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Thursday, 29 October 2009

From Today's Papers - 29 Oct 09

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US pushing Pak to act against 26/11 perpetrators: Clinton

Lalit K Jha/PTI / Washington October 28, 2009, 12:45 IST

The US is pushing Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice and to put an end to the connection between the ISI and terror groups, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today as she travelled to Islamabad on a three-day visit.

The relationship between ISI and some terror groups remained a concern for the US, even though there has been a remarkable improvement in cooperation from the ISI in last nine months, Clinton told reporters travelling with her.

"... We are constantly assessing that (relationship between ISI and terrorist organisations) and because it remains a concern to us," she said in response to a question.

Clinton said the US continues to raise several issues with Pakistan, with the Mumbai trial prominent among them.

"We are clearly pushing for the trials of the Mumbai attackers and planners to go forward," she said.

"We are very much focused on them, because we see them as a threat to Pakistan, we see them as a threat to India, we see them as a threat to stability in the region. We don't think its good for anybody," she said.

Clinton said "No" when asked: "Are you convinced that there is no more collaboration between the military and the ISI in assisting certain terrorist groups like Lashkar e-taiba?" and added: "No, but I'm not unconvinced".

India won’t join US ops in Afghanistan: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 28
Defence Minister AK Antony today made it clear that there was no question of joining US-led military operations in Afghanistan, saying the ministry did not foresee such a situation “now or in the future”.

“I am saying categorically that there is no question of Indian military involvement in Afghanistan,” Antony told reporters when asked about the US suggesting India to join its military operations in Afghanistan.

“I do not foresee such a situation,” Antony said, in reply to a question if the recent Indo-US army counter-insurgency and anti-terror exercise was aimed at future joint operations in Afghanistan.

India was involved in Afghanistan for humanitarian aid, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.

At the recent joint military exercise in Babina, Uttar Pradesh, a US Army commander Lieut. Gen. Benjamin Mixon had said that his troops would be comfortable operating with Indian troops in the future anywhere and anytime, and that the fortnight-long exercise that ended on Monday was aimed at achieving inter-operability.

Defence Minister AK Antony today announced a 33 per cent jump in the number of Indian Coast Guard personnel, who form country’s naval counter-terrorism force.

The announcement comes after around 11 months of the biggest terror attack in India in November last year.

The government has sanctioned nearly 3,000 additional posts at various levels and these needs to be filled on priority basis. He said the concept of “security” has changed in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks and the spectrum and nature of duties of the Indian Coast Guard have undergone a sea change.

The Coast Guard would be one of the world’s best forces in a couple of years, he added. The force was in the process of acquiring 20 fast patrol vehicles (OPVs), 41 interceptor boats, 12 coastal surveillance aircraft (Dorniers) and seven offshore patrol vehicles.

After Russia, US to produce fighter aircraft in India
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 28
The US has decided to allow production of its front-line fighter aircraft, F-18 super-hornet, in India if the Indian Air Force selects the same for use.

President of the Boeing Military Aircraft systems Chris Chadwick made it clear today that F-18, produced by Boeing, “will be for licensed production in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)”. If the IAF selects F-18, first 18 aircraft will be imported and the rest will be made in India. Chadwick was replying to a question if Boeing was comfortable with producing its frontline aircraft in India like the Russian products are made here.

Notably, Russian fighter Sukhoi-30, rated as one of the best in the world, and the T-90 tanks, both are produced in India as part of an agreement between India and Russia.

His colleague Mike Reitz, director of the F-18 project made it clear: “The US government has approved of the technology transfer. We will be building the plane here itself and not be just assembling parts ”. The F-18 is part of the six global contenders of the medium range multi-role aircraft (MMRCA) project that India in buying. At $10 billion, it is one of the biggest ongoing deals in the world. The F-18 has finished its two-stage Indian leg of the trails conducted across Bangalore, Jaisalmer and Leh.

As part of its commitment to Indian market, Boeing has signed agreements with a total of 38 Indian defence public sector companies and private companies for supplying equipment.

Agreements have been signed with Indian companies such as Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Boeing India head Vivek Lall said.

As per the Defence Procurement Procedure, for any deal worth over Rs 300 crore, the selected manufacturer has to reinvest a minimum of 30 per cent of the deal’s worth in Indian defence industry.

The F-18 has been modified for Indian conditions, said Reitz as he challenged the other five contenders saying “we challenge anybody to fly a plane like us”. A new radar, that allows tracking of multiple targets on land, air and sea, is fitted onto the plane. The US Government has also approved this for technology transfer to India.

Chinese intrusions errors: Krishna
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, October 28
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna today said there was nothing alarming about border incursions by the Chinese military.

In a ‘meet-the-press’ programme at the Press Club here today, Krishna said border between India and China was not clearly delineated and this gave rise to the problem.

“It is nothing to be alarmed about,” Krishna said and added that a mechanism was being worked out to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

“Indo-China border is most peaceful. There may be incursion by the Chinese without them even being aware of it. Relations between the two countries are warm,” Krishna, who held a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart here yesterday, said. He added that efforts were underway to take the relationship between the two nations to the next level, which would be one of “partnership”.

The Minister said National Security Adviser MK Narayanan had been assigned to hold negotiations with the Chinese on the boundary questions and the two sides had already held meetings on the issue. He, however, added that resolution of the disputes would be a time-consuming process and would require a “lot of patience” on the part of those who were keen to see an end to the boundary problems.

Regarding the proposed visit of Dalai Lama’s to Arunachal Pradesh, Krishna reiterated that the Tibetan spiritual leader was an “honoured guest of India” and was free to go to any part of the country that he would wish to visit.

Dhruv crash raises questions
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, October 28
Crash of an Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) manufactured Dhruv helicopter in Ecuador has raised question marks over the Central Government’s decision to gift the multi-role helicopter to the Maldivian government for use by its defence forces.

Ameen Faisal, Minister of Defence and National Security of Maldives, arrived in Bangalore today and visited the export hangar and the helicopter complex of HAL. He also had a look at the Advanced Light Helicopter prototype developed by HAL.The Maldivian Defence Minister will proceed to Belgaum tomorrow where the armies of India and the Maldives will be holding a joint counter-terrorism exercise. The exercise comes close on the heels of Defence Minister AK Antony’s visit to the island country a couple of months ago.

A Defence Ministry spokesperson here said it was unlikely that the Indian offer to Maldives would be reviewed in the light of the Ecuador incident. “When the Defence Minister visited Maldives, he promised to give them a Dhruv for their military. They were also asked to set up hangars and other paraphernalia for parking the bird,” he said.

The Dhruv crash in Ecuador took place during a military parade injuring its two pilots and prompting the Ecuadorian authorities to ground the six remaining recently purchased choppers. The helicopter was flying in formation with two other choppers over an air force base near Quito yesterday when it suddenly veered off course and hit the ground.

China flexes muscles
India must be firm, but restrained in rhetoric
by G. Parthasarathy

The mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party, the People’s Daily, claimed on October 14 that the Indians have become “more narrow minded”. It accused India of “provocation” on border issues with China and asserted that as “nationalism sentiment” rises, the Indians are turning to “hegemony” in relations with neighbours. The People’s Daily called on India to give a “positive response” to China’s efforts to resolve the border issue. Pakistan was referred to as one of the countries suffering from Indian “hegemony”, as India allegedly sought to “befriend the far (United States and Russia) and attack the near (Pakistan and China)”. The Chinese conveniently forget how they colluded against India with the Nixon Administration during the Bangladesh conflict in 1971 and with the Clinton Administration after India’s nuclear tests in 1998.

While China has relentlessly sought to denigrate and undermine India’s relations with countries in its Indian Ocean neighbourhood, even going to the extent of transferring nuclear weapons designs and knowhow to Pakistan, India has yet to fashion a coherent policy on the fears that China’s East and South-East Asian neighbours have of China’s efforts to dominate the Asia-Pacific region. Assured by the support it received after a visit by Deng Xiao Ping’s to Washington, China launched an unprovoked attack on Vietnam in order to “teach” Vietnam a “lesson” in 1979. Deng proclaimed that the “lesson” was meant to be similar to that administered to India in 1962. China again used force against Vietnam when it forcibly occupied the Paracel islands in 1974.There was yet another military engagement between China and Vietnam, when China occupied the “Johnson Reef” in 1988. In July 1992, China occupied Vietnam’s Da Lac Reef, establishing its first military presence there since the 1988 clash with Vietnam.

China claims that its territorial waters engulf 3 million square kilometres out of the total area of 3.5 million square kilometres in the South China Sea. Given such claims about its ever-expanding maritime frontiers, China is today engulfed in maritime disputes with the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and both North and South Korea. Earlier this year, China complained about an “official landing” by Malaysia on the islands it had claimed. The same week, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a decree laying claim to two islands that China had claimed. In February 1995, China militarily occupied the “Mischief Reef” in the Spratlys Islands, which was claimed by the Philippines. A month later Philippines forces seized Chinese fishing boats and destroyed Chinese markers in “Mischief Reef”. Malaysia and Vietnam have joined hands to counter Chinese expansionism, by jointly submitting a proposal to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea questioning China’s claims and definition of its continental shelf. It is precisely such belligerence that prompts China’s Asia-Pacific neighbours to seek a US presence in the region. India would be well advised to seek a more wide-ranging strategic engagement with China’s Asia-Pacific neighbours like Vietnam and the Philippines in response to China’s policies of seeking to undermine India’s relations with its immediate neighbours.

While intimidating its smaller neighbours on issues of its maritime boundaries by its growing military strength, China finds its quest for hegemony hampered by two large Asian neighbours --- Japan and India. It seeks to exclude the United States and India from regional forums by calling for the establishment of an “East Asian Community”. Concerned by such Chinese moves, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asserted: “I think the US has to be part of the Asia-Pacific and the overall architecture of cooperation within the Asia Pacific”. This fear of Chinese expansionism is accentuated by the virtual paralysis in Japanese foreign policy in recent times.

The Chinese have spread fears about a revival of World War II Japanese “militarism” and put Japan on the defensive by protesting about the visits of Japanese leaders to the Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to the memory of the soldiers killed in the service of the country. Having emerged as the largest trading partner of Asia’s three largest economies — Japan, South Korea and India — and a major trading partner of ASEAN, China appears determined to combine its economic clout and its military potential to emerge as Asia’s dominant power. Apart from using its maritime strength to enforce its territorial claims in Asia-Pacific, China now seeks to become a dominant player in the sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean. Hence its proposal to the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet that in return for the recognition of American dominance in the eastern Pacific, the Americans should acknowledge that the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions as China’s sphere of influence.

China’s growing belligerence on the border issue should be seen in this context of its determination to be the dominant power in Asia. Given Japan’s readiness to succumb to Chinese pressures, Beijing’s rulers see an emerging India, which shows the potential for rapid economic growth while being respected in the comity of nations as a stable democracy, as an irritant and challenge to its larger ambitions. The unresolved border issue serves as a useful tool to keep India on the edge and under pressure. China knows that no government in India can agree to its claims on populated areas like Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.

One of the greatest failures of China’s Communist revolution is that despite the Han Chinese constituting 91 per cent of the country’s population, the Chinese are paranoiac and insecure about their ability to handle 9 per cent of their minority population in the strategically important Buddhist-dominated Tibetan Autonomous Region and in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, despite bringing in Han settlers to reduce the indigenous populations to a minority. Tawang is seen as symbolically crucial in Chinese eyes as a centre of Buddhist spiritualism. By laying claim to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, China puts India on the defensive, diplomatically and militarily, and seeks to influence gullible sections of the public in India to “compromise” on Tawang.

The Prime Minister told his Chinese counterpart in Thailand that India regarded the Dalai Lama as an “honoured guest” and a spiritual leader. Even as the dialogue with China continues, to maintain peace and tranquillity along our borders, India should not buckle under Chinese pressure, by reversing its decision on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang. Firmness, together with restraint in rhetoric, and not appeasement, is required for dealing with a growingly jingoistic China.

Army last resort in rebel fight: Antony


Antony in Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Oct. 28: Defence minister A.K. Antony is always emphatic in his rejections. There were two from him today: one unqualified and categorical, the other with a but-and-an-if.

“I can tell you categorically that there was and there is no question of (Indian) military involvement (in Iraq or Afghanistan) now or in future,” he shot back when pointed out that a top US Army general had said during war games this week that “I would be comfortable going with the Indian Army anywhere, anytime”.

Indian and US army mechanised forces are currently engaged in an exercise named “Yudh Abhyas” (preparing for war) at Babina near Jhansi.

In the same breath, almost, Antony rejected cabinet colleague Mamata Banerjee’s demand for an immediate deployment of the army in Lalgarh but said the Centre had intensified its monitoring of measures against Maoists.

The army was to be used only as “a last, last, last resort”. The army can only be called to aid the civil authority after a state government has requested.

In Bengal, despite the rejection of Mamata’s request, the issue of using the army against Naxalites is still open in the ruling CPM but not as favoured by its partners in the Left Front government.

CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar had said in Calcutta on September 25: “Let the Centre decide and put the proposal before the state. But there is little scope for debate on this issue among us. The Maoists are operating as a regular army and they can be dealt with effectively by an army response.”

That was before the Maoists had abducted police officer Atindranath Dutta and the PCPA picketed the Rajdhani Express — both events hammering into Writers’ Buildings and North Block that security forces in Lalgarh have a long way to go. Antony said: “The government is aware of the seriousness of the Naxalite threat.” He even used the word “alarming” once but indicated that the Centre felt it had not yet crossed the threshold beyond which New Delhi would have to push the army into the troubled zones.

Antony’s re-statement today of not deploying army boots on the ground in the offensive against Naxalites reflects the views of the armed forces top brass. The Indian Air Force is already involved in the offensive and is set to create a task force for the purpose.

With heavy deployments in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast, the army top brass are worried about being over-stretched if called to do duty in the hinterland.

But the defence minister has left the question open on what the Centre would do if the Bengal — or any other state — government were to formally request for army assistance.

“Law and order is the responsibility of the state governments and we are there only to give support. Whether in Bengal or any other area, our view is that employing armed forces for internal security is the last resort,” he said.

Antony was replying after being asked for his response to Mamata Banerjee’s request to the Union home minister P. Chidambaram in Delhi on Tuesday. The Trinamul leader and railway minister said she had told the home minister: “Don’t use the assistance of the state government to combat Maoists. Only use the army for the task.”

Contrasting with Antony’s qualified statement on using the army in internal security “only as a last resort” was his categorical denial of the suggestion that Indian troops may operate alongside US forces in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. The question arose because of the largest army exercise now on with troops, tanks and armoured vehicles.

Taming Pakistan Army

B G Verghese

First Published : 29 Oct 2009 11:04:00 PM IST

Last Updated : 29 Oct 2009 01:08:02 AM IST

Is Pakistan’s rogue army in the process of being tamed at last? Hopefully so. A few ‘nationalist’ commentators and angry men in khaki have suddenly voiced anxiety and anger over the Kerry-Lugar Bill adopted by the US Congress last month and now awaiting presidential signature to become law. Someone in Washington at last appears to have blown the whistle after years and even decades of political fraud and military double cross in Pakistan that has brought the country to its knees and strangled democracy.

Dossiers seem to make for light reading in Islamabad these days. But one such American dossier currently doing the rounds has been wounding. It says that of $12 billion given to Pakistan in aid between 2002 and 2008, including $6.6 bn of military assistance, only $500 m reached the military to fight terror. The rest was diverted to strengthen the military, bolster terror against India and subsidise Musharraf’s failing economy to make the dictator look good. The Americans cite Pakistani generals, bureaucrats and ministers as sources. More culpable are they as they willingly turned away from the truth to prop up the ‘frontline state’ in all its ugly capers for decades – something US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, termed as the ‘incoherence’ of US AfPak policy. India bore huge collateral damage in blood and treasure and was repeatedly advised ‘restraint’ by Washington.

Even as Pakistan stabbed India in the back at Kargil with practised ease and the usual diversionary tales repeated since 1947, while A Q Khan cheerfully proliferated to all and sundry, not least, China, Bill Clinton sold his biographer, Taylor Branch, a grim fairy tale as reported after the volume was released in New York last month. He said India and Pakistan were very casual about talking about nuking one another during the Kargil war.

Now that its AfPak policy has begun to hurt it, the Americans are wiser. The Kerry-Lugar Bill sets out the conditions on which alone the US will give $7.5 bn economic assistance to Pakistan over the next five years together with an undisclosed but substantial quantum of military assistance to fight terror. The conditions are spelt in the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Enhanced Cooperation (PEACE) Act. This calls for annual certification by the US Secretary of State that Pakistan is abiding by nuclear non-proliferation norms and provides ‘relevant information’ and direct access to nodal players and agencies. The secretary must also certify Pakistan’s remaining commitment to the war on terror and has ceased supporting terror groups striking at US forces and neighbours (India).

More galling, annual certification will assess whether any resources have been diverted to nuclear proliferation, the degree of civil control over military and defence expenditure and the extent of any military nexus with the civil administration. The clear purpose is to shield governance from military dominance and to break the military-mullah stranglehold over civil-democratic rule. While President Zardari and his government are for the PEACE Act, the military and sundry ideologues are agitated. Unfortunately, the ML(N) of Nawaz Sharif is reported to be lukewarm. Pakistan must shed military dominance once and for all and shed the obscurantist tyranny of its rabidly Islamist Wahabi mullahs and return to the humanistic Sufi Islam of the sub-continent.

Meanwhile, the second bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul follows General McChrystal’s warning that India’s growing popularity in Afghanistan on account of its beneficial reconstruction and humanitarian aid might invite Pakistani ‘countermeasures’. Close on its heels, the Southern Taliban in Punjab struck at GHQ in Rawalpindi in an embarrassing standoff.

Back home, the Maoist offensive has reached new heights of barbarity and mindless violence epitomised in the bestial beheading of a police official in Jharkhand. No theory of ‘class annihilation’ can explain or extenuate this kind of savagery. Suggestions that the anti-Naxal operations be militarised have been firmly rejected and the Union home minister has stated that the Maoists will be firmly dealt with and rooted out but that the government is ready to open a dialogue on grievances and development issues if they lay down arms. This is the right course.

The government’s approach, however, continues to lean towards prioritising law and order in the belief that unless areas and communities are secure, development cannot move forward. This is only partly true. There is still an imperfect understanding of the underlying problems at many levels, official, political, media and public. Poverty and deprivation hurt, and widening disparities anger. But what rankles most is the denial of dignity and social justice, both solemn constitutional promises.

The Fifth Schedule and PESA, which constitute a social contract with tribal India, have been blatantly violated in letter and spirit to this day and the elaborate machinery established for their implementation, monitoring and evaluation callously disregarded. Governor’s reports, as mandated, are routine, low-grade documents written by lowly functionaries to satisfy a constitutional requirement. There is little evidence of ground truthing, analysis and application of mind. The reports are often delayed by years and are never debated. The whole exercise has been reduced to a farce. Administrative structures and personnel in the Fifth Schedule areas are often unsuited to the tasks in hand and incapable of delivering development. These issues have simply not been addressed. The failure has been comprehensive, continuing and criminal. No one has been held accountable for this despite desperate appeals by commissions, concerned individuals and groups.

The Centre cannot pass the buck to the states. Both are equally responsible. Nor can or should each blame the other. They have a shared responsibility and need to act in concert. NGOs should now come forward to try and promote reconciliation, starting, if need be, in limited peace zones, so designated by mutual agreement and subject to certain ground rules, with no display or use of arms by the Naxals, and monitored by independent, non-partisan peace committees composed of men and women of goodwill who enjoy trust and respect on all sides. Schools and health centres would be natural foci of such peace zones.

Why not the Centre take the initiative through a national broadcast by the prime minister followed up by a more specific invitation to dialogue by some chief ministers, Such broadcasts would obviously need to be preceded by discussion and formulation of a strategy to develop peace, justice and development with informed civil society inputs. This would be a policy of democratic strength, not of weakness.

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