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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

From Today's Papers - 22 Sep 09

Santhanam says it again: Pokhran-II a fizzle
Hits back at NSA, claims data could’ve been fudged
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
The ongoing debate over Pokhran II intensified today with former DRDO scientist K Santhanam reiterating that the May 1998 nuclear tests had not worked in accordance with ‘design expectations’ and suggesting more tests to refine the country’s thermonuclear capability.

At a press meet here, Santhanam said the government could set up an independent panel, comprising scientists and nuclear experts, to probe the success of the Pokhran tests as also to suggest if there was need for India to conduct more tests since national security was of paramount importance.

Observing that pressure was likely to mount on the government in the coming days from the Obama administration to sign the CTBT, he wondered why the ‘window of opportunity’ available at this stage could not be utilised to conduct a few more tests.

Hitting back at National Security Advisor (NSA) MK Narayanan for the latter’s comment in a television interview that Santhanam had personal motives in questioning the efficacy of the Pokhran tests, he said Narayanan was ‘barking up the wrong tree’.

Referring to the NSA’s assertion that nobody could contest what was proven by the data about the nuclear tests, Santhanam said “the trouble lies in what data was included in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) analysis; and; what was not. There is a wealth of seismic and other data which reveal that the thermonuclear device under performed.”

He also ridiculed Narayanan’s suggestion that Santhanam had not been privy to the test measurements and information. “This is a false assertion. I was…we are not in the business of selling chocolates.”

Santhanam alleged that Narayanan was making ‘misleading statements’ as he was not even the NSA when Pokhran tests were conducted. “There is a large body of evidence in seismology circles around the world, and India, which raised doubts about the yield, almost immediately after the tests.”

Santhanam also released to the media pictures of the test crater site, pointing out that there was no crater there. The thermonuclear device had a yield of 20-25 kilotons and not 45 kilotons as claimed by the NSA. He wondered if Agni III missile, which has a reach of 4,000 km, was required just for a 20-kilotone bomb.

Asked why it took him 11 long years to say that the 1998 tests were a ‘fizzle’, he said reservations about the efficacy of the tests had been recorded in a classified report sent to the government. “It is not that we kept quiet about it.” Asked if the Vajpayee government had committed a fraud on the people by terming the tests as successful, he said “that’s a loaded question…I will only go on the scientific path.”

The government of the day had conducted the tests in view of the increasing nuclear capability of Pakistan. On reports that India was not conducting some critical tests which could be done despite the CTBT being there, he said the technology needed for such tests was quite advanced and he was not aware if that technology was there with India since he was not in the government now.

On whether he had ever thought of the consequences for India of any further tests, Santhanam said, “This kind of concern, especially from the economy lobby, is well known.”

Rounding up the press meet, he said, “My remarks are in the interest of national security…to attribute them the overtones of jingoism is not fair.”

Is all well on the India-China border?

All is not well on the Indo-China border and the need of the hour is to keep a constant vigil lest the unfortunate defeat of 1962 visits the napping govt again. The people are wide awake and so is the media.

WHAT IS going on on the northern borders of India? The Government of India says that all is well and no news is good news. China says that their troops have not intruded into the Indian territory as alleged by the Indian Media. The Indian Army Chief had announced that he would visit the borders to see the situation himself. Next morning he was advised to cancel his tour of the China borders lest the military situation assumes serious proportions. No noticeable movement of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on their side of the border. So it all boils down to a scenario where one may say that something is cooking somewhere there.

Let us view the Indian scenario first. Nyoma- that is the name of a non-descript place in eastern ladakh where an airstrip existed since 1962 war. Now the Indian Air Force has upgraded it and big transport planes are landing there. Moreover, it has been officially designated as the Transport Base of the indian Air Force in Ladakh. It is being prepared to handle heavy air traffic of big transport planes, as and when a need arises.

Let us move to the eastern sector of the Northern border. The area is geographically called Arunachal Pradesh. In the 1962 war, it was called Nefa - North East frontier Agency. We Indians had lost that war and most of our casualties were in this sector. By the way, China claims entire Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory. China already has forcibly taken over 8,000 square kilometres of the Indian territory in Ladakh to construct a road from Xinjiang to Tibet. Moreover, Pakistan has ceded a large chunk of former Indian territory to china in the Karakoram area of Jammu and Kashmir. The hunger of china for the Indian land is unsatiated.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the local residents have reported that the movement of Indian Army trucks in the recent days is rather unprecedented. In a quick reaction and to calm the ruffled feathers of the Chinese, an Army spokesman said that there was nothing unusual in the movement of Indian troops to the borders beyond Tawang. It is a part of the winter exercise to test the alertness of the army formations there.

We may recall that the government and people of China are busy in preparing for major celebrations to commemorate the establishment of communist take over of entire China 60 years ago on October 1, 1949. The 60th anniversay is indeed a major landmark. The Chinese would not like any unpleasant incident to take place that might spoil the big party in Beijing. China has, therefore, no intention to provoke any border skirmish, what to say of waging a localised war.

The ultra right nationalist elements in India say that the Indian government comprises cowards and they are downplaying the Chinese intrusuions into the Indian territory. All said and done, all is not well on the India-China border and the need of the hour is to keep a constant vigil lest the unfortunate defeat of 1962 visits the napping government again. The people are wide awake and so is the media. So, we do see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

US, Russia resume nuclear disarmament talks

AFP/PTI / Geneva September 21, 2009, 18:38 IST

Russia and the United States began today a new round of negotiations on renewing a key nuclear arms reduction treaty, just days after Washington said it would drop missile shield plans in Europe.

"The negotiations have restarted just after 1100 local time (0900 GMT) in the Russian mission. This time, it would last longer than expected with the large delegations from each side," a Russian diplomat told AFP.

The six previous rounds of talks on the renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) which expires on December 5 had lasted a maximum three to four days.

The United States and Russia had agreed this year to seek the replacement or renewal of START, marking the first tangible step in the thaw in US-Russian relations heralded by the Obama administration.

START, signed in 1991 just before the break-up of the Soviet Union, bound both sides to deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals.

Negotiations have been dogged by bargaining over the deployment of the US missile defence shield in ex-Soviet states in eastern Europe, a project that has angered Russia.

But US President Barack Obama last week announced that he would shelve plans to site parts of a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, and instead deploy more mobile equipment targeting Iran's short and medium-range missiles.

Army Special Forces scout for new pistol
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 21
After reequipping its Special Forces units and parachute battalions with the new generation Israeli automatic assault rifles, the Indian army is now looking for contemporary semiautomatic pistols to replace their antiquated 9 mm handguns. It wants a robust weapon that is lightweight and is easy to carry and operate, and has asked arms vendors for details on the latest pistols for its Special Forces units.

Since the new weapons are to be used by commandos, additional features being sought are the option of fixing on a laser ranger and aiming device and a high intensity flashlight for operations in the dark or dimly lit areas. Flashlights, besides illuminating the area ahead of the shooter, also serve the dual purpose of blinding the opponent.

Though the Special Forces units have access to a wide variety of weapons, the standard issue handgun is the 9 mm pistol produced by the Ordnance Factories.

The Swiss SIG-Sauer, Austrian Glock, German Walther and Italian Beretta are among the firms known for contemporary pistol designs that are favoured by major special forces units around the world.

Over the past two years the Special Forces have adapted the Israeli Tavor 21 as its standard assault rifle. The army had procured about 3,000 such rifles to replace the earlier mix of AK-47, M-16s and INSAS rifles.

Pokhran debate will impact forces, says Army officer
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, September 21
Doubts raised over the efficacy of the last thermo-nuclear test at Pokhran (Pokhran-II) would impact the armed forces, Major General Brajesh Kumar, commander of the Madras Engineering Group (Madras Sappers) said on Saturday.

The scientists doubting the efficacy of the test had said delay in weaponisation of the thermo-nuclear device was a major indication that the tests were a failure.

Gen Kumar, who is the first serving Army officer to comment on the ongoing debate over the results of the Pokhran-II tests, however, steered clear of the controversy and said the services were never a part of the weaponisation programme of nuclear devices.

“The information about the tests is not available on the public domain. But as far as the impact on the debate on the armed forces is concerned, yes it will impact the forces,” he said.

Gen Kumar, who was here in connection with the 229th anniversary celebration of the Sappers, also revealed that landmines were being modified in India in deference to a UN convention on landmines.

“Earlier, landmines were designed to kill enemy personnel. But now, mines are now designed to blow up the limbs of enemy personnel because that drains the enemy’s resources more,” he said.

He said, “After India became a signatory to a UN convention on landmine, we are compulsorily putting a steel rod measuring a few inches in each mine so that it can be detected during demining operations.”

The Sappers (known for their skill in handling mines and other explosives), had not laid any landmine since the Operation Parakram in 1991, he said.

Infrastructure in the Chinese side of the Sino-Indian border was much better because the terrain in the Chinese side was conducive for construction of roads and other infrastructure, he said, adding that infrastructure-building on the Indian side of the border too is proceeding in a fast pace.

Army holds war games to secure coast

New Delhi, September 21
To counter terror threats in the backdrop of the Mumbai attacks, top army generals have evolved detailed plans to secure the country's coastline from Gujarat to Orissa and refine the force's amphibious warfare tactics.

The strategies were fine-tuned by top brass, including Army chief General Deepak Kapoor, during a two-day table-top war game in Pune last week, army sources here said today.

Plans for the Southern Command to protect the coastline from both conventional and asymmetric threats were discussed threadbare, they said.

The war game was a closed-door conceptual exercise conducted by top commanders with the help of sand models and large-scale maps, which do not involve troops on the ground.

The Pune drill follows a similar exercise by the Kolkata-based Eastern Command a fortnight back for area in the North-eastern states along the borders with China, Bangladesh and Myanmar, apart from its counter-insurgency operations.

During May this year, some formations under the Western Command had carried out annual field exercises in Punjab plains to validate operational concepts and test their equipment.

Later, in June, the Western Command's top brass conducted a war game at its headquarters in Chandimandir near Chandigarh concentrating on the Pakistani border along Jammu and Punjab, apart from counter-insurgency strategies in Jammu region.

For quite some time now, the Army's emphasis has been on table-top war games rather than field exercises due to constraints of space and expenses involved.

The field exercises usually take place in Punjab plains between the harvest seasons and in the Pokhran firing ranges in Rajasthan desert.

"Earlier, villagers in Punjab were willing to give their agriculture land for the army exercises between harvest seasons. They used to do it enthusiastically. But, of late, the trend has changed leading to space crunch for these large scale exercises. The money spent on mobilisation and the exercise too is large," an Army officer said explaining the need for such games.

"Moreover, during the table-top war game, 10 or more war scenarios and the responses to them from troops and commanders can be worked out within a matter of hours. But during a field exercise, only a couple of scenarios can be worked out," they said.

War games are held at all Command levels every year to review existing operational plans keeping in view recent on-ground developments. It also helps expose new commanders to offensive and defensive strategies pertaining to a particular operational theatre.

Army sources said besides top commanders from respective commands and their field formations, senior representatives from Army headquarters and the Training Command usually attend the brainstorming session.

Since the turn of the century, the Army has been focusing on fighting a high-intensity, short-duration war in a built-up urban and semi-urban environment, mainly by a division-sized offensive formation.

Fundamental to this 'Cold Start' doctrine is a networked environment enabling real time flow of intelligence, data and information, as well as rapid troop mobilisation and deployment of devastating firepower across the entire spectrum of conflict, the sources added. — PTI

It's time the government stops blaming media

September 21, 2009 13:24 IST

During the weekend, media organizations in the country were ticked off for having overplayed the Chinese 'incursions' in Ladakh. The National Security Advisor, Foreign Secretary and the Chief of Army Staff said there was no justification for the reports published in the newspapers, and projected in the audio-visual media.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao [ Images ] said in her briefings that there was no 'significant increase' in the number of Chinese incursions in all sections of the Line of Actual Control. National Security Advisor M K Narayanan expressed concern over the 'media hype' and said if such coverage continued 'someone somewhere might lose his cool and something might go wrong'.

It is time those who are occupying positions of authority to learn to follow the existing rules in communicating the situation along the border, rather than going to the 'media' whenever they see a camera in front of them.

In India, we have one of the most tried communication system. Communications to the Press is the task entrusted to the Press Information Bureau. We have a Principal Information Officer, now known as the Director General of Media and Communications, to release information and interact with the media.

In case of events having an impact on relations with foreign countries, the news is given by the foreign office spokesperson. The Press Information Bureau and the External Publicity Division are on the same floor in Shastri Bhavan in New Delhi [ Images ] and they are in regular touch with the Media Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Every day, the Director of Public Relations of the Ministry of Defence, who is an officer of the Press Information Bureau, is required to give information to the media in Delhi on developments in the field of defence.

He has regional and branch offices, which are in touch with the various formations.

While important information is released centrally, when incidents occur on the border, rules lay down which authority could give information without delay to ensure that the adversary will not have an advantage in the information warfare.

The Chiefs of the armed forces are not expected to interact with the media except on special occasions like the Army Day, the Navy Day and the Air Force Day. They do make speeches on occasions like passing out parades and commissioning ceremonies, but they are expected not to make casual statements on the 'sidelines' of functions.

Recently, we have had a former Naval Chief projecting that India is facing a major threat from China. To correct the impression, he made further statements, which caused a great deal of embarrassment to the government.

Even today, the service chiefs give 'bytes' on the sidelines of every function. The Army Chief has been speaking of 'infiltration' across the India-Pakistan border and the Line of Control [ Images ] many times during the month and during the weekend chose to give a 'byte' at a passing out parade in Chennai to dispel reports regarding incidents on the India-China border.

Very few know that the Press Information Bureau functions on the basis of Technical Publicity Rules framed soon after Independence. For the Defence Ministry, these rules have been supplemented to meet its special requirements.

Under the Technical Publicity rules, the Information Officer of the Press Information Bureau is the spokesman for the Ministry. The Minister of the Department concerned, makes statements, and he may authorize any officer of the Ministry to interact with the media.

The Press Information Bureau has an officer attached to each department of the Government of India. The Information Minister briefs the press about decisions taken at Cabinet meetings.

Special briefings are undertaken during wars. On such occasions, representatives of the Armed Forces Headquarters and the Foreign Office spokesperson hold briefings. This was done during the India-China War in 1962 and during the India-Pakistan wars in 1965, 1971 and the Kargil [ Images ] War. After the Kargil War, these rules were reframed with inputs from the noted commentator BG Verghese and myself.

It is time the government stops blaming the media. No newspapers or television channel can allow any delay in reporting news. There is fierce competition among newspapers and also among various television news channels.

The controversy has been building up with China protesting against the proposed visit of Dalai Lama [ Images ] to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. One's mind goes back to 1962 when the Government of India spoke of 'Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai' and the Chinese attacked the country.

If newspapers are wary of our northern neighbour, do not blame them. It was logical. The NSA too said that India is different today than what it was in 1962.

Keep the media informed of the steps taken by the country in maintaining vigil, and progress in the construction of roads, airfields and advanced landing grounds along the India-China border.

The answer to the current controversy is that officials in the government, whether in the Civil Services or the Armed Forces, follow the laid down guidelines, and release information as quickly as possible. The media will not then 'overplay' the events.

But it will always be wary of the dragon.

I Ramamohan Rao was principal information officer in the government of India.


I Ramamohan Rao

India’s N-capability
NSA’s statement should set doubts at rest

The categorical assertion by National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan that India has thermonuclear capabilities and that the scientists who questioned the success of the 1998 nuclear tests in Pokharan were guided by personal motives should set at rest the unfortunate controversy about the efficacy of India’s nuclear programme. It is indeed regrettable that a former senior scientist of the Defence Research Development Organisation K. Santhanam woke up 11 years after the Pokharan blasts to create a needless controversy which sought to undermine India’s nuclear status in the eyes of the world. That Mr Santhanam even mocked at the credentials of his universally-respected boss of that time, former President Abdul Kalam, was outrageous. Mr Narayanan’s observation in a TV interview that Mr Santhanam’s sudden statements and the support he drew from some senior nuclear scientists (an apparent reference to former chairmen of the Atomic Energy Commission P.K. Iyengar and H.N. Sethna) could be the result of personal rivalries within the scientific community casts doubt over their sense of professionalism.

Mr Narayanan has alluded to Mr Santhanam’s claim that the yield in the thermonuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed, by asserting that it had a yield of 45 kilotons as confirmed by a peer group of researchers recently. He said the claim was supported incontrovertibly by available data. It is vital for India to have an effective nuclear deterrent in the wake of Pakistan’s aggressive designs. Statements like those of Mr Santhanam apart from being preposterous can fuel the impression that India is ill-prepared to take on a nuclear Pakistan. In that context, Mr Narayanan’s observation that even if India is hit by a nuclear device it would have enough “to be able to deliver something” is a welcome statement that should deter any adventurers.

With recent reports suggesting that Pakistan has been using U.S. security aid to beef up its military against India by illegally modifying the Harpoon anti-ship missile and maritime surveillance aircraft for land attacks against New Delhi, it is important that India’s nuclear deterrence be strengthened. Though India is committed to no first use of a nuclear device, effective vigilance has to be maintained and in fact stepped up.

India-U.S. Defense Partnership Needs a Rethink

Neeta Lal | 21 Sep 2009

Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram's four-day visit to the United States earlier this month helped take India-U.S. ties to a higher level in the vital areas of counterterrorism and intelligence-sharing. But it also spotlighted a few related security issues that have been left unaddressed.

Cooperation between India and the U.S. in the fields of defense and security is one of the key pillars of bilateral ties identified by the Obama administration and reinforced during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's India visit in July. Chidambaram's visit, too, was a continuation of the same dialogue, focusing on an assessment of South Asia's security architecture and providing India with a better understanding of counterterrorism institutions in the U.S.

On that score, the minister, who asked the U.S. for "closer cooperation in matters relating to sharing of intelligence and working together to improve the skills sets of our scientists, technicians and investigators," dubbed his discussions with U.S. officials as "very fruitful."

While Chidambaram's optimism augurs well for the trajectory of India-U.S. defense relations, there is a lingering resentment in New Delhi about scant tangible progress on two vital fronts. First, the U.S. refused to offer an unambiguous commitment on pressuring Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice. And second, Washington showed a lack of urgency in the discussions about Pakistan's continued failure to dismantle its terror infrastructure against India.

Indian experts are of the view that Washington's strategic geopolitical interests, and its reluctance to push a wobbly Pakistani civilian government, have yet again eclipsed India's genuine security concerns.

The issue acquires an added significance at a time when India and the U.S. are forging closer military ties, as illustrated by the signing of the India-U.S. Defense Framework Agreement. Indeed, at this rate, the U.S. might soon edge out Russia as India's largest defense supplier. However, Indian policymakers are dismayed to note that America continues to arm Pakistan with weapons -- like P-3C Orion maritime aircraft, AN/TPS-77 surveillance radars and F-16 aircraft -- that are being directed more against India than against threats from the Taliban.

In fact, in a sensational disclosure, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf recently admitted that U.S. military aid to Pakistan that was intended for the war against terror was instead used to strengthen defenses against India. It was the first such admission by any top Pakistani leader. Musharraf even elaborated that he had violated rules governing the use of the military aid and justified his actions by saying he had "acted in the best interest of Pakistan."

Recently, American military and intelligence officials reiterated suspicions that Pakistan has modified Harpoon anti-ship missiles, acquired from the U.S. in the 1980s, for use against ground targets. The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of U.S. law.

The weapon in the latest dispute is a conventional one, based on the Harpoon anti-ship missiles that were sold to Pakistan by the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon in the cold war. But there is also growing concern about the rate at which Pakistan is building its nuclear weapons arsenal. In fact, according to a report in the New York Times, Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is expanding faster than any other nation's. In May, Pakistan conducted a test-firing of its Babur medium-range cruise missile, a weapon that military experts say could potentially be tipped with a nuclear warhead.

As the NY Times further reported, the U.S. accusation comes at a time when the U.S. Congress is poised to approve $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next five years, while also pressing a reluctant Pakistani military to focus on fighting the Taliban rather than clandestinely directing its expanding nuclear and conventional forces against India.

Pakistan has been the beneficiary of large-scale U.S. economic and military largesse ever since 9/11. Between 2002-09, combined U.S. assistance to Pakistan totaled a whopping $10.94 billion. The Obama administration has also cleared the decks for another monetary infusion of $2.5 billion next year, which will further bolster Pakistan against India. This at a time when, according to a senior Indian security official, Islamabad is augmenting its nuclear weapons delivery capability.

Given this complex backdrop of events, both India and the U.S. will need to tread with caution in view of their budding strategic military partnership. Washington would do well to exhibit more sensitivity to India's growing security apprehensions. For its part, India must realize that it is faced with a partner that is balancing its own strategic interests in the subcontinent with the Afghan imbroglio and a recalcitrant Pakistan.

Neeta Lal is a New Delhi-based journalist, formerly with the Times of India and editor of the Asian Age Sunday Section. Her work has appeared in numerous U.S., Asian and European print and Web-based publications.

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