New Delhi, April 29
The Army today has said its troops along with the Navy and Coast Guard are on alert along the southern coastline to prevent LTTE cadres from entering Indian territory.
“Coast Guard and the Indian Navy form the first tier of (guarding against) infiltration from our southern coast. We have some troops deployed in the Southern Command to make sure that certain LTTE elements don’t make inroads into our coastline and enter India,” Army Vice Chief Lieutenant General Noble Thamburaj told reporters here.
After the Sri Lankan armed forces confined LTTE to a small area, there were reports of possibility of the LTTE cadres trying to infiltrate into India. — PTI
Obama for Boosting Strategic Partnership with India
By Arun Kumar
President Barack Obama 's pick for a key Pentagon policy post has indicated that he favors bolstering the relationship the previous Bush administration fashioned with India, "a critical strategic partner of the United States."
"I believe there is potential for greater intelligence sharing on common threats, cooperation on missile defence, and working towards stability in Afghanistan," Wallace Gregson, the nominee to become assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said in a testimony to the US Senate Monday.
He suggested US priorities for the relationship with India "should be focused on increasing maritime security cooperation, cooperating on counter-proliferation, collaborating on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, dealing with piracy, finding ways to cooperate on counter-terrorism, and deepening defence trade."
Gregson also told senators that he favors imposing detailed benchmarks on Pakistani officials for combating extremist Islamic groups operating there and tying any further military aid to Pakistan to these benchmarks.
Under questioning from 20008 Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gregson said any further military assistance Washington gives Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda should hold Islamabad accountable for reaching a series of goals.
Gregson appeared before the panel to testify about his confirmation to become assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.
Some senior Democratic lawmakers recently endorsed the notion of tying any military aid for Pakistan to specific goals Islamabad must show progress toward.
McCain suggested such stipulations should be written into any further aid packages. Islamabad's "recent actions have been counter" to rolling back Taliban and Al Qaeda power grabs in Pakistan.
In written answers to the panel's advance policy questions, Gregson said:
"While the Pakistani government has conducted several military operations in the past against militants in border areas, the region remains a sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban-affiliated groups."
In a blunt assessment of the situation there, the retired Marine Corps lieutenant general wrote "the threat appears to be increasing."
Gregson defined his understanding of the administration's primary objective for Afghanistan: "eliminating extremist threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan by disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan and preventing their return to Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Pakistani Forces Battle Taliban, Wrest Key Town
Pakistani security forces Wednesday battled the heavily armed Taliban fighters and wrested control of a key town in restive North West Frontier Province's Buner district after troopers used helicopters to rappel down in mountainous areas, authorities said.
Troops secured Daggar, which is the main town in Buner district, a military spokesman said on the second day of the offensive against the Taliban militants who fired at helicopters with heavy machineguns.
At least 60 personnel of police and the Frontier Constabulary were taken hostage by Taliban in Buner's Pir Baba area as security forces, backed by helicopter gunships and jet fighters, launched an operation in the district and pounded suspected hideouts of militants in some of its border areas, Dawn reported.
Hundreds of people who left their homes following the offensive against the Taliban were facing problems because of lack of transport, food and shelter.
Residents who stayed back saw troops rappel down ropes from helicopters outside Daggar while firing and explosions were also heard intermittently, the report said.
"We saw a helicopter dropping troops on the hills early this morning. It came about seven or eight times," Arshad Imran told Dawn News while standing in the town's central market.
"We hear sound of explosions off and on and we can see helicopters flying over the mountains."
Some 450 militants are estimated to be in the Buner valley and it may take a week to clear them out.
Talking to journalists by phone, a militant commander, Hafeezullah, threatened to attack all leaders of the ruling Awami National Party and Pakistan Peoples Party if the government did not end the operation by Wednesday.
Pakistan's interior ministry chief Rehman Malik Tuesday told Geo TV Tuesday that there was a threat of reaction from militants in other parts of the country following launch of a major military offensive in Buner.
He said that the government would launch operation in every area where writ of the state was challenged.
"Time for Taliban militants has ended," he was quoted as saying.
At least 70 militants were killed by the security forces in Lower Dir while nearly 450 terrorists were holed up in Buner area, Malik said Tuesday, adding "we will not tolerate them anymore".
The North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad had Feb 16 signed a controversial peace accord to impose Sharia laws in Swat and six other districts of the province in return for the militants laying down their arms.
President Asif Ali Zardari baulked at ratifying the accord in the face of strident international pressure and tossed the deal to parliament, which approved it April 13. Zardari approved it the same night and the accord came into force two days later.
The Taliban, however, did not keep their end of the bargain and moved south from Swat to seize control of Buner district last week.
While some of them moved out after intervention from Sufi Mohammad, chief of Tehrik-e- Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), a Taliban-aligned group, the bulk of the militants had stayed back, prompting the security forces to act against them.
India Concerned Over Increased Infiltration
India Tuesday expressed concern over the increased levels of infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan and the domestic situation in that country.
"India is very concerned about the increased level of infiltration from Pakistan and the domestic situation in the country, which could possibly lead to a serious problem," a source in the external affairs ministry said.
The Indian Army Saturday accused its Pakistani counterpart of pushing guerrillas into the Kashmir Valley. To back the claim, the Indian Army produced a Pakistani national who had infiltrated into the border state a fortnight ago.
Saqib Moinullah, 25, a resident of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), said at a press conference in Srinagar Saturday he had crossed into India through the Gurez sector of the Line of Control (LOC) along with 120 other people, including 31 guerrillas of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) outfit. The rest of the group comprised 40 porters and snow beaters and guides.
"I was motivated for joining the jihad (Holy War) as the people told me there was oppression in Kashmir," Moinullah said.
Brigadier Gurmeet Singh, Brigadier General Staff (BGS) of the army's 15 Corps who addressed the media, said the Pakistani Army had been facilitating the infiltration of the guerrillas into the Valley.
"Based on intelligence reports, intercepts of conversations and mappings etc, it is clear that the Pakistan Army has been aiding and assisting infiltration of terrorists into the Valley," he said.
He said that of the 120-strong group that crossed into the Valley, there were 31 guerrillas of whom 30 had been killed in different gun battles with the security forces while Moinullah was arrested alive.
"The rest of the group comprising porters, snow beaters and guides were forced back into the Pakistani side of the LOC," the brigadier added.
Pakistani security forces Tuesday went into action against the Taliban who had occupied the Buner district in the NWFP in violation of an accord on restoring peace in the area.
Also on Monday, the Pakistani Army said it had concluded an operation against the Taliban in the neighboring Lower Dhir district.
The two districts, as also Swat Valley, form part of the NWFP's Malakand division, over much of which the Taliban's writ runs.
A controversial peace deal in Malakand had envisaged the imposition of Sharia laws in the area in return for the Taliban laying down their arms.
Pak beginning to recognise India not a "mortal threat": Obama
Lalit K Jha/PTI / Washington April 30, 2009, 14:05 IST
Confronted with the Taliban offensive, Pakistan is beginning to recognise that viewing India as a "mortal threat" is misguided and that its biggest threat came internally, US President Barack Obama said today while voicing "grave concern" over the "very fragile" government in Islamabad and the situation in the country.
Notwithstanding the developments in Pakistan, Obama was confident that its nuclear weapons will not fall into militant hands. "I am confident, we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure.
"I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan, not because I think that they're immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan," Obama, who completed 100 days in the White House today said at his third press conference since assuming office on Jan 20.
"I'm more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don't seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services... For the majority of the people," Obama said in a critical assessment of the Zardari-led government in Islamabad.
Obama said he was more concerned that the civilian government in Pakistan "did not seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services: schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of the people."
"As a consequence, it is very difficult for them (Pakistan government) to gain the support and the loyalty of their people," the US President said.
"You're starting to see some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally.
"You're starting to see the Pakistani military take much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists," Obama said.
On Pakistan's nuclear arsenals, he said: "I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure. Primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognises the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands."
IAF Sukhoi fighter jet crashes; navigator killed
New Delhi: One person was killed when a frontline Su-30MKI combat jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed while on a routine training mission in Rajasthan, an official said.
The crash occurred at 1030 hrs IST., some 70 km southeast of Jaisalmer, an IAF spokesperson said, adding that the aircraft had taken off from the Lohegaon air base near Pune.
The two-man crew ejected before the jet crashed. The pilot, Wing Commander S V Munje, survived but the navigator, Wing Commander P.S. Narah, succumbed to his injuries, the spokesperson added.
There were no reports of damage to property on the ground.
This is the first crash of a Su-30MKI, which was inducted into the IAF in 1997. The IAF operates three squadrons (approximately 55 aircraft) of the jet, which is being manufactured under license in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
It was not immediately clear whether the aircraft that crashed was among those purchased in fly away condition or had been manufactured in India
US training of Pakistan army to grow: report
Published: April 30, 2009
WASHINGTON - Amid Taliban's military gains, the Pakistani government has agreed to allow the U.S. a greater role in training its military, part of an accord that will also send counterinsurgency equipment to help Islamabad step up its offensive against the militants, The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Although the Pakistani military launched an air attack against the Taliban on Tuesday, the newspaper said senior U.S. Defence officials remain deeply worried about Islamabad's ability to beat back the militant advance.
Long shaped by the threat of war with India, the Pakistani military is armed mostly with heavy weaponry and lacks some of the equipment useful in fighting an insurgency. And after months of fighting, the forces that have been hunting militants are exhausted.
"You have a Pakistani military that is battle weary," a senior U.S. Defence official was quoted as saying. "Their equipment is aged and not effective for the fight they are in."
The United States has also been urging Pakistan that the danger to its security comes from internal threats rather than India.
But Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani said that Washington has been reluctant to supply modern equipment for Pakistani forces, and to train them in antiterrorism techniques, because of concerns that these systems could be used against India.
"Such concerns are misplaced," he said in an opinion piece published The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. "Pakistanis understand that the primary threat to our homeland today is not from our neighbour to the east but from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on our border with Afghanistan. To meet this threat, we must be provided the means to fight the terrorists while we work on resuming our composite dialogue with India".
The LATimes said on his trip last week to Pakistan, Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continued to press the government to take the militant force more seriously. Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Kayani, it said, outlined for Mullen a series of steps he was planning, including the offensive in the Buner area.
Mullen emerged from his meetings with Kayani and other Pakistani officials deeply worried, telling aides that the situation had grown far worse than even two weeks before, when he had visited with special U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke. "I have never seen him come back more concerned, deeply bothered by what he saw," a military officer said.