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Saturday, 14 November 2009

From Today's Papers - 14 Nov 09

China provided Pakistan with kit to make N-bombs: Report

Press Trust of India, Friday November 13, 2009, Washington

China provided Pakistan with a "do-it-yourself" kit and weapons grade uranium for making two nuclear bombs in 1982, a leading American daily said on Friday quoting notes made by disgraced Pakistani scientist A Q Khan.

The Washington Post said the deliberate act of proliferation was part of a secret nuclear deal struck in 1976 between Chinese leader Mao zedong and Pakistan's prime minister Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto.

"Upon my personal request, the Chinese Minister... had gifted us 50 kilograms of weapon-grade enriched uranium, enough for two weapons," Khan wrote in a previously undisclosed 11-page narrative of the Pakistani bomb programme.

Khan prepared the notes for Pakistan's intelligence after his January 2004 detention for unauthorised nuclear commerce, the daily said.

The Post said it obtained Khan's detailed accounts from Simon Henderson, a former journalist at the Financial Times who is now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and who has maintained correspondence with Khan.

In a first-person account about his contacts with Khan in the September 20 edition of the Sunday Times, Henderson disclosed several excerpts from one of the documents.

According to Khan, the daily said, the uranium cargo came with a blueprint for a simple weapon that China had already tested, supplying a virtual do-it-yourself kit that significantly speeded Pakistan's bomb effort.

Why Lankan war hero Fonseka and Rajapaksa broke up

November 13, 2009 19:20 IST

Gen Sarath FonsekaSenior Sri Lankan journalist Ameen Izzadeen explains why the popular general and popular President fell out just months after masterminding the end of the LTTE [ Images ].

Sri Lankans now know why their highly-respected war hero wants to quit his top military post and serve the people in some other capacity, possibly as their next President. According to a leaked version of what is said to be General Sarath Fonseka's retirement letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, it all boils down to the government's fears of a military coup and its mistrust of Sri Lanka's [ Images ] first and only serving four-star general.

The tone of the letter indicates that the general was highly perturbed when the government last month alerted India [ Images ] on a possible coup in Sri Lanka and sought its help to thwart it if it happened.

The letter fired a 16-canon salvo at the President -- a kind of you did this to me, you humiliated me, you mistrusted me and you gave me a post that had no command responsibility.

The letter pointed to the recent replacement of soldiers loyal to General Fonseka with soldiers from a regiment which was close to President's brother and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for security duty at army headquarters.

It also had a political tone aimed at wooing the Tamils, many of whom probably love to hate him.

The general told Rajapaksa, his commander-in-chief, that he won for him the war but the President failed to capitalise on it and win the peace.

'Your Excellency's government has yet to win the peace in spite of the fact that the army under my leadership won the war. There is no clear policy to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people, which will surely ruin the victory, attained (sic) paving the way for yet another uprising in the future,' the leaked letter said.

The general's disgust and the government's fears of a possible coup date from the beginning of the final phase of the separatist war. As the Sri Lankan armed forces scored victory after victory, General Fonseka, who in 2006 survived an LTTE assassination bid, emerged as a super hero and became more and more powerful. So much so, the President seldom said no to his requests.

Some months before the war ended, Rajapaksa honoured a senior editor with a top diplomatic posting in Pakistan. The editor and his family took wing to Islamabad [ Images ]. But no sooner he assumed duties than the editor received a letter from Sri Lanka' foreign ministry, asking him to immediately return to Colombo. No reasons were given why he was being called back. The editor later learnt that it was General Fonseka who told the President to do so because the editor had once blamed elements in the army for the abduction of a defence columnist who worked for him.

The power General Fonseka wielded during the war was such that many asked whether the civilian leadership was in awe of him. Analysts who were close to Rajapaksa would opine that the general was more powerful than the President.

A Machiavellian to the letter, Rajapaksa let the general have his say, but he always had an eye on his movements and waited for the opportune moment that he foresaw as coming after the war victory, to clip his wings.

Less than two months after General Fonseka's troops successfully ended a 30-year war with Tamil militants, the President 'honoured' him with a gazetted position of Chief of Defence Staff.

It took a few days for the general to realise that he had been misled and kicked upstairs with a position without power to command the armed forces. Moreover, in terms of the CDS Act, the general could act or advise only with the consent of the defence secretary, the President's brother, who was junior to General Fonseka in the army.

In his letter to the President, General Fonseka said he was humiliated by the promotion. This was how the General describes his humiliation in the leaked letter.

'Further, prior to my appointment I was mislead (sic) on the authority vested with the CDS. I was made to understand that the appointment carried more command responsibilities and authority than earlier, but subsequent to my appointment a letter by the Strategic Affairs Adviser to the defence secretary indicated that my appointment was purely to coordinate the services and not that of overall command.

'Such actions clearly defines Your Excellency's and the government's unwillingness to

grant me with command responsibilities which leads to believe in a strong mistrust in me, which is most depressing after all what was performed to achieve war victory.

'During a subsequent Service Commanders Meeting, the Defence Secretary was bold enough to state an unethical and uncalled (for) statement by mentioning that 'if operational control of all three services is granted to the CDS it would be very dangerous', which indeed was a loss of face to me in the presences of subordinate services commanders.'

Many analysts also believe the promotion of the general as the CDS was linked more with the fears the Rajapaksa brothers had about a military coup than with any intention to promote the general.

Two weeks before General Fonseka was given the post, the state-run Daily News carried on its front page the story on the military coup in Honduras on June 28. That a distant country with which Sri Lanka had hardly any diplomatic or trade relations made news on the front page of a state-run newspaper was no accident. Neither was it a sub editor's desperate attempt to fill space on a news-starved day.

The story was included by the government to send a signal to the highly-popular general who still commanded the respect of the rank and file of the army that the government was prepared to face any eventuality.

Not used to such indirect salvoes, the general felt that he was being used and discarded by the government. As days passed, the rift deepened. The gap between the President and the general continued to widen with government ministers at pubic meetings saying that it was because of President Rajapaksa's leadership that the army was able to defeat the terrorists.

The general felt such remarks were distinctly a bullet below the belt. The remarks prompted the general to say that 95 percent of the credit for the victory should go to the troops.

Fishing in the troubled waters was the opposition. It succeeded in netting in the general and held secret talks aimed at fielding him as the common opposition candidate if and when the President announces the election. With many in the opposition holding the view that the United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would cut a sorry figure contesting Rajapaksa at the polls, General Fonseka became their obvious choice.

Even the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna has hinted that it will support Gen. Fonseka as the common opposition candidate, notwithstanding its ideological differences with the free-market UNP, Sri Lanka's Grand Old Party.

Rajapaksa was obviously agitated by the news. Suddenly the glow on his chubby face disappeared and dark patches appeared under his eyes, indicating that he is now a worried man. The counter offensive began.

Last Thursday, hours after the general returned from a controversial visit to the United States, he was engaged in a war of words with the defence secretary, according to the Sunday Times newspaper. The duel was not about the US Department of Homeland Security's request to General Fonseka to be a 'source' in a possible war crimes probe against the defence secretary, a US citizen, but over a question of discipline in the army.

Billboards that showed a jubilant Fonseka with his heroic troops disappeared from busy junctions. His pictures on billboards where he was seen with the President and his brother Gotabhaya, were tarred or torn. A hero has become a zero in the eyes of the government.

But the real battle will begin in the coming days after General Fonseka makes his political intentions clear.

An indication of his intention was found in the final paragraph of the letter.

'The peace dividend the whole country expected at the conclusion of the war has yet to materialise. The economic hardships faced by the people have increased while waste and corruption have reached endemic proportions; media freedom and other democratic rights continue to be curtailed. The many sacrifices the army made to end the war would not have been in vain, if we can usher in a new era of peace and prosperity to our motherland.'

The rift between General Fonseka and Rajapaksa has not gone down well with the masses, especially the Sinhala majority, who regard both as war heroes. The ultra nationalists' ire is aimed at the opposition whom they accuse of dividing the Sinhalese. They even tried to get the chief Buddhist monks to issue a 'Sangha order' -- an edict -- urging General Fonseka not to enter politics.

But General Fonseka is as ultra nationalist as those who blame him for flirting with the opposition alliance -- which include parties representing the interests of Muslims and Tamils of Indian origin beside the UNP and former foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera's Sri Lanka Freedom Party Mahajana Wing, a breakaway group of the ruling party.

General Fonseka in an interview with Canada's [ Images ] National Post in September last year said he 'strongly believed that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese, but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people. They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.'

A majority of the Tamils, many of whom were hurt by the vulgar jubilation displayed on the streets following the victory, see no difference between Rajapaksa and Fonseka.

Disturbed by the deaths of thousands of innocent Tamils in the last days of the war and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamil people in camps, a majority of the Tamils are unlikely to support either of the candidates. However, the opposition alliance is trying its best to woo the mainstream Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, which was once regarded the mouthpiece of Tamil Tigers in Parliament.

A majority of the Tamils also feel that neither candidate is committed to finding a solution to the Tamil problem by devolving power, despite the pro-devolution UNP's presence in the opposition alliance offering them a glimmer of hope.

Another factor which worries the government is the possibility of certain state secrets coming out to the open in the heat of the election campaign. This might be damaging, especially in view of the international human rights community's call for war crimes probes against the Sri Lankan government.

Indian forces were on high alert on Lanka's fear of army coup

The Indian armed forces were put on high alert in the middle of October after a worried Colombo fearing a coup by the Sri Lankan army contacted New Delhi and requested the Indian government to prevent a military takeover.

On the night of October 15, top Lankan politicians and bureaucrats got in touch with New Delhi through the Indian High Commission in Colombo and conveyed their apprehensions and request for help.

Till Thursday, these events were part of political gossip. Now, it’s been put on record by outgoing chief of defence staff, General Sarath Fonseka.

In his letter – 2100-odd words of hurt pride, anger and disgust and 15 reasons for premature retirement -- to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Fonseka wrote that the government’ action in contacting India on the rumours of a coup tarnished the image of the army.

``…it was noted that the same army which gained victory for the nation was suspected of staging a coup and thereby alerting the Government of India once again on the 15th of October 2009, unnecessarily placing the Indian troops on high alert. This action did tarnish the image and reputation gained by the SLA…This suspicion would have been due to the loyalty of the SLA towards me as its past Commander who led the Army to the historic victory,’’ Fonseka wrote.

He said various agencies mislead Rajapaksa about ``a possible coup immediately after the victory over the LTTE which obviously led to a change of command in spite of my request to be in command until the Army celebrated its 60th Anniversary. This fear psychosis of a coup is well known among the defence circle.’’

It was learnt that during a one-and-half hour meeting between the two on Wednesday, the issue of the coup was brought up by Fonseka. Rajapaksa did not deny it.

When contacted on Friday, Fonseka told HT: ``the information (about the Indian armed forces being put on alert) was accurate’’ and the government here ``had got in touch with somebody in New Delhi’’.

Fonseka made another reference to India while requesting the security cover of ``combat soldiers, bullet proof vehicle, escort vehicles’’ after leaving his post.

"I would also wish to quote an example in the case of the former Indian Chief of Army Staff General A S Vaidya, instrumental in leading the Indian Army in Operation Blue Star against the Sikhs at the Golden Temple, Amristar in 1984, was assassinated whilst on retirement in 1986 purely in revenge of his victories achieved. I do not wish to experience a similar incident," he wrote in the letter.

India strengthens border, irks China

India continues to beef up its defence along its border with China in Arunachal Pradesh, despite protests and warnings from Chinese analysts and the Chinese media.

The Indian Air Force now plans to upgrade six air-strips near the border to make movement of troops and equipment to the region easier.

Hindustan Times had reported on Thursday that the Indian Army was planning to deploy a new 15,000-strong division in Arunachal within four weeks.

On Friday, Zhao Gancheng, director of the South Asia Research Division of the Shanghai International Affairs Research Institute was quoted in the state-run Global Times, as saying: “Indian officials have tried to convince us the border is

peaceful. But now the fact (of India’s reported border deployment) betrays the words.”

China has for long claimed almost all of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.

The six airstrips are all within 40 km of the border. Following the renovation, much bigger and heavier aircraft than before will be able to land there, defence sources said.

“Reactivating these airstrips is an integral part of the modernisation of Air Force infrastructure,” said an IAF official.

The measures were taken to counter similar efforts by China on the other side of the border, defence sources added.

Talented Indian youth unwilling to serve as army officers

Indian Army unable to attract more talent

New Delhi: The Indian Army is grappling with an acute shortage of officers. Despite the recession, it has been unable to attract more talent and contain their outflow. In 2008, the army was able to take in 1,500 officers — but over 1,800 left the force.

The army now faces a shortage of 11,238 officers.

"It is a very peculiar situation. Despite the recession and relaxation of our requirements the number of officers leaving the army is more than the number of officers we have managed to take in," a senior officer familiar with the situation told IANS.

"What adds to the worry is that the negative inflow has been witnessed despite an economic slump," he added.

The negative flow of the officers in the army has been witnessed since 2007 when nearly 1,780 officers resigned or retired, compared to the intake of about 1,750. While there has been a constant outflow of officers in the past, the army had managed to induct more before that year.

The army received 535 voluntary retirement applications in 2005, 810 in 2006, and 1,265 in 2007. The defence ministry's approval depends on the need of the armed forces.

The army approved voluntary retirement for 365 officers in 2005, 464 in 2006 and 608 in 2007.

"Concerned by the situation, we have made it mandatory that officers with less than 15 years service will be considered for premature retirement or resignation only on medical grounds," another officer said.

The army's sanctioned strength is 46,615 officers, but it has been facing a shortage of 11,238. The problem was aggravated when about 3,000 officers sought premature retirement in the last three years. Most of them moved to the lucrative corporate sector.

The data for 2009 has not yet been compiled.

Indian Army begins recruitment drive in Karnataka

November 13, 2009

Udupi (Karnataka): The Indian Army yesterday opened its gates of recruitment of male candidates from nine districts to fill posts of soldier (general duty), soldier (technical and nursing assistance), soldier (clerk/storekeeper technical), and soldier (tradesmen) at the District Stadium.

The recruitment drive is expected to continue until November 16, 2009.

Aspirants from the nearby deistricts like, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Chitradurga, Chikmagalur, Davangere, Shimoga, Hassan and Kodagu turned up at the venue.

The drive started with the pre-requisites for the admission. All the candidates underwent a pre-check for height and correctness of documents.

Director (Recruitment) of the Army Recruiting Office, Mangalore, C.R. Deshpande told the media that, "After getting away with the physical fitness test, the candidates are required to undergo a medical test after which they would be writing a common entrance examination at the Army Recruiting Office in Mangalore."

Pak’s high-end terror
India should take the threat seriously
by Maj-Gen Ashok K Mehta (retd)

Last month on three successive days, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh extended the hand of friendship to Pakistan acknowledging that India could grow and prosper only if its neighbours did the same. For Pakistan last month was the worst and bloodiest in its history of violence: 12 suicide attacks (and continuing) in 17 days surpassing all records in suicide terrorism in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. The perpetrators of the carnage are mainly the Tehreeq-e-Taliban Pakistan and the target the army and security establishment, switching to soft targets when these became inaccessible.

The arrival of the human bomber at India’s doorstep is a warning to Delhi, especially after TTP terror mastermind, Hakimullah Mehsud declared last month that after Pakistan it would be India’s turn. The intelligence and security establishments must heed this threat of high-end terrorism seriously and not be lulled into complacency after a one-year long freedom from it. Pakistan is unarguably the epicentre of terrorism — its soil is being used for cross-border terrorism against all her major neighbours: Iran, Afghanistan and India. Besides a war being waged against TTP by the Army in South Waziristan, largely due to US prodding and financial backing, three debates are raging inside Pakistan — ownership of the war on terrorism, identifying the enemy and utility of the good Taliban, the so-called strategic asset.

Whose war is it any way is not a new question. Pakistanis have been living in denial and blaming others for a decade about sourcing and nurturing Taliban when it is clear that the root and branch of terrorism has spread right across the country. With Afghan, Pashtun and Pakistan Taliban bonding becoming a reality, some Pakistanis still believe that faith-driven terrorism is a secondary problem to the US-led war in Afghanistan. If the Americans and foreign forces were to leave Afghanistan, terrorism would fade away, they have been made to believe.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The seizure of Swat and parts of Malakand Division by the Pakistan Taliban earlier in the year was the first step towards establishing an Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan. The focus of the war has to be shifted from anti-Americanism and blaming others to the survival of the state.

Identifying the enemy was never a problem in Pakistan. It was done through textbooks, waging war by stealth, crusade in Kashmir and cross-border terrorism. Since 9/11, India’s unquestioned enemy status has been challenged by the Taliban and its associates. After the storming of the Lal Masjid in 2007, Pakistani interlocutors told their counterparts that India was no longer enemy No. 1. It was the jihadis. That was the time when both countries had clinched the backchannel four-point agreement on Kashmir.

26/11 brought India back into enemy No. 1 rating. But the most recent Pew polls indicate that while 11 and 53 per cent of Pakistanis say Al-Qaeda and Pakistan Taliban are the enemy, only 18 per cent name India. But poll ratings have proved quite fickle.

For the Army which has redeemed its primacy among the power troika of the President, the Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff, India remains enemy country and Eastern sector the vital front. Pakistan has always had a one-front strategy and never been geared to fight on two fronts. So while the majority of the people are giving India the benefit of doubt, the Army and ISI remain irreconcilably adversarial. Now, not only is India being blamed for Pakistan’s woes in Afghanistan and Baluchistan but in Punjab also.

While the US State Department officials have told Pakistan it sees India’s role in Afghanistan in a positive light, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says US has no evidence of India’s involvement in Baluchistan. Pakistan acting neither against the Afghan Taliban nor Al-Qaeda nor even the Punjab Taliban has led to some plain speaking by the US. First, through the Kerry-Lugar Bill and later through visiting senior military commanders and State department officials. The discussion on merit of these strategic assets has been joined.

National Security Advisor Gen James Jones said there were no more than 100 Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan implying that the bulk were in Pakistan. Hillary Clinton created a furore in Lahore recently saying, “it is hard to believe that no one in Pakistan government including the country’s military establishment knew where Al-Qaeda leaders were hiding and couldn’t get them if they rally wanted to”.

All of President Obama’s top Generals are breathing down Pakistan’s neck, seriously doubting its intent and capacity to fight the war on the West. The two-Division military offensive, backed by other tribals and militant groups, the fourth in Southern Waziristan is approaching one month. South Waziristan has a population of 500,000, 90 per cent of whom are Mehsud tribe whose one sub-tribe specialises in churning out suicide bombers.

US military support and financial incentives will ensure this offensive stays on course. Three months before the operation, Pakistan Army and Air Force softened the battleground with artillery, aircraft and helicopter gunships along with a coordinated economic blockade. US drones, Special Forces Trainers, Mi17 Troop Lift helicopters and other high-tech US equipment have acted as force multipliers. Pakistan had previously refused direct US assistance during the Swat offensive. After the current phase of suicide terrorism, 51 per cent of Pakistanis support military action against militant Islamists.

The Army has made impressive territorial gains and followed a scorched earth policy. The valley floors and the immediate surrounding heights in the area of operations are being cleared. Of the 15,000 TTP, more than 300 have already been killed, so the Army claims. But the majority will escape into Afghanistan via North Waziristan.

It is not clear whether the aim of the offensive is to disperse or destroy TTP. Some Pakistanis believe that this must be a decisive fight to eliminate the enemy. If that is the goal, the Army will not only have to clear but also hold the liberated areas. At least two more Divisions would be required for a concerted counterinsurgency campaign.

The real test of the Pakistan Army’s seriousness about fighting the war will come when it takes the campaign into North Waziristan, the hub of the Haqqani network which is a key ally of the Afghan Taliban and a thorn on the side of the US-led NATO forces. The Pakistan Army is already overstretched and will have no resources for another offensive unless it is prepared to thin out from the east.

Further, winter will preclude operations in the higher reaches this season. The ISI will least likely order the Army to fight the Afghan Taliban (and Punjabi Taliban) which targets India whom TTP leaders call “our Punjabi brethren” as it regards both as strategic assets which according to the ISI manual means that the entity does you bidding and not act autonomously.

Islamabad’s ongoing offensive in the Frontier and the war against terrorism inside Pakistan can at best be a tentative exercise till the core issues of identifying the real enemy and rating the strategic assets are resolved.

H1N1 spreads to armed forces
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
As many as 23 cases of swine flu infection have been reported at the Western Command Hospital in Chandimandir. A separate ward with the requisite facilities has been set up at the hospital to deal these cases.

The hospital authorities, however, are tight lipped on whether all infected persons were soldiers or they included family members of military personnel. Besides Chandimandir, there have been reports of army personnel being infected with the virus at other stations also. In Jammu, there were reports of about a dozen jawans been tested positive for H1N1. Some isolated cases have been reported from Bathinda, Suratgarh and Jodhpur military hospitals.

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