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Sunday, 4 July 2010

From Today's Papers - 04 Jul 2010

Probe ordered into submarines’ collision at Naval jetty 
Mumbai, July 3 About 160 sailors and officers on board two Indian Navy attack submarines had a lucky escape when the vessels collided at a Mumbai harbour jetty while one of the them was attempting parallel berthing with the other.  There was no injury to any Navy personnel or major damage to the vessels during the incident that occurred 10 days ago with Navy officers at the headquarters in New Delhi describing the incident as minor.  "It is a minor incident that took place 10 days ago. A submarine was attempting a parallel berthing alongside another, which is a routine practice, at the Navy jetty in the Mumbai harbour," a Naval officer said today.  The Navy has ordered a board of inquiry into the mishap involving the two vessels -INS Sindukesari and Sindhuratna - which are Kilo class submarines of Russian origin - in which they suffered minor damages.  One of the two submarines involved in the mishap had recently returned after a refit in Russia.  Since there was no damage to any equipment or weapon system, the Navy said a minor repair to the submarine would be carried out locally.  But officers who did not want to be identified said the rudder of one of the vessels was damaged, requiring a minor repair.  Though officially the Navy refused to respond to queries on the incident, the officers said these types of minor incidents did take place regularly when attempting parallel berthing. — PTI

Mumbai: Submarines collide in Naval jetty 
Press Trust of India, Updated: July 03, 2010 18:53 IST  Mumbai:  Two submarines of the Indian Navy suffered minor damage in a collision at a jetty in the Mumbai harbour when one of vessels was attempting parallel berthing with the other.  There was no injury to any Navy personnel during the incident and Navy officers at the headquarters in New Delhi termed the incident as a minor one.       "It is a minor incident that took place 10 days ago. A submarine was attempting a parallel berthing alongside another, which is a routine practice, at the Navy jetty in the Mumbai harbour," a Naval officer told PTI.  Since there was no damage to any equipment or weapon system, the Navy said a minor repair to the submarine would be carried out locally.      * NDTVShare on Twitter     * NDTVShare on Social     * NDTVGmail Buzz     * NDTVPrint       Though officially the Navy refused to respond to queries on the incident, officers said these types of minor incidents do take place regularly when attempting parallel berthing.      The officers, however, refused to identify the type of submarines that collided.  Navy at present has 16 submarines in its fleet, of which 10 are Kilo class submarines bought from the Russians, four are HDW types and another two are Foxtrot class.      One of the Foxtrot class submarines is due to be decommissioned from the Navy this month.      Navy plans to induct six more submarines into its fleet in the next five years under the Scorpene project currently underway in Mazgaon Docks, a Defence Public Sector Undertaking, in Mumbai.      It is also looking for a follow-on project for the Scorpenes and is currently searching for a second production line for the same for which private shipyards too are being considered.  Story first published: July 03, 2010 18:51 IST

Fall of a strategy!
Air Commodore (Retd) Khalid Iqbal It would be naive to assume that General McChrystal was unaware of the consequences of ‘Rolling Stone’ saga. He wilfully committed professional suicide by stepping on a media equivalent of WMD. Probably he could clearly see his Waterloo approaching fast. Obama administration had given him almost all the resources that he had asked for. Now it was time for accountability. It is not the fall of a general; it indeed is the fall of a strategy which was constructed in vacuum, based on denial of ground realities. Fixations and oversimplifications had effectively blocked the way of healthy inputs, which have all along been plenty, from within American intelligentsia as well as from the well wishers of America, the world over. Just thirteen months after the sacking of McChrystal’s predecessor General David McKiernan, on the pretext of the need for a fresh approach, the things have fallen wide apart. McChrystal is the latest scapegoat. General Petraeus could the next, followed by the Supreme Commander himself, unless a reality check is carried out, followed by an honest course correction. Afghan war is much serious in complexity to be won through military surges as championed by McChrystal as indeed by Petraeus, and steered by ruthless military industrial mafia. With each passing day McChrysal’s frustration was soaring, he could no longer sustain the pressure from within and chose to become a ‘Runaway General’. Now Petraeus’ nightmare must have started with a ticking clock haunting him, snowballing a feeling of strangulation. At its focal point, the Afghan war is not winnable by force, irrespective of how much force is injected into it. Use of military force could bring unimaginable destruction to this region but not a victory for Americans. Success requires a complicated political process with the forces that be. That is the force that holds the country and actually rules the territory. It is quite clear that the government in Kabul and the security forces under its command are not that force. The Taliban alone may also not be that force either. However, these two in unison are certainly a powerful factor to be reckoned with. Of these, Taliban believe that they are winning the war; and Karzai government has lost faith in the occupation forces’ ability to salvage the situation. Hence, coaxing Taliban to agree to a relationship of a co-dominion over Afghanistan from their position of strength is not an easy task. Especially when casualties of occupation forces are on the rise and public support for war effort is waning in most of the Western capitals. It is amply clear that the counterinsurgency strategy that was envisaged to turn around the Afghan war by July 2011 has collapsed, both conceptually as well as structurally. Powerful actors in the Obama administration widely disagree on the counterinsurgency strategy of weakening the Taliban, securing major population centres, bolstering the Afghan government's effectiveness and rushing in aid and development. Critics often argue whether a strategy aimed at bolstering the Afghan government can ever succeed in a country with ethnic divisions and a history of tribal rule. Afghanistan is in disorder and it is because of an American policy mired in fatal contradictions. Split between the US civilian and military teams in Afghanistan has not disappeared with McChrystal's departure. Fissures, exposed in derogatory remarks to ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine would continue to haunt Petraeus. He has indeed inherited countless challenges. One hundred international troops have died in June, making it the deadliest month of the war. Offensive in Helmand province earlier this year has yielded poor results. Security campaign envisaged for Kandahar province is mired in controversy’ and is lost in the mind of field commanders even before it could begin. McChrystal had a tendency to say in public what others said in private. His leaked assessment of the Afghan war last year was one of the first official U.S. documents to note that “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter-measures in Afghanistan or India”. Since then he was in the cross hair of a very powerful pro-India lobby. Nearly 100,000 US troops are now in Afghanistan, but security has never been so elusive for them or for Afghan civilians. A recent UN report amply reflects the realities on the ground. A record 153 Americans have been killed in IED attacks, this year. Explosions that maim or kill Afghan civilians are up by 94 percent over this period last year. Afghan officials are being assassinated at a rate of almost 30 a month. Suicide attacks, once unknown in Afghanistan, are occurring at a rate of about three per week. To gauge the inability of occupation forces to protect Afghan civilians: 332 children were killed or badly injured between March and June. Taliban attacks on schools, which included putting IEDs inside classrooms, kidnapping and killing school staff, and arson, have been increasing steadily in the whole of the country. Central to the U.S. strategy of providing security in Afghanistan is the accelerated recruiting and training of Afghan soldiers and police officers, but here, too, dismal news confronts Petraeus. These forces are in shambles, marred by ethnic and sectarian tensions. Factions of the Pashtun defence minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, and Army chief Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, are conducting a virtual war with each other. There are other problems, including the Afghan army's inability to move, feed or re-supply its own troops. Money and weapons the United States pumps into the army and police feeds an illicit shadow economy. This kind of factionalism and power corruption has infected the rest of government as well, hampering its ability to extend its positive presence beyond Kabul. Similar assessment also surfaced in a corruption investigation, into trucking and security contractors in Afghanistan; hired to transport critical war supplies to the troops. The investigation, by a panel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was prompted by reports that contractors were paying off Taliban not to attack truck convoys, whereby using Pentagon money in a protection racket. Congressional findings confirmed these reports. Pentagon's system of contracting fuels war-lordism, extortion, and corruption, and it may be a significant source of funding for insurgents, the House panel said, adding that the Pentagon has been largely blind to the potential strategic consequences of this arrangement in which the Taliban may be buying weapons with American dollars!. Finally on the list of problems confronting Petraeus is what is widely considered a dysfunctional team of U.S. political, diplomatic and military officials with a hand in the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy. Well! General Petraeus has an unenviable job; well wishers of peace in this region wish him good luck! It’s time for making graceful departures from traditional fixations; such departures usually unhinge other players from their rigid positions, and hence door is opened for win-win solutions.

Volcano valley
Arati R Jerath & M Saleem Pandit, TOI Crest, Jul 3, 2010, 01.00pm IST It took just one death,that of a 17-year-old schoolboy,to burst the bubble of normalcy in Kashmir.Tufail Mattoo was killed by a tear gas shell that hit him on the back of his head when the police moved in to control a stone-pelting mob in downtown Srinagar after Friday prayers on June 11.Ten deaths later,the spiral of violence that has engulfed the state is a grim reminder that peace is merely an illusion in Kashmir,a chimera that vanishes as quickly as it is conjured up.Today,as Kashmir teeters on the edge of despair,old wounds have reopened.Anger and frustration are seething out of every pore of the young boys,now idly playing carrom on the deserted,curfewbound streets of Srinagar.Azadi is the mood of the moment.And khaki the proverbial red flag."We want to be free.We want the Indian army out.Why are they killing us? What have we done?'' The words poured out in a burst from 18-year-old Younis,a Class 12 student living in Lal Chowk.He hasn't been to school for almost a week now because of hartals,bandhs and the fear of violence,which have brought life to a standstill in the Kashmir capital.  It's ironic that just one-and-a-half years ago,in November-December 2008,Jammu and Kashmir had the most successful assembly elections ever.A voter turnout of around 60 per cent showed an enthusiasm never before seen in the state.So what if the elections threw up a hung assembly? The political process seemed to be on track with a National Conference-Congress coalition government in power and a vibrant opposition in Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party (PDP).Militancy was ebbing and even the separatist groups of the Hurriyat Conference had bowed to the seemingly overwhelming desire for democracy with a pre-poll announcement withdrawing their boycott.  Why has peace come unstuck then? And so quickly? Analysts and old timers believe that it was always fragile."Kashmir is a dormant volcano.It erupts at the slightest pretext.The inability of successive governments to address the Kashmir issue keeps the pot simmering.Any single event can catalyse the situation,'' says Sheikh Shaukat Hussain,law professor in Kashmir University.  The paradox of Kashmir is the ease with which peace shatters into violence and then returns to a deceptive calm.In the summer of 2008,just before the widely-hailed elections a few months later,the state plunged into one of the worst cycles of violence seen in a long time.Sixty people died in protests over the transfer of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board.And with the yatra kicking off at the same time,both Jammu and Kashmir were poised on the brink of communal tension.Yet,the elections were largely peaceful and the state was hailed as the harbinger of a new brand of politics with the swearing-in of youthful Omar Abdullah as the country's youngest chief minister ever.  There are conflicting views on whether it is Abdullah's failure to consolidate and build on the gains of those elections that has led to the present crisis,or whether the responsibility lies with the central government for neglecting the peace process that former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee started in 2003 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took forward in the initial years of his first term.  The truth,as usual,is a complex sum of many parts.There is little doubt that the process of democratisation seems to have ground to a halt after the elections.While there was much talk of development,there was little effort to draw civil society into the governance processes.The administration remained apathetic to people's problems,few MLAs bothered to engage with their constituencies after they won and the solution to every incident on the street continued to flow from the barrel of the gun.  Residents boil with anger over what they perceive as the indifference and arrogance of the Abdullah government to the rage that swept Srinagar after three young boys were killed by security forces in quick succession."The government's response to the first death (of Tufail) was to send out the CRPF,which caused more deaths.There wasn't one word of sympathy or regret,'' said one resident who did not want to be identified for fear of government reprisals."A young boy had died,not a hardened militant or a separatist leader.Surely it's more than a law-and-order or a security problem.''  It would be simplistic to reduce what is happening in Kashmir to small pictures of local grievances.There is undoubtedly a governance deficit that has plagued the state with the collapse of social and political institutions through the last 20 years of militancy.But there is a larger dimension that the central government can ignore only at India's peril.Every small problem in the Valley has the potential of becoming an international incident with Pakistan ready to jump on it for use in its propaganda war against India.Kashmir is not just India's political problem;it is one of its main diplomatic challenges.  There should be,if there isn't already,concern about the paradigm shift in the manner of recent violence in the Valley.Gun-wielding militants have given way to unarmed street protests with stonepelting mobs taking on security forces in a stun-  ning display of misplaced bravado.Analysts point out that these are all youth who have grown up in the shadow of the gun."They are not frightened by arms and weapons.They have seen their families and friends killed,both by militants and security forces.It's worrying to see the way they jump in front of policemen,bare their chests and dare the cops to shoot them,'' said one analyst.  It has created a tricky situation,as Abdullah admitted.Militants can be tackled with guns,but how does a government deal with unarmed mobs of youth and women? The June deaths have sparked off widespread allegations of human rights violations by security forces.It's a flashback to the troubled period in the 1990s when India came under immense international pressure on this very issue with Pakistan ratcheting up the ante after every killing in the Valley.  Much of the anger on the streets is directed against the CRPF,which has been at the forefront of the administration's efforts to quell the recent violence.At least seven of the 11 deaths in June,all of young boys with one just nine years old,were the handiwork of the CRPF.There are 70,000 CRPF men in J&K,with 30,000 of them posted in Srinagar alone.And these figures do not include the local police,the Rashtriya Rifles and various other security forces milling around in the state.The Army may have pulled out of cities and towns to border areas,but khaki remains an overwhelming presence,reinforcing the widespread local perception of an occupation force.  There are two sides to every coin.While the death of young boys is a horrible blot on the security forces' copybook,the men in uniform too seem to be a frightened lot,spooked by the fragile security scenario in the state.A senior CRPF officer who wished to remain anonymous said,"None of these men knows whether they will return home alive or not.They live in abysmal conditions in the barracks,they are away from their families and they function in daily uncertainty and unease.''  He maintained that most of the shots fired by the CRPF were in self-defence."Mobs attacked them in their bunkers and vehicles.They beat them ruthlessly,attacked their camps.Do you expect my men not to defend themselves? My men don't want to kill anybody,but what can they do if they face the prospect of being killed themselves?'' he demanded.  The unfolding scenario poses a mind-boggling dilemma for both the state and central governments.Kashmiris have not taken kindly to Union home minister P Chidambaram's claim that the current violence is being masterminded by the Lashkar-e-Taiba."It's an insult to the people of Kashmir,'' declared Mehbooba.Her sentiments were echoed by Imtiaz,a computer engineer."These are our boys.How can the home minister link them to the LeT?'' he asked.  Political scientist Gul Mohammed Wani described Chidambaram's remark as most unfortunate."Linking the present crisis to the LeT will not help anybody.Delhi must understand the anger in Kashmir and address it,'' he said.  Both Wani and Hussain pointed out that the outpouring of street rage was an expression of people's frustration over New Delhi's failure to show progress on the Kashmir issue."The high turnout in the 2008 elections was not an endorsement of Kashmir's accession to India.This was Delhi's mistaken interpretation.People voted only because they wanted a local administration,'' said Hussain."The status of Kashmir has not been resolved in their minds.Unfortunately,although the Centre engaged with moderate and mainstream leaders through the (three) round table conferences on Kashmir,they became a time-buying exercise.Nothing has come out of them.'' Wani,in fact,wondered whether the back channel between the Centre and the state was still open.  While they agreed that the cessation of the Indo-Pak dialogue after the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai was a major obstacle to pushing the envelope in Kashmir,they felt that New Delhi had failed to implement internal confidence building measures to keep the faith alive."You don't need Pakistan's endorsement to revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or the Disturbed Areas Act which give security forces the power they have in Kashmir.Do you need Pakistan's consent to restore the pre-1953 centre-state equation,as people have been demanding?'' asked Hussain.  Unfortunately,the vacuum created by the disconnect between the people and the government is being filled by hardline separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani.He is 80 years old,ailing and in jail but,as Hussain pointed out,he has managed to transmit his sentiments from one generation to another."If he gives a call for anything today,you can be sure people will respond,'' said one analyst.Even the moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is under house arrest and is being forced to speak Geelani's language in the current atmosphere in the Valley.  The bloody events of June should be a signal to New Delhi that Kashmir is on the edge.While the resumption of talks with Pakistan may help tensions to subside,it cannot be a panacea for the problems in the Valley.Delhi will have to look for more effective and sincere ways to re-engage actively with the people of Kashmir before it's too late.

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