US Army gets its first Sikh graduate in 25 years
Washington, March 23
Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a 31-year-old dentist, has become the first Sikh in over 25 years to be allowed to complete US Army officer basic training without giving up his turban or shaving his full beard. Rattan graduated on Monday at Fort Sam Houston after the army made an exemption to a uniform policy that has prevented Sikhs from enlisting since 1984 without sacrificing the articles of their faith. “I’m feeling very humbled. I'm a soldier,” media reports quoted him as saying after the ceremony. “This has been my dream.” An immigrant from India who arrived in New York as a teenager, Rattan had to get a waiver from the army to be allowed to serve without cutting off his hair. Before 1984, Sikhs were allowed to maintain their articles of faith while serving. Rattan and Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, who will attend basic training this summer after completing an emergency medicine fellowship, are the first Sikhs to receive exemptions in more than 25 years. Rattan and Kalsi both offer health care skills that are in high demand in the force by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. — IANS
Major fire in Bangalore's military canteen, no casualties
Press Trust of India, Tuesday March 23, 2010, Bangalore
A major fire broke out in the Military Canteen Stores Department building in Bangalore on Tuesday. However, there were no casualties, a top fire department official said. "There has been a major fire in the second and third floors of the Military CSD building here. However, nobody is trapped inside the building and there are no casualties," Chief Fire Officer N U Erappa said. Sixteen fire tenders have rushed to the spot.
Pak army using minority women as sex slaves: NGO
Indo Asian News Service, Tuesday March 23, 2010, New York
The Pakistani army is sexually assaulting minority women and using them as sex slaves, alleges the European Organization of Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), an NGO working for the rights of minorities in Pakistan. In a prayer-cum-demonstration held at the UN, it said the Pakistani army is taking minority women away from their families, raping them and then using them as sex slaves. Referring to the December attacks on Christians in Lahore, the organisation alleged that attacks on minorities in Pakistan were increasing. Using a symbolic broken chair to highlight the plight of minorities in Pakistan, more than 100 women from different faiths lit candles at the prayer to highlight the plight of minority women allegedly being raped and killed by the Pakistani army. Expressing concern over the plight of women of Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan, the organisers said army officials are taking them to torture camps, raping them and then using them as sex slaves. "One such case is of that Zarina Marri who is a 23-year-old school teacher from Quetta and is being used as a sex slave by the Pakistani Army," the EOPM said in a statement. It said international observers and the media should be allowed free access to Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan to meet families whose women members have disappeared and yet no police cases have been registered. The organisation demanded that the UN organise a special session on the plight of Pakistani women. According to the EOPM, religious minorities constitute much more than five percent - as claimed in Pakistani census - of Pakistan's 160 million population. However, the census intentionally keeps minority population low to deny them greater representation, it said. Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities are constant targets of attacks in Pakistan, it said, citing Minority Rights Group International, a watchdog organisation, which ranked Pakistan last year as, "the world's top country for major increases in threats to minorities since 2007". Pakistan has also been listed seventh among the 10 most dangerous countries for minorities, after Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar and Congo.
Lashkar openly pledges to 'liberate' Kashmir
March 24, 2010 03:57 IST
Leaders of Pakistan-based banned terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba [ Images ] and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have called on supporters to wage a 'jihad' or holy war for the liberation of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ]. The terrorist leaders pledged to wage a jihad to "free" Jammu and Kashmir during a rally held in Kotli, a town in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, on Tuesday. Among those who addressed the gathering were senior LeT commander Abdul Wahid Kashmiri and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin. Kashmiri said the LeT would continue to support the Kashmiri people "until they achieve freedom from India [ Images ]". He told the gathering: "It is the religious obligation of mujahideen to fight invaders and oppressors across the world." In his address, Salahuddin, who also heads the United Jihad Council, said: "The only way to liberate Kashmir is jihad." He said "diplomacy, talks and negotiations" over the past few decades "have not worked". Leaders of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, declared a front for the LeT by the UN Security Council, also attended the rally. A resolution adopted at the rally said: "Jihad will continue until India ends its occupation of Kashmir." About 5,000 people attended the rally in Kotli, located about 80 km from Islamabad [ Images ]. They shouted slogans like: "We are ready for jihad." Salahuddin also claimed that the terrorist groups were not behind attacks within Pakistan. Terrorist groups based in PoK had maintained a low profile over the past few years. However, there has been a marked spurt in their activities in recent months. Tuesday's rally was organised to mark Pakistan Day, the anniversary of the adoption in 1940 of the Pakistan Resolution, which called for the creation of a separate country for the Muslims of the subcontinent. India has asked Pakistan to take action against LeT founder and JuD chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who it has described as the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai [ Images ] attacks. Pakistan has maintained that there is no evidence that would allow it to prosecute Saeed.
'Strategic depth' at heart of Taliban arrests
By Shibil Siddiqi
Pakistan has recently arrested a number of top Taliban leaders, including the second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and many of the Quetta shura. It also killed in a drone attack Mohammad Haqqani, a leader of the powerful Haqqani network that Pakistan had been loath to target. Many commentators, including influential think-tanks such as the Carnegie Endowment, have struggled to explain Pakistan's motivations behind the arrests and have hoped they embody a volte-face in its policies towards Afghanistan. In actuality the arrests are far from representing a paradigm shift in Pakistani thinking. Pakistan's approach to Afghanistan can be boiled down to two words: "strategic depth", the holy grail of the nation 's strategic policy for more than two decades. Strategic depth remains the central pillar in Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan. However, the concept itself is being reinterpreted by Pakistan's security establishment as a consequence of the sliding balance of opportunities and threats, both foreign and domestic. Strategic depth The military concept of strategic depth refers to the distance between actual or potential frontlines and key centers of population, logistics and industrial and military production. Having such depth allows a country to withstand initial offensives and enables it to regroup to mount a counter-offensive. Pakistan's geographic narrowness and the presence of key heartlands and communications networks near its borders with its mortal enemy India means that lack of strategic depth has long haunted its military planners. It was identified as a grave concern by General Arthur F Smith, the chief of general staff in India, as early as 1946 when an independent Pakistan existed only on the Imperial drawing board. The possibility of a friendly - or better yet, a pliant - Afghanistan providing this much vaunted depth in relation to India has long been a mantra for the unimaginative Pakistani generals that have long controlled the country's defense and foreign policy direction. However, Pakistan's early years, marked by nearly constant internal crises, international isolation, foreign policy disarray and military weakness, meant that this remained a pipe-dream. The language of a "common defense posture" cropped up in the late 1950s and 1960s, couched in both strategic and ideological, ethno-religious terms. But Afghanistan remained both strongly allied to India and within the Soviet Union's sphere of influence. The opportunity to furnish a friendly government in Kabul remained elusive until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the seemingly imminent mujahideen victory in the late 1980s. It was then that strategic depth through a client government in Kabul was adopted as official military doctrine. This fueled the vicious Afghan civil war in the 1990s and drove Pakistan to help install the Taliban in power in 1996. The Taliban victory was seen in Islamabad as a strategic coup. Pakistan had managed to install a friendly government while excising nearly all remnants of Indian and Russian influence from most of the country. Afghanistan also became an important center for Pakistan's proxy war against India in the disputed territory of Kashmir. At last, Pakistan had seemingly attained the conception of strategic depth that had animated its Afghanistan policy for nearly two decades. The attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent American occupation of Afghanistan resulted in the loss of Pakistan's primary influence. It brought many changes to Pakistan's relationship with Afghanistan. However, giving up on the idea of pliable Afghanistan dominated by Islamist Pashtun (read Taliban) was not one of them. While reprising its role as a frontline American ally, Pakistan maintained some important links to the Taliban, banking on them emerging as the eventual victors when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces withdrew. But change has been brewing. For weeks now the Pakistani Foreign Office has talked about the need for a "pluralistic" government in Kabul, the first time that Pakistan has discussed the political order in Afghanistan in such terms. But the decisive shift from the real players - the army's general headquarters - came only recently. In a rare press briefing on February 1, Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani hinted at the contours of an updated policy. "We want strategic depth in Afghanistan but do not want to control it," said the general, "A peaceful and friendly Afghanistan can provide Pakistan strategic depth." Talking against wanting a Talibanized Afghanistan, he added, "We can't wish anything for Afghanistan that we don't wish for ourselves." The statements are unprecedented for a Pakistani leader, no less the chief of its hawkish army. The general also reiterated that he was ready to mediate between the Americans and the Taliban, an offer he had also made earlier on his visit to NATO headquarters in January. Shifting reality At least two related factors have caused the shift in the way Pakistan views strategic depth. The first is the belated realization that even though the Taliban would almost certainly be able to outlast NATO, it is no longer possible for them to win an outright military victory and rule the country like they did from 1996 to 2001. There are numerous reasons for this, the most salient being that the Taliban are no longer a unified fighting force, nor are they the unknown and idealized quantity of their original incarnation. Further, many former mujahideen commanders have substantial investments of various shades to protect and therefore, have a vested interest in the status quo, as do Afghanistan's non-Pashtun minorities that are now far better organized and entrenched both politically and militarily. And the Taliban have hardly ingratiated themselves to the West or Afghanistan's neighbors. Any Taliban attempt to extend control beyond the Pashtun belts to the non-Pashtun central and northern areas of the country are likely to result in a grinding stalemate - one that would continue to destabilize Pakistan while bleeding it economically. Another overlooked factor in Pakistan's evolving strategy in Afghanistan is that a victory for the Taliban is no longer a desired outcome for Pakistan's security establishment. The economic, political and diplomatic cost of bringing and sustaining the Taliban in power would be far too high. Nor can Pakistan afford to leave the Taliban unchecked in Afghanistan when it is struggling with its own Islamist insurgency with barely checked shades of Pashtun nationalism lurking below the surface. "It makes no strategic sense for Pakistan to support radical Islamists in Afghanistan when it faces a full-blown Islamist insurgency at home," Kamran Bokhari, the Middle East and South Asia director for Stratfor, said in an interview with Asia Times Online. "By watching the melon, even the cantaloupe catches color," Bokhari said, using a popular Urdu aphorism to refer to the material and ideological support that the Taliban would engender for anti-state groups in Pakistan. The Taliban are still the main vehicle for Pakistan to exert influence in Afghanistan. But, according to Bokhari, "It doesn't want them running the show." Accordingly, for the first time Pakistan has opened channels to non-Pashtun groups in Afghanistan. It is also making an increasingly successful bid via Washington to become more involved in training the Tajik-dominated Afghan National Army (ANA). Combined with the fact that the Pashtun Taliban are the largest political and military force in the country, Pakistan would be in a commanding position in Afghanistan even if it did not attain the posture it sought in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. Reassessing Pakistan's arrests Enter the recent arrests of Taliban leaders in Pakistan. The arrested leaders - Mullah Baradar in particular - are suspected of pursuing their own agenda independent of Pakistan. It is believed they participated in dialogue with the US, the government of President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and the United Nations by using back channels that bypassed Pakistan. The Pakistani arrests have abruptly shut these channels down. They have also given Pakistan physical control of high-level leaders who potentially can represent the Taliban in future talks - or even scuttle them if need be. The arrests are meant to be a clear signal to the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban that Pakistan will not go along with any negotiations in which it doesn't have a place at the table. In Kiani's words, "[Pakistan's] strategic paradigm needs to be fully realized." Both the Americans and Karzai are persisting in their efforts to minimize Pakistani influence. But given the breadth and depth of its involvement and its indispensability to NATO's occupation and plans for withdrawal, they are unlikely to succeed. The arrests also signal to the Taliban that they do not have carte blanche in running their insurgency in Afghanistan. They need to accommodate Pakistani interests or risk being completely isolated. By forcing them to negotiate, Pakistan is sapping the Taliban's greatest asset - time. As with any guerrilla force, the Taliban exhibit a preference for long-term attrition over short-term victories. This is why most successful insurgents consistently lose battles and win the war. By forcefully imposing itself as a mediator between the Taliban and the US, Pakistan is attempting to shape the outcome of negotiations in a way that will preserve the imperative of strategic depth. Accommodation with other ethnic groups in Afghanistan will also keep the Taliban off-balanced enough to prevent their encroachment on Pakistan through ties with the Pakistani Taliban and other extremist Islamist organizations. This will serve to isolate the Pakistani Taliban from their comrades in Afghanistan. Pakistan's insurgency will become less cross-border than it has been, allowing it to force similar settlements on some insurgents while critically weakening and eliminating others. Too much, too late? Pakistan's retreat from a maximalist position is a welcome one. But there are lots of moving parts in the strategic machinery that it is setting into motion. Distrust between Afghanistan's ethnic groups today is matched only by their distrust of Pakistan. Its recent moves can only further isolate Pakistan from the Taliban and the Pashtun in general, while non-Pashtuns have long looked askance. These elements may crystallize into enough opposition on the ground to ultimately limit Pakistani influence. It is also worth remembering that in the 1980s Pakistan overplayed its hand by refusing to negotiate over a future Afghan government. Pakistan had hoped to prolong the Red Army's agony as well as Western support to extract the best possible terms, but failed to anticipate the speed of both the Soviet withdrawal and the West's loss of interest. It may now make the same mistake vis-a-vis the American occupation. Iran's, India's and Russia's distrust of Pakistan and the Taliban has grown after the two met with a view to a common platform on Afghanistan. But the US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey axis may be able to browbeat an agreement that allows an American withdrawal from Afghanistan with some pretence of having left a stabilized country behind. Ultimately, Afghanistan's stability and Pakistan's elusive strategic depth will continue to rest on the knife's edge of continuing accommodation and understanding between Afghanistan's various ethnic groups on the one hand, and its unruly neighbors on the other. It is a tall order. Shibil Siddiqi is a Fellow with the Center for the Study of Global Power and Politics at Trent University and a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus, the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives and ZNet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEML to provide 788 TATRA vehicles to Indian Army
Last Updated: Mar 23, 2010
NEW DELHI (BNS): The Defence Ministry has awarded public sector company Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) a Rs. 632 crore contract to supply TATRA all-terrain vehicles to the Indian Army. Under the contract, BEML will provide a total of 788 TATRA vehicles to the Army within a period of 18 months, the company said. The Army will get three variants of the vehicles – 8x8 TATRAS numbering 498, 6x6 TATRAS with winch numbering 278 and 6x6 without winch numbering 12. BEML has already received 50% of the total contract amount from the MoD, it said. The TATRA heavy vehicles have been designed to meet various operational requirements of the armed forces. The TATRA 8x8 is a multi-terrain vehicle used for both tank and personnel transportation. The 6x6 TATRA is a high mobility vehicle used for ground support role of the Army. The winch is fitted in the vehicles to help them in self recovery and recovery of other vehicles. Each TATRA vehicle can carry payloads upto 8000-kg.
India, U.S. consider holding training drill in nuke, chemical and biological warfare India,
U.S. consider holding training drill in nuke, chemical and biological warfare 2010-03-23 18:32:01 NEW DELHI, March 23 (Xinhua) -- India and the United States are considering holding a joint training exercise in nuclear, chemical and biological warfare at a U.S. proposal, the Indian newspaper The Tribune reported on Tuesday. The exercise featured on the agenda of the 14th meeting of the Army Executive Steering Group, comprising top Indian and U.S. army officers that began at Headquarters Western Command near Chandigarh in northwestern India on Tuesday, said the report. The four-day meeting is due to review the Indo-U.S. military cooperation in the past year and work out program for this year, said the report. The report quoted unnamed sources as saying that the Americans put the proposal forth first and the Indian army is yet to decide on the modalities and unit that might join it. The moves come in the backdrop of the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear deal and global security environment, said the report. The Indian army have also been engaged in orienting, training and equipping for operations in a nuclear, chemical and biological warfare contaminated environment, said the report. Editor: Xiong Tong
Soldier Technology : India's biggest soldier modernization event
Soldier technology is India's biggest Soldier Modernization event aims at deliberating on modern technology to make Indian Combatant ready for challenges of Modern Warfare. it covers entire spectrum of Soldier Modernization including: Night Vision, Advanced Weapons, Advanced Body Armor, Battlefield Management System, Soldier Communication System, Helmet Mounted Displays, Infantry Combat Vehicles, Sensors and etc.. Soldier Technology Summit will bring together decision makers who are shaping the modernization of India's dismounted forces, including top military figures from India's Infantry Directorate, senior managers from BPR&D, leading researchers from DRDO, procurement and R&D figures from DPSUs and representatives from equipment suppliers internationally. Nowhere else will you get future requirements for infantry and paramilitary modernization programmes - India's only dedicated conference on Soldier Modernization -An ideal platform to penetrate this on-going high-tech Army project- FINSAS -A dedicated, business focused show where you can network with current and future customers and suppliers. -The event is jointly organized by Ministry of Defence & Network18 (India's Largest Media Conglomerate). -The event is cover the entire spectrum of Soldier Modernization, including Night Vision, Tactical & Secured Communication System, Battle Field Management System, Enhanced Body Armor, GPS System, Rugged Computing, Advanced Combat Simulation & Training. Overview With rapid advancements in technology, the nature of warfare is also changing. Future wars are likely to be short, intense and characterised by greater transparency, increased accuracy and lethality with much higher tempo of activities. To sur*vive and operate in the changed paradigm of Fourth Generation Warfare, the infantry sol*dier needs to imbibe the qualities that enable each soldier to function as an advanced lethal platform that serves both as a sensor and a shooter and fits seamlessly into the overall all arms fighting hierarchy. While Indian Defence Forces are in process to enhance the capability of their soldier and equip him with adequate lethality, protection and situational awareness to meet the challenges of both conventional and the next genera*tion of warfare. They are also in the process of adopting the above technologies towards meeting the operational objectives set out for the infantry. Soldier Modernization Conjoined upon the broader concept of Revolution of Military Affairs, Future Infantry Soldier as a System (F-INSAS) is a revolutionary soldier modernisation programme of the Indian Army (IA). Essentially based on the concept of modular force, it encapsulates the army’s vision of a future battlefield scenario wherein the individual infantry soldier forms an important node in a wider communication network and in real-time shares with his buddy soldier, sub-units and the overall C4I2 (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Information and Intelligence) network a common situ*ational awareness of the battlefield. Increasingly popular with a most of modern armies in the world, this concept has grown with the need to provide the soldiers with significant lethal*ity, survivability, mobility, battle command, awareness, sustainability and combat effectiveness in future. The growing threat of urban insurgency in India, intermingled with high-tech nature of modern terror*ism, has put additional onus on the Indian Army to equip and train its special operation forces in a digitised environment so as to enable it’s commanders to correctly assess ground situations in counter-insurgency opera*tions, take split-second decisions, coordinate movement of troops in action and counter enemy’s fire power with increased fire power, precision and lethality—all in real time. Soldier Technology Summit will bring together decision makers who are shaping the modernization of India’s dismounted forces, including top military figures from India’s Infantry Directorate, senior managers from BPR&D, leading researchers from DRDO, procurement and R&D figures from DPSUs and representatives from equipment suppliers internationally. Nowhere else will you get future requirements for infantry and paramilitary modernization programmes. • India’s only dedicated conference on Soldier Modernization • An ideal platform to penetrate this on-going high-tech Army project- FINSAS • A dedicated, business focused show where you can network with current and future customers and suppliers. • The event is jointly organized by Ministry of Defence & Network18 (India’s Largest Media Conglomerate). • The event is cover the entire spectrum of Soldier Modernization, including Night Vision, Tactical & Secured Communication System, Battle Field Management System, Battle Field Surveillance System, Enhanced Body Armor, GPS System, Rugged Computing, Advanced Combat Simulation.