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Thursday, 10 June 2010

From Today's Papers - 10 Jun 2010

Facing the AfPak reality US response is confusing
by G. Parthasarathy  JUST as President Obama’s “Air Force One” was readying to land at Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase on March 28, his National Security Adviser Gen James Jones was telling the accompanying Press correspondents that the President would give his Afghan counterpart a dressing down on corruption and incompetent governance. Correspondents were later told that President Obama had spoken about the need for “building a stronger government and battling corruption” to his Afghan host.  Earlier, American Ambassador Gen Karl Eikenberry had referred to President Karzai as being “not an adequate strategic partner” and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, had conveyed a “stern message” to Afghanistan’s Head of State. Worse still, a senior Pentagon official, expressing dissatisfaction at allegations of the President’s brother Ahmed Karzai’s alleged links with the Taliban, had reportedly remarked that once these links were established, “We can put him (Ahmed Karzai) on the target list and capture and kill him”.  Unable to bear such sniping any longer, President Karzai, a proud Popalazai Pashtun, hit back, raising doubts publicly about the appropriateness of a proposed American military operation in Kandahar and hinting that he would go his own way on “reconciliation” with the Taliban. By the time Karzai arrived in Washington DC on May 7, the Obama Administration had done a U-Turn, with Presidential Adviser Doug Lute proclaiming: “There is a new compact between his (Karzai’s) government and the Afghan people.”  Shortly after the unsuccessful terrorist attack at New York’s Times Square by Faisal Shahzad, evidence emerged that Shahzad had visited North Waziristan, where the “Haqqani Taliban network” of the Afghan Taliban is located together with Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. American anger at the refusal of the Pakistan Army to act against the Haqqani network was soon voiced. US Attorney-General Eric Holder asserted that if Pakistan did not take “appropriate action” against the Taliban elements based on its soil, the US would do so.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned: “Some Pakistani officials know more about Al-Qaeda and the Taliban than they actually let on. I believe that somehow in the (Pakistan) government, there are people who know where Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban leadership are”. She said the US expected more cooperation from Pakistan to help bring to justice, capture or kill those who attacked it on 9/11, adding: “We cannot tolerate having people encouraged, trained and sent from Pakistan to attack the US.”  The fact that the Obama Administration is a house divided, however, soon became clear, with Defence Secretary Robert Gates seeking to justify Pakistan’s terrorist connections by alluding to a “deficit of trust” between the US and Pakistan. Gates also said there was “some justification” for Pakistan’s concerns about past American policies, not only because of what the Americans did during Pakistan’s “past wars with India”, but also the imposition of American sanctions in 1992, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even before his boss spoke, the loquacious CENTCOM Commander Gen David Patraeus rushed in with an apologia for his Pakistani friends by claiming that while Faisal was inspired by militants in Pakistan, he did not necessarily have contacts with the militants.  Both Admiral Mike Mullen and General Patraeus evidently fancy themselves to be “soldier statesmen” a la Gen Dwight Eisenhower. Admiral Mullen has visited Pakistan 15 times and General Patraeus no less frequently. Both evidently have high opinions of their abilities to persuade General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that he should crack down on the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and the Taliban’s Mullah Omar-led “Quetta Shura”. Every Major and Captain in the US forces in Southern Afghanistan doubtless knows that they cannot prevail in the ongoing military operations unless Taliban strongholds across the Durand Line in North Waziristan and Baluchistan are neutralised. Mullen and Patraeus are evidently averse to acknowledging that hard options have to be considered if their soldiers are not to die at the hands of radicals, armed and trained across the Durand Line.  Perhaps the most cogent view of the implications of Faisal Shahzad’s Times Square misadventure was voiced by former CIA Official and Clinton White House Aide Bruce Reidel, who played a key role in crafting an AfPak strategy for the Obama Administration. Reidel noted: “What we are witnessing in Pakistan is a very dangerous phenomenon. The ideology of Al-Qaeda, the ideology of global Islamic jihad that all jihadis should focus on the United States as the ultimate enemy, is gaining ground with groups beyond Al-Qaeda. We saw this in 2008 in Mumbai, when the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba attacked American and Israeli targets. These are the targets of Al-Qaeda and global jihad.  This spreading of the idea of global jihad is very dangerous and as it gets deeper and deeper into the extremist groups in Pakistan, it means we can expect more attacks like the one we saw at Times Square.  While being unable to give any rational explanation for the comments of General Patraeus, Reidel observed: “We can’t eliminate the terrorist problem in Pakistan without Pakistan’s help. And yet we have failed for decades now to get the Pakistanis to give us help, and we have not found the cure to make this happen”. Knowing this American dilemma, a hard-boiled professional like General Kayani, whom the CIA has monitored as describing Afghan Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani as a “strategic asset,” is hardly likely to end his support for radical Islamic groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, merely because Admiral Mullen and General Patraeus endeavor to massage his ego! Afghan Taliban leaders will conveniently “disappear” should General Kayani commence military “operations” in North Waziristan at the US behest.  The Pentagon’s current Kayani-centric policy of acting as apologists for the Pakistani military establishment virtually amounts to abetment of terrorism against their army in Afghanistan and their population at home. The Americans will hopefully realise this and discard their present policies of “all carrots and no stick,” in dealing with Pakistan’s military establishment. US forces need not cross the Durand Line to take out Taliban strongholds. There surely are “local assets” to achieve this. Virtually no Pashtun recognizes the Durand Line as an international border.  President Obama will have to recognise that while his Generals may be militarily competent, they should avoid pretensions of being diplomats, or statesmen, as well. Interestingly, Mr Robert Gates and Dr Manmohan Singh attribute problems arising from Pakistan-sponsored terrorism to a “trust deficit”, thereby glossing over the pernicious role of the Pakistan military. Is this merely due to a subliminal meeting of minds?

PC to raise 26/11 with Pakistan
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, June 9 India will raise the issue of cross-border terrorism and the capture of Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the November 26, 2008, Mumbai attacks among other issues when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram meets his Pakistan counterpart Rehman Malik later this month.  Chidambaram is slated to visit Islamabad for a meeting of the Home Ministers of SAARC countries, which is expected to be followed by a meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines. Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik today called on Chidambaram to tie up the formalities of the visit.  Mumbai attack convict Ajmal Kasab has admitted to having met Hafiz Saeed, saying Saeed was among the group of handlers who were in touch with him and the others who sailed to Mumbai and killed more than 170 persons. The matter will come up for discussion, said sources here.  Saeed, who heads the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Dawa, was placed under house arrest by Pakistan and latter let off. On his part, Saeed denies his involvement in the Mumbai attacks.  India will also raise the issue of collecting voice samples of certain persons based in Pakistan. This is needed as the voice samples of phone intercepts during the Mumbai attacks have to be matched with voices of the persons. Pakistan has so far denied providing voice samples.  Another key issue, according to officials here, is the continued support offered by Pakistan to terrorists in infiltrating into India. According to Indian estimates, some 20 launch pads exist across the border in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Rethinking Jawaharlal Nehru 
General Thimayya, the charismatic Chief of Army Staff in the 1950s, onc
recounted how he’d first met Jawaharlal Nehru. They were both at the cinema in Allahabad sometime in the early 1930s. Nehru, seeing Thimayya wearing his army uniform, strolled up to him and asked, “So, how does it feel to be wearing a British uniform?” Thimayya replied: “Hot”.  That small, snappy exchange would seem to contain the essence of a prickly relationship that many observers believe unfolded between Nehru and the Indian military in post-Independence India: a relationship based on the notion that Nehru had little respect for the military, or indeed its role in his liberal new republic, and that in the ultimate put-down he appointed the arrogant, sneering, left-wing intellectual, Krishna Menon, as Defence Minister to keep the military leadership perpetually in their place. Srinath Raghavan works hard to dispel that latter notion.  Not so woolly-headed  Raghavan’s credentials are impressive. He’s a former Indian army officer who obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London, and now lectures there on defence studies. In addition, he’s an associate fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.  Raghavan has managed to uncover a great deal of valuable, so-far unknown archival material, in India, as well as from Britain, the US, Pakistan and China. And he uses this body of material to illustrate how Nehru responded to a series of series of conflicts that faced the country between 1947 and 1962: carefully exploring all the options, diplomatic as well as military, before arriving at his strategic decisions; working, always, toward the soft outcome that went with his own personal philosophy and worldview, yet ending up, too often, with a hard, military outcome (which, of course, caused sniggers among his critics around the world). Thus Raghavan seeks to present Nehru as not the woolly-headed philosopher-king of popular perception, but a sophisticated realpolitik player, whenever that particular role needed to be played.  The book begins with the author briefly but incisively outlining Nehru’s personality, his outlook of liberal realism and his soaring foreign policy ideals. He then goes on to present the challenges that collided against those ideals, one after the other, over a period of a decade-and-a-half: Junagadh, Hyderabad, Kashmir, East Pakistan, and ultimately, of course, China. Reading the book is like watching a series of great chess matches, where Raghavan gives you insights into Delhi’s thinking, as well as that of the players on the other side of the table, and you can watch the strategic moves being played out, one by one; the strategy for each game being informed by those of all the preceding games. In the process, you also catch fascinating glimpses of Delhi’s foreign policy establishment as it was in the 1950s, with its remarkable dramatis personae, its distinctive world-view and its sophisticated style of diplomacy.  “Big-stick” diplomacy  One chapter that makes especially interesting reading today is the long-forgotten near-war in Bengal in 1950, when escalating, tit-for-tat communal violence on both sides of the border had brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a major armed conflict. There was wide-ranging domestic pressure on Nehru to go to war against Pakistan — from everybody, from Syama Prasad Mookerjee of the Hindu Mahasabha at one end to the Gandhian Acharya Kripalani at the other — but Nehru was convinced that war made no strategic sense under the circumstances; in fact, war would be directly counter-productive to the very interests of the Hindu minority in East Pakistan for which it was being advocated. Back-channel diplomacy involving the British and Americans was tried, and failed. Ultimately, it was skilful “Big-stick” diplomacy by Nehru — speaking softly, while carrying a big stick, as Theodore Roosevelt prescribed — that led to the Nehru-Liaqat Pact, and a defusing of the situation. And that is the irony: the wars are long remembered; the peace pacts soon forgotten.  One episode that seems conspicuous by its absence in this book, however, is Goa. Raghavan’s explanation is to say of the Goa campaign and the Congo operation of the early 1960s, “that is not to say these historical events were trivial; merely that they are marginal to the analytical contents of this study”. What? Equating the Goa campaign, which dented Nehru’s international credentials so badly, with the Congo operation, which was essentially a UN-sponsored peace-keeping mission? It’s an explanation that seems a little disingenuous.  Cool, professional eye  One of the things that makes War and Peace in Modern India so refreshing is the fact that that in today’s world, where Nehru draws sharply — and unnecessarily — polarised reactions, Raghavan views him with a cool, professional, dispassionate eye, praising or slamming him as the moves on the strategic chess-board warrant. The book, with its body of well-argued and thought-provoking content, will no doubt be well-received by academic and strategic circles. But its somewhat austere style and presentation will perhaps exclude the general reader — which is a pity, for, it deserves a wider readership.  One small, final point: in an unintended touch of irony, the book’s cover shows a photograph of Nehru with Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan, who had proposed a Joint Defence pact in 1959, after China’s invasion of Tibet — as Mani Dixit reminds us in his India-Pakistan in War and Peace — to which Nehru had famously retorted, “And who is this Joint Defence aimed at, pray?” It was something Nehru may have recalled with rue a couple of years later, when China revealed itself as India’s dominant strategic threat, rather than the temperamental friend he had taken it for all along. Which, of course, was ultimately his strategic Waterloo. Or his strategic Bomdila, if you prefer. It was here that Nehru’s realist instinct finally failed him — although Raghavan has an interesting alternative theory to offer. But for that you will just have to read the book. Rethinking Nehru ANVAR ALIKHAN Was Nehru just a woolly-headed philosopher? Or, indeed, a realpolitik player? War and Peace in Modern India, A Strategic History of the Nehru Years, Srinath Raghavan, Permanent Black, price not stated.

India, Lanka to step up defence ties
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Singh (left) and Rajapaksa in New Delhi. (Rajesh Kumar)  New Delhi, June 9: India today promised to train a much larger number of Sri Lankan military personnel at its defence training facilities as part of its increased defence co-operation with Colombo.  After the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) experiment, when Delhi sent military contingents to LTTE-ravaged Lanka between 1987 and 1990, India had largely kept its defence co-operation with the island country on the backburner. After the annihilation of the Tamil Tigers, India now seems more assured of increasing its defence co-operation with Colombo.  At today’s talks between visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the two “leaders agreed to promote dialogue on security and defence issues of relevance to their bilateral relationship and enhance high-level military exchanges and training of military personnel as well as impart additional training in Indian institutions for the newly recruited police personnel”.  The two countries also agreed to start an annual defence dialogue. Rajapaksa will tomorrow fly to Shimla, where the Army Training Command is based.  Defence co-operation between the two countries suffered a setback after Delhi withdrew the IPKF in 1990 because of differences with the then Sri Lankan President, R. Premadasa.  Today, the two sides agreed to strengthen co-operation in fighting terrorism. They signed a treaty on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters and an agreement to transfer sentenced prisoners.  Sources said the UPA government, faced with the Maoist menace, hoped to learn from the island nation’s experience in decimating the LTTE. The Maoists’ guerrilla warfare techniques are based on those of the LTTE.  Singh congratulated Rajapaksa on the successful fight against the LTTE. “It (the defeat of the Tamil Tigers) provided a historic opportunity for the country’s leaders to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation,” Singh said.  He also emphasised the need for a “meaningful devolution package” for Sri Lankan Tamils “to create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement in Sri Lanka”. India and Sri Lanka agreed to closely work to expedite the resettlement of the Tamils who were displaced during the war.

Army officer to be booked under OSA  
NEW DELHI: The Union Government is all set to book Indian Army Major Shantanu Dey under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923 for possessing and purportedly transferring highly-classified information to an ISI operative. The Home Ministry, sources said, had conveyed its displeasure to the Defence Ministry for not slapping OSA against Major Dey until now despite having a very strong prima facie case to do so. “The question is why the Major has not been booked under the OSA yet? Possession of highly-classified documents is enough to invoke the OSA against him. He had around 2500 files, containing highly-classified presentations, in his possession,” a senior Home Ministry official said. A person prosecuted under the OSA could be charged with the crime even if the action was unintentional.

Army and navy plan to set up a marine brigade
Shiv Aroor New Delhi, June 9,
The navy and army have sent a proposal to the government seeking permission to transport a 5,000-strong armed infantry and special forces troops, tanks and weapons - an independent brigade group (IBG) - on foreign shores for active operations. This capability has both been controversial and strategically provocative.  It has been learnt that after years of consultations, the army and navy have finally started seeing eye to eye on the modalities required to incrementally build up the capability to deliver a full brigade- strength contingent of troops - including two special forces units - with arms, ammunition, vehicles and weapons outside the Indian mainland.  "The need to move forces is in keeping with the expanded security focus on India's island territories and the ability to deliver forces expeditiously for humanitarian relief operations," navy spokesperson Commander PVS Satish said.  While the financial implications of such a capability are being worked out, they will involve integrated expenditure on larger amphibious assault vessels, equipment and joint training.  The army has an IBG, the 340 Independent Infantry Brigade under Jodhpur- based 12 Corps, for amphibious assault operations.  It re-raised the 91 Infantry Brigade early last year for amphibious warfare.  But the navy currently only has the capacity to transport a little less than two battalions on expeditionary missions. The move now is to crank up that capacity more than twice over for a full IBG. Former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash said it was absolutely essential that the navy built up the capacity to transport a brigade- sized group across the seas. "We have 1,200 island territories. We have energy investments worth thousands of crores far from our shores. We have huge diaspora in the Middle East. If there was a Kargil-like situation on any of our island territories, we would need adequate boots on the ground for combat. There are also other liabilities such as piracy and potential hostage situations.  Being able to transport a couple of battalions isn't nearly enough," he said.  Sources said the process to obtain approval from the government began under the previous navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, currently India's high commissioner to New Zealand.  The case is said to have been taken up afresh in February this year by the chiefs of staff committee for consideration by the defence minister.  While formal approval is yet to come, the government has indicated it is in principle inclined to approve the proposal.  The capability received a cursory mention in an official technology roadmap document published by the defence ministry last month.  Vice Admiral (retd) Madanjit Singh, navy's former western commander, said: "It is a major capability that the navy is looking at and will necessarily be a joint effort in consultation with the army. Such a capability is useful for operations, humanitarian relief and rescue operations." The Centre and South Block have always been wary about discussing expeditionary capabilities, considering the implications of such operations and India's carefully nurtured image of a country with no belligerent ambitions.  While the establishment has always guised amphibious capabilities as an imperative for more efficient humanitarian relief operations, there have been several recent signs that assault and combat are very much part of the plan.  On April 14, a detachment of Indian soldiers conducted a landmark joint amphibious assault exercise with US Marines off the coast of San Diego on board the US Navy's landing vessel, USS New Orleans . In February last year - five months after the South Block formalised India's first joint amphibious warfare doctrine - the three forces conducted the biggest joint landing operation of troops (a battalion of the 91 Infantry Brigade re-raised in 2009 as an amphibious brigade) on Gujarat's Madhavpur beach after departing the navy base at Karwar, south of Goa.  Leaving little to the imagination, the South Block had announced then that the exercise proved that the forces could conduct "swift and intense conflict during military operations". Apart from being in the market for four- six more large amphibious landing ships to augment the American-built INS Jalashwa inducted almost three years ago, there are other items on order that indicate the desired amphibious assault readiness.  The most recent was the army's expression of interest in procuring up to 4,000 amphibious assault rifles for the infantry.

Three Indian Army mountaineers die after successful climb
June 10, 2010 4:08 am by Editor | No Comments  New Delhi, June 9 – Three Indian Army mountaineers, members of an expedition to the Kumaon Himalayas, succumbed to freezing temperatures in an unseasonal heavy snowfall while returning to base after summitting the 7,120-metre Mt. Trishul, an official said Wednesday.  Havaldar Thandraj Rai, Naik Chandra Bahadur Limbu and Naik Nima Wangdi Sherpa ‘fell critically ill’ on their way back from the summit to the base camp and ’succumbed to cold’, the official said.  The army had launched the expedition to Mt. Trishul May 15. The team from the 11 Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre, at Lucknow, comprised two officers, two junior commissioned officers and 27 other ranks, and was led by Major K.S. Rajawat.  The team successfully scaled the peak June 8 and while ‘returning from the summit, they encountered extreme weather conditions in the form of unseasonal heavy snowfall and blizzards for almost 24 hours,’ the official said.  Rajawat, who has led a number of expeditions in the recent past, including the joint India-Tajikistan mountaineering expedition to Mt Stok and Gulap Kangri in 2009, brought the team back to the base camp braving the extreme weather conditions, the official said.

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