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Thursday, 5 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 05 Aug 2010

  Sino-Pak nuclear nexus Time to look at Al-Qaeda connection
 by G. Parthasarathy  WHILE much is being said of China’s decision to supply two more nuclear power reactors to Pakistan, one has to look at this development as a continuation of the long-standing nuclear nexus between our northern and western neighbours. The Director of the Wisconsin Project of Arms Control, Gary Milhollin, has aptly commented: “If you subtract China’s help from the Pakistani nuclear programme, there is no Pakistani nuclear programme.”  It is now acknowledged that by 1983 China supplied Pakistan with enough enriched uranium for assembling two weapons, together with the designs for a 25-kiloton bomb. China thereafter provided Pakistan with ring magnets and reengineered, more efficient inverters for uranium enrichment. More significantly, this cooperation continued even after China signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT). During the past two decades, China has collaborated with Pakistan in the construction of plutonium reactors and reprocessing plants in Khushab for manufacturing lighter and more lethal nuclear weapons. These weapons are designed for delivery by ballistic and cruise missiles of Chinese origin, capable of targeting population centres all across India.  There is evidence to establish that with the passage of time, China has supplied Pakistan with a range of nuclear weapons designs. We are all asked to believe by the Americans that Dr A.Q. Khan single-handed transferred nuclear weapons designs and knowhow on centrifuge uranium enrichment technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran. This happened despite the fact that not even a pin could be moved out of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities without the approval of its army establishment. To, therefore, claim that Dr Khan ran a “rogue” proliferation network, selling nuclear secrets without the knowledge of the army top brass, is about as credible as Pakistani assertions that the 26/11 Mumbai outrage was entirely the work of “non-state actors,” executed without the knowledge of its military establishment.  It has now been revealed by American nuclear scientists Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman, after elaborate deliberations with Chinese nuclear scientists and others, that the 35th nuclear test carried out at China’s nuclear test site at Lop Nor on May 26, 1990, was, in fact, a Pakistan-assembled Chinese-designed fission weapon. The design of this weapon corresponded to the nuclear weapons design given by Dr Khan in the shopping bag of his Rawalpindi tailor to the Libyans!  China’s strategic relationship with Pakistan has not only included supplies and knowhow for enabling Pakistan to build weapons of mass destruction, but also their means of delivery. China supplied Pakistan with M-11 missiles by 1990 which, it was claimed, had a range of less than 300 kilometres. This was followed by assistance to Pakistan to build DF-15/M-9 missiles (Christened as Shaheen-1 by Pakistan) capable of carrying nuclear warheads up to an estimated range of 800 kilometres. The Shaheen-2 missile, with a range of around 1800 kilometres, is a replica of the two-stage solid-fuelled Chinese DF-21 missile. More recently, China again violated the provisions of the Missile Technology Control Regime by supplying Pakistan with cruise missiles, with a range of around 500 kilometres.  When will this Chinese game end? It will end only when the Agni-5 missile capable of targeting Chinese urban centres and a small fleet of nuclear submarines armed with nuclear missiles are developed and deployed by India. With its own heartland vulnerable, there will be little purpose in China using its “all- weather friend” Pakistan for nuclear containment of India.  China’s international credibility has been seriously undermined by its efforts to bypass the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in its anxiety to sell nuclear power reactors to Pakistan. When China joined the NSG in 2004, it declared that it had only one pending commitment contracted before its admission to the NSG. This was to build a second 300 MW nuclear power reactor at Chashma in Pakistan. This reactor has since been commissioned. China’s claim that it had “grandfathered” its proposal to sell two more reactors in 1991 lacked credibility, as no mention was made of this so-called deal when China sought and obtained membership of the NSG. Moreover, it has now been revealed by American academic Ashley Tellis that during the Bush Administration China was repeatedly warned that nuclear sales to Pakistan did evoke concerns about possible diversion of Chinese technology and material to Islamabad’s nuclear weapons programme while cautioning China not to violate NSG guidelines.  Not surprisingly, when the NSG met in New Zealand on June 24-25, China declined to answer critical questions on whether there was, in fact, a binding contract in place for the reactor sales it was proposing when precisely this contract was finalised. As the links with Pakistan’s military establishment come more and more under international scrutiny, there is going to be little international support, or even tolerance, for China’s efforts to build up its nuclear and conventional military ties with a country that has provided nuclear weapons designs and knowhow to Libya, Iran and North Korea.  It is not just Pakistan’s military establishment but also its nuclear scientists who are known to harbour extremist Islamist leanings. Pakistan’s nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood was, along with his colleague Chaudhri Abdul Majeed, detained shortly after the terrorist strikes of 9/11. They were both charged with helping Al-Qaeda to acquire nuclear and biological weapons capabilities. Mehmood, a close associate of Dr A.Q. Khan, openly voiced support for the Taliban and publicly advocated the transfer of nuclear weapons to other Islamic nations. He described Pakistan’s nuclear capability as the property of the whole “ummah” (Muslim community). Two other Pakistani scientists, Suleiman Asad and Al-Mukhtar, wanted for questioning about suspected links with Osama bin Laden, disappeared after it was claimed that they had gone to Myanmar, bordering China. Mehmood and Majeed are reported to have acknowledged that they had long discussions with Al-Qaeda and Taliban officials.  A “Fact Sheet” put out by the White House stated that both scientists had meetings with Osama and Mullah Omar during their many visits to Kandahar, with Al-Qaeda seeking their assistance to make radiological dispersal devices. Documents recovered by coalition forces in Afghanistan also reportedly establish that the two scientists were active members of a radical Islamic organisation, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), which was engaged in securing information on biological weapons. What is, however, really shocking is the pusillanimity of successive governments in India in taking up the dangerous Sino-Pakistan nuclear relationship with Chinese interlocutors at the highest level and the absence of any serious parliamentary debate on the issue.

Ration scam: Army orders inquiry
 Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, August 4 A day after Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) ticked off the Army for supplying expired ration to its troops, the force is said to be probing the matter. The CAG report had also pointed out at glaring errors in the supply of rations, including huge variations in the prices of same items within a city or adjoining cities.  The CAG says the estimated storage life (ESL) of a food item is the period for which it is likely to remain fit for consumption. According to instructions of the Director General Supplies & Transport, the ESL may be extended to a maximum of three months subject to clearance from the Central Food Laboratory (CFL).  The CAG found that 11,330 samples, out of the 11,346 sent for extension, were cleared. The CFLs in Mumbai and Delhi adhered to the DGST instructions. However, the CAG has pointed out to the CFL Jammu, which covers the whole of Northern Command and some parts of Western Command. The CFL granted extensions, in some cases even up to 28 months. “It was found that flour, sugar, rice, tea, pulses, edible oil and raisins were consumed even six to 28 months after the expiry of the storage life,” the CAG said.  The performance audit of the supply chain was conducted in the Northern, Eastern and Western Commands of the Army and the CAG has found that annual provisioning is carried out on a normative basis, rather than on real data.  In case of sugar, there was excess procurement. During 2006-07, a whopping 11,944 metric tonne of excess sugar was procured.  The CAG has said that in case of fresh rations, 36 per cent was based on single quotations. In Delhi, only one vendor, Mohd. Iqbal & Co, was the sole company to submit a tender for the supply of meat and chicken. The contract was awarded to the company. Similarly, in Chandimandir, only two vendors responded for meat and chicken during tendering in 2005-06.  The CAG has expressed concern over the purchase of oranges at an unbelievable Re 1 per kg “This indicates lack of quality,” said Guatam Guha, DG, Audit Services.

Solution needed immediately to end Kashmir impasse
 No doubt, junior Abdullah has failed to read the situation correctly and has been unable to hold the ship steady in choppy waters of Kashmir. Omar must understand that the situation demands leading from the front. CJ: Neetu Banga   Wed, Aug 04, 2010 15:00:40 IST Views:             17    Comments: 0 Rate:  1 out of 5 2 out of 5 3 out of 5 4 out of 5 5 out of 5 5.0 / 2 votes               IT IS almost a month that media has been highlighting violence in the Kashmir Valley without any positive solution. Separatists in Kashmir are setting the agenda which includes having a complete shutdown, general protests, student protests etc against human rights violations in Kashmir.    Meanwhile, the violence continues unabated and a number of lives have been lost in the clashes. To deal with such a situation, the government is doing nothing besides imposing curfew day in and day out. The situation is going out of control and the government of the day being lead by the young Omar Abdullah is at a critical juncture.   No doubt, junior Abdullah has failed to read the situation correctly and has been unable to hold the ship steady in choppy waters of Kashmir. Omar must understand that the situation demands leading from the front and he should take this opportunity to take the challenges headon.    Apart from violence, If we look at Kashmir as just another Indian state, the figures are highly surprising. This state has per capita income of just Rs 17,174 as against a national average of Rs 26,000. Its literacy rate is 55.55 per cent against a national average of 65 per cent. Other aspects of this state are poverty, lack of development and high rate of unemployment which either drive people to go outside the state or force them to join the militant groups. If we see the bitter side of history of the state it shows that development is the only cure for all its troubles.   Visits by high profile dignitaries to Kashmir is not going to make any difference. However, visiting Kashmir by dignitaries comes under the must do list, which always ends up in mere lip service. Like all successive governments, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has erred in his approach towards the resolution of Kashmir problem. Militancy is not the only matter; there are many other issues to concentrate on, which have fallen through the cracks in our fixation with geopolitics and security.  For the present generation, the holy aspiration of Pakistan hardly holds out any attraction. What turns them away from the state is lack of prospects and ventures in global India. The fake encounters show that human rights aspect remains a very painful point.  The development and human rights problems should be addressed by the state and Central government by reforming the polity and administration and not by sending more troops to the state.  The much hyped policy of zero tolerance for human rights violations must also be imposed. There are chances of bringing normalcy if the quality of life is improved. Only using the army and increasing the troops is not going to put Kashmir back on track. Hurriyat should work on a positive and constructive plan of development, instead of following Pakistan’s suggestion to win the people.

'The women must get a level playing field.' 
The Indian Army has begun taking a long overdue step towards ensuring gender parity in the treatment of its officers. It has agreed to extend permanent commission to its women short service commission (SSC) officers in the legal and education wings. A Delhi high court ruling in March this year had got the Indian Air Force to extend permanent commission to its women officers. The army resisted the order. Its excuse was that women SSC officers had not been given adequate training and that granting permanent commission to women SSC officers in combat units such as the infantry and artillery was fraught with problems. The supreme court has rejected these explanations saying that this discriminatory attitude towards women is untenable. Armies in other countries are allowing women to participate in all units of their countries defence. So what is holding back the Indian army?  This is a victory for women. Another male bastion has fallen. However, the decision will immediately impact only a small number of women. Thirty-three women currently in the SSC will be considered. Those released from SSC service even recently will not. Only those women who are found eligible will be given permanent commission. How objective will the male officers be in their assessment of the women’s eligibility? It is well known that male officers are vehemently opposed to women being allowed in on equal terms. It would be a pity if after winning this hard-fought right, the women SSC officers are defeated in their eligibility tests. No one is asking for concessions. The women must meet the exacting conditions that permanent commission in the army requires. But they must be given a level playing field, one that is not dented by age-old prejudices.  The extension of permanent commission to women in legal and education wings of the army should be the beginning of a series of decisions the army takes to shed its outdated, gender insensitive image. A small step has been taken but it could become a giant leap in the long-run. A handful of determined women officers who have fought the case through the courts have pried open a door that was shut for decades to other women. They must overcome entrenched prejudices in the services through their performance to push the door wide open.

Govt Planning IT Infrastructure Setup To Hack Hostile Nations’ Information Systems
  NEW DELHI: Borrowing a page from China’s art of cyber war, the government is giving shape to an IT infrastructure setup manned by a small army of software professionals to spy on the classified data of hostile nations by hacking into their computer systems.  IT workers and ethical hackers who sign up for the ambitious project will be protected by law, says the proposal being discussed by senior government administrators. The expertise of these professionals will be used to go on the offensive or preempt strikes by breaching the security walls of enemy systems.  The strategy of taking the fight to hackers was drafted at a high-level security meet on July 29 chaired by National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon. The meeting was attended by the director of Intelligence Bureau as well as senior officials of the telecom department, IT ministry and security agencies, documents seen by ET show. Departments whose officials were present at the meeting did not respond to ET emails.

Inquiry to be conducted into CAG's report: Pallam Raju
2010-08-04 22:20:00  Minister of State for Defence, Pallam Raju, said on Wednesday here that an inquiry will be conducted following the findings of the Comptroller Auditor General's (CAG) report. That pointed out a lot of irregularities in every stage of the procurement process, and the poor quality of food rations being served to army personnel.  Raju said that if there were any aberration that has been commented upon by CAG an inquiry would definitely be conducted to make sure where the lapses were.  "It is the endeavour of the government and the commitment of Anthonyji (Defence Minister A. K. Anthony) to make sure that good quality of rations are supplied to the troops that are in the forward areas and the operational areas, and we are taking good measures to make sure that the quality food is of high standard and it is of nutritional value. So this must be aberration that must have occurred but nevertheless, an inquiry will be conducted into lapses on such issues," said Raju.  Rekha Gupta, the Additional Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, on Tuesday in the Performance Audit report of Defence mentioned about the irregularities in the procurement process.  "We found that the annual provisioning was carried out on a normative base rather on the basis of reliable data, actual opening stock, and feeding strength. There was significant under-procurement of most items except for sugar, which was substantially over-procured. We found that food items were being issued after the expiry of the estimated storage life and extension was granted routinely in almost all cases. As regards fresh rations, we found serious absence of competitive procurement processes. Further in all cases of fresh rations the accepted rates were way below the average local market rates," said Gupta.  She further said that irregularities have been found in the quantities received by the personnel. They differed from what had been shown to be issued.  The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. (ANI)

IAF expects combat jet selection within a year
2010-08-04 19:30:00    The Indian Air Force (IAF) has submitted a report on the trials it has conducted on six combat jets it is evaluating for an order for 126 aircraft and expects the selection of the fighter within a year.  The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, is quoted by India Strategic defence magazine ( as saying that the exhaustive field evaluation trials (FET) report covered all the aircraft in contention, and that once the selection has been made, he expected the chosen jet to be in service within three years, say by 2014.  Naik also disclosed that after completing the combat jet trials, the IAF had also completed the field trials of utility helicopters and combat helicopters. The trials of the heavy-lift helicopters were, meanwhile, in the final phase.  'The next four years are crucial but by 2014, IAF would have all the new aircraft and helicopters well in place as part of its transformation process now underway,' India Strategic quotes Naik as saying in its coming issue.  Each system is being acquired along with its training simulators.  As for the combat jet selection process, the air chief gave no indication as to how each of the six aircraft in the fray performed during the trials. He only observed that the IAF had completed its assignment and submitted the report to the defence ministry July-end - on time as promised.  The Russian Mig-35 (initially designated Mig-29M2), Europe's Eurofighter Typhoon, the Swedish Gripen, the French Rafale, and the US Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin's F-16IN Super Viper are in the fray. The IAF tender is for 126 aircraft with an option for 63 more.  As for the combat helicopters, Naik said that both the Russian  Mi-28 and US Boeing Apache AH 64D had been tested in India. Some weapon trials are due to be conducted in the country of origin. The IAF had issued a request for proposal for 22 combat helicopters to replace its ageing Soviet vintage Mi-35s.  Trials of Boeing's Chinook CH 47F heavy-lift helicopter had also been completed, while that of Russian Mi-26 were likely to be held this month. The IAF needs 15 heavy-lift helicopters to replace and augment its ageing fleet of half-a-dozen obsolete Mi-26s acquired in the mid-1980s.  Trials of the utility helicopters, needed both for the IAF and the Indian Army, are also over. The Eurocopter Fennec 555 and Russia's Kamov 226 are the two contenders. The two services have tendered for a combined order of 197 helicopters.  All aircraft and helicopters are required to operate in the varied hot, humid, desert and high altitude environment of India, particularly to support the deployments in the Himalayan region.  The IAF wants to minimize its inventory of its flying machines to reduce their maintenance costs on the one hand and to increase their operational availability on the other.  Naik said that appropriate infrastructure and communication nodes were also being created as part of the IAF's transformation process now underway.  The IAF aims to have 45 combat squadrons - approximately 800 aircraft - by 2022. Of these, it is already set to acquire more than 270 Sukhoi Su-30MKI air dominance aircraft from Russia. These include 42 aircraft being ordered through India's state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which is making the aircraft under the licence and transfer of technology (ToT) routes.

The hungry Indian army
 Each time I say anything about the Indian Armed Forces, there is objection about tarring the whole army with the same brush. Yes, they say, there are scams. Yes, they say, some soldiers are bad. We talk about the spirit, about warfare, about the ability to fight, the quality of arms. What happens if a basic requirement like food comes under the scanner?  Soldiers who are supposed to be fit are being given food supplies that are well past their expiry date, to the extent of two years. Contracts are given to favoured companies without a thought to the quality and quantity of the product. Here is a part of the report from TOI:      Tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the latest CAG report paints a dismal picture of the Army's procurement and supply of dry rations (rice, wheat, dal, sugar, tea, oil, tinned items) and fresh rations (vegetables, fruit, meat, milk), undertaken at an annual cost of Rs 1,440 crore.      As per CAG, the main villains of the piece are Army Service Corps (ASC) and Army Purchase Organization, all under the benign gaze of Army HQ and the defence ministry.   It is a fairly high-level scam obviously and the person suffering is your humble jawan. Advertisements lure young people to enlist in the army and do something for the country. Many join because of employment needs and not because they have this great desire to serve the nation. I am sorry, but that is the truth. In the course of the training, they might feel a sense of bonding with their fellow soldiers and the camaraderie and aggression instilled does often end up giving them a sense of higher purpose. This is good. However, together with the discipline of the hierarchy comes the powerlessness of those in the lower cadre. They might accept it where they know their place and are expected to take directions, but what about not getting the right food?  If you want the citizen to respect the army, then it has to respect itself. Such respect is possible if it at least does not scrimp on something as basic as sustenance. We all know about liquor and how it is sold in the market by officers. This sort of corruption can be ignored, especially if we will be shot down with the precious query, “Isn’t it rampant in other fields?” But you cannot expect soldiers to be healthy and ready to fight if they are underfed or, worse, being fed with food that could turn out to be outright spoiled all because some officer has got kickbacks on atta, dal, eggs and chicken.  And since we are told we must be thankful that terrorists have not reached our doorstep because of the army, may be ask the defence ministry why it is putting the lives of the Indian citizens at risk by placing our safety in the hands of hungry soldiers? Will human rights organisations fight for the rights of these soldiers and the health ministry conduct an independent check on the state of their wellness?  Or will attention once again be diverted to the ‘larger issue’ of the threat yapping at our borders?

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