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Monday, 5 October 2009

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British Defence and Home Ministers to visit Pak

October 04, 2009 21:32 IST

British Defence and Home Ministers will arrive in Islamabad [ Images ] on Monday for meetings with the top Pakistani leadership to take stock of the regional security situation and the war against terror.

British Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth are scheduled to meet President Asif

Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [ Images ], Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani [ Images ], Interior Minister Rehman Malik [ Images ] and

Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar during their two-day visit.

This is the first joint visit to Pakistan by the British home and defence ministers. In a statement issued by the British High Commission ahead of his arrival, Defence Secretary Ainsworth said a stable and secure Pakistan is a "vital goal not just for

Pakistan but also for security in Afghanistan and for the security of the UK".

"Pakistan has a vital interest in rooting out the militant insurgency which threatens and undermines its state and the security of its people. We are working together to counter this threat...," Ainsworth said, adding that this process will be taken forward during the visit.

Meanwhile, the Dawn newspaper reported that a "raging row" between Pakistan's foreign ministry and Britain over immigration-related issues, including "huge and unexplained delays" in issuance of visas, had compelled Home Secretary

Johnson to visit Pakistan in an attempt to defuse tensions.

Johnson's "prime task seems to end the friction by explaining to the Pakistani authorities a variety of fresh measures (Britain is) taking to expedite visa processing", the report said. The two sides are also expected to discuss several other issues, including differences over the type of violators of British laws who need to be deported from Britain. Some senior foreign ministry and government officials are "so annoyed" on issues involving Britain that they had advised Prime Minister Gilani not to agree to a joint press conference with the visiting ministers.

However, sources told PTI that the news conference is expected to go ahead as scheduled. The visa issue has become an irritant in bilateral ties as it involves thousands of Pakistanis, a bulk of them students whose academic career is at stake.

Pakistani businessmen, university professors and persons invited to attend international conferences have also

been denied visas, the newspaper report said.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad

© Copyright 2009 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.

More striking power close to Pak, China
Post upgrade, all MiG-29s to be stationed at Adampur base in Punjab
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Adampur (Punjab), October 4
In what will create a deterrent against the uneasy neighbours, the Indian Air Force is not only upgrading the Russian-built MiG-29 combat aircraft, but will also deploy all these fighter jets at Adampur in Punjab that is close to both Pakistan and China.

All the three squadrons — around 62 fighters — are to be based at Adampur which is nation’s second largest IAF base. It is around 100 km away from the Indo-Pak border and less than 250 km from the Chinese border on the eastern side. At present, the MiG-29s — inducted in the late 1980s — are stationed at Adampur and Jamnagar in Gujarat.

The upgraded fighters will carry better weapons, a state-of-the-art radar, and advanced avionics. Another important addition would be mid-air refuelling capability. A more powerful and latest series-III version of the existing RD 33 engine of the MiG 29 will be housed in the upgraded planes. Sources say the upgrade will cost India around $ 650 million. The multifunctional radar will guide weapons with better precision. It will also enable the pilot to “see” even small targets like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A new weapon control system will enable better hitting at targets and also enhance the delivery system of a weapon. The existing flying range of the MIG-29 is around 2,100 km. Post add-ons, it will increase to 3,500 km. “After the upgrade, the MiG-29 will be just a shade lower in capability than the Sukhoi-30,” said a senior IAF official, while talking to the Tribune. The IAF already has the Sukhoi-30 — considered one of the deadliest fighters in the world — in its arsenal.

The IAF has dispatched the first lot of six MiG-29s to Russia and it is expected to be delivered back early next year. The entire programme to upgrade the 60-odd planes will be completed in 2013. In the later stage, the upgrade will be carried out in India with the help of Russian technicians. “We are looking forward to induct upgraded MIG-29s which will happen sometime next year,” said the Air officer Commanding, Adampur, Air Commodore HS Arora. The upgrade and the new deployment pattern will assuage the restive feeling occurring due to recent developments alongside the Chinese border. It will also ramp up capacity in case of any conflict or intrusion from the western side. Recently, two new radars have been placed at a strategic location in Punjab. Also, the IAF has announced that two squadrons of the Sukhoi-30 will also be based in Punjab from 2011 onwards.

The MiG-29 were inducted in India at the height of the cold war between the erstwhile USSR and USA. These were seen as answer to the F-16 fighters, which USA had supplied to Pakistan in the 1980s.

NSG’s India exception can ‘weaken’ NPT
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 4
The International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation & Disarmament hopes to achieve some success in its objective by 2015, co-chairman Gareth Evans told reporters here Sunday at the conclusion of the commission’s fourth regional meeting for South Asia here today.

The two-day meeting of several commissioners and a number of advisory board members was convened with the support of the Delhi Policy Group.

Evans, who was accompanied by co-chairperson Yoriko Kawaguchi and K Shankar Bajpai of the Delhi Policy Group, said the commission expected to make some progress in putting an end to further proliferation of nuclear weapons by 2015.

“The next stage will be minimising possession of nuclear weapons, and protection against nuclear attack could be achieved by 2025. However, the commission did not make an attempt to put a date to getting from there to zero nuclear weapons”, he added.

The meeting, which discussed all-important issues relating to nuclear disarmament, acknowledged both India and Pakistan would be reluctant to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The commission said the exception that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has made for India in allowing global nuclear trade and fuel commerce with it could weaken the NPT. “There is a thinking that the India-US (civil nuclear cooperation) agreement would jeopardise the position of NPT,” Kawaguchi, a former Japanese foreign minister, told reporters.

Evans considered the Indo-US nuclear treaty a setback to the process of nuclear nonproliferation but said as “far as India was concerned it got the best deal. We don’t blame India for that”.

“We have a clear understanding of the political dynamics of the region. There are 23,000 nuclear weapons the world over of which 10,000 are actively deployed and 2,000 trigger ready”, he added. The meeting also discussed the potential risks in peaceful uses of nuclear energy even as it recognised the need, especially in developing countries, for greater and cleaner electrical energy. Also the fear of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban or terrorist groups was discussed at length.

Kawaguchi said the first meeting of this region was held in Sydney, Australia and the fourth and last will be held in Hiroshima, Japan.

Hitting Maoists
Letting IAF loose has both pros and cons

The Indian Air Force has never used firepower against militants in Jammu & Kashmir or insurgents in the North-East. Its request, therefore, for permission to open fire against the Maoists is a grim reminder of the growing strength of the rebels and the seriousness of the crisis. The request made by the IAF to the Ministry of Defence, confirmed by Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, is evidently related to the impending offensive against the outlaws. Two IAF choppers came under attack in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra in November last year and in April this year, respectively, killing a Sergeant in the process and damaging the helicopters. The IAF, deployed usually for transporting troops and machinery, in search and rescue operations and as air-ambulance, clearly expects to play a far more active role in the offensive, which explains why the permission to fire back at the Maoists has been sought at this juncture.

The Maoists, who killed 16 people in Bihar, including five children, last Thursday night, have become a menace and need to be dealt with firmly. Maoist terror is unacceptable and the rebels must be defeated. But Air Chief Marshal Naik has rightly struck a note of caution and pointed out the very real possibility of collateral damage if the IAF uses its firepower even in self-defence. Killing innocent people on the ground will not only be unfortunate and counter-productive, it would also strengthen the rebels by spreading discontent among the people. It is a difficult choice because the rebels are almost certain to provoke the IAF and take their chances. Still, the permission cannot be granted lightly and one expects the IAF to use its firepower under the gravest of provocations.

Pilotless spy planes have already been in use to guide and direct ground troops during counter-insurgency operations as also in operations against the Maoists. But Air Marshal Naik ruled out the possibility of arming them for firing on the ground, like the Predator drones used by the US against suspected Taliban militants. The IAF chief held out a warning though that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles ( UAVs) can be fitted with sensors to look through the foliage in forests. Public pronouncements in detail may have been a part of psychological warfare and designed to demoralise the enemy. One only hopes it will not rob the offensive of the suspense and the surprise element required for success in such operations.

Pakistan has forces,equipment for Taliban assault-US

Sun Oct 4, 2009 4:30pm EDT

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Pakistan has mobilized enough forces and equipment to launch a long awaited ground offensive against Taliban militants in their South Waziristan stronghold near the Afghan border, U.S. defense officials said on Sunday.

Washington sees a concerted push by Pakistan to eliminate Taliban and al Qaeda "sanctuaries" in its territory as the key to turning around a faltering U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has cited shortages of helicopters, armored vehicles and precision weapons in putting off a Waziristan assault, but U.S. officials said they believed the army was sufficiently equipped to act.

"We would assess that they have plenty of force to do the job right now," said one of the officials, who has been closely monitoring Pakistani preparations for the offensive.

The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussing Pakistani military planning.

Pakistan has amassed troops around Waziristan, imposing a blockade to try to choke off Taliban supplies. Before an anticipated ground assault, the army has increased artillery fire and the CIA has stepped up attacks using drone aircraft armed with missiles.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said two divisions, of up to 28,000 soldiers, were in place, enough to take on an estimated 10,000 Taliban.

While declining to discuss force levels, a U.S. defense official described the Waziristan deployment as "significant" and said he did not expect any additional reinforcements.

"You might see some troops moving but they would probably be rotating. I think they're going to maintain about the same strength that they have there now," the official said.

Washington believes the Pakistanis will have to "clear and hold" the rugged, mountainous territory to crush militants loyal to the late Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Baitullah was killed in a U.S. missile strike in August. U.S. intelligence agencies believe his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, may have been killed soon thereafter in a firefight with rivals, leaving the Taliban in disarray.

Allied with al Qaeda, Mehsud's group has mostly been fighting against Pakistani forces but also sends militants to join the battle against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.


Appearing on CNN, White House National Security Adviser James Jones pointed to al Qaeda "sanctuaries" in Pakistan as "the problem, the next step" in the fight against the group.

Washington hopes expanding U.S.-Pakistani military ties "will lead to a campaign against all insurgents on that side of the border," Jones told CBS's "Face the Nation." He said such a "strategic shift ... will spill over into Afghanistan."

Analysts say Islamabad has so far only been acting against militants that directly threaten its power, like Mehsud's Taliban, while leaving alone some of the groups leading the fight against NATO in neighboring Afghanistan.

U.S. officials see the Pakistani army's offensive against the former Taliban bastion in Swat, 80 miles (128 km) northwest of Islamabad, as a sign that the country's political and military leaders have learned from past missteps.

"I think they're determined to not make the mistake of withdrawing (from Swat) before the government forces are able to come in and backfill, and do the hold and build functions of counter-insurgency," the official said.

U.S. officials acknowledged Pakistani troops need more armored vehicles and night-vision devises to protect themselves against improvised explosive devices, the most lethal weapon used by the Taliban against American forces in Afghanistan.

"But the lack of that equipment does not mean they cannot conduct successful military operations. It might mean that it would be a little more difficult, that the logistics would be a little trickier. But it doesn't mean they can't pull the trigger if they want," said one of the defense officials.

Another U.S. military official said an assault by ground forces in Waziristan "can still be effective" despite some shortages, adding that the Pentagon was trying to free up helicopters and other equipment for Pakistan "as soon as possible".

The Pentagon has sought permission from Congress to transfer used military hardware from Iraq to the Pakistani army but American lawmakers have so far balked at the request, citing concerns that Islamabad could use the equipment against India.

Washington is also securing some equipment through third governments but the effort is moving slowly, officials said. (Editing by Anthony Boadle and Chris Wilson)

Disaster link to ride on defence network

About 5,000 offices will be connected to the Rs10,000 crore alternate optical fibre cable network being built for the defence services by state-run BSNL and MTNL

Shauvik Ghosh

New Delhi: India is setting up a secure communications backbone that will ride on a proposed Armed Forces network to ensure that key government offices aren’t cut off in the event of disasters such as the 2004 tsunami or terrorist attacks such as the one in Mumbai last year.

About 5,000 offices will be connected to the Rs10,000 crore alternate optical fibre cable (OFC) network being built for the defence services by state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL).

Home ministry officials said the government initiative to build this level of redundancy in the system was unprecedented and would mark a quantum leap in having secure communication lines in the face of law and order problems and disasters.

“This is the first time essential offices are being linked at the national level, and it will be operational in time of emergency,” said a senior official in the home ministry, who did not want to be identified.

The system will also be used in case regular means of communication are not considered secure enough to transmit sensitive data by offices that are given access to OFC, said a senior official in the department of telecommunications (DoT) on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The two state-owned telecom firms are building a 40,000km OFC network that will cost the Army and the Navy Rs8,893 crore and the Air Force Rs1,077 crore.

The alternate OFC for the Air Force, on which work has already begun, is expected to be completed by October. The Air Force is expected to move to this network by March 2010 after the necessary testing is completed.

The plan to open the network up to government offices may be discomfiting for the Armed Forces, given that the move may increase vulnerability.

“A requirement for defence forces globally is that the alternate communication network has to be secure at both the end-point and within the network,” said Varadarajan Sridhar, research fellow at Sasken Communication Technologies Ltd. “That is why optical fibre networks are built to provide secure communications the world over. But they will have to evolve some sort of mechanism so as to not allow the security requirements to cause a rise in the cost of the network.”

The DoT official said the home ministry would have to set stringent conditions for access. “The exact terms of use and accessibility will be defined by the home ministry...they will also have to ensure that defence security is not compromised.”

The Armed Forces will shift most of their communication needs to the OFC network, allowing them to vacate large amounts of scarce and valuable spectrum needed for mobile phone services in the country.

The main reason for connecting the network to the ministries and their offices is that, apart from security being ensured by virtue of this being a defence project, it won’t be dependent on the existing telecom network, another senior official said on condition of anonymity. “This OFC will be better than any private operator in reach and will have separate manpower for management, maintenance and operations.”

The Armed Forces are expected to vacate at least 45MHz of spectrum, comprising 25MHz needed for third-generation (3G) mobile services and the rest for existing 2G mobile services. Bharti Airtel Ltd, the country’s largest telecom services provider, has a maximum of 10MHz in its mobile service areas.

According to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the defence ministry and DoT, the Armed Forces will vacate the spectrum over 36 months. Two blocks of 10MHz of 3G airwaves and one block of 2G frequencies were to have been released at the time of signing the MoU, but that hasn’t taken place yet, according to an internal DoT note. The rest is to be released based on the progress made by the alternate OFC.

BSNL is expected to issue the request for participation for building OFC in a month’s time. MTNL is building the network in Delhi and Mumbai, the areas of its operation, while BSNL will execute the project in the rest of the country.

MTNL will first connect all key ministries to OFC in Delhi. The rest of the integration, with offices across the country, will take place after BSNL finishes the work. The project is mandated to be completed in 36 months after the MoU is signed.

Sridhar said costs would need to be considered carefully. “Having an alternate communication system is a good move as it relieves the traditional microwave communications (mobile telephony) in an emergency. But it has to be used prudently. This OFC has been in the pipeline for four years now, and the cost estimates have risen from Rs1,300 crore to Rs10,000 crore,” he said.

Setting boundaries

Brahma Chellaney / DNA

No one in the Indian government has said Chinese cross-frontier incursions aren’t happening. Yet to play down the incursions, New Delhi has accused the media of overplaying such intrusions.

To the delight of the autocrats in Beijing, who tightly control the flow of information in their country, including through online censors, New Delhi has made its home media the whipping boy. The unwitting message it sends to Beijing is that when the world’s biggest autocracy builds up pressure, the world’s largest democracy is willing to tame its media coverage, even if it entails dispensing half-truths and flogging distortions.

The facts, even if unpalatable, should be allowed to speak for themselves. New Delhi’s oft-repeated line in recent days has been that Chinese incursions are at last year’s level, so there is no need to worry. But 2008 brought a record number of incursions, with defence officials reporting that the number of such intrusions went from 140 in 2007 to 270 last year, or almost double. In addition, there were 2,285 reported instances of “aggressive border patrolling” by Chinese forces in 2008. As defence minister AK Anthony told an army commanders’ conference last year, “there is no room for complacency” on the Tibet border.

That the incursions this year are continuing at the 2008 level suggests there is every reason to be concerned. After all, the 2008 record pattern is continuing, with China keeping India under sustained, unremitting pressure. Yet, from the external affairs minister and foreign secretary to the national security adviser and army chief, Indian officials have sought to tamp public concerns by saying there is “no significant increase” compared to last year. Do they wish to thank Beijing for keeping border incidents and other provocations at the 2008 level without seeking to establish a new record through a “significant” increase in incursions?

The key point to note is that China has opened pressure points against India across the Himalayas, with border incidents occurring in all the four sectors. Chinese forces are intruding even into Utttarakhand, although the line of control in this middle sector was clarified in 2001 through an exchange of maps, and into Sikkim, whose 206-kilometer border with Tibet is not in dispute and indeed is recognised by Beijing.

Yet, gratuitously stretching the truth, Indian officials say the incursions are the result of differing perceptions about the line of truth. That may be so about Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, but can that be true about Sikkim and Uttarakhand? It speaks for itself that Beijing hasn’t offered this lame excuse.

Make no mistake: The Chinese border provocations have resulted both from India’s political pusillanimity and from the withdrawal of China-related army divisions in past years. For example, the 8th Mountain Division, tasked with defending Sikkim, was moved from northern Bengal to J&K and took part in the Kargil War. Tank forces also were moved out from Sikkim.

Similarly, a mountain division was moved from the northeast to J&K for counterinsurgency operations. Such relocation of forces emboldened the Chinese. The current Indian moves to beef up defences against China largely involve the return of the forces that were withdrawn a decade or more ago.

Chinese cross-border incursions are designed not only to keep India under military pressure all along the Himalayas, but also to ensure Indian “good behaviour” on assorted political issues, including Tibet, Pakistan and military ties with the US.

Take the Pakistan factor: At a time when an internally troubled Pakistan is facing US pressure to redeploy a sufficient number of forces to the Afghan front, China wants to shield its “all-weather ally” from Indian military pressure by keeping a sizable number of Indian forces bogged down along the Himalayas.

Had India’s nuclear deterrent been credible in the eyes of China, Beijing wouldn’t have dared to ratchet up border tensions. But the Chinese muscle-flexing suggests otherwise. In fact, more than three decades after China tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, India doesn’t have an ICBM even on the drawing board. India still hasn’t deployed even a single, Beijing-reachable missile.

If the threat from an increasingly assertive and ambitious China is to be contained, India must have an honest and open debate on its diplomatic and military options, including how gaps in its defences can be plugged and what it will take to build a credible deterrent. The media has a crucial role to play in such a debate, both by bringing out the facts and providing a platform for discussion. If New Delhi wishes to ensure Himalayan peace and stability, pulling the wool on public eyes at home is certainly not the way.

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