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Friday, 18 December 2009

From Today's Papers - 18 Dec 09

55 swine flu cases in Command hospital
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 17
Fifty-five cases of swine flu (H1N1) have been reported at the Western Command Hospital, Chandimandir, since the spread of the disease in this part of the region.

According to the hospital authorities, majority of those infected were serving soldiers, with 11 patients being family members of armed forces personnel. However, there has been no fatality due to H1N1 at the hospital.
At present, two patients are still admitted to the hospital for treatment, while the rest have been discharged following recovery. A separate ward with requisite facilities has been set up at the hospital to deal with swine flu cases.
Besides Chandimandir, there have also been reports of Army personnel getting infected with the virus at other stations. Since soldiers have to travel quite frequently on official duties, they remain susceptible to infection while moving around at crowded public places like railway stations, bus stands, trains and markets. An infected soldier can put other soldiers, living in barracks or undertaking collective activities, at the risk of getting infected with the virus.
Swine flu has affected military personnel in several countries, including the United States, Great Britain and Germany.

Pak Defence Minister barred from travelling to China
Press Trust of India, Friday December 18, 2009, Islamabad
Pakistan's Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, one of the beneficiaries of a graft amnesty struck down by the Supreme Court, was on Thursday barred by authorities from travelling to China on an official visit.

Immigration officials were quoted by TV news channel as saying that Mukhtar was informed that he would not be allowed to board a Pakistani International Airlines flight to

Mukhtar and his wife were prevented from boarding a Pakistan International Airlines flight to Beijing as his name was on a list of people barred from travelling abroad in the
wake of the court's verdict.

Mukhtar, a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari said he was scheduled to go China with the Naval chief to take delivery of a warship. He said the Interior Secretary had
informed him that his name was in the list of people barred from travelling abroad before he reached the airport.

The Naval chief later left for China on an official visit.

The National Reconciliation Ordinance, a controversial law issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to scrap corruption cases against over 8,000 people, including Zardari and his aides, was declared void by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Musharraf’s NRO goes
Zardari could be in serious trouble
The striking down of the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by the Pakistan Supreme Court is not surprising. The NRO was bound to meet the fate it did on Wednesday after the PPP-led government failed to get it adopted by the Pakistan National Assembly (parliament) recently. The decree was promulgated by then President Gen Pervez Musharraf in October 2007 mainly to free the slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Zardari, now President of Pakistan, from the corruption cases instituted against them during the prime ministership of Nawaz Sharif. As a result of the 17-member apex court Bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, declaring the NRO as “an instrument void ab initio, being ultra vires ... of various constitutional provisions”, all the cases withdrawn stand revived. The NRO had benefited nearly 2000 persons, though a document made public by the National Accountability Bureau listed only 248 NRO beneficiaries.
The judgement may bring about considerable pressure on Mr Zardari to resign on moral grounds. He may not do so immediately since he as President enjoys immunity under Article 248 of the Pakistan Constitution. But ultimately he may have to bow out. Even before the verdict was pronounced he was getting hints from the Pakistan Establishment, including the Army, to call it a day in view of his name being associated with widespread corruption in the country. Mr Zardari’s assets are worth $1.5 billion, including millions of dollars in overseas bank accounts. He and his late wife are alleged to have been paid $60 million as kickbacks by a Switzerland company for giving it undue favours when Benazir Bhutto was Pakistan’s Prime Minister.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik and a few other bigwigs are also likely to be in trouble as a result of the apex court verdict. Mr Malik, facing two cases in accountability courts, offered to resign on Wednesday, but Mr Zardari persuaded him not to do so till the cases against him were decided by the court. Under the circumstances, the major gainer appears to be Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. He has been playing his cards dexterously, pandering to the wishes of the all-powerful Pakistan Army. There is the possibility of his getting elevated as President after Mr Zardari finally departs.

Sea power has its significance
India needs self-sufficiency in ship building
by Abhijit Bhattacharyya
One does not have to be an Admiral Gorshkov (the longest serving Soviet naval chief) or Alfred Thayer Mahan (the guru of the maritime doctrine) or a Sir Julian Corbett, the Royal Navy Admiral, to state the obvious. That a navy is not built in a day and no nation can aspire to be a naval power by being at the eternal mercy of foreign suppliers and manufacturers, which can arm twist the ship users’ lack of knowledge and technology at will by taking advantage of its expertise and experience in ship building thereby resulting in the importer’s weakness and helplessness. In fact, naval history of the world is replete with instances of nations which prospered and developed during last 500 years inevitably had the advantage to traverse the entire two-thirds of the global lake in ships built in their own shipyards.
Traditionally, there have never been very many fighting ship-builders either in the 20th or the 21st century. Thus, during World War II Japan was virtually the sole Asian naval power by virtue of its ship building capacity and capability, restrictions imposed by the Washington naval disarmament conference of 1922 notwithstanding. In the west of Suez, Anglo-American supremacy was over, and superiority to the perceived “land-powers” like Germany and its European allies could never match the marine powers’ strength, stamina, endurance and industrial productivity. Hence the war ended in victory for the superior, combined naval strength of the West and defeat for the sole maritime Japanese foe.
Post-World War II, however, the rise of the Soviet Navy was the sole non-Western, non-capitalist state to pose a threat to the virtual monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon naval axis. And it happened, thanks to the Soviet Deputy Minister of Defence-cum-Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy, Admiral Sergei Georgiyevich Gorshkov, who initiated an unprecedented construction plan and timely execution of all ships required by the state. The Soviets challenged the West in the sea because the Soviets made the ships in their own shipyard. Hence they did not have to bank on the charity and worry about the whims of foreigners resulting in time and cost overrun.
In the post-Soviet era, it is the turn of China to pick up the thread which already has built a formidable navy with an apparent single-point agenda of an indigenous ship construction programme. True, the Chinese Navy still has a few ex-Soviet/Russian inventories in its fleet, but the variety and range of Beijing’s vessels today is simply awesome. And there lies the strength of its fleet. Thus China today, according to Jane’s Fighting Ships, 2009-2010, has a total of 54 submarines (of various class), 27 destroyers, 49 frigates and 275 fast attack and patrol craft. Of these, only 16 ships are of non-Chinese (i.e. Russian) make; 12 kilo class submarines and 4 Sovremeny destroyers.
Little wonder, the Chinese feel much more free and confident to flex their muscles and show their ships in out-of-area operations. Jane’s refers to Chinese enterprise thus, “Future historians may come to regard 2009 as the year that the Chinese Navy finally came of age.”
In the midst of the Soviet challenge to the West till the 1990s and the Chinese Navy’s “coming of age in 2009”, where does the Indian fleet stand today? How strong and self-sufficient is the navy of New Delhi? To this writer, the scenario appears to be a mixed bag of success and shortfall. The positive sides of India’s defence is the technical competency and mastery over the English language, expertise in aircraft carrier operations and combat capability in both surface and sub-surface warfare.
However, the not-so-positive factor lies in Indian inability (should one say traditional inertia!) to be self-sufficient in ship building expertise for long. The deficiency on this front is so conspicuous that one still finds all 16 submarines of the Indian Navy to be of foreign make (10 Russian ‘Kilo’,‘2Foxtrot’ and 4 German HDW class). Its sole aircraft carrier Viraat (ex-Hermes) is of British origin, 5 Rajput (Kashin class) destroyers are made in Nikolayev North shipyard (Russia), the 3 Talwar class frigates also are of Moscow origin (with three more likely to follow suit). At least five out of 12 Veer (Tarantul class) corvettes are of Russian make and so are the 4 Abhay class anti-submarine warfare patrol boats.
On the positive side, however, the Indians have made tremendous improvement in ship design, construction time reduction and planned delivery thereof. The pride of Indian ship building has been reflected in the Delhi and Kolkata class destroyers, Shivalik, Brahmaputra and Nilgiri class frigates; Kora, Khukri, Veer, Abhay and project 28 corvettes and the top of the line project of indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant which has been going on at Kochi shipyard.
Despite the mixed bag of success and shortcoming, a horrible mess appears to have been created by the failure of the Russians to stick to the delivery time schedule of the proposed refurbished and refitted Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier to India. This inordinate delay only results in an avoidable spiralling cost, which in turn affects a balanced fleet development. Indeed, one suspects that perhaps the Russians are no longer capable of producing the same quality vessels for which they made a name for themselves during the Soviet era. The period after the demise of the Soviet Union could have resulted in an acute shortage of naval technical experts thereby creating an all-round vacuum in ship-building capability of Russian shipyards.
Else, how does one justify the report that “the French government has given the go-ahead to the possible sale of a helicopter-and-troop carrying ship to Russia”? Is Russia now incapable of building even its own 15000-18000 tonne helicopter-and-troop-carrying carrier? If so, then how would the Russians be able to re-manufacture a sophisticated 45000 tonne aircraft carrier for India? Indeed, the scenario appears rather intriguing. Gorshkov has been badly delayed already. Diplomatic talks have been upgraded from the Joint Secretary to the head of government level. In between, the Captains, Admirals and Defence Ministers are failing to achieve any breakthrough. And yet the “price rise” haggling is going on.
Amidst all this, the Russians are reportedly negotiating with French civil shipbuilders STX and combat ship company DCNS for potential purchase of a Mistral class warship. Although referred to as the amphibious assault ship by Jane’s Fighting Ships 2009-2010, this 21600 tonne vessel has a range of 11000 nautical miles at 15 knots an hour and is capable of up to 16 attack helicopters in its deck thereby giving it enough teeth for offensive operations. If indeed Russia manages to clinch the deal for this ship (two of which are in the French fleet), then its navy would be able to play a role of “forward pressure, force projection, logistic support for the deployed force (ashore or at sea) . . . and command ship for combined operations.”
All indications suggest that the Russian Navy is keen on an early acquisition for a force multiplier mission in the ocean. As an Indian, one certainly cannot possibly have any grudge if a long-standing friend like Moscow acquires a floating airstrip from Europe. But why does Moscow not look into the need of its friendly South Asian navy with the same sense of urgency and sensitivity? Is the “price rise” really that grave as to delay the delivery of India’s maritime defence? One wonders!n
The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of India and a Member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London.

U.S. gov’t seeks expansion  of war by Pakistani army

The Barack Obama administration is mounting pressure on the Pakistani government to help in combating the main Taliban factions fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. While the Pakistani government is embroiled in a military conflict with the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, it has shown no inclination to expand its war to other groups in Pakistan that have not challenged the Pakistani government.

At the top of Washington’s list are the Afghan Taliban, led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, former head of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and forces led by Siraj Haqqani. Both groups continue to operate from bases in Pakistan, command thousands of Islamist combatants, have ties to al-Qaeda, and were Islamabad’s “strategic assets” in its contest with India over influence in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The CIA has been working with Pakistani and Saudi spy agencies to win defectors from among the Afghan Taliban leadership, reports the Los Angeles Times. But Washington wants Islamabad to do much more to disrupt Omar’s leadership council, referred to as the Quetta Shura. U.S. officials claim the council is based in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan Province in the southwest.

For some time the Pakistani government had denied any knowledge of the Quetta Shura. In the first public acknowledgement of its existence, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported December 11 that "Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar said Pakistani security forces have taken on the Quetta Shura and have damaged it to such an extent that it no longer poses any threat.” The following day, Mukhtar complained that Washington was not paying enough to operate its aerial drones from Pakistan’s Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan.

Newsweek magazine reported November 28 that some Taliban leaders from Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan have moved to Karachi, a major port city in the south.

Washington is considering extending U.S. aerial drone strikes to Taliban targets in Quetta, a city of 850,000, adding pressure on Islamabad to go after the Afghan Taliban. Except for a couple strikes in an area of the North West Frontier Province, the U.S. drone attacks have thus far been confined to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas north of Balochistan.

Pakistani officials have opposed U.S. aerial strikes in Balochistan. A top Pakistani official involved in discussions with the White House told the Los Angeles Times that if Washington takes action there “this might be the end of the road.”

The Pakistani army is engaged in a major offensive against the Taliban Movement of Pakistan centered in the Mehsud tribal area in South Waziristan that is spreading into other parts of the tribal areas. It is also coordinating with U.S. forces to prevent an influx of Taliban fleeing Washington’s Afghan offensive into Pakistan. Excluded from Pakistan’s military operations, however, are North Waziristan and a section of South Waziristan, which provide bases for Haqqani and two other Taliban factions that have agreements with Islamabad.

The Pakistani government has responded negatively to a formal request from Washington that Islamabad should go after Haqqani, the New York Times reports. The request was followed up with a visit to Islamabad December 14 by Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, to meet with Pakistan’s prime minister and top general.

The U.S. appeals, according to the Times, “have been accompanied by strong suggestions that if the Pakistanis cannot take care of the problem … then the Americans will by resorting to broader and more frequent drone strikes in Pakistan.”

A Pakistani official told the Times that Haqqani is considered an essential asset in what the Pakistani government sees as a pending contest with India and other regional powers for influence in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led war is over.

‘Corruption will weaken Army’s ability to handle security challenges’
Express News Service Posted online: Friday , Dec 18, 2009 at 0128 hrs
Corruption has spread like an epidemic in India, which now has the dubious credentials of being one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

That the virus of corruption has not spared even the judiciary and the Army should be a matter of great concern for both the leaders and the public.

For, the former delivers justice and the latter defends the country against external aggression.

Unlike the earlier days when even a jawan’s court-martial used to raise many eyebrows, today, one often hears of Lieutenant Generals and Major Generals being involved in disciplinary cases.

Take the recent example of nine officers, including three Lieutenant Generals and one Major General, who have been indicted in a land scam in Siliguri cantonment in the Eastern Sector.

Defence Minister A K Antony has also come on record to say that such cases could weaken the ability of the Army to handle security challenges.

He also said that prompt and stern action would be taken against the guilty.

It is an admitted fact that corruption always starts from top. The Army is meant to fight a war. You are not to reason why but be ready to do or die once your commander orders you to face bullets. But when you know that the commander who is ordering you into battle is a corrupt leader, you would hesitate to die for him.

So Antony is right when he says that corruption cases on part of senior officers could weaken the ability of the Army to handle security challenges.

What is more worrisome is that a number of corruption cases in which senior officers are involved have come to light only over the last few years.

It is highly disconcerting that even strict disciplinary action in such cases has not been able to curb the tendency of some to slip into corruption to make a fast buck. Why is this so? Because all organisations and segments of our society are afflicted with corruption and everyone is out to make more and more money by foul means. This disease has also infected armymen to some extent, though by and large, it is still the cleanest organisation in the country.

In a corrupt country, no organisation can remain absolutely clean. It is, therefore, not possible to insulate the Army from corruption as when army officers see that everyone around them is making money and becoming richer by the day, they too get tempted. This temptation can only be stopped if the cleaning-up process starts from top, i.e., from the level of politicians and bureaucrats.

This is not to justify corruption in the Army but to bring home the fact that if the country demands zero tolerance of corruption from the Army; it has to begin cleaning up of other government agencies too.

All said and done, a corrupt army cannot function for long. All efforts should, therefore, be made to award exemplary punishments, especially to senior officers, if they are found guilty of corruption.

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