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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

From Today's Papers - 09 Dec 09

India, Russia end stalemate over Gorshkov's price deal
G Sudhakar Nair/ PTI / Moscow December 08, 2009, 10:33 IST

After protracted re-negotiations, India and Russia have ended the stalemate over contentious price and technical issues for the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier which had become an irritant in bilateral ties.

"There has been excellent progress in negotiations on technical issues and there has been a successful conclusion," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters at the end of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the second day of his three-day official visit to Moscow.

Details of the final price fixed for the sale of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya were not disclosed.

Indian officials said a price satisfactory to both sides has been worked out for the refitting and delivery of Admiral Gorshkov.

Indian and Russian defence officials have been negotiating the price for the purchase of the refurbished $2.2-billion aircraft carrier for several years.

Moscow was asking for $2.9 billion for the aircraft carrier, nearly thrice the price that was originally agreed between the two sides in 2004. But New Delhi wanted the price to be scaled back to $2.1 billion.

Delays in refitting the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier and huge cost overruns have been a particular concern with India. It had also put at unease the otherwise time-tested relationship between the former cold war allies.

India, Russia for meeting challenges of nuke proliferation
G Sudhakar Nair/ PTI / Moscow December 08, 2009, 10:05 IST

India and Russia have flagged the urgent need to squarely meet the challenges posed by proliferation of nuclear weapons and its possible link to terrorism.

The two countries warned how the possibility of atomic weapons falling into the hands of rogue elements posed a threat to international peace and security and undermined security of states.

No country was specifically mentioned but Russian President Dmitry Medvedv said yesterday after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Russia was concerned over the possibility of atomic assets coming under the control of rogue elements in Pakistan.

In a joint declaration after summit talks between Singh and Medvedev, the two countries said this also complicated progress towards nuclear disarmament and may negatively affect prospects for wider international cooperation in the sphere of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Addressing a joint press conference with Singh after summit-level talks, Medvedev said terrorism was no doubt a "terrible evil" of this century and last century, and the safety of nuclear weapons was a "sensitive issue".

"There is a need to ensure that nuclear assets are in safe hands and do not fall into the hands of extremists," he said in an apparent reference to the situation in Pakistan in the backdrop of reports of a threat of terror elements taking control of the country's atomic assets.

Defence pact with Russia to boost defence capability: India
G Sudhakar Nair/ PTI / Moscow December 08, 2009, 9:55 IST

India today voiced confidence that its agreement with Russia on a 10-year military and technical cooperation from 2011 would help enhance the operational capability of its defence forces in the next decade.

The agreement which was among the three defence pacts signed between India and Russia after the annual summit talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev provides for acquisition, licensed production, upgrades and modernisation of defence equipment as well as the development of new and advanced weapon systems.

"The agreement would help enhance operational capability of Indian Defence forces in the next decade by providing various Defence equipment systems," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told newsmen wrapping up the prime minister's talks with the Russian leadership that also included prime minister Vladimir Putin, who as the earlier Russian President sowed the seeds for Russia's strategic partnership with India.

"... (it) will also facilitate capacity development of the Indian Defence Industry," she said.

Taking bilateral defence ties to a new high, the agreement on After Sales Support for the Russian Arms and Military equipment supplied to India is being seen by Indian officials as an excercise to facilitate timely and adequate supply of spares and services for maintaining a high level of readiness and integrated maintenance of Russian made military equipment supplied to India.

Last letter or will?
by Brig A. N. Suryanarayanan
While reading Jeffrey Archer’s recent book “Paths of Glory”, I came across a conversation during WW-I between the hero, a Lt in Royal Artillery and his corporal: “A letter to your wife, Perkins?”; “No, sir; it is my Will”. My mind immediately raced back 38 years, to Friday, 10 December 1971.
Having fought a ferocious battle and pulled back to east of the river, the Division was consolidating. It was expected to be a day of lull. Suddenly at about 10 a m, there was confusion, as half-baked information came in that a huge enemy tank column had crossed the river at Crossing “D” and was heading towards the nearest town!
While that information was being checked, as a precautionary measure, reconnaissance of a different gun area for the artillery brigade, further to the rear, commenced as we were on the possible ingress route.
Just then my friend Major Pakrasi from Corps HQ landed close to my Fire Direction Centre in an Air OP aircraft carrying an important message for the Division (along with a cake from his wife). When he saw the ‘fog of war’, he decided not to delay, as the aircraft was urgently required back. I quickly wrote a letter (which was more or less my last Will and Testament) to my wife of three-and-a half years, then staying with her parents in Dehradun, in case the worst happened!
I handed it to him requesting him to post it in the Corps FPO for faster delivery! I had written telling her the likely balance in bank; advising her not be sentimental but to re-marry for the sake of our (then) only daughter, just a year-plus etc!
Soon, the information about the tank-column crossing was found to be false. With the arrival of the Corps Commander early afternoon, reconnaissance for any rearward move was stopped and a counterattack went in at D. The situation stabilised!
Ceasefire came on 17th and I had my first weekend pass, a month later, on 15/16 January 72, to be with my wife whom I had called to our own vacant flat at Pathankot by 14th. Soon the postman arrived and handed a Forces Letter duly re-directed from her Dehradun address! Looking at my name and the FPO stamp of 10 December, I snatched the letter from her. She wanted to know why. I told her. She insisted on reading it and cried a lot.
That is the time she also told me how Radio Pakistan had announced the names of my Commander, me, my GSO-3 and the Field Post Master as having been captured....a white lie, on 7 December, after we had vacated our previous position west of the river.
Luckily she had got a letter from me dated 8th subsequently! It was good that this Last Will and supposedly Last Letter from me was delayed by a month; for once I thanked the Indian Post!
We visited Darbar Sahib in Amritsar that Sunday, before I drove back to forward area on Monday morning!
Tailpiece: My wife passed away in 1983; that daughter in 1994 and Pakrasi this year.

CRPF to raise 10 Cobra battalions
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 8
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will raise 10 Cobra battalions (Commando Battalions for Resolute Action) for countering Left Wing extremism, Naxalites and terrorist activities in the country.

Yashwant Malhotra, Special Director General (Training), CRPF, who was in the city on the inaugural day of the 9th All-India Police Water Sports Championship-2009, talking to The Tribune here today said there were three main theatres, which include Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and Leftist Wing extremism, in about seven states of the country. He said the force was providing specialised training for each theatre, as the situation in all three theatres was different. He said two battalions had already been established by the CRPF while other eight would be set up in 2011.
Malhotra said after the Kargil War of 1999, the government had deputed the force solely for the internal security and it had become necessary for the force to provide different training for different situations. He said before moving the force to these theatres the jawans were being provided special training for six months. He said they were also providing latest know-how to jawans to deal with the latest IED devices and detonators being used by subversive and extremist forces.
Special DG (Training) said the CRPF would also open three Central intelligence schools.
The first Central Intelligence Anti-Terrorist Training School (CIATTS) had been set up at Shivpuri, near Gawalior (MP), which would start soon to train the jawans for gathering information on its own in disturbed areas. He said the first batch of the force had been attached with the Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi for getting training in sharing of intelligence deeply and also in advance. He said the next training school would be opened in Raipur.

Chandigarh, December 8
The Army Service Corps (ASC), the oldest logistic component of the Indian Army, celebrated its 249th anniversary at the Western Command Headquarters in Chandimandir today.

To mark the occasion, a wreath was laid at the Veer Smriti War Memorial on behalf of all ranks of the corps by Maj-Gen Kamal Mohey, head of the ASC branch, at the Command Headquarters.
Several other functions for the troops and a get-together for serving and retired officers were also organised, according to a statement issued here today. — TNS

The Afghanistan Surge: How Will the Taliban Respond?
By Tim McGirk

President Obama has ordered 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and NATO is chipping in with an additional 7,000. That's good news for General Stanley McChrystal, who has warned the President that the war is being lost. But the decision to send reinforcements is unlikely to spell defeat for the Taliban and their al-Qaeda cohort.

New U.S. combat brigades may be able to secure the scorching southern deserts around Kandahar and Helmand province, and maybe even a swath of territory along the eastern border with Pakistan, but that won't stop the Taliban from popping up elsewhere. The insurgents have already made inroads into the Northern mountains and in the far West. The border with Pakistan is 1,600 miles long, traversing craggy ranges and deserts so hot that only scorpions and the Taliban can thrive there. You could post 30,000 troops, even twice that number, in the middle of these badlands, and the Taliban would still get across. (See photos of the battle against the Taliban.)

At best, the U.S. and its NATO allies can hope that by hitting the Taliban with renewed ferocity, they can create a space in which the feeble Afghan army and police forces can be trained to stand up to the insurgents. Once that happens, say optimists, aid development can finally begin to enrich the lives of the ordinary Afghans and not just the foreign contractors and warlords. Even that is a huge gamble: the administration of President Hamid Karzai has proved itself corrupt and petulant, and without security, there is nothing to stop the Taliban from burning down more girls' schools or destroying the bridges that aid donors are trying to erect. And Obama's vow to start withdrawing troops in 18 months will reinforce what the Taliban already knew — that the U.S. won't stay forever — which puts time on the side of the insurgency and allows it to simply disperse when faced with overwhelming firepower and re-emerge later.

But the thinking in London and Washington is that a punishing assault against the Taliban might persuade some of the movement's commanders — those not tied to al-Qaeda — to negotiate with Kabul. Also, the Taliban are an unruly bunch, led by regional commanders who do not always take orders from their Commander of the Faithful, Mullah Omar. Kabul officials say that with the proper approach, some senior Taliban could be coaxed into a truce.

But that means starting from scratch. For the past eight years of war, says one Western diplomat, efforts by both the NATO forces and Karzai's government to bring Taliban fighters into the fold have been "laughable." The U.S. and Karzai were often at loggerheads on the issue: the Afghan President wanted amnesty extended to all Taliban members, from Omar down to the lowliest turbaned jihadi, while the Americans want to win over only the lower and mid-ranking Taliban. (Read "Five Flawed Assumptions of Obama's Afghan Surge.")

A Western official closely connected to efforts to reach out to the Taliban blamed the failure squarely on President Karzai. In Kandahar and Helmand, which are now major Taliban strongholds, the official says, Karzai personally appointed many "violent and predatory" district officials and police chiefs from his own extended tribe. "When the police started robbing and pillaging," the official continues, "the villagers had no choice but to turn to the local [Taliban] commanders for protection."

Any deal with the Taliban would have to involve a radical change of Pakistani attitudes. Today, some Pakistani officials make no secret that they consider the Taliban a strategic asset in Afghanistan, even though the U.S. has since 9/11 pumped more than $7 billion in military aid into Pakistan for use against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Former President Pervez Musharraf recently admitted publicly that a large chunk of that military aid was used to bolster defenses against neighboring India, which the Pakistani military views as a far greater threat than the rise of Islamic militancy in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The Pakistanis distrust Karzai, thinking him too pro-India, and they believe that when the West loses interest and exits from Afghanistan, restoring a second Taliban government in Kabul will best suit Pakistan's interests.

Pressuring Pakistan to stop aiding the Taliban would get easier if Islamabad were to stop distinguishing between those Taliban who fight the Pakistani state and those who confine their hostilities to Afghanistan. The current battle between Pakistan's army and local Taliban militants in the border area of South Waziristan has certainly slowed the number of Pakistani volunteers infiltrating Afghanistan to kill American soldiers. The Pakistani military continues to pursue a twin-track policy of trying to crush the Pashtun tribes allied with the Pakistani Taliban while making nonaggression pacts with those fighting NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. But that relationship is fraying, because members of the Afghan Taliban are now accusing the Pakistani military of complicity in the missile attacks by U.S. aircraft on their hideouts inside Pakistani tribal territory. More likely, the Pakistani military is powerless to stop the drone attacks that, according to CIA leaks to the press, are bound to intensify and could break the effective truce between the Pakistani military and Afghan Taliban groups. (See pictures of duty and downtime in Afghanistan.)

So far, Omar has stayed on the sidelines of Islamabad's battle against the homegrown Pakistani Taliban. He doesn't want to lose covert support from the Pakistani military and the spymasters of the Inter-Services Intelligence, nor jeopardize the unmolested presence of his leadership core in the city of Quetta.

For Obama's troop surge to succeed, Pakistan would have to sever ties with the Afghan Taliban or else press key Taliban commanders into peace talks with Kabul. As much as Pakistan would like to see a different government with more Taliban influence in Kabul, its generals will recognize that simply restoring the movement to power would unleash another round of civil war in Afghanistan — Pashtuns vs. everyone else — that would do little to stabilize Pakistan's domestic turmoil. So the best-case outcome of Obama's surge may be that it would force the Taliban, and their Pakistani backers, to accept some form of compromise.

India displays multi-vector diplomacy
By M K Bhadrakumar

The annual India-Russia summits have had in recent years a worn look. The two countries have gone their separate ways in terms of priorities, though they have kept in touch. Cliches aside, they realize that the hearth remains warm.

However, the United States' decline as the lone superpower is adding impetus to a strengthening of the India-Russia relationship.
The Barack Obama administration's new thinking on South Asia has impacted on US-India ties. The US shift has included a more balanced approach to ties with India and Pakistan; a soft-pedaling on the rapid "militarization" of the US-India strategic partnership that started during the George W Bush presidency; and divergent US-Indian perceptions over the Afghan crisis, among others.

But what has most shaken New Delhi is the emerging US-China partnership. US officials underplay the surge in ties with Beijing, saying that as two countries with "shared values", America will forever have more in common with democratic India than with communist China. But there are no serious takers in New Delhi for such diplomatese.

Indian officials can see very well that the balance of global economic power is shifting and the prospects of a near-term US economic recovery seem uncertain. As Niall Ferguson, the well-known economic historian, wrote last week in Newsweek, "This is how empires decline. It begins with a debt explosion. It ends with an inexorable reduction in the resources available for the army, navy and air force."

These cataclysmic changes put India in a great predicament as until recently it had near-implicit faith in the infallibility of US power and India's place in America's scheme of things as an Asian "balancer" and "counterweight" to China. No doubt, the US will continue to be by far the number one "strategic partner" for India. But Indian aspirations need to be curtailed - given the "fatal arithmetic of imperial decline" of the US, to quote Ferguson - and the resultant shortfalls in expectations need to be bridged.

New Delhi has sobered up to the true import of Obama's "smart power". A serious effort has begun to deepen the US-India partnership by taking it in new directions. India estimates that it holds a trump card insofar as the economy has recovered from the impact of the global downturn and is growing at an annual rate of more than 6% annual rate, which may accelerate toward a 9% growth rate in the next two-year period. Meanwhile, New Delhi is watching warily a "demilitarization" of the US's partnership with India under Obama's watch. India's longstanding desire to source "dual-use technology" from the US continues to run up against obstacles.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow on December 6-8 has been thoughtfully scheduled in sequence after his trip to Washington. Therefore, the joint declaration issued in Moscow on Monday following the Russian-Indian summit needs to be put in perspective.

New Delhi received Moscow's "solidarity and support" for its line that Pakistan is yet to bring the perpetrators of last year's terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice, while New Delhi reciprocated with support for Russia's "efforts to maintain peace and stability in the Caucasus". But there was no broader reference to India's security concerns vis-a-vis Pakistan. In comparison, the US-Indian joint statement was far more forthcoming.

The Russian and Indian leaderships took a common position on Afghanistan - support for President Hamid Karzai's government; emphasis on the imperative of a robust counter-terrorist campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban; rejection of any attempt to differentiate between "good" and "bad" Taliban; the need for "strict observance" of the United Nations Security Council sanctions against the Taliban leaders; and a commitment to a "democratic, pluralistic and stable" Afghanistan.

Quite obviously, this amounts to substantial common ground. Both countries suffer "collateral damage" to their national security if the Afghan situation worsens and radical Islam gains ground. So, will they moot a common initiative on an Afghan settlement? Unlikely.

For Russia, the Afghan problem is much more than the sum total of shared concerns with India. It is a factor in Russia's "reset" of ties with the US; it is linked to the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and it also has profound implications for Moscow's leadership role in the security of Central Asia.

On the other hand, no matter what the twists and turns of Obama's Afghan strategy, the US-India partnership will remain unaffected. Equally, Pakistani support of the Taliban and the need to effectively curb Islamabad's alleged use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy - which is a core theme for India - doesn't seem to bother Russia. The joint declaration falls short of the Indian stance that the Taliban are a creation of Pakistan.

Being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russia has far more leverage than India in influencing the course of developments in Afghanistan. Russia has an assured role in conflict resolution and unlike the case with India, Islamabad does not resent the Russian role.

The joint declaration's reiteration of Moscow's support of Indian candidacy in an expanded UN Security Council is not a new development and both countries know that reform of the UN will be a long haul. But interestingly, the "Russian side supports India's full membership in the SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization]". Would Moscow have sounded out Beijing, howsoever informally? Is there a change of thinking in Beijing? According to Indian officials, China has so far blocked India's path to full SCO membership.

The SCO, of course, will be an extremely useful forum for deepening the Sino-Indian normalization. Significantly, the Moscow declaration also singles out the Russia-India-China trilateral format by underscoring the need of "intensified exchanges of information and ideas on the important issues of ... peace and stability in the region".

China would have figured in the Russian-Indian summit. A sort of imbalance crept in with recent hiccups in the Sino-Indian normalization running contrary to the positive trajectory of Sino-Russian relations. Broadly speaking, India and Russia have a similar approach towards the Asia-Pacific region. Both want to partake of the regional processes in economic cooperation and security.

While India faces exclusion by China in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Russia is a member. The joint declaration makes a pointed reference to the "growing efficacy" of regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and underlines the Russian and Indian "interest in strengthening bilateral and multilateral interaction in different related fields".

The dynamics and verve of the Russian-Indian bilateral relationship will depend heavily on plans in the period ahead for a big expansion in defense and nuclear cooperation. India will continue to depend on Russia for advanced military technology, which its cannot source anywhere else. New Delhi harbored unrealistically high expectations of sourcing US technology but now realizes that Russia is irreplaceable for the foreseeable future.

For Russia, India is an assured market for its arms exports. The two countries are engaged in sophisticated forms of cooperation such as the joint design, development and production of highly advanced weapon systems, which the US is hesitant to do with India.

On the nuclear side, the clearance provided by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group to allow nuclear trade with India opened a huge vista of Russian-Indian cooperation. Given the "close, friendly and historic Russia-India bilateral relationship", Moscow is politically willing to explore the frontiers of cooperation permissible with a non-Non-Proliferation Treaty state like India. Ironically, what the US-India nuclear deal was meant to provide in the nature of transfer of reprocessing technology to India, Russia may end up providing, according to media reports.

The joint declaration says that the two countries are "developing and intensifying broad-based cooperation" that includes joint scientific research, implementation of nuclear power projects and "setting up of fuel supply arrangements". A framework agreement on nuclear cooperation has been finalized, while "specific instruments" need to be negotiated.

However, Washington will have a say in the Russian-Indian nuclear cooperation. And Russia will not enter into any cooperation with India that is contradictory to the new architecture on nuclear non-proliferation that Moscow and Washington are designing together.

India also views the US as its main partner in nuclear plans. Out of the 28 light-water reactors that India is planning, 12 will be sourced from the US, 10 will be from Russia and six from France.

Nothing sums up Indian priorities better than the fact that on the very same day that Russia and India signed their framework agreement in Moscow, New Delhi rolled out the red carpet for a delegation of top nuclear power companies from the US including Babcock & Wilcox, Bechtel, CH2MHill, Curtiss-Wright, Cameco, Converdyn and USEC.

If this display of "multi-vector" diplomacy is not impressive enough, the Indian prime minister has decided to proceed to Copenhagen next week for the summit on climate change where his tango will be with Obama. New Delhi has begun harmonizing its stance on climate change with Obama's, with the expectation that an embrace of diplomacy is just what is needed to push the US-India strategic partnership onto the center stage of the 21st century world order.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

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