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Friday, 23 July 2010

From Today's Papers - 23 Jul 2010

The General comes shopping
  India prepares to roll out the red carpet when General Than Shwe(77) comes calling next week. The ruthless military dictator from Myanmar is described by Foreign Affairs journal as the third worst dictator in the world. But driven by strategic and energy needs, India appears ready to deal with him. " If India can deal with Pakistan, why not wth the junta in Myanmar" is the rationale.  The Tatas are planning to set up a plant and GOI is planning to invest in exploring the oil and gas deposits in Myanmar. The military there is also said to be wary of the growing Chinese influence and would like to neutralise it by giving India some space. Peter Popham provides a riveting insight into the General’s Myanmar today.  General Than Shwe General Than Shwe  In the run-up to a long promised but still unscheduled general election, the first in 20 years, Burma’s military dictator, Senior-General Than has directed ministers to resign from the army. Those faceless generals who adorn the front page of the New Light of Myanmar, the regime’s daily newspaper, inspecting fish-packing factories and barrages, will still be running the country, and anything resembling democratic governance will be as far away as ever.  But the look of things will have changed. The ministers will wear longyi, the traditional Burmese sarong-like garment. And crucially for them, they will no longer enjoy the status and respect which, in a country ruled with an iron fist by the military for half a century, is the army’s prerogative. Irrawaddy, the expatriate Burmese news website, predicts trouble.  "Senior-General Than Shwe is facing a mutiny among his subordinates," it claimed last week. "There are growing signs of discontent among his cabinet ministers... They have been betrayed by their boss."  "Like it or not, army uniforms are a symbol of authority in Burma," it went on. "Those who wear them always get priority over those who don’t. They are respected and can expect easy co-operation from others. Suddenly they will lose that privilege."  n The last election was held in 1990 in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s ‘National League for Democracy’ won a landslide victory but has never been allowed to govern.  n Myanmar is the world’s largest exporter of teak and has significant deposits of oil and gas.  n It is also the principal source of precious stones like jade, pearls, rubies and sapphire. Its exports include prawn, fish and rice besides teak, oil and gas.  n The military runs industries and other enterprises.  n Senior General Than Shwe is the chairman of the deceptively named , " State Peace and Development Council" ( SPDC). The body of 12 senior Generals runs the country. General Than has been the military dictator since 1992 and has enjoyed absolute power.  n Very little is known about the dictator’s early days save that he was born near Mandalay in 1933, was a high school dropout and worked briefly in a post office before enlisting in the army at the age of 20.  n After taking over absolute power in 1992, the General cracked down on official corruption, oversaw Myanmar’s entry into ASEAN, forged ties with China, steered French investment and technology in the oil and gas sector.  n Said to be reclusive, the General is credited with shifting the national capital almost overnight from Rangoon to Nay Pi Taw or ‘The abode of kings’ in the year 2005.  Leaving the army also means that those ministers will not be included in the 25 per cent quota that the army has reserved for itself in the planned new parliament. "Now they are on their own," Irrawaddy columnist Bamargyi pointed out. "Unless Than Shwe supports them with some dirty deals from behind the scenes, they are sure to lose. Once this happens, they are down the drain."  In trying to re-brand his military dictatorship as a civilian administration, the 77-year-old soldier who has been the boss of his nation of 50 million people for the past 18 years, and who was recently named by the journal Foreign Affairs as the world’s third-worst dictator after Kim Jong Il and Robert Mugabe, thus faces a major challenge.  How, in other words, to live out the rest of his days enjoying the billions he has plundered from the state, without ending up like his late boss Ne Win, Burma’s dictator from 1962 to 1988, who, on Than Shwe’s orders, ended his life locked in his lakeside villa in Rangoon under house arrest while his sons languished in jail under sentence of death ?  How to avoid the fate of Khin Nyunt, the military intelligence chief and for many years Than Shwe’s number two, who is also under house arrest with no prospect of release (while some of his underlings were tortured to death) after China hailed him as "Burma’s Deng Xiaoping"?  According to Ben Rogers, author of the first-ever biography, Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant, which has just been released in London, acute anxiety about his security is behind the fact that, two years after announcing elections, the senior general has yet to say when they will be held.  A similarly secretive, paranoid approach dictated the most extraordinary decision of Than Shwe’s career, and the one which, for good or ill, will assure him immortality of a sort: the removal of Burma’s capital from Rangoon to a hot, malaria-infested, seismically sensitive wasteland in the centre of the country.  The idea of moving the army’s HQ out of Rangoon had been in the air for a number of years, and may have been mentioned by Than Shwe to Aung San Suu Kyi in one of the fruitless meetings they held in 1994, while the opposition leader was under her first spell of house arrest. Rangoon is in the far south; for an army engaged in multiple counter-insurgency operations in the north and east, a base in the centre made strategic sense.  But unknown to the outside world, Than Shwe nursed a far more drastic plan. "At precisely 6.37 am on 6 November 2005," writes Rogers, "hundreds of government servants left Rangoon in trucks shouting, "We are leaving! We are leaving!" ... Five days later, a second convoy of 1,100 military trucks carrying 11 military battalions and 11 ministries left Rangoon.  Perhaps influenced by astrologers, Than Shwe had decided to move the country’s capital. He had given government officials just two days’ notice." So Naypyitaw, which translates as "Seat of Kings" and is dominated by oversize statues of Than Shwe’s favourite royal forerunners, will be this man’s monument.  "It’s the most awful place you’ve ever been to," said Mark Canning, a former British ambassador to Burma. "It’s a collection of buildings scattered over scrubland. But they are all just dispersed, and there are two or three kilometres between each building. One can only presume it’s so they don’t get bombed or something, to spread out the targets." As a resident of Naypyitaw told one foreign journalist, "Although [Than Shwe] is a king, he is afraid of many things. He thinks that here he will be safe."  The comments of those who have had dealings with him are uniformly unflattering. "Short and fat with not a strong voice," says one.  "Relatively boring," says another. "No evident personality." "Our leader is a very uneducated man." "There were many intelligent soldiers but he was not one of them...a bit of a thug." "You feel that he’s got there by accident..."  The closest Than Shwe gets to being complimented is in the description of a former World Bank official: "He is such an old fox!"  Than Shwe’s mediocrity may have had its effect on Western attitudes towards him: he is easily under- estimated. As Rogers points out, he "has demonstrated time and again his skill at offering just enough of a concession to hold the international community at bay whenever pressure intensifies...Each time the pressure eases, Than Shwe quietly abandons his promises."  According to Sergio Pinheiro, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma from 2000 to 2008, writing in 2009, "Over the past 15 years the Burmese Army has destroyed over 3,300 villages in a systematic and widespread campaign to subjugate ethnic groups." At the same time he has kept Burma’s civilian population in poverty and hopelessness. The only "reforms" he has pushed for have had the aim of perpetuating military rule under a disguise that fools nobody.  It is safe to predict that sooner or later Than Shwe will get his come-uppance. It may come from his immediate subordinates, furious at being kicked out, and an army that has never held him in esteem. The civil servants of Naypyitaw, incandescent at being exiled from the civilised comforts of Rangoon, may play their part. The monks, whom he arrogantly and foolishly refused to appease in 2007, could have a role.  But however certain his eventual downfall, you would have to be a very brave optimist to predict that he will be replaced by someone significantly better.  By special arrangement with The Independent

Talks Fiasco Siachen another reason for Islamabad stalemate
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, July 22 Apart from the much-publicised role of the Pakistan Army that led last week to the failure of the Indo-Pakistan talks, Siachen Glacier, a long-time irritant for Pakistan, was one of the three key issues that caused the breakdown.  Sources said the Pakistan side, during the second half of the talks, suddenly repeating their off-stated stance of de-militarisation of the Siachen glacier, resolution of Sir Creek and Kashmir issues - all within a time-bound manner. India was keen on moving step-by-step. Siachen is held by Indian Army from a commanding position since 1984. Pakistan Army, which is based on the lowers ledge of the glacier on its side, has made a couple of futile attempts to dislodge India.  Sources explained that India’s stand is to have a cartographic demarcation on the ground before any troop withdrawal can take place. The LoC in this area is not marked on the map or the ground beyond a grid point known as NJ 9842.This is south western edge of the saltoro mountain range. Pakistan is insisting upon de-militarization. Both countries spend billions of rupees in maintaining posts in the icy heights.  India offered resumption of talks at the level of the secretaries of home, commerce, defence and water resources. Pakistan insisted on harping on resumption of the suspended composite dialogue with all the eight decided issues.  Another vexed issue is of Sir Creek. This marshy piece of land is a 96 kms off the coast of Gujarat. Without demarcation of boundary the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that stretches out to 200 kms at sea cannot be decided. Originally, the demarcation was slated to be done in 2009. The two countries have exchanged maps, marked with their respective claims.

Pakistan Army Chief gets three-year extension 
Press Trust of India, Updated: July 23, 2010 01:11 IST  Islamabad:  Pakistan's powerful army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was today given a three-year extension of service to ensure continuity in counter-terrorism operations in the country, ending months of speculation over his continuance. The 58-year-old Kayani, who replaced former President Pervez Musharraf as army chief in 2007, was to retire on November 28.  Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani announced the government's decision to extend his tenure during a televised address to the nation. Gilani said the decision to extend Kayani's term was made after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari to ensure continuity in military operations against extremists and terrorists. Kayani, who has played a key role in shaping foreign policy, will continue in the important post till 2013.  "This decision has been taken in the light of (Kayani's) effective role in the war against terrorism and in the enforcement of rule of law in the country," Gilani said. "The nation is going through difficult times in this war against terrorists," he said, adding that Kayani had "successfully led us in this war and his staying on is in our best interests".  "The government is presently engaged in a war against terrorism which is now in a critical stage," Gilani remarked. This campaign against the terrorists requires continuity of military leadership under the current army chief "who led successful operations in Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan", he added. "We are confident that under the leadership of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the war against terrorism will be taken to its conclusion," Gilani said.      * NDTVShare on Twitter     * NDTVShare on Social     * NDTVGmail Buzz     * NDTVPrint   Kayani, the country's 14th army chief, is a former chief of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency. He belongs to the Jhelum region, a part of Punjab province known for producing soldiers. He joined the army in 1971 and fought in the war against India in the same year.  The government's decision ended months of speculation on whether kayani would be given an extension. There had also been reports that the government could create the new post of Chief of Defence Staff to accommodate Kayani following his retirement.    Read more at:

Militants looking to trigger India-Pakistan conflict: US 
Agence France Presse, Updated: July 22, 2010 23:10 IST  New Delhi:  Top US diplomatic and military officials warned on Thursday of fresh attempts by militant groups to push nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan into a military conflict.  The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said he feared extremists would attempt another operation similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks in order to goad India into armed retaliation against its neighbour and arch-rival.  Mullen said the Mumbai carnage, which India blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant outfit, had demonstrated how a small group of extremists could have a "strategic impact".  "One of the things that struck me then and is still of great concern is that those terrorists could bring two countries closer (to a possible conflict)," he told reporters on board his plane bound for New Delhi.      India suspended a peace dialogue with Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, which claimed 166 lives, and the two countries have only recently begun to explore a resumption of structured talks.  "I've worried a great deal about a repeat attack, of something like that," Mullen said, adding that he wanted "to focus on making sure this doesn't happen again."  Mullen began a two-day visit to India on Thursday that coincided with a visit by the US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke.  Speaking earlier to reporters in Delhi, Holbrooke said the LeT was just one of a number of regional militant groups, along with the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, looking to destabilise South Asia.  "They seem to be growing closer together ... (and) their long-term objective is the same: to create the maximum number of problems between India and Pakistan ... to create a crisis," Holbrooke said.  Both men said combating the LeT was a top priority.  "I see them starting to emerge as a larger regional to global - at least aspirational - global threat," Mullen said.  India accuses Pakistan of failing to crack down sufficiently on groups like the LeT that operate from bases on its territory, and Indian officials were expected to highlight the same charge during talks with Holbrooke and Mullen.  US officials said they have pressed Pakistan to prosecute LeT extremists but have so far made little headway.  "We haven't had a breakthrough on the Mumbai issue," Vali Nasr, senior adviser to Holbrooke, told reporters at the US embassy.  "Progress has been slow," he said.  Washington would continue to raise its concerns amid hope that improving US ties with Pakistan "will make these discussions more fruitful," he added.  Mullen's meetings in New Delhi are also expected to focus on military cooperation and conditions in Afghanistan, where India is concerned about what it perceives as growing Pakistani influence.  India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the division of the sub-continent in 1947 and their relationship has always been beset by mutual mistrust.  Holbrooke, who was due to depart Delhi for London, rejected the suggestion that India was somehow being sidelined by Pakistani involvement in the Afghan government's plans for reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban and other groups.  "You cannot stabilise Afghanistan without the participation of Pakistan as a legitimate concerned party," he said.  "India is not being diminished. It's not a zero-sum game," he said. "India also has a major role to play in stability in the region and in search for solutions in Afghanistan."  At the same time, Holbrooke said Washington had also raised concerns with Islamabad about links between Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency and the Taliban.  "The links between the ISI and the Taliban are a problem," he acknowledged.  Mullen, however, stressed that the Obama administration had no choice but to "stay engaged" with the ISI, given its crucial role in Pakistan.  While Washington recognised the ISI helped provide for Pakistan's security, Mullen said, "We differ on the specifics on how that should be done."  The admiral was due to head to Pakistan after his two-day stop in India.   Read more at:

Kayani term extended by 3yrs
General Ashfaq Kayani  Islamabad, July 22 (Agencies): Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani today extended the term of the country’s powerful army chief by three years in a move to preserve continuity in the fight against Islamist militancy.  General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was supposed to retire in November after the completion of his three-year term in office.  “This decision has been taken in the light of his effective role in the war against terrorism and in the enforcement of rule of law in the country,” Gilani said in a televised address after consultation with President Asif Ali Zardari.  “We are confident that under the leadership of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani the war against terrorism will be taken to its conclusion.”  Kayani, a former head of the ISI, who is also believed to have a good rapport with the American military officials, was appointed army chief in November 2007 by former President Pervez Musharraf.  Under Kayani’s command, the military launched major offensives against militants linked to al Qaida in their strongholds in the northwest.  He also helped the civilian government to avert possible political unrest in 2009 triggered by Opposition protests for the restoration of judges ousted by Musharraf.  There have been reports in the past few months that Kayani could be given an extension or made the chief of defence staff so that he can continue to guide Pakistan’s armed forces in the war against terrorism.  Gilani had last week said that he will make a final decision soon on whether to give Kayani an extension in service.  Under the 18th constitutional amendment, it is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to decide on the term of the army chief.  Born into a family from Punjab, Pakistan’s traditional seat of power and largest province, Kayani, 58, studied at a military college in his home town of Jhelum, before training at the US army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the National Defence College in Islamabad.  After fighting as a lieutenant in the 1971 war against India, Kayani was appointed as deputy military secretary to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1988.  He won accolades for overseeing troop movements in a tense 2001-2002 border standoff between Pakistan and India as the army’s chief operational commander.  In September 2003, he was promoted to command the army’s elite 10 Corps in Rawalpindi.  Known as man of few words by his colleagues, the chain-smoking army chief headed investigations into two December 2003 assassination attempts against Musharraf, securing several convictions, before being appointed director-general of the ISI in October 2004.

 Zee Exclusive ISI truth pinches Pakistan Updated on Thursday, July 22, 2010, 10:36 IST  Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi crossed all limits when he made highly undiplomatic remarks about External Affairs Minister SM Krishna while briefing Pakistani media on July 16.  He was obviously nothing less than offensive when he compared Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, mastermind of 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, with Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai.  "When you point out to Saeed's speech, or speeches, let me draw your attention to the Indian Home Secretary's statement. The dialogue which was reported in all Pakistani papers. On the eve of this dialogue tell me to what extent, tell me, to what extent it has helped?" Qureshi said in a sour tone during his joint press conference with visiting minister, Krishna. The question arises: Why would a minister, in front of the whole international media, try to protect a person accused of masterminding a ghastly terror attack?  Actually, of late, Pillai had told a daily that David Coleman Headley had revealed to interrogators that Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), played a significant role in Mumbai terror attacks. The Pakistan agency was “literally controlling and coordinating it (26/11 attacks) from the beginning to the end”. That was the moment of truth for Pakistan. And sorry Mr Qureshi, truth truly hurts.  Pillai had not made the statement off-the-cuff. He had, in fact, cited the information India received during Headley’s interrogation.  Let me remind Pakistan that not only does India think that ISI shares ties with terrorist groups, but other countries and experts too share the same opinion. A number of reports have pointed out the nexus between Pakistan’s intelligence agency and terror groups.  In 2006, a leaked report by a British Defence Ministry think tank noted, "Indirectly Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism-whether in London on 7/7 [the July 2005 attacks on London's transit system], or in Afghanistan, or Iraq."  Afghan officials have time-to-time accused Pakistan's intelligence service of plotting attacks on Indian embassy and assets. A number of US officials have also accused the ISI of lending support to terrorist groups.  In June, 26/11 accused Headley reportedly told the National Investigation Agency that Lashkar-e-Toiba and ISI are nearly inseparable as far as the pan-Islamic terror agenda is concerned.  Last year, former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf also conceded that the ISI maintains link with militant commanders like Sirajuddin Haqqani. Sirajuddin, the son of Mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, is accused of masterminding the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 07, 2008.  Notably, the US is now considering designating the Haqqani network as Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO).  “The intelligence service is using certain enemies against other enemies,” Musharraf had added, probably certifying experts’ view that the ISI and Pakistan Army back a number of militant groups to foment anti-India passion in Kashmir.  In fact, a United Nations report in April concluded, "The Pakistani military organised and supported the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan in 1996. Similar tactics were used in Kashmir against India after 1989."  A US Congressional report in January had identified the D-company as a "5,000-member criminal syndicate operating mostly in Pakistan, India, and the United Arab Emirates”, which has a "strategic alliance" with ISI and has "forged relationships with Islamists, including Lashkar-e-Toiba and al Qaeda."

 Indian Army’s Cyber Terrorism Strategy
  By Tapan K Mukherjee • July 22, 2010  1  The Indian Border is not the only place where our Defence Forces battle against enemies to protect us, but also face attacks in the Digital Area. Attacks on the Indian cyber space are multiplying by the minute. This increase is not just in the frequency but also in the complexity of the virtual assaults. Such cyber strikes are launched by hackers who mostly hail from Pakistan and China, who in verity rob more than six million electronic files worldwide every day. It is also true that a new malware was developed every 0.79 seconds totaling the number of malwares to a staggering 25 million in 2009. This definitely corroborates the fact that the Indian army would undergo constant cyber threat which could take the shape of denial-of-service cyber-attacks or lethal computer viruses. The requirement for Cyber-Security in India is still due to be fulfilled.  Are the Defence forces geared up to counter this battle; which apparently seems more deadly than violent missile strikes to most army officials? Well, the Indian military force has decided to extend the ‘cyber-security’ from the level of divisions (which are basically field formations with over 15,000 troops) to the Top Military Brass. All data, information or facts related to the Indian army and defence forces will be secured via electronic passwords with zero possibilities of hacking them. The integration of cryptographic systems and the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to Defence Systems, would quarantine viruses, worms, malwares and avoid cyber attacks that are aimed at the army’s intelligence and information systems.  cybercrime  Besides this, army officials also plan to carry out cyber audit procedures handled by the Cyber Security Personnel as per security standards ISO 27001. Such audits along with measuring performance of the Defence Systems against established standards also help in detecting loopholes in the present security systems. Army officials have also started upgrading their security systems accordingly owing to the dynamic nature of cyber threats; thereby strengthening the Indian defence to defy new and potential cyber strikes. Upgrading systems alone would not do the trick; but frequently training military personnel on the pros and cons of advanced security systems would go a long way in fighting cyber attacks.  Amongst those who recognize the cyber threats and warnings is Defence Minister A K Antony. His concerns expressed to Indian Army commanders on dangers of Cyber-warfare, appeals to all three forces and calls for an intensified co-operation and inter-dependence among them. The Defence Minister also recognized the need for modernisation of defence equipment that not only includes advanced arms and ammunitions but also the development of sophisticated and critical technology systems that help in annihilating harmful cyber warfare.  For a country that has been often accused, in the past for using obsolete arms, weapons, artillery, etc. this could possibly be quite a breakthrough to successfully take on Cyber Terrorism and overcome humiliation.

Indian army doctor wins medals at World Medical and Health Games  
  New Delhi, July 22 (ANI): When a lean and shy looking Major Surendra Poonia of the Indian Army entered the power-lifting arena at the 31st World Medical and Health Games, his opponents jokingly asked him if he was there for the chess tournament going on in the same hall. Little did they know that he would lift the gold medal and have the last laugh at the podium. A medical officer in the elite President's Bodyguard unit at the iconic President's House in New Delhi, Poonia became the first Indian to participate and win three medals at this international event held recently in Porec, Croatia.

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