America’s Urdu service, tells me, “I don’t believe in most of the doomsday theories. Pashtuns [Pakistan’s largest ethnic community] are overwhelmingly pro-Pakistan. Corrupt politicians, suicide bombers in the mosques, massive electricity failure, and the threat of your cell phone being snatched in the street are one thing, but the possibility of the country breaking apart is quite another.”

He says, without overdoing it, that there are positive signs. A free, very vocal media keeps people informed and politicians on their toes. To almost everyone’s surprise, the legal profession rose up against Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s 2007 attempt to remove the chief justice of the supreme court, and he backed down. The Pakistani military is too large and too immersed in civilian life to be removed from power, but its wings have been clipped by a nascent move toward democracy.

Mohammed Hanif, a Pakistani journalist who moved back from London a year ago, expected the worst. On arrival at the Karachi airport, his 11-year-old son Channan saw some Americans and whispered furiously, “What are they doing here? Don’t they know it’s not a tourist country? They always say it’s a terrorist country.”

But Hanif writes hopefully in the Guardian, “All the news about Pakistan’s imminent demise is premature. It has its civil wars. It has doomsday visionaries who like to send poor kids to blow themselves up and kill other poor people. But if its peasants and workers shared the doomsday vision, they wouldn’t be marching up and down the country demanding better wages and working conditions. Over the past two years, hundreds of thousand of citizens have also participated in the largest peaceful political movement in South Asia in recent history and brought down the most well entrenched military dictator in the world.” He refers to President Musharraf, who was forced out of office in 2008.

Swat, a picturesque area in northwest Pakistan known as “the Switzerland of Asia,” may give cause for hope. Six months ago, it was taken over by Taliban who promptly set up their own style of government: women in burkas or at home, schools burned or shut down, malefactors flogged or executed. The beginning of the end, some said. And indeed, the Pakistani army made two failed attempts to recover Swat.

Then it got down to business. In July, 40,000 troops routed the Taliban and pursued them to their mountain fastnesses. In the past, the Taliban have tended to withdraw from superior forces, bide their time, and then terrorize their way back to power. This time, the army vows that the terrorists will not return. It’s their test.

Pakistanis got further good news recently when a missile fired by a U.S. drone killed Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the local Taliban, who was responsible for many terrorist attacks, including, it’s believed, the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. His death apparently threw the insurgency into disarray: in what seemed to be a fight to succeed him, one of his top aides was killed. This was a good day for Pakistan, says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, but not a decisive day: “Getting rid of one or two people is not transformational.”

The next challenge for the reinvigorated Pakistani army is mountainous FATA, the misnamed Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which are hardly administered by the central government at all. “This will be a real test of Pakistan’s intentions,” says Marvin Weinbaum, a former South Asia analyst for the State Department. “Is it a threat to be contained or something to be eliminated?”

The tribal heads are hostile to outsiders, but couldn’t repel the Taliban, who killed their way in. Some 200 local leaders have been murdered and more are threatened. They know their time has come when they receive a needle with a long thread intended to sew a shroud.

FATA, the supposed home to Osama bin Laden, is “a multilayered terrorist cake, the world’s terrorism central,” writes Ahmed Rashid, author of Descent Into Chaos. Ingredients include militants from Central Asia, Chechnya, Africa, China, and Kashmir, as well as a cadre of Arabs who form a protective ring around the terror chief. In January 2008, 12 Pakistanis and two Indians were arrested in Barcelona for planning a wave of suicide attacks in European cities. Spanish judge Baltasar Garz√≥n warned, “In my opinion the jihadi threat from Pakistan is the biggest emerging threat we are facing in Europe. Pakistan is an ideological training hotbed for jihadists, and they are being exported here.”

With this kind of company, a few tribal leaders have taken the unusual step of leaving FATA to seek help in Washington, reports UPI editor Arnaud de Borchgrave. When he met with them, they were on their cell phones every few minutes to make sure their families were safe back home. The double-mindedness doesn’t surprise: they’re turning to one outsider to repel another.

This kind of ambiguity has long characterized the relationship between Pakistan and the United States. Each can push only so far, and the situation is too complicated to give outright orders—which may or may not be obeyed anyway.

The Taliban are, after all, a Pakistani creation. To restore order to Afghanistan, engulfed in civil war after the Soviet departure, Pakistan sent a wave of promising students, taliban, from its madrassas. They succeeded beyond all expectations by taking over Afghanistan and imposing their harsh rule. They also furnished defense for Pakistan in case of difficulties with India in the contested Kashmir.

In his recent book, To Live or To Perish Forever, an account of two years in Pakistan, Nicholas Schmidle writes that at first he couldn’t understand how the Taliban could operate so freely in Pakistan: “Where were they getting support? The more I looked around, the more I realized that everyone, everywhere in Pakistan seemed to be offering help.” The pious servants of Allah deserve refuge, reason Pakistanis, since they are making trouble for the intrusive Americans.

Is the parent to turn on the child, even under U.S. pressure? Practicing statecraft worthy of Machiavelli, Musharraf offered some advice to Hugo Chavez, the America-baiting president of Venezuela: “You are far too aggressive with the Americans. Do as I do. Accept what they say, and then do as you want.” Pakistanis have cause for caution because U.S. forces had no sooner arrived than they went off to an inexplicable war in Iraq. Pakistanis felt deserted.

According to Barry Newhouse, VOA’s Islamabad bureau chief for two years, there is also a financial element—an incentive to do just enough fighting to ensure continued U.S. aid. “Significant segments of the Pakistani population see the back and forth between the Taliban and the Pakistani army as orchestrated in part to get more dollars out of the United States,” he says. “The army keeps things at a steady boil in the northwest, the thinking goes, and just lets that aid money continue to roll in.” Who knows how long the United States will be around? Best to get while the getting is good.

Pakistanis remain puzzled about American plans. They don’t see an end game. Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University, asks, “What is the long term objective of western troops in Afghanistan? What is the strategy to attain these objectives and please share them with us. A lot of us are plainly baffled as to what is going to be the picture in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Finding Osama bin Laden seems like an obvious objective. But in nearly eight years of war, the U.S. has failed to capture him, giving rise to no end of conspiracy theories. Do we really want to catch him? Writes Ahmed Rashid, “None of the intelligence agencies seemed to be capable of carrying out the simplest of procedures, such as intercepting the couriers who delivered the dozens of video and audio tapes sent by al-Qaeda to be aired on al-Jazeera. No courier was ever arrested.”

Meanwhile, the Taliban leader and bin Laden’s former host, Mullah Omar, remains ensconced in Baluchistan, a large province of southern Pakistan. Though Baluchs constitute just 2 percent of Pakistan’s population, they have made continuous trouble and occasional war with the government. Beneath “the land of sand” in which they live lie vast untapped reserves of oil, gas, and uranium. That makes them popular with a variety of suitors, including China, which is financing an extensive port development at Gwadar on the Indian Ocean. Besides dredging the harbor and building two berths, Beijing has also sent 600 engineers. The Pentagon’s Office of Future Studies says that by establishing a listening post and Indian Ocean naval presence, China may use its power to project force and undermine U.S. and regional security. Is a new Cold War in the offing? Nothing like dreaming up future problems when you can’t handle current ones.

Baluchistan also serves as a corridor for the worldwide delivery of opium, refined into heroin, which provides the Taliban with $60-80 million a year. But American officials say there is only so much they can do. U.S. troops are busy up north. “So much of our strategy in Pakistan has been settling for the less than optimal solution,” a State Department official says, “and this is just one more element of that.”

Besides, the more Americans get involved in Pakistan, the more they seem to be resented. Since locals are not sure what the U.S. is doing, they suspect the worst. Zafar Syed says there are even suspicions that the United States wants to destabilize Pakistan and seize its nuclear weapons. More visibly, Pakistanis are infuriated by U.S. drone attacks. Many civilians have been killed by a system that seems too coldly efficient. The man at the controls sits in an air-conditioned office many miles, maybe a continent, away—not exactly a heroic clash. Asked in a Gallup poll what they consider the greatest danger, 11 percent of Pakistani respondents said the Taliban, 18 percent cited India, and 59 percent said the United States. Sixty-seven percent said they oppose U.S. military operations on Pakistani soil.

But as long as the Afghan War persists, Pakistan will be in play as Pashtuns, particularly Taliban, flee U.S. troops across the blurry border. And the questionable security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal radically raises the stakes. Harvard professor Graham Allison, a member of the U.S. bipartisan commission on WMD and nuclear proliferation, says, “When you map WMD and terrorism, all roads intersect in Pakistan.”

The only Muslim country in possession of nuclear weapons, Pakistan continues its buildup, testing ballistic and cruise missiles and constructing two new reactors to make plutonium. In this gathering arms race, India has just launched a nuclear-powered submarine. The Times of India reports that the country is developing the third leg of its nuclear triad—the ability to fire nukes undetected below the sea as well as from land and air.

Israel also looks warily at Pakistan. Even as it augments its own nuclear arsenal, it continues to denounce regional rivals. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has identified a new axis of evil: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Former Indian prime minister Indira Ghandi told Tariq Ali that Israel once proposed a strike on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal using an Indian airfield. Ghandi refused, but added that if it became necessary, India would strike.

By any account, Pakistan has behaved casually, indeed irresponsibly, with its nuclear arsenal. A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, engaged in the biggest proliferation up to the present. He believed in safety in numbers—the more Third World countries that have nuclear weapons, the less pressure on Pakistan to disarm.

More ominously, nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood met with Osama bin Laden a month before the 9/11 attacks. There’s no doubt that they discussed nuclear weapons, which bin Laden desperately wanted. Did he have a chance of getting them? U.S. officials have concluded, somewhat hesitantly, that he did not. Pakistanis, meanwhile, scoffed that men in caves can hardly deliver a nuclear blow.

But according to a report in a journal published by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, terrorists have attacked three of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in the last two years. It cites a suicide attack on a main nuclear-weapons assembly plant not far from Islamabad. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says the Defense Department is not aware of any such attacks and remains comfortable with nuclear security in Pakistan.

Among the 70,000 people working in an expanding nuclear complex evil intent may lurk, and the close ties between members of Pakistan’s ISI and the Taliban cannot be discounted. But it’s extremely difficult to assemble a nuclear weapon from dispersed parts, and there’s the matter of military savvy. A nuclear mishap would redound on the army, says Newhouse. It would be blamed and duly punished, and “The army just have too much to lose from that.”

If the war with the Taliban ends, nuclear weapons will be less of a worry. And from almost any point of view, the conflict has reached a stalemate. The United States is adding troops, but the insurgents continue to make gains as they cross the Pakistan-Afghanistan border hastily created by the British in 1893. The so-called Durand line meanders over mountains, through towns and even private homes. The natives know the terrain.

Thus the key lies not in defeating all comers but in refining our objective. Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer in the Middle East and author of The Devil We Know, warns that we must never forget that al-Qaeda attacked us, not the Taliban, which is not an international terrorist group. “If we make the all-too-common mistake of reducing the Taliban to al-Qaeda,” he says, “it becomes an open-ended and endless war.” With that in mind, possibilities for negotiation open. Can the insurgency be broken up?

One key player has suggested that. He is not to everyone’s liking. Indeed, his fierce, unyielding temperament is hardly to anyone’s liking. Yet Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, now a resident of Pakistan, could play a pivotal role. He was perhaps the most effective commander in the Afghan war against the Soviets. With their defeat, he got involved in the destructive civil war in Afghanistan and when the Taliban arrived, he fled to Iran. Hekmatyar later joined the Taliban in confronting the U.S. invasion, but it’s said to be an uneasy relationship. He is more opportunistic and less sharia-bound, favoring free elections and jobs and education for women. The Saudis have been in contact with him behind the scenes. The Americans may have been, too. One possibility is to give him asylum in Saudi Arabia for a period of time, then let him return to public life in Afghanistan with a pardon. On Aug. 17, he issued a statement in which he promised that his Hizb-e-Islami militants would “help the United States and other coalition forces if foreign troops announce the time frame for pulling their troops out of Afghanistan.”

What does the postwar future hold for Pakistan? Despite the gloom of some, it is not likely to disintegrate, though it does seem to be headed in an Islamist direction, partly as a trend of the times, partly in reaction to the horrors of war. What comes first, flag or faith? The willingness to subordinate state to God goes against the founding of Pakistan, which was intended to be a secular Muslim state. Now that idea has been overturned by the dogma of Islamic universalism. “At every turn,” write Rakesh Mani and Zehra Ahmed, “Pakistanis seem more likely to unite as brothers in Islam than as sons of the same soil.” And on that soil, they shed one another’s blood.

This state of affairs owes much to the Saudis’ well-financed promotion of Wahhabism, the austere, confining version of Islam that made converts of the Taliban. But don’t take undue alarm, says Mohammed Hanif, the journalist who recently returned to Pakistan. At first, he was dismayed to see all the women in burkas, even on the beach. But then he took a closer look: “Many of them were on a date. Some were actually making out in broad daylight with men with beards. Covered from head to toe in a black robe, this is quite a spectacle.” The real spirit of Karachi, he says, has not been broken.

There are moderate variants of Islam alive in Pakistan, William Dalrymple writes. While the northwest tends to Wahhabism, in the southern province of Sindh the predominant religion is Sufism, which emphasizes human brotherhood and tolerance. “All these mullahs should be damned,” an old Sufi complained to Dalrymple. “They read their books, but they never understood the true message of love that the Prophet preached.” Can Sufism be the future of Pakistan? It is at least a possibility for a country that has explored so many possibilities in search of national well-being.

This isn’t quite the democratic dawn the United States has in mind for the Mideast. But wars do not always end as anticipated—a reason for caution about military intervention overseas, as the acute diplomat-historian George Kennan made clear: “You might start in on a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you never thought of before. In other words, war has a momentum of its own, and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get in into it.”

Let’s be realistic, says Afghan UN Representative Lakhdar Brahimi. Our ambitions tend to exceed our abilities: “We seek to promote justice, national reconciliation, human rights, gender equality and democracy, all at the same time, immediately, from day one even in the midst of conflict.” Reducing those goals to simple stability—likely served by our distance more than our presence—may be the best hope for this tangled, tragic, “most important country in the world.”


Ed Warner is a former editor-reporter for the Voice of America with a special interest in Afghanistan-Pakistan.

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Say No to AFSPA

By Saif Khalid, Tuesday September 8, 2009 , New Delhi, India

I was recently invited to a protest rally by Manipur students and activists at Jantar Mantar- the capital's dharna street- against the alleged fake killings in the troubled state. The place was interspersed with a host of protesters from across the country, demanding their right 'within the basic framework of the Constitution'.

From eco-activists lecturing on global warming to Bhopal gas pidits (sufferers) demanding their 'due' compensation, the street feigned to give a look of activity more so inactivity as what I consider dharna to be. The mode as well as the duration of some protests was bizarre.

What really impressed me was the diversity of protests. People from different regions, states, districts, talukas and villages had camped near the most boisterous House of the country - The Parliament House - to shout out their grievances. Little did they know that their voices would hardly match the high-pitch banter of their esteemed representatives inside the House.

But spirited that they were, they continued with their protest in the hope that one day, they will be heard and that lawmakers would heed to their demands.

By this time I had reached the corner where Manipur youths were camping with their placards and banners.

Some of the placards read:

* Punish the guilty

* Manipur CM Ibobi Singh father of terrorism

* No state terrorism in the Hills and the Valley in Manipur

The recent upsurge in public anger started after a national magazine exposed an alleged fake encounter by the security forces in Manipur.

A crowd of odd 100 Manipuris had gathered, they were supported by a couple of north Indian students from DU, Jamia and JNU. Slogans were being shouted with full vigour and strength.

The 'brutal' Indian state was being lambasted by the speakers. The count of human rights violations by the security forces was being made public with a mandatory chorus in the backdrop that said "Shame".

I thought to myself- don't they know that the state is not shamed so easily? I remember when a Manipuri woman named Manorama was allegedly killed by the security forces and the government chose to look the other way. And then came the shocker when a group of women protested naked. The world was awestruck by the boldness of the protest. The state, again, chose to stay silent- oblivious to the cause of the public outcry.

My chain of thought was broken by a sudden offering of water by a protestor who handed over a bottle of Bisleri to me.

I started to interact with the group of students at the dharna site, most of whom said that while they had no problem with the Indian Constitution, the Indian state had failed to protect their basic rights.

Gunnamani, an MPhil scholar at JNU, asserted that the root cause of killing of civilians by the Army is the draconian law Armed Forces Special Powers act (AFSPA).

"The latest fake encounter is not the first one, it has been happening for many many years. The root cause of the problem is the draconian AFSPA law which gives armed forces the license to kill innocent civilians under the garb of insurgents and militants," said Gunnamani.

The rally started to move toward the Parliament street. While I was talking to Manipuri students, a bus passed from behind us and along came some uninvited comments. A group of young guys stuck their necks out of the bus window and shouted, "Oye Chowmins and Momos, what are you doing here?". Even more shameful than the remark was the sight of a policeman standing at the corner of the road and smiling to himself.

Manipuri Students Association President Sandhya Rani, a student of MA history in DU felt that people from Northeast in general, and girls in particular, face discrimination here in the country's capital. She echoed the fears and grievances of Manipur students staying in the capital.

She said: "The Indian Constitution is flexible but for Manipuris there is lack of even basic rights. We demand right to life, a life with self-respect. We feel like a foreigner in our own country."

She further reminded me that Congress governments are ruling both at the Centre and the state but they have been apathetic towards the cause of the common people.

"Even the imperialist Britishers left India after Gandhiji's non-violent protests but our government does not listen to our basic demands through non-violent means. See the case of Irom Sharmila, she has been on fast for so many years but the government has hardly cared to listen to her demands," said Sandhya.

Finally we reached the Parliament street where the police had put up the necessary barricades. It was a pretty disciplined rally so people stopped at the barricade and the police kept a vigil.

Then I met Henthoyba, a Phd scholar from Manipur University who had come all the way from Manipur for the protest. First he was reluctant to talk to me, but later opened up. Interestingly, his topic of research was people's movement.

I prepared myself to ask routine questions for a story but I was genuinely interested in knowing the situation at the ground level. I fired two quick queries: What's the situation like in Manipur? Was it really bad out there?

What he said was really shocking and his eyes were brimmed with tears while he said: "If you are in Manipur, you're not sure whether you will wake the next morning and see the sun. That's the level of insecurity among the common people."

He summed up the situation. I had got my answers but hope the government also got one.

Hope the government realizes that laws like AFSPA, which leaves civilians at the mercy of security forces, should not have any place in a democratic country like ours.

Chinese incursion in Ladakh as old as January 2009

Reports of Chinese incursions in the Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir, which are now being highlighted by the media, are in fact as old as January 2009, according to an official communication sent that month by the district magistrate of Leh to his superiors in the state.

According to the contents of a letter sent by Ajeet Kumar Sahu, district magistrate of Leh, to the divisional commissioner of Kashmir on January 4 this year, shepherds and villagers living close to the international border had brought reports of incursions by the Chinese army into the Indian Territory to his notice.

The district magistrate had then deputed a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) to verify the reports. The SDM had confirmed that personnel of the Chinese army had warned shepherds on the Indian side of the border to vacate the area or face the consequences.

Alarmingly, the villagers and shepherds had said that the Chinese army had not even said that the area where the shepherds had been grazing their flock of sheep was disputed.

"They claimed the area belonged to China," the district magistrate's letter said.

But defence officials here have still not confirmed the fears voiced by the district magistrate.

The fact that some patrols of the Chinese army had entered the Indian side of the border in Leh and painted some stones and rocks red is being accepted by sources in the army, but no senior defence official is prepared to go on record to confirm the incident.

India, Russia to jointly develop futuristic MBT

India and Russia are planning to jointly develop a futuristic 'smart' battle tank, having higher speed and better firepower, reports quoting Nikolai Malykh, director general of Russia's biggest battle factory Uralvagonzavod (UVZ), as saying.

The two sides had preliminary discussions on the issue and defence ministry experts in India will discuss the new project when a delegation of the (UVZ) tank-building factory visits India this week to participate in an international seminar on the future main battle tank (FMBT) organised by the Army along with the Confederation of Indian Industry, according to Malykh.

''We put forward this idea (of developing the tank) at the turn of the 21st century. The Indian side has now come up with a similar proposal," the Moscow Defence Brief (MDB) magazine quoted Malykh as saying.

''We will take the first step when our experts go to India to attend a conference on the future tank and prospects for the tank-building industry," Malykh said on the sidelines of a defence expo.

The new tank will have higher speed, better firepower, sophisticated armour protection and a smoother ride and improved armour protection for crew, the report said.

Armour-protected crew compartment will be sealed from the unmanned turret equipped with an automatic loader, to ensure the survivability of highly trained human assets, it said.

Information for the crew will be networked using a virtual-reality command information system linked to reconnaissance aircraft and satellites.

The move comes even as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had suggested a joint assessment with the Indian Army to save the main battle tank (MBT) Arjun and keep the project alive.

The rmy, however, has rejected by the idea. The army is also ambiguous on a suggestion by the DRDO that the tank be assessed head-to-head with the T-90 MBTs the army currently operates.

A leading Russian defence expert says it makes good sense for India and Russia to join hands in building a futuristic tank.

India has purchased over 1,600 T-90S MBTs from the UVZ of which 1,000 will be manufactured at the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi. Uralvagonzavod has for a long time been cooperating with the Avadi plant in the production of T-72 and T-90S MBTs.

Army authorities launch probe into ransacking incident


September 8th, 2009

BHOPAL - Indian Army authorities at the Military Headquarters of War (MHOW) in Madhya Pradesh said Tuesday that they had launched an investigation to find out if their officials had allegedly ransacked furniture at a medical college in Indore Monday night, officials said.

Army officers, studying in MHOW, allegedly broke window panes and ransacked furniture of the Sri Aurobindo College of Medical Sciences (SACMS), Indore, late Monday in retaliation against medicos allegedly attacking two of their colleagues earlier in the day.

“The officers, yet to be identified, created ruckus at the college as they went there on some 30 to 40 motorcycles, pelted stones, entered the college hostel and ransacked furniture in the rooms and the mess,” said Senior Superintendent of Police Vipin Maheshwari.

“They however dispersed as police arrived,” he said.

Earlier in the day two army officers had picked up a fight with medicos while they were dropping a student of SACMS to the college hostel, officials said.

Following the fight police was posted at the college.

“Acting on the complaint of Lt Ramandeep Singh Negi, Banganga police Monday registered cases against 10 students of SACMS under various sections of Indian Penal Code and arrested Ayush Gupta and Akash,” a police officer said.

SACMS administration said that they had also lodged a complaint against the army officers alleging that they had forcibly entered the hostel premises at around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

“We have lodged a complaint against the army officers at the Banganga police station and expect prompt action,” said SACMS COO G.S. Khanuja.

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