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Sunday, 8 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 08 Aug 2010

33 soldiers feared swept away to PoK
Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, August 7 The eyeball-to-eyeball deployment of well armed forces of India and Pakistan along the Line of Control notwithstanding, the Indian Army has sounded its arch rival for some “help”.  This one is for concern over 33 of Indian soldiers who have been washed away in the mudslide and floods in Leh and it is feared that they may end up in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). These soldiers - 3 JCO’s and 30 jawans - of the 15 Bihar infantry were posted near Turtok. Their posts were on the banks of the river Shyok. The river meanders into PoK and the area where the incident occurred is close to the LoC.  The river is in spate and the rains have made it unusually ferocious, sources said while quoting reports from field formations.  The Indian Army has launched a search operation for its jawans. However, optimism is dying down “..there is little hope…. the boys are so well trained that they may have showed up by now .. Pakistan has also not informed of any sighting so far”, sources said.  The Army fears that the river which has narrow gorges and is strewn with boulders will be tough to negotiate even for the highly skilled and trained jawans. Some of the personal belongings of the jawans have been traced, leading to fears for the worst. These are areas where the mountains are 15,000 feet to 18,000 feet high and this is where the two armies fought a very bloody battle in 1999.  Normally, if a Pakistan Army soldier spots an Indian soldier into their territory their commander is informed. The same is true when an Indian soldier spots an enemy soldier. Under normal circumstances any soldiers who meanders across accidentally is told to back off. This may be an unusual case.  Lt Col Kedar Gokhale from the Engineers, along with two jawans, was on his way to Karu some 42 kms from Leh when he encountered horror en route around 12.30 am yesterday.  Col Gokhale has reported back to his bosses that the entire town of Choglumsar was ploughed down under a wave of mud and slush along with boulders as big as small cars.

Army, IAF bring succour to devastated Leh 
Six Indian Air Force planes landed on Saturday in devastated Leh town in Jammu and Kashmir's Ladakh region with men and material to carry out rescue and relief operations after flash floods triggered by a massive cloudburst killed 120 people.  The Indian Army has also activated its disaster management cell for rescue operations on a war footing since the tragedy hit the cold desert mountainous region located at an altitude of 3,505 metres.  Heavy rainfall disrupted the operations for a few hours Saturday. More than 6,000 army soldiers are conducting rescue and relief work in the region that shares its borders with China.  While the priority of the relief operations of the army is on saving lives and property, soldiers are also providing succour to the affected with food, drinking water, medicines. Bulldozers and other earth moving equipment of the army were pressed into service to clear the mudslide.  Leh airport, affected in the mud slide, was opened Saturday and six planes of the IAF carrying disaster response teams, doctors, communications equipment and material took off from Delhi and Chandigarh.  A defence spokesperson said the rescue and relief operations "received a major boost with the arrival of six plane loads of men and material augmented".  Two Ilyushin-76 and four Antonov-32 aircraft of the IAF carried 30 tonnes of load, which include 125 rescue and relief personnel, medicines, generators, tents, portable X-ray machines and emergency rescue kits.  Two teams from the central ministry of health and family welfare, including specialist doctors and surgeons from Delhi, also reached Leh.  The spokesman said 110 bodies were been recovered from debris.  From Western Command Headquarters in Chandigarh, 4,000 ready-to-eat food packets were sent to Leh.  A MI-17 helicopter had been pressed into service to carry out relief operations in Nubra Valley since Friday when the disaster struck, while two more Chetak helicopters have been provided to the civil administration for aerial recce of affected areas.  Some 33 columns of the army and personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have been deployed in the affected areas to carry out rescue operations, the spokesperson said.  "So far, more than 500 injured civilians and tourists have been treated at the military hospital at Leh and about 100 discharged after treatment. As a special gesture, the IAF has agreed to carry bodies of foreign tourists and non-locals to Delhi if no civilian flights are available from Leh," he said.  The tri-service Disaster Management Coordination Group, which met at South Block Saturday morning, reviewed the progress in rescue and relief operations and decided to earmark special service aircraft to carry 19 VSATs and a set of other equipment of BSNL to Leh. This is being done to help restore mobile and telecom connectivity at the earliest.  In the meantime, two INMARSAT mobile phones have been provided to Leh district administration for meeting immediate communication requirements.  Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who is closely following the rescue and relief efforts, was briefed by the tri-service Disaster Management Group about the steps taken to provide succour to the victims in Leh, the spokesperson said.

IAF planes on mammoth rescue mission
New Delhi, Aug 7, DHNS:  A day after Leh was devastated by flash floods and landslides, half-a-dozen Indian Air Force (IAF) planes landed in the region on Saturday with relief and rescue materials.  After the IAF cleared six inches of mud slush from the runway, two IL-76 and four AN-32 aircraft with food, medicines, generators, tents, portable X-ray machines and emergency rescue kits landed at the Leh airport.  The tri-service disaster management group in the capital has earmarked a special service aircraft to carry 19 VSATs and other equipment of BSNL to Leh so that mobile and telecommunication connectivity could be restored at the earliest.  The disaster management group is monitoring the operations under the direct supervision of Defence Minister A K Antony.  Two satellite phones have been provided to the Leh administration by the Defence Ministry for meeting immediate communication requirements. Two teams from the Health and Family Welfare Ministry consisting of specialist doctors and surgeons from Delhi reached Leh along with Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and his Cabinet colleagues Farooq Abdullah and Prithviraj Chavan.  From the Western Command at Chandigarh, 4,000 ready-to-eat packet meals have been sent to Leh for distribution. Thirty-three columns of Army personnel along with jawans of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have been deployed in the affected areas to carry out rescue operations.  More than 450 injured civilians and tourists are being treated at Military Hospital in Leh and nearly 100 people were discharged after treatment.  Villagers of Hanoyogma near Handen Brooke whose houses have been swept away were provided food and shelter by a nearby Army post. Nearly 400 critically injured people have already been evacuated to makeshift hospitals by the Army.

Obama's focus is Pak duplicity
Dileep Padgaonkar, Aug 8, 2010, 12.33am IST In the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures about how the war in Afghanistan has turned out to be a nightmare for the American-led international forces, analysts had rushed to conclude that the US Congress would compel President Obama to bow to domestic public opinion, which wants American soldiers to be brought home at the earliest. But statements made at the highest levels of his administration over the past week suggest otherwise. They point to the emergence of a more coherent and better focused strategy to arrest, roll back and eventually eliminate the influence of al-Qaida and its Taliban affiliates in that beleaguered country.  The most significant element of the strategy is that the deadline for the start of the withdrawal of US troops — scheduled for July 2011 — is not set in stone. On ABC's "This Week", defence secretary Robert Gates asserted that the drawdown will be limited in nature. Lots of troops will still be around 19 months from now.  This spells bad news for Pakistan's army. Its conduct in the war has been rooted in the belief that all it has to do until the Americans pack up and leave is to run with the Taliban hare even while claiming to hunt with the American hound. The double-dealing won't work anymore. Not least because in the same interview to ABC, Gates also announced that the US is undertaking a major build-up in eastern Afghanistan — the stronghold of the Haqqani faction of the Taliban, which has been attacking the international forces — in order to have a "decisive push against terrorist safe havens close to the borders with Pakistan". The operations, he added, will be mounted on "both sides of the border" to prevent the terrorists from crossing it.  It is this Haqqani faction that the Pakistani army and ISI have been cultivating in the hope that it will stake a claim in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul once the US forces exit. It was reckoned that this would go some way to realizing Pakistan's goal of gaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. The army will surely be constrained when it comes to cooperating with the international forces to smash the Haqqani network because the Americans have let it be known they will deploy high-end weaponry to kill the network's leaders and hardcore supporters.  Such a development is bound to widen the rifts between the Taliban and the Pakistani army. Several recent reports suggest that relations between the GHQ and its protégés are already strained to breaking point as a result of Pakistan's two-faced policy. Taliban leaders have been arrested and even killed at America's behest since 9/11. One of them told Newsweek: "They feed us with one hand and kill us with the other." The Afghan insurgents are convinced more than ever before that the only thing that interests Pakistan is to promote its national interest. That interest now lies in influencing Afghan politics in order to neutralize India's presence in the country.  To sweeten the bitter pill that the Pakistani army will be forced to swallow, Gates reassured it that America will not repeat what it did after the defeat of the Soviets — pack up and go, leaving Pakistan to collect the debris. He seemed to suggest that this provoked the change in "strategic calculus". Could that have prompted Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's envoy in Washington, to tell an American news channel that neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan would have any truck with a Taliban-style regime?  President Obama himself has spelt out America's emerging strategy with clarity and vigour. Speaking in Atlanta, the president warned that his administration would "not tolerate" sanctuaries for terrorist outfits in Pakistan. It is from Afghan and Pakistani soil that they plotted and trained people to murder innocents in America and in countries allied to it. Should Afghanistan be engulfed by a wider insurgency, he added, al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates would have even more space to plan their next attack. He promised he would not let that happen. He did not show any concern about the July 2011 deadline for the drawdown.  In the days and weeks ahead, New Delhi will need to know whether any quid pro quo is involved between the US and Pakistan in the conduct of the war. Will Washington go some way to address Islamabad's concerns about Kashmir and the Indian presence in Afghanistan? Or will it bring pressure to bear on Islamabad to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to book and dismantle terrorist outfits operating on its soil?  New Delhi's leverage in this unfolding scenario would be strengthened if it moved swiftly to end the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir. It needs to reach out to all sections of opinion in the Valley and pay genuine heed to Kashmiris' grievances. A rigid law-and-order approach alone would be counter-productive. That requires bold thinking and prompt action. Both, alas, are not much in evidence at present.

Russian Smerch rockets, Milan missiles defective: CAG
TI  The Defence Ministry told CAG that it had ordered for the Milan-2T missiles, despite its low range, as a stopgap till selection and induction of a third generation missile. "The fact remains that the low capability missiles were procured by compromising the Army's requirements though better missiles were available in the global market as DBL could not produce them. Further, the Army has failed to formulate the qualitative requirements for a third generation missiles for over three years," the CAG observed. The government auditor also noted in its report that the ammunition for T-72 tanks, both indigenous and imported, valued at Rs 274 crore that were reported defective by it in 2003, were still awaiting repairs for the last eight years. "Although the imported ammunition was till under warranty, the Army did not make efforts to get it rectified or replaced from the foreign supplier," it added.

 Multi-barrel rocket launchers defective: CAG
 Gautam Datt Express News Service First Published : 07 Aug 2010 02:29:42 AM IST Last Updated : 07 Aug 2010 12:25:07 PM IST  NEW DELHI: The multi-barrel rocket launchers supplied by Russia under a Rs 2,600 crore deal have been found to be defective seriously denting Army’s firepower, the auditors have revealed.  The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) latest report on the Army and the Ordnance factories also exposed a purchase of outdated anti-tank guided missiles for `587 crore and wastage of ammunition worth `273 crore.  The loss of money is only one aspect of the problem, the other and perhaps more damning is the gap it has left in Army’s operational capability.  Ministry of Defence in 2005 and 2007 had placed orders for 42 SMERCH multi-barrel rocket launcher systems (MBRLS), whose long range was meant to give Indian Army an edge over its arch-rival Pakistan.  But CAG found, during its scrutiny, that ‘critical defects’ in one of the sub-systems of the weapons were detected during the practice by a regiment in October-November 2008.  Each system consists of several components including Launch Vehicle, Trans loader Vehicle, Command and Staff Vehicle, Meteorological Support Complex Vehicles and Workshop Repair Vehicle.  The CAG noted that defects were found in the SOCRIG (Self orienting Coarse Roll Indicating Gyroscoping System), ALFCS (Auto laying fire Control System) and the DTE (Data Transmission equipment for Encrypted Data communication) sub-systems, which are critical for accuracy.  The CAG report claimed that seven out of 13 SOCRIG failed completely during the exploitation of sub systems, each costing `50 lakh.

Spy Game: India readies cyber army to hack into hostile nations' computer systems
 6 Aug 2010, 0315 hrs IST,Harsimran Singh & Joji Thomas Philip, 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.   The government is worried about spying and sabotage from neighbouring countries, particularly China and Pakistan, after a spate of assaults on its computer systems in recent times. The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto said in April that a clique of hackers based in China had conducted extensive spying operations in India, pilfering confidential documents from the defence ministry.  Though Beijing strongly denied any role in the attacks, the investigation pointed to the Chinese government’s tacit approval of the spying operations. The technical reconnaissance bureau of the People’s Liberation Army that is responsible for signals intelligence collection is headquartered in Chengdu, where the hackers had set up base.  According to the government proposal, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) along with Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) will be responsible for creating cyber-offensive capabilities. NTRO is a key government agency that gathers technical intelligence while DIA is tasked with collating inputs from the Navy, Army and Air Force.  The NTRO will also suggest measures to ensure legal protection to recruits, a move that is expected to coax software professionals into joining the government group because under the Indian IT Act, hacking is punishable with imprisonment up to three years, or carries a fine up to `2 lakh, or both.  “Even if the offense is done on a computer on foreign soil, it is punishable under Indian laws,” says cyber lawyer Pavan Duggal, adding that the IT Act will have to be changed for “patriotic stealth operations”.  Mr Duggal welcomed the efforts to establish a hacker group, pointing to the explosive growth in assaults on Indian systems recently. Last year, 600 computers belonging to the external affairs ministry were hacked, allegedly by Chinese groups. The hackers also managed to steal crucial documents from the computers of the defence establishment then.  Vikas Desai, lead technical lead of network security firm RSA, said the government’s efforts can be classified as ethical hacking. “Many countries and organisations in the world already have this kind of infrastructure,” he said.  In sheer numbers at least, recruitment may not be a problem. The country is due to produce nearly 5.71 lakh technical graduates and postgraduates in 2010, says IT lobby group Nasscom. There is also a teeming workforce in India thanks to large anti-virus and software companies such as McAfee, Microsoft, Intel establishing R&D labs here.  The government is not taking chances, however. The NSA’s National Security Council Secretariat has directed the HRD and IT ministries to introduce cyber security in the curriculum of IITs and education institutes.  The government also plans to amplify efforts to strengthen its cyber armour. A National Testing Centre to check all types of hardware and software being sourced by departments for spyware will be established to prevent India’s computers from coming under attack.  The NSA has also asked the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and DIA to magnify efforts against electromagnetic-pulse bombs that can interrupt wireless signals inside the country. It has also directed the DIA to harden its Transient ElectroMagnetic Pulse Emanations Standards, known as TEMPEST in military parlance. Hardening TEMPEST to a geek means lowering the chances of interception of data transferred by defence agencies on the internet.  To enable this, the government wants to involve engineers and scientists from the IITs and Indian Institutes of Science to develop highly-encrypted algorithms, in large numbers. The high-level meeting notes that government’s cyber efforts are stumped by its ability to produce no more than 3-4 such algorithms in a year.

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