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Saturday, 12 December 2009

From Today's Papers - 12 Dec 09

New Delhi, December 11
The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have rescued two Coast Guard sailors in a joint operation, who had been held captive by two Sri Lankan fishermen in their boat since Wednesday.On Tuesday, Coast Guard ships Priyadarshini and Saragn apprehended seven Sri Lankan fishing vessels poaching in Indian waters. The trawlers had been found indulging in illegal fishing some 160 nautical miles south-east of Vishakapatnam. “As per standard practice, two Coast Guard personnel were put on the Sri Lankan boat Win Marine along with the two Lankan fishermen while towing to Vishakapatnam (on Wednesday),” Coast Guard spokesperson Commandant Kulpreet Yadav told over the phone.With the help of long knives, two fishermen overpowered the Coast Guard officials, taking them by surprise and slipped away.

Realising that one trawler was missing with two Indian security personnel, the Navy and Coast Guard jointly initiated a search operation on Thursday. 

People’s war
by Brig Harwant Singh (retd)
During the War of liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971, apart from aspects like politico-military synergy, grand strategy, thorough planning, excellent leadership at all levels and exemplary bravery of troops, local people’s commitment to help to win the war was also a major contributory factor.
One example of spontaneous and voluntary help by them would suffice. Our advance in Jessore-Khulna Sector (then East Pakistan) was faster than expected. But suddenly the leading troops encountered unexpected and very heavy opposition. Also a counterattack was developing against a crucial locality. Both needed immediate and most urgent artillery fire support.
Most of our guns were on the move and those deployed on the ground were inadequate to the task. To provide additional and vital fire support to overcome the critical situation, “Quick Action” was ordered wherein normal procedures are cut short and guns deployed immediately even if the area may not be fully suitable. Accordingly, we decided to deploy battery wise, in the nearest areas available next to the road and those patches happened to be soggy.
Since the gun towing vehicles would have got stuck in the soft ground, the gunners started handling their guns to their firing positions (platforms). It so happened that we were close to a village and the locals gathered to see the spectacle of our deployment. However, the villagers voluntarily joined our gunners like a swarm and in no time the guns were put into action and started firing to the delight and amusement of those locals.
Those days our guns, the famous 25 Pounders, had only 32 rounds in their gun trailers and towing vehicles each. So great was the requirement of the fire support that those rounds were about to finish soon as the guns were firing at intense rates of fire.
A cry went for the fetching the ammunition from the lorries which were some distances away. The entire vehicles having been strung on the only narrow road available, those vehicles could not be brought closer to the guns. The road was on the raised ground, the rest of area being wet and low lying, it was not possible to move the other vehicles to make way for the ammunition lorries. Also, the ground being soggy, they could not have reached the guns even if they had come closer.
It was a crisis situation. How our Dogra gunners, who spoke only Punjabi, overcame the language barrier and communicated the gravity of the situation to the bystanders, remained a mystery but soon the villagers were carrying heavy ammunition boxes, and bringing them to the guns.
The artillery ammunition is amongst the heaviest components of all warlike stores. It was a sight to see those short and lanky Bengalis struggling to carry heavy boxes. But carry and bring them to the blazing guns they did, all the time shouting cheerfully. Guns were firing rounds directly fed to them from the hands of unknown Bengali villagers.
That day, the impoverished villagers who lived from hand to mouth in a nine-month-long civil war, helped scoring a great victory for the liberation of their country by feeding the guns from “Hand to breech”. They felt it was not ours but their war, a “People’s War”.

India-Pak stalemate
The US tries to fill the vacuum
by Kuldip Nayar
The Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaque Parvez Kayani, demanded some time back that America “gives Pakistan and its interests a consideration and consult us when they design a new Afghan policy.”
There is no reason to believe that President Barrack Obama ignored Islamabad before announcing the surge of another 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Nor is there any protest from Pakistan that “its interests” were not considered.
Whatever the truth, the induction of additional US forces – 20,000 are already there – is not a healthy development for the region. Afghanistan’s Commander Stanley McChrystal reportedly remarked that “a tremendous amount of things are going to happen, and they are good things.” He is leading the forces in the area.
It is too early for America to make such observations because the past experience tells us that the US forces, wherever they have gone – Vietnam, Iraq or elsewhere – they have left ruin and devastation in their wake. They have yet to prove their mettle.
The history of Afghanistan says that no power, neither Great Britain in the past nor the Soviet Union in modern times, has been able to discipline, much less suppress, the defiant tribals. Foreign troops are only grist to their propaganda that their religion, Islam, is sought to be curbed.
The uneducated masses, with limited avenues for gainful employment, are more driven towards fundamentalism than to the ways to oust poverty. The tribal people are in perpetual poverty because their overlords have accepted money to keep quiet. They do not inspire confidence in the future.
Pakistan is the only country which has the necessary credentials. But its problem is that it cannot forget that the Taliban, who also dealt with the wayward tribal people, were far more friendly and dependable than the Karzai government, which has again assumed charge at Kabul, by hook and by crook.
Another fear that eats up Islamabad is that India, through its economic programme, has a far more say with the people of Afghanistan than all others. Islamabad still has the dream that Afghanistan would one day give Pakistan “its strategic depth.” Therefore, it is a matter of conjecture how far Islamabad would go to finish the tribal menace once and for all.
True, the Pakistan forces have driven the Taliban from Swat in the North Western Province and vanquished them in southern Wazirastan. Swat is part of Pakistan and the refugees who have gone back there are Pakistanis. Their loyalty cannot be questioned.
But the victory in Wazirastan may be difficult to sustain until local people rally behind Pakistan as the liberator. Probably the doubt on this point has made Islamabad realise that negotiations with the Taliban are a far better bet in dealing with them than the use of sheer force.
Also, the destructive manner in which the Taliban are blasting even the safest localities – Lahore is again the target – suggests that they have more collaborators all over than Islamabad or the West. It cannot be ruled out that some insiders are involved because of the ease with which they blast the most defended places.
And when President Obama says in the same breath that the forces inducted have a deadline of 18 months to quit – although in driblets – he is telling Pakistan to put its act together within that time-fame. That means building up Pakistan’s capability to defend the area in the absence of American troops.
The Taliban have only to find ways to lie low till the deadline. That may be the reason why the American offensive is not finding any meaningful resistance. Pakistan or, for that matter, America knows that the tribal people who have defied authority for hundreds of years cannot be defeated within 18 months. This is particularly so when the war against the Taliban is not a popular war in Pakistan.
A survey conducted recently in Pakistan shows that democracy and the Shariat way of governance have an equal number of supporters – 30 per cent each. The public is not so much against fundamentalists as against America and the NATO powers.
This may not be to the liking of the US and Europe but this is becoming clearer as the days go by. People in Pakistan have a stake in economic development, not in hostilities, because they have found that their condition has not changed for years. In fact, they find more solace in pursuing the religion vigorously than in wasting money in what they consider the Western games.
That the sum of $750 billion in the next five years has counted with Islamabad while making its policy against the Taliban is clear. But what is not clear is the reason for accepting humiliating terms in getting the money. If this amount is to line the pockets of some high-ups, as has happened in the past, or to strengthen the arsenal and the armed forces, what stake the public has in what the rulers are doing?
It is difficult to imagine that the rulers of whatever party will give way to some type of welfare state in the next five years. To begin with, feudalism has to go. There is no sign that even the first step has been taken in that direction.
Still terrorism has to be eliminated because it has made people in the region, including India, insecure. They do not know how to live when they know that they can be a prey to terrorism anywhere at any time.
The approach should have been regional. All the three countries, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan should have agreed upon a common strategy and forced a joint front to combat terrorism.
It is unfortunate that India and Pakistan are not on talking terms. Islamabad may find New Delhi intransigent. But when the latter has a feeling that the Pakistan rulers use terrorism to further the state policy, they have to do more than issuing statements to convince New Delhi.
Therefore, there is a vacuum which the America is filling. Both New Delhi and Islamabad are allowing Washington to do so because their mistrust in each other has been deepening since Independence. Mistrust is the core of the problem, not Kashmir. Unless that mistrust goes, there would be yet another Kashmir to keep them distant even if they are able to solve the current Kashmir problem.

Request for Indian Military Hardware

    * Lines between ‘lethal’, ‘non-lethal’ aid blur
    * Import of weapons squarely related to CPA

KATHMANDU, DEC 11 - New Delhi will not provide lethal military hardware to Nepal in the near future and the recent news that India will provide tanks and Insas rifles to Nepal is misleading, according to an official with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
The Indian claim comes on the heels of concerns expressed from various quarters, pointing out that resumption of supplies of Indian arms, put on hold since the royal takeover in 2005, will further endanger the already shaky peace process. It also violates the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). 
Nepal made a fresh request for military assistance from India during the seventh bilateral consultative group meeting that was held in Kathmandu last week, according to senior government officials. They said the assistance was for “non-lethal hardware” such as vehicles, clothing, shoes and food items.
But the line between “lethal” and “non-lethal” is a little blurred. According to the Calcutta-based The Telegraph, Nepal’s Army has revived a five-year-old request for supply of tanks in the run-up to Nepal’s Army Chief Gen. Chhattraman Singh Gurung’s India visit this week, writes the paper in its Dec. 9 edition.

Gen. Gurung left for India on Friday.
Requests have also been made for artillery guns, Insas rifles, ammunition, troop carriers, bulletproof jackets, and sighting equipment, according to the newspaper. “India has been supplying ‘non-lethal’ equipment to Nepal, but now has to take a call on whether to resume gifting firearms?” observes the paper.
Defence Secretary Nabin Kumar Ghimire told the Post that the visit of the Army chief is “purely customary and good will” one. And that there was no need to read too much into it.
Gen. Gurung has a series of high-profile engagements lined up in India, including the one where he will accept from President Pratibha Patil the title of ‘Honorary Chief of Army Staff of India’ on Dec. 14. He will meet Indian Defence Minister A K Antony, Foreign Minister S M Krishna, Defence Secretary Pradip Kumar and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, among others. 
 “Due to the mandatory clause in the Compressive Peace Accord (CPA), Nepal cannot import lethal weapons. This is a request for non-lethal assistance,” said a senior foreign ministry official.
The CPA is not categorical on ban on arm imports, though its spirit is that neither side in the conflict — the Nepal Army or the Maoist People’s Liberation Army — will do anything to provoke the other during the peace process, said Nepali Congress leader Krishna Sitaula. 
The CPA clause 5.1.2 states that “neither side shall recruit additional troops, transport arms, ammunition and explosive and conduct activities against each other.”
The Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights has said that the Indian decision to supply arms to Nepal is “highly divisive.” It has urged India to get behind the CPA and support politics of consensus.
A senior Nepal Army official the Post contacted for comments said there is “no such thing as lethal and non-lethal in military terms. The lines are blurred.”
But he tried to play down the recent talks about the resumption of supply of Indian arms. “The arms may not necessarily come into Nepal right after the visit of Chief of Army Staff Gen. Chattraman Singh Gurung. We have requested for the assistance and India is considering our request. Let’s see when it (the arms) will come.”

US War on Terror and Indian Security Interests
Anand Kumar

December 11, 2009

The war on terror launched by the United States in the wake of 9/11 has been largely congruent with India’s security interests, though some components of this exercise have actually gone against India.

It is well known that Pakistan became a frontline ally of the United States. The U-turn made by Pakistan under General Parvez Mussarraf not only saved Pakistan from retaliatory actions but also brought huge amounts of Western, and especially American assistance.

However, the Pakistan military under Musharraf and its dreaded external intelligence agency the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were soon back to their old games. After making initial gains in the fight against the Taliban, Western forces soon realized that this war was not going anywhere and that the reason for this lay in the fact that Pakistan did not want to see the Taliban destroyed. It was also realized that the major assistance Pakistan had received to fight the Taliban was diverted to strengthen the Pakistan military, which acquired weapons that were more suitable for fighting India rather than the Taliban. The Pakistan army never wanted to fight the Taliban, which it saw as a strategic asset to be safeguarded. No wonder, the results of the war on terror have been mixed.

To fight the war on terror and to strengthen the Karzai government and the Afghan National Army, NATO forces brought in large amount of weapons. According to the US Government Accountability Office report, more than one-third of all weapons the United States has procured for Afghanistan’s government went missing. The US military has failed to maintain a complete inventory of records for an estimated 87,000 weapons –about 36 percent – of the 242,000 weapons that the United States procured and shipped to Afghanistan from December 2004 through June 2008. Nearly $120 million was spent by the US Defence Department during that period to acquire a range of small arms and light weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces, including rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The military could also not properly account for an additional 135,000 weapons it had obtained for the Afghan forces from 21 other countries.

It is feared that most of these weapons have been diverted to the Taliban. NATO weapons and even laptops are freely available in the tribal areas of Pakistan. This kind of proliferation of weapons is bound to strengthen non-state actors like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and al-Qaeda, thereby creating security threats for countries like India.

The most dangerous aspect of this war on terror from India’s security point of view has been the CIA’s monetary assistance to the ISI. The CIA has paid millions of dollars to ISI since 9/11, amounting to about a third of the ISI’s budget. The ISI also collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA programme, which pays for the capture or killing of wanted terrorists.1 [1] Now questions are being raised about this programme due to long-standing suspicions that the ISI continues to help Taliban extremists who undermine US efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to al-Qaeda members in Pakistan.

The role played by ISI in anti-India activity is well-known. At present, it is a compartmentalized organization with divisions that sometimes seem at odds with one another. A section dealing with NATO forces in its war on terror is kept completely insulated from the section that is running operations in connivance with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Afghnistan and Kashmir. Any assistance to ISI is bound to harm Indian security interests sooner than later.

At present, the challenge for both India and the United States is to see that this war on terror reaches its logical conclusion and extremist forces like the Taliban, al-Qaeda and LeT are comprehensively defeated. There is no middle path while dealing with these groups. Negotiations with forces like the Taliban can only bring momentary peace. Unless comprehensively defeated, these forces are bound to regroup and create far greater trouble for the whole world. For India, there is an additional challenge. It should try to ensure that the war on terror does not go haywire and in the process create new problems for its safety and security.

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